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With so many types of RVs on the market, choosing the right one for your family can be, well, overwhelming. And with this many choices, how can you be sure you are making the right one? Every RV owner has had to face the same dilemma at one point.
The choices can be narrowed down by answering a few key questions first.
- What type of RVing will you be doing?
- Will you be using your new rig primarily on the weekends or will it be used as a primary residence?
- Will you be RVing cross-country with your family, or will you stay closer to home?
- What is your budget?
Don’t skip this very important step in the process. The last thing you want to do is spend your money on an RV to find out later isn’t what you wanted or needed.
For example, if you are planning to use an RV for weekend family camping trips, you wouldn’t want to spend upwards of $80,000 or more on a luxury fifth wheel camper. In this case a travel trailer or pop-up camper might be a better fit.
On the other hand, if you will be using your RV for cross-country road trips or will be living full-time in your RV, a motorhome or fifth wheel RV may be a better choice.
RVs are available from the most luxurious Class A motorhome, down to the most basic pop-up camper. In this post, we are going to break down the different types of RVs and give you a more in-depth analysis on each one.
Let’s jump in…
What Is An RV?
The term RV is an abbreviation for recreational vehicle. It is a broad term that covers all the different classes and types of RVs from travel trailers and fifth wheels to Class A and Class B motorhomes. Often times when people think of “RV”, their first thought is a retired couple lumbering down the highway in a huge motorhome wearing hula shirts and Panama Jack hats.
Suggested: The Complete Guide To RV Slang Terms
The first type of RV that we are going to cover is the motorhome. Motorhomes are motorized, or drivable, RVs that do not require a tow vehicle. Motorhomes are categorized into three main classes, each of which has its own set of unique characteristics.
The three classes of motorhomes are:
- Class A – The huge “rock star” types of RVs
- Class B – The smaller “#vanlife” types of RVs
- Class C – The mid-sized “bunk-over-cab” types of RVs
Class A Motorhome
These are the largest of all types of RVs. I like to refer to these as “rock star” motorhomes.
Because of their massive size, Class A motorhomes will generally have the most interior space and basement storage space than the other types of RVs. It is also common for these RVs to be equipped with high-end fixtures and appliances, wood cabinets, and even heated floors.
These large motorhomes range in length from 25 feet all the way up to 45 feet with a weight range from around 13,000 pounds to a whopping 30,000 pounds.
Class A motorhomes are available with two engine choices, diesel and gas. The diesel-powered Class A is commonly referred to as a “pusher”. This is because the large engine is located at the rear of the coach and essentially “pushes” the motorhome down the road.
One of the most notable features of these types of RVs is the massive panoramic windshield. This gives the driver and passenger an un-obstructed view of the scenery as they travel the country in luxury and style.
Now let’s talk about price. Class A motorhomes can range in price from around $80,000 to well over a million dollars. In fact, the most expensive Class A motorhome in the world is the Marchi Mobile EleMMent Palazzo. This luxury RV will set you back a jaw-dropping $3 million.
One major downfall to these impressive RVs is the maneuverability and freedom to roam once you are set up at your site. If you want to go out and explore the local attractions, you will have to tow a small vehicle behind the rig.
- Storage space
- Panoramic views
- High-end amenities
- Multiple seating and sleeping areas
- High cost to purchase
- Difficult to maneuver
- High fuel cost
- Cannot explore the area once set up
Class B Motorhome
Class B RVs are small, van types of RVs that range in size from 18 feet up to 24 feet. Depending on amenities and fuel type (gasoline or diesel), these motorhomes generally range in price from around $80,000 to $200,000 and more.
Because of their compact size, parking and maneuvering in tight spaces like busy city streets is a breeze. Class B motorhomes can also be parked in most standard parking spots and in the typical residential driveway for easy storage when not in use.
This type of RV does, however, have shortcomings. Storage and general living space are the most challenging aspects of these small motorhomes. In addition, large families may have a difficult time squeezing everyone into the tight space.
The bathroom in these coaches is referred to as a “wet-bath” because the toilet and sink are generally located in the shower.
Some floorplans offer a full-sized bed at the rear of the coach, but most are equipped with a fold down sofa for sleeping.
- Small size makes it easy to drive and maneuver
- Better fuel economy that other motorhomes
- Easy to store
- Better campsite selection than with larger RVs
- Limited interior space for families
- Lack of storage space
- Minimal sleeping areas
- Small waste tanks
Class C Motorhome
The Class C motorhome is a happy medium between the massive Class A and the smaller Class B. These RVs are built on a van or commercial truck chassis and are easily recognized by the bunk/storage area on top of the cockpit.
Unlike the camper vans, the Class C RVs are available in multiple floorplans, lengths, and sleeping capacities. In addition, the extra storage and living space makes this motorhome an ideal choice for any size family to take on those extended vacations and road trips.
In addition, you can enter and exit the RV through the driver and passenger doors, unlike the Class A. The Class A motorhome typically has one door located in the living area.
Most Class C coaches are equipped with all the amenities of home including fully functional kitchens, multiple sleeping areas, and some even have outdoor kitchens for entertaining.
These types of RVs can range in lengths from around 20 feet up to around 40 feet and can weigh up to 12,000 pounds.
- Passengers have access to kitchen and restroom while driving
- Easy to drive
- Less expensive than other motorhomes
- Maintenance services can be performed at most mechanic shops
- Limited travel options without towing separate vehicle
- Limited outdoor storage space
- Poor gas mileage
Suggested: The Best Class C RVs For Couples
Towable Types Of RVs
Towable, or bumper pull, RVs are a popular choice among RVers because of the many options and styles that are available.
Fifth Wheel Trailer
Fifth wheel RVs, or “fivers”, are the largest and most luxurious of the towable types of RVs. These massive rigs are pulled using a special tow hitch that mounts inside the bed of the tow vehicle. These RVs generally tow much easier than traditional bumper pull trailers because the rig is much closer to the tow vehicle.
Fifth wheels are one of the most popular towable RVs on the road today. Since these trailers are much heavier than other types of towable RVs, they generally offer the most living space. In addition, many are equipped with multiple slides that really open up the space and make it feel more like home.
These campers offer the best of both worlds. They give you the living and storage space needed for large families, with the freedom to unhitch and have a daily driver while at the campground.
Fifth wheels are a great option for full-timers and weekenders alike since they typically come decked out with luxury amenities like kitchen islands and outdoor kitchens along with options for essential appliances like washers and dryers.
Fifth wheel RVs generally range in length from 25 feet up to 45 feet with weights ranging from 5,000 pounds up to 16,000 pounds. As you can see, with a towable RV of this size, a very powerful tow vehicle will be required.
- Large living area
- Easier to tow than a travel trailer
- Tow vehicle doubles as a daily driver
- Plenty of storage space
- Requires strong tow vehicle
- No access to living quarters while traveling
- Higher cost than smaller towable types of RVs
The travel trailer is the most popular type of RV in the United States and Canada. Travel trailers are also known as camper trailers, pull-behind trailers, or towable campers.
Unlike the fifth wheel camper mentioned above, this type of RV attaches to the tow vehicle at the rear bumper.
Travel trailers typically range in lengths from as short as 12 feet up to 35 feet with ranges in weight from 1,000 pounds to well over 10,000 pounds when fully loaded.
A savvy shopper can find great deals on these campers for under $20,000. However, prices on travel trailers can reach to over $90,000, depending on brand, amenities, and size. For example, the Airstream Flying Cloud travel trailer starts at $94,400.
Even the most basic models will have all the amenities one will need for weekend camping trips, extended road trip vacations, and even full-time living.
- Some models can be towed by SUVs
- More affordable than motorhomes
- Available in many floorplans and configurations
- Most maintenance can be performed by the owner
- Cannot ride inside the travel trailer while driving
- Smaller units will have limited sleeping and living space
- Larger travel trailers will need a heavier tow vehicle
Toy Haulers are arguably one of the most versatile types of RVs in the industry. These are towable RVs that come in either a fifth wheel or travel trailer configuration. However, there are a small number of motorhomes that are toy haulers as well.
A Toy Hauler has both, a living area, and a separate, dedicated garage space at the rear of the coach for hauling things like ATVs, motorcycles, bicycles, or any other outdoor equipment that you might want to bring to the campground. When the garage isn’t being used, bunks, dinettes, and other amenities can be easily put back in place.
The living areas of these types of RVs have all the amenities you would find in any other camper. They are equipped with kitchens, bedrooms, and bathroom at the front, and the garage at the back.
The rear wall of the camper folds down to create an easily accessible ramp that, on some models, can be transformed into a porch for entertaining or relaxing.
Toy Haulers are designed and engineered with heavy duty materials to be able to manage the extra weight they will be carrying, which in turn, adds to the overall weight of the RV. In addition, the cost of a Toy Hauler can be a considerable amount higher than their fifth wheel or travel trailer counterparts.
- Great choice for those who want to bring outdoor equipment along
- Some models offer an on-board fuel station
- Garage area easily converts into additional living space
- Perfect combination of living space and extra storage space
- Higher cost versus fifth wheel and travel trailer
- Because of weight, a strong tow vehicle is required
- Difficult to maneuver in tight spaces
When it comes to “cool”, Teardrop Campers steal the show. These types of RVs get their name from the classic teardrop shape of the camper that is rounded at the front and tapers off at the rear.
These campers are lightweight and compact but can have many creature comforts of larger campers. For example, most will have an outdoor kitchen located at the rear of the camper, while some even have bathrooms. No matter what your needs are, there is a model that will suit you.
Because of their compact size, most can be towed with small cars and SUVs, however, the larger versions will require a larger tow vehicle to haul.
In addition, most units are nothing more than a place to lay down and get some rest after a hard day on the trails or to escape the weather while out camping.
Another popular trait of these types of RVs is the price range. Smaller units can be purchased for as little as $5,000, while the much larger models will carry a price tag of $15,000 and up.
- Small and lightweight
- Many sizes to choose from
- Can be stored in most residential driveways or garages
- Classic, vintage shape is aerodynamic
- Outdoor kitchen not ideal in inclement weather
- Limited cargo carrying capacity
- Limited sleeping space
For those wanting an entry-level camper, but still want to feel like they are sleeping outside, a pop-up camper might be the best choice. These types of RVs typically have the lowest cost to purchase, and their compact size makes them easy to store in any residential driveway or garage. In addition, they can usually be towed by SUVs and mini vans.
Since the walls of these campers are vinyl or canvas, much like a tent, you get some of the amenities of a travel trailer, while keeping that close-to-nature feel, without sleeping right on the ground.
With so many options available, the cost of these campers can vary from a few thousand dollars up to more than $20,000.
But don’t worry, if you aren’t a huge fan of tent-like walls, hard-sided and A-frame options are available.
- Budget friendly
- Tent camping feel, without sacrificing comfort
- Save money on off-season storage by storing at home
- Lightweight and compact
- Limited living space
- Limited amenities
- May not be welcome in some RV parks
- Many models do not have bathrooms
Suggested: The Best Pop-Up Campers With Bathrooms
With un-conventional camping in mind, off-road campers are designed and manufactured to handle the most rugged and rough terrain.
These types of RVs come equipped with larger, all-terrain tires and have a higher ground clearance than traditional campers. In addition, off-road campers are built with a stronger chassis and beefier suspension that can handle any type of terrain.
Off-road campers are often equipped with an enhanced tow hitch, unlike the traditional rigid hitches, which provide 360-degree rotation.
Due to the lightweight nature of these types of RVs, they make the perfect choice for off road and outdoor enthusiasts alike.
- Off-road capabilities
- Compact size for easy storage
- Heavy-duty suspension
- Freedom to camp almost anywhere
- Towing a camper while off-roading
- Lack of amenities
Deciding on which type of RV works best for you is much easier when you know the characteristics and features of each type. It’s also a good idea to know beforehand what the RV is going to be used for. Will you be mainly using it on the occasional weekend? Or will you be taking your RV on extended family road trips across the country?
Leave us a comment below and let us know which type of RV you would choose.
Frequently Asked Questions
What does RV stand for?
The term RV is short for recreational vehicle which is a vehicle or camper trailer that contains a designated living space. It is a blanket term that is used to describe all of the different types of RVs.
What are the three classes of motorhomes?
Motorhomes are divided into three separate classes, Class A, Class B, and finally, Class C. The largest of these is the Class A that is built on a commercial bus chassis or a commercial truck chassis.
The Class B motorhome is built on a passenger van chassis and is the easiest motorhome to drive. Because of their compact size, they can easily fit into most parking spots and will also fit in a residential driveway.
The Class C motorhome is smaller than a Class A, but larger than a Class B campervan. These RVs are built using a small truck chassis in most cases but can also be built on a cutaway van chassis. Class C motorhomes are most recognized by the bunk that sits over the cockpit of the RV.
What is the most popular type of RV?
Travel trailers are arguably the most popular types of RVs. Travel trailers, or camper trailers, are largely purchase by weekend RVers because of their affordability and wide range of models available.