From Classes A, B, and C motorhomes to towable travel trailers, fifth wheels, teardrops, and pop-ups, there are many things to consider when choosing the right RV for your needs. Each RV type has its own unique pros and cons, but there’s one question that will determine if you need a motorhome or a pull-behind: Do I want to drive my RV or not?
Towable RVs are perfect for those who have vehicles with towing capacity and want the ability to unhook and leave their trailer at a campsite while adventuring during the day. They offer more flexibility, but sometimes that comes with trading off spacious interiors. If this sounds like the option for you, let’s help you find your ideal towable RV.
Motorhomes, on the other hand, are the all-in-one solution for people looking to hop in the driver’s seat and hit the road. Before you find your local dealership and start browsing models in person, let’s help you understand the different motorhome types.
What Are Motorhomes?
Motorhomes are self-contained, drivable recreational vehicles. They come with a gas or diesel-powered engine and driving cab. There are three main classes of motorhomes. They range from small van campers to luxury tour-bus-style homes with slide-outs.
Gas versus Diesel Motorhomes
There are two fuel types you can choose from when shopping for your motorhome – gas or diesel. Each has advantages and disadvantages.
Motorhomes with gas engines come at a cheaper list price. They also tend to perform better at higher elevations and when temperatures drop. On the flip side, gas engines require more frequent service than diesel engines.
There are some downsides to gas engines. If you consider towing a vehicle or trailer, gas-powered RVs have lower torque and less towing capacity. They also tend to struggle more on mountain roads where the grade changes frequently. You can trust a gas engine to last up to around 200,000 miles, sometimes more. If well maintained, gas engines can enter the 300,000-mile territory.
Diesel-fueled motorhomes offer superior performance on mountain climbs. They also tend to last longer, making them best for travelers looking for power. Diesel engines also provide higher towing capacities for those hauling a vehicle or toy trailer. If well maintained, diesel engines can last upwards of 500,000 miles.
Another value add for diesel pushers is their resale value. Because they have more torque and engine longevity, diesel motorhomes tend to hold their value over a longer period of time, making things easier on your wall when you plan to sell or upgrade your RV.
When it comes to disadvantages, diesel motorhomes will cost you more each time you stop for fuel and whenever you need to get the engine serviced. This is largely due to the need for more specialized parts and mechanic services.
What Are the Different Classes of Motorhomes?
The next thing to consider before you purchase a motorhome is the size. I’ve listed the three main classes below — A, C, and B — ranging from largest to smallest.
Ask yourself these questions to determine which option is right for you:
- What size of vehicle am I comfortable driving?
- How much interior space do I want?
- What type of maintenance and upkeep am I willing to do?
- Am I willing to get a commercial driver’s license if required?
- Am I looking to tow a vehicle or toy trailer?
Class A Motorhomes
Class A motorhomes are the largest of the bunch. They often boast the most luxurious interiors and most powerful hauling options. Class A motorhomes range from 30 to 45 feet and can include multiple slide-outs designed to give you extra space at your destination.
Class A RVs are best suited for those who travel for extended periods of time but want to bring the comforts of home along for the ride. Their larger size allows for larger “residential-style” amenities, including full kitchens, bedrooms, and ample storage for everything you need on the road. Class A motorhomes often have more powerful engines for towing vehicles or toy trailers.
That extra length and luxury can come at the sacrifice of maneuverability and available places to park your motorhome while on the road. You’ll need to seek out RV parks or camping areas with spaces large enough to accommodate your RV’s length. It will also be important for you to pay attention to vehicle length restrictions on mountain drives with winding switchbacks.
Remember that, in some states, you may need a commercial driver’s license (CDL) or special license to drive a vehicle over 26,000 pounds or 45 feet long. Learn more about licensing requirements for driving recreational vehicles in all 50 states.
Gas-powered Class A motorhomes have the engine in the front. They are best suited for people who aren’t towing anything and those looking for a cheaper entry into the RV lifestyle. The list price of Class A RVs is generally lower than that of their more powerful diesel cousins.
The main pros of choosing a gas-powered Class A are:
- Increased horsepower
- Initial price
- Cheaper mechanical repairs
- Wider availability of mechanics with experience
- Similar parts to that of a standard vehicle
- Cheaper gas
Diesel-fueled Class A motorhomes generally have the engine at the rear of the coach. They work best for people who want added towing capacity or those who frequently drive on mountainous roads. These enhanced benefits come with a higher cost upfront, but are worth it for the right buyer.
The main pros of choosing a diesel-powered Class A are:
- Increased torque and towing capacity
- Longer engine lifespan
- Better fuel economy
- Less regularly scheduled maintenance
- Smoother, quieter ride
- Air-powered brakes
- Better handling on hill climbs
Class C Motorhomes
Class C motorhomes are easily identifiable by their cabover bunk area above the cockpit. They are perfect for people looking for more space than a van camper and easier maneuverability than a Class A motorhome. There are two subtypes within this category, standard Class C and Super C. Their lengths generally range from 21 to 41 feet.
Class C motorhomes are typically built on a heavy-duty truck chassis and drive like larger working trucks or moving vans. Most people can comfortably learn to drive a Class C motorhome fairly quickly, and they usually do not require any special licensing to drive.
What you lose in interior space, you gain in maneuverability. While many Class A motorhome drivers opt to tow a personal vehicle for daily driving, Class C RVs more easily fit in parking spaces, allowing for more frequent stops and easier sightseeing. You’ll also have more options available when it comes to campsites or overnight parking. Because of their smaller size, you can also boondock more easily in your Class C camper.
What are Super C Motorhomes?
So, what’s the difference between a Class C and a Super C? The main differences are size and towing capacity. Super C RVs are built with more powerful engines and are larger and more spacious. If you want to haul a personal vehicle or tow additional toys or trailers, a Super C will get you more bang for your buck. Their more powerful build allows them to handle off-road drives better than their smaller Class C counterparts.
Keep in mind that everything within the RV world comes with a trade. Super C motorhomes lose a bit in maneuverability and fuel economy due to their increased size and come with a more expensive price tag.
Class B Motorhomes
Class B motorhomes are the smallest in the family. Sometimes referred to as van campers, these can come as pre-built vehicles or custom conversions built into an existing van chassis. They are easiest to drive, but many lack the interior storage and luxury of their larger cousins.
The biggest benefit of Class B motorhomes is the ability to easily travel each day. They also have fewer road restrictions and fit into regular parking spaces, unlike larger Class A models. They’re also ideal for stealth camping or boondocking. Class B and B+ motorhomes make a great entry point for weekend warriors and those who aren’t committed to learning to navigate larger Class C and Class A motorhomes.
What Are Class B+ Motorhomes?
Class B+ motorhomes are similar to small Class C RVs. Some manufacturers use the terms interchangeably. They sometimes come with the signature Class C cabover area, but this isn’t a standard or required feature of Class B+ vehicles.
One thing is certain with these vehicles – they tend to be wider than a traditional Class B RV but max out at around 25 feet in length. When it comes to choosing between Class B and Class B+, it’s up to you to decide what kind of interior suits your adventure needs best.
Van Builds versus Class Bs
While there are many great options for prefabricated Class B motorhomes, some choose to build out their own van camper. The main difference is how much control you want over the van layout. With pre-built vans, you get standard features and a floorplan that is optimized for that chassis. With custom conversions, you can decide how the interior space is utilized.
Your budget also plays into the decision. Standard Class B motorhomes may cost more upfront, but they are pre-outfitted with everything you need. With van campers, you have to determine the cost of the chassis and the interior features you want to add. These conversions can range from a few thousand dollars – for a simpler build – all the way to $60,000 to $85,000 if you choose to have a company build the van for you.
Frequently Asked Questions
Let’s dive into some of the questions we get most often.
What are Small Motorhomes Called?
Small motorhomes go by various names. While the standard industry names include Class B and Class B+, many people use camper van or van camper to reference small motorhomes. Whatever name you choose, these terms refer to vehicles at or under 25 feet long and built on chassis like Dodge Ram Promaster, Ford Transit, Mercedes Benz Sprinter, and Nissan NV Cargo.
Which Is Better: Class A or C Motorhome?
There’s no right or wrong answer to whether a Class A or C motorhome is the better option. It depends on how you want to travel and what suits your needs and comfort levels best. Each option has its own pros and cons. Class C vehicles tend to be easier to maneuver, and Class A vehicles have more luxurious interiors. It’s up to you to decide what you think will best fit your needs, but we recommend checking out the pointers in this article to help you narrow those down.
To help you continue your search for the perfect motorhome, here are a few more articles we hope you’ll find useful:
- Four Class B+ RVs Goldilocks Would Love
- 9 Best Class C RVs of 2023
- Best Class B RVs for Full-Time Living
- What Are the Best Super C RVs?
What further questions do you have about the different motorhome types? Let us know in the comments below.