Which RV Type is Best for me?
Which type or class of RV will best fill your needs depends on several factors, including how you intend to use the RV, the size of your camping family, the tow vehicles you already own and your personal preferences. In general, young families tend to select pop up campers because they are lighter, less expensive and have lots of sleeping space for a family. The natural progression some years later is often to a travel trailer, fifth wheel trailer or mini motorhome which have more comforts and amenities. As time goes on and children leave home, many couples find they need less sleeping space, but more living space because they are able to stay away from home for longer periods. A big fifth wheel with 3 or 4 slide-out rooms or a class A motorhome with slides is often the answer for those who want to travel and explore the Americas, or spend the winter in Arizona. Or a large travel trailer or park model trailer with slides, permanently parked in a nearby campground, may be your idea of the perfect weekend and vacation getaway cottage. The choices are endless.
Some recent developments have blurred the boundaries between the traditional types of campers. Slide–out room extensions pack more living space into a given length of RV. Ultra-lightweight materials and creative design have resulted in pop ups, travel trailers and fifth wheels that can be towed by smaller, more fuel efficient tow vehicles (600 lb. pop ups towed by a small car; travel trailers by a small SUV or mini van; 5th wheels by a half-ton truck). Hybrid travel trailers (pictured here) have the amenities of a travel trailer, and the sleeping space of a pop up, while preserving a little bit of the romance of camping in the woods under canvas. Hybrids are usually found listed together with conventional travel trailers.
POP UP CAMPERS
Also called Camping Trailers, Tent Trailers, Pop Up Camping Trailers, or just Pop Ups. They come in a wide variety of sizes from a 600 pound, aluminum and synthetic-fabric lightweight with one bed, to a big collapsible home that sleeps 8, with slide-out, complete kitchen, toilet and shower. Whatever vehicle you drive, there is a Pop Up that is light enough for you to safely tow it. To select the right one for your family, the best idea is to sit a while in several of them and imagine serving a meal and a spending a night at the campground. Is there a place for everyone to sit and sleep?
This class includes everything from a 12 footer weighing less than 2500 pounds up to a 40 footer meant for permanent parking at a campground. Travel Trailers are nearly always self-contained with full kitchen, furnace, air conditioner, bathroom including shower, and fresh water and waste water holding tanks. Bunkhouse travel trailer floorplans are very popular with families. There are now many travel trailers weighing under 3500 pounds, towable by many of the smaller SUVs and mini vans. Check your tow-vehicle owner’s manual to see what weight you can tow. Most travel trailers have a permanent queen size bed, even some of the under-3500-pound, ultra lightweights. However, in the interest of reducing trailer size and weight, RV manufacturers are re-discovering the practical value of convertible camper furniture that was popular back in the era when cars had smaller engines—like dinettes and sofas that convert to comfortable beds at night.
FIFTH WHEEL TRAILERS
Also known as Fifth Wheelers, 5th Wheel Trailers, 5th Wheels, 5th Wheel Campers, Fifth Wheel Travel Trailers, etc. These easy-towing campers come in all sizes from about 25 feet with no slides up to about 38 feet with multiple slides. The larger ones require a ¾ ton or one ton truck as a tow vehicle. Many newer lite-weight models are towable by a ½ ton truck. All the comforts and amenities of a travel trailer, with better towing and handling characteristics. Usually have an upstairs bedroom in front. Fifth wheels are especially suited for use by couples because of the passenger carrying limitations of many pickup trucks.
Class C Motorhomes, commonly known as Mini Motorhomes, are built on a Ford or Chevy van chassis with automotive style driver and passenger doors in the cab. Many drivers are more comfortable driving a mini because the driver/passenger compartment is similar to a van of SUV. Sizes range from about 20 feet to 35 feet. Popular with families because the front cabover bed provides extra sleeping capacity. Usually have another permanent bed in back, or bunkbeds in the back. A sleeping capacity of 6 or 8 is the norm. Also popular with older couples who like the driver-friendly feel of the cab. Usually powered by a gasoline engine, but some new models built on the Dodge Sprinter chassis, feature a small Mercedes diesel engine for fuel efficiency.
CLASS A MOTORHOMES
Often called Motorhomes, Motorcoaches, Buses, Full Size Motorhomes or just RVs, they come in sizes from about 28 feet with no slides to about 40 feet with multiple slides. There is a tremendous price range from the smaller ones that cost about the same as a mini motorhome to big diesel buses that may cost more than a house. Generally designed for a couple, sleeping capacity is somewhat limited, except for a few bunkhouse floorplans that have appeared in the last year or so. Most Class A’s being sold now are gasoline powered. However, most of the very large luxury motorhomes have diesel “pusher” engines located at the rear of the coach. Due to the high cost of the diesel pusher chassis, diesel power is economically justified only for users who drive many miles every year, such as full-timers, entertainers, professional travelers, etc. However, diesel pushers have other features that make them worth the cost to some people – quietness in the cockpit, different floorplans due to entry door placement and the absence of the engine hump, tighter turning radius, more luxurious interiors, prestige, etc.