Practical comparison of camping buses – camping bus comparison

Practical comparison of camping buses

We love camping buses and have since our driver’s license, so more than 20 years, almost continuously owned a camper or converted transporter in such. That means we have incredible many experiences collected and know the vulnerabilities and the merits of the different Brands, models and expansion concepts.

A few years ago, the requirements as a young family changed fundamentally. We were faced with the big question, which camper the most flexibility allows. The camper should definitely reliable, inexpensive, attractive and multifunctional his. But in most cases it will always be a compromise. Because many criteria are mutually exclusive, such as lots of space and easy parking in the underground car park or cheap and attractive.

In the end, in 2008, when we were three of us, we went for a classic one VW T5 California Comfortline decided. But at this time Volkswagen had only the van, Multivan, Caravelle or the California on offer. SpaceCamper at that time still offered to rebuild own vehicles and the Marco Polo Mercedes was not an option yet. The vehicles Renault Traffic, Fiat Scudo and Opel Vivaro were still in conversation.

Meanwhile, Volkswagen could with the California Beach open up a new target group with an everyday suitable camper. With 2 children and dogs, this is definitely the more flexible camping bus we’ve been riding since the beginning of the year.

But there are still (luckily) new providers to the market, the fresh wind and new ideas on the subject Camping bus and camping bus expansion have and thus succeed. These are, in my view, among others Kompanja and the Calibox.

We 2 adults and our children (meanwhile 8 and 10 years) as well as our medium sized dog ask us again and again whether it is not a better one for our requirements Automobile for the holidays and everyday life gives. We collect our questions and thoughts on the subject here, as we are certainly not the only ones who are having a hard time making this decision. Of course we are happy if your Share your camper experiences with us would.

Camping vehicles are trendy

The daily work routine ensures a tight schedule, which is clocked through to the smallest detail. Who does not feel the urge to the absolute Flexibility and freedom? Spontaneously escape everyday life with a camping bus for one or more nights under the open sea, on lakes or in the mountains.

This trend has also been noticed by car manufacturers or RV outfitters. This is reflected in the growing number of models, fixtures and conversions. But which is the right bus? By answering the following questions, you will surely come closer to your dream vehicle.

The decision >The different criteria for a perfect camper van are explained in a clear and comprehensible way afterwards:

Number of people?

The Number of accompanying persons is an extremely big factor. Because for 2 people a compact van is definitely enough, even without a high roof. But as soon as several people are transported and possibly even overnight, the selection of vehicles is already very severely limited.


Most classic camper vans are for 4 seats designed. Additional seats are possible, but usually only for transport via additional individual seats or benches. Leisure-oriented camper vans like the California Beach even offer up to 7 seats.


The classic compact campervans usually provide space for overnight accommodation 4 people. 2 people can be found in the high roof and 2 on the folded bench with extended deck area in the rear. The advantages and disadvantages of the different sleeping benches and their providers, we have put together separately for you. If you want to go camping with more than 4 people, you can transport them, but you can only sleep comfortably in the bus.

The VW California offers up to 5 seats and 4 beds, but not in combination.

A topic that should not be ignored is the age of the attendants or children. Children up to the age of 10 can also spend the night relaxing on the folded bench in the middle, when the lying area covers the entire width. This solution offers the added benefit of being able to seat 3 people on the rear seat without additional single seat.

Generous lying surface over the entire width

Once furniture is mounted on one side it must be differentiated whether it is a wide row of furniture as the VW California, Mercedes Marco Polo or a narrow expansion as it is offered by many camping bus upgraders. In the wide installation, it is quite cuddly for two and the small expansion fits a toddler in the middle.

The width of the sleeping area is by far the smallest at the bottom of the Marco Polo.

Camping car, but please for everyday use?

How much time is available for the holiday and how often is the camping bus used in everyday life. With an average of 30 days of holiday per year could be traveled to Pentecost 2 weeks Corsica and in the summer 3 weeks south of France. Then one or the other weekend spontaneously in the mountains and so we are at 30 days – so round one month travel time in the camping bus. In relation to everyday use results in a period of one year pretty much 1/12, which is scary little. For students, seasonal workers or pensioners, of course, the ratio looks different again.

everyday practicality

If the vehicle to commute to the daily job, to go shopping and at birthday party more than 3 children should transport is a vehicle with minimal camping equipment and maximum number of seats makes sense. The compact camping buses are also the driving characteristics noticeable, which are now ranked almost at the level of cars.

The cockpit is identical to the car models and well thought out in every detail and really stylish. But in a camping bus cup holders and usable storage space must not be missing – too bad.

For larger vehicles with a long wheelbase or a van also suffers the ride comfort. So offers one firmly high roof Camping real qualities, but an underground car park is no longer in it. Of course the offense is also higher, although the high roof offers no added value in everyday life.

With a solid high roof, more camping comfort and less everyday life

In the city it can be quite close especially when parking and handlebars of a large van, with a bad turning circle, are certainly not envied. In addition, the maximum speed limited to 80 km / h for vehicles over 3.5 tonnes. Although the insurance is usually cheaper, but also the toll costs for the use of highways abroad are often twice as high. In this weight class also plays the proper driver’s license a role, because here the driving license class 3 must be present or since 2013 the class C1. For all licenses issued before 1999, this class has already been entered by default. All those who have acquired their driving license after that also need the driving license class C1.

travel comfort

Under travel comfort we understand all the advantages and refinements that make everyday life easier when camping and traveling. Of course, this includes in particular the space and the storage space. Who on one compact camping bus is set and four on the way then every now and then the luggage for cooking and sleeping rearrange and possibly the child seats stow.

Stow up to 4 smart chairs in the tailgate

With a large campervan this is usually not the case and the camping everyday can be fully enjoyed.

Anyone who has the focus exclusively on traveling may also consider a motorhome. Here is even more space for all companions and more comfort. Basically, however, the more extensive the expansion of the camping car, the less payloads is possible. However, a motor home is one Second car for everyday life obligatory and possibly also a parking space if a seasonal license plate should be used.

How about the comfort?

The comfort of camping can have a big impact on the choice of the right camper. But what comfort means is completely overrated for the other. That’s why we just put together the central criteria.


The independent catering is a central component for all campers. A refrigerator simplifies purchasing planning and storage, especially in southern countries. Without a fridge, cheese and sausage can only be stored in the vehicle for 2-3 days, not to mention cold beer. But next to the place is also the energy supply of the refrigerator to consider. Classic 12 V camp refrigerators can only be operated by a second battery for 3-4 days before the vehicle should be moved again or the battery should be charged. As a result, you may lose a bit of flexibility when camping outside campsites. In return, gas-powered models require a medium to large camping gas cylinder and must comply with legal requirements, so that storage space is definitely lost here. Another alternative is a photovoltaic module, which charges the second battery in good weather.

Maximum flexibility through photovoltaic module over which the second battery is charged.

These are either permanently installed on the roof or can be flexibly adapted to the car’s course of the sun. In the flexible version, the module can also take quite a lot of space in circumstances when not unused storage space can be cleverly used.


The toilets on the road or on the campsites are not always the cleanest and with small children, the use is not always easy. Here, many prefer their own toilet. Since the children can sometimes fast in a traffic jam on the toilet. But even here there are big differences from the portable chemical toilet to the simple potty with bag for emergencies or a folding spade for the romantic outdoor toilet.

water supply

Afterwards, the hygiene should not be neglected and a little bit of soap with water will not hurt. There are also different variants for the fresh water supply. Fully integrated kitchens or kitchen modules, which have a small sink with fresh water and waste water tank. Alternatively, a simple water canister can be used outdoors. Again, it is ultimately a decision comfort vs. space.

The showers behave similarly. Very popular are the popular solar showers, for a warm shower in the open air. This trend has taken some compact camper and integrated an open-air shower in the rear with a shower curtain on the open tailgate.

For all nature lovers, there are now outdoor showers for many current brands and providers. But the shower head must be ordered separately from Westfalia. Something’s wrong, right??

For larger vans, there are also integrated wet cells that combine toilet, shower and sink. If you are looking for even more comfort you can also use a diesel or gas powered hot water boiler. If necessary, this can also bring a floor heating to the desired temperature.

More comfort is barely possible


Of course, this also applies to cooking. Here are there on the whole 3 possibilities that have presented as detailed in our camping stove comparison. The fully integrated kitchen, mostly with gas, which can only be used in the bus to cook. This means that the preparation of fish and meat, for example, always leaves odors in the vehicle.

Fixed cooking zones are particularly suitable for cooking pasta and coffee.

The alternative is alcohol stove with one or two hotplates which can be used in the camping bus or even taken out in no time to cook in the open air.

The spirit cooker offers the greatest flexibility for cooking. It can be used in bad weather on the bus or in the outdoor kitchen.

The third variant are gasoline cookers. These are by far the most powerful cookers, but in return can only be used outdoors. On rainy days, an awning or tarp is an advantage.

Gas cookers with one or two flames are the most powerful, even in higher areas.


In bad weather, seating inside is preferable with a table to eat. If a family with 3 children is looking for a comfortable solution, this should be considered from the beginning. Alternatively, of course, an awning or tarp can be used here.

There is enough room for three to play or eat or drink in bad weather. Where the ambience is more oriented to a business vehicle than to a camping bus.


Another basic need is sleep. In addition to the volume of the environment such as the sound of the sea, rivers, highways and discotheques also the comfort of sleeping plays an important role. Here can be fundamentally differentiated between a comfortable mattress base with slatted frame or a mattress instead of the ergonomically shaped folded seat areas.

Narrow furniture part with standard bench for folding and slatted frame is comfortable and much cheaper than the folding bench for sleeping.

The darkening of all windows can also work wonders for us and our children. Here even sewn curtains, eBay auction or the original roller blinds of the manufacturer can be used.

Roller blind on the sliding door opens comfortably with the sliding door


Cabinets ensure order but also for a rigid system. Those who enjoy quick and systematic access to basic items benefit from the built-in closets for clothing, games and kitchen utensils. But that again costs a lot of space and limits the flexibility. Minimal cabinet solutions often contain only the kitchen equipment in addition to the cooking area and the sink. For this solution also speaks the slightly wider seat that can be used for another person. Luggage can then be individually packed and stowed in boxes or bags.


If you like to travel in northern countries or in the fall and spring is traveling and with small children, who will love the benefits of a heater. The young mothers prefer a room temperature of at least 18 degrees for their toddlers. This is possible without auxiliary heating only limited.

driving comfort

Then, of course, there is the ride comfort which is significantly dependent on the technical basis and the expansion. This includes a comfortable acceleration when overtaking, ESP, DSG, 4 × 4, cruise control, damping, turning circle, side stabilizers, seat position, air conditioning, engine noise and possibly noise from the expansion. However, these criteria are primarily dependent on the manufacturer and are not part of the camping bus comparison. But not all manufacturers, all extras can be configured at will. That should be considered in advance in any case.


At least since the new Marco Polo based on the V-Class on the market is increasingly talked about interior design and feel comfortable ambience. Whether the chic and noble design the camping & Outdoor-oriented target group appeals will still show. In any case, it brings a little fresh wind into the camping industry again.

More ambiance and glamor is barely possible with indirect LED lighting.

How is the camping bus used??

Rather spontaneous and entertaining, sometimes out of the ordinary for a weekend or planned and with longer stays in one place. In spontaneous actions play the expanded campers or motor homes their strengths. Within a short time you can start directly. Fill the water tank, check the glass bottle, put your sleeping bags and food on the bus and off you go.


The Swiss knife among the camping buses – half car half camping bus. The one-room concept is characterized by the fact that everything happens in one room. For two people this is perfect and almost no conversion on arrival or departure required. If no fixed high roof is installed, the high roof must be opened electrically or manually and the lying surface must be folded upwards. Downstairs you can comfortably cook, eat, drink and rinse. No seat needs to be folded, only the table has to be set up.

Spontaneously spend one or the other short trip at the weekend or longer time in one place

With folded down or unfolded lying area then there are two comfortable sleeping places in the high roof. This principle is found in the California Ocean and Coast as well as in the Marco Polo and other refiners again.

In good weather, the awning can be extended, table and chairs set up and eaten outside in nature.

Anyone who is now traveling with one or more children and possibly dogs already suspects that it will be more complicated. Because then the lying area has to be built up in the lower area and everything has to be in place so that as little as possible has to be cleared daily. Basically, the motto is to be as agile on the road as possible to carry little material and store it in defined places. If you want to use the dining area inside, you can do it in a few minutes. Otherwise, everything must first be redeployed.

Who decides for a minimally developed camping bus such as the California Beach or Mercedes Activity has a higher effort to start because cookers, pots, plates and cutlery must first be cleared in the bus and or additional modules such as refrigerator or sink must be installed. It is optimally adapted to the situation in everyday life and in return offers more storage space and flexibility for transport and more seats.

Two space concept

Here the heart beats campers who want to invest little time in the daily rebuilding or rebuilding. This means that the vehicle is divided into two areas and no conversion is required for cooking or rinsing. The kitchen is usually arranged in the rear area and offers a cooking area, sink, refrigerator and plenty of storage space. The kitchen can thus always be used, regardless of whether a reclining area or a seat in the lower area is used.

Start directly with the kosher without modification and benefit from a lot of storage space, which is directly accessible.

In combination with a fixed high roof, the time for the conversion has to be reduced by half. Westfalia, Hymer & Co. also have concepts with a back seat for 3 people on offer.

More room concepts

More space is offered by panel vans such as the Ducato or Sprinter and, of course, full motorhomes. Depending on the concept and size, several people can spend the night here without any elaborate conversion, cook and eat in bad weather in the camping vehicle, sleep and do the daily hygiene. The sleeping area is classically separated here by the sanitary area with toilet, sink and shower and offers maximum comfort anywhere in the world.

Without any reconstruction, cooking, eating and sleeping in the camper, that’s the dream of many.

Basically everyone should answer the questions for themselves if a caravan is not an option. Anyone who spends several days at different destinations always has more comfort and a great advantage on-site with a caravan, and can be mobile without having to make any changes by car. Even the acquisition costs, amount to entry-level models only at a fraction of the cost. Who then still has its own parking space for the caravan is priced far cheaper and more flexible on the way.

Caravan sites are not only heavily contested for loading and unloading in residential areas.

Who prefers agile holiday planning on the spot is better advised with a camping car.

How do I transport my favorite sports equipment??

Vacation time is also time for sports activities and these often require a lot of space. How you can best transport which sports equipment and what restrictions this brings you here.

rear carrier

In a classic rear bike rack, the tailgate with 4 bikes can not be opened. If you pack cleverly and do not have to carry the luggage under the lying surface, you can also leave the wheels on the bike rack if it is only for one or two nights. For the VW California from T5 it is no longer possible to get the chairs in the tailgate. At the luggage under the sunbathing area one comes only conditionally. Because the extension of the bed can unfortunately only be opened in one direction and only in the direction of the tailgate.

As nice as the mobility on vacation by bike is, it brings a disadvantage with some bike carriers. Because with the wheels on the original Paulchen from the T6 and T5, the economies of scale of a high roof for unfolding over a fixed high roof is gone. And parking under 2.50 meters can not be approached. But why the bike carrier sits so high on these models is a mystery to me. Because even when loading the first bike I have to stand on tiptoe (height 1.72cm), so that succeeds. However, as pleasant as on the roof and the rear carrier also ensures a lower consumption. In the VW T4 and T3, this phenomenon does not occur.

With bicycles on the rear luggage carrier parking under 2.5 meters with caution to be enjoyed

If you start with 4 bicycles on a rear bike stand should expect to be loaded with 15 minutes, if you practice. Because either the handlebars get in the way or the pedals. The unloading is done in half the time, since only the screws and straps must be opened and the wheels must be taken down.

The load of 4 bicycles can take 20 minutes to fit all pedals and handlebars. The unloading is much faster.

Anyone who has a bike rack and wants to give up the wheels can also take an extra transport box instead of the wheels on holiday or combine them.

The space problem knows anyone who goes on tour with the family or with many sports equipment. An additional transport box can not hurt here.

Roof rack

Depending on how much travel companion and sports equipment comes along, it can happen that the slightly longer sports equipment does not readily fit under the seat or sleeping surface. That means it will need a roof rack on which then a roof box, kayaks and any number of surfboards with sails & Co can be attached. Here, of course, we also lose the height advantage and still have a weight limit of 60kg for the folding roofs. In return, we can pursue our favorite pastimes while on holiday. For fixed high roofs, the additional height no longer plays a role and anchorages are often provided here to fix an additional roof box. surfboards & Co. can be transported via lateral brackets.

Roof rack, side support for surfboards and converted bicycle rack. More “additional storage space” is almost impossible.

trailer hitch

Who would have thought that the trailer hitch can also be used for something else like trailers? The classic is the transport of bicycles and yes there are models in which the tailgate with bicycles can be opened after they have been tilted. Otherwise that does not really make sense in our view. And yes, there are also some for 4 bikes, but they are not really cheap.

Anyone who pursues sports activities that require a lot of space for the equipment can also pack a box on the bike carrier. So wet and sandy life jackets, neoprene and kite equipment can easily disappear in the box and over it, the wheels are on the rear carrier. Here you will find our practical test to the rear box and the instructions to build the rear box itself.

How much time and commitment is available for the conversion?

It probably will not give the perfect camper, at least that’s our experience. Because either he does not offer the desired equipment or the vehicle is far too expensive. With a self-improvement can be remedied here. But that takes time and, ideally, a bit of camping experience, so you can really tune it up perfectly for you. In our experience, most classic camper vans are not designed for families with multiple children, but rather for 2 people. Even outdoor enthusiasts will probably want to cook in your camping bus, which has not yet arrived at all manufacturers.

Innovative camping bus expansion

But these niches already have many builders such as Hymer, Custom Bus, Westfalia, Reimo, Space Camper & Co. recognized and developed solutions that work. Those who still need to take action can still individualize them and sew magnetic mosquito nets or bags for additional storage space.

Expand camping bus yourself

Anyone who has time, desire and a technical understanding can enter the world of camping buses relatively cheaply with their own equipment. But who wants to enter the bus as a camping vehicle in the vehicle registration must take into account a few key issues. In extensions with changing living facilities, where, for example, the kitchen block can be removed, the original vehicle type is retained. Basically, the following features such as a seat with table, beds (folding bench), cooking facilities (also alcohol stove) and storage space (under the seat) should be available. The full headroom is not crucial in the camping bus.

Those who do not have individual requirements for camping equipment and ideally are twos or threes can also resort to a classic model such as the California or Marco Polo – as long as the budget does not matter

What costs do I have to expect?

If you have thought about the previous questions, you finally know which type of camping bus you and what you want to do. The first step, but unfortunately not the last. Because the costs vary considerably, with used camping buses, as well as with new vehicles. Here, design, brand image, resale value, optional equipment, etc. may play a significant role. Therefore, we do not go into the individual prices concretely but try to call realistic price ranges for guidance.

Buy new camper

The new prices for the camping buses start at the top dogs of the moving hotels such as VW T6 California and Mercedes Marco Polo at 40,000 euros depending on the engine and optional equipment with the model Activity or Beach. These models have 5-7 seats and a pop-up roof as standard. At VW, there is still the Coast, which is additionally equipped with a furniture line with fridge, stove and sink and is around 50,000 euros. This is followed by the Ford Nugget which starts at 55,000 euros, but has far more to offer from a camping standpoint. In this price range are also many other camping bus providers such as Spacecamper, Hymer, Reimo or Custom Bus. However, with these providers, the concepts are much closer to our needs of a family of 4 with a dog than the established top dogs. The version where hardly any wishes remain open namely the California Ocean and the Marco Polo are the costs with average motorization at just under 70,000 euros to settle. Where the Marco Polo brings much more scope in the basic equipment and so equipment-adjusted cheaper therefore comes as the Volkswagen. With a little extra equipment, however, the budget can quickly reach 80,000 euros.

If the camping vehicle is to be bought new, then only at the fairs like the CMT in Stuttgart or the Caravan Salon in Dusseldorf. Discounts of up to 15% are possible here, also directly at Volkswagen. Who wants to get even cheaper to a new car then only the EU reimport can be here depending on the provider and model between 20-25% of the new price saved.

Who has decided then would like to have his dream car quickly available in front of the door and travel. Here often the big manufacturers score with short delivery times. For smaller providers like Spaccamper it can take 12 months before the vehicle can be delivered. Since a lot of patience is required;)

Buy Used Camping Bus

The price decline is quite drastic in normal cars often in the first years. In the first year with a mileage of 15,000 kilometers, the loss in value can already account for a quarter of the original purchase price. This is not the case with the buses of the premium brands. A classic VW T5 Multivan in the simplest version (then Startline meanwhile Trendline) with 50,000 kilometers and built in 2010 is still well over the 20,000 euros. But even here it is not to give up and with a bit of luck you stumble on a demonstration car at the dealership, a car from Wolfsburg or retired models in the Bundeswehr. But what matters when buying used camping buses would be beyond the scope of this, but if your interest signals we can still add the topic to the magazine.

Camping bus test before the purchase

Just because of the many different aspects, which often restrict or exclude each other, the topic is not that easy. In addition, we have only theoretically illuminated it so far. But in such a cost-intensive acquisition, this is not sufficient in our view and it should be previously collected own experience. Those who are not lucky enough to be able to borrow a vehicle from friends can do so today through countless switching platforms. Because these also convey camping vehicles from private providers to private interested parties. First of all has Paul Camper implemented this concept. Now many more providers like Camp Anda & Co .. So just pick the desired camping bus, test and then decide on the ideal camping bus.


Hello, I have just rummaged on your page and find many suggestions. Many thanks.
I am planning a minimal solution to build a part-time motorhome out of our T5 station wagon. I like the idea with the “standard bench for folding and slatted frame” very well. Is there any more information??

Hello Mikel, we are pleased that you can find many suggestions on our camping bus comparison. The picture with the standard bench and the slatted frame I had taken on the CMT, because it was a “new” approach, which I find very exciting. Further information can be found directly at the specialist for motorhome conversions -Köhler mobile homes. You will find suggestions for the simple variant in the following interview.

Hello very interesting side unde have found interesting suggestions and tips.
Many thanks

Hello, a really informative site, thank you!
One question: is in a Marco Polo, without the use of the loft bed, with prepared bed still enough berth for a dog (Labrador)?

Hello Martin, the space is more generous than the VW California and we also have the sleeping space of our dog (which is about knee high). But I would definitely test it at such an expensive purchase and either rent the camper or at least go to a Marco Polo dealer or the upcoming CMT in Stuttgart (January 12-20). Greetings Christoph

are there still compact camping buses with a pitched roof and a wide mattress top, just like in the past at the Ford Nugget, there was almost 1.60 m above the ground? The current standard of just under 1.40 leads in the long run only to burden the relationship!!
Best regards,

Hi together :), well researched content. Very helpful!

We are currently looking for a new vehicle for the family. This brought me to the possibility of EU reimportation.
For this I have questions and hope you can answer me or help.

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