RV Classes and Types Explained: Everything You Need to Know

There are plenty of different types of recreational vehicles. When attempting to decide what might work best for you among the many different types of RVs as well as motorhome classes, you need to understand the differences, pros, cons, and function.

It’s also worth noting that the word class is used to describe motorhomes only, which are a type of RV. However, no matter which one you like the best, there’s no such thing as a perfect RV. You just have to decide which one will work for you.

There are 3 motorhome classes:

  • Class A
  • Class B
  • Class C

There are several different kinds of trailers:

  • Fifth wheel
  • Travel trailer
  • Toy hauler
  • Destination trailer
  • Teardrop trailer
  • Pop up trailer
  • Truck camper

And then there’s one more type of campground home that you may or may not have heard of, but it’s important to note, so we’ll cover it at the end.

RV Classes and Types

RVs are broken down into two main categories. There are motorhomes and towables. Motorhomes have their own engine and driving chassis, so they’re completely self contained and you don’t need a separate tow vehicle.

Towables require a separate vehicle to tow them with, and the distinction is very important because they offer two totally different experiences. Driving a motorhome will allow you to have access to your rig, even while you’re on the road, whereas a trailer isn’t accessible until you stop, pull over, and open it up.

Motorhomes give you the advantage of setting up without unhooking from your tow vehicle, but due to their size, you often need a separate passenger vehicle to tow behind so you can run errands or sight-see while you’re on vacation.

Every RV type has its own advantages and compromises, so you’ll need to understand what each is and then evaluate your needs carefully before you decide.

Class A Motorhome

Class A Motorhome

Class A motorhomes are the most luxurious of all RVs. They’re the largest on the market (with the exception of some fifth wheels), and they come with everything you need to live on the road. They’re built on a single chassis and have 3 axles.

These RVs range from 20 to 45 feet long, 8 to 8.5 feet long, and 13,000 to 30,000 pounds. Due to the large size difference, there are a multitude of floorplans from which you can choose, so the interiors are very vast.

They frequently sport king-sized beds, two full bathrooms, laundry facilities, large living areas, dining tables, a fireplace, and a fully functional kitchen with all the appliances you have at home. In some cases, you’ll even find a full-sized dishwasher, which is rare in camping life.

They often have slide-outs on either side to give you a more spacious interior when parked. Some even have opposing slide-outs in the same room so you can expand your 8-foot-wide home to nearly 15 feet.

There’s also tons of storage underneath Class A motorhomes. They boast some of the most spacious basement storage options of any RV. You can pack up your lawn chairs, bikes, rugs, cleaning supplies, and so much more.

They feature gas or diesel engines, depending on the size. Diesel engines are more powerful, have a longer lifespan, and a higher resale value. And because diesel engines are typically located at the rear of the rig, they’re quieter while you’re driving them.

However, gas engines are cheaper to purchase and maintain.

People who plan to be on the road a lot purchase Class A motorhomes because they make for an easy and convenient mobile lifestyle. The drawback is that, because they’re so large, they’re not suitable for all travel destinations.

These drivers have to make sure they stay on the main roads so they avoid narrow roads, potholes, and sharp turns. While these vehicles can handle steep inclines, extreme caution should be exercised when doing so.

Large motorhomes like these also require higher electrical amperage, so you need to verify that the campground where you’re staying not only has sites big enough, but can handle your electrical needs.

Pros

  • Spacious living interior
  • Luxurious conditions
  • Doesn’t require a towing vehicle
  • Tons of storage

Cons

  • High-end coaches may cost up to $500,000
  • Purchase and maintenance can be very expensive
  • Poor fuel efficiency
  • May require training to drive

Class B

Class B Motorhome

These RVs are sometimes affectionately called campervans. They’re the smallest of the motorhomes, weighing anywhere from 6000-8000 pounds. They’re roughly the size of a large passenger van and are between 17 and 19 feet long.

These don’t offer huge spaces, but the space is used very efficiently to make them comfortable and livable. In fact, they often use nautical technology to save space. They include marine shower toilets that have a shower head above the toilet as well as a small sink in the stall.

The kitchen is smaller than a Class A kitchen as well. They include a sink, a small cooktop, and a little bit of counter space.

The sleeping spaces are creatively designed to offer mattresses as big as queens in the back. They have folding sofas and futons to allow for more sleeping space at night and seating during the day.

Dining tables are often flanked by two benches that all fold into an additional sleeping space at night.

These campers are best suited for people on a smaller budget who want a mobile home for outdoor activities. They’re not great for large families or extended trips. They work well for one or two people who enjoy fishing, camping, traveling, and other outdoor activities.

They range in price from $40,000-$80,000 and can be very affordable if you buy them used. You may be able to sleep up to 6 people, but it’s not comfortable. They don’t have slides and they’re very compact spaces. You could travel along with a tent or park near cabins or other rentals if you plan to travel with more people.

Clever packing is also crucial because there’s very limited storage space. However, these are often very quaint and charming. The gas mileage is also not as terrible as it is with larger motorhomes.

Pros

  • Good fuel economy
  • Easy to maneuver
  • Can travel almost anywhere
  • Lower cost

Cons

  • Limited storage
  • Tight spaces
  • Not comfortable for more than 2
  • No room for luxury appliances

Class C

Class C Motorhome

It seems backwards that something labeled a Class C would fall between Class A and Class B when it comes to size, amenities, and comfort, but it’s true. Class C motorhomes are easy to spot because they have a distinctive front end where the camper extends over the top of the driver’s cab.

They can be anywhere from 20 to 28 feet long and are about 10 feet tall. They weigh between 10,000 and 13,000 pounds, so they are a bit heavier than a Class B, but they are significantly lighter than a Class A.

On the inside is a happy middle ground where you’ll find the comfortable driving experience you’re used to in a passenger vehicle with a lot of the same spaciousness and functionality as a Class A.

These offer a bit more comfort than a small campervan where your family can spread out, and there’s a private bedroom in the back. Over the cab sleeps two and functions like a second bedroom with a curtain that pulls closed.

The sofas usually fold out into more beds, and you’ll find more slideouts in a Class C than in a Class B. This gives you a more spacious living area with plenty of headroom. You won’t have to duck to move around like you would in a Class B.

Class C motorhomes also have larger bathrooms, so you’ll get separate shower and toilet units rather than a single stall. Yours may also come with a TV, a dining table, and sometimes a washer and dryer.

Unlike a Class A with only one entry point, Class C motorhomes have both driver and passenger doors, and frequently have a separate entrance in the back that leads to the living room.

Storage under the rear bedroom is spacious enough for suitcases, folding chairs, and other small items, but it’s as large as in a Class A. This extra space makes it comfortable for families or longer vacations, and they’re considerably cheaper than a large motorhome.

Pros

  • More affordable than a Class A
  • Spacious
  • Plenty of storage and sleeping space
  • Comfortable amenities

Cons

  • Difficult to tow other vehicles
  • Larger varieties may be difficult to maneuver

Fifth Wheel

Fifth Wheel

Much like the Class A, the fifth wheel is the most luxurious of the towable options. It’s the largest and most comfortable. The size and weight will often correspond with the amount of luxury you get, which also means you need a large tow vehicle.

Fifth wheels are generally 22-45 feet and are 10-13 feet tall. The lightest fifth wheels will weigh as little as 10,000 pounds while the heaviest top out at 25,000. These heavier fifth wheels are very large, have up to three axles, and feature a ton of amenities.

This type of trailer hitches to a plate in the bed of the truck, making it much easier to drive than a bumper pull trailer because it tracks more closely to your tow vehicle. However, it requires a pickup with a long bed and fifth wheel hitches can be pricey.

A diesel truck is your best option for the power you need to tow this vehicle, but you can get by with a smaller gasoline truck if your fifth wheel is lighter. You can also use a short bed truck if you have the right kind of sliding hitch.

Fifth wheel trailers offer comfort and space, with up to 5 slide outs in a single unit! Opposing slide outs give you a large living room and kitchen, slides in bunkhouses fit up to 6 children, and slides in the master bedroom allow for tons of storage and even laundry facilities. You may even be able to find one with a dishwasher.

These trailers range in price from $50,000 to more than $300,000 depending on how much luxury you need. Plus, you’re maximizing the use of your tow vehicle, because after unhooking it, you can use it to sight see.

However, the downside is that you can’t ride in the trailer while you’re towing it, so if your tow vehicle isn’t very comfortable, you may have to have a separate passenger vehicle to fit a large family while heading down the road.

In some cases, you’ll see trucks pulling fifth wheels with additional vehicles on a dolly or being flat towed behind them. This gives the adventurers a more comfortable way to buzz around town when they arrive at their destination.

Pros

  • Can be very luxurious
  • Easier to tow than bumper pull trailers
  • Spacious
  • Some options are very affordable
  • Tow vehicle can also be your sightseeing vehicle

Cons

  • Requires specialized towing equipment
  • Less room for passengers while driving

Travel Trailer

Travel Trailer

Travel trailers connect to your bumper via a standard trailer hitch, but you still have to make sure your tow vehicle and your hitch are rated to pull the weight. One of the benefits of a travel trailer is that it’s much lighter and can often be towed with an SUV rather than a large truck.

This gives you more freedom with selecting your tow vehicle. You can pick something more comfortable that seats more passengers if you have a larger family. In addition, these trailers are some of the easiest to disconnect and set up. You’ll be able to use your comfortable tow vehicle for running errands without being tied to the RV living space.

Travel trailers range from 10-40 feet with multiple slides, so in some cases, they’re still just as spacious as a fifth wheel. They have plenty of room for multiple sleeping spaces including master bedrooms and bunkhouses for kids. They have full bathrooms large enough to accommodate a large family’s needs.

Travel trailers can also be very affordable, because they have a lower profile and are built lighter than fifth wheels. They weigh between 1100 and 12,000 pounds. While smaller varieties won’t have quite the amenities that larger options do, they’re still comfortable spaces that are easy to tow.

The range here is more than almost any other camper when it comes to floorplans and options.

Pros

  • Easy to hook up and unhook
  • Affordable
  • Lightweight
  • Can be quite spacious

Cons

  • Don’t track behind your tow vehicle as closely as a fifth wheel
  • Difficult to tow anything behind it

Toy Haulers

Toy Hauler

Toy haulers are trailers that feature a garage in the back. People often use these for storing their ATVs, four wheelers, jet skis, motorcycles, or small cars while on the road. They have a ramp at the back that allows you to drive things up into the garage and tie them down when you travel.

They come in fifth wheel and travel trailer varieties, so they’re nearly identical in terms of features, amenities, and space. They range in length from roughly 30-45 feet, giving you ample living space, even when the garage is in use.

Most toy haulers have living quarters in the garage as well, so when you’re not using it as a garage, you can convert it into a living space with benches, a table, and a queen size bed on a jack system. They frequently have a second full bathroom in the back as well.

What’s really cool about a toy hauler is that you can lower the back ramp to deck height and set up a guard rail to give yourself extra outdoor living space. Open up the garage space, set up your lawn chairs, and enjoy the beautiful weather without leaving your trailer. Some floorplans also have side patios off of the kitchen area.

Toy haulers, like fifth wheels and travel trailers, will have multiple slide outs, giving you a spacious interior with plenty of things you’re used to at home. You’ll find a fully equipped kitchen, laundry facilities, and lots of storage. Some configurations even have loft spaces for sleeping or extra storage.

However, toy haulers are very heavy. They can weigh up to 25,000 pounds and usually have 3 axles, which means you need a very large tow vehicle capable of handling the weight.

While fifth wheel varieties will track easily behind your truck, travel trailer options aren’t as maneuverable, which can make towing something this big quite difficult.

The cost is also variable, but a toy hauler fifth wheel or travel trailer will cost more than a comparable fifth wheel or travel trailer without the garage.

Pros

  • Garage space for toys and additional living
  • Spacious interior and outdoor living
  • Can be very luxurious

Cons

  • Requires a large tow vehicle
  • Difficult to maneuver
  • Restricted to camping sites that will accommodate your size

Destination Trailers

Destination Trailers

Much like travel trailers, these hook up to your bumper hitch. They line up almost identically with travel trailers in terms of size, price, and amenities. The primary difference is that destination trailers are meant to stay parked for longer periods of time.

If you’re a wandering soul, a destination trailer probably isn’t right for you. However, for those who enjoy a nomadic life but want to stay in one place for longer, a destination trailer might be perfect.

Moving a destination trailer more than 2-3 times per year isn’t recommended. They’re ideal for older people who lead a slower paced traveling life than others.

Pros

  • Can be very affordable
  • Comes with plenty of space and amenities

Cons

  • Not built for heavy traveling

Teardrop Camper

Teardrop Trailer

These tiny trailers are easy to spot based on their distinct teardrop shape. They’re great for weekend travel for 1-2 people who don’t mind having very basic amenities.

At their simplest, they feature sleeping quarters on the inside and nothing else. These trailers allow you to truly experience the outdoors because you can’t hang out inside.

Some larger floorplans may have a kitchen area and a wet bath, but they use swivel toilets, folding sinks, and convertible beds to make the space more functional. Enthusiasts love this clever design and many of these trailers have an endearing vintage aesthetic.

They weigh less than 4000 pounds, so you can tow it with a car, making it one of the most affordable ways to travel. The tiny trailer movement is gaining speed, and you’ll see a lot more of them if you pay attention.

Pros

  • Lightweight and easy to tow
  • Affordable

Cons

  • Too small for more than 2 people
  • Lacks amenities

Pop-up Trailer

Pop-up Trailer

This type of trailer is basically a tent on wheels. It’s soft sides allow it to be folded down into itself, making it a versatile traveling option for a lot of people. It combines the novelty of tent camping with a bit more comfort.

Inside, you’ll find slide outs, sleeping quarters, a table, and a small kitchen with a camping stove and a sink. You may find periodic upgrades like bathrooms, outdoor showers, grills, and more.

They’re extremely compact and easy to maneuver, so you can tow it behind your normal family vehicle. They’re also very affordable and much easier to store in the off-season than a larger trailer is.

They range from 8-16 feet and weigh less than 4000 pounds. They still give you the open-air feeling you get in a tent with more functional space and amenities than tent camping. Plus, you won’t have to sleep on the ground.

The downside is that they’re not very well insulated, so it can be difficult to get four seasons of use out of them, unless you’re extremely prepared for the weather.

Pros

  • Lightweight and affordable
  • Easy to tow behind a normal car
  • Spacious enough for several people

Cons

  • Not well insulated

Truck Camper

Truck Camper

These are designed to mount on your truck bed, and they’re much easier to get around than a towable. They’re compact, but can still be very spacious. You get conveniences like a kitchen, shower, and toilet.

They’re not big enough for more than 2 people, but 2 people will find it a cozy solution to something larger and more expensive. These are some of the least expensive campers you can buy. They’re an economical way to explore.

Once you park and set up, you can still use your truck to explore. It’s easy to mount and unhook, plus it frees up your bumper hitch to pull a boat or a storage trailer with you. The freedom that comes with this type of trailer can’t be beat.

They’re only a few inches longer than your truck, so there’s no need to worry about a trailer tracking behind you. They only weigh 1000-5000 pounds so you don’t need anything very large.

These options are also perfect for staying off the grid for long periods of time, but they have limited storage. Despite the lack of amenities, if you stay in a campground that has facilities, you won’t be lacking for anything.

Pros

  • Versatile and maneuverable
  • Economical and affordable
  • You can still maintain the use of your vehicle once parked

Cons

  • Not ideal for more than 2 people
  • Limited storage

Park Model

Park Model

This camping solution is worth mentioning, even though it doesn’t move. Park models are a full-time living option that is a mix of a house and an RV. They are rolled into place, removed from their wheels, and intended to stay put forever.

Many campgrounds have RV parking spaces as well as park models. You can rent, lease, or purchase these sites if you choose. You’ll find them more commonly on private property and RV resorts. They can even be used for weekend retreats or as vacation cottages.

They’re more upscale in appearance and have sliding patio doors, full size appliances, residential cabinets, laundry facilities, large bay windows, and high ceilings. Some even have multiple slides.

Park models are better insulated than RVs and are generally hooked up to local water and sewer so you don’t have to worry about dumping, unhooking, or anything else that goes along with the connections in an RV.

While this type of home doesn’t move like an RV does, it’s still a common sight in campgrounds, RV parks, and other places where you also see RV spots or campsites.

Pros

  • Well insulated
  • Spacious
  • Always hooked up to water and sewer
  • Lots of amenities

Cons

  • Can’t be moved

FAQ

If you’re trying to find your first RV or you’re looking at upgrading or downsizing your existing one, there are plenty of options. These frequently asked questions may help you decide what you want to do.

Question: What is a Class AAA RV?

Answer: You may have seen this term floating around when doing research on RVs. It isn’t actually a type of RV though. It’s a type of campsite. You’ll see campsite ratings while you’re looking around, and the AAA campsite rating is one of the best.

These campsites are top-of-the-line campsites for both RVs and tents. They have water and sewer hookups, 50-amp electrical hookups, and other facilities that you’re welcome to use when you stay.

You’ll also find AA and A ratings. These feature fewer amenities and hookups, and they may not be kept up as well as AAA sites.

Question: What is the Most Reliable Class B RV?

Answer: Class B brands you’ll want to check out are Winnebago and Airstream. These are two of the best, and they’ve been around for a long time. The reason you see so many of them on the road is because they’ve been proven.

In fact, with proper maintenance, these RVs will last longer than any other. There are still operational Airstream trailers on the road that are approaching 40 years old, which is almost unheard of in the RV community.

Question: What is the Most Reliable RV Brand?

Answer: In addition to Winnebago and Airstream, you’ll also find luck with K-Z, Keystone, Heartland, Forest River, Newmar, and Entegra. They produce a wide variety of RV classes and types, so if you’re on the hunt for something specific, check these brands to see what they offer.

Question: What are the Worst RV Brands?

Answer: Of course, there will always be duds. There are some RV brands that just aren’t as good. For instance, Coachmen, which is a subsidiary of Forest River, isn’t so good. Despite it being made by one of the best brands you can get, Coachmen doesn’t seem to be up to snuff.

The Jayco brand is also notorious for cutting corners. They’re often not manufactured to be as strong as they should be. While they may be great new, over a shorter period of time, you’ll find that they need more repairs than you had planned on.

Question: Can you Poop in an RV?

Answer: This is the $1,000,000 question, and the answer is yes! Of course you can. While RV toilets are designed differently than residential toilets, you can still do everything you need to do in them. Plus, there are plenty of simple maintenance tactics you can employ to keep your RV toilet clean and unclogged.

Final Thoughts

If you’re in the market for an RV, there are an unlimited number of options. While not every RV is perfect, you’ll find one that works great for you. If you have a family, you’ll find spacious living spaces, and if you’re alone, you can save your money and get only what you need.

Brands like Heartland, K-Z, Keystone, and Forest River offer a variety of RV types and floorplans while you’ll find longevity in brands like Airstream and Winnebago. You can spend as much or as little as you want, but no matter what you choose, if it works for you, you’ll have a blast.

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