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Campervan pop top roofs – the difference between the European style and Vertical lifter

A question we get asked very often about campervan pop top roofs: why do you use the ‘European style’ pop top roof and what are the advantages of this type of roof compared to the vertical lifter style roof which is still commonly used in Australia.

There are two main reasons why we believe the European style roof is a much superior product:

  1. It is not ‘spring loaded’ (like the vertical lifter), but fitted with gas struts. This means we can tailor the difficulty of pulling down and up the roof to each client’s strength by letting in or out some gas to adjust the pressure.
  2. The gas struts do not make a sound when you are driving, as opposed to the springs on a vertical lifter which clang while driving.

Need more proof? Look around…the leaders in Campervan manufacturing and the big campervan markets are in the United Kingdom and Europe. They stopped using the vertical lifters 20 years ago. Volkswagen and Mercedes also have their own brand of campervan (not yet availbale in Australia but possibly soon!), the ‘California’ and ‘Marco Polo’ respectively, both also use the European style pop top roofs, and are at the forefront of auto innovation.

European pop top roof

European pop top roof

To pop top or not to pop top? That is the question…

So you’ve decided on a campervan conversion and now need to make the decision of whether you want the added pop top roof. The answer depends on many different factors, all important when you are considering whether to fork out $8000 for an extending roof…

Your camping style – Do you plan on travelling or spending any time staying in cooler weather? If you actively avoid the cold weather and have an aversion to cooking inside your van then you need to have a think about how much time you will spend standing up inside your campervan. If your cooker is portable and you can sit down to prepare/cook food inside the van or don’t plan on cooking or washing dishes inside the van then you may have no need for the additional height a pop top will give you.

Your age – Without being ageist, I am going to make the assumption that the older you are, the more issues you may have with your back and the more likely you are to require the ability to stand up completely straight while moving around inside your campervan. Similarly, someone young might not mind walking the few feet from the bed to the door with their stooped slightly.

Your health – As per the above, if you have issues with your back you will most likely need a pop top roof.

Your height – Although this doesn’t have to be a deciding factor, if you’re over 6 foot you might decide the additional height is a must.

Your budget/alternate options.- If the additional $8000 for a pop top roof is going to break the budget but you’d like a bit of additional height consider the alternatives.

Re-sale – How long are you planning on keeping your van? Vans without a pop top roof are harder to re-sell as the majority of people assume they require one (even though they may not!).

The VW Transporter is also available in a mid roof. Although you’ll need to check on the internal height of your garage if you plan on keeping it inside, this is often a good option if you don’t want to pay for a pop top. Keep in mind that you can’t stand up completely upright in one of these unless you are quite short. They will however, give you that extra bit of height which will make the van feel more roomy inside and also give you additional storage space inside the roof above the front seats.

VW mid roof and low roof

VW mid roof and low roof

VW Campervan with pop top roof.

VW Campervan with pop top roof.

A motorhome/larger size van such as a Mercedes Sprinter or Fiat Ducato (think ambulance sized!) are larger sized vans both in height, length and width. This means you can stand up inside and also have more room for campervan features. On the downside they may be that tiny bit too big for those living in cities and built up areas or who aren’t the best parallel parkers…