My uncle cornered me last weekend and started going on about their new “Class A” motorhome and how he and my aunt are going to sell their house and live a nomadic existence on the road. Sounds pretty cool, but what’s the deal with “Class A”, “Class B”, and so on?
My sister’s been talking for years about her and her husband doing exactly what your Uncle’s talking about, selling their house and getting a fancy, high-end motorhome (recreational vehicle: all motorhomes are recreational vehicles, but not all RV’s are motorhomes since they can be trailers, ATVs, etc too. Got it?). It sounds like it could definitely be fun, but I’m not so sure about the permanently on the road part. It’s nice to be able to get mail.
Still, the recreational vehicle world is definitely a universe all its own, with its own language and jargon, including the three major classes of motorhomes. So let’s talk about what’s what.
At the top of the food chain are “Class A Motorhomes“. A Class A motorhome are built from the chassis on up to be RVs, typically on custom truck or bus chassis. They can be powered by gas or diesel engine and most look somewhat like a bus in their boxy appearance and front mounted gas engine. Some have a rear diesel engine and those get the nickname diesel pusher to differentiate them.
These are the priciest, starting in the low $50,000’s and going up to a half-million or more. The top end ones are like a fancy Manhattan penthouse apartment on wheels, quite luxurious and with all the modern conveniences, from gourmet rangetops to huge HDTV installations.
A step down from these top of the line units are “Class B Motorhomes” which are generally a full size van with specialized equipment for camping, also known as camper vans or conversion vans.
Here’s a typical Class B Motorhome:
These can be deceptive in that they don’t look so fancy, but can be beautiful inside, with fancy fittings and ingenious design to maximize functionality. Many of these will have “stretch” features, where the new camper van is longer than the original van was, or “slide-outs” where a portion of the vehicle actually pushes out of the main body when the vehicle is parked to offer more usable living space inside.
And, finally, a Class C Motorhome is characterized by its “front end”, a front-engine chassis from a van, pickup or larger truck. You can see it immediately in this photo:
While many of these can be 40-feet in length, most are smaller — between 21 and 32-feet long — and are referred to as mini-motorhomes for just that reason. Slide-outs are very common a Class C motorhome, particularly for a dining or sleeping area.
All Class C motorhomes have a long drivetrain because they have a front mounted engine and rear-wheel drive. Almost all of them utilize the “over cab” area as a sleeping space, often best for children with its cosy dimensions. You can see what I mean in the photo above.
Those are the three key motorhome types, but there’s more jargon in the industry to know about: SURV Motorhome is a sport utility recreational vehicle, also known as a toy hauler. These have a “garage” or storage area where RVers can keep their motorcycles, ATVs, or similar.
Travel trailers are the two-wheeled trailers, typically attached to a car with a simple hitch device. These are the most common mobile homes because of their affordable entry price. They are also less spacious than a motorhome, of course, but that’s one of the tradeoffs.
Fifth-wheel trailers are like travel trailers, but they’re bigger and must be towed by a pickup truck, with the hitch mechanism located in the bed of the truck. Fifth wheel trailers can range from 20 to 40-feet in length and are preferred by some RVers because the pickup truck itself can be used year round, even when the trailer is in storage.
A tent-trailer or folding trailer is a hybrid, where the base is rigid like a trailer, but the top part pops up and has canvas sides just like a tent. These are less insulated from the weather, of course, but can be quite affordable, starting below $5000 for a brand new unit.
And, finally, there are truck campers that just fit atop the bed of a pickup truck. These can range from the most austere to quite nice, and the price is really where they can be a winner, much cheaper than even a used motorhome, and, again, you can pop them off the truck if you just want to drive around town, a win-win.
So that’s the lay of the land with mobile homes and other recreational vehicles. Now you know Class A, Class B and Class C, and the many other types on the market. Go back, talk to your Uncle, and perhaps you can borrow their motorhome for a weekend and give it a try!