There are several types of recreational vehicles available that are suitable for traveling families. Class A motorhomes, Fifth wheels, Toy Haulers, Travel trailers, bus conversions,and even conversion vans can all be adapted for fulltime use.
But how do you pick the right one for your family? It’s all a matter of of your needs, family size and travel plans. In other words, there is no ‘one‘ right choice.
If your family is considering buying an RV, than this is a good point of reference. Many families looking to hit the road, have never owned an RV, and want to make the best decision about accommodating their family while traveling. Use these resources to make an informed decision and learn from families who have hit the road.
We’ll discuss the pros and cons of each here and provide some resources to help your family decide which option is best. Scroll down for a description of RV types with sample photos to help you get an idea of what is available.
Here are links to manufacturer’s websites as well as dealership when thinking about Buying an RV. Also find local places that sell what you are interested in to ‘kick the tires’ in person. Check online sites like RVTrader for ideas and bargains. Many families have found their dream home on wheels there.
You may also consider renting an RV to determine if this lifestyle is right for you and your family.
Types of Recreational Vehicles
A Class A motorhome is a recreational vehicle built on a heavy-duty chassis or stripped truck chassis, where the driving compartment is integrated with the interior of the vehicle. Class A motorhomes often look like busses.
The Class A is a popular choice among full-time RVers seeking ample space to accommodate the family and/or pets, and adequate towing capacity to haul their vehicle(s). Class A motorhomes come equiped with either a Gas/Deisel engine and range in length from 28 feet to a little over 45 feet.
Fifth wheels may be a good option for those who don’t want a motorhome–which might tempt you to get up and walk about or lie down while in motion. Easily identified by a raised extension that sits over and locks into the bed of a truck, fifth wheels have a split-level floor plan and offer a home-like atmosphere.
What is a 5th wheel? Like travel trailers, fifth wheels are towed behind, but because a fifth wheel locks into the bed of a pickup and puts more weight over the rear axle, it is considerably more stable. The 5th wheel camper’s extension over the truck bed usually houses a bedroom accessed via a small set of stairs inside. Available in a variety of sizes and with as many as four slideouts, a fifth wheel can offer all the accommodations of a motorhome with a separate, detachable tow vehicle for exploring.
A dozen versatile travel trailers and fifth-wheels with convertible back rooms for transporting gear, running a business, pursuing a hobby or just stretching out.So, what is a toy hauler, anyway? A toy hauler is an RV with a large hinged door that typically opens in the rear for access to a designated garagelike space, offering a ramp for loading and unloading gear. Apart from that unifying feature, toy haulers come in a wide variety of sizes and layouts with plenty of options in both travel-trailer and fifth-wheel models. The dozen 2019 floorplans on the following pages demonstrate that variety, showcasing everything from an ultralight 24-foot one-room trailer to a pair of 44-foot triple-axle fifth-wheels with three slideouts.
“A bus, if well maintained essentially has no upper-limit on miles. Eagles have a rusting frame problem that has to be watched carefully, but most other units (Prevost and MCI being very good choices) have “maintenance free” bodies. Just keep the running gear and engines in good shape. The best part of highway coach chassis is that they don’t lose any more value after a certain point. Oh, and the killer basement storage! The truckers give you a lot more respect too. It’s kinda of a fraternity.”
Bus Conversions.com has a very developed bulletin board system. It has been invaluable for answers from building the interior of the bus to maintaining it, to problems on the road.
Travel trailers can be towed behind trucks. Convenient for long-term travel as well as short trips, a travel trailer is easy to tow with a minivan, SUV or truck.
Predecessor to the motorhome, the travel trailer offers an array of floor plans, sizes and amenities, and is considered by some to be the first step to a class-level RV. In fact, the travel trailer camper—with optional slideouts—can accommodate as many people and offer the same luxuries as a motorhome. In addition, since it doesn’t encompass a wearing drivetrain, a travel trailer can actually retain more of its value.
Trailers with a ramp on the end are “Toy Haulers”. The “garage” area can be used to haul a small vehicle or converted into living area.
Class C and Class B
The Class B is often referred to as a conversion van, while the Class C is distinguished by the sleeping bunk directly over the vehicle’s cab.
Class B motorhomes look much like a regular van, but by using many clever designs, they are able to offer a home on wheels for two or even four people. For example, oftentimes the roof on a Class B is raised and the floor is dropped providing additional headroom. In some cases, the dining room table in a Class B motorhome converts to the main bed. These are just some of the innovations manufacturers use on the Class B RV to provide all the luxuries of home in a smaller package.
Often built on a truck chassis, a Class C RV has many of the same creature comforts of a Class A, but in a smaller package. This makes Class C motorhomes more maneuverable and easier to park. The extension over the vehicle’s cab is often a sleeping bunk and one of the main features that stand out on a Class C motorhome. Nowadays, this over-cab bunk is becoming more of an option, allowing you to choose between an above-cab entertainment system or extra sleeping space.
“Our family of three toured in a conversion van for 7 years, until our son outgrew it. We camped in a tent (actually two tents) when time and weather would allow it. Sometimes we stayed in motels. But much of the time, we slept in the van, which was a challenge — there was a bed in the back for the parents, but our son had to sleep in a makeshift bed on the floor, initially with his head under our bed. When he got too big for that, we rigged up a bed crosswise, across two passenger seats with a crate placed between them. The whole experience was an invaluable course in making maximum use of limited space. But we didn’t think of the vehicle itself as our home; our “living room” was bookstores (Borders, Barnes & Noble) and our office was Kinko’s, Panera, etc. Our backyard was all the National Parks, and our playground was America itself.”
~Dennis ( Families on the Road since 1992)
A pop-up camper’s fold-up, lightweight design makes it easy for most trucks, SUVs and even cars, to tow for providing the perfect RV for first-time users eager to explore.
Small, compact and lightweight, the pop-up camper usually features canvas sides that expand up to reveal comfortable sleeping, cooking and lounging areas, and some even include showers and toilets. When closed, its low height—normally measuring just four feet—provides a clear line of sight out the rear of the tow vehicle, and its length is conducive to garages and other areas you would normally park a car. The pop-up camper’s low weight allows it to be towed by most trucks, SUVs and even cars, and it easily detaches to make the tow vehicle free for exploring.
Ideal for adventurous types, a truck camper is an RV that can go anywhere a truck can go.
A truck camper sits in the back of a pickup truck, and because it doesn’t make use of the hitch, the truck can still tow additional equipment or trailers. Although not often utilized, jacks or hydraulic lifts can raise the camper off the truck for further exploring. Long gone are the cramped campers for trucks; today’s campers provide cooking capabilities, dining areas and comfortable sleeping quarters. Many find the truck with camper option makes roughing it significantly less rough.