Ultimate Guide To RV Types: Demystifying RV Classes
By Marshall Wendler
Last Updated: April 27, 2022
Figuring out the difference between RV types is a confusing endeavor.
What's a motorhome? What's a travel trailer? How do you tell the different RV styles apart?
On this page, we answer the question, 'What are the different classes of RVs?'
We'll cover the basics of the different RV classes, giving you a high-level overview of what's available in recreational vehicles.
You're about to have a head full of knowledge, and by the end of this, you will have a basic overview of the different types of RVs available today.
Definition Of RV
If you have ever wondered what the word RV means, we will answer that question. RV means Recreational Vehicle. In other words, 'RV' is an abbreviation for 'Recreational Vehicle.'
Another great mystery is solved. You are welcome!
Now onto what are the different types of recreational vehicles
Motorhomes are motorized RVs that don't require another vehicle to propel them down the road. They are broken into different 'classes,' which describe their basic size and shape.
Here are the three different motorhome classes:
Class A: This is your basic box on wheels (The shape that probably comes to mind when you think 'motorhome').
Class B: This is a van conversion, which starts its life in one form or another as a van.
Class C: This is also a box on wheels but has the nose (front end) of a full-sized van or a pickup truck.
Keep reading to learn in more detail about the different types of motorhomes.
Class A Motorhomes
Class A motorhomes may be what you think of when you think 'motorhome.' It's the traditional rectangular box on wheels that is common on roads and in campgrounds.
This type of motorhome offers the most interior space of all motorized RVs, with more storage capability than any other type of RV.
Often chosen as the best RV to live in, Class A motorhomes come in lengths ranging from about 28 feet to 45 feet and interior furnishing levels from the spartan to rivaling luxury condos, complete with washers and dryers.
This class of RV starts life as a bare chassis. Next, the fiberglass 'box' is built onto the chassis.
There will be either a gas engine (lower cost) or a diesel engine (more expensive), a single rear axle (shorter rigs), or a dual rear axle (longer RVs).
If you are looking for a motorhome with lots of living space and exterior storage, multiple seating areas, and a tall, commanding view, the Class A may suit you.
Class A Motorhomes In-Depth
Who Makes Class A's? Which Brand Is The Best?
Class B Motorhomes
Class B motorhomes are also known as van conversions. They are built using a bare van body with RV components installed inside.
The result is a small, fully self-contained camper that can navigate urban areas and camp out in the wilderness.
Another take on this class of RV is the Class B+ motorhome. Instead of using a complete van shell as the starting point, a Class B+ uses a cutaway van chassis (just the van's front cab with a 'bare' van frame behind).
A more traditional RV 'box' living area is built from the ground up on the bare frame portion of the cutaway chassis, resulting in a broader, roomier space while keeping the shorter overall length.
Class B Motorhomes In-Depth
Who Makes Class B's? Which Brand Is The Best?
Class C Motorhomes
Class C motorhomes are a type of recreational vehicle that is built on a van cutaway chassis. It means it has the van's cab (driver's compartment) and the living quarters built behind it.
This type of camper is great for someone who wants to have a drivable rig sized right to make it easier to maneuver.
Class C RVs come in either gas or diesel engine versions and range in size from mid-20 feet (compact Class C RV) to mid-30 feet in length.
This RV category is excellent if you don't want to tow a trailer but don't need some monster motorhome.
Class C Motorhomes In-Depth
Who Makes Class C's? Which Brand Is The Best?
Types Of RV Trailers
The most diverse and popular camper types are the towable RVs or trailers.
RV trailers require another vehicle (the tow vehicle) to pull it to your destination.
Once you have arrived at your campsite, towable RVs will be disconnected from the tow vehicle, which then can be used to explore the area you are staying in.
There are two main travel trailer classes - the bumper pull trailer and the fifth wheel.
Bumper Pull Trailers
Bumper pull travel trailers are broken down into different camping trailer types - the traditional travel trailer, the pop-up trailer, the hybrid travel trailer, and the teardrop trailer.
Because they come in such a wide range of sizes and price ranges, bumper pulls are the most popular of the different types of recreational vehicles.
They all have one thing in common.
They attach to the rear (bumper area) of the tow vehicle using an anti-sway hitch.
Following is an explanation of the different options bumper pull travel trailer class:
Travel trailers are the traditional box on wheels that are towed behind another vehicle. Once you arrive at a campsite, you unhitch the trailer and have a 'normal' vehicle to drive around as you explore.
Sizes range from short rigs with minimal comfort items to 30+ foot long campers with multiple slide outs with plenty of living space for a large family.
Because of their relatively low cost, this type of camper is an excellent choice for someone looking for a low barrier of entry to get into RVing yet has all the amenities you need while camping.
Travel Trailers In-Depth
Who Makes Travel Trailers? Which Brand Is The Best?
Pop-up trailers do just what their name states. They pop up. The top half pops up when you are setting up camp.
A pop up camper expands when the space is needed, and it collapses when it's time to move locations or when storing the RV.
When in towing position, these types of camper trailers are lower and more aerodynamic, making them easier to pull.
They are lightweight because the walls are canvas. Almost any car can tow one due to its small size and lower weight of a pop up camper.
This is one of the more affordable camper trailer types and is best for people who don't want to tent camp but aren't ready to buy a regular RV.
Because these are small recreational vehicle types, they may not come with toilets and showers but will give you a comfortable place to sleep and get out of the weather.
Hybrid Travel Trailers
A hybrid travel trailer is one of the more interesting camper classes. They combine many of the features of a conventional travel trailer with the added benefits of increased sleeping areas from pop-out areas similar to what you'll find in a pop-up camper.
They allow more people to sleep in a given length of trailer, which means you can bring a larger family on a camping trip without having to haul around some long towable RV.
However, the pop-outs only have canvas/fabric walls, so they offer little protection from the elements and certainly lack the privacy you may enjoy in a more traditional trailer.
Hybrid RVs In-Depth
Teardrop trailers stand out from the other classes of RV trailers by having a very distinctive, teardrop aerodynamic shape to them.
Teardrops come in all different sizes, with smaller teardrops being little more than a dry, safe place to sleep, while larger ones offer all the amenities of a traditional travel trailer.
Some have no cooking facilities, while others offer an outdoor kitchen accessible by opening up the rear clamshell hatch. Bigger teardrops have inside kitchens just like a 'normal' camping trailer.
Smaller rigs have no bathrooms, while larger ones can have a bathroom complete with a toilet and shower.
Who Makes Teardrop Trailers? Which Brand Is The Best?
5th Wheel Trailers
5th wheels are a type of towable RV that attaches to the bed of a pickup truck.
A 5th wheel trailer is one of the more popular types of camping trailers for full-time RVers and those who like to have plenty of interior space while on the road.
Because part of the trailer is over the bed of the tow vehicle, the overall length when towing is less than a bumper pull trailer of comparable size.
However, fifth wheels are often taller than regular travel trailers, making for a formidable vehicle going down the road.
The front living area will be elevated from the rear, requiring you to go up and down steps while inside, unlike all other type of RVs.
5th Wheel Trailers In-Depth
Who Makes 5th Wheels? Which Brand Is The Best?
Toy Hauler RVs
Toy haulers are arguably the most unique of the RV categories in that they have garages you can store outdoor playthings. (What is a toy hauler?)
The smallest toy hauler is no more than a short towable RV with a large access door to a cargo area that allows you to put in a bicycle or small watercraft. The largest is a monster beast capable of having at least one off-road vehicle or multiple dirt bikes.
Typically a toy hauler will have a rear access ramp that comes down to allow loading of the garage.
Toy Haulers In-Depth
Who Makes Toy Haulers? Which Toy Hauler Is The Best?
Truck campers are types of RVs that sit inside a pickup truck bed, making for an excellent compact recreational vehicle.
Because they don't have a massive interior space, they are not among the most popular RV class types for long-term camping adventures.
However, their overall short length (not much longer than the truck) means they are relatively easy to maneuver and let you access campsites and areas that larger recreational vehicles would have difficulty getting to.
There are two types of campers - the slide-in camper and the pop-up camper.
Slide-In Truck Campers
A slide-in camper is a hard-sided RV that sits in a truck bed. They offer all the basic amenities of larger RV sizes and types in a compact package.
Due to their small size, they don't have an abundance of storage space (or room in general), and their holding tanks tend to be smaller.
A slide-in camper can be removed from the truck bed at a campsite, allowing you to use your vehicle normally.
Pop-Up Truck Campers
Pop-up truck campers serve the same primary purpose as their slide-in camper counterpart but have the advantage of lighter weight and a lower overall height when in travel mode.
The roof of this type of camper moves up to increase interior room while in 'camp mode' and lowers down while in 'travel mode.' It can do this because part of the sidewall is made of canvas material.
These are designed for camping way down off-road trails or when you need a lighter, more overall compact camper.
Truck Campers In-Depth
Who Makes Truck Campers?
Frequently Asked Questions
What Is The Most Popular RV Type?
The most popular RV type is the travel trailer. These types of pull behind campers sell the most each year and come in a wide variety of sizes and price ranges.
What Type Of RV Is The Easiest To Drive?
The easiest type of RV to drive is the Class B motorhome. Also known as camper vans, these compact vehicles usually are no more than 22 feet in length and drive much like a regular full-sized van.
What Are The Different Types Of RV Classes?
There are five basic types of RV classes: Motorhomes, bumper pull trailers, 5th wheel trailers, toy haulers, and truck campers.
What Is The Biggest Type Of RV?
The biggest type of RV is either the Class A motorhome or the 5th wheel trailer, and both can come in lengths of 45 feet (or longer).
What Is The Smallest Type Of RV?
The smallest type of RV can be broken down into motorized or towable. They are the Class B motorhome (van conversion) and the teardrop trailer.
That was a ton of information about the different types of campers available.
Hopefully, now you know more about which of the RV classifications is best for your needs.
Most anyone can find the right (or good enough) rig among the RV classes explained above.
Understanding the different RV classes can be difficult when you are entering the world of recreational vehicles. Still, the above should have given you a basic understanding of the different kinds of RVs.
Now go out and see some in person.
Nothing compares with walking through a few of the classes of campers to get an idea of what makes a quality RV and to find one that is right for you.
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.