A line of RVs waiting to be sold

Ultimate Guide to RV Types: Demystifying 10 RV Classes

There are many types of recreational vehicles (RVs) on the market today. Each has its pros/cons. In this beginner guide, let’s do a quick introduction to what’s available.

Class A Diesel Motorhome

The Class A diesel motorhomes are either gasoline or diesel-engine powered, and they are the largest of the RV types, being between 28 to 45 feet long. They are built on frames used for commercial trucks or buses.

This class of RVs is very luxurious and may come with many benefits and amenities, which could include:

  • A king-size bed
  • Washing machine and drier
  • Full bath and shower
  • Full-sized furniture
  • Lots of storage space
  • Entertainment systems
  • Double-door refrigerator with ice maker
  • An oven
  • Microwave
  • 3 burner gas cooktop
  • Double bowl sink
  • Pantry

The size and amenities make it the ideal vehicle for full-time RVers. It can sleep between six and ten people. The master bedroom may have a king or queen size bed in it. There is also a considerable amount of storage space.

A big advantage of this size motorhome is that there is lots of living space and the possibility of many options. They usually have a minimum of two slide-outs.

As might be expected, they are expensive to operate because of low gas mileage (8-10 mpg), insurance, repairs, etc. Some luxury models may even be able to carry a small sports car.

In the diesel-powered motorhome, the diesel engine is located in the rear of the vehicle. This enables the engine to provide greater power than the gasoline engine, which is in the front.

The diesel engine will usually last longer, too, but remember that diesel fuel is considerably more expensive than gasoline.

When traveling with a vehicle this size, it’s probably best to tow a smaller vehicle with you so that errands can easily be run. The vehicle is too large for narrow streets and many countries or mountain roads.

Many people feel a little uncomfortable driving it because of its size, but by starting smaller, you can get accustomed to it first and then move up.

A row of RVs parked next to one another

The price tag on a Class A motorhome RV type can vary considerably. While they may start at around $50,000, they could cost as much as $1,000,000 or more at the high end.

Class B Motorhome

A Class B motorhome is built on the frame of a large van. It is available with a gasoline or diesel engine and gets rather good gas mileage.

They range in size from 19 to 26 feet and will still fit in a standard garage. The smaller size enables it to be easy to drive. It is small enough that it is convenient to make small trips to the store with it.

While it does have a number of luxuries, it is a smaller vehicle. The roof has been raised (or the floor has been dropped) to enable people to walk around it.

It is suitable for one or two people, but more people than that will make it crowded. Some of them may sleep up to four people.

The beds will fold into the wall when not in use. The size may make it more preferred by a single person or for trips, but it is probably too small to live in.

This is why they are also called camper vans and conversion vans. Storage space is limited, and most have no slide-outs.

The vehicle comes with several amenities for comfort. These may include:

  • Hot water heater
  • Refrigerator
  • Propane stove top with probably no more than two burners
  • A shower-toilet combination
  • A sink
  • Heating and air conditioning

These appliances are usually not full-sized and are not large enough for a full-sized entertainment system. It does not have laundry facilities. They usually will have an awning.

Some of the luxury models – often referred to as B+, will have some unique features that may include four-wheel drive, solar panels, tankless water heaters, and in-floor radiant heat.

Some may even have slide-outs, an external TV with speakers, and extra storage space for items such as a kayak or fishing poles. It is also big enough to tow a small car or boat behind it.

When it comes to buying a Class B motorhome, it will cost considerably less than the larger RVs. Getting better gas mileage means it will also be less expensive to operate.

This vehicle is often priced from $60,000 to $130,000, but pricier models may cost around $200,000.

Class C Motorhome

The Class C motorhome RV type is larger than the Class B, which enables it to have more features and benefits. Most often, it is built on a truck chassis.

It is easily recognized by having part of the camper hang over the cab. It will range in size from 20 to 33 feet.

The larger size makes it more suitable for families or singles and can sleep from four to eight people. They may have two queen-size beds and two double beds.

Because of its larger size, it is not much easier to maneuver than the Class A RV. However, it does get much better gas mileage but is still rather expensive to operate.

The engine is powerful enough to tow a small vehicle.

This size RV may also have a couple of slide-outs. This will expand the living space enough to make it comfortable.

Some of these may have rear slide-outs to expand the size of the master bedroom. The area over the cab is often a sleeping area, but it can also be used for storage or converted into an entertainment system.

There is enough room for a number of conveniences and appliances. This type of RV comes with:

  • A bathroom and separate shower
  • Sink
  • Refrigerator
  • Stovetop
  • Microwave
  • Convertible dinette

More expensive models will offer full-size appliances, a larger bathroom, a home theater system, and external storage space. A Class C RV will start out around $50,000 but may go as high as $140,000.

Fifth Wheel RVs

This type of RV is the largest one made that is towable. It is pulled by a large pick-up truck with a special fifth-wheel hitch – like a semi. The living space is large, and it can come with a large variety of benefits and amenities.

They range in size from about 35 to 45 feet.

When buying this type of vehicle, the size of the pickup truck also needs to be considered. Since it is not legal to ride in a vehicle that is being towed, the people will have to ride in the truck.

RVs parked in a row with fog in the background

This can make a long trip rather unpleasant if the truck is too crowded.

Because part of the trailer is hanging over the back end of the truck, this gives this type of RV more space. This enables it to carry almost any type of amenity.

It also gives more control to the driver. Some of these RVs even have special compartments for your toys, such as motorcycles, ATVs, etc.

In order to expand the space inside, which is already considerable, a fifth-wheel RV may have up to four slide-outs. Other amenities may include:

  • Laminate or even granite countertops
  • An island
  • Full-size appliances
  • Food pantry
  • King or queen-size bed
  • Dressers and closets
  • TV

There is a separate bunk area for the kids with an entertainment center. The living room may have couches, benches, or plush recliners. There may also be a fireplace for extra comfort.

Some RV models will even have a desk or workstation with an Internet connection. A central vacuum system helps with cleaning and removes the need to carry a vacuum cleaner.

It may also have a washer and dryer.

The average price of a fifth-wheel RV is from $45,000 to $85,000. Some models will run considerably more, and a used model may only run around $15,000 – depending on its age and mileage.

One excellent benefit of a fifth wheel is that this type of RV is one you can park the RV and drive the truck anywhere. If you need to buy a pick-up truck to tow it, you need to know what size of trailer you want to buy and its weight, and then buy the truck for it.

You may also need to have some special equipment added to the truck to tow the trailer, such as airbags for the rear suspension, the fifth wheel hitch, heavy-duty brakes, a brake controller, and possibly a transmission cooler.

Towable RVs – Travel Trailers

A towable RV comes in a wide range of sizes. They can be equipped with many amenities or be simple and only have the basics.

They range in size from 12 to 35 feet. The smaller models can be towed by many different vehicles that are six-cylinder or larger, and the lighter materials make it even more convenient – cutting down on gas costs.

This type of trailer can have many amenities, depending on the size. It may have the following features:

  • Dual entry
  • One to four slide outs
  • A master bedroom
  • Two bathrooms
  • Outside camp kitchen
  • May sleep up to eight people

Travel trailers have the advantage of not having an engine. This provides extra space for more features. Because there is no engine, travel trailers are less expensive than similar-sized RVs, but you will need a vehicle to haul it around.

A disadvantage of travel trailers is that they can be difficult and possibly even impossible to back up. This means that getting into and out of parking spaces and campgrounds should be considered before driving into them.

Tail swing can be another problem – especially with larger trailers. Travel trailers are not as high as Class A RVs, which means that it is possible to have storage on the roof and not have to worry about height limits.

Since this is a towed vehicle, owners are able to disconnect the trailer and use the tow vehicle to get around. This makes it very convenient and a way to save money on gas.

There are several types of travel trailers. They include:

  • Toy Haulers – This type of travel trailer/RV is designed to haul your toys around, such as motorcycles, small cars, four-wheelers, dune buggies, etc. It will often have a large door in the back that will fold down to form a ramp. It opens into a separate section that acts as a garage, and some furniture may be removable to accommodate the vehicle. It may also have an additional axle to support the extra weight.

  • Expandable Trailers – These trailers have some features that are similar to pop-up campers. Once you park, some sections will open out to form the sleeping areas – usually at the front and back of the trailer. This enables the trailer to be smaller on the road and more easily handled. Because the sleeping sections fold out, it lets more lavish amenities be built into them. Like a pop-up camper, the foldout sections are only fabric and will not protect you from the cold in the colder months. They can sleep from two to eight people.

  • Teardrop Trailers – These trailers are named for their teardrop shape. They come in many sizes, including some small enough to be hauled by a motorcycle. Often, cooking is done externally, but some are large enough to cook inside and eat.

Truck Campers

motorhomes parked next to each other

When it comes to what may be the most versatile RV, a truck camper likely wins the prize. While not very large, the smaller size enables it to go anywhere a pick-up truck can go. This gives the owner more freedom.

The campers can fit onto a short or long truck bed on a half-ton or three-quarter-ton truck. Some of them will have slide-outs, and a few might have an awning.

Some models may have the following features:

  • Slide out pantry
  • Microwave
  • Dinette
  • Kitchen sink
  • Stove
  • Shower
  • Toilet
  • Bathroom sink

It can sleep three people. It may also have a satellite dish, an LED TV, a solar panel, a two-person sofa, and more.

This type of RV will get the best gas mileage. It may depend on the size of the truck and the engine.

Folding or Tent Campers

When it comes to size, tent campers are the smallest. They fold down to a size convenient for traveling or storing.

Their lightweight enables a larger car (station wagon) or small truck to tow the smaller models.

A tent camper only has the bare essentials, and most of them have very little space for storing anything, but there is some. Additional equipment and supplies will need to be carried in the tow vehicle.

The collapsible sides and compartments are made of either metal and hard plastic or canvas. This enables it to fold into a small space but expand when needed.

It has very few, if any, amenities, except that it offers a dry place to sleep – away from the mosquitoes. The fabric offers little protection from cold or heat.

It may not contain any equipment, such as a stove or toilet. A toilet or shower tent can be purchased separately for added convenience.

A tent camper will open to various sizes that range from 10 to 19 feet. They will sleep from two to eight people. They usually come with:

  • A dinette table
  • Refrigerator
  • Stove
  • Water heater
  • TV
  • Beds
  • Air conditioner
  • A heater may be extra

A luxury model may contain one slide-out, an indoor shower and toilet, and a cargo area. Some of these may open up to 32 feet.

New tent campers’ prices range from $3,000 to about $20,000.

Toterhomes

For those who want super luxury and comfort, an RV called a toterhome is the way to go. This RV is really a truck frame with a trailer on it.

It is considered to be the ultimate luxury.

A toterhome is highly customizable to the needs of the buyer. They are often used as toy haulers and transport racecars and their drivers and crew.

Bands also use them to haul their equipment and the entire band, and you can be sure that they want luxury. The equipment is hauled in a trailer that is pulled behind the toterhome.

This large vehicle could comfortably sleep a dozen or more people in it. It has almost no limits on what can be put in it – anything you want in a home can go in it.

Some of them are even two stories. In the way of amenities, this type of RV may have:

  • A full kitchen
  • Washer and dryer
  • Refrigerator
  • Microwave
  • Granite countertop
  • Central vacuum system
  • A 3 burner stovetop
  • Shower
  • Heated tile floors
  • On-demand water heater
  • Queen size bed
  • Flat screen TVs
  • DVD players
  • Surround sound systems

It may have as many as three slide-outs to provide even more room. They usually come with at least one three-section couch, a dinette table that converts to a bed, and possibly a workstation.

These vehicles may also come equipped with an awning and have outside entertainment. It may also have solar panels and generator inverters.

A bed over the cab is often a trademark of this type of vehicle.

If you need to tow anything, these vehicles usually come equipped for it. A 20,000 lb. hitch is common, but they may have one that can haul 40,000 lbs.

Some will also have an automatic transmission.

A used toterhome can be obtained for about $50,000. Buying a customized one can easily start out much higher – $100,000 to $500,000, and more, depending on the options.

Toterhomes are the RV types that are bigger than most people want or need. Because they are built on a truck chassis, they are more difficult to drive and maneuver.

They could be ideal for those who have heavy items to tote around and want luxury while doing it.

Licenses

Most states do not require that you have a CDL license to drive any RV type – not even the Class As. However, they usually have a weight limit on this, which is usually 26,000 lbs.

If your vehicle weighs more than that, then you are required to have CDL to drive it in most states. There are different types of CDL licenses, and it is not necessary to have a commercial CDL to drive an RV, but you will need one if it weighs more than 26,000 lbs.

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RV Sizes and Types — What’s the Best RV for Your Life? (Video)

QUOTE:
"Of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt."
-- John Muir
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