When it comes to types of motorhomes (or recreational vehicles, RVs), they generally fall into 1 of 3 different classes – Class A Motorhome, Class B Motorhome, or Class C Motorhome. And the differences among the three classes are not necessarily intuitive – the different classes don’t necessarily correspond to different sizes. There’s a bit more to it than that.
In this article, we’ll take a look at what differentiates one motorhome from the other, what the different class motorhome rankings mean, and the pros and cons of each of the 3 classes.
Class A Motorhomes
What makes a motorhome class A is a chassis it’s built on, the vehicle’s heavy-duty frame, and the amount of storage space and living space it offers. These differences give class A motorhomes a different function than RVs of different classes. They are better suited for road living or extended excursions.
While functionality is an important factor, the differences in class motorhomes have largely to do with size – pun intended. Class A motorhomes are the biggest – and typically the most expensive RVs on the market; though the price has a lot to do with the features and amenities more so than with size.
A class A motorhome is typically built on a commercial truck chassis or a bus chassis. The vehicles will range from 10 to 14 metres long, and the type of licence needed to operate one of these vehicles depends on its MAM – Maximum Authorised Mass: its weight plus the maximum load the vehicle can carry. You can read about the specific licence requirements for class A motorhomes registered in England here.
The extra space of a class A motorhome generally means more luxury and better amenities – larger shower, additional beds, larger toilet space, as well as additional storage space useful on long trips.
Most A-class motorhomes come with swivel cab seats. This means the cab can be incorporated into the living space easily when not driving. The cab also frequently features a drop-down ready-made bed in addition to other ways the cab can be integrated into the rear space of the motorhome.
Pros of Class A Motorhomes
- Larger living area
- Larger sleeping compartment
- Modern features like smart appliances
Cons of Class A Motorhomes
- Higher purchase price
- Reduced access to narrow or winding roads
- Reduced access to campsites with restrive parking measures
- Higher cost of insurance
Class A motorhomes are better suited for people who plan on taking long trips or who plan to live out of their RV for extended periods of time. They are generally not the preferred option for the weekend warrior or the occasional traveler.
Class B Motorhomes
A class B motorhome is sometimes referred to as a campervan, travel camper, or camping car. This class of vehicle is smaller, less imposing than a class A motorhome – better suited for the occasional traveler. A class B motorhome is typically built on a smaller chassis than its class A counterpart – a standard full-sized van chassis as opposed to a truck or bus chassis.
These types of RVs generally come in 2-berth varieties. This means it can sleep 2 comfortably. They are designed with enough room for people to stand, and they come either a separate sleeping compartment or a fold-out bed. More often than not, these vehicles are easier to maneuver and to find a parking space for, thanks to their smaller size. They are ideal for a weekend getaway or a day trip.
The facilities in a class B motorhome are generally stripped down to the necessities – toilet, shower, bed – as there is not enough space for luxury features like a washing machine or an expansive kitchen. However, it is possible to find a class B motorhome with most, if not all, of the same features as a class A motorhome. But with less space to use, the living area and sleeping compartment are likely to feel cramped, especially on a long trip. In class B motorhomes, there is also significantly less cargo room to carry supplies.
Pros of Class B Motorhomes
- Easy to drive
- Unlikely for access to narrow roads or smaller camping sites to be restricted
- Better fuel efficiency than class A vehicles
- Lower insurance cost than vehicles from the other classes
- Slower depreciation than vehicles from the other classes
Cons of Class B Motorhomes
- Difficult to accommodate more than 2 people
- Not suitable for road living or a long trip
- Limited interior space and cargo room
Class C Motorhomes
While going from class A to class B represents a reduction in size and space (and often in the comfort and luxuries available), going from a class B to a class C motorhome does not imply a smaller vehicle. In fact, a class C motorhome is typically larger than a class B campervan and will range between 6 – 10 metres. It will typically feature storage space or a sleeping area above the cab.
Class C motorhomes will often offer the same luxuries as class A models. However, much like campervans, a class C motorhome is built on a standard commercial van chassis – though it is possible to find some models that are built on a truck chassis, too.
A class C motorhome resembles more closely a class A vehicle in its amenities and interior room than a class B vehicle. It is also closer to a class A in its maneuverability, though without the restrictions that a class A vehicle might come across in some camping sites.
They serve more or less the same function as class A motorhomes – long excursions, extended road living – though with a little less room and fewer luxury options. While class B recreational vehicles serve a different function – the weekend getaway – you can think of class C as ‘class A lite’.
Pros of Class C Motorhomes
- The same amenities as a class A vehicle though at a lower price
- Can comfortably accommodate 3 – 5 people (great for a family with children)
- Lower purchase price than class A models
Cons of Class C Motorhomes
- Driving can be a challenge for some drivers
- Lower fuel efficiency
Other Types of Recreational Vehicles
In addition to the 3 motorhome classes, there are other options in RVs worth considering.
Travel Trailers – or Towable RVs
Often a less expensive and more versatile option than a single fully-contained motorhome is the travel trailer – also known as a towable RV. Built on top of a standard trailer frame, these large trailers can be filled with all the conveniences of a modern home – even with luxuries, too. They come equipped with their own water supply to facilitate the use of the kitchen and bathroom.
These units come in a range of sizes with some having foldable or collapsable compartments – known as folding camping trailers.
A travel trailer is hauled thanks to a standard ball hitch receiver and can be pulled with any truck, van, or SUV capable of handling the weight. Your car might even be capable of towing a trailer. That depends on the gross vehicle weight rating of the car. Yet while this does provide users of travel trailers with flexibility – they can set up the trailer at the camping grounds then head out in the truck to run errands in town, for example – travel trailers can be tricky to maneuver, especially when there is considerable weight in the rear, as would be the case with a large bed, for example.
Depending on the weight of the trailer, you can pull any trailer with a simple category B driving licence. The trailer cannot weigh over 750 kgs, or if it does, the combined weight of the trailer and the pulling vehicle cannot exceed 3.5 ton
Pros of Towable RVs
- Less expensive than a fully contained motorhome
- Can be pulled by a variety of trucks and cabs
- Towing vehicle can be used for excursions while leaving the trailer at the camping site
Cons of Towable RVs
- Tail swing and reduced visibility make driving difficult
- Driving in reverse is basically not an option
- A relatively low resale value
As the name suggests, coachbuilt models are constructed from the inside out. This means that the separate components of the body – the kitchen, toilet, storage space, bed, etc. – are built onto the chassis and then the walls and roof are built around them. So, the premium of a coachbuilt vehicle is on the design of the interior and on the proper use of the space, more so than on drivability.
Coachbuilt motorhomes share the same chassis as A-class motorhomes with, depending on the models, the same space and perks. But they do have the characteristic of having cab doors, which is not always available in an A-class motorhome which requires the driver to enter through the trailer.
While coachbuilt models are currently the most popular recreational vehicles and more and more manufacturers are pushing these kinds of models, many enthusiasts still swear by A-class motorhomes. Check out this page for a short comparative article between coachbuilt and A-class.
While there are many who would object to the inclusion of van conversions, or a panel van conversion, in the category of a motorhome, a van conversion can provide all the facilities needed to create a motorhome experience and allow users to go on extended road trips or live comfortably on the road. For this reason, we thought van conversions were worth including.
Many DIY enthusiasts will buy a commercial van and transform it into a motorhome. Despite the considerable amount of work and know-how it takes, there can be a tremendous feeling of achievement in building your own home – especially when it’s a home you can take on the road. For motorhome enthusiasts without the DIY itch, there are quite a few good deals on van conversions available.
Low Profile Motorhomes
In recent years, designers and manufacturers of campervans have sought to make them more fuel-efficient. One significant change to the campervan that has resulted from this effort the low-profile campervans, or low-profile coachbuilt motorhomes. By removing the overcab beds and limiting the height to 3.05 m, a low-profile campervan has a sleeker, more wind-resistant body. By putting the beds in the body of the camper – and not in the overcab – low-profile camper vans do lose a bit of storage space but compensate with a sleek look and better fuel efficiency.
For extended trips, taking the family out to discover the diversity of the country, or heading off to a new and distant land to live for a few months, there is no better way to go than with a motorhome.
With a good motorhome, you can experience life on the road while holding onto the comforts of home. Yet, it’s not enough to decide you’re ready to benefit from all the advantages of a motorhome. That’s a good first step. But then you are confronted with all the various options – manufacturers, models, the difference between campers and camper vans, the difference between camper vans and conversion vans, etc.
If you see yourself more as a weekend warrior who will likely only take your motorhome for a spin 3 or 4 times a year, our advice would be to narrow your search down to class B or camper vans. If you dream of long road trips or living on the road for extended periods of time, you should consider coachbuilt, class A, and class C – weighing the costs against the benefits – or if the costs associated with those types of campers are too prohibitive, consider a travel trailer.