Step 1: Start Looking – Which Type of RV is Right for You?
Class A Motorhome
The class A is what most people think of when they hear the word motorhome. Class A motorhomes are generally the most popular, largest, most self-contained, and most full-featured motorhomes available.
They tend to have the look of a better equipped bus and typically come with a gas engine or a rear diesel engine (known as a diesel pusher). Class A motorhome’s are manufactured by an array of companies and the configurations are endless.
You will find that all motorhomes are built upon a chassis that was originally designed for a bus or large truck. The Class A style motorhome price range is a wide one. New models start around $60,000 and can go north of $1 million. It all depends how much you want your house on wheels to feel like home.
The options on some models are near endless. There are entertainment systems, lighting, custom cabinets, flooring, etc to choose from. You can expect 99% of them to come with a pair of captains chairs, living area, kitchen, bathroom, shower, and even a dining table.
Many feature what is referred to as a “slide out” or “pop out”, which provides for extra living space that is created as the walls of the RV push out while parked. Modern motorhomes typically have at lease one and I have seen models that have as many as 5.
Class A’s offer some of the more generous storage options as many come with a RV basements that looks much like the luggage compartments at the base of buses. Great for storing all your necessities for life on the road.
Class B Motorhome (Camper Vans)
A Class B motorhome is similar to the Class A only it is built using a full size van and specially designed for mobile living. You will find the Class B to be quite familiar in terms of handling and gas mileage to a conventional car or SUV.
It can continue to be used as a family car which is one of the factors that people enjoy. Much like its larger cousin the Class A, some models still come with many of the creature comforts such as bathroom, television, kitchens, etc. The Class B is the smallest of the motorhome family but is still a great option for 2-3 people seeking better MPG, handling, and ways to navigate tight areas with ease.
Class C Motorhome
The Class C motorhome would be the offspring if a Class A and Class B found love. It’s a hybrid motorhome that tends to bring several of the benefits of both Class A and Class B RVs.
The feature that gets a lot of press is the over-cab sleeping area. Ironically many people just use it for storage. Class C motorhomes usually come with gas engines, and as you can see from the picture, they have a van front end which is where the engine is housed.
Most of them are built on GM or Ford chassis but some manufacturers have started using a big rig chassis (example) which makes them look much different. The ones built on a big rig chassis typically cater to the luxury RV crowd.
The big rig Class C’s are also some of the best haulers available. You will find that Class C’s vary in length from about 20ft to 40ft. The longer variations rival the Class A in terms of space and usability.
Newer Class C’s also incorporate slide outs which gives a little more room while parked. You will notice in general that the Class C motorhome tends to be tighter on space than a Class A, but has much more than the Class B.
The space over the cab is often ideal for families needing to maximize sleeping arrangements.
Many RVs in this class will drive much like a large car or SUV but you do lose some cab function over the Class A. In particular, the seats in the front of a Class A swivel to face the living area, but you’ll find that most in the Class C arena do not which takes away from seating usability.
This option offers the most flexibility and is the most popular pick among towable RV’s. They are available in an array of weight and lengths.
Chances are you may already own a vehicle that can tow one. Depending on the size, many can be towed by ordinary trucks, SUVs, or even minivans. One of the features that keeps the travel trailer popular is that it’s lightweight, which is a boon for gas mileage.
Travel trailers vary in length from 12 feet to around 33 feet. The larger the trailer the more amentities and creature comforts become available. In turn the price can start on these around $7,000 and creep up to around $50,000 for the larger variety with upscale options.
If you opt for a larger trailer you may need to upgrade your vehicle to accommodate the higher weight. You will find that the designs and features of a travel trailer can be very similar to the Class A and C motorhome at a fraction of the cost.
One of the downsides to a travel trailer is that no passengers are allowed in it during transit, which may be less than ideal if you’re traveling with a family.
Advantages of a Travel Trailer vs Fifth Wheel: Less height for clearance, fits on a standard ball hitch, and can be attached and detached with ease.
Fifth Wheel travel trailers offer more living area for each foot of length when compared to other types of RV. These trailers have a gooseneck looking front end that connects to the bed of a truck when being towed. Many RV owners use traditional pickup trucks to pull them while others purchase larger flat bed trucks(MDT) and even tractor trailers (HDT). This added benefit of tow capacity and safety means that your vehicle to get around and explore will be a HUGE truck. The fifth wheel trailer traditionally features a split level floor plan that has the living are with extra space and the master bedroom up over the truck bed.
Many people go back and forth on whether a Class A motorhome or Fifth Wheel trailer is a better option. That debate will not be settled here, but it is good to know what other RV buyers consider. The consensus is that a fifth wheel trailer and a tow vehicle is generally cheaper to maintain, purchase, and service than a comparable sized motorhome.
You can find fifth wheel trailers in sizes from 25 feet to all the way above 45 feet. They come in a dizzying array of floor plans with all the modern amenities of home (if that is what you want)
Pop Up Camper (Folding Trailer or Fold Down Camper)
The runt of the litter also happens to be the most compact in size, lightest in weight(around 2500lbs), and the lowest price entry point of any on the list. You can own a folding trailer for as little as $3000. They are remarkably easy to tow compared to the travel trailer and fifth wheel. They also are the easiest to park. Once you arrive at your destination, in minutes the pop up camper transforms into a extravagant tent with a rigid skeleton. It offers a multiple beds as well as showers, toilets, kitchen etc if you opt for the upgrades. They come in lengths from 8ft (folded) to a max of 25 feet (unfolded)with an inside height of up to 8 feet depending on the model. Great all purpose camping RV. Designed mostly for weekend trips or occasional RV’ing. If your thinking of spending a lot of time in an RV this may not the best choice for you.
SURV Trailer (Toy Hauler)
The SURV trailer or Sport Utility RV are tow-able RV’s that generally offer a garage area in the back of the trailer (also offered as an option on Class A motorhomes). Designed for motor toys and personal water craft. This area can be separated from the rest of the RV by the use of a wall and door so that you can get into the garage without living the interior of the RV.
When the toys are removed this area can also be converted into a bedroom or for storage. Most feature a built in ramp that makes loading a breeze. Consider the extra weight of your toys and the capacity of your tow vehicle when considering this option.
A truck camper is a RV that fits in the bed of a truck and many times can be easily removed and used without the need for the truck. The truck camper is designed to fit in most standard truck bed sizes. Many truck camper buyers tend to be solo (or couples)travelers.
It is common to see a truck camper owner towing a trailer while carrying the camper in the truck bed. This allows for bringing along dirt bikes, utility vehicles, and many other items on your trip.Truck campers are very popular among the off-road crowd. Installing a one in the back off an off road truck ensures that your RV can go pretty much anywhere your truck can go. Though the living space is compact, they traditionally feature a toilet, shower, cooktop, and electrical system.