So you’re ready to make the leap to RV life.
Then first, welcome to the family!
If you’re a little overwhelmed with where to start; Motorhomes, toy haulers, fifth wheels, camper vans… we know it can be a lot to learn.
Don’t stress my friend, we got your back.
In this article we’re going to cover everything you need to know so you can get on the road with confidence. We’re going to break down the types of RVs available, the different RV classifications, and how it all fits with your future RV plans.
So sit back, grab a drink, and let’s get started!
First Breakdown Of RV Types: Does It Have An Engine Or Not?
The best way to solve a problem is by chunking it down. With all the different recreational vehicles available on the market, how do you start breaking them down into the different types?
The first question we need to ask is: “Does your RV have a motor or not?“
If the RV has a motor, then it’s going to be a motorized RV or a motorhome (which breaks down into 3 separate classes).
If your RV doesn’t have a motor, then they’re towable RVs (often called travel trailers) because it needs to be hauled by a tow vehicle.
Now that we have that first breakdown out of the way, let’s get into the first part, motorhomes!
Motorized RVs: Styles, Types & Classes
Ahh the luxurious motorhome. This type of RV is going to have, you guessed it, an engine. This means you’ll be able to drive it, and live in it, without the need of a tow vehicle.
These kinds of motorhomes are going to be broken down into 3 primary classes:
Now this is where it gets slightly confusing. For the life of me, I don’t think I’ll ever truly understand how RV manufacturers made these classifications.
They just kinda, stuck.
But here’s a very quick size breakdown of the different classes before we go into them in more depth.
Class A motorhomes are going to be your largest motorhomes. Have you ever seen that movie RV, you know, the one with Robin Williams?
Yea, that’s a class A motorhome.
Class B motorhomes are going to be your vans. They’re the smallest group of RV’s and drive the most like a regular car or truck. #vanlife
Class C motorhomes are larger than the class B’s but smaller than the class A motorhomes. These are the ones you would typically rent.
Like I said, in terms of size, you go from Class A to C then to B.
Jeez – feels like I’m back in school…
Anyways, let’s dive into each of these in more detail.
Class A Motorhomes: Hotels On A Bus Frame
This motorhome is the largest RV class that can be driven legally in the United States. They typically range between 28-45 feet in length.
They’re literally a bus frame, with a fiberglass box put around it, and a lot of nice amenities added to the interior space.
Class A motorhomes break down into 2 main types, based on the gas or diesel engine difference.
- Gas Motorhomes – typically smaller of the class A options, less expensive, and generally have the gas engine in the front of the RV.
- Diesel Motorhomes (Diesel pushers) – Powerful engine that can haul a lot of weight and lasts much longer. These RV’s are bigger, more luxurious, and more expensive.
Either option you choose, with these RVs you’re getting a luxury experience. You can expect options like a full-size kitchen (and appliances), hardwood floors, full size recliners, lots of storage space, and cozy sleeping experiences.
Plus, all of these RVs have large water tanks. Including, black, gray, and freshwater tanks.
This class of RVs are designed to sleep between 8-10 people comfortably.
Like I said in the beginning, they’re literally hotels on a frame.
You can expect a wide range of price points, depending on your amenity preference, but expect to pay between $150,000-$600,000 for this type of RV.
Pros Of Class A Motorhomes:
- Luxury, Luxury, Luxury – seriously, there are some truly amazing options available.
- Large Windshields & Raised Driving – there’s something special about being able to see EVERYTHING in front of you while driving.
- Camping Set Up Is Easy – most of these RV’s come with auto leveling and generators, which makes set up simple and painless.
- Lots Of Storage Space – don’t worry about bringing all the extras for a truly special glamping experience, you’ll have the space in a class A.
Cons of Class A Motorhomes
- Size – these vehicles are just… big. Often their size limits you from being able to camp in national or state parks.
- Expensive – you can expect to pay a pretty penny for these RV’s. They’re often the same cost as a house.
- Gas Mileage Sucks – expect a nice gas bill every time you fill your tank. You’ve been warned, so no sticker shock at the cost!
- License – depending onn your RV and the state requirements, you may have to get a special license.
Class B Motorhomes: Welcome To Vanlife
Camper vans, van conversions, or Class B motorhome. However you put it, these RVs are light, nimble, and fuel-efficient.
They’re built on a van chassis with some of the simpler RV amenities added in.
They’re primarily used for setting up camp quickly, and being able to be driven easily. In fact, most of these vans only weigh between 2-3 tons (4,000-6,000 pounds).
This kind of class can run a wide range of options. From simple DIY van conversions (the kind you likely see on instagram) to fully decked out passenger vans pre-built with all the fun stuff for a nice camping experience.
The class B motorhome further breaks down into two separate styles:
- Regular Class B Motorhome – these are going to be your prototypical sprinter vans.
- Class B+ Motorhome – for the more studious types, these RV’s are more “box-like” and typically look like a luxurious ambulance.
Either option you choose, you must be aware that this RV style will be the smallest of the RV classes. They’re normally between 14-20 feet in length, which is significantly smaller than the other options.
They typically include small amenities like a refrigerator (think the small portable one), small bed, and maybe a stove.
They’re going to sleep 3-4 people at most (if it’s a couple sharing beds), and are generally great for a quick weekend trip.
Pros Of Class B Motorhomes:
- Size – you can take these things anywhere. They drive like a normal van or truck, and are just all around great for fitting into almost all camping spots (including national and state parks!).
- Fairly Inexpensive – compared to the other options within this whole guide, these RV’s are going to be one of the cheapest options.
- Great For Quick Trips – these vans are built for a quick weekend trip. If you plan on using it for this purpose, then this class is for you.
Cons of Class B Motorhomes:
- Storage Space – storing items in a class B sucks. You’ll need to be picky about what you bring.
- Everything is Small – kitchen? Yea it’s small. Bed? Yea, small too. Shower? Don’t get me started…
- It’s Your Only Vehicle – you’re going to be stuck driving this thing around if you want to explore, because this van won’t tow anything. That could be a pain, depending on how large the van is.
Class C Motorhomes: The In-Betweeners
What do you get when you mix a class A and a class B? A class C motorhome.
These types of RVs are almost always going to have that kinda awkward “cab-over” look (where there’s a sleeping section above the driver seat).
Class C RVs are also the most rented form of RV’s on the market, and for good reason.
They’re typically built on a truck chassis (rarely a van chassis) and are going to provide much more space then a sprinter van, but not be as big as the rolling hotel (class A).
They’re fairly versatile and easy(ish) to drive, especially when compared to the other motorized rvs available.
These RV types are going to provide you with many more amenity options. You can expect a bedroom, typically a bathroom, a larger kitchen, and potentially a sitting area. The bed over the cab will offer an additional sleeping location for potential guests, but most people use it for extra storage space.
Class Cs come in two primary types depending on the engine:
- Standard Class C RVs: This will be a smaller option which almost always has a gas powered engine.
- Super Class C: These are going to be the upgraded version, and almost always have a diesel engine because of the larger load.
If you’re skeptical of interior space with these motorhomes, don’t be. While on the outside they may look small and compact, these RV’s quickly transform into a spacious camping option if they have slide outs.
This class is generally going to sleep between 4-6 people and is a great option for younger families because of the extra sleeping space.
Pros Of Class C Motorhome:
- Driving Experience – a class C drives like a normal F350 truck, just loaded down. They’re fairly easy to navigate, and a novice driver can do a good job without feeling overwhelmed.
- Size – you get a good bang for your buck with this class. You won’t feel squished together in this motorhome if you have a family of 3-5. Generally these motorhomes will be 18-30 feet long.
- Price – this is the happy medium between a van and a bus. This class makes for a great starter RV for those looking to be weekend warriors.
Cons Of Class C Motorhome:
- Views Suck – because of the overhanging cab, you’re going to experience limited views. This reduces the scenic beauty of the locations you’re going to.
- Gas Mileage – don’t expect good gas mileage in these RV’s. Especially with the gas engines.
- Lowriders – be careful driving on dips in the road (like entrances or exits) because these RV’s tend to ride very low to the ground. You could end up scraping the outside.
Now you know the basics of these motorhome RV types, along with their different classes. If you want to look more in detail at the differences between class a rvs and class c rv, check out our other article here.
Now we must head to the next bucket which is…
Travel Trailers: The Towable RV Types
If your RV doesn’t have an engine (as in, it can’t drive itself), then what you got is a travel trailer.
These RV types are going to provide the most diverse options because of the sheer amount of floor plans, and brands available.
Here’s how it works…
You need a tow vehicle to haul your trailer (almost always a pickup truck, but I know some people who like to live dangerously), and when you get to the campground, you can detach your trailer and voila, you’re camping.
This frees up your vehicle to explore the area, and get into locations most motorhomes can’t get into.
Now, there are two categories of travel trailers:
- Fifth Wheels – pulled from a special fifth wheel hitch located in the bed of a pickup truck.
- Bumper Pull – pulled from a bumper hitch (you know, the ball portion in the back).
Within bumper pull category there are going to be a variety of options, but they primarily break down into 5 RV types (ranked from largest to smallest):
Let’s get started with the biggest travel trailer…
Fifth Wheel Trailers Or “Oh God This Thing Is Heavy”
Popular with nearly all “full-time” RVers, a fifth wheel travel trailer is going to be the largest travel trailer on the market.
They’re. so. big.
It’s honestly like living in a spaceship, and is comparable to the class A motorhomes we talked about earlier.
I mean, if you’re going to be living out of your RV full-time, why not rock this for your RV lifestyle?
But I digress.
Fifth wheels are popular because they provide so much extra space, which is due to how the RV is connected to the truck.
With these towable RVs, you’re pulling the RV from a box in the bed of your truck (it’s actually a u-shaped hitch mount the RV attaches to) and by doing this you get a significantly smoother tow compared to bumper pull trailers.
RV manufacturers take advantage of this towing type and build a lot of extra sleeping space into the interior – which sits right over the truck bed. This is often called a “goose-neck”.
In addition to the extra living space, you can expect high end amenities too. For example, you’ll typically see one (or multiple) slide outs, a full kitchen, bathroom, usually double bedrooms, chairs, and sometimes an office space.
Like I said, living in a spaceship.
But here’s the catch.
They’re a nightmare to drive with, at least in my opinion.
To start, fifth wheels require a large truck – almost always diesel – to haul it. They’re typically over 30 feet long. Plus, they’re tall, which means you have to pay special attention to overhangs and going under bridges. Thankfully, if you do need the space of a fifth wheel, there are RV trip planning apps that help you identify paths that you RV will definitely be fine driving through.
Also, you can’t get into most national parks or state parks with fifth wheels. And trying to navigate RV parks can be a pain unless they have pull-through spaces.
But don’t forget, spaceship level status and they also sleep up to 8-10+ people which is super chill.
Pros Of Fifth Wheels
- Storage Space – lots and lots of storage. If you want to glamp in style, this is your travel trailer.
- Amenities – you can typically expect full size everything. Full size kitchen, chairs, beds, and more. There are also options for outdoor showers and kitchens too which is cool.
- Living Space – there are usually completely separate living spaces within a fifth wheel. This makes it especially useful for larger families.
Cons of Fifth Wheels
- Size – have I mentioned the size? You have to expect large travel trailers like this are going to be a burden to drive with. You also lose out on a lot of locations, and boon-docking can be a pain.
- Truck – You’re going to need a powerful truck to haul this thing. You’re also going to need to install a fifth wheel hitch into the truck bed to properly tow it. Usually you’ll need a diesel engine to make a fifth wheel trailer work.
- Storage – If you don’t live in your RV full time, then you’ll need to store this bad boy somewhere. Typically you’ll have to pay for storage space because most neighborhood HOA’s are jelly of how cool your RV is and will ask you to stop showing off (a.k.a. get this monster out of sight of the neighbors or we’ll fine you).
Well, now that you know about fifth wheel recreational vehicles, let’s move onto bumper pull trailers.
Also, you can check out our other post Fifth Wheel RVs vs Travel Trailers for more information here.
Toy Haulers: Go Camping With Your Favorite Toys!
Sometimes called sport utility RVs, toy haulers are available as either a bumper pull or a fifth wheel, these RV’s are going to be best for going camping while bringing all the fun stuff like ATV’s, 4×4’s, dirt bikes, golf carts, and so much more.
Normally, a toy hauler will have a ramp at the end of your RV which will allow for the loading and unloading of your “toys”. Think of this as a type of garage. These travel trailers are best if you’re planning a very active camping trip, and will typically have extra beds, seating, and more that fold down from the wall when the garage is not in use.
Size wise, a toy hauler can range between 15-35 feet in length, because of the necessary space to account for the additional items being stored in the garage.
Pros Of Toy Haulers
- Garage – no other RV types are going to have garages like this. You can fit quite a few items that will make your camping trip legendary.
- Sturdy – these types of rvs are made for off-roading adventures. They’re typically built with a little more sturdiness in mind.
Cons Of Toy Haulers
- Shared Living Space – like it or not, you’re going to be sharing the living room with the garage right next to you. Just remember, whatever you bring from the outside can be smelt on the inside…
- Usually Very Large – a toy hauler RV can often be both a fifth wheel or a bumper pull travel trailer. That means they’re often large and heavy.
We’ve finally reached my favorite section, because we own one!
Travel trailers are going to be the most common and popular RV’s available. And it’s an RV trailer you’re probably familiar with.
This option is what you might consider a “traditional travel trailer” and will have hard durable sides (usually made of fiberglass or aluminum), along with a kitchen, bathroom, sleeping areas, and often a couch or set or recliners.
The reason these are the perfect rv?
Because you can literally back your trailer into a camping spot, detach, and you’re free to use your vehicle to go anywhere you want!
As you go up in size – think anything over 30 feet – you’ll start seeing these RV trailers with separate sleeping areas. This could include bunks or even slide outs that make a completely different room. This means you can easily sleep up to 10 people comfortably.
These travel trailers are some of the best options available for camping trailers because of their size, price, and hauling requirements.
Usually you don’t need an overly powerful truck to haul these RV’s, but as the size gets larger then you’re going to start requiring bigger and bigger trucks.
Normally, a travel trailer will be between 20-32(ish) feet in length, although I have seen some monster RV’s reaching 38 feet.
Oh, another important part is these trailers will generally have full water tanks (including black, and gray).
Pros of Travel Trailers
- Wide Range Of Options – these RV types are going to have a wide range of rv styles and options for you to pick from. From very basic amenities, to decked out options, I guarantee you’ll find what you’re looking for.
- Price – because of the wide variety of options, that means a wide variety of prices. Generally speaking though, you should be able to see prices between $10,000-$200,000+ depending on how fancy you want to get.
- Towing – these RV types allow for you to carry extra stuff in your truck bed due to them being pulled via the bumper. This gives extra space while towing.
Cons of Travel Trailers
- Truck – you’re going to need a powerful truck for carrying this kind of RV. Unless you’re towing a smaller – think under 20 foot – trailer, then you’re going to need an F250 or something of equal stature.
- Storage When Not In Use – most of the time this type of rv is going to lend you needing to store it a lot when not in use. Most neighborhoods with HOA’s won’t allow it to be parked outside, and it usually doesn’t fit into a garage.
- Set Up Is Tedious – these trailers require that you level it out when parking at your campsite, and if you have a slide out you can expect a long process for getting everything in order to haul.
Hybrid Trailers: Bit Of A Frankenstein…
These travel trailers are going to provide you a bit of everything. You get the combination of a small trailer with the furnishings and amenities, along with a pop up camper that offers more bedding options and a bit of a true “camping” feel.
The reason this option is nice is because you don’t need a large truck to tow these trailers. They’re typically built very light and are designed to expand when you’re camping so you can maximize space.
They typically offer little protection to the weather because of the fabric walls within the pop up camper.
Pros Of Hybrid Trailers
- Tent Campers Love It – these RV’s are great for those true outdoor enthusiasts looking to sleep in the elements while cooking in a kitchen.
- Weight – these rv types are lightweight while still providing a lot of options. Means you don’t need a large truck.
- Easy To Set Up – generally it’s easy to get a hybrid set up when you arrive to the campsite. Makes for a pleasurable experience.
Cons Of Hybrid Trailers
- Storage – not only will there be little storage within the RV, but these are also going to be larger than a traditional garage, and it might mean you’ll need to store it when not in use.
- Elements – you’re going to be exposed to the elements when sleeping, both the hot and cold. Keep this in mind.
- Material – because of the lightweight nature of these trailers, you have to expect the material to wear down faster than other options.
Made popular after WWII – this recreational vehicle is often built only for 2 people.
They’re tiny, flexible spaces mainly built for sleeping, with no living space.
This tiny towable rv is typically made from fiberglass into a clamshell style container that’s shaped like a teardrop. Often they include kitchens on the outside under a hood.
People like these trailers because smaller trucks and SUVs are able to tow them.
Pros of Teardrop Trailers
- Light – because of their small design and material, these trailers are exceptionally light. You can use a variety of vehicles to tow them.
- Storable – you can easily store these trailers in your garage.
- Camping – you can easily fit these trailers into almost all camping spots with ease.
Cons Of Teardrop Trailers
- Limited Storage – you’re very limited on the amount of things you can bring within this RV.
- Not Good For Tall People – if you’re over 6ft tall then you’re not going to want these RV types.
- No Bathroom – when nature calls, you’ll have to go in nature because teardrops don’t typically offer a bathroom.
Pop Up Campers
These RV trailers function almost like a tent on wheels. They’re lightweight (super-light) and normally have a hard bottom to hold a very small kitchen or dining area, but what makes them unique is they have pop out sections made of canvas or fabric.
When you put the pop up campers into “camping” mode, what you’ll see is a bunch of extended tents to provide more sleeping space
Often a pop up trailer can be towed behind a variety of vehicles, I’ve even seen one towed by a motorcycle before.
They’re perfect for new RVers with a family who want to be a little closer to nature (they generally sleep between 4-6 people).
Pros Of Pop Up Campers
- Inexpensive – probably the cheapest option in all the RV types we’ve mentioned.
- Storable – this recreational vehicle can generally be stored in your garage with no issues.
- Lightweight – because it’s basically just a hard bottom with fabric that extends, this makes a pop up camper an easily towable rv.
Cons Of Pop Up Campers
- No Protection From Elements – if it’s raining, hot, or very cold then you’re going to be uncomfortable. These RV types don’t offer much protection from the weather.
- Storage Space – the storage area is limited with this kind of trailer.
- Fabric Sides – the fabric sides require drying before being stored. It also tends to limit the resale value of these trailers.
Last but not least we have truck campers. These aren’t pulled by a truck, they’re actually fully functioning living spaces sitting in your truck bed.
They don’t often have much interior space, but can be useful for weekend warriors.
The benefits of a truck camper is the compactness, because they sit within the bed of your truck, making it easy to maneuver into campsites and boondock where other RV’s couldn’t reach.
You can expect a truck camper to come in two primary styles:
- Slide Out Truck Campers
- Pop Up Truck Campers
Both options provide extra space when in “camping” mode.
Pros Of Truck Campers
- Easy To Manage – because they’re so compact, and sit in the bed of your truck, they’re easy to maneuver while driving. You can reach a lot of interesting camping spots with this camper type.
- Truck Can Tow Other Toys – with this camper type you’ll be able to tow other toys like a boat.
- Storable – most of these campers are easily stored within a garage. You can pop a truck camper off the back and store it away when not in use.
Cons Of Truck Campers
- Unbalanced – these campers will make your truck top heavy. You have a major risk of accidents if you’re not careful with your driving.
- Very Small – expect to be cramped. These are incredibly small, maybe smaller than a teardrop trailer, and it’s best to use this only for sleeping.
- Attached To Truck When Camping – if you want to explore an area you’ll have to bring this camper along with you. This can be annoying at times.
Now that you know the different types of RVs available, it’s up to you to make a determination about which one best fits your lifestyle and goals.
Are you planning on being a full timer? Might want to look for a travel trailer or a Class A.
Want to be a weekend warrior? Well those Class Cs look mighty nice!
Got a lot of dirt bikes? Toy haulers for you.
Maybe you’re into vanlife?
Who knows, either way, you can enjoy the great outdoors in style with these amazing options available to you.