When I first decided to purchase an RV for my family I was immediately met with such a wide variety of units it took a lot of research to figure out what was best for me. I bet you’re like me when you first imagine an RV and you will have images of many types of vehicles swirling around in your head. Going to an RV show does not clear things up. There you will see units that can drive themselves, are towed behind your vehicle or are mounted into your vehicle. Wikipedia defines an RV as “a motor vehicle or trailer which includes living quarters designed for temporary accommodation.” Types of RVs include motorhomes (Class A, Class B, and Class C), travel trailers and camper trailers, fifth-wheel trailers, popup campers, and truck campers.”
To get a start in RVing, you need to understand what each type and classification of RV is out there. First, we will break down the types of RVs into self-driving, or motorized units, then we will take a look at the tow behind units. Each of these main types has its pros and cons. Knowing what is most important to your family is the first step in deciding what type of RV you want to look at first.
The first thing that comes to mind when most people picture
Motorized RVs are self-propelled and usually completely self-contained. They do not rely on a vehicle to tow them to your destination. A self-propelled unit may be an advantage for you since it will not require the purchase of a tow vehicle. But, since motorized units have that engine, you will find they garnish a higher price tag at the dealership and generate increased maintenance costs.
Besides the increased cost of the motorized RV, another disadvantage is the need to bring along another vehicle to explore the area around your destination. If you are primarily using your motorized RV for tailgating at a concert or sporting event, this may not be too much of a problem, but if you are traveling on a family vacation, hooking up and disconnecting the RV each time you want to see the site or run to a grocery store may become tiresome. That extra vehicle will soon become a necessity. Luckily, if you own a smaller, lightweight car, there are relatively inexpensive systems out there for towing your vehicle along with you.
Motorized RVs come in several different classes that offer a wide variety of layouts, sizes, and amenities. With so many choices, these units can fit into many different budgets.
Class A RV
The Class A RV is king of the road when it comes to RVing. Class A RVs resemble a large bus. They are the larges,t and usually most expensive, coaches on the road, built on commercial bus or truck chassis. The heavy-duty chassis allow for heavier, high-end finishes and a more luxurious amenities. These are preferred by many of the full-time RVing type users but are also used by the families on the go.
The class A units offer the most interior room of the motorized types of RVs. Layouts and amenities make you feel right at home when on the road. Often equipped with slid outs, the class A RVs can be expanded once at your site to make decent sized living and sleep areas. Amenities can include, washer and driers, full bathrooms, granite countertops and center island kitchens, ice makers, ample storage, and state of the art entertainment systems.
While a class A RVing offers many great advantages, being the largest and most expensive may not make them the best choice for all families. Their size may make them difficult to drive on narrow roads, tight campgrounds, and mountainous areas. Once the unit is parked in the campground and all hooked up, it is difficult and time-consuming to run out to do some sightseeing or shopping. If you do get unhooked and out of the campground, parking on many streets is nothing short of impossible, making a quick trip to the store a dreaded experience. Most class A RV owners will tow a smaller vehicle behind to make it a little easier to get around at their destination.
These motor-homes are available in several engine options. They can be gasoline or diesel. The engines can be mounted in the front to pull the rig, or in the rear to push the rig. Diesel engines are often more fuel-efficient than gasoline and since class A RVs often only get 8-13 miles per gallon, you will want all fuel efficiency you can get on those longer trips. Having the diesel engine mounted in the rear, or pusher engine gives the advantage of providing an increased towing capacity should you want to bring along that second vehicle to get around at your destination.
A new class A motor home will generally cost $100,000 and some could even ring in at over $1 million dollars.
- Largest, most living space.
- Wide Variety of Configurations
- Many luxurious amenities available
- Lots of storage.
- Expensive to purchase and maintain.
- Large and sometimes difficult to drive.
- A tow-behind vehicle is a necessity to get around at your destination.
Class B RV
In contrast to the class A RV, the class B RV is the smallest of the motorized RVs. They are sometimes called “camper vans” and are usually built on a commercial or full-size van-type chassis. The roofline is often modified to allow extra headroom inside the unit. The small size and limited interior space limit the possible floor plans and available amenities but the much lower acquisition cost and ease to drive make them a popular option for some smaller families.
The class B RV offers a small living space which is often a single room. Some units offer a small bathroom or shower and can also offer a small kitchen.
When looking for luxury travel, you will definitely not find the same luxuries as in the class A RVs. What is lost in luxuries is made up in the time you will spend with your family in the outdoors. Since the living space is small, it is best kept for sleeping. No major entertainment systems in these rigs. Modist, rainy day entertainment, and comfortable sleeping areas can be found in Class B RVs.
Class B RVs are easy to maneuver around the campground or RV park and easy to hook up. Easy hookup and disconnect is great since towing a second vehicle is likely impossible with your Class B RV. You will need to use the vehicle to get around at your destination.
A class B motor home can cost $40,000 – $80,000.
- Easy to drive, park, hookup, and disconnect.
- Great for getting the family into the great outdoors.
- Convenient for day trips and tailgating.
- Limited Storage.
- Limited amenities.
- Small, restricted living space.
- Only suitable for smaller families.
Class C RV
Looking for some of the amenities of a class A coach without the expense? Perfect for long or short family trips or tailgating at concerts and sporting events, the class C RV has your family covered. A self-contained RV with a compartment (usually a sleeping bunk) over the cab, the class C RV stands out on the roads and in the RV parks. Many units have slide-outs which increase the interior space and offer amenities such as bathrooms, showers, useful kitchens, refrigerators, and entertainment systems.
When it comes to sleeping areas the most class C RVs makes excellent use of space. Some units have a separate master bedroom area or bunkhouses for the kids. They are capable of sleeping 4-10 people, so let the kids bring a friend.
Class C units are typically smaller and more easy to navigate than their class A counterparts. They can range from 20′ to 35′ which makes them as easy to drive as a moving van.
Just like class A, class C, once set up, is time-consuming to break down and drive out of the campground or RV park. It is recommended to take along a tow behind vehicle for doing some site seeing at your destination. Just keep in mind, the towing capacity of a class C RV is typically lower than the capacity of class A so a smaller vehicle will be your tow-behind car of choice.
The cost of a new class C RV is significantly less than a class A and offers greater flexibility than a class B. A typically equipped new class C motor home will set you back between $50,000 and $80,000.
- Large enough to carry some amenities offered by larger class A RVs.
- Sleeping areas for the whole family.
- Less expensive than a class A coach.
- Many layouts to fit many needs.
- It can be challenging to drive in narrow streets or RV parks.
- May need a second vehicle to sightsee or explore the destination.
- Expensive to maintain.
- May have limited towing capabilities.
A camper, travel trailer, pull behind, caravan or house trailer all describe the well-loved and popular towable RVs.
When you love camping but are looking for that perfect upgrade, without the expense of a motorized RV, you can look no farther than the towable class of RV. There is a wide variety of units available to fit most budgets. The wide range of towable RV allows for a great amount of latitude in the amenities which are available.
When looking to purchase a towable RV, you must first look at the vehicle you own or are willing to purchase (or lease). If you have a small or midsize SUV or minivan, you may have to settle for a pop-up (tent trailer) or a very small hard-wall trailer. The towing capacity on those vehicles is typically between 3,500 – 7,500 lbs. For example, the 3.6 liter V6 Jeep Grand Cherokee, properly equipped is estimated to have a towing capacity of 6,200 lbs while a 3.6 liter V6 Dodge Grand Caravan, properly equipped, will be limited to 3,600 lbs.
Personally, I own a travel trailer which I tow with a 1/2 ton pick up. My Ford 150 has a sufficient towing capacity to confidently tow my 6,900 lb Wildwood travel trailer.
Many RV parks also allow seasonal or monthly site rentals. With a towable travel trailer, you can take advantage of some of these places and come and go throughout a season, saving on fuel burned while towing.
Pop-Up / Tent Trailers
The pop-up or tent trailer is the natural migration from tent camping toward having those few extra amenities to make your experience just a little more comfortable. Relatively inexpensive and lightweight makes it get right out to your favorite camping spots without worrying about making a big purchase on tow vehicle.
Some units off ammenities such as toilets, showers, and kitchens. This kitchens do not offer much space to prepare but the conviences it worth it when trying to get the early breakfast before heading out to explore. The bathroom facilies are also small and do not offer the highest level of privacy, but it sure beats a long walk to the bathrooms, or woods, when nature calls late at night.
The pop-out tents bring that back-to-nature experience of tent camping in the great outdoors. Should you encounter rain on your camping trip, they will do well keeping you and your family dry. One thing to keep in mind, you will need to make sure the pop-out tent sections are good and dry before storing to make sure there is no mildew or rot on your next trip out.
- Relatively inexpensive.
- Lightweight and easy to tow.
- Do not need a heavy-duty tow vehicle.
- Can find units will great amenities.
- Easy to maneuver and get into smaller campsites and areas.
- Units are small.
- Limited privacy.
- May develop leaks over time.
- Mold, mildew, and rot can cause problems with the tent portions if not properly taken care of.
Hitch Tow-able Travel Trailer
A hitch tow-able travel trailer is the perfect home away from home. These units offer an incredible selection of sizes and floorplans to fit most families’ needs. The hard walls and variety of layouts is like having your own hotel room on wheels.
Hitch tow-able travel trailers come in a wide variety of lengths and configurations so you can find the perfect fit for you and tow vehicle.
Many hitch tow-able travel trailer comes with bunkhouses, bedroom areas, kitchens, and bathrooms with showers. There are small units that are perfect for the couples looking for a quick getaway or larger units with separate sleeping quarters, indoor/outdoor kitchen areas, and large slide outs for the larger families.
When selecting a tow-able travel trailer you must keep in mind your tow vehicle. It is easy to get lured into these units by the many available features, but the weight can quickly add up. While there are many “lite” weight models out there, your modestly priced units tend to use building materials that quickly add weight.
Due to the vast number of options available in this class of RV, it is best to get out to some regional RV shows. These shows will let you check out all of the varieties of sizes and layouts so you can find the perfect fit.
Do you already have a tow vehicle? Maybe renting one of these units is a good first step. While you can find many Class A and Class C RVs for rent from rental services, you may need to look to the individual travel trailer owner for renting a towable travel trailer. Check out Fifth Wheel Keystone RVs