RV class and type: Which one for you?

An RV class or type that really suits you will save thousands of dollars as well as a lot of time. Many people pick the wrong RV and have to change it several times before they get what they want.

What RV class do you want? Class A, Class B and Class C all refer to motorhomes and campervans.

I've never understood why they don't have more user-friendly terms, but at some point somebody came up with them and we're stuck with them for the moment, so here they are:

  • Class A are the largest motorhomes and are often built on a truck or bus chassis. They usually have the most features, are the most luxurious and most expensive. I call this a "large motorhome".
  • Class B are a modified and expanded van conversion: They are smaller, easier to drive and they get better fuel mileage. This usually means that you will give up some space, comfort and amenities. I call this a "van camper" or a "campervan" because that makes more sense to me and is accurate - it is a van that has been turned into a camper. Campervan is the term for this RV class in most parts of the world.
  • Class C are smaller than Class A and are often based on the same vehicle as the RV Class B but with a custom body or the standard van body with modifications to the body. This often includes a bed over the cab, in what is called a cabover, peak or Luton. I call this a "mini motorhome".

That covers the motorhomes end of the market. There are plenty of other types of RVs, one of which may be best for you. Some are motorized, some are pulled or carried by vehicle.

So here are some of the other variations of the RV class and type:

  • Travel trailers and caravans: The type of towable RV that has been around the longest is called a caravan or a travel trailer, depending on where you live. They range from as little as 2.1 metres (7') up to 11 m (35') long and sometimes longer.
  • Fifth wheel trailer or gooseneck trailer: The main difference between a fifth wheel trailer and a travel trailer is that a flat turntable (the "fifth wheel") replaces the towball and towbar. This fifth wheel has a mount that is bolted to the chassis, tray or tub of the towing vehicle, usually a small truck. A fifth wheel trailer is in fact a semi-trailer, because it lacks front wheels. It has landing wheels or skids for when it is uncoupled. It is more stable, easier to drive and easier to back and it usually offers a large amount of living space. The smallest I have seen was 5 m (16'). The maximum size is set by the regulations of the state where it is registered.
  • Folding, expanding and hybrid trailers: There are many varieties of pop up campers, fold-out camper trailers and hybrid trailers. These are often smaller than the travel trailer or caravan and usually have some of the walls or roof made from canvas, PVC or some other flexible material. Some of them can sleep as many people as the larger hard-walled caravans/travel trailers but are much lighter, lower and easier to tow.
  • Sports utility trailer (toy hauler): This is usually a travel trailer or caravan with a space for you to take toys such as motorbikes, ATVs, a ton of sports gear or a huge amount of camping gear with you. This is one of the fastest-selling RV classes or types at the moment.
  • Camper trailer: A camping trailer can be a simple hard-floored model that doubles in size at the touch of a button or with a few turns on a crank. Or it can be a soft-floored Taj Mahal that takes 20-60 minutes to set up for a long stay with room for multiple people and lots of gear for the kids, the cooks and the sports people. It is a trailer with the tent built in and designed to set up with a bit of human effort and guidance. Park the camper trailer where you want and the tent can be up with no stress, in two minutes if it is a hard-floor flip-over model. A soft-floor model will take longer and give more room. Take your pick
  • Teardrop campers: are cute, cozy, retro, cheap, easy to tow, provide a great sleeping space and an outdoor kitchen. They can become a home away from home for a family by adding a tent or an annex. They offer more than a tent and one of their most appealing features is that they offer less than a full-sized A, B or C class RV. The lack of space and the simple facilities force you to live in the great outdoors, which is why many people buy an RV.
  • Telescoping trailer: This is usually a box that slides down over another box. To make it into a home rather than a low profile box for towing, you press a button or push a few bits and it all expands in a minute or two at the most. Can be a very viable RV class. Usually costs more. I think the key problem is that they are usually boxy and unattractive.
  • Pop-up camper: Also called fold-down campers, tent trailers and A-frame trailers. Great for a first RVing experience. Gets you out of a tent and off the ground. Some can take a lot of people on slide-out beds, convertible dinettes and gaucho or night and day beds. Some are good enough to satisfy some people for decades - that's real RV class.
  • A truck camper (also called a pickup camper, slide-on or trayback camper) fits on the back of a pickup truck or utility. If you already own a suitable truck, a truck camper may make a lot of sense. A cheaper variant is the Camper shell, also called a topper or cap. This basically just a cover for the tray or tub of a pickup truck or utility that allows you to sleep in the bed of the truck, carry your gear there but usually your living room, kitchen and bathroom will be the great outdoors.
  • Converted trucks, buses or coaches: Usually looks like a large coach or bus. It is a modified truck or bus that has been sold by the original user. Basically a home-built or professionally converted motorhome.
  • A house on wheels: This is more a motorhouse than a motorhome. It is basically a motorized version of a house. Often they are lovingly exquisitely hand crafted from timber with an iron roof and sometimes a water tank. Many have leadlight windows and proper tiling and some have fireplaces. Some have a rear verandah to enjoy the view. Some have an upper level deck or even an upstairs bedroom. Hippy retro chic and definitely in an RV class of its own.

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