RV Classes: Types of Motorhomes and Towable Trailers

RV Owners

If you’re new to RVing, the idea of RV classes is likely totally foreign to you. Not understanding the different types of RVs can make shopping for a rig much more difficult. For this reason, we think it’s important to learn about the various RV classes before jumping into any RV purchase or rental. 

These include:

  • Class A motorhomes
  • Class C motorhomes
  • Class B motorhomes
  • Travel trailers
  • Fifth wheels
  • Truck campers
  • And more…

Motorhome RV Classes

Motorhomes are self-powered RVs that have their own engine and driving chassis. They are great because everything is easily accessible, even as you drive down the road and packing up is a cinch. However, unless you pull a smaller vehicle behind your rig, you’ll likely be stuck without any easy way to get around your destination locally once you arrive in your motorhome. You have to decide if the benefits outweigh the drawbacks. 

Class A RV

Class A RVs are the large, bus-shaped rigs that might come to mind when you think about a celebrity’s tour vehicle. They can be anywhere from 20 feet to 45 feet in length, and some of them sleep up to eight or ten passengers. This is great for families or larger groups of people traveling together and the wide variety of class A floor plans out there make it even easier for larger travel parties to find a class A that works for them. 

These motorhomes can be gas or diesel-powered motorhomes, but either way, they pack a hefty punch when it comes to the fuel bill. Since they’re so large and heavy, they aren’t exactly the most fuel efficient. Some get as little as six miles to the gallon!

The most luxurious of any of the RV types, class A RVs include well-made cabinetry, comfortable furniture, and onboard generators for off-grid camping. Of course, all of this luxury comes at a cost, meaning class As are expensive RVs and buying a used model may offer a great deal of savings. Popular brands of class A motorhomes include Fleetwood, Tiffin and Winnebago.

Bus Conversion

Similar to a class A RV, a bus conversion is built into a bus body. Some people do their own bus builds, but there are also professional bus conversion companies out there, offering completely custom, luxury bus builds. 

Class B RV

Also known as camper vans, Class B RVs are one of the smallest RV classes. This means they’re more agile than most other rigs and can camp in remote areas that other types of RVs can’t reach. 

Of course, their smaller size also means they don’t have the same kind of spacious interior a larger RV might offer. Still, class B RVs usually come with everything you need including a small kitchen, bed, and storage, and some even have toilets and/or showers tucked away!

Because they are smaller and lighter, these rigs are a whole lot easier on the wallet when it comes to fuel, with many class B camper vans getting up to 28 mpg on the highway. 

The VW Camper was the original Class B, and today you can choose from campers like the Roadtrek or the Sportsmobile. Winnebago is now producing its own version of the campervan called the Travato. With its new design and bright body paint, fans are lining up for this 21 foot wonder!

Class B+ RV

A sub-type of the class B RV, the class B+ is in between a class B and a class C in size. These RVs might feature slide outs (which most class B rigs do not) and offer a bit more living space while remaining relatively nimble. 

Class C RV

If you want a rig that’s easy to drive, a little bit more fuel efficient than a class A, but still provides a decent amount of space, Class C campers might be right for you. These medium-sized rigs are usually between 20 and 32 feet. Each one is built onto a regular van chassis, which makes some people feel much more comfortable driving them over big, bus-style Class As. 

Most class Cs have a bed that juts out over the cab, making use of every inch of available space. They also include all of the typical amenities you’d find in any other motorhome, including a kitchen, bathroom, and in most cases, an onboard generator. 

As an added bonus, class C RVs are generally less expensive than class A rigs. Yes, a class C may be more modestly appointed than ultra-luxurious Class As. Still, they do provide the opportunity to adventure in relative comfort at a much more affordable price. 

Popular class C manufacturers include Fleetwood, Forest River and Jayco.

Super C RV

The super C RV is fairly new to the RV scene. These rigs are very similar to a traditional class C except that they are built on a semi truck rather than a van chassis, meaning they are much stronger and can be much larger. Super Cs also tend to be more luxurious than class Cs in terms of furnishing and amenities. 

Airstream travel trailer

Towable RV Classes

The first thing you need to know about towable trailers is that they all require a separate tow vehicle — and usually a pretty powerful one. In the case of large trailers and fifth wheels, you’ll probably need at least a half-ton, and possibly a one-ton truck to get the job done safely.

The benefit of towable RVs is that the truck you use to tow your trailer will double as a daily driver while out on your RV adventures Unfortunately, setting up camp and hitching up when it’s time to move can be a pain. 

Pop-up Trailers 

Pop-up trailers are very compact but feature canvas sides and need to be physically unfolded before they’re usable. They are nice because they provide lots of interior space but are easy to tow, even with a smaller truck or an SUV. 

Of course, the fact that they need to be manually unfolded and folded back up can make setup and tear down a pain, and the canvas sides don’t provide much in the way of insulation. Additionally, there are only a few pop-up trailers with bathrooms on the market. 

Some popular pop-up trailer brands include Forest River and Jayco

Travel Trailers

Travel trailers or bumper pulls hitch to the back end of your truck. They come in a variety of sizes, so you can choose the size that best suits your needs and your truck. Compared to a pop-up trailer, travel trailers are very easy to set up, as there is no manually folding or unfolding involved and the hard sides provide better protection from the weather. 

It should be noted that the furniture and cabinetry in travel trailers does not tend to be the sturdiest or more comfortable. Also larger trailers with more living space will require a strong truck for towing. Many people also find that travel trailers are not as easy to tow as pop-up trailers or fifth wheel trailers, as they tend to sway. 

Some popular travel trailer brands include Jayco, and Winnebago. Also included in this RV type are aluminum-sided rigs like those made by Airstream, hard-shell fiberglass like those made by Scamp and Casita, and tiny teardrop campers like those made by Little Guy Trailers

Fifth Wheels

Fifth wheel trailers are the largest RVs available on the market, but also some of the heaviest and require a specific type of hitch that mounts in the bed of a truck. If you choose a fifth wheel, you will almost certainly need a one-ton truck to pull it safely, so keep that in mind as you shop. 

Generally, fifth wheels are more durable than travel trailers, making them better for full time living. They tend to offer more living space as well, with some offering as many as 3 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms. Of course, all of this space means a higher price tag. It also means a bigger rig, which makes getting to remote areas is often impossible, limiting your adventure a bit. 

Some popular fifth wheel brands include Grand Design and Highland Ridge

Truck Campers

Truck Campers are mounted on the back of a pickup truck, and offer a tiny space with massive flexibility. They are perfect for one or two people who prioritize adventure, as you can drive your truck camper anywhere you can drive your truck. 

Truck campers come as aerodynamic pop-ups or hard-sided units, which can even include a slide out. This means you can decide whether you prefer less weight or a sturdier shelter. You can also choose to take the camper with you wherever you roam or remove it from the truck bed and leave it behind in a campsite. 

Of course, the major drawback of a truck camper is size. Still, many find it’s worth the reduced living space to have the freedom this type of rig offers. 

Some popular truck camper brands include Lance Camper and Bigfoot RV

Hybrid Trailers

A cross between a travel trailer and a pop-up camper, hybrid trailers are hard-sided with the exception of one or more soft-sided pop-outs. Typically the pop-outs house beds and can be folded in if the weather gets too hot, cold, windy, or rainy. 

Some people appreciate that hybrid trailers give them more living space without adding much weight to the trailer. Others find that they prefer the hard sides offered by traditional slide outs. 

A-Frame Trailers

An interesting twist on the pop-up camper, an A-frame trailer has two hard roof pieces that fold flat for travel, but pop up into an “A” shape to create a small, totally hard-sided living area for camping. Because they are so flat during travel, these trailers are super easy to tow, but they still provide the benefits of a hard-sided trailer. 

Unfortunately, because they have to be folded for travel, you will have to completely set up and tear down the interior space every time you move. Additionally, the folding can be a bit time consuming. 

Toy Haulers

Toy haulers are travel trailers, fifth wheels, or sometimes even motorhomes that feature a “garage”. This allows you to bring along a large “toy” such as an ATV or snowmobile. The garage part tends to be seperate from the front of the RV, which houses a kitchen and bathroom. Many toy haulers also feature fold-down beds in the garage space. 

It is important to note that toy haulers are notorious for having poorly insulated garage spaces, something you will need to plan for. 

3 Questions To Help Determine Your Perfect RV:

1. What is the RV’s most important function?

  • A. Living Space
  • B. Maneuverability
  • C. Cost
  • D. Work With Truck I Have

2. Which is your biggest factor?

  • A. Space
  • B. Cost
  • C. Maintenance
  • D. Ability To Live Off Grid

3. How often will you be in your RV?

  • A. Full Time
  • B. Weekends
  • C. Just for Sleeping
  • D. Rarely

So, which one is right for you?

  • If you chose mostly A: Your best choice is a Class A or Class C
  • If you chose mostly B: Your best choice is a Class B, a Truck Camper, or a small Trailer
  • If you chose mostly C: Your best choice is a Bumper Pull Trailer, or a Pop-Up Trailer
  • If you chose mostly D: Your best choice is a Class B or Truck Camper

Now that you know about the different types of RVs out there, you probably have some idea of what you want. That said, we highly recommend renting a few different RVs and trying them on for size before making any purchases. This will ensure you love what you get!