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A guide to recreational vehicles

The world of recreational vehicles (RVs) is vast and varied with so much to offer, however it can potentially be intimidating to dip your toes in the water. This guide is here to help you learn more about different RV types so you can start thinking about options for your next adventure.

Motorhomes

The term “recreational vehicle” applies to many kinds of vehicles, but for a lot of people it conjures up images of what’s formally classified as a motorhome. These are vans and buses that have been specifically outfitted to function as a mobile living space. The “car” element and the “recreational” element of the vehicle are merged into one unit. There are three classes or types of motorhomes:

Class A

Class A motorhomes are the true behemoth of the motorhome family. They often resemble a commercial bus and are capable of housing several people comfortably. These motorhomes often also boast a functional kitchen and living space. Models on the high end may even have amenities like showers or built-in storage.

While Class A motorhomes don’t typically have the best fuel economy, they make up for it in space and luxury. They’re the most expensive of all three options, generally starting at a few hundred thousand dollars up into the millions for truly high-end luxury.

Class B

Class B motorhomes often resemble oversized vans and are sometimes even referred to as camper vans. Don’t let the name fool you — these motorhomes often pack many of the features of their Class A cousins (like kitchens or bathrooms) in a smaller body that makes it easier to drive while out on the open road.

Class B motorhomes are typically the smallest of all three classes, and often have the best fuel economy. They’re also significantly less expensive than a Class A motorhome, typically under a few hundred thousand dollars even for top-end models.

Class C

Class C motorhomes are the in-between stage of a Class A and a Class B motorhome. They’re built more like a van than a bus but feature a larger body than Class B motorhomes. They’re often distinguished by the sleeping compartment that’s built on top of the driving cabin.

Class C motorhomes fall in between Class A and Class B for fuel economy as well. Their price tag is generally comparable to purchasing a higher-end luxury vehicle.

Trailers

If the idea of committing to a dedicated motorhome isn’t quite your cup of tea, a trailer could be another option. Trailer-style RVs can be used to haul equipment you might want to bring with you. There are a lot of trailer types out there, but here are some of the most prominent ones from a recreational standpoint:

Fifth wheel trailers

A fifth wheel trailer is designed to be towed by a pickup truck, or a medium-sized truck equipped with a special hitch. Part of the trailer’s body extends over the truck bed, which helps to shorten the overall length of the truck and trailer. Fifth wheels can vary in size, and the size you can get will depend largely on your truck’s towing capacity.

A fifth wheel can be a spacious option, but it does have the potential drawback of taking up valuable space in your truck’s pickup bed. It can also be a bit of a hassle to unhitch in remote areas if you’d like to use the truck on its own. Cost-wise, fifth wheels are typically comparable to a Class C motorhome.  

Travel trailers

Travel trailers are smaller than a fifth wheel. They’re typically small enough to be towed by something like an SUV, though larger models may require a full-size truck. These include popular “teardrop” shaped trailers as well as larger models that feature a decent amount of space and amenities.

Travel trailers vary in price based on size and features, potentially costing as little as a few thousand dollars or as much as a small motorhome. Larger trailers can accommodate several people, while smaller models offer a cozier alternative for couples or single adventurers.

Toy haulers

Toy haulers can come as fifth wheels or travel trailers, but they’re designed to function as storage, not for living. These help you carry various recreational equipment such as bikes, kayaks, or any other gear you’d like to bring on your road trip. While they may have some livable space in them, they’re typically designed to be more of a garage than a living room or bedroom.

Campers

Camper RVs are another category of RV that’s somewhat related to trailers. They’re typically less expensive than trailers and have lower towing requirements. There are two main types of campers to be aware of:

Truck campers

Truck campers are RVs that are mounted directly onto the back of a pickup truck. This allows owners to have the conveniences of a motorhome with the flexibility of still using their truck as just a truck if needed. Smaller models can be as basic as a sleeping area with some additional storage. More luxurious versions might feature amenities like a mini kitchen or even a bathroom and shower.

Truck campers are considered a more affordable option starting at just a few thousand dollars and are often an entry point for many into the world of RVs.

Pop-up campers

Pop-up campers, sometimes called folding trailers, are trailer-style campers that feature foldaway expansions. This allows them to provide ample room at a moment’s notice while staying small and lightweight enough to be towed by a compact SUV or station wagon. Pop-up campers are another more affordable entry point into RVs.

Do I need a special license to drive an RV?

In most cases, no. Only Class A motorhomes currently require any kind of specific license and that’s only if they’re above a certain weight threshold. Most RVs can be owned and operated with your standard driver’s license, although it can take some practice to get used to driving one.

In summary

The world of recreational vehicles is almost as diverse as the list of recreational activities you might enjoy with them. From luxurious motorhomes resembling hotels on wheels to simple pop-up campers that immerse you in the great outdoors, there’s an RV ready to carry you in style onto your next adventure.

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