Looking to get your first RV?
Are you considering a class B motorhome?
If so, then welcome friends! Before we go into the details, here’s the quick TL;DR…
Class B RVs – also called camper vans – are the smallest classification of motorhomes on the market. These are going to be your vans (typically built on a Mercedes Benz sprinter chassis) and they’re an amazing choice for young couples without children looking to travel and live full time on the road. Instead of investing heavily into a travel trailer or fifth wheel, this RV type is going to offer easy driving, comfortable boondocking, and plenty of stories.
If you’re interested in learning way more, including the full feature details, how a class B is built, and the benefits (and disadvantages) of these motorhomes then keep reading because we’re breaking it all down today!
What’s A Class B RV?
If you’ve been interested in full time RVing, like even remotely, then you’ve probably seen dozens of instagram influencers raving about van life.
You’d swear this was the only form of RVing anyone should ever do, and every other RV type is just too… Old school.
Or maybe sleeping with your face next to a propane stove and banging your head on the roof every time you wake up isn’t exactly comfortable, but whatever, right?
What exactly is a class B RV you ask?
Going off strict definitions, a class B motorhome (also often called camper vans) are going to be the smallest classification within the motorhome RV types. For reference, a motorhome is a living space with an internal engine making the vehicle drivable.
A Class B is literally a van chassis with living space built in. Mercedes is well known in the class B space because of its Sprinter van being the preferred choice for the framework. However, there are many other options available that can provide you with cheaper starting points. You just have to pay close attention to the engine performance.
Now, these vans have a very compact design, and are usually between 15-24 feet in length, but will often include quite a few amenities like:
- Foldable couch to bed conversion
- Small kitchen (usually with a sink & stove)
- Swivel tables
- Couple of storage cabinets
You could consider this to be a tiny home on wheels.
Before we go any further, it’s important to know there are actually 2 different types of Class B motorhomes:
- Regular Class B Motorhome
- Class B+ Motorhome
What’s the difference? Glad you asked!
Regular Class B RV
This type of motorhome is almost always going to be a smaller size compared to the B+. It’s also where most class b motorhomes will be classified. This is strictly a van conversion, where the framework starts with a basic automotive van chassis and shell with the interior being built to fit within the constraints.
A class B+ motorhome starts its life with a van chassis, however that’s all in the beginning. It’s not a conversion van, but instead the RV manufacturers will actually attach a separate cab (what’s often called a cut-away) to greatly increase the cab space. By doing this you’re greatly improving the overall living space, along with the length. However, you still keep everything on a regular van framework. These vans are eerily similar to class C motorhomes, except for the frame they’re sitting on.
Either option you choose – these compact RVs are going to provide excellent maneuverability making you able to get into many more places compared to your peers driving travel trailers or monster fifth wheel rigs. If you don’t mind skipping luxurious amenities in exchange for the simple basics, and want more fuel efficient freedom (especially in the city), then this camper van is a perfect fit.
Class B RV Quick Facts:
Let’s take a look at some quick facts.
Generally between 15-22 feet. However, a B+ can get up to 28 feet in length.
Generally between 6,000-10,000 pounds.
Usually 2 people (although a B+ might be able to fit 4 people).
Regular class Bs don’t have slide outs. However, some B+ options do have 1 slide out.
Anywhere from 12-20 mpg. This will depend on if you have gas or diesel engines, but class Bs have good fuel efficiency.
Between 5,000-7,000 pounds.
Between $60,000-$250,000. At the higher end everything is luxury. Used RV options are available for cheaper.
Benefits Of Class B RVs
Easy Drivability & Accessibility
If you’ve never owned an RV before, then a Class B could be the best option to get you started. Why? Because they’re the easiest to drive and adjust to. This RV type is hardly bigger than a full size truck, and is so smooth to operate, especially in major cities. You’ll rarely have issues turning corners, or getting through tight spaces. Plus, you often never have to worry about height issues when passing under bridges. Their small stature makes it particularly easy to get into virtually all state parks, national parks, rv parks, rv resorts, and campgrounds, and you’ll find a lot of extra options for boondocking that others won’t because of how nimble your B van is.
Class B RVs are the most economical options when factoring in fuel costs and efficiency compared to other motorhomes. Full stop. Compared to larger RVs like the class A or class C RVs, these camper vans get nearly double or triple the miles per gallon. Almost all class B RV owners I come across rave about the savings when comparing to other RVs.
Right off the bat, you may think that these class B vans are overpriced. However, most people compare this to travel trailers and fail to realize that with these camper vans, you don’t actually have to pay for a truck. You’re getting a living space and a vehicle all wrapped in one. This makes the overall price cheaper than many options available on the market, because you can drive it. This is especially true when comparing class C and class A RVs.
Disadvantages Of Class B RVs
Tall people need not apply. And that’s not a joke. Class B RVs are brutally tight for average size human beings. If you’re over 6’1 then you’re just going to have a bad time. The bed will be small, you’ll have trouble standing, and you’re going to feel cramped all the time. At the end of the day, if you’re planning to work and live out of a van, then you might want to consider a different option, especially if you’re planning to work full time while traveling the road.
The main difference between a class C and A motorhome and a class B is the amenities provided. These vans come equipped with a small size (typically 1 burner) stove, a small sink, a very tiny bathroom (usually a wet bath), and a couch that converts to a bed. Which means you have to make and fold your bed up to use the couch to potentially work. A camper van just doesn’t compare to the other motorhomes that come fully equipped with a wide range of comfortable amenities.
Class B RVs are going to offer limited storage. Like, seriously limited. You really have to keep to the name campervan when thinking about the use case of a class B RV. While everyone on social media makes it out to be wonderful living the vanlife, you have to anticipate that with no storage space you’re going to be roughing it, a lot. That’s not a problem if you’re a weekend warrior looking to go camping once or twice a month, but living full time… that’s a different story.
How Are Class B RVs Built?
So you’re considering purchasing a new class B and want to know how it’s built?
Well, let’s take a look.
In order to be considered a class B RV the chassis must come from a van. Now, most class B motorhomes are going to come from these 3 manufacturers:
- Ford – with the Ford Transit.
- Dodge – with the Promaster.
- Mercedes Benz – with the Sprinter.
Now, these camper vans are going to come in 2 options for engine type. Either gas or diesel engines (only for the Ford and Dodge) and only diesel for the Mercedes Sprinter.
Remember the class B and B+ differences from above? This is where the distinctions get made. For a class B camper van you’re going to have the chassis and the shell stay intact, with the interior getting built. For the class B+ the shell actually gets cut away from the front cab, and then a completely new shell will be added after additional modifications are made to the frame and axles.
Just for reference, a class B motorhome is going to typically be four wheel drive, allowing it to get into off road places easier. The back axle of the class Bs will usually have four tires on it (four in the back and two in the front) which helps with weight distribution.
With the chassis picked and ready, it’s time to add in the interior.
Class B RV Interior
Class B van conversions often have smaller living quarters because the interior space is bounded by the van’s walls and roof.
Class B RVs camper vans typically feature high roof configurations derived from commercial vans, allowing passengers to stand up and move around freely within.
Even though the kitchen in a type B recreational vehicle is compact, it still has everything you need to cook a meal while on the road.
This comprises a single burner stove, a sink, a (very small) refrigerator, and sometimes a microwave.
Common bed configurations include a set of adjacent twin beds separated by a middle aisle, or a single bed in the back with a platform and drawers underneath.
A couch that can be used for lounging during the day and folded flat at night is another common camper van bed configuration.
Since there isn’t enough room for a conventional RV sewer tank, most RVs make do with wet bathrooms and cassette toilets.
Alternatively, there is a small, detachable tank that must be emptied into a regular toilet at a residence or rest stop.
Class B+ motorhomes are somewhat more like conventional motorhomes in that they often feature a larger kitchenette with more wiggle room, a dedicated bed, and a bathroom with a distinct toilet and shower.
Most Class B+ RVs can have their own fresh water and sewage systems.
Class B motorhomes from the major manufacturers often have these identical waste tanks.
There are typically no RV slide outs with Class B camper van conversions, though, so there isn’t any more room inside.
A Class B+ camper van, however, often has slide-outs installed in order to increase the usable inside space.
Some Class B+ layouts include two slides, albeit this is the exception rather than the rule.
Given the constraints of the built environment, there won’t be many variations in floor plans to choose from amongst manufacturers.
Different versions provide a wide range of customizable elements, such as the number and kind of available features, the cost of optional luxury extras, and the availability of various interior design schemes.
Hopefully this provided you with tons of new information to make your next RV purchase smooth and seamless.
Whether you’re a solo traveler trying to hit all National Parks, or a couple looking to break away from the norm, getting a class B camper van is bound to make life a little more interesting!
If you are interested in learning more about other RV Types, check out our other articles:
- The Ultimate Guide To RV Types & RV Classes
- Everything You Would Want To Know About Class A RVs
- 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