What Does RV Stand For? (Plus The Different Types of RVs)

A lot of people have a goal of buying or renting an RV to travel across the country.

But when the time comes to actually get one, the choice can be pretty confusing.

The word “RV” is so broad that if you asked 10 people what it is, you’d likely get 10 different answers. Some think it’s just a couple of beds on wheels while others picture it as a full functioning home that you drive.

So let’s break down what RV really stands for and how you can choose the right RV for your needs!

What is an RV?

So, what does RV stand for? According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, RV is an abbreviation and stands for Recreational Vehicle. Which as I said, is a pretty broad term.

Basically, RVs include any type of vehicle that meets the following criteria:

  1. Runs on a motor or can be pulled by another vehicle
  2. Provides a certain level of living accommodations onboard

An RV can be a motorhome, a camper, or a trailer, each with various models and classes.

If you’re looking to buy an RV, you’ll want to first determine:

  • What you want to use the RV for
  • Where you’ll be taking it
  • Who you’re traveling with
  • How much money you’re willing to spend

To help, let’s take a closer look at the different types of RVs, how they work, and what they offer.

Class A Motorhomes

If you’re wondering what the largest and most expensive RV type is, it’s definitely a class A motorhome. Due to their spacious design and considerable comfort, class A motorhomes are a favorite among avid travelers.

Class A motorhomes come in sizes ranging from 22 feet all the way to 45 feet! There is no special CDL (Commercial Driver’s License) required for you to legally operate these vehicles (unless they are above a certain weight).

This class of motorhomes is typically considered self-contained RVs, meaning they provide all the functions you would need without the use of outside facilities. In other words, they come complete with a freshwater tank, septic system, and their own power system. They also offer pretty much all the luxurious amenities you can think of. They have the most spacious interior to accommodate many individuals and utilities.

You can find models with slide-out sections added to expand the living area square footage. Some even go as far as having a separate master bedroom compartment.

Class A motorhomes are known for their large panoramic-view front window. They also typically carry a full bathroom along with a kitchen. Other common extras include ice makers, a washing machine, and a dryer.

Class A motorhomes equipped with gas engines often include a lot of basement storage that you can simply access through slam-latch doors lining the exterior of the motorhome. They’re loaded with comfort features and available at a price point a bit lower than diesel-powered models.

Speaking of class A motorhomes with diesel engines, they offer more power to tow a car, cargo trailer, or boat, earning the name diesel pusher. They also tend to carry more luxuries such as a refrigerator and multiple bathrooms.

Generally speaking, a class A motorhome is a great choice for bigger families or if you need more room for friends. They’re also perfect for full-time camping and long haul drives. However, there are a few drawbacks besides being the most expensive RV type.

The size of this class can be intimidating for many travelers and it can render narrow roads inaccessible. You should also keep in mind that these vehicles can get tricky (or even hazardous) when trying to maneuver them through mountain passages.

Class A motorhomes can prove to be an inconvenience as some camping sites may restrict them. Not to mention, they’re somewhat impractical because once you set your motorhome up at the camping site, it’s quite a hassle to pack it up and leave if you want to run quick errands. This is why some people choose to tow along a smaller vehicle to overcome such scenarios.

Class B Motorhomes

Class B motorhomes look very similar to vans but they come with a raised roof, which explains why they’re commonly referred to as camper vans. In fact, class B vehicles are often built on a regular full-size van frame where the roof is elevated to make it easier for you to walk upright.

You can think of class B motorhomes as a “travel size” version of class A rides. They’re considered basic level campers since they provide their owners with adequate comfort and all the necessary utilities of life.

In class B motorhomes, you’ll find smaller kitchens with a gallery-style setup or kitchenettes containing fewer appliances. Also, bathrooms are usually smaller with a toilet, shower, sink, and cabinet, all located in a more confined space.

Class B motorhomes can grant you other perks including hot water, a refrigerator, air conditioning, heating, and a large sofa that converts into a king-sized bed.

Such vehicles are often preferred for their flexibility and impressive level of luxury. They’re also popular to use in full-time living situations thanks to their dependable performance and solid construction.

A Class B motorhome is still expensive when it comes to the initial purchase price, but they cost less to fuel and maintain in the long run.

Class B motorhomes are comfortable, but the available area can get too cramped if more than 2 people are using it. The overall smaller size also restricts the presence of certain luxuries such as washing machines and large entertainment systems. It also makes for less storage room if you want to carry some supplies.

That being said, a class B motorhome typically includes smart solutions to make use of every corner. Their compact size also means you can easily drive, maneuver, and park them. Additionally, you can use these RVs to run simple errands or go on quick one-day trips with almost no hassle.

Class B motorhomes are a wonderful choice for single travelers or partners camping without children. Their affordability is also a plus for budget-conscious users looking for economic convenience, as well as those with busy careers who can’t go on trips very often.

Class C Motorhomes

Combining the best of class A and class B vehicles, class C motorhomes are your go-to option if you want all the living amenities without feeling like you’re driving a huge tank.

Class C motorhomes are sort of a middle ground size between the two previous RV classes, ranging from 20 feet up to 40 feet long. They’re typically built on a truck or van chassis with an extension over the driver’s cabinet that holds a bed or an entertainment setup.

Class C motorhomes cost less than class A campers, however, they still offer most of the luxuries of the higher-end vehicles with more living space than class B RVs.

They include shower and toilet facilities, a decent kitchen, and plenty of seating areas. You can also find single or multiple slide-out sections to add room when needed.

Some of the bigger models will have a master bedroom suite located in the rear end of the motorhome, while others will make use of the extra space to provide travelers with additional amenities.

Also, class C motorhomes usually have tables and couches that you can convert into bonus sleeping quarters.

A Class C motorhome can be somewhat challenging to drive and maneuver like a class A, but they’re still easier to manage and park in restrictive camping sites.

They’re also a bit impractical when it comes to running quick errands and going on short excursions, so you may need to tow along a separate small car.

Class C vehicles aren’t as expensive to maintain and operate as class A, but they’re still more costly compared to class B. Thanks to their ample room and great value, class C motorhomes are a fantastic option for families with children or travelers on a budget.

Travel Trailer

Another type of RV is the extremely popular travel trailer. This RV can vary in size, ranging between 20 feet to more than 40 feet long.

This model is typically built on the frame of a standard trailer and connected to towing vehicles with a ball hitch retriever.

It sports a characteristic aerodynamic and lightweight design that makes it suitable for towing behind SUVs and trucks. But don’t forget to make sure your vehicle is rated to handle such weight capacity.

Travel trailers offer plenty of living space and you can easily find a model that serves your specific needs. There are simple models with just the necessities and there are ones equipped with full kitchens, bathrooms, refrigerators, heaters, and plush master bedrooms.

One of the best things about this type of RV is their convenience. You can simply unhitch it at the camping site and go sightseeing or run errands using your towing vehicle.

Fifth Wheel Campers

Fifth-wheel campers share many similarities with travel trailers, however, there’s one major difference that brings about a number of advantages (and a few hiccups).

Instead of a ball hitch retriever, this type of RVs uses a fifth-wheel hitch (also referred to as gooseneck) that extends over the rear of the towing vehicle and mounts at the bottom of the trailer.

This connection allows for better leverage from the center, which makes it easier to handle and maneuver the fifth-wheel as opposed to standard travel trailers.

The biggest drawback of a fifth-wheel is the limitations of the towing vehicle type. This particular camper must be towed using a truck with a flat or open bed to accommodate its signature design of a raised compartment.

This can be an issue if you’re traveling with a large group in need of more passenger seats.

Fifth-wheels typically feature a raised master bedroom at the front, while the living area takes up the rest of the back. You can find these campers with kitchens, bathrooms, entertainment rooms, and even fireplaces. They can be as luxurious as you’re willing to spend.

Pop-up Campers

If you’re looking for the easiest possible RV to tow during camping trips, then you’re going to love pop-ups!

Yes, pop-up campers aren’t just a breeze to tow, but they’re also the smallest type of RV. This makes them a hassle-free ride when it comes to handling and maintenance.

However, don’t be fooled by how compact these vehicles are. Once you arrive at the campsite, they pop up to offer a surprising amount of space and a few living necessities.

They usually consist of a solid roof complete with canvas sides and see-through screen windows. They often feature kitchenettes and, depending on the model, a small shower/toilet compartment.

Pop-up campers are an excellent pick for folks with budget limitations or first-time RV travelers who want to give it a try without making substantial financial investments.

Truck Campers

If you’re in the market for an RV to take into the woods on fishing or hunting trips, then you need one with a footprint as small as possible.

Truck campers are designed to slide into the bed of your truck, giving you the utmost freedom and flexibility on the road. You won’t actually be towing anything behind your car, so you can get in and out of the wilderness untouched!

Despite their super compact and rugged design, truck campers still feature a number of home amenities including a bed, couch, kitchenette, and a small wet or dry bath.

Toy Hauler

If you’re an outdoor sports enthusiast, then you’ll probably enjoy owning a toy hauler. These vehicles combine the features of a travel RV and a sport utility trailer to provide one awesome experience!

Toy haulers are the perfect companion to take along when you feel like conquering the trails during your camping trips using ATVs, snowmobiles, or dirt bikes as you can easily pack them up and be on your way.

This is possible thanks to the rear storage compartment featured in toy haulers, allowing them to function as residential vehicles with cargo capabilities.

What’s even neater is that once you arrive at your destination, toy haulers include a highly convenient folding wall that doubles as a ramp for loading/unloading your sports vehicles.

Whenever you don’t need to use your portable garage space, you can take advantage of the extra living space with fold-down couches and drop-down mattresses.

The main drawback of toy haulers has got to be the close proximity of the living area to the storage compartment, especially with all the hazardous materials that may be present such as oil, fuel, and other chemicals.

Teardrop Campers

Last but not least, teardrop campers are one of the more non-traditional concepts of RV vehicles, yet they’re still pretty popular thanks to their creative convenience.

With teardrop campers, you’re living the RV lifestyle, but not completely since they’re really small in size when compared, for example, with the already compact truck campers.

Teardrop campers offer a handy amount of storage on the road and a reliable shelter once parked. However, you shouldn’t expect much more than that since kitchenettes and bathrooms are a rarity in these models.

Teardrop campers can be towed by practically every vehicle from motorcycles to SUVs. They are widely preferred by travelers seeking a more minimalistic style of camping.

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