Motorhomes are the terrestrial whales of the road. They are big, cumbersome, and yet they instill a sense of adventure in those who drive past them. Adventure is synonymous with Iceland. Its wild, untouched countryside captivates those who visit it. It would seem like a match made in heaven, that renting an RV and driving through the countryside is becoming the most popular way to see Iceland. Not all motorhomes were created equal though, and no one likes researching the differences between RVs. To save you some time and hassle I’ll outline the differences below.

Motorhome rental at glacier lake in Iceland

Not All RVs Are Created Equal

The first piece of business is making sure that we are all on the same page when we talk about RVs (there will be a test at the end, and it will count towards your final Icelandic tourist grade). More often than not, when people hear or see the word “RV”, they immediately think of a motorhome. Not all RVs are motorhomes, but all motorhomes are RVs. I know this seems like a real mental Chinese finger trap but stay with me here. RV is short for recreation vehicle. There is a broad spectrum of different RV vehicles: some are basic and utilitarian (only having a kitchenette and a sleeping cot), then there are others that seem as though a highly caffeinated Richie Rich designed them (they can have full showers, queen size beds, media centers, etc.). So, to avoid any confusion, we will be discussing the two most popular types of RVs used to cruise through Iceland: Camper Vans and Motorhomes.

Camper Vans

The modern camper van is something of a dream for me (again, personal opinion here). They are incredibly utilitarian, no frills, adventure machine built with young people in mind. Camper vans come in all shapes in sizes, but one thing is sure: rarely were they created for the purpose of being a camper van. Which is interesting to think about! A van that may have been intended to deliver packages, or house a small FBI reconnaissance team, being repurposed so people can go on adventures?! Sign me up!

All camper vans generally have the same amenities: small kitchenette or camp stove, sleeping cots, room for camping equipment and curtains to block light out or curious sheep from watching you sleep. Camper vans are optimal, for me, in that they let you focus on your surroundings. While you are more comfortable than you would be sleeping outside, you aren’t pulled out of the environment. Finding a place to set up camp, opening the back doors of the van, and watching the sunset is made easy with camper vans.

Camper vans can also come with equipped with an all-wheel drive which is crucial for any adventure. In your research for you Icelandic adventure, you may come across several routes that are only accessible with all-wheel drive. Why waste the opportunity of visiting a destination less-known, and thus more authentic, because your vehicle physically cannot make the journey?

Young people on a camper van road trip in Iceland


If it seems like I was drinking the “camper van Kool-Aid,” it is my personal opinion coming into play. I am a young person, without children, and I am quite comfortable sleeping just about anywhere. I am one of the millennials you hear about on the news, but I know everyone is not like me. People have children, and some people have back problems, others cannot live without a shower and wifi. Worry not! The modern motorhome will put you in the lap of luxury. There is a good reason that the motorhome is so much bigger than the modest camper van: its full of stuff!

Big, full-sized beds, full kitchens, couches, mini-dinning tables, and much more are common amenities within motorhomes. When you travel by motorhome you feel like royalty; it can ostensibly feel like a hotel on wheels. With motorhomes, you can drop a pretty penny for some next level package upgrades. A motorhome is also a perfect option if you are traveling with a big group. Camper vans have a time and a place, and big groups aren’t one of them. No one wants to feel like a sardine being carted around Iceland.

Going the motorhome route is also ideal for longer trips through Iceland. Road trips notoriously become more difficult as time goes on. There are only so many times one can eat granola for breakfast while taking a solar shower in the cold. I’ve reached my limit with camper vans before on a trip, and I can remember very clearly begging the universe to supply me with a motorhome somehow. Alas, my request fell flat on the universe’s ears, and I climbed back into my sleeping cot. If you have the cash to spend then treat yourself to a trip through the Icelandic countryside with a motorhome.

Motorhome rental on a fjord

Price, Final Thoughts, Recommendations

Either option is going to set you back, but it all depends on the vehicle and package that you choose. Motorhomes are usually double the price of camper vans, but you get double the comfort and amenities. Camper vans are relatively cheap if you find the right package, and they are more suited to young people who have minimal needs. If you have a family, are in the later years of your life, or just like lounging about as your cruise around on the hotel on wheels that is the modern motorhome, then choose the motorhome.

Whichever decision you make regarding the vehicle, make sure you research the companies and what they offer. The best bets I have found for camper vans are Campers Reykjavik and Happy Campers. They have great deals, and their support staff is terrific. Regarding online options for motorhomes, you have several to choose from. I have found that Campervan Iceland and Motorhome Iceland are both top notch.

What’s the difference between a motorhome and a camper van?

In summary, motorhomes may be a better choice if you’re looking for more of the creature comforts you have at home. It’s the more luxurious option of the two and might be the better choice for families or older travelers. Camper vans on the other hand are a more no-frills option that is ideal for young people. But to be honest, age is just number, so you should pick whichever RV meets your needs as outlined above. Whatever you decide to do, one thing above all else is paramount: have fun. Don’t take the trip too seriously and try to remember that you are driving through one of the most unique, diverse, and exciting landscapes that our planet has to offer. Be respectful of other travelers, keep an eye out for clumsy sheep wandering in the road, and make sure to eat some local cuisine. You follow these steps to a “T” you will come out the other end happy, full, and with countless memories that will last a lifetime.


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