“Last summer, we were traveling in a Class C. We only recently upgraded to the diesel pusher — and man, what a difference! Can you believe we started out RVing in a pop-up trailer all those years ago?”
If you’ve new to RVing, overhearing that snippet of conversation might leave you scratching your head. What’s everyone talking about with all of these “classes” of RV?
Is a Class C worse than a class A in some way, and why does it seem like there are so many more As and Cs than Bs in the discussion? Where do travel trailers fit in, and what are the important differences between towing and traveling in a motorhome? Are all RVs considered campers?
Yeah, it can definitely be confusing, even if you’re not new to RV camping!
That’s why we put together this blog post to compare the different RV classes and give you a quick primer to what’s what. That way, you’ll have a better idea of which kind of RV might be best suited to your purposes — whether you’re just looking to rent a rig for an upcoming trip, or you’re starting the process of researching to buy your very own camper.
What is the Difference Between RV Classes?
First of all, RVs are separated into two main categories: motorcoaches and towable rigs.
Motorcoaches are self-powered RVs that have their own engine and driving chassis, while towables, as their name implies, require a separate vehicle to, well, tow them with.
This difference is critical for a variety of reasons, because camping in a motorcoach versus a towable rig is a totally different experience. For instance, although a fifth wheel trailer might be spacious and luxurious, you can’t access any of those amenities until you’re done with your drive for the day. And in some very extreme situations, if your rig is extremely oversized, your state may even have certain extra license requirements.
Self-driving RVs, on the other hand, give you the option of simply pulling off at the nearest camping spot without having to worry about unhitching. However, unless you pull a smaller vehicle behind your rig, you’ll likely be stuck without any easy way to get around your destination locally once you arrive.
There’s no such thing as a “perfect” RV — each type comes with its own benefits and compromises. But let’s dig into the specific classes a little bit more to help you get a better idea of which might work for you.
Understanding RV Classes
Here’s a quick guide to the main RV classes.
1. Class A RV
These are the large, bus-shaped rigs that might come to mind when you think about a celebrity’s tour vehicle. They can be anywhere from 20 feet to 45 feet in length, or even longer, and some of them sleep up to eight or ten passengers. These motorhomes can be diesel or gas, but either way, they pack a hefty punch when it comes to the fuel bill. Since they’re so large and heavy, they aren’t exactly fuel efficient… some get as little as six miles to the gallon! That said, if you’re looking for luxury and easy of use, especially if you have to transport a lot of people, a Class A is hard to beat.
2. Class B RV
Also known as sleeper vans or campervans, Class B RVs are one of the small RV classes, which means they’re more agile than either Class A or Class C rigs… but they don’t have the same kind of spacious interior. However, if you’ll be spending most of your camping trip outdoors anyway, Class Bs can be a great fit. They still usually come with everything you need (small kitchen, toilet, bed, and storage), and they’re a whole lot easier on your wallet when it comes to fuel. Plus, you’ll never have to worry about whether or not you’ll be able to back up or navigate down a steep or unpaved road — which is where all the coolest campsites are!
3. Class C RV
If you want a rig that’s easy to drive, a little bit more fuel efficient, but still comes with all the amenities, Class C campers might be right for you. They’re built into a regular truck chassis, which makes some people feel much more comfortable driving them than big, bus-style Class As. Plus, they’re generally less expensive even though they usually feature all the same comforts, although they may be more modestly appointed than ultra-luxurious Class As. (They get a little bit better fuel mileage, too!)
Classes of RV Trailers
Now that we’ve talked about the different types of motorcoaches, let’s move on to trailers.
The first thing you need to know about travel trailers is that they all require a tow vehicle — and usually a pretty powerful one. In the case of large trailers and fifth wheels, you’ll probably need at least a half-ton, and possibly a one-ton truck to get the job done safely.
Even smaller types of travel trailers usually need at least a hefty SUV to pull them, although some ultra-lightweight trailers can be pulled behind small SUVs and even some sedans. However, if you don’t already have a capable tow vehicle, don’t be fooled by the smaller price tag on the rig… because you’ll need to purchase the tow vehicle, too, which can be more expensive altogether than one modest motorhome.
Travel trailer classes include:
- Pop-up or foldable trailers, which are very compact but feature canvas sides and need to be physically unfolded before they’re usable
- Travel trailers, a wide range of towables which come in a variety of RV length measurements and have different floorplans. (Each manufacturer usually has a size chart and specifications for you to look into to see which might be right for your needs)
- Toy haulers, which are travel trailers that feature a “garage” so you can bring along a large “toy” such as an ATV or snowmobile
- Fifth wheel trailers, which are the largest RVs available on the market, but also some of the heaviest and require a specific type of in-bed truck tow hitch.
This is only a brief introduction to the different types of campers and motorhomes out there on the market, but the most important thing is to remember that the perfect RV means something different for everyone.
If you’re just traveling solo and not afraid to get a little dirt under your fingernails, a tiny campervan might do the job. But if you’re looking for a comfortable way to transport your family of six to Disney World, a Class A or fifth wheel might be more suited to your needs.
Don’t forget — if you can’t decide, don’t be afraid to try out a few different types of vehicles! Renting RVs through RVshare is a great way to do just that. Then, you’ll have a real sense of what vacationing in each different class of RV is like before you commit to purchasing one.