Welcome to New2RVing! In this occasional column, we’ll talk about topics of interest to people who are new to the RV lifestyle or haven’t even gotten started yet. We hope to answer questions, demystify, and help folks along the fun path of RV living.
It only seems appropriate in our premiere story to talk about one of the most basic “newbie” questions. Just what are all those different recreational vehicles, and how do you choose what’s best for you?
To start, we can break RVs into two distinct categories: motorhomes, which have engines to get you where you want to go, and towables, which don’t have engines and need the help of a motorized vehicle to get you where you’re going. As you’ll see, this is a slight oversimplification, but it’s a good starting point. This month we’ll talk about the different types of motorhomes, and next we’ll take up the topic of towables.
Many folks get their start in RVing when they muster up their courage and rent an RV. The most common unit for rental fleets is a motorhome, typically because motorhomes are the most “car-like” of RVs. Still, there are different types of motorhomes, and they appeal to a variety of needs and wants.
Class A Motorhomes: Often called a coach, a Class A motorhome is a unit built on a special chassis. Most have galleys (kitchens), central heating and air conditioning, and some sort of entertainment center. A Class A motorhome will range anywhere from 21 to 40 feet, and a few are even longer. Typical new prices run from $60,000 to $500,000. Got a lot of family or friends to tote? While size makes a difference, figure up to six can sleep aboard the larger rigs.
Class A units are considered “spacious” and “home like” by most. The more you invest, the more features you’ll find. Included in this “spacious” aspect is a lot of storage room. Most of these rigs have what RVers call “basement storage”—storage compartments accessed from outside the motorhome. Many have “slideouts”—sections that move outward from the unit at a push-button command. This enlarges the living space of the rig, and definitely increases the spacious feel.
Class A motorhomes are usually designed for towing another vehicle. Once in camp, a towed car (often called a “toad” by RVers) can be used for sightseeing and errands, while the coach stays parked comfortably. Speaking of driving, most Class A units can be driven by anyone with a standard driver’s license. Some states may require additional training or a license endorsement, depending on the weight of the motorhome or if they have air brakes.
Class B Motorhomes: Often called a van conversion or van camper, a Class B motorhome looks like a large van, often with a raised roof. These rigs are built using a manufactured van or panel-truck shell, but what a difference after the conversion! Ranging from 16 to 22 feet, and costing new between $60,000 and $130,000, they may be small, but they still offer plenty of conveniences.
Compared with other types of motorhomes, the Class B unit is definitely scaled down. Still, you’ll find a galley, beds for sleeping, and a bathroom, even a shower in some. Storage will be on the light side, and sleeping is limited to a maximum of four in most units. Generally, you’ll find heating and air conditioning.
Class B units are easy to drive, and maneuver well in the city. You can park them just about anywhere you can park a car or pickup, and this makes them a favorite for city sightseeing. No special license endorsement is required to drive these diminutive motorhomes. Small though they may be, most all have plenty of headroom through the courtesy of a raised roof, a dropped floor, or both.
Class C Motorhomes: Sometimes referred to as mini-motorhomes, Class C units are built on a van frame. While the front of the van is kept, you can expect a much wider body behind. A giveaway that you’re looking at a Class C motorhome is the “over the cab” sleeping area. Typical lengths range from 21 to 35 feet, with new prices starting at $43,000 and topping out at over $200,000. Depending on size and interior arrangement, you’ll find Class C motorhomes that sleep as many as eight.
Like Class A motorhome, Class C units provide a galley, bathroom with shower, entertainment systems and storage. Heating and air conditioning are standard, and many have capacity to tow a car behind them. Some of these motorhomes have a slideout or two.
A more recent industry innovation is the Super C motorhome. Built not on a van chassis but on a big truck chassis, the Super C motorhome has a higher vehicle weight capacity than a standard Class C motorhome. A bigger weight capacity often translates into a bigger motorhome, and it could also mean additional towing capacity, depending on what the manufacturer throws on the chassis. Here’s where the wise shopper looks closely at specifications. And if you’re looking for a diesel engine on a Class C motorhome, Super C motorhomes may be where you’ll need to go, as the regular C-class motorhome with a diesel engine is a vanishing breed.
Bus Conversions: If you have plenty of ready cash or a tall line of credit, bus conversions are viewed by some as the end-all for motorhome ownership. As you might guess, a bus conversion is just that: a specialized, customized RV built from a bus. Some companies specialize in building all-new “conversions” on a bus chassis, using their own specialized shell. Other conversions have had a prior life as a Greyhound or other transit vehicle.
Bus conversions are definitely a specialized beast, and it would be difficult to say much more about them other than that from commercial producers, luxury is the operative word. Prices can be all over the map, but suffice to say, dropping a million or more in a commercially produced conversion isn’t uncommon. Buy it new, you can draw your own floor plan and choose your decorations and amenities.
Next time we’ll delve into towable RVs, and make more comparisons to help you get a feel for what kind of RV best suits your needs.
Russ and Tiña De Maris are authors of RV Boondocking. Visit www.icanrv.com for more information.