There are two main categories of recreational vehicles (RV’s); motorized and towable. Motorized RV’s include Class A, Class B, and Class C motorhomes, along with truck campers.
CLASS A MOTORHOME
Class A motorhomes are the king of RV’s and are the most expensive. They can easily cost more than a house and can be very luxurious. I dream about owning one someday, but not right now. I’d have to sell my house to buy one and there’s no way all my stuff would fit in a Class A motorhome! But it doesn’t stop me from touring the inside of them at every camper show I attend.
My favorite Class A motorhome at a show earlier this year had all-leather seating, granite kitchen countertops, cherry cabinets, a lighted cherry hutch in the living area, a king size bed in the bedroom, a built-in tv, hardwood floors and an awesome navigation system that my husband nearly drooled on. It was a beautiful motorhome. It came with a beautiful price tag too. The “show special” price was nearly $300,000.
Being in a Class A motorhome is like living in a small house – a house you drive down the road.
The biggest advantage of a Class A motorhome is that it is a fully functioning self-contained unit. There’s nothing to hitch to a vehicle and tow. It’s just a few steps from the driver’s seat of the motorhome to the living area of the motorhome. Class A motorhomes also have very little setup work when you arrive at your camp site. Compared to towable campers, they’re generally easier to maneuver into a camp site.
The motors in Class A motorhomes are either built on a bus chassis or are specially designed chassis’s. Diesel pusher Class A motorhomes have a diesel engine that’s in the rear of the motorhome.
Most class A motorhomes today have at least one slideout to give you more interior room while you are camping.
Some disadvantages of Class A motorhomes? To me the biggest disadvantage is the same as the biggest advantage – that it’s a self-contained unit. When you’re at your destination and you need to drive to the store for a few supplies you can’t unhook the camper and drive to the store. You have the take the entire camper with you. It can be a problem maneuvering it in some parking lots and in congested traffic areas. To deal with this problem, many people tow a vehicle behind their class A motorhome.
Another disadvantage is the price tag. Class A motorhomes are very expensive so they’re not usually the first RV a person buys. But they are something to look forward to being able to own in the future. If you can’t afford a Class A motorhome don’t worry. There are other motorized options that are less expensive and still very nice.
CLASS B MOTORHOME
Class B motorhomes are typically called camper vans or conversion vans. They are small compact units that usually sleep two or three people, sometimes a few more.
Camper vans came into their own in the 1960’s and 1970’s when people put bedding and other essentials in their vans so they could have a mobile lifestyle (you can still see some of the “retro” VW vans on the road – what my parents called “hippie” vans and what I thought were very cool). Companies then started to crop up to offer professional van conversion services.
Today’s camper vans look a lot like a normal van except they usually have a bubble top to accommodate being able to walk around the van more easily. A drop floor may also be installed in order to gain even more vertical area so you’re not bumping your head on the ceiling. The back seating areas are removed and in their place are typically a bed (often a convertible that doubles as a couch), a small kitchen, a small bathroom area and some storage areas.
Because a Class B motorhome is van-sized, it’s easier to maneuver and drive where needed. It also makes them versatile since they can be used as both a camper and an additional family vehicle if you want. They fit in most garages and fit in regular parking spots. Their gas mileage isn’t bad either, somewhere between 13 & 20 miles per gallon depending on the size, weight, engine, and your driving habits.
Class B motorhomes are smaller in size than Class C motorhomes but typically cost more. The higher cost is because there’s a lot of labor involved with outfitting the smaller spaces in the back of the van with all those nice amenities.
They’re also not the best choice for longer camping trips because the space in them is limited, although some people will tell you that’s not an important consideration because most of your time is spent outside the camper enjoying nature, and not inside it.
CLASS C MOTORHOME
As a general rule, Class C motorhomes are smaller than Class A motorhomes but larger than Class B motorhomes. Does that seem confusing? It kind of is. But the easiest way to identify a Class C motorhome is that they almost always have the bed over the top of the cab of the vehicle, although there’s not always a bed in some of the new motorhomes. Sometimes it’s used for storage or for an entertainment center.
Class C motorhomes are almost as easy to maneuver through traffic and camping areas as Class B motorhomes. Larger Class C motorhomes can tow a small vehicle if desired.
For many people a Class C motorhome is the perfect balance between a Class A and Class B motorhome. They’re bigger than Class B motorhomes and not as expensive as Class A motorhomes.
A truck camper is the most economical choice for a motorized camper but it is also the smallest, although you might be surprised at how much function is packed into a small unit that fits on the back of a pickup truck.
Unlike Class A, B, and C motorhomes, you usually cannot get to the living area of the truck camper from the cab of the truck. Access is usually at the back of unit.
One of the attractive features of a truck camper is that it can be removed from the truck when you’re not camping so the truck can be used for regular driving and hauling.
It’s unusual for the camper and the truck to be sold together. Usually people already have the truck and then find a camper to fit it.
Truck campers are very “cozy.” There’s not much room to move around, but all the functional items needed (sleeping and sitting areas, kitchen area, storage areas, and usually bathroom facilities).
Truck campers seem to be most popular with people who go on hunting and fishing trips. That’s partly because the campers are often mounted on 4 wheel drive trucks that can go in some pretty rugged areas.
No matter which camper you eventually decide to purchase take the time to look around so you can see what is going to work best for you. I highly recommend going to camper dealerships, attending camper shows, driving around campgrounds to see the different campers in use, and talking to people you know who own campers. Find out the pros and cons. Make a list of what features are important to you and also think about how much you camp and where you like to camp so that the camper you purchase fits into your personal camping lifestyle.
Dorrie Ruplinger is the publisher of http://www.bestrvsite.com which provides information and resources about Door County Wisconsin parks.