A Complete Guide to RV Classes and Types
Whether you’ve decided to purchase your first RV or just looking to expand your RV knowledge, this guide will breakdown the types of RVs you can find on the road.
Choose a drivable RV based on the space you need and how much you are able to afford to spend on an RV. You should also take into consideration the use of the RV. If you are planning on living in it while traveling all over the country, you may be more comfortable with a Class A RV. If you just plan to go out for some weekend camping and it’s only you or you and one other person, a Class B may be large enough.
A Class A motorhome is built on a heavy frame such as a bus chassis or a specially built chassis. It ranges from 21 to 45 feet and weighs over 20,000 pounds. Thus, you have to be aware of any weight restrictions. The living space is roomy and this type sleeps up to 10 people. Most floor plans feature a separate master bedroom suite. Additionally, most models have at least one slideout. If the RV has storage that is accessible outside and that storage is under the floor, that is called “basement storage.”
The Class A RV has more features than other types of RVs including full-size appliances. If a washer and dryer set does not come as standard equipment, it is almost always available as optional equipment. It may even have an ice maker and a French-door fridge.
A Class B RV is also known as a van camper or “campervan.” It looks just like a van and is built on a van chassis. The difference is that it has a higher ceiling so you can stand up inside. It’s a tight fit for four people—really, it’s better suited for two. But, you don’t have to worry about towing a car behind you nor do you have to worry about hooking and unhooking a trailer. This type of RV is great for a weekend getaway or overnight trips.
Features usually include a convertible dinette or a queen-size bed, some storage, a small kitchen and a “wet bath,” which is a combination shower, toilet and sink. Because everything is combined in the area of the size of a home stand-up shower, you do have to remember to remove anything that shouldn’t get wet before you take a shower, including the toilet paper.
A Class C RV generally looks like a van in the front and a Class A in the back. It’s more of a mid-size RV, though they can be quite long—up to 33 feet. The Class C RV is built on a van or truck chassis and offers many of the same features as a Class A motorhome. It’s common to see people towing a car so they won’t have to pack everything up just to drive to the store or go sightseeing.
Features include several sleeping areas, a good-size living area, a kitchen with all of the basic amenities and a bathroom with a separate shower. The shower may be a stand-alone shower or a shower/tub combination.
Before you purchase a towable, you need to make sure your vehicle can tow the one you want. Or, you need to purchase the truck to tow the towable that you want. If you don’t plan on buying a new tow vehicle, check your truck’s tow rating. Then start looking at RVs that you can tow with it. If you don’t have a fifth wheel hitch but want a fifth wheel trailer, you can add that type of hitch to your truck. Just keep in mind that the hitch does take up quite a bit of bed space.
The pop-up camper is the least expensive of the towables. Generally, a pop-up has a solid center roof that pops up and canvas sides. The sides are folded into the base for towing. These campers sleep up to six people, but are better for four. They have little storage and are not good for extreme weather. Even a steady rain could leak through the canvas. If you just take weekend jaunts and have a smaller vehicle, then a pop-up camper might be for you as it could be towed by an SUV or even some large sedans.
A pop-up may have a small inside stove, fridge and single sink. Many do not have bathrooms, so if you do prefer a bathroom, shop around. Some may have a semi-private toilet, but not a shower stall. These are easy to tow and are inexpensive.
A truck camper is not a towable, but it’s not motorized so it falls under towables. When you pick a truck camper, you need to buy one that fits your particular truck. They are often referred to as ‘cab-overs’ or ‘slide-ins.’ The camper has a hard side and slides right into the bed of your truck. They sleep up to four people—two in the bunk over the cab and two in the fold-down dinette. The kitchen is small and the bathroom is usually an all-in-one, which means the shower, toilet and sink are in a space the size of a standard-size stand-up shower. You’ll have to remove anything that’s not waterproof from the bathroom before you take a shower.
Fifth Wheel RVs
Fifth wheel RVs are the most luxurious of all of the towables. They are also the largest and can be as long as 40 feet. Features may include full-size kitchens and bathrooms, several sleeping areas including a bunkhouse on certain models, and may have one or more slides. A fifth-wheel can sleep up to eight, depending on the configuration.
Because of the gooseneck, you have two living levels. Some have a living room area in the upper level while others have a master suite in the upper level. The more luxurious models have some of the largest fridges and a washer and dryer. Some floor plans also have one and one-half or two bathrooms.
A travel trailer could be as small as a 4-foot teardrop or as long as a 35-footer with room for up to eight people. Depending on the brand and floor plan, you may have the basic of necessities or a bunkhouse, full-size kitchen, more than one bathroom and even an outdoor kitchen. These are towed with a ball hitch and can be tricky to maneuver. Some manufacturers make “ultra-lite” travel trailers that are able to be towed with an SUV.
A toy hauler is a travel trailer or a fifth wheel with a garage. You don’t give up any amenities that you would get with the travel trailer or fifth wheel other than you have less space until you move your toys out. In many, the garage space has fold-down bunks and a dinette. Many toy haulers also have a gas tank that you can fill up so that you don’t have to carry gas cans inside the trailer. Toy haulers are also known as sport-utility trailers and can be from 20 to 35 feet long.