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Thinking about trying out a mobile lifestyle but don’t know where to begin? Let me try to provide a little help for you. If you’re anything like us, shopping for an RV can be a bit overwhelming when you first start. Class A, B, B+, C, Super C, fifth wheel, Travel trailers and many more. There are ones you drive, and ones you pull, and sometimes the ones you drive AND pull. Here are some basic definitions that will help you start to put things in place. There are more categories, but let’s just touch on the most common first to help you determine which one(s) should go on your RV shopping shortlist, before you even set foot in a dealers lot.
Trailers / Towables
- These trailers fold down to all a lightweight and compact trailer that is easy to tow with a smaller vehicle
- Many will even fit inside your garage
- Great because you won’t need to pay to store it when not in use
- These tend to be larger than pop up trailers, but can vary in length from 10 feet long to over 30 feet.
- They are much more accommodating inside than a pop up, because nothing needs to fold up, or fold down when you get to your site
- They will also have much more storage than you will find in a pop-up for the same reason
- Some travel trailers include slide outs to increase their size when parked
- They are usually too tall to fit inside most garages so you would need to have a place to store it
- Small travel trailers can still be towed with light vehicles, but most will require a full size truck or SUV
- Some floor plans even allow a rear drop down gate that allow you to put motorcycles and other large items in a ‘garage’ of sorts
- Fifth wheel trailers are the mac daddy of trailers. They are those big tall trailers that you see dwarfing the truck that pulls them. Part of a fifth wheel actually sits above the bed of the truck that is pulling it, and attaches to the bed of the truck with a special type of hitch like used on semi-trucks. This is the 5th wheel
- Because of how they are pulled, they tend to be more balanced and easy to pull when compared to similar sized travel trailers, and, you end up with more livable space in a 30 foot fifth wheel, than you do with a 30 foot travel trailer because a travel trailer is counting a few feet of the hitch as part of it’s length
- They tend to be larger than most travel trailers, and can feel like a real home inside, especially if they have slide outs
- Most will have a small staircase inside to reach either a bedroom or a separate living room space
- Many are also available with ‘garage’ type space as mentioned in travel trailers above
- You will definitely need a heavy duty truck to pull one of these beauties
These are the kind that fit in the bed of a truck. There are many different sizes, but of the same concept. The camper slides into the bed of your truck. You can either remove the camper from your truck when not in use, or leave it in the truck full time if you only use the truck for camping
Class A Motorhome
- These are the motorhomes that look more like buses
- They vary in size from 24 feet to over 45 feet long
- They will vary in price from $60,000 to over 2 million new
- Class A motorhomes have large front windshields that allow you to take in all the scenery and are generally easy for passengers to get up and walk around while the vehicle is in motion because everything is all on the same level
- Driver seat and front passenger seat can actually turn around to become part of the living space when parked
- Floorplans can become quite roomy, especially if the RV has slide outs
There are two main types of Class A: Gas Engine and Diesel Engine
1. Gas Engine: The engine is almost always mounted in the front of the rig. These are generally less expensive to buy and maintain than diesels, but they don’t have as much power either (especially at altitude).
The gas motorhome won’t get as efficient mileage compared with a diesel, but you won’t be paying as much of an upfront cost for the motorhome either.
2. Diesel engine: Most larger Diesel RVs have the engine in the rear of the vehicle, which ‘pushes’ the vehicle down the road. You can find some smaller Class A’s with a front diesel engine, which would not be a ‘pusher’.
Typically, diesel powered motorhomes are more expensive to buy and maintain, but generally have upgraded features compared to gas motorhomes because of their additional capacities. Diesel engines get better MPG than gas powered coaches.
It will definitely pay for you to do the math and work out which is the best option for your personal needs, including how and where you’ll use the motorhome.
- Most class B RVs are converted vans, that are only a little bigger than the standard van they are based on
- Most Class Bs under 22 feet in length
- Commonly used platforms are Ford, Chevrolet and Mercedes vans
- These are great for people who want something that they can easily maneuver in parking lots and don’t need a lot of living space
- Some Class Bs are 4 wheel drive and more easily allow for getting way out in the boonies
- Class B+ are like a Class B, but have an extended roofline to expand the size a bit
- Class C motorhomes are based on heavier duty truck or van chassis.
- If you look at the cab of the vehicle it will have regular truck or van doors to enter it, in addition to a RV full length door in the camper section
- It will have a camper space above that cab which is usually an extra bed
- Class C can vary greatly in size, from 20 to over 30 feet
- These are a very popular choice of motorhome and you have certainly seen many on the road
- They are a bit taller and wider than Class B motorhomes and will have much more storage and living space
- As the name implies, these are ‘super sized’ C Class rigs
- They are based on much heavier duty versions of trucks, sometimes Semi truck chassis
- They are the same concept as a Class C, but generally have much more power and capacity
Searching for the right motorhome for you can be a huge, time consuming exercise. With hundreds, even thousands of different kinds of RVs out there, it makes sense to have a general idea of what type(s) will best suit your needs by doing some online research and reading articles like this, before heading to an RV dealer near you. Once you’ve narrowed it down to one, two or even three types, you can take the next step and check them out in person, to help you determine exactly which TYPE is going to work best for you.
Remember, this is a journey, not a destination, so you don’t need to find all the answers on your first day or week of shopping. This is a big investment you are making, so keep exploring until you find what works best for your needs. This is also a very complicated decision, especially if you plan on spending extended time in your RV. Be sure to do your research before making your purchase.