from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

A motorhome , officially a motorhome in Switzerland , is a motor vehicle with interior fittings suitable for living. This often resembles that of a caravan . In Germany less common terms are the loanwords motorcaravan and motorhome , which come from the English language . The vehicle base is usually a pickup truck . Mobile homes are mainly used as recreational vehicles for camping and for vacations with changing locations and adventure locations. Motorhomes are also used by business travelers such as sales representatives , assembly workers or showmen to spend the night or as a mobile office at different work locations.

Originally, a motorhome was a habitable vehicle (preparing food, sleeping), but the focus was on traveling, i.e. driving. As a rule, they were expanded minibuses and box vans, which is why these vehicles are often referred to as campers then and now . Nowadays, however, the terms motorhome and mobile home are used synonymously in Germany , with manufacturers' catalogs and specialist magazines mostly speaking of motorhome , but colloquially predominantly of mobile home . Motorhomes in the original sense are treated under panel vans .

RV types

Living room

Cabin on pickup

A mobile home is referred to as a mobile home , also known as a separate cabin, which can be used to turn a pickup or flatbed truck into a mobile home, more rarely a normal series car. The advantage is that the owner can turn his car into a mobile home if necessary, and can also leave the caravan behind at a campsite, similar to a caravan . The structure can be dismantled again for everyday use. The disadvantage is the rather cramped living space compared to other types of motorhome.

Box van

VW bus with high roof

The first motorhomes were built in the 1950s on the basis of the VW bus , the prototype of the small van. The Westfalia - Campingbox was one of the first indoor facilities for standard pickup truck. In contrast to later interior fittings, it could still be removed from the vehicle in a few simple steps and remained fully functional. In the 1970s, a van that had been expanded to include living facilities and also had sanitary facilities including a toilet and shower was called a motor home . These vehicles are still in production today - more under the term panel van . They offer more driving comfort and are usually more economical in consumption than larger motorhomes, but the living space is smaller and the living comfort less, as it is limited to the dimensions of the standard small van. The term panel van is increasingly seen as a type (actually construction) of mobile homes. The advantage is the high level of suitability for everyday use of the vehicles, the disadvantage is the high price in relation to the vehicle size due to the complex expansion.

Modern vans have usually either a fixed high roof or a pop-up roof (also known as pop-top) in order to ensure the state operating headroom. In the Federal Republic of Germany this was necessary until December 2012 for the tax classification as a mobile home, but since then has only been used for living comfort. With some models, one or two beds can be set up under this roof.


Alcove mobile

Motorhomes that are equipped with an alcove , a sleeping alcove above the driver's cab, are considered to be the ultimate motorhome type. Their optimal use of space and their comparatively low price explain the popularity of alcove vehicles, especially among families with children. Alcove mobiles with their typical front bed above the driver's cab are therefore used on pictograms , traffic signs and the like as symbols for a mobile home in general and have thus found additional signs in traffic signs in various countries, in Germany the additional sign 1048-17 (only mobile home) , in Switzerland the supplementary signal 5.28 (caravan) .

In addition to the good use of space, one advantage is its suitability for winter, as the non- insulated driver's cab can usually be separated from the insulated living space. Disadvantages are the low ceiling height in the alcove, which often only allows rolling in from the side from an access ladder, the great overall height of the vehicle and the resulting high air resistance when driving.

Semi-integrated motorhome

Semi-integrated motorhome

This type of motorhome (also known as a semi-integrated ) uses the cab of the series vehicle for residential purposes without deviating from the series cab. It has a raised roof over the cab, which is usually used to achieve standing height in the cab. The driver's seats can be turned towards the living area and combined with a table with a bench (half- dinette ) behind it to form a seating group.

A partially integrated motorhome offers a similarly high residential value as a fully integrated motorhome at comparatively lower acquisition costs, at least during the warm season. As with the alcove mobile, the cost advantage is achieved by keeping the standard driver's cab. The lower overall height compared to alcoves and most fully integrated vehicles results in lower air resistance and thus lower fuel consumption.


A van is a small, partially integrated vehicle in which the special body has been designed to be short in size and small in width. This creates a more uniform impression of the driver's cab and housing structure as well as an even lower air resistance.

Fully integrated motorhome

Fully integrated motorhome

The fully integrated vehicles are built on ready-to- drive power cars ( chassis without driver's cab ) with all the necessary units. The frame design - ladder frame, flat base frame or low frame - is selected depending on the desired structure. The mobile home manufacturer must therefore produce a complete, insulated vehicle front with windshield, headlights, windshield fan, windshield wipers, etc. in small series. In return, fully integrated mobile homes offer larger living space “from a single source”. Similar to semi-integrated motorhomes, roller blinds or mats are required on the front and side windows as privacy screens and possibly additional thermal insulation.

The advantage of fully integrated motorhomes is therefore the maximum living value, the disadvantage is the significantly higher costs, which also result from the fact that the maintenance of the engine (poor accessibility) and the driver's cab components (small series) are more expensive than with conventional vehicles.

Truck-based RVs

Motorhome on truck frame with bay window and car garage

The residential unit is mounted on a standard truck chassis. Very large mobile homes can be realized, which is why the type is mainly used in the luxury segment. This type of construction is more popular in the USA , the models offered are usually too big for European space and camping needs. In addition, the maximum permissible mass of most of these vehicles is above 7.5 tons, which is why they are not allowed to be driven under EU law with a car driver's license (class B, C1).

Residential buses

Mobile country house as a mobile home 1922

Camper vans are mostly former coaches or trucks that have been converted for residential purposes by hobbyists or individually produced and are therefore significantly larger than most mobile homes built on van chassis. In North America, commercially converted or designed as such, residential buses (bus conversion or motor coach) are becoming increasingly popular. As usual there, they are often equipped with trailers for a car and offer one of the most luxurious ways of traveling.

Base vehicles

Mobile homes are usually built on vans or minibuses or their chassis . The history of the mobile home therefore begins in the 1950s with the prototype of the pickup truck, the VW Transporter T1 . The Ford Transit , the Mitsubishi L300 and Mercedes-Benz vans were added later.

Current common base vehicles in Europe are the Fiat Ducato as market leader in Germany and the identically built Peugeot Boxer and Citroën Jumper; also the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter and the VW Crafter . Other models are the Ford Transit , the VW Transporter , the Renault Master , which is identical to the Opel Movano , the Iveco Daily or the Renault Trafic and Opel Vivaro, which are also identical .

Larger mobile homes with a gross vehicle weight of more than 7.5 t are built on bus or truck base vehicles. Expedition vehicles and special vehicles for heavy off-road use use all-wheel drive trucks such as the Unimog , the Mercedes-Benz Zetros and MAN TGS or from other manufacturers.


Series frame

The standard frame (also called ladder frame ) is suitable for all vehicles, whether refrigerated bodies, ambulances , flatbed trucks or even mobile homes. It is produced in series as a "chassis" and is equally suitable for front or rear-wheel drive. The advantage is the high universal stability and the low price due to series production. Disadvantages are the higher weight and the higher design, which is put into perspective by the higher ground clearance. The effort in motorhome production in relation to the vehicle size is lowest with ladder frames.

Flat bottom chassis

A flat-floor chassis is only possible for front-wheel drive vehicles. It is the chassis of a series delivery van with the roof and side walls missing from the B-pillar . The chassis consists of longitudinal and cross members and the deep-drawn profiled floor panels. Due to the lack of a body support, as is the case with conventional chassis (e.g. with flatbed trucks), the side walls of the motorhome body have to take on a stabilizing role, as with standard (sheet metal) box vans. Therefore, the dimensioning and connection of the mobile home body to the driver's cab must be carried out particularly carefully. Further stabilization can be achieved by fully gluing the assembly floor (usually a 40 mm sandwich floor) to the sheet metal floor of the flat floor chassis. This results in a lower entry height and lower ground clearance. In the case of partially integrated vehicles (i.e. without alcoves), lower air resistance can be achieved due to the lower overall height. This advantage does not apply to alcove vehicles, as the vehicle height is specified by the driver's cab (height of driver's cab + alcove). This construction is recommended for light vehicles without a long rear overhang in the lower price segment.

Low frame

A special chassis, the so-called “low frame”, is flanged to a so-called pulling head (here the chassis is cut off behind the driver's cab) . The standard rear axle is replaced by an independent suspension . The low frames, which are usually made of high quality galvanized and screwed sheet metal parts, are flanged as low as possible in order to achieve a low entry and overall height as well as a double floor (insulation of the sanitary installation for winter suitability). However, the total height of alcove vehicles is not reduced by a low frame. Low frames are mainly available with front-wheel drive - in 2006 there was also a low frame with rear-wheel drive for the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter for the first time . The rear axle, which has been modified compared to the standard frame, has changed the driving behavior and other maintenance requirements. Furthermore, the low ground clearance increases the risk of landing on uneven surfaces.


Wood is often used as a material in the form of softwood slats for the supporting framework of the structure and for fastening windows and doors, sometimes also as an edge for screwing mounting panels. Plywood is used as the inside finish of the walls and as the inside and outside of floor panels. Since wood tends to rot in a damp environment and because of the unpleasant smell associated with it, it is increasingly being replaced by plastics.


The very light and inexpensive expanded polystyrene (EPS), known under the trade name Styrofoam, is often used as an insulating material in the floor, on the roof and on the walls of the structure. Expanded polystyrene is increasingly being replaced by extruded polystyrene (XPS, common trade names are Styrofoam, Styrodur or RTM foam), as it is less sensitive to pressure and, thanks to its closed cell structure, absorbs almost no water. Because XPS compared to EPS increased stiffness has to be no need for additional cross-bracing. Rigid foam panels made of polyurethane (PU) are suitable as stable wall insulation, but the plastic is production-intensive. Moldings on polyurethane are more resistant to rotting than wooden moldings and give board edges the necessary stability for screwing or gluing.


The recycling-friendly light metal aluminum is often used for the outer skin, less often as a load-bearing structure in walls. This enables glossy lacquered surfaces that are, however, sensitive to scratches and dents. Aluminum is also used as a profile strip on body edges and as a material for side skirts.

Composite materials

Wall, roof or floor panels are often made in a sandwich construction from different, glued materials and consist of the three layers of outer skin, insulation and inner wall. Glass fiber reinforced plastic (GRP) is used both as an outer skin and for large molded parts. The plastic is comparatively resistant to hail and stone chips and easy to repair, but discoloration and cracking are possible.

Driving operation


Like all other motor vehicles, motorhomes must be insured against liability. Thanks to the very low average annual mileage and low damage rates for private use, special mobile home tariffs are usually applied.

Situation in Germany

Road traffic regulations

In comparison to a caravan, there is no general speed limit for motorhomes with a permissible total weight of up to 3.5 t in Germany or for cars. For mobile homes over 3.5 t and up to 7.5 t, the 12th Exemption Ordinance to the StVO applies higher speeds than for trucks of the same weight class, namely 100 km / h on motorways and motorways. This exemption regulation was originally limited to December 31, 2009, but the limitation was lifted on October 26, 2009. However, all other bans for vehicles over 3.5 tons (entry, drive-through and overtaking bans) remain in place.

Road tax

In Germany, motorhomes with a gross vehicle weight of more than 2.8 tons have been subject to vehicle tax as "other motor vehicles" such as trucks according to Section 8 No. 2 KraftStG according to the technically permissible total mass since 1984 . Since January 1, 2006, a separate, emissions-oriented motorhome tax rate ( § 8 No. 1a in conjunction with § 9 Paragraph 1 No. 2a KraftStG) has been assessed, which is lower than the car tax rate, but higher than the truck tax is. Until December 2012, the term motorhome for motor vehicle tax purposes ( Section 2 (2b) KraftStG) did not always coincide with the traffic law definition of the registration authorities. Since then, however, the tax authorities have been bound by the classification of the vehicle by the registration authorities.

Driving license and driving license

Since the EU-wide harmonization of the driving license classes, which came into force in 1999, the "normal car driving license" of class B can only be used to drive vehicles with a permissible total weight of up to 3.5 t, while older German driving licenses of the class 3 apply up to a total mass of 7.5 t. This means that many larger existing motorhomes are no longer allowed to be driven by holders of driving licenses issued after 1999.

For this reason, and also because of the steadily growing demands for comfort, 3.5-ton vehicles are built with ever lower payload reserves and - often unconsciously - operated above the permissible total weight, which brings with it an increasing risk of accidents (burst tires, longer braking distances). Many motorhome manufacturers try to counter this problem with different strategies for the German market:

  • Weight savings through increasing use of lightweight materials or reducing on-board supplies (smaller water tanks or batteries)
  • Reduction in the number of seats permitted during the journey
  • Construction of smaller vehicles, especially vans and semi-integrated vehicles

Service / maintenance

For vehicles with a gross vehicle weight of up to 3.5 t, general inspection and vehicle inspection intervals are stipulated as is the case with cars. Vehicles over 3.5 t have to be inspected every two years up to the age of six, followed by annual inspections.

Situation in Austria

Road traffic regulations

According to the Austrian road traffic regulations , the truck symbol does not generally refer to motor vehicles, but only to trucks over 3.5 t. Motorhomes with a gross vehicle weight of more than 3.5 t but not more than 7.5 t are not affected by the corresponding driving and overtaking bans.

Road tax

In Austria, motor-related insurance tax is to be paid for motorhomes up to a permissible total weight of 3.5 tons, as is the case for cars , which is calculated on the basis of the engine power. In addition, the standard consumption tax (NoVA) must be paid when buying a new motorhome or importing it .

Stand use of mobile homes


Compared to the majority of caravans, mobile homes are more self-sufficient because they have at least one 12 V battery for water pumps and lighting that is independent of the vehicle battery and have larger fresh and waste water tanks. The water tanks can be accommodated frost-proof (e.g. in a double floor). Lately, the living area batteries can not only be recharged while driving or through a shore power connection, but also through photovoltaic panels on the roof or through fuel cells . The extent to which mobile homes are self-sufficient in terms of time depends on the technical equipment, needs of the occupants (water and energy consumption), usage habits (e.g. use of on -board or shore toilets) and outside temperatures.

Living space equipment

The equipment is similar to that of a normal apartment. There is usually a kitchenette , living and sleeping area, on- board toilet and shower . The household technology is largely available, whereby the power supply is usually limited to 12 V direct voltage from the battery. By using an inverter (mostly retrofitted, in higher-quality vehicles partly already installed at the factory), conventional devices operated with 230 V AC voltage can also be used. Entertainment media such as satellite television , hi-fi systems , video recorders or DVD players and navigation systems are often installed.

In addition to sufficient loading capacity of the vehicle, beds of sufficient size as well as closet and storage space are necessary for the quality of living. Smaller motorhomes usually have a bicycle rack , while larger ones often have a large storage space (rear garage) for bicycles or a small motor scooter that meet the need for mobility at close range. Very large motorhomes even have underfloor garages with self-supporting car platforms for standard two- to five-seater cars, special vehicles or vintage cars . There is an almost confusing variety of floor plans within the residential structure available on the market, which is not only subject to the fluctuations of the respective fashion trends in terms of design.

Spend the night in the motorhome

When using mobile homes, a distinction must be made between:


In almost all European countries, camping is only allowed in specially designated places. Camping includes the use of garden furniture, awning, barbecue, etc. outdoors. Supply of energy (electricity or gas) and fresh water as well as disposal (garbage, sewage, faeces) is almost always guaranteed here.


Often people spend the night in mobile homes that are parked in a public parking lot or on the side of the road .

Situation in Germany

Spending the night in public spaces is a legal gray area in Germany: mobile homes, like other motor vehicles, may also be parked within the framework of the StVO (without time limit in contrast to trailers); this is permissible common use . The stay , however, in a parked RV can when it not only to restore the ability to drive serves as unauthorized special use are considered public traffic area.

In general, a single overnight stay is tolerated in Germany, as long as it does not hinder traffic, comply with local parking regulations and do not place objects such as camping furniture, grills or awnings outside the motorhome. At least in one individual case, however, the one-time overnight stay to restore the driver's ability to drive was also rated as a special use, since the driver's inability to drive was consciously brought about through alcohol consumption only after the motorhome was parked. In order to regulate overnight stays in mobile homes or to promote local tourism, more and more municipalities are setting up special mobile home sites.

Motorhomes are used commercially, for example, as part of caravan prostitution .

RV sites

Motorhome parking spaces are public or private parking spaces for mobile homes, on which, depending on local conditions, at least one overnight stay, but mostly different forms of camping , are allowed. Supply and disposal are guaranteed here to varying degrees.

New registrations in Germany

Since 2006, the lead Federal Motor Vehicle Office , the segment campers . For figures on the annual new registrations of passenger cars in the motorhome segment in Germany according to statistics from the Federal Motor Transport Authority, see the list of new passenger car registrations in Germany by segment and model series # Motorhomes .

Between 2015 and 2020, the number of new registrations in Germany increased by 50%. During the COVID-19 pandemic , the Federal Statistical Office reported an increase in new registrations of 29% in May 2020 compared to the same month last year.

On January 1, 2019, 532,687 motorhomes were registered as cars in Germany, 9.4 percent more than a year earlier. 261,803 (49.1%) of these were FIAT and 103,439 / 532,687 (19.4%) Volkswagen.


  • DIN VDE 0100-754 (VDE 0100-754): 2006-02 Construction of low-voltage systems - Part 7: Requirements for production facilities, rooms and systems of a special kind - Main section 754: Electrical systems of caravans and motorhomes (IEC 60364-7-708: 1988, modified + A1: 1993, modified); German takeover HD 384.7.754 S1: 2005 , VDE-Verlag , Berlin.
  • Sven Groß, Nico Stengel: Rental vehicles in tourism: basics, business processes and market analysis. R. Oldenbourg Verlag , Munich 2010; therein chap. 9.1, pp. 175-200. ISBN 978-3-486710-04-5 .
  • Torsten Widmann: Motorhome tourism in Germany - segmentation of supply and demand structures and analysis of regional economic effects using the example of the Moselle as a destination. Trier 2006.
  • Rainer Krüger: Trace of Freedom - People in the RV. DoldeMedien Verlag, 2002 ISBN 3-928803-20-4 .
  • Reinhard Schulz: General mobile home handbook - The guide for the mobile home life. WOMO-Verlag 2007, ISBN 3-939789-05-4 .

Web links

Commons : Camping Vehicles  - Collection of pictures, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Motorhome  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. a b Amendment to the Motor Vehicle Tax Act ( Federal Law Gazette I p. 2431 )
  2. ^ Text of the 12th Exemption Ordinance to the Road Traffic Regulations
  3. Road traffic regulations (Austria) , see §52 paragraph a), sentences 4c and 7a.
  4. Motorhome underground garages with self-supporting car platforms
  5. OLG Schleswig, Az. 1 Ss OWi 33/02
  6. Federal Statistical Office: Popular mobile homes: 29% more new registrations in May 2020. Press release No. N 033. July 2, 2020, accessed on July 24, 2020 .
  7. plus 251 mobile homes with M2 / M3 approval (buses). Source: Number of mobile homes on January 1, 2019 according to selected manufacturers