Motorhome, Travel Trailer, Fifth Wheel, Pickup Camper or Park Model? – Which RV Is Right for You?
Modern RVs are as varied as the RVers who own them. But one thing is for sure, there is no right or wrong choice. Each type of RV has features that are attractive to some RVers, and less attractive to others. It’s really not a matter of a towable is better than a motorized, or vice versa, rather, it’s a matter of what will fit best with your RVing lifestyle.
To be considered a recreational vehicle, in North America, a unit must provide at least four of the following permanently installed living systems: cooking, refrigeration or ice box, self-contained toilet, heating or air conditioning, a potable water system including water tank, faucet and sink, separate 120 volt electrical system, sleeping facilities and LP gas supply.
Below you will find descriptions of the various RV types both motorized or towable. Within each of these main categories you’ll then find subcategories.
Except for its larger size and longer stopping distance, a motor home responds much like a car and learning to drive one comes easy to most.
Class A Motor Home
Class A motor homes can be defined as an RV that is built on, or as an integral part of, a self-propelled motorized chassis. The conventional Class A is one whose living unit has been entirely constructed on a bare, specially designed motor vehicle chassis.
Bus conversions are motor homes built from intercity buses. They tend to be the most expensive motor homes since the cost of the bus is included in the total price.
Bus-styled motor homes look like bus conversions, but are built on a conventional Class A chassis and are therefore less expensive.
– Relative ease of driving
– Does not require a second vehicle
– Single level floor plan
– can use the living space while driving
– Most owners find it too cumbersome to drive the motor home for shopping, sightseeing or running errands. So many owners tow a small car.
– Can’t back up while towing most cars.
– Fewer places to get engine work done.
Size: 21 to 45 feet.
Cost: Prices range from $50,000 to $500,000, with an average retail value of $117,500.
Class B Camper Van
The van camper is defined as a panel type truck to which the RV manufacturer adds any two of the following conveniences: sleeping, kitchen and toilet facilities, 100-volt hookup, fresh water storage, city water hookup, and a top extension to provide more headroom.
– Retains the versatility of a large family car or SUV but provide many of the self-contained motor home attributes as it’s bigger brothers.
– Small size and relative high cost. You can often buy a larger Class C for the same price.
Size: 16 to 21 feet
Cost: Prices range from $35,000 to $65,000, with an average retail value of $56,520.
Class C Motor Home
Class C motor homes, often referred to as mini motor homes, are defined as RVs that are built on, or as an integral part of, a self-propelled motorized chassis.
But what differentiates the Class C from the Class A is the unit’s attached cab section. On the Class C, the RV manufacturer completes the body section containing the living area and attaches it to the cab section.
– Class Cs offer most of the same comforts, conveniences and even living spaces as their larger Class A counterparts
– Generally less expensive than a class A
– Tend to be smaller with lower GVRWs.
– Smaller and fewer cargo compartments.
Size: 20 to 32 feet
Cost: Prices range from $45,000 to $75,000, with an average retail value of $56,770.
Recreational Trailers are designed to be towed by a motorized vehicle, and which is of a size that does not require a special highway permit. It is designed to provide temporary living quarters for recreation, camping and travel use, and does not require permanent on-site hookup. The category is broken down into the following:
Fifth Wheel trailers
These units can be recognized by a raised forward section. The fifth wheel trailer’s raised neck section, sometimes called a gooseneck, rides over the bed of the tow vehicle where it connects to the special fifth-wheel hitch. This overlap reduces the overall length of the two vehicles. Having the trailer tongue weight over the rear axle of the tuck contributes to improved traction and handling.
– Better handling than conventional trailer.
– Over all length of trailer and truck combo is shorter for the same trailer length.
– The raised gooseneck section allows for a large storage area designed underneath the raised part of the floor.
– Higher profile than conventional trailer
– Fifth wheel hitch limits use of truck bed.
– Split level floor plan
– Can’t be towed by cars or vans
Size: 21 to 40 feet.
Cost: Prices range from $12,800 to $97,000, with an average retail value of $23,790.
Conventional Travel Trailers
Typically, the conventional travel trailer, also called travel trailer, ranges from 15 to 35 feet in length and is towed by means of a bumper or frame-mounted hitch attached to the rear of a towing vehicle.
– Single level floor plan which is desirable to many RVers.
– Lower profile than fifth wheel trailers.
– If towed by pickup allows use of truck box.
– Can be towed by a car or van.
– The larger the trailer, the more sway and handling becomes a problem.
– Somewhat more difficult to hitch than fifth wheel type trailers.
Size: 12 to 35 feet.
Cost: Prices range from $9,500 to $63,000, with an average retail value of $14,700.
Pop Up Trailers
Pop-up trailers also called camping trailers or tent trailers have collapsible walls made of canvas or fiberglass. Today’s models provide many of the amenities found in other RVs. Galleys provide sinks, multi-burner stoves, and both ice boxes or refrigerators. Holding tanks are sometimes available but are usually small. Sleeping facilities can accommodate up to eight people.
These trailers tow as small low profile units but expand into roomy accommodations upon reaching the campsite. Once erected, they can extend to twenty feet in length; depending on the model.
– Low profile and light weight saves on gasoline, provides greater stability when towing, and decreases buffeting by wind and passing vehicles.
– Sleeps up to eight people (depending on model)
– Combines the experience of open-air tent camping with the comforts, conveniences, and weather protection found in other RVs
– Necessity to set up and take down the tent.
– Often require using the bathroom facilities at the RV park or campground although some models do offer a shower and/or bathroom.
– Small holding tanks if any.
Size: 15 to 23 feet (when opened) 8 to 15 feet (when closed)
Cost: Prices range from $3,600 to $11,600. The average retail value of a folding camping trailer is $5,230.
Park Model trailers while technically recreational vehicles are used primarily as destination camping units rather than traveling camping units and are not generally self-contained. When set up, park models are connected to the utilities necessary to operate home-style fixtures and appliances.
While these trailers can look like typical eight-foot-wide RVs, they are normally pulled infrequently, usually to and from an owner’s summer and winter haunts.
Now, with some exceptions, park models are evolving into miniature mobile homes, sometimes 12 feet in width. These units are usually never moved once set up.
Park models are popular with people who return to the same place for the season year after year. Advantages:
– More space than typical RVs and a more home-like feel.
– Home style appliances, fixtures and furniture.
– Lack of mobility.
– Not usually self contained.
Pickup campers, also called slide-on campers or truck campers, are defined as a recreational camping unit designed to be loaded onto, or affixed to, the bed or chassis of a truck. Modern truck campers offer most of the features of larger RVs including slide outs.
– Load on and off a standard pickup truck with relative ease
– Popular among weekend RVers who use their truck for work during the week.
– RVers choose truck campers because they want to tow a boat or other recreational equipment or the relative small size of the unit and 4 wheel drive available on pickups allows them access to remote locations.
– Relatively small size versus cost.
– Small holding tanks.
Size: 18 to 21 feet
Cost: Prices range from $4,500 to $21,900, with an average retail value of $13,380.