Types of RVs: Full-time RV life Part 2

Now that you’ve seen a bit about what full-time RV life is, you might be thinking, when can I hit the road? Well, you’ll need an RV! So, your next questions might be: what type, and how much do they cost? For part two of this series, I’m addressing some of the major questions regarding what types of RVs are on the market, how much you can expect to pay, and answer some of the questions regarding what RV might fit your lifestyle best.

Let’s dig in!

All the recreation vehicles…

Okay, full disclosure: when Jeremiah asked me if I wanted to live in an RV, I said “yes,” and then immediately pictured us in a truck camper. My only experience with RVs had been a truck camper, and a tent trailer, and frankly I did not know the other types that were available. Here I am though with all the knowledge about RVs that I could ever ask for! So, if I can learn it, you can too.

Types of RVs

Class A Motorhomes

These are the big bus-like RVs, and the one we went with. When stationary, the driving area functions as a semi-living space. You will sit highest in these RVs, and they are the widest and biggest option on the market.

Class A motorhomes are driven themselves, have a very large window in front, and come in both diesel and gas options. They range in size from approximately 30 feet to 45 feet in length.

Class A motorhome: ours!

Diesel-pushers, like our Tiffin Bus, have the diesel engine in the back of the coach. The entrance door is nearly always directly in front of the passenger seat. Because the engine is so far back, it is quiet in front of the RV, and we can have a normal-volume conversation while driving.

Gassers have the engine in the front of the motor, and because of this can be much louder than a diesel pusher. Since it needs room for the engine, the front is a little less spacious, and the entrance door is further back in the RV. This is one distinguishing feature for a newbie to identify a diesel vs gasser. While conversations are at a higher volume, gassers are much more affordable up-front.*

Pros: Larger, typically more luxurious than other options. Water capacity is typically larger, and you would be hard-pressed to find a class A that did not have a generator built-in. Compared to a fifth wheel or trailer, it has a motor, so you’re actively driving it. That also means if you have a toad vehicle, you have 2 motorized vehicles in case anything happens to either one.

Cons: due to the average size, you may be limited to where you park. We can not park in any national park campgrounds, at least from our experience thus far. (Note: That’s okay with us, since dogs aren’t allowed on most national park campgrounds, so we typically would choose to drive into them from an outside campground or BLM land anyway)

Cost: The most expensive RV on the market. New, these can range from about $80k to millions. Yep. Millions.  Used is the way to go here if you’re anything like us. You will save a great deal of money this way. If you are looking to full-time, do not automatically buy one because it is cheaper. We’ll get to how to find an RV a little later, but just know not to jump at the first 60k rig you find because you can afford it and it’s big.

Who this RV is for? This type of RV is great for an older couple, someone who has retired, or basically wants to be able to work on the road while feeling like they have a home space. It is not for the people that feel uncomfortable driving a big rig.  If you have several tests this can be a great way to go, but most Class A Motorhomes do not offer a second room so this is really for people who are okay with sleeping on the couch or are just a couple.

Class C Motorhomes

The Class C motorhome is the one that I often think of when someone says “motorhome.” They’re lower to the ground than a Class A, and on top of the driving area is an overhang: space for a bunk for sleeping, or occasionally a small area to work in.

A typical Class C motorhome

Like a Class A, this variety of motorhome also allows for diesel or gas, but the difference is that either style of engine is in the front. It drives like a regular pickup truck, more or less. There are two doors upfront, which is distinctly different than a Class A. The “entrance” to the house part is a separate door further back.

Size: Ranges from 21 feet to 41, but typically range much smaller than a class A.

Pros: Large like a Class A, but fits in smaller campgrounds sometimes. Drives more like a regular truck rather than a semi. The more affordable version of a Class A. Typically has a bunk section instead of just a pull-out couch so may be better for small families. 

Cons: The driving section is not useful when stationary, so it’s waste space 90% of the time. Weight limits are typically lower than a class a, so you may need to tow a lighter car. Typically shorter ceilings, which can feel less homey.

Cost: Ranges from 50k to 150k when new. For something known as a Super-C, this can skyrocket into the half-million range, but at that point, you are basically looking at a Class A. This is a relatively new addition to the RV family.  For a few-years-old used version of a Class C, you will rarely pay more than 80k, and can easily spend closer to 30k and still have a great rig.

Who this RV is for: A Class C motorhome is great for someone who wants a relatively big rig with two engines but doesn’t feel comfortable driving something as big. Because there is a bump usually over the driver seat is can be good for smaller families. The budget of a Class C is also drastically lower than a Class A, so if you’re looking to full-time as a family with just one income, or if you want to renovate an older RV, this can be a good option.

Side note: Instagram is FULL of RV renovations. If you’re thinking of going older, this can absolutely be a great way to make it feel like your own space.

Fifth Wheels

If you are very unfamiliar with RVs, you might not even recognize the difference between a fifth wheel and a travel trailer. I admittedly had no idea they were different 2 years ago. They all looked the same to me. So, if you’re unfamiliar with a fifth wheel, it goes directly into the bed of your truck and is latched there, so the whole truck bed is taken up while it’s in tow, and you sacrifice that storage space while traveling.

Fifth wheels can be a good option for someone who’s looking for a more traditional home. Usually, when you walk into it to a fifth wheel it feels homey. Oftentimes, you walk into the kitchen area or the living room area; you don’t even see the bedroom because of the layout. 

A typical fifth wheel kitchen area

The larger ones have a much bigger kitchen space than most other RV options, and almost always have an island. I would argue that even though we have a Class A motorhome it will never compare to some of the kitchens and living areas that you can get with a fifth wheel. 

Pros: Fifth wheels feel homey. There’s typically decent storage with a fifth wheel in comparison to a travel trailer. The main area has higher ceilings than a travel trailer and is often better made than a travel trailer. Also, unlike a class C or A, there’s no driving space “wasted.”

Cons:  They usually don’t come with a generator, and are required to be towed.  One of the silly things is that there will always be one section that has shorter ceilings than the rest of it, almost always the bedroom. You might not duck, but it’s a noticeable height difference. The reason we didn’t want one of these for the most part was that we did not want to again not have a generator built-in, and we don’t want to have to deal with just having one engine.

Cost: The cost of a fifth wheel starts around $30k brand new, and can get up into the hundreds-of-thousands, but those are fairly rare. Something to keep in mind is that fifth wheel and travel trailers both decrease in value pretty quickly in comparison to something that has an engine

Who is this RV for? This is great for families or people that want that home feeling without having a driver section as part of the home. It’s great especially if you are staying in a place for two to three months and you’re using your tow vehicle for work.  This is a personal preference. If we didn’t get a class A, we’d probably have gotten a truck and a fifth wheel because of the similar amenities they offer.

There are options to get a “park model” which means they’re really set up to be placed in one area and not moved. They have things like bigger windows and it just feels more like a house. Yes, they can move, but they really shouldn’t. 

If you need your truck bed space while traveling, or do not want to purchase a truck, then a fifth wheel is the wrong option for you if you want to full time.

Travel Trailers

What is a travel trailer? It is quite literally a trailer that you can hitch to the back of an SUV or a truck and is towed around. (This depends on the size and weight of the travel trailer.)

Cost: Between 10k and 35k, brand new. 

Pros: The biggest benefit of a travel trailer is the sheer size difference when towing, as well as the cost difference.  The most obvious positives are that they are usually set up for families and that they can have bunk beds or bunk spaces, and they also have a lighter weight capacity so if you have a smaller car you can often tow a travel trailer. 

A fifth wheel, a Class A, and a travel trailer at an RV Park

Cons: smaller, less well-constructed, smaller water tanks than a fifth wheel, usually no generator as part of the package, and the most “manual” set up. Often times the jacks are not auto-leveling, the set up of the trailer is more manual, and the obvious issue is that you’re towing it, so that means you have to use a tow vehicle to move it. The lack of space, from shorter ceilings to smaller showers to non-water flush toilets are big restrictions.  These are things that you can often take for granted in a larger rig. You would never find an Aqua-Hot in a travel trailer.

Who is this type of RV for?  If I’m being honest this isn’t something that I would consider while full-timing in the reason being is they’re typically just not very well-made or resistant. From thinner walls to smaller kitchens, they don’t give a very homey-feeling. 

 I wouldn’t think that you would want to move it that often just because of general wear and tear and I think you would probably not want to do it for longer than a year or so. This is a great option for getting your feet wet and seeing if full-time RVing is for you, though. If you have a large family, this can be a good option, since they often have more bedrooms, etc. 

Note: I will note that there are some very high-end travel trailers. When you think of an Airstream as an example this is a type of travel trailer and they are well-made and durable, and they are beautiful… but when you look inside of them there are no slides to make it bigger and it is a tube, with short ceilings and small spaces. What-you-see-is-what-you-get. Vintage travel trailers are also SUPER COOL!

Truck camper: The type of RV not for the light of heart

What is a truck camper? It is literally a camper that is situated on the bed of a truck and hangs over the front of the truck. You will not see this very often in full-time RV families.

I feel like the cons and pros are fairly obvious: it’s small but has limitations for how “at home” you may ever feel.

Cost: A brand new truck camper can go from $5k to $60k. Hands-down the most affordable, but also really meant for weekend trips.

Who is this for? This type of RV is not typically used for full-timing. When it is it is typically people that enjoy boondocking and being in places like state parks and national parks. The person that lives in a truck camper typically does not spend a great deal of time in the vehicle itself. It is for people that want to go on long hikes daily and spend time in the great unknown. It would not fit our lifestyle. Why? Because working inside of a small truck camper would mean Jeremiah or I would kill one another. Also, it does not have things like great storage, and because you have to load it on top of your truck the storage in the bed of the truck is also void.

Last but not least: Class B.

What is a Class B RV? For all intents and purposes a Class B is a van that has either been renovated or was initially set up to be a living space. It is very tight quarters. However, it can allow you to go to a lot of places that otherwise wouldn’t be possible in a very large RV. Stealth camping is very easy being a Class B. But they can be incredibly expensive.

Pros: You can park in a lot of cool places, and can be in the center of cities without thinking much about it. Moochdocking – or parking in a friend’s driveway – is much easier. 

Cons: Class B have very limited weight capacity with towing. You will have very small water storage capacity; there’s no cooking dinner and working at the same time. Everything requires a transition due to the very small space. Everything you own must have a specific space; no space goes unused.  Many don’t have great options for plumbing like showers, so you are stuck looking for showers at gyms, etc. You are stuck grocery shopping often since there simply isn’t storage for things like fresh produce. 

Size: the size of a class B is traditionally the size of a van. They can get longer, but since the appeal is the small size, there’s a rough line where it transitions from a Class B to a Class C motorhome. 

Cost: A new van set up to be a living space ranges from about $60k to about $200k. Yes, they get expensive. You can get a less-expensive, used work van that you can fashion into a van to live in, but this will require a lot of work. 

Who is a Class B for? From my perspective, this type of RV is not for a lot of people. Honestly, the bedding area is super small. If you have a dog or two, or just want general space, this isn’t for you. Think about the last time you try to stand up in an SUV or a car or a van. You probably couldn’t do it. If you’re short, hey, it might work, but I’m 5’3” in shoes and I crouch in Class Bs.  

We do have some friends who have full-timed in a Class B, but they have done it for shorter stints, like 6 months at a time.  Class B is for the elusive hippie or someone who really wants to camp in tight spots. If you are looking to do a lot of city travel or city camping, this might be a great idea for you. They aren’t for large families. 

So there you have it. There are other once I haven’t mentioned such as tent trailers, and intense off-road vehicles, but those are fairly unique types of RVs for full-time RVers. 

Next up: Part three of our Full-Time Series

What kind of questions did we not answer regarding type vehicles that you might be interested in? Do you want to know more about things like water capacity, generators, overall storage space, or anything like that? Or are you more interested in how to go about purchasing one? That’s something that we will be talking about in one of our blogs later on.

In part 3 of this blog series, we will be focused on all things Water and Electric. We will be discussing plumbing, water storage, electricity, solar power, diesel generators, and Propane. Please let us know what other questions we can answer for you.

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