It’s a bus, it’s a big rig, no… It’s a Class A!!
Welcome to the full guide on Class A motorhomes. By the end of this article you’re going to know if a Class A RV is the right RV for you out of the many different types and classes you can choose from.
Let’s get started.
What’s A Class A RV?
Have you ever seen the movie “RV”? You know, the one with Robin Williams and Peeta from the Hunger Games?
The RV they’re driving, well… That’s a Class A RV.
It’s that giant bus rollin’ down the highway.
It’s not exactly a bus now is it? No, in fact not at all.
While Class A RVs are motorized with a powerful engine (either gas or diesel), the foundation and structure of this beast is actually all fiberglass sitting within an aluminum frame on top of a steel and plywood base.
You heard that right.
These RVs are typically situated on a modified truck chassis with a fiberglass box put around it.
If you want more information, be sure to read below where I go into detail about how these RVs are manufactured. I also have other posts comparing Class A vs Class C rvs and Class A vs Class B rvs more in detail.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not hatin’ on these types of RVs. However, with so many choices available to you, I don’t want you to get overly romantic without knowing what you’re getting into.
Class A RV Quick Facts:
Usually between 26-45 feet in length.
Anywhere from 13,000-50,000 pounds.
Anywhere from 4-10 people depending on the floor plan.
Almost all will have at least 1 slide out, but sometimes up to 4 slide outs.
Between 6-12 mpg. This will depend on if it’s a diesel engine or not.
This RV type can usually tow a vehicle (especially the diesel engines). Usually 5,000-10,000 pounds can be towed.
$100,000-$500,000 with some ultra luxury travel RVs pushing $2 million+.
Benefits of a Class A RV
Self Contained Experience
The beauty of these RVs is the contained experience you have while living, camping, and just plan operating out of one. You can live in this thing without any problems. It has a generator, ample water tanks, lots of storage, and an engine built to drive it. Set up at a campground is also painless because nearly all of these RVs come with auto levelers.
Given the size range, you shouldn’t have any problem staying at National Parks or State Parks either.
Of all the RV types on the market, Class A motorhomes provide some of the best amenity options. If you’re looking for comfort, then look no further than this perfect RV. I’m talking full size couches, kitchens, beds, and recliners. Including comfortable bathrooms and often bunk beds for families. With the built-in generator, you also don’t have to worry so much about the electricity and you can typically use the appliances while on the road.
You can expect to see very open floor plans because the driver’s seat is connected to the living space. Along with open floor plans, nearly all models offer slide outs which create even more breathing room. Even if you’re traveling with a family of 6, a class A RV is going to provide ample room without you feeling squished. Not only do you have a lot of space in the living section, you have so much space for storage and other items.
Disadvantages of a Class A RV
It’s the unfortunate truth. These things are expensive. In fact, the price of a class A a gas motorhome is going to be well within the range of $200,000. If you’re looking at a diesel pusher, you can expect a potentially 50% increase. That’s just the base packages, if you add extra amenities like tile flooring, electric awnings, and custom bedroom or bathroom changes then you’re looking at the cost of a new house. While these extra features are lovely to have, they add up quickly. Not only do you have this upfront cost, but you must factor in the horrible fuel economy (especially the cost of diesel fuel) of a class A motorhome and you quickly get sticker shock.
I want to squash a myth we hear often which is: “You need a license that passes CDL requirements.” Not true, UNLESS you’re driving larger models over 26,000 pounds where you will need to get one. However, this should give you pause. If people have to ask if you need a CDL license to drive a class A RV, then you can bet it’s difficult to drive. Handling these models is similar to driving commercial trucks. You have to be aware of your height and width at all times, along with your turning radius when navigating cities and overhanging areas.
I want to touch on something that needs to be kept in your awareness. A class A RV is often considered the least safe option when compared to other motorhome types. Yes, they do have seatbelts, and yes, they are large; but the seatbelts are almost always not used except for whoever is in the driver’s seat, and the side walls are really just fiberglass. They’re also not actually crash tested. In addition, while those big windows are beautiful to watch the scenery unfolding before you, they’re not protective in a head on collision.
How Are Class A RVs Built?
Curious about how these RVs are built?
Let’s quickly break down the build process, and what you can typically expect with the manufacturing of a new Class A RV.
All Class A Motorhomes Begin With The Chassis
The birth of any new class A RV begins with the frame. Well, actually, it’s the chassis, engine, steering equipment, as well as the “frame”.
Remember, class A motorhomes come in 2 different options:
- Gasoline engine motorhomes – typically the engine will sit underneath the driver
- Diesel engine motorhomes – called diesel-pushers because the engine is almost always in the back “pushing” the RV.
Nearly all of the chassis’ will come from these handful of vendors:
- Mercedes Benz
With the chassis in place, whoever is actually manufacturing the RV will begin to make modifications to it based on the design specs of what was sold.
These modifications will typically include extending the frame, and adding additional axles along with a towing hitch.
The goal of these modifications is to ensure even weight distribution, along with ample storage space for the new owner.
Once this is complete, it’s time to head to flooring…
Class A Motorhome Interior (Floor Plan, Electrical, & Plumbing Installation)
So the chassis is modified and ready for action. Great!
The next thing manufactures will do is lay down the flooring, along with the appropriate floor plan (which include the cabinets, seat belts, the generator, and the entry points for wiring and ducts).
The floor will usually be a steel base with plywood wrapped around it. This will help lower the center of gravity, making for a smooth ride.
In high end RVs (like the diesel pushers) most manufactures will put tile onto a hardiebacker to prevent mildew and mold build up.
Once the floor plan is added correctly, the next thing necessary is connecting the electrical system.
Remember, with a Class A RV you can expect the electrical system to be very similar to that of your house. You’ll actually find circuit breakers within the RVs that can control your outlets.
You will need to get a 30 amp plug and 50 amp plug to set up your electrical though. Unless you are planning to boondock more often. Then you should look at investing in a extra RV generator or solar panels.
In the production process, the plumbing and ductwork are normally completed after the living space has been laid out, and the wiring complete. The toilet flushes just as it would at home.
When it comes to the ductwork, normally the manufacturer will run hoses to the living space that will require heat and air.
Since the RV is just a box on wheels, it’s a fairly simple process.
With the foundation complete, it’s time to put up the walls.
Next Up: The Sidewalls & Roof
This is where the process gets really interesting.
Almost all of these motorhomes are going to have aluminum frames for the sides and roof. This aluminum frame will have insulation added into it to keep heat inside.
This frame, and insulation, are then laminated (where all the air gets removed and gets vacuum sealed) which turns it into fiberglass.
Once insulated, the holes for the windows are cut out which completes the sidewall manufacturing.
Now, these side walls are anchored onto the frame of the RV.
This same process happens for all the sides along with the roof, which all gets connected together piece by piece.
Once the pieces are all put together, and they add some final details, you now have the full motorhome ready for traveling the great outdoors!
Hopefully this article shed a little light on everything you need to know before making your next RV purchase.
If you found this helpful, then go pickup a good class A RV for your next adventure, and enjoy your camping experience in luxury!
If you are interested in learning about other RV Types, check out our other articles:
- The Ultimate Guide To RV Types & RV Classes
- Everything You Would Want To Know About A Class B RV
- Complete Breakdown of Class C Motorhomes
- Everything You Need To Know About Travel Trailers
- Everything You Need To Know About Fifth Wheel Trailers
- Everything You Need To Know About Toy Haulers
- Everything You Need To Know About Hybrid Travel Trailers
- Everything You Need To Know About Teardrop Trailers
- Everything You Need To Know About Pop Up Campers
- Everything You Need To Know About Truck Campers