The Pros & Cons of the 3 Motorized RV Types
As a follow-up to our post on identifying and remembering the 5 most common types of RVs, today we’ll be looking at the Pros and Cons of the 3 motorized types of RVs. We will follow up with the Pros and Cons of Travel Trailers vs Fifth Wheels, and then conclude this series with the Pros and Cons of Motorized vs Towable RVs. You should keep in mind that we do generally look at this topic from the perspective of the Full-Time RVer as we travel full-time in our own RV. The information below still applies if you are planning to part-time or even just rent an RV for a single trip; you may just weigh certain considerations differently. If there is anything you would like a little more detail on, ask away in the comments section, and we’ll be happy to answer based on our experience.
We have been full-time RVing since August 2016. We began in a Travel Trailer (a towable), but based on our first year plus of travel made the decision to switch to a Class C (a motorized unit) in November of 2017. Our first trip ever into Yellowstone NP was the catalyst for our switch, but more on that when we discuss the Pros and Cons of Motorized RVs vs. Towable RVs.
It’s Very Common to Switch Rigs
It’s very common for RVers to switch their rigs out. For one thing, it takes actually RVing to figure out what your personal travel style is. We found that switching our rig just a little over a year into RV ownership was not uncommon. Many other full-time RVers we know or follow made switches, some within their first year. Dealerships we frequented while shopping around for our new RV told us it is their experience that RVers (and not just full-time RVers) often make a switch. Even if you hold onto a rig for years, as life changes, your rig needs and preference may change. A couple that traveled with children may find they want a different rig as empty nesters, for instance.
Class A (Type A) Motorhome
The Class A is the granddaddy of all RVs. Out of the motorized units, you will have the most space, and also an epic view out of the front windshield. The larger Class A Motorhomes are basically rolling apartments. You will find plenty of room for pets, kids, full-size kitchens, and multiple sleeping and lounging areas in many of them. If a particular floorplan has opposing slides (not uncommon in Class A RVs), you could pretty much host a dance party in the living area as just one slide typically gives you 2 to 3 feet of extra space.
Both interior and exterior storage space is ample and many have large black, grey, and fresh water tanks (which means you would have to dump less and you would have more water available for showers, dishwashing, etc. if boondocking).
As with any motorized unit, you would also have access to your bathroom and all of your belongings while your rolling down the road. If you are working from the road, the Class A is a great option as you can easily have a desktop computer (should you need one) and other specialized equipment due to the ample storage.
During our search for a new RV, we were looking for travel flexibility above all else, so we were pretty sure we did not want a Class A. We did seriously consider one small Class A: the Winnebago Via.
The full comforts of home come at a price, both literally and figuratively. Class As are usually going to be the most expensive option. Being that they can feel like a rolling apartment, they can cost as much (or more!) as buying an apartment (or even a house). In general, they also have poor fuel economy. You definitely will be compromising on flexibility as well. Class As will not fit in every campground, particularly National Park campgrounds.
When it comes to driving down the road, they will be trickier to drive and maneuver, especially in the city. For the most part, if you have a Class A, you will want to tow a vehicle so that you can use a regular vehicle to get around in, once you are parked at a campground. Of course, towing a vehicle makes your rig length overall longer which means maneuverability suffers and you may not fit in that quaint roadside coffee shop parking lot.
If deeper immersion in nature is a goal, there are certainly nice boondocking areas, particularly in the Southwestern desert of the US, where you will have no issue getting to, but there is a bit of give in this area with a Class A as there will be scenic free camping that will not be accessible to you. You will likely also want to be more of a planner when it comes to travel style. You will need to research where you may fit and you may have to make reservations ahead of time at campgrounds.
Class A Pros & Cons at a Glance
Living Space ★★★★★
Class B (Type B) Motorhome
The Class B RV is the smallest and most nimble of the motorized RVs. If you asked us to compare these to something, we would tell you that it’s like traveling around in a limousine that you can cook and shower in. While Class As have an epic view out the front windshield, a Class B will often have that epic view out of the back when the two rear doors are swung open. In some floorplans you could be sitting in your rear lounge eating breakfast (or working on your computer) with a mountain view and a cool breeze blowing in.
Class B RVs are built on a regular cargo van chassis (like the Mercedes Sprinter, Ford Transit, or Ram ProMaster) so they feel like driving a regular vehicle. This makes them easy to drive and maneuver making them perfect for urban travel and visiting friends and family (how many of your friends and family have circular driveways, high-clearance carports, or an acre of property with room for a boat?). Class Bs fit in any campground and just about any parking lot.
Fuel economy can be pretty decent with your mpg in the mid to high teens in many cases. If your Class B is a 4 x 4, your options for getting out in nature are nearly endless. If you like being outside more than you like being indoors, these are a good option. At the same time, if your travel skews more to the urban side of things, these are a good option as well. You don’t need a tow vehicle with a Class B which is another plus.
At one point we were very seriously considering a Class B. Our top runners were the Winnebago Paseo (loved the huge back table!), the Coachmen CrossFit 22 D, and the Pleasure-Way Lexor.
Space. There is no space in these. In fact, when I was new to RVing, I walked into a Class B and had to walk right back out due to an overwhelming feeling of claustrophobia. If you’re looking to travel to snowy or rainy areas for some reason, these are not really the most comfortable RV to enjoy “window weather” in or find yourself otherwise cooped up in.
Many class B floorplans do not have a dinette and if you have a travel partner, you would be eating side by side in some models. You also won’t find any slides to expand your floorspace. Your pets probably wouldn’t cast their votes behind a Class B either; unless of course you plan to be outside all the time or take them with you everywhere. Two people will have to take turns walking down the aisle inside. In our experience pets don’t grasp this concept very well.
When it comes to the bathroom, although we would no longer personally think of this as a negative, many Class B’s have what is called a “wet bath”. A “wet bath” means you do not have a separate shower area. Your toilet, sink, and shower area are all one. If you work from the road, you will want to make sure that you can work outside or from coffee shops and/or co-working spaces from time to time.
Class B Pros & Cons at a Glance
Living Space ★
Class C (Type C) Motorhome
The class C motorhome is the best of both worlds. It is small enough to afford a flexible travel style and offer excellent maneuverability on the road, but large enough to offer some of the comforts of a Class A. Like Class B motorhomes, Class C RVs are built on regular van chassis (Mercedes Sprinter, Ford Transit, Ram ProMaster, and a few others) and so driving one also feels like driving a regular van.
Class Cs will have a full bathroom and dedicated shower. Many Class Cs will have a slide which will expand your floorspace by 2-3 feet. While Class Bs typically sleep two, most Class Cs will sleep 3 or more (our class C reasonably sleeps 3 adults).
Having a tow vehicle is optional. Whereas you wouldn’t really drive through town or out to sightsee in your Class A, you could, if you wanted to, in many Class Cs. For the most part, Class C RVs are small enough to fit in most regular parking lots that have spaces that are in front of one another. When the parking is head-in parking, if the ground is level, you can usually back-in and take just one spot as the back of your RV will just “hang over” the grass or curb.
Fuel economy is much closer to that of a Class B which is much improved over that of most Class As. (We get 15 mpg in our Class C Winnebago Trend). You may run across the term Class B+ when looking at Class Cs. The term Class B+ by most accounts is more of a marketing term, and you can group any Class B+ RVs on your list with the Cs during your search. The Class Cs that made it onto our shortlist were the Winnebago Fuse 23A, the Winnebago Trend 23D (which we went with), and the Leisure Travel Van Wonder (Murphy Bed floorplan).
Class Cs are known to have very limited exterior storage though that is beginning to change in some models (some Forest River Sunseeker models have exterior pass-through storage). Some class C models have limited towing capacity which would eliminate your option to have a tow vehicle. Though these are a great middle ground, you won’t find the vast interior space of a Class A motorhome. Your bathroom will be tighter than a Class A motorhome bathroom. Interior storage will also be limited and you may want to consider some exterior storage solutions if you have outdoor gear you wish to carry with you.
Class C Pros & Cons at a Glance
Living Space ★★★
Be sure to check back as we continue this three-part series with the pros & cons of Towables (Travel Trailer vs. Fifth Wheel) and the Pros & Cons of Motorized RVs vs. Towables. Let us know what type of RV you're considering in the comments below!