Last Updated on
RV stands for a recreational vehicle. Providing everything from extra storage space to a movable home, the acronym also easily stands for resourcefulness and relaxation.
After all, RVs provide extra comfort you don’t usually experience while driving or camping, giving you the opportunity to travel without leaving your belongings behind.
Typically, trucks tow smaller RVs while larger styles are autonomous.
Whether your recent research on van life is calling you to the open road or you want the luxury of a mansion on wheels, becoming an RV owner offers many travel conveniences. However, RVs aren’t the standard cars you see on the highway and learning about licensing and camping laws may be confusing for beginners.
To make things easier, keep reading to learn everything you need to know about the different styles of RV and the requirements you must satisfy to own one.
What are the different types of RV?
When considering investment in an RV, you should break down your options to analyze which style best fits your needs. Listed below are the various types of RVs.
Pop Up Campers
Pop-up trailers are the best RV option for the occasional springtime and summertime camper who wants to avoid sleeping on the ground.
Typically, pop-up trailers are structured like a tent that divides two sleeping areas and a central living area. In addition, they offer the convenience of folding up while not in use.
Pop-up trailers range in weight from around 700 pounds to nearly 4,000 pounds, depending on included kitchen amenities. On average, they are around 10 feet in length.
The one downside with pop-up trailers is they do not offer bathroom amenities like a toilet or shower.
Moreover, if you are looking to camp during the colder months, pop-up trailers drop the ball. Unfortunately, the tented option is not the best when it comes to holding in heat. Truck campers are useful because of their durability and camping capabilities, offering strong suspension and pull out beds. Simply, campers are the hard surface version of a pop-up trailer, offering more protection from the elements.
They typically weigh between 1,000 and 5,000 pounds and extend a few feet from your truck. This option works best for individuals or couples looking to pursue off-grid living or regular camping.
On the low end, campers cost around $3,000. However, campers with all the bells and whistles can range upwards of $30,000.
Fifth wheel trailers
Fifth wheel trailers are the largest RV that can be towed. Unlike smaller trailers, these RVs depend on a fifth wheel and specific truck hitch. However, the larger size means more amenities. Fifth wheel trailers often have a bathroom and multiple bedrooms. These RVs are useful if you want the perks of a Class A RV with the ability to be stored during seasons you are not using it.
Fifth wheel trailers range from about 20 to 40 feet and are anywhere from 7,000 to 20,000 pounds. Also significantly more expensive, these trailers are often $50,000 to $150,000.
Camper vans are the RV that most resembles a traditional vehicle. Telling from their name, camper vans simply look like oversized normal vans. However, their capabilities are anything but ordinary. While smaller than Class A or C RVs, camper vans often still find room to hide a bathroom, beds and dining spaces.
In addition, their smaller size comes in handy when it comes to good fuel economy and tight parking spaces. In general, this is the option that is easiest to drive. Camper vans are typically 17 to 24 feet long and weigh under 10,000 pounds. Costs typically range from $40,000 to $80,000.
Class C RVs.
While it may seem strange, Class C RVs are actually the size in between Class A and Class B. These RVs are similar in size to a fifth wheel trailer. However, they do not require towing.
This is the ideal option for someone who wants to purchase a Class A RV but just doesn’t have it in the budget. Class C RVs still provide an array of amenities like pull outs and a bathroom. However, the slight trade-off in size provides a more affordable option.
Class C RVs typically weigh around 10,000 pounds and are 20 to 30 feet long. They cost anywhere from $30,000 to $100,000.
Class A RVs
At last, you’ve made it to the biggest and the baddest. Class A RVs are the largest RVs on the road. These are great if you have a large family, are full-time camping or looking for an RV to live in.
Their amenities top anything else on the list. Class A RVs can even include luxury perks like a full tub and shower, master suite, king size beds, laundry facilities, an ice maker and a garage.
With all those amenities, Class A RVs naturally take up a lot of space. They are 26 to 45 feet long and weigh up to 30,000 pounds. This also means they are the most difficult to drive and maneuver down narrow roads. Costs for purchasing a Class A RV are typically $50,000 to $200,000.
What is a Class B RV?
Class B RVs are the smallest motorhomes. From the list above, camper vans fit into the Class B RV classification. While Class B RVs are the most economical on the list, they also lack storage other options provide. They are the ideal option for couples looking to cut costs while still enjoying the ownership of an RV.
Do you need a special license for RV?
For most of the RVs above, you do not need a special license. However, some Class A RVs require special licensing because they exceed 26,000 pounds. Licensing varies on a state to state basis. For the extended weight requirement, some states call for a non-commercial special license that allows the operation of a recreational vehicle exceeding weight restrictions. Other states call for a commercial driver’s license that permits the operation of large, heavy vehicles like buses or tractor trailers.
Can you park Class B RV anywhere?
The convenience of a Class B RV is that you usually don’t have to pay additional parking fees on the street because of its smaller size. However, it’s always a good idea to double check with city public policies. Areas outside of your neighborhood may also have restrictions. These include places like state beaches or parks. It’s important to check before venturing out in your van so you understand any fees or prohibitions. Truck stops, Native American casinos, and some Walmart stores offer overnight RV parking options.
What is RV Boondocking?
In simplest terms, RV Boondocking is taking your RV lifestyle off-grid. Boondocking refers to camping in remote areas without hookups. RV boondocking is a good option if you are seeking adventure or pursuing homesteading. However, straying away from society can be dangerous if you don’t know what you are doing.
Before boondocking, you should freshen up on basic survival tips and up your fitness. These RVs often come equipped with four-wheel drive, a sturdy suspension and the basic storage and amenities you need for survival.
Final things to consider when buying an RV
In addition to debating amenities and cost, there are a few more things you should consider when buying an RV. For smaller trailers, research accessories like hitches and covers. When it comes to the bigger styles, think long-term with storage and insurance needs. Owning an RV is a big investment but it is also a fulfilling one. With the considerations above, choosing the right RV for you should be much easier.
If you are interested in learning more I wrote this article about the best RV brands (pull-behinds only).
Ray Roman is the main contributor to this site and an avid researcher of travel trailers and the RV industry in general. He loves flyfishing, vacationing in Red River, NM and spending time with family and friends.