There are tons of different types of RV, here’s a breakdown on the different types and some pros/cons of each.
Which RV Should I Get?
There are lots of types of RVs, there are trailers, coaches, campers, conversions, overlanders and on and on. The choice on which RV is right for you and your family can be quite daunting at first. We here at Hal’s RV have decades of experience working with and using RVs, and we’d be happy to share our experience. RVs are divided into groups of similar construction known as a class. The differences in ease-of-use and creature comforts can vary dramatically between classes.
Class A RVs are large coach style vehicles. These are perfect for larger families where lots of sleeping room and storage space are key. Since these have their own engine, they are also great options if you don’t have a truck.
Class As are typically divided into two primary components, the chassis and the coach. The chassis is the mechanical aspect of the vehicle and includes the engine, frame, axles, wheels, brakes, automotive electrical circuits etc. The coach portion is everything above the frame, this is your living quarters, kitchen, bathroom and other home infrastructure.
Among the two primary categories of Class As are front mounted gas engine chassis and rear mounted diesel engine chassis also known as diesel pushers. The front mounted gas RVs tend to be predominantly Ford or Chevrolet chassis whereas the diesel chassis tend to be Freightliner or other heavy equipment manufacturers. The differences between these two types of Class A RV are significant with the gas chassis being lighter and made of more affordable equipment, and the diesel chassis being designed for much heavier use. This of course boils down to price. Diesel chassis tend to be significantly higher in cost, sometimes as much as two or three times the price, but for many, it is well worth it.
Class Bs are smaller van-based RVs. These tend to be oriented more towards the adventure seeking demographic where nimble, maneuverable vehicles and time spent outdoors are prized above all else. They are typically designed to accommodate 1-2 people in tight quarters.
These RVs typically utilize Mercedes Sprinter, Ram Promaster or Ford Transit chassis. Of these offerings, the Mercedes Sprinters tend to be the most sought after, with long wait times from the manufacture, and tantalizing 4×4 diesel drivetrain offerings. A good example is the Winnebago Revel.
These are similar to Class Bs, but are on a cutaway chassis, and have a rear coach built onto the chassis. This allows the manufacturer to extend the dimensions of the unit and provide a larger interior space. With that extra space, these can accommodate 2 people comfortably and up to 6 people in tight quarters. A good example is the Winnebago View.
A Class C RV is similar to a Class B+, but can be much larger. These are typically built on domestic cutaway cargo van chassis with a rear coach extending over the cab. These typically utilize a gas engine with “doghouse” access. Maintenance on the engines of these vehicles can be more difficult due to access limitations, but are similar to front mounted gas Class As.
These stunning RVs are a real eye catcher. They are much like diesel pusher Class As, but with a cutaway chassis and the coach built onto the rear often extending over the cab, but not always. These will often utilize front engine chassis from heavy equipment manufacturers such as freightliner. Super Cs provide a wider wheelbase and typically higher spec offerings for towing and payload capacity.
Overlanders are purpose-built adventure RVs. These are some of the most exclusive and technically advanced offerings in the market. When rugged dependability and extended remote stays are a necessity, overlanders excel. Many different vehicles can be outfitted to be an overlander. The key differences between an overlander and an off roader have to do with the equipment necessary for living out of the vehicle. The additional weight brings challenges to how an off-road vehicle is typically spec’d out. This favors heavy equipment manufacturers such as MAN, with their large 4×4 and 6×6 drivetrain offerings.
Fifth wheel trailers are the undisputed champions of the towable RV market. This configuration allows for 45’ plus lengths, multi-level living spaces, high interior ceilings, toy hauler space and more. Layouts typically place toy haulers at the rear with a ramp, kitchens and living rooms in the middle and bedrooms/bathrooms on the upper level above the hitch. The rear set hitch allows for the greatest usable living space per foot of any class of RV. This layout also makes these trailers pull as if they were considerably shorter, and eliminates the possibility of jack knifing, providing much greater maneuverability. These are often the best options for full-time residence and larger families with pets who have a three-quarter ton or larger truck equipped with a fifth wheel hitch. Some full-timers have been able to get the best of both worlds, by simply hiring a hotshot driver to move their RV when they need to and eliminate the necessity of owning a truck. These typically sleep 4-8 people comfortably.
Travel trailers are great for casual camping with comfortable accommodations. Great for smaller families without a large truck. One consideration to keep in mind is the A-frame hitch. These can be difficult to back up and have limited approach angles and risk of jack knifing the vehicle. However, these risks can be mitigated with modern backup assist equipment. These typically sleep 4-12 people, though often with less luxury than a fifth wheel.
These trailers are designed to expand once at the campsite. They typically utilize fabric wall material resembling a tent when expanded, thus the colloquial term “tent trailer.” These are lightweight, affordable, and some can even be pulled by small passenger vehicles. These usually sleep 2-8 people.
The smallest offerings on the market are teardrop trailers. These skillfully designed RVs pack as much utility into their tiny frames as possible. These are usually divided into two compartments, the main sleeping area, and the rear kitchen which is accessible by opening a large door at the rear of the trailer. These typically sleep 1-2 people.
Truck Bed Camper
Finally, we have truck bed campers, these are designed to fit snugly into the bed of a pickup truck. Truck bed campers tend to favor the adventure market. Designed for camping, they can be sleek and light weight, or rather large. These usually sleep 1-6 people.
The type of RV that you choose is a very personal decision with tons of factors to keep in mind. It’s worth it to take your time here and really feel into which RV will work for your needs. I have come across so many RV’ers who’ve regretted the decision they made because of an impulse buy.
Remember that you’re going to have your RV for quite a while, you’re going to need to take care of it when it’s not being used. Where will you store it? Will you maintain it yourself, or hire technicians to service it for you?
Things are going to break and stop working. Are the appliances, generator, engine etc. accessible and easy to work on? Or are they buried under a mountain of wires, pipes and frame members which make what should be a simple repair, cost thousands more?