RV is an abbreviation for Recreational Vehicle, which includes any vehicle that runs on a motor or can be pulled by another vehicle that provides a living space.
RVs are often referred to using several slang terms, depending on the region or the particular culture:
- “Camper” – Often referred to as RVs towed behind a vehicle, like pop-up campers or camper trailers. That said, if somebody called my motorhome a camper, I wouldn’t think twice about it.
- “Motorhome” – Often used to refer to a large, driveable RV.
- “Rig” – Common term among RV enthusiasts for their RV.
- “Caravan” – Refers to an RV in countries like Australia and the UK.
- “Skoolie” – Refers to a converted school bus turned into a livable space.
Brief History of RVs
Recreational vehicles have a long and rich history that began in the early 20th century. The first motorized campers, designed for outdoor adventures and long-distance travel, were constructed on car bodies or truck beds.
Early 20th Century
While covered wagons could arguably be considered the first RVs, the roots of the RV industry date back to 1910, with Pierce-Arrow’s “Touring Landau” exhibited at Madison Square Garden in New York. It included a back seat that converted into a bed, a sink behind the chauffeur’s seat, and a folding desk.
The 1920s saw a surge of interest in motorized camping with groups like the “Tin Can Tourists,” who embraced the idea of camping and touring by automobile. Various models of house cars started appearing. A notable one was the 1928 Chevrolet Housecar built for Mae West by Paramount Studios.
Numerous manufacturers and models emerged during this time. Airstream sold its first unit in 1931 and became a household name due to its unique design and production quality.
Post World War II, the RV industry experienced an explosion of growth. With the Baby Boom and a rising middle class in the 1950s, more Americans started to embrace the freedom and flexibility of RV travel.
The 1960s to 1980s
The 1960s through the 1980s marked a period of innovation and expansion for the RV industry. Motorhomes – self-contained RVs – grew in popularity. The Winnebago company, in particular, became synonymous with this type of RV. Their mass production techniques allowed them to offer motorhomes at a price point accessible to many more consumers, greatly expanding the market.
During the oil crisis in the 1970s, the RV industry took a hit but bounced back as fuel became more readily available and prices stabilized.
The 1990s to Present
From the 1990s onward, RVs continued to evolve in comfort, luxury, and technology. Modern RVs offer many amenities, including full bathrooms, equipped kitchens, air conditioning, and WiFi connectivity.
The 21st century also brought a renewed interest in smaller, more fuel-efficient RVs, partly driven by environmental concerns and fuel prices. The van life (#vanlife) movement emerged, where individuals, couples, and families embraced minimalistic living or traveling full-time in converted vans or small RVs.
During the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 and 2021, RVs gained popularity as a safer alternative for vacationing and remote work, further driving innovation and growth in the industry.
The RV industry continues to thrive and innovate, with advancements in green technology, increased luxury amenities, and developments to meet a range of consumer preferences and needs.
Types of RVs
You now know what RV stands for, but did you know RVs are available in various types and classes?
The main types of RVs include A-frame campers, class-A RVs, class-B RVs, class-C RVs, fifth wheel, pop-up campers, teardrop campers, travel trailers, and truck campers.
Let’s take a closer look at the different RV types, how they work, and what they offer.
Class A Motorhomes
A Class-A RV, often referred to as a motorhome, is a type of self-contained RV. With lengths ranging from 30 to 45 feet, they’re the largest RVs, standing out amongst the rest.
Size, Chassis, and Engine
Built on a robust chassis, these motorhomes are powered by a strong gas or diesel engine. Their bus-like design ensures a comfortable driving experience, thanks to expert Class-A manufacturers like Winnebago, Thor, and Tiffin.
Living Spaces and Design
Class-A RVs are cleverly designed to offer a residential feel. Their open floor plans include a living area, kitchen, bedroom, and bathroom, bringing luxury to your road trips. Customization options allow you to add a personal touch to make your motorhome feel like home.
Storage and Features
Storage is abundant in Class-A RVs, making them perfect for long trips or full-time RV living. They also offer features such as outdoor entertainment systems and advanced driver assistance technologies.
Class-A RVs can be quite an investment due to their luxury, with prices ranging from $100,000 to over $1 million. It reflects the comfort and luxury you’ll enjoy on the road.
Class B Motorhomes
Class-B RVs, also known as camper vans, bring a whole new perspective to road trips, RVing, and the world of motorhomes. Let’s peel back the curtain on these compact yet capable rigs.
The Basics of Class-B RVs
Built on a van chassis like the renowned Mercedes-Benz Sprinter, Class-B RVs can range from your average van to luxurious campervan conversions that put some high-end motorhomes to shame. Class-B brands like Airstream, Thor Motor Coach, and Winnebago offer a variety of models, each providing a unique floor plan and features.
They are the smallest amongst RVs, a far cry from the size of fifth-wheel trailers or larger motorhomes, but don’t let their petite stature fool you!
Interior Features and Space Utilization
Inside a Class-B RV, you’ll find an impressive layout where every inch is thoughtfully used. They typically sport a compact kitchen, a cozy bed, a living area that often doubles as a dinette and even a bath area with a toilet and a shower. Talk about having a complete home on wheels!
Storage is meticulously designed to utilize every possible nook and cranny, ensuring you have space for all your essentials while on the road. With features such as a hot water system and quality amenities, these RVs ensure your comfort is never compromised.
RV Life in a Class-B RV
Living the RV life in a Class B is all about flexibility and simplicity. The compact size makes it easier to maneuver, perfect for accessing off-grid locations and smaller campgrounds where larger motorhomes might not fit.
The Class-B RV is a master of comfort and convenience, and its price reflects this. Typically, these camper vans start around $60,000 for basic models. As we venture into luxury campervan territory with high-quality amenities and off-grid capabilities, you can expect to see prices rise over $100,000 and beyond.
Class C Motorhomes
The Class-C RV, the middle child in the RV family, offers a sweet spot between the colossal Class-A and the compact Class-B motorhomes. It might not be as massive as a Class-A or as stealthy as camper vans, but it packs a lot in its versatile frame!
Construction and Chassis
Class-C motorhomes are built on a cutaway chassis, usually derived from heavy-duty vehicles. Imagine the power of a truck combined with the comfort of a camper, and you’ve got a Class-C RV. Manufacturers like Winnebago, Coachmen, Jayco, and Thor Industries craft these fine motorhomes with the perfect balance of robustness and luxury.
Living Space and Amenities
Class-C RVs range in length from around 20 to 40 feet, making them an excellent mid-sized option. One signature feature that distinguishes them is the over-cab area which often houses a comfy bed or extra storage. The clever floorplans make optimal use of space, offering a cozy living area, a well-equipped kitchen, and a bathroom with a shower.
The list of amenities you might find inside a Class-C RV reads like a dream for the RVing enthusiast: bunk beds for additional sleeping capacity, an array of kitchen appliances, luxury shower options, and so much more. These RVs bring the comfort of home while you’re out exploring the open road.
Power and Performance
Most Class-C motorhomes come equipped with a hearty diesel or gas engine. While they may not boast the same gas mileage as sprinters or smaller campervans, they offer more than enough power to get you to your favorite campgrounds and beyond.
Pricing and Options
The price for Class-C RVs can vary widely based on features, size, and manufacturer. Basic models can start around $70,000, while the luxurious models from Class-C manufacturers like Tiffin or Entegra Coach can push the price tag north of $200,000. The wide range of options ensures there’s a Class-C for every traveler and every budget.
The Class-C RV offers a perfect blend of size, comfort, and power, making it an appealing choice for families and people looking for extra space without compromising on maneuverability.
Travel trailers, commonly known as caravans outside North America, are towable RVs hitched to the back of a vehicle. They range widely in length, from the compact 10 feet trailers to the luxurious 40 feet models. Despite not having an engine, these trailers pack quite a punch when it comes to design and features.
Space and Amenities
Step inside a travel trailer, and you’ll be amazed at the efficient use of space. Most models include a sleeping area, a functional kitchen, and even a compact bathroom. They come in numerous floorplans, so you can choose a layout that fits your needs, be it a larger bed, extra storage space, or an expansive kitchen area.
Brands like Airstream, Jayco, Lance, and Forest River have taken travel trailer design to new heights. Some models even include solar panels for off-road adventures!
Weight and Towing
When it comes to travel trailers, weight is a key consideration. This includes the dry weight (the trailer’s weight without any cargo) and the Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR, the maximum weight the trailer can safely handle). These weights range from around 1,000 lbs for a small camper to over 10,000 lbs for a larger model. Make sure your vehicle can handle the trailer’s weight before you hitch up and hit the road.
Pricing and Dealers
Travel trailers are often more affordable than motorhomes, with basic models starting as low as $10,000. Luxury models from travel trailer brands like Airstream and Rockwood can push the price into six figures. Your local dealer can help guide you to a model that suits your budget and feature list.
Fifth Wheel Campers
Unlike a regular travel trailer, fifth-wheel trailers hitch to the bed of a pickup truck via a gooseneck connector, providing stability and easy maneuverability. Their unique design allows for multi-level floorplans, adding to their charm and spaciousness.
Size, Space, and Floorplans
Ranging from 20 to 45 feet, these giants provide ample living space. Walk into a fifth wheel, and you might just forget you’re in a camper. They boast impressive features, including expansive living areas, full-sized kitchens, and even king-sized beds. A luxury model might even feature a home theatre system! Fifth-wheel brands like Jayco and Forest River excel in creating these RVs with diverse floorplans to fit every family size and lifestyle.
When dealing with fifth-wheel trailers, weight is a crucial factor. Dry weight can range from 7,000 to 20,000 lbs, with GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) even higher. These numbers are not for the faint of heart – or for the faint of hitch. You’ll need a heavy-duty truck to tow a fifth wheel.
Fifth-wheel trailers vary in price, from affordable options starting around $30,000 to luxury models reaching $150,000 or more. The price reflects the range of luxurious features and high-quality craftsmanship these wheels offer.
Adventure in Comfort
In essence, 5th-wheel trailers are the perfect choice for those who wish to explore without sacrificing the comforts of home. Whether planning a weekend getaway or setting off on a cross-country adventure, these trailers provide luxury, space, and the joy of the open road.
Say hello to the pop-up camper, the Swiss Army knife of the camping world. These collapsible trailers offer the perfect blend of simplicity and portability.
Pop-Up Camper: The Basics
Pop-up campers, also known as tent campers or camping trailers, have a collapsible design that makes them light, compact, and easy to tow. When you reach your campsite, they expand (or “pop up”) to provide a spacious living area.
Size, Space, and Amenities
Pop-up campers may be compact when traveling, but they know how to make the most of their space. Models vary in size, accommodating anywhere from 2 to 8 people. They typically feature one or two beds on either side, a dining area that can transform into another bed, a small kitchen, and some storage space. Some upscale models even include a toilet and shower!
Pop-up camper brands like Forest River, Jayco, Opus, and Coachmen offer a variety of options.
Weight and Towing
One of the biggest advantages of pop-up campers is their weight. These trailers weigh between 1,000 and 4,000 lbs and are significantly lighter than other RVs. This means you don’t need a heavy-duty truck to tow them. Even some cars can pull a pop-up camper, giving you more flexibility on the road.
Cost and Value
Pop-up campers tend to be more budget-friendly than other RV types. Prices start around $5,000 for basic models, with higher-end units reaching around $20,000. This makes them an excellent choice for first-time RV buyers or budget-conscious families.
Pop-up campers are a unique and fun option for those seeking a camping experience with a touch of comfort. They bring versatility to RVing, fitting snugly between tent camping and the luxury of larger motorhomes.
A truck camper is a compact, portable living space designed to be loaded onto the bed of a pickup truck. These campers perfectly meld the mobility of a truck with the creature comforts of an RV.
Truck Camper Features
The versatility of truck campers shines in their design. They’re cozy but well-equipped. You’ll find a bed, storage, and sometimes a toilet and shower, too. It’s a matter of careful design and well-thought-out space utilization that makes you feel at home on the road.
The Slide-In Advantage
Truck campers are also known as slide-in campers due to the method of loading them onto a truck bed. They typically come with jacks, which assist in this process. The slide-in design makes them a removable addition to your vehicle—very handy when using your truck as a personal vehicle without lugging around the camper.
Size and Weight Specifications
Truck campers range in weight from 1,000 to 5,000 pounds, but it’s essential to be mindful of your truck’s payload capacity when considering a truck camper. The dry weight of the camper, plus gear and passengers, should not exceed your truck’s payload capacity.
Models vary, with numerous options to suit different tastes. Truck camper manufacturers such as Lance, Palomino, and Host Campers are famous for their quality models. A notable model is the ‘Mammoth’ by Host Campers, which offers plenty of space and features, including a queen-sized bed, kitchen, bathroom, and even a slide-out floor plan!
Teardrop trailers, with their distinct shape, are compact and aerodynamically designed for the road. They’re small but surprisingly well-equipped with everything a solo traveler or a couple could need for a comfortable camping trip.
Inside the Compact Space
For such a small space, teardrop campers pack a punch. Inside you’ll find a comfortable bed and storage options, while some models might even surprise you with a tiny bathroom. There’s a saying: “Tiny but mighty,” and teardrop campers are exactly that!
Kitchen and Amenities
In many teardrop campers, the kitchen is located at the rear, accessible from the outside. This design allows for more interior space and is perfect for cooking under the stars! These kitchens come equipped with all the essentials, from a stove to a refrigerator.
Models and Manufacturers
Several renowned manufacturers offer quality teardrop campers. Vistabule is known for its spacious models with large windows. nuCamp’s TAB Teardrop Camper offers modern amenities in a classic design. And let’s not forget Coachmen, which offers a versatile model with a handy off-road package for adventure enthusiasts.
Weight and Towing
Teardrop trailers are generally lightweight, so you don’t need a large vehicle to tow them. This ease of towing and the convenience of having a tiny home on wheels enhance the overall camping experience.
So if you’re a ‘less is more’ kind of guy or gal or just love the idea of hitting the road with minimal baggage, a teardrop camper might be the perfect match for you.