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This page I wrote for my old rv website RVforSaleGuide.com before developing the Vanabode as the best travel vehicle for cheap easy long term road trips. People still like big rv's despite the much greater cost and trouble to operate, so here's what I know about them.
Recreational Vehicles Discussed By Type
When shopping for the right recreational vehicle, one should be aware of some of the advantages and disadvantages of the different types available. Here you will find overviews of the most common types of RV. Click a picture or link to jump directly to that information if you don't want to read through all classifications.
Class A Recreational Vehicles
Class A ADVANTAGES include: the popularity of this most prestigious
factory built choice, means a ready market when selling and many used
units to choose from when buying. Newer class A's are very safe vehicles
for the occupants,
Because they are factory built as one complete unit, your family can move about while someone is driving, use the bathroom, make lunch, watch TV, read, sleep, etc. For those with children this feature alone is worth the investment. It makes trips so much easier and more fun. This also makes it easier to "boondock" or "drycamp" without paying for campground hookups, because you can simply pull into a parking lot virtually anywhere and just go to sleep WITHOUT having to get out of your vehicle and make a scene. It is also nice to know if someone is breaking in that you can simply walk to the front and drive away without exposing yourself to whomever is outside.
Class A DISADVANTAGES include: most expensive per lineal foot of the factory built choices. Many new ones get less than 7 mpg, and 10+ year old units may not even get 5 mpg. Unless equipped with a tow vehicle they must be "broken down" in order to go anywhere (as opposed to a trailer type that you simply unhook and then drive the tow vehicle into town). When they are equipped with a tow vehicle they get harder to drive, more difficult to steer and stop, fuel mileage gets even worse, and many find them impossible to back up.
When major repairs are needed you may find you have nowhere to go since the mechanics are working on your "home" and "transportation" at the same time. Some people find them intimidating to drive with their massive size and front window visibility.
Class B Recreational Vehicles
Class B Camper Van ADVANTAGES include: They retains the versatility of a family van or SUV while providing self-contained motor home attributes like the much bigger vehicles. Class B's are the easiest to drive, park and can fit in smaller off-road spots that are too hard or impossible to get to with larger vehicles. Class B's offer great gas mileage, they are fast on the road, and easy to find parts and mechanics for. Some people live in a van comfortably for long periods of time.
Class B Camper Van DISADVANTAGES include: Often they are the most expensive per square foot except for possibly the most luxurious Bus Conversions. Tiny interior accommodations are best for one person or two maximum if used for more than a weekend. Some replacement appliances are difficult to get cheap because they are special sized or fitted for the small interior. Most often you will pay the same to stay in a campground as someone with a 40 foot coach.
Class C Recreational Vehicles
Class C ADVANTAGES include: Class C's can offer most of the same conveniences and even living spaces as larger Class A's at less cost. Class C's usually have better sleeping for families with the overhead sleeper outfitted as a queen bed rather than entertainment center.
Class C's are easier to get parts and repair work done because many of the parts are common to the van or truck "frame and foundation" they are built on. Class C's are the best choice for long camping trips for larger families. Class C's offer an easier transition to the person coming from driving a car. For this reason they are the main choice for rental fleets and thus can often be purchased quite cheaply used.
Class C DISADVANTAGES include: Compared to Class A's they tend to depreciate faster, have much smaller storage compartments, and always look more like a "camper" than a coach. Class C's do not make as good a liveaboard choice as the Class A's but sometimes cost nearly as much. Front windows facing forward and mounted on the overhead area typically leak.
Travel Trailer Recreational Vehicles
Travel Trailer ADVANTAGES include: Some people prefer the single level floor plan. They have a much lower profile than fifth wheel trailers. If you are using a truck to tow with they do not limit the use of the bed. You can tow these smaller trailers with a car or van.
Trailers cost much less per square foot than motorized RV's. This is especially important for those who already own a truck or van and could use that to tow with. You can leave trailers at an out of town dealership for repairs if needed while you are on vacation and use your towing vehicle to go elsewhere.
Travel Trailer DISADVANTAGES include: Larger trailers have quite a bit of sway and handling becomes a problem. These are the most difficult to steer, drive, and brake of all the RV types. They can be more difficult to hitch than fifth wheels as well. Trailers of any type will never have the prestigious look and feel of a Class A.
Fifth Wheel Recreational Vehicles
Fifth Wheel ADVANTAGES include: Fifth wheels cost much less per square foot than motorized RV's. This is especially valuable to those who already own a "work" truck and could use that to pull with. You can leave them at an out of town dealership for repairs if needed while you are on vacation and use your towing vehicle to go elsewhere.
The fifth wheel's raised neck section, called a gooseneck, connects over the bed of the tow vehicle to the fifth-wheel hitch. This overlap reduces the overall length of the two vehicles. The trailer tongue weight over the rear axle of the truck contributes to improved traction and handling compared to pulling a traditional trailer.
Some people like the split level floor plan cause by the hitching setup. The newer fifth wheels with multiple slide outs are quite impressive and have a lot to offer those who stay put 4-6 months at at time in one spot.
Fifth Wheel DISADVANTAGES include: - They have a higher profile
than conventional trailers so they tend to get blown around a bit on the
highways and in strong storms. The fifth wheel hitch limits the use of
the truck bed for most people.
Bus to RV Conversions
Bus to RV Conversions ADVANTAGES include: body, chassis, engine, and transmission are designed and built to last a lifetime. Many call the MCI's, Prevosts, and Eagles "million mile coaches" and they are. Hollywood movie stars, rock stars, politicians, and wealthy travelers call these coaches home for much of the year so they offer the most prestigious of choices.
Without a doubt the best choice from an investment perspective. Many argue that a properly built and maintained bus conversion coach does not depreciate much if any after its 10th year. This is due to the prices for new ones being so extravagantly high. Buy a 10 year old conversion, use it for 5 years, and probably sell it for what you paid for it.
Bus conversions are nearly indestructible, exterior maintenance is minuscule due to solid stainless steel, aluminum or fiberglass skins. Conversions are solid, the safest of ALL vehicles on the highway for the occupants, quiet, offer a smooth comfortable ride due to air ride or torsimatic suspension, do not get blown around in bad weather, and are the best cold-weather vehicles to live in (due to the occupants distance from the ground with storage bays and additional insulation underneath).
Parts for the major brands are available for even 30 to 40 year old buses from licensed dealers. More obscure brands, those made in foreign countries and imported, and models only produced one year, present problems however.
Bus to RV Conversions DISADVANTAGES include: most expensive option for full time liveaboard comfort. It is easy to underestimate the total costs for enjoying this finest of motor home options. See Conversion Bus Issues for other details. Huge, heavy, scary for some to drive, steer and backup. Parts & service can usually only be obtained from big bus & truck repair shops which may be difficult to locate. Parts for less known brands may be impossible to find at any price.
Vanabode ADVANTAGES include: the most popular low cost do it yourself model of inexpensive long term (even forever) travel ever devised. The Vanabode is the least expensive intially, the least expensive long term, the easiest to get your money out of when you sell, and the only method available that allows for FREE IN YOUR FACE stealth camping in big cities and places like museums and art galleries (see East Coast Trip on $20 a day for hundreds of examples of what you can do with a Vanabode).
Vanabode DISADVANTAGES include: Smallest interior dimensions of vehicles typically considered appropriate for long term travel (this of course allows for parking in normal parking spots where RV's are not allowed even if they could fit, so in some ways even this is not a disadvantage).