RVs are nearly as varied as the people who use them. That may be why they are wildly popular right now. Regardless of your age, family size, intentions for use, and where you’re going — there is an RV that will suit your needs. We’ll cover the basics of the different types of RVs and amenities as well as which lifestyles and camping styles they support. All of these topics will help you know which type of RV will work best for you.
RVs come in two different styles — drivable motor coaches and towable travel trailers. There are three different classes of drivable RVs and then there are several different configurations of travel trailer RVs you tow behind your truck or car.
Class A coaches are bus-sized. These are luxury RVs because they have the most space, the most amenities, and lots of features. They are a house on wheels. They have multiple slide-outs for extra space and some new models have a second-story loft. They have large onboard water and wastewater tanks and an onboard generator that will power most if not all of the electrical systems and appliances. Driving a Class A rig requires a set of driving skills all its own. A 45-foot long motorcoach is a lot to handle. Adding a car to tow behind makes it more challenging. It can be upwards of 13 feet tall which may restrict your route. No special driving licenses are required, but you may want to get some RV lessons before heading out.
Smaller Class C camper coaches or Class B vans are much smaller in length and height and have smaller spaces and amenities than Class A coaches. Generators may be less powerful, storage may be limited, and segmented living spaces may be missing. But these drivable RVs, just like the big Class A coaches, allow passengers to get up and move around during the trip and access anything they need. Once you pull off the road — especially if you are free camping for a night at a Walmart — you never have to go outside. You can stay safely in your RV for the night. An all-in-one drivable camper RV is convenient and requires little effort to park for the night.
While smaller motorcoach RVs are nimble, you will have to give up space and some amenities. Most Class B vans have “wet” baths, meaning the bathroom is also the shower and the room gets wet when you shower. As coaches get smaller (and trailers for that matter), other things get smaller — half-size refrigerators, two instead of three cooktop burners, and less overall space for clothes, storage, and surface space.
With small space comes more travel freedom. Smaller coaches and vans can go where cars go. Get off the interstate highway and onto smaller roads. Last-minute excursions to interesting stopping points will be easy.
2. Travel Trailers
Trailers come in all shapes and sizes from the tiny Casitas and Teardrop models that are capsules to the 40-foot fifth-wheel model with two interior levels. Most trailers are under 30 feet long with fifth-wheels being closer to 40 feet. Trailers are generally 10 or 11 feet tall and fifth-wheels are upwards of 13 feet. Once you get to your campsite, you unhitch and use your tow vehicle for any day trips, trips to town, or just spending your time and enjoying it. Trailers require an appropriate truck to tow it — and that may be a small, medium, or heavy-duty diesel model depending on the weight of your trailer and what the truck can pull safely.
3. 25- To 30-Foot Travel Trailers
This is the sweet spot of the travel trailer world. They are generally double axle trailers with a full-sized bed, fridge, and separate shower. The majority come equipped with outdoor awnings, some measure of outdoor storage, and 12-volt and propane platforms for lights, cooking, refrigerator, furnace, and hot water heater. Shore power or generator runs the AC and 110 outlets.
The fiberglass models with slides are the most common travel trailers in this group. Some have a rounded front and most are boxy. They are built light and smaller trailers can be towed by lighter vehicles. Most of these brands and models have a single level and use slide-outs to widen the footprint and floor space of the RV. These are vacation and family-friendly RVs that don’t require a lot of extra attention. They tow easily and can comfortably sleep a family of four to six. Some models have outdoor kitchens to give you outdoor entertainment and mealtime options.
The aluminum model is the Airstream. It is aerodynamic and has a very sleek and functional interior with a great deal of storage in upper cabinets, under the bed and lounge, and in every possible nook and cranny. It does not have slides (except for one model year in the 1980s). Some models have a back-end hatch that gives you a 4-foot-wide screened opening to the outdoors. The hallmark of an Airstream is the windows. Upper and lower windows line the sides of the trailer and the front and back ends are lined with curved panoramic windows. Natural light and views are the big reasons people buy an Airstream. They have numerous floor plans of each length.
4. Fifth Wheels
These trailer RVs are nearly as big as a Class A motorcoach but tow as a trailer. They have a unique hitch that fits in the bed of a pickup truck and allows the unit to pivot when turning. The interiors are multi-level, have island kitchens, fireplaces, bunkhouses, and full-size refrigerators. Like other larger units (over 35 feet long) they have lots of storage space, options for a washer/dryer, and plenty of outside storage.
The most unique feature that you can find on some models of fifth wheels is the “toy hauler” garage. The back end of the trailer flips down and is a ramp that allows you to load ATVs, motorcycles, and other small recreational gear items. This may be 14 feet of the full trailer length and necessarily takes away from interior space. However, when the cargo is unloaded, the space may have double-duty seating, sleeping, and entertainment options that give back valuable interior space when the RV is parked.
The tiniest trailers are under 10 feet and are designed for solo travelers and outdoor camping enthusiasts. The Teardrop model is curved and is mostly a bed inside with some storage. Outside, the back has a lid that lifts and a kitchen is revealed. These units generally do not have bathrooms and have limited carrying capacity for water and supplies.
Airstream created the 16- to 20-foot Basecamp to enter this market as a slightly larger alternative but is smaller than their single axle mini Airstream — the Bambi. Its distinctive look is a flying wedge that is rounded off in the front. It has interior cooking and sleeping with storage as well as a wet bath. It’s light and can be pulled by an SUV as well as a truck.
Consider your travel style. Are you a weekend warrior with the family or are you a get-out-of-the-city and relax-under-a-tree camper? Do you have kids or grandkids to accommodate or are you empty nesters ready to see the country? Do you want all the comforts of your house or are you a minimalist who embraces the tiny-living style? Will you be willing to tow a car behind your motorcoach or will unhitching a trailer be more comfortable for you?
No matter your preferences, there is an RV for you. Come by yourself or come with a big family — the point is to get out in an RV and enjoy yourself.
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