In the winter of 2017, we attended a colossal RV show for the first time. We knew nothing about RVing except that we were heading out for a three-month trip later that spring. We proceeded to examine nearly every type of RV there is, from super-efficient tear-drop trailers to massive Class A rigs that more than doubled the cost of our house.
Each had its benefits, and there were plenty of options for every budget and family size.
We ultimately settled on a Class C motorhome because we felt the most comfortable behind the wheel. It felt like driving a large pick-up truck and we felt we could get the hang of it. (Which we did.) There were plenty of sizes and interior layout options to pick from, and numerous brands offered models within our price range.
Class C RVs come in a wide range of lengths, but if you’re looking to save a little space, and perhaps have more comfortable driving, or fit the camper into those smaller campsites and narrow park roads, here are some of the best Class C RVs under 25 feet (for any budget!).
The 5 best Class-C RVs under 25 feet:
1. Winnebago Outlook 22E or 22C w/ bump-out ($92k MSRP)
- Length: 24’-2”
- Sleeps 6
- Ford E-350 chassis
- Gasoline engine
Winnebago is one of the most trusted brands in the RV world, and this model comes at a family-friendly price point. The 80-inch deep bed is especially nice for us taller folks. I like that the stove has three burners, and it has a two-hole kitchen sink. Very helpful for a family who creates a lot of dishes to clean.
The bathroom with a stand-up shower gives you all the functionality you need to camp independently. With sleeping up to 6, this is a great option for families.
More information: winnebago.com/models/product/outlook
2. Thor Four Winds 22B/22E ($96k MSRP)
- Length: 24’
- Sleeps 4+
- Ford E-350 or Chevy 3500 chassis
- Gasoline engine
Both models start around 24 feet (the Chevy chassis is 24’-6”), and both have great options for couples or families. I do like that the 22E has an 80-inch deep queen bed, which us taller folks find more comfortable, and it doesn’t require a bump-out. But if bed-depth is not a deal-breaker for you, then either model will work.
Also, the cab-over-bunk is a full 96-inches deep, which is generous for this space, and nice if you have adults (or growing teenagers) camping with you. As for price, it’s on the higher end of the range, but that is MSRP and I have seen sale prices much lower than that. And if you’re buying used, your money goes even further.
More information: thormotorcoach.com/fourwinds/floor-plans/22B
3. Forest River Forester 2401S MBS ($97k MSRP)
- Length: 24’-8”
- Sleeps 6
- Mercedes Benz V6 Chassis
- Diesel engine
Forest River is already a well-rated brand in the industry, now add to that a Mercedes Benz Sprinter chassis and you have an excellent RV. I like that the 75-inch queen bed gives you that extra room for stretching-out, especially if you’re pushing 6-feet. The kitchen has a 3-burner stove and the 33-gallon water and wastewater tanks will allow a family to camp without hook-ups for a good amount of time.
The side bump-out gives you (and your family) extra elbow room when you’re spending time inside the RV. This is nice for those long drives or rainy camping days. In this price range, you can also expect high-quality interior finishes and cabinetry. (read: durability!)
More information: forestriverinc.com/rvs/class-c-motorhomes/forester-mbs/2401S/4429
4. Entegra Odyssey 22J ($94k MSRP)
- Length: 24’-8”
- Sleeps 5
- Ford E-450 chassis
- Gasoline engine
A nicer model in the under-25-foot market, the Entegra Odyssey 22J offers some helpful perks for the money. The Ford E-450 is a powerful chassis for this size rig and will serve you well. The 8-cubic-foot fridge can easily serve a family or a couple, and the three-burner stove is a good investment.
5-person sleeping capacity works for families and I like that the bunk over the cab has a skylight in it. This is a nice little feature for smaller ones who might otherwise feel cramped. The queen bed is only 70-inches deep, so if you’re on the taller side you might want to tour a model to see how it feels. However, the bedroom has a bump-out, so you’ll still have plenty of room to stretch out.
More information: entegracoach.com/odyssey/
5. Dynamax Isata 3 24FW w/ bump-out ($100k+)
- Length: 24’-7”
- Sleeps 4-6
- Mercedes Benz Sprinter chassis
- Diesel engine
Great for couples or families. This is your higher-end brand and includes a full-width bump-out (FW) for the bed and dining area. The queen bed is a gel-infused memory foam mattress which is a nice feature. There is also a solar panel upgrade option. The Isata RB model has no bump-out, but it also requires you to drop-down the queen bed in the dining area.
This may still be a good option for you but will require some set-up before grabbing that quick nap. The holding tank is a little smaller than some, so it may limit your boon-docking time depending on how many folks are staying with you. The Mercedes-Benz Sprinter chassis is highly regarded and will provide comfortable driving across the country.
A little higher in price, this may be a good option for that couple who has saved their pennies and looking for comfort as they explore the country together.
More information: dynamaxcorp.com/isata-3
Short Class-C RV Buying Tips
Your home on wheels has a lot of parts to it, so it’s important to carefully assess the vehicle, components, finishes, and systems, both during the sale process and before you head out on a long trip. Ideally, try a shorter trip close to home first to see if anything needs fixing, and if so, speak to the dealer right away.
Check the warranty for your RV, and note that the chassis and RV “house” will have separate warranties, and these will likely vary in length and terms. Depending on how long you plan to keep the RV, you might consider an extended warranty. Even the nicer brands can have quality issues on occasion, so this may be a good investment for longer ownership.
Chassis and engine type:
The chassis is provided by a vehicle manufacturer, separate from the RV house on top. So, be sure to check the specific ratings for the vehicle model and engine. Ford E-series is one of the most common and is proven to be a sturdy truck, and Chevy is also very reliable.
This is a critical piece of equipment, so check the ratings on the generator and, if it’s a used model, see how many hours it’s been used. Onan is a highly-regarded brand, and just make sure it can operate the features your family will need.
Real wood cabinet facing or laminate? Laminate counters vs. solid surface? Each of these is a trade-off in price and durability, and depending on how long you intend to own the RV, this may be a place you want to invest, or try and save a few dollars.
Is the roof a single rubber membrane? How is the roof over the front portion of the RV- is it a single piece or does it have numerous seams that may need tending? Do the gaskets on the slide-outs provide the proper seal? These seals can get out of place over time, so if you’re buying a used rig make sure these seals are in good working order. Also, have a thorough inspection done fo your RV, and touch-up any seals before heading out.
Tip: When shopping, open cabinets, wardrobes, and bunks near the floor and check for dampness.
Gas vs. Diesel: Generally speaking, diesel engines have a little more power, fuel-efficiency, and are known for their longevity. Gas however is less expensive on average, making it attractive for those shorter trips. A diesel engine RV will cost a bit more, so if you’re investing for the long run, it’s an important consideration. But if like us, you plan to use your RV for a while then pass it on, a gas-powered RV might be the way to go. Also, with lower gas prices these days, gas coaches are increasingly popular.
Most have a queen bed, but some have a shorter 74 or 76-inch version rather than the full 80-inches. Be sure to get what works best for you. At nearly 6-feet, I prefer to 80-inch bed for a more comfortable sleep. Also, does the bed require a slide-out to access it? If so, you will have to operate the slide-out even for quick stops to nap. Not a deal-breaker though.
Bump-outs (Slide-outs) or no?
These can be great features- gives you that extra elbow room when you need it, especially in a space-efficient RV. They may add a little to the price, and they can have maintenance issues, but it is pretty nice to have that extra room. Worth it.
Most (if not all) RVs have towing capacity of some kind. A hitch is nice for anything from a bike rack, to an exterior cargo rack, or towing a car to run around in. Just check the rating for your RV and see what options you have. If you don’t need the towing now, you might later on.
Where do I start!?
It’s a lot to take in, especially if you’re a first-time RVer like we were. There are too many brands, models, and options out there, and the prices vary as much as the fridge sizes. The best place to start is an RV show, or at least a large RV dealer where you can see a wide variety of RV types and sizes. Step inside, sit down, lie down, and see what feels right for you. Bring the kids and let them get the vibe as well. (Their buy-in will be key later on!)
Also, consider getting a walk-through of how everything works on your RV before you head out. This can be done at the dealer (for a price), or through a private RVer for a small fee, or a family friend. Definitely worth it as it shortens the learning curve and takes away some of the unknowns.
Just remember: Yes, you can do this!
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Bryce is an architect, freelance writer and avid hiker, and lives with his family in southern Maine. He loves old buildings, mountains, traveling, exploring the outdoors, and getting crushed by his daughters in Monopoly. Get in touch if you want to chat about hiking, backpacking, traveling, architecture, or just say hello!
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