Types of RVs

The term RV has somewhat changed its meaning over the years, and is now used to refer to almost all wheeled vehicles that are associated with camping of one sort or another. As you all know, there are several types of RVs, and the price range within each category can vary considerably.

Truck Campers

pic of truck camper

Truck campers are factory-built (but sometimes owner-built) units that slide into the bed of a pickup truck and provide a bed, kitchen facilities (such as a sink, a stove, and a refrigerator), and sometimes toilet facilities (usually only a toilet).

Truck campers are a fairly inexpensive way for a family to enjoy the out-of-doors camping experience, but only if they already own a pickup that can safely carry the weight. Don’t plan on buying a truck camper if you own a mini-pickup. For some of the heavier and more well equipped campers, even a ½ ton pickup is undersized.

Pop-Up Trailers (commonly called Tent Trailers)

pic of open tent trailer

pic of closed tent trailer

Pop-Up trailers are usually single axle trailers with canvas ends that open up to form a bed space. Some of the newer ones have hard sides, slideouts, porta-potties, and even air conditioners!

Tent trailers are a wonderful way for a young family to share the fun of camping with their children. Tent trailers are quite compact when folded down, but they are surprisingly roomy when they are opened up and the ends extended. Most tent trailers are light enough that they can be easily towed by cars and small pickup trucks.

Travel Trailers

pic of travel trailer

Travel trailers have been around for seemingly eons, and are characterized by having a standard trailer tongue and ball cup. Travel trailers can be towed by almost any vehicle that has a standard ball type hitch of the proper weight rating (and is suitable for towing the weight of the trailer). Newer travel trailers contain all the conveniences of home, and most now include one or more slideouts.

However, to safely tow the larger units, you need at least a ¾-ton pickup with a hefty engine. One-ton pickups with dual rear wheels are commonly seen pulling the larger units. It is also usual practice to use a towing setup that includes a load-equalizing hitch with sway bars.

Don't even consider the thought of pulling any travel trailer by putting a ball on the rear bumper of your pickup! Most pickup bumpers cannot support the tongue weight of anything except, maybe, a small tent trailer. If you are going to tow a trailer, be sure that you have a frame-mounted hitch installed on your pickup.

Fifth-Wheel Trailers

pic of small fifth-wheel trailer

pic of large fifth-wheel trailer

Fifth wheel trailers (often referred to as simply “5ers”) have become the de facto standard for those RVers who prefer a trailer, rather than a motorhome, as their chief on-the-road dwelling space. Fifth wheel trailers have a unique hitch system that requires a special hitch in the bed of the truck, but which distributes the weight of the trailer much more satisfactorily than a regular ball hitch.

Another advantage of the 5th wheel trailer is that it is more easily maneuvered into a camping spot due to the location of the hitch center point being in the bed of the truck (less truck movement is required to cause trailer movement).


There are three basic styles of motorhomes:

Class C Motorhomes

pic of Class C motorhome

Class C motorhomes are built on a light truck chassis (usually 3/4 and 1-ton units), and most have an overhang over the cab that contains a sleeping space. Many of the newer units have slideouts. But be very aware, however, that the larger units with slideouts may NOT have adequate carrying capacity, and some can be overloaded simply by the driver and navigator getting into the rig!

Class C motorhomes are an excellent way for the newcomer to experience the fun of RVing in an economical way that won’t break his or her personal bank account.

If you enjoy camping or fishing in Forest Service camp grounds, a well-appointed 27 or 28-foot Class C motorhome will fit the bill very nicely. Anything larger will seldom fit into these campgrounds.

Class B Motorhomes

pic of Class B RV

Class B motorhomes are often referred to as van conversions, since they are usually built on a van chassis. Some of the units still resemble a van, but others have a fiberglass body that has little resemblance to a van. Class B units are much smaller, and have limitations on how much can be engineered into a small space. The downside, besides lack of interior space, is that many Class B units cost more than a comparably equipped Class C motorhome.

There are many folks who like the smaller size of a Class B RV, since they are easy to drive and are quite maneuverable. For many, driving a Class B RV is almost no different than driving their car, so they are much more comfortable driving it. Another advantage, for many, is that the ease of driving a Class B RV lets them leave the toad at home—and only one vehicle to worry about driving or finding a place to park.

Class A Motorhomes

pic of older Class A motorhome

pic of newer Class A motorhome

Class A motorhomes are what most of us think of when we hear the term motorhome. These units are built, from the ground up, on a truck chassis designed with the engine and braking systems needed to carry heavy loads. Class A motorhomes come in two main varieties—those with front-mounted gasoline engines and those with diesel engines mounted in the rear (commonly referred to as diesel pushers). The range of options and extra “goodies” on Class A motorhomes is almost endless, and prices can range from $60,000 to well over $1 million!

In the past couple of years, a new breed of motorhome chassis has come on the market— a truck chassis with a front-mounted diesel engine. Most of these units are on the Freightliner chassis. Many Rvers find the front-mounted engine to be a plus, since there is no rear-mounted engine to take up storage space. However, most of these units lack the esthetics of what most people consider to be a Class A motorhome.

Bus Conversions

pic of bus conversion

While talking about Class A motorhomes, I need to take a minute and touch on one other type of vehicle in this category, and that is bus conversions.

There is quite a following in the RV community by those who have the time, money, skills, and ambition to start from scratch with a former over-the-highway bus and then slowly, over time, make it into the ideal motorcoach for that particular owner.

Toy Haulers

pic of toy hauler trailer

Let me back up a minute and at least mention one other category of trailer (either with a standard ball and cup hitch or with a fifth-wheel hitch) and that is Toy Haulers.

Toy Haulers have been capturing the attention of the younger set, who enjoy camping out but who have lots of "toys" to take with them—such as motorcycles, ATVs, etc. A Toy Hauler is a combination of a travel trailer (with living accommodations) and also a storage area behind the living space. The toy storage area usually has a rear ramp that folds down for loading and unloading the toys.

Recently there have been several Toy Hauler-style motorhomes that have appeared on the market.

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