Everything You Need To Know About Class B Motorhomes
Figuring out the technical differences that make motorhomes 'classed' the way the are can be 100% confusing. Here is what it takes for a class B motorhome to be a class B motorhome.
We're here to clear it up for you.
The Class B RV Defined
What makes class B motorhomes class B, you ask?
A true Class B RV (Class B motorhome) is a van conversion. This means it starts life as a bare commercial van body/shell and has a motorhome/RV interior installed inside.
An offshoot of the Class B camper van is what is called a Class B+.
These two classes of RVs share the same van chassis and basic shape, but there are a few notable differences.
Bare commercial van bodies are what the #VanLife Instagrammers use as a basis when they build their own home on wheels, making their homemade Class B motorhomes.
Because of their smaller size and easy maneuverability, the B Class RV is a popular choice for single travelers or couples that don't mind sacrificing interior space for ease of travel.
This size RV opens up lots more possible places to explore than a monster motorhome or large travel trailer, whether it's an urban environment, or a far away wide open camping spot.
The shorter overall length is desirable. It has a 'go almost anywhere' sort of capability, while still bringing along certain levels of luxury and comfort.
With that, it's no wonder these fuel efficient camper vans have surged in popularity.
Who Makes Class B's? Which Class B Is The Best?
Class B/B+ RV Quick Stats:
- Length: 19 to 27 feet
- Sleeping Capacity: Up to 4 people
- Slide: 0 to 2
- Gas Mileage: 10 to 25 (will vary depending on size, gas or diesel engine, and driving style)
- Gross Vehicle Weight: 8,000 to 14,500 pounds
- Towing Capacity: 2,000 to 7,500 pounds
- Retail Price: Low $100,000's to $200,000+
*Above stats are approximate ranges just to give you a general idea
Class B/B+ Motorhome Pros and Cons:
What Is a Class B+ RV?
Where Class B motorhomes use a complete van shell as the starting point, a Class B+ motorhome uses a van cutaway chassis as the starting point.
A cutaway chassis is simply the front, driver's cab section of the van, with a bare frame (containing the drivetrain) behind it.
Upon this bare frame, Class B+ manufacturers will build their own 'box' which is the living quarters, much like an RV class A.
Technically any RV built on a cutaway chassis is a type C RV.
However, there are a few distinctions between a Class B+ and a Class C.
The biggest difference is the lack of a sleeping area over the cab in a Class B Plus RV.
Because of these differences, the term 'Class B+' was coined. A Class B+ motorhome will often have a wider body than the Class B camper van.
This is because the Class B motorhomes have their width restricted by the van shell.
The Class B+ body is completely fabricated by the manufacturer. They often widen it to offer more interior space.
The Class B+ RV is often referred to as 'wide-body' for this reason. Because of their compact size, Class B+ RVs are a great alternative to a larger rig (unless you go with a short Class C RV).
This is good for people who are looking for something with more maneuverability and easier handling, without sacrificing amenities and comforts.
Class B/B+ Motorhome Chassis
For true Class B motorhomes, there are three chassis commonly used - the Mercedes Benz Sprinter, Ram Promaster, and the Ford Transit.
The Promaster and Transit camper vans come in either gas or diesel engine options, whereas the Mercedes Benz Sprinter is diesel only.
Class B+ campers are built on what is called a cutaway chassis. This is the front end cab section of a 'normal' vehicle with no back bulkhead (so the cab interior is open from the back) and then a bare truck frame behind.
The bare truck frame provides a platform for the Class B+ RV living area to be built/installed.
Popular cutaway chassis for Class B+ motorhomes are the Mercedes Sprinter (diesel) and the Ford Transit (gas and diesel).
Cutaway chassis will have dual rear wheels on each side of the rear axle, for a total of four tires on a single rear axle.
Ford Transit and Mercedes Benz Sprinter Class B camper vans (built using a full van shell) most often also have dual rear wheels, whereas the Ram Promaster B Class RVs will have single rear wheels.
Some manufacturers use the Ford E-series gas cutaway chassis for Class B+ RVs. These typically are motorhomes with longer length, giving more living room.
All Class B motorhomes and B+ motorhomes have the engines in the front of the rig.
With the B Class RV vans, it's becoming more common to see a 4x4 option available.
This gives this smaller motorhome the flexibility to reach places traditional coaches could never go to.
Class B Camper Interior
With a Class B van conversion, the area inside for the living space is limited by the walls and roof of the van, which makes for a tighter living space.
Most all Class B RVs camper vans are built using the high roof versions of their respective commercial vans, giving them the vertical height to stand up in.
A type B RV will have a small kitchen but does have everything needed to make a meal on the road.
This includes a sink, a stove, a refrigerator, and often a microwave.
Sleeping areas are often a couple of twin beds with a center aisle or a rear bed built on a platform with storage underneath.
Another popular camper van bed arrangement is to have a couch for seating during the day that then folds down flat and converts into a sleeping berth.
Instead, there is a removable tank of just a few gallons that requires being dumped into a toilet at a house or a rest area.
A Class B+ motorhome is a bit more like a traditional motorhome in that it often has a larger kitchen with more elbow room, a dedicated bed (Murphy beds that fold down from the side wall are popular in these), and a bathroom with separate shower and toilet (with a traditional black tank).
All Class B+ RVs will be fully self-contained, with holding tanks for fresh water and wastewater.
Most Class B vans that come from larger campervan manufacturers will also have these same holding tanks.
Also, most Class B van conversions do not have a RV slideout that expands the interior living space.
However, slide-outs are a common way to expand the living area in Class B+ camper vans.
You will find up to two slides on certain Class B+ floor plans, though one is much more common.
You won't find a huge variety of floorplans as room is at a premium so there isn't much differences in the way various brands handle the overall layout.
What you will find between models is a varying degree of options, including technology offerings, luxury amenities, and often plenty of decor style choices.
Stand-Out Features Of Class B/B+ Motorhomes
As the Class B van conversions start life as a bare commercial van, this type of RV typically has very little exterior storage, if any at all.
However, it does maintain the rear doors that the commercial van has.
This gives you complete access to the rear of the rig.
Class B+ RVs will have some exterior storage (varies greatly by floor plan, model, and manufacturer) as the entire body is custom-built.
Many type B and B+ motorhomes are equipped with a generator.
Generators are capable of producing 120-volts of electricity to charge the RV's batteries and run the larger electrical appliances onboard.
The generator will run off either the same fuel that the rig's engine uses, or will use propane.
As they come in compact sizes (under 30 feet), a B class RV is an excellent choice for those looking to have all the amenities and characteristics of a larger motorhome in a vehicle that is easy to drive and has decent fuel economy.
Most likely you will find a trailer hitch at the rear of a type B RV, but don't expect to be able to tow a car or SUV with it. Towing capability is very limited.
Many full time RVers use their type B motorhome as their primary vehicle. Meaning they have no other mode of transportation.
How Much Does a Class B/B+ Motorhome Cost?
The cost of a new Class B motorhome can be a big eye-opener considering the size rig you are purchasing.
Pricing can easily approach that of a good quality gas Class A RV.
Class B/B+ RV retail prices range from the low $100,000's into the $200,000's.
Obviously, buying a used class B will save you a ton of cash. (How much is my RV worth?)
Class B campers are a great, albeit expensive, way to go camping in a relatively small, nimble RV. It is equally at home in the city as it is in national forest campgrounds.
While definitely not suitable for large families, Class B motorhomes are well suited for one to two people to hit the open road and explore the countryside with relative ease, while being able to fit into just about any campground.
For a bit more room, a Class B+ motorhome offers a taste of van life in a wider body rig. It offers a surprising amount more room than a type B RV built within the constraints of a traditional van body.
Now that you know the answer to the question, 'What is a Class B motorhome?", you should have a better feel if this kind of RV is what you need for a weekend exploring your favorite city, or for a week at your favorite campsite.
Author: Marshall Wendler
Camp Addict co-founder Marshall Wendler brings his technical expertise to help explain RV products in an easy to understand fashion. Full-time RVing from April 2014 - December 2020 (now RVing about 50% of the time), Marshall loves sharing his knowledge of the RV lifestyle. Marshall spends the majority of his RVing life boondocking. He is the part of Camp Addict that knows 'all the things'. He's good at sharing his technical knowledge so you can benefit.