ABCs of RV models

The ABCs of RVs: Deciphering the alphabet soup of RV models

There are several classifications of recreational vehicle, from palatial rolling mansions packed with the comforts of home to portable truck campers which provide the basic necessities for flexible travel and shelter from the elements. By understanding the classifications, you can match your needs to the RV best suited for you.

Class A motorhome

These are the vehicles that spring to mind for most people when they hear the word “RV.” A Class A motorhome is built on a heavy-duty frame, such as a commercial truck or bus chassis, or on a custom-built chassis. They are popular for short trips and vacations, and are the RV of choice for full-time RVers because of their luxurious comfort. They are large enough to accommodate a family, and often have superior electronics, entertainment options, master bedrooms, full bathrooms and come in a variety of floor plans. It takes practice to drive a Class A motorhome, and they typically get reduced fuel economy when compared to the Class B or C motorhomes. They do not fit in a typical home garage, but most cities have at least one business catering to people who need to park and store their motorhome.

Class B motorhome

Logically, you would think Class A would be the largest type of motorhome and Class C would be the smallest, leaving Class B as the middle option. But in reality Class B RVs are the smallest of the motorhomes. This model is built using a cargo or camper van as the base, features a raised roof and is much larger than a typical van. Class B amenities typically include a small kitchen, living room and bathroom. The shower is often placed over the toilet to save space. Occupancy is usually limited to two to four people, but they get better gas mileage than their larger cousins, and are small enough to fit in most normal size parking spots. Driving one can feel like driving a large SUV.

Class C motorhome

These offer a compromise between the smaller Class B and the luxuriously-sized Class A. They offer better fuel economy than a Class A, but are not as fuel efficient as a Class B. They can range in length from 20 to 40 feet so don’t fit in most home garages, but they are relatively easy to park in a commercial parking lot, especially the shorter models. They feature full kitchens with small dining areas and higher-end electronic and entertainment equipment as compared to a Class B. They also have more storage and more room for families.

Travel trailer

Ranging in size from mini teardrop units 12-feet long to 33-foot, triple axle RVs, travel trailers are lightweight and attach to a tow vehicle by a tow hitch. Being lightweight but sturdy, they can be towed by a truck, SUV or van. They typically sleep up to six people, and offer an entertainment system, kitchen and bathroom. One advantage of this kind of RV is that once you have arrived at your destination, you simply unhitch the trailer from your vehicle and you are ready to explore.

Fifth-wheel trailer

The fifth-wheel gets its name from the large hitch pin that attaches the trailer to a special mount in the bed of a heavy-duty pickup truck. This arrangement makes the fifth-wheel more stable to pull than a travel trailer, and easier to back up. They can range from 18 to 40 feet long, and typically come with master bedroom, kitchen, bathroom and entertainment system. Like travel trailers, once you have arrived at your camp site you can unhitch the fifth-wheel and roam the countryside in your truck.

Pop-up trailer

The pop-up, sometimes called a tent trailer, is the smallest, lightest member of the trailer family. They are great for weekend trips, but with planning and organization they can be comfortable for longer trips. Most models include two beds, which can accommodate four adults or six children, and a small kitchen. Newer models may also have a toilet with shower over the toilet.

SURV trailer

This relatively new type of sport utility RV is often referred to as a “toy hauler” because of the “garage” storage built into the rear often used to haul “toys” like motorcycles and personal watercraft. Once you’ve off-loaded the toys, you could even use the garage as an extra bedroom. Expect your toy hauler to include sleeping area, kitchen and bathroom.

Truck camper

A truck camper slides into the bed of a standard pick-up. Typical models include a bed over the truck cab, small kitchen and toilet. High-end models even include a shower. Because it fits on the truck, the camper can be conveyed into rugged territory, then off-loaded and left at the camp site. It is a model popular with people who travel into the back country where nimble transportation is required, but tents might not provide enough shelter.


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