When you’re looking to buy an RV, sometimes the hardest part of the decision process is just figuring out what type of RV is right for you!
Looking across an RV lot, you see bunches of different styles, sizes and feature sets. Big RV’s, small RV’s and everything in between!
RV Types Demystified – A, B and C Class
When you’re looking at an RV dealer, you’re going to see rigs split into 3 main groups, or classes – A, B and C. These classes are separated based on the structural design of the recreational vehicle, but they also do a great job of separating the RV’s by price as well.
Before you go shopping, it’s a great idea to have an idea of which type you are in the market for. Having this in mind will help you wade through the barrage of options and focus on units that are best for your family!
Starting off – Class A – “The Bus”
The largest, fanciest RV’s you can buy are the class A RV. As you can see in the picture, these RV’s most resemble a bus since they don’t have a separated cab and are very rectangular.
Types of Use
The top of the line, these are the best, biggest RV’s for camping! Since they’re built like a bus, they’re long and flat from the very front of the cab to the very back of the bedroom. Class A’s tend to ride very comfortably as many units come equipped with air ride or other heavy-duty shocks and springs that really even out the bumps!
Class A’s are incredibly comfortable and easy to live in. As I mentioned above, there’s no more comfortable rig than a class A. Since all of the beds are on one level, you don’t have to do any acrobatics to get to sleep!
Additionally, there is a TON of storage underneath the living area, accessible from the outside of your unit! Because of this, you can keep a lot of your “camping stuff” down below to avoid cluttering up the interior. Because of the really big windshield, you also get an amazing view of the road from every seat inside the unit, especially the driver’s seat!
Driving Maneuverability and Safety
While Class A’s are easy to drive on highways, this isn’t the type of motorhome that you want to drive through the downtown area of a city. Experienced drivers may be able to do that, but this is a unit that is as big as a bus, so drive with caution, especially if you’re new to RVing.
Safety wise, Class A’s do have one ding against them. In the front-end collision, you, the driver, are right in the very front of the rig! There’s little to no “crumble zone” like our cars and class C/B RV’s have, so you may become that zone!
It’s very important to stick with popular RV brands like Winnebago, Tiffin, Jayco and Itasca. Survey the rig you’re considering carefully and keep crash safety in mind and you’ll be able to weed out the unsafe motorhomes.
The other safety concern that all RV’s have is weight.
When you look at the weight rating tag on your RV, you’ll see how much the unit weighs without any of your possessions. This is called the UVW, or unloaded vehicle weight. This does include full tanks of engine and generator fuel, but no other fluids and no dealer add-ons.
The next weight that’s really important is your GVWR, or Gross Vehicle Weight Rating. This is the maximum amount that your RV is rated for, and is really important to pay attention to. Going above this rating will cause major safety issues with your tire life and durability as well as causing your brakes to be overloaded, keeping you from stopping in a reasonable distance!
To figure out how much “stuff” you can have on board, you subtract the UVW from the GVWR. It’s really important to check this out at the dealer. If this number is low, you may have serious issues down the road. This is a known problem with some Class A RV’s that are not built on bus chassis!
I don’t want to scare you away from a class A with this safety information, but it’s really important to understand. There are many great Class A’s out there, and I want this information to help you find them!
In the future, I am writing a complete guide to weighing your RV to go deeper into this topic! I’ll link to it from here when it’s written!
Cost of Fuel
Being the largest RV’s on the road, Class A’s cost the most to keep fueled up.
Diesel or Gas, Class A RV’s can run anywhere from 5-15mpg on average. Of course, this is really, really dependant on the type of fuel, weight, length and aerodynamics of the motorhome that you are driving, so it’s a very broad number that I am painting for you!
Make sure to have a rough idea of how much fuel will cost to run your RV before you go and make that cross-country trip! Nothing ruins a fun time like money problems!
Class A RV’s are a really great buy for the person who likes the space it provides, but isn’t looking for a tight-turning, city driving machine.
Follow all the rules and make sure not to overweigh your rig, and you’ll have years of great vacations and travels to look forward to!
We jump next in our tour to Class C. Straight from Class A, which may leave you wondering, “What in the wide world of sports happened to Class B?”.
The truth is, while Class B may be 2nd alphabetically, it’s definitely third in size! I don’t know who named these classes, but they certainly don’t go in order. This, however, won’t stop me from re-ordering them!
Class C RV’s are distinct in that they have a front cab and cutaway rear of the motorhome. While the cab and rear are definitely connected, there is an obvious step down to the cab, unlike a Class A. The great bonus that Class C’s feature is the over-cab area which is typically used for either large cabinets or up to a queen-sized bed!
Class C RV’s offer the most beds and seats possible for the amount of square footage they have. They are highly efficient in this regard.
Types of Use
If you want a versatile machine, look no further than a Class C. Built like a U-Haul rental truck, a Class C is easy to drive. They have a good turning radius and you really only need to watch the rear end swing if you make tight turns.
These are great RV’s for camping, races, cross-country drives and anything else you want to throw at them! Small enough to drive around anywhere, but also big enough to fit a family in for camping!
Though small, these motorhomes are also very comfortable and versatile. They typically feature a couch, table, small kitchen and at least 2 full-size beds. They do typically also have a passenger seat in the cab, which can be a helpful place to seat your navigator and/or spouse!
Because a Class C is built on a box truck or van frame, it sits higher off of the ground than a Class A. While this is a plus if you take your unit camping slightly off-road, it does mean that there is less under-carriage storage space than a Class A. Expect a Class C to only have enough space underneath for a ladder or 2 and other skinny, long items like that!
Driving Maneuverability and Safety
As I mentioned above, Class C’s are pretty simple to drive. They turn fairly tight, and are in the middle of the road for getting wind-blown.
If you’ve ever driven a U-Haul or similar rental truck for moving your home, you know what it feels like to drive a Class C RV…Except for the excited kids in the back!
Cost of Fuel
Like any RV’s, the fuel mileage out of Class C’s varies a bunch across the different lines, but you can expect to get anywhere from 7-18 mpg. They do a little better than the Class A’s due to their improved aerodynamics and smaller size.
Class C’s are available in either gasoline or diesel powered models, though the more populous choice is the gasoline engine because Class C’s just weigh less than A’s!
The Class C RV is the middle of the road, versatile motorhome. It sits in the middle of the big Class A and the tiny Class B, providing excellent value and space efficiency for its owners. They’re easy to drive, and a perfect starting point for a family looking to get into RVing!
Last, But Not Least – Class B – “The Mini”
If Class C is small and efficient, than Class B is the small and super-efficient! Simply put, today’s van-RV’s are a far cry from the Volkswagen busses of last century!
Perfect for single people and couples, the class B RV can really pack a lot of gear while staying small, fuel efficient and easy to drive.
Class B RV’s are very suitable for all of the same uses as Class C- and more!
While these small homes can’t fit as many people as a Class C, their chief advantage is their mobility. You can easily take a Class B off-road camping in the wild, whereas most Class A’s and B’s are stuck using RV campgrounds. Not necessarily a bad thing, but if you’re the wilderness camping type, a Class B is probably the right rig for you.
However, if you’re not that wilderness camping person, don’t fear! You can still use your Class B for excellent RV campground living, and it can be just as luxurious as a Class C or A for 2 people!
Cozy is a really great way to describe a Class B RV. You probably don’t want to squeeze more than 3 people at most inside one of these – in fact, they’re really only designed for 2!
While a Class B is a van, they can actually feel very spacious on the inside. Most Class B’s have an extended roof or are built on a Sprinter chassis, allowing people up to 6 feet tall to stand inside – I’m living proof of this at 6’1″!
Modern Class B’s also have all the conveniences of the bigger RV’s, so you really aren’t missing out on anything except space when you choose one of these dwellings – and that’s really not a huge deal for 1-2 people!
Driving Maneuverability and Safety
As we already know, Class B RV’s are the smallest, and therefore also the simplest to drive. If you’ve ever driven a 15-passenger van, then you have a rough idea of how a Class B feels on the road.
They’re great to drive, and like I mentioned above, they can go off-road camping as well as into cities, and anywhere else you can think to take them. In addition, this makes it easier to park your RV pretty much anywhere you can park a car!
Cost of Fuel
Whether diesel or gasoline powered, the Class B RV by far has the best gas mileage of any RV!
You’ll expect to see anywhere from 10-25mpg, the higher numbers being reserved for diesel engines. This is a huge plus if you log a lot of miles, as the fuel cost can get crazy in larger RV’s! If you think you can fit, a Class B is the perfect RV for a first-time buyer.
Like any RV type, the Class B RV has it’s pluses and minuses. It’s the perfect RV for you if you plan to travel with only 2-3 people, and want to save money on fuel!
The accommodations may be tight, but once you pull up to that campsite, you can set up your outdoor living space and suddenly, things feel spacious again!
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