Fifth Wheels, Toy Haulers, Class As, oh my! So many choices! How do you decide what kind of RV to go with?!
There are an overwhelming amount of options when it comes to RVs. So how to choose the best RV for you? There’s really no right or wrong choice because the bottom line is this…
As long as you use your RV to explore and enjoy places you wouldn’t otherwise get to visit, you made the right choice.
Basically, it comes down to personal preference and which type of RV is going to work best for you, your needs, and your budget.
We ended up downsizing to a smaller Travel Trailer (same RV type as our first RV, just less length / more manageable). This ended up being a better setup for us.
Before I get into why we chose a Travel Trailer (and stuck with that type when we switched RVs), let me first give you a quick breakdown on the many different RV options.
There are two main categories: Towables (RVs that you tow with a separate vehicle) and Driveables (RVs that you drive). Then within each of those categories, there are several different variations. Here’s a guide to the many different RV types.
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You’ll need a separate vehicle to tow a Towable RV. With this scenario, you can drop the RV at your campsite, giving you the freedom to take the tow vehicle out exploring.
They’re typically less maintenance than Drivable RVs since they don’t have a motor.
Plus, Towable RVs usually come with a lower price tag than Drivable RVs. A cheaper option can provide ease of entry into RVing, especially if you already have a vehicle that can tow it.
Just make sure your tow vehicle is rated to handle the weight of your RV loaded with whatever you’ll be bringing along in it.
With a Truck Camper, you basically convert your truck to a camper! If you want to get technical, Truck Campers aren’t exactly “towable.” They’re not actually towed behind a tow vehicle but rather they fit in the back of the tow vehicle (in their case, a truck). But seeing as you need a truck to have a Truck Camper, let’s include them with Towables.
Their small and compact size makes them easy to park and drive, giving you access to tight or remote locations, especially if the truck they’re in has 4-wheel drive. Don’t let their modest size fool you though. They manage to fit quite a bit inside, including a kitchen, bathroom, and even slide-outs for more space.
Another benefit of Truck Campers is that they can be removed from your truck when you’re not camping. This allows your truck to be available for everyday transportation. They also leave the hitch of your truck free to tow your toys, such as boats, ATVs, motorcycles, jet skis, and more. Truck Campers can be an easy and economical way for you to get into RVing!
Expandable Trailers are a folding style RV. They are traditionally soft-sided canvas (Pop-Ups). But they also come in hard-sided (A-Frames) or hybrid (Tent Trailers) options. The soft-sided and hybrid versions give you the feel of a tent but with more conveniences.
Many of them include a bed, seating, a sink, even a toilet and possibly a shower. If they’re not completely hard-sided, they won’t have the best insulation to keep the inside warm or cool. But they’re still a step up from sleeping in a tent on the ground.
Expandable Trailers are lightweight and easy to tow with most vehicles (perhaps with your existing car). Their compact size allows them to fit in small or tight campsites and makes them easy to store as well (most can even fit in a garage).
Expandable Trailers can take a bit more set-up time when you get to your campsite since you have to unfold them. But they’re a good way to transition from tent-camping to RV camping, especially since they’re a budget-friendly option!
There are a seemingly endless number of options when it comes to Travel Trailers. This is because they come in such a wide variety of styles, floor plans, and sizes. They range in size from tiny Teardrop Trailers that are basically just a bed on wheels all the way up to 39+ feet long with everything in between!
Unlike other RV types, Travel Trailers are not limited to certain layouts based on what’s in their front end. For example, Motorhomes have a driver and passenger seat in front. This makes it so they can’t have anything else in front like a kitchen. And the front end of Fifth Wheels hang over the bed of the truck that tows them, so there’s usually always a bedroom there. But since the front of Travel Trailers aren’t a standard layout, this allows many different floor plan possibilities.
Depending on their size, Travel Trailers can include a full kitchen, bathroom, living room, and bedroom. They often feature a slideout or even multiple slide-outs to maximize space and storage. The smaller, lightweight versions though can usually be towed by mid-size vehicles with a hitch, such as SUVs, minivans, and light-duty trucks. These ones are more fuel-efficient. With so many options available (including Airstreams), Travel Trailers are a great go-to choice for many RVers!
Fifth Wheels are the largest of the towable RVs. They are similar to Travel Trailers but are a step up in size and oftentimes amenities as well. Fifth Wheels maximize living space with a raised front section that hangs over the bed of the truck. This layout adds overall length and creates a taller ceiling height in the main living area. This gives them a roomier feel. Plus, they can have up to 6 slide-outs adding even more space!
Back to those extra amenities I mentioned… Most Fifth Wheels have ceiling fans, fireplaces, full-size residential appliances like refrigerators and washers/dryers, even extra bathrooms and bedrooms! They can also be easier to tow. By connecting to the bed of the tow truck with a Fifth Wheel hitch, they are more stable and give you more control while towing.
So you won’t be able to use the bed of your truck for storage since the Fifth Wheel hitch will be back there. But on the other hand, Fifth Wheels can have lots of storage underneath in their storage bays. This all makes Fifth Wheels a great option for larger families!
Toy Haulers can be a Travel Trailer or a Fifth Wheel. Even some motorhomes can be Toy Haulers, but most are in the Towable category. They offer a combination of living space plus room to haul your toys within the trailer. Motorcycles, dirt bikes, ATVs, golf carts, jet skis, kayaks, paddleboards, fishing gear, snowmobiles… you can haul just about anything with a Toy Hauler!
True to their name, Toy Haulers are built to accommodate outdoor gear and toys with a garage-like cargo area that can often be converted into an extra sleeping or living area (some even have an extra bathroom!). The back of the Toy Hauler is a heavy-duty door. This door folds down, doubling as a loading ramp and sometimes a patio for outdoor living space!
They’re usually pretty big and can be quite heavy (especially when they’re loaded). But if your truck can handle the load and you’ve got lots of toys you like to bring with you when you’re RVing, Toy Haulers may be the best option for you!
Tiny Homes truly are a miniature “home-on-wheels.” They resemble traditional sticks-and-bricks-built houses. But they are much smaller versions sitting on wheels instead of a foundation in a fixed location. Storage can be an issue with Tiny Homes as there’s usually not much of it. So organization and creative storage solutions are a must.
A good example of making the most use of space is the sleeping area, which will most likely be in a loft above. Despite their small size though, they usually have some full-size appliances. They also tend to include better quality residential finishes, such as granite countertops versus laminate counters and real wood cabinets rather than the lightweight faux-wood of traditional RVs. This can make them on the heftier side in terms of weight.
You may need a heavier duty tow vehicle to get them from point A to point B. But you’ll definitely turn heads with a Tiny Home! If you want the freedom of location with the feel of a custom home full of character rather than a factory produced RV, designing your own Tiny Home may be the way to go!
RVs that you can drive (i.e. Motorhomes) provide easier campsite set-up than Towable RVs. They also have the added bonus of riding inside the RV rather than towing it behind you.
This gives you the convenience of having access to the kitchen and bathroom while you’re en route to your next destination rather than having to find somewhere to pull over to get to your RV.
Drivable RVs are generally more expensive than Towable RVs. This is because they come with a motor, combining the tow vehicle and RV in a sense. Having a motor can mean more maintenance, but there’s no need for a separate tow vehicle with a Drivable RV.
You may want to bring along a smaller vehicle anyway though. That way, you can take it to go exploring rather than bringing your RV everywhere with you. If your RV is on the larger side, you’ll be limited as to where you can take it.
Having the driver and passenger seats up front with Drivable RVs limits the layout options with them. But their convenience and size (whether large or small depending on what you prefer) can make up for that.
Not to mention, some RV Parks are exclusive to motorhomes only. There are even high-end luxury resorts catering to Class A motorhomes specifically.
Class A Motorhomes
Class A Motorhomes are typically the largest (30-40 feet long). They can also be the most luxurious type of motorhome and RV in general. Class As are often referred to as “coach.” Another nickname you may hear Class A Motorhomes called is “Diesel Pushers.” This is for the diesel versions with the motor in the back rather than the traditional front motor with the gas versions.
Regardless of where their motor is, Class A Motorhomes have a tell-tale flat front end. This large picture windshield gives a wide-open view of the road and landscape. Another benefit of Class A Motorhomes is that they can come with full-size features. Some have residential-style refrigerators, dishwashers, even washers, dryers and more!
Plus, they often include high-end finishes and have numerous slide-outs. They can have full-length slide-outs running the entire side of the motorhome, making them incredibly spacious inside. While their substantial size can be a huge plus, it can also be a drawback. A large size limits the places you can visit or park at, and it also reduces gas mileage. These babies don’t get the best MPG, but you’ll be traveling in style with a Class A Motorhome!
Class B Motorhomes
Class B Motorhomes are smaller, similar to the size of a van, which gives them their nickname of “Camper Van.” Don’t let their modest size fool you though, they can pack a lot in with a kitchen, bed (most have seating areas that convert to beds), even a bathroom. The bathrooms are usually marine-style with the toilet, shower, and sink all together. Basically you’ll be sitting on the toilet while you’re showering, but hey… better than no bathroom, right?
Class B Motorhomes don’t generally have slide-outs and don’t offer much in the way of storage. This can make them feel a bit cramped. But if you’re planning on spending more time outside of your RV than in it, Class B Motorhomes give you a lot of flexibility as to where you can explore. Some even have off-road features for venturing out to more remote areas.
Their compact length makes them more agile than a Class A, in turn making them easier to drive and park. Since they drive like a regular car, it’s easy to take them from rustic camping to big-city sightseeing and everywhere in between. This makes Class B Motorhomes an ideal option for adventurous RVers.
Class B+ Motorhomes
Things are about to get even more complicated than they already are with all the different types of RVs. They went and threw in another version of the Class B Motorhome called a Class B+. Falling somewhere in the middle of the Class B and Class C Motorhomes, the Class B+ is a hybrid of the two. It looks like a Class C, but unlike the Class C, the Class B+ doesn’t have a bed over the cab.
So how does it differ from the Class B, you ask? The B+ version can have slide-outs. Think of the “+” as a step up from the standard Class B. If you don’t need more sleeping space and you want a little extra room, you may want to consider a Class B+ Motorhome rather than a Class B or C.
Class C Motorhomes
Surprisingly, Class C Motorhomes are larger than a Class B (you’d think they go in order of size from A to B to C, but nope). Their size is usually somewhere in-between Class A and Class B, but some can be just as long as the Class A category. Many Class C Motorhomes have slide-outs. Some even have full-length slide-outs similar to Class As.
Since Class C Motorhomes can be similar in size to Class A Motorhomes, you might be wondering what’s different about them. The main difference with the Class C is their recognizable over-the-cab bed area. This extra sleeping space makes the Class C a good option for families. If you want a motorhome, but a Class A is too big while a Class B is too small, a Class C could be the way to go.
There are also conversions. Many people are converting School Buses (“Schoolies”) and Vans to liveable RVs. I’m not going to get into those though because they’re an entirely other category on their own. But if #VanLife intrigues you, head on over to GnomadHome.com. They’ve got some great info about different types of vans!
* Be aware that some states require an additional non-commercial driver’s license for certain RVs that use air brakes or exceed certain weights. Be sure to check with your local DMV for the specifics and adhere to all requirements.
Why we chose a Travel Trailer versus other RV types
For our full-time RV adventure to see all 48 Lower States of the U.S., we had to figure out which type of RV would be the best option for us.
Personally, we would have loved to do a Class A motorhome. But… they’re not cheap. Plus, we knew we’d rack up a lot of miles. Because of this, we wanted something with a warranty. And we also didn’t want something that would depreciate drastically with all the miles we’d be driving.
We were going to sell 2 cars and a motorcycle to go towards our new mode of transportation. So to get the most bang for our buck, we decided to go with a truck and Towable RV. We spent months researching RVs and finding the perfect Travel Trailer for us. Then we spent even more time finding the right truck to tow it. I learned more about trucks, axle ratios, and tow capacity than I ever thought I’d need to know. Information overload!
Our original plan was to travel the country in an RV for 6 months, but that ended up evolving into more than a year. Since we were going to be living in our RV full-time, we wanted something larger with plenty of storage. I also wanted actual counter space in the kitchen. Also, considering that slide-outs create more space, they were a must for us.
Fifth Wheels are great, super roomy with high ceilings. They really feel like a house on wheels! But they’re so big and heavy. They require a more heavy-duty truck to tow them. And those trucks cost quite a bit more than the smaller trucks with less tow capacity.
Not to mention, Fifth Wheels cost more than Travel Trailers. That would have been additional costs x 2. That’s why we decided to go with a lightweight travel trailer, so we could tow it with a smaller/cheaper truck. Travel Trailers are also a more affordable RV option in general.
We also knew we’d want a tow vehicle regardless of the RV. That way we would be able to drop the RV at a campground and use the tow vehicle to explore the area. Again, it would have been too expensive for us to have a Motorhome AND a tow vehicle. A truck and Travel Trailer combination was the most economical option for us.
Since our first truck (GMC Sierra 1500, which we LOVED) and 35-foot Travel Trailer, we’ve downsized to a much smaller setup. We now have a Chevy Colorado truck and a 22-foot Travel Trailer. The new truck isn’t nearly as powerful, but it gets the job done. Plus, we love how much more convenient and easier it is to get around with less length. It’s so much easier to get gas now (what a pain that can be)!
Our Original Truck & Travel Trailer
Our Current Truck & Travel Trailer
Our Original Travel Trailer Layout
Our Current Travel Trailer Layout
That’s something else you have to consider when it comes to an RV – the SIZE. Where are you planning on taking your RV, and how easy is it going to be to get in and out with it? Did you know that State and National Park campgrounds have a length limit for RVs?
Check out this post about the Ideal RV Length for Fitting into National Park Campsites. And I’m not sure how up-to-date this is (it looks like it was compiled in 2016), but here’s something else I came across that may be handy: National Park Trailer Length Chart. Just something to think about if you’re planning on staying at State and/or National Parks with your RV.
Sprinter Vans and vans, in general, are becoming super popular. With their convenient size for exploring and parking, there are more options for where you can go with them. You can even get 4×4 Vans to go off-roading! We’re actually thinking about downsizing again to a van-style RV eventually.
It really comes down to what’s going to work best for you, your specific situation, and your goals.
Words of advice for Towable RVs
If you’re going with a Towable RV, start with the RV you want. Then decide on the vehicle you’re going to tow it with so you know what tow capacity you’ll need.
You don’t want to buy an SUV to tow your RV only to find the Fifth Wheel of your dreams (FYI: you need a truck to tow a Fifth Wheel). Or what if you got a truck before getting a Toy Hauler and then realized that the truck couldn’t handle the weight after all?
A general rule of thumb to keep in mind is that the more bells and whistles the RV has, the heavier it will tend to be. This will also affect your gas mileage.
And I’m about to drop some more knowledge on you. Are you ready??? Write this down…
*Older trucks generally don’t have as high of a tow capacity as newer trucks do. There are smaller, newer trucks that can tow way more than some larger, older trucks.
– AND –
*Most newer RVs are designed to be more lightweight. This means that older, smaller RVs can weigh more than newer, larger RVs.
Make sense? Bottom line, make sure your towing vehicle has the tow capacity to handle the fully-loaded (not “dry”) weight of the RV you’re going to be towing with it.
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10 questions to ask yourself before purchasing an RV
- Will you need a vehicle to tow your RV, or will your RV be towing a separate vehicle?
- Will you be RVing full-time or part-time (just weekends or long hauls)?
- How much time will you be spending inside the RV versus outside?
- Will you be traveling with pets or kids?
- Will you need bunk beds or additional sleeping options?
- Will you be bringing any outdoor toys or gear with you?
- Are slide-outs important to you?
- How much storage will you need?
- Where will you be camping? Do you want to visit State and National Parks?
- Will you be staying at RV parks with full hook-ups? Or will you be dry camping and need a generator?
I recommend visiting RV dealerships. While you’re there, you can tour the different types of RVs. This will give you a good feel for them, their layouts, storage, features, etc. Which one feels right? Which one feels most like home (on wheels)? 😉 If you’re still not sure if RVing is right for you or which type of RV you should go with, you can rent an RV to give it a go.
The best part of RVing is the freedom and flexibility it allows you, the ability to travel, see new places, and change your location as well as the scenery around you. So you really can’t make a wrong choice when it comes to an RV!
Hope this info helps and motivates you to hit the road! Leave a comment below with the type of RV you chose and why. Or if you’re still deciding, let us know which one you’re leaning to. Also, feel free to ask questions about RVs!