Looking to buy or rent a Class A, B or C motorhome but feeling a little confused by all the jargon? We understand.
Purchasing an RV is a major decision so it’s important that you know what you’re getting into before you buy. On the flip side, if you’re interested in renting a motorhome for a vacation, it’s essential that you get a model that’s right for your needs.
In fact, one of the biggest questions potential motorhome buyers and renters have has to do with the classification system for RVs. What exactly is the difference between a class A, B, and C motorhome, you might ask?
The difference between class A, B, and C motorhomes boils down to the chassis that’s used to create each vehicle. Class A motorhomes are built on a bus or large commercial truck chassis while class B models are essentially retro-fitted vans. Finally, class C motorhomes are built on a smaller truck or cutaway van chassis.
As you can see, the class of RV that you choose will have a big impact on your future adventures. So, to help you determine which motorhome class is best for your needs, here’s your ultimate guide to class A, B, and C RVs.
Class A Motorhomes
- Typical Length: 21-45 feet (6.4-13.7m)
- Typical Weight: 13,000-30,000 lbs (5,900-13,600kg)
- Chassis Type: Commercial truck or bus
- Sleeping Capacity: 2 to 8 people
- License Requirements?: Sometimes (see below)
- Best Use: Family trips and longer road trips where comfort is key
Commonly referred to as “the big guys,” class A motorhomes are as big as they get. These RVs are built on an extra-tough commercial bus or commercial truck chassis, such as what you’d find on an 18 wheeler.
They’re designed primarily with comfort in mind, allowing you to maximize your interior living space while you’re on the road. Depending on the specific layout of your class A RV, you can expect to sleep between 2 to 8 people without feeling overwhelmingly crowded.
What really sets a class A motorhome apart, however, is the amenities. Most class A RVs, like the Thor Motor Coach Axis RUV, feature everything you need for life on the road. Standard amenities include:
- Full kitchen
- Dinette/dedicated eating space
- Full bathroom
- Multiple sleeping spaces
- Plenty of storage space
- Entertainment (e.g., TVs, speaker systems)
- LED lighting throughout
Basically, a class A motorcoach is a full-on house on wheels, which makes it perfect for family trips or longer road-based adventures. They also usually have a towing capacity at or around 5,000 lbs (2,270kg), so they’re a solid choice if you also need to tow a vehicle on your travels.
The downside? Class A RVs have the lowest gas mileage, usually about 8 to 10 mpg (29 to 23 L/100km).
Also, depending on the size of RV you’re looking to buy or rent, you might need a special license to drive it. Laws vary from state to state, though most states require a commercial driver’s license (CDL) for any vehicle over 26,000 lbs (11,800kg). alternatively, many other states require a special license for vehicles over a certain weight, length, or total passenger capacity.
Our advice? Check the laws in whatever state you live in by contacting your local DMV. If you don’t want to deal with the hassle of reading through DMV regulations, consider a class B or class C RV, instead.
Class B Motorhomes
- Typical Length: 17-24 feet (5.2-7.3m)
- Typical Weight: 6,000-8,000 lbs (2,720-3,630kg)
- Chassis Type: Van
- Sleeping Capacity: 1 to 2 people
- License Requirements?: Generally not
- Best Use: Vanlife, short road trips
If you’re like us and you think, “oh, that’s simple, a class B motorhome should be smaller than a class A motorhome, and a class C motorhome should be the smallest of the bunch,” think again.
Don’t ask us why, but a class B motorhome, which is essentially a full-sized van that’s outfitted for road trips, is the smallest of them all. These vehicles are built on a van chassis and they generally retain much of the standard van shape on the exterior. The difference is that the interior of a class B RV is customized as a living space.
The primary advantage of a class B RV or a camper van is that they are the easiest to drive, maneuver, and park. Since they often look like regular vans on the outside, class B motorhomes allow for stealth camping and they also just make it easier for you to blend into your surroundings.
Additionally, class B RVs tend to be the most environmentally-friendly with an average gas mileage of 18 to 25 mpg (13 to 9.4 L/100km). Keeping on this trend of cost-effectiveness, class B models tend to be the most affordable as you can either purchase/rent a purpose-built model, or you can purchase a used van and do the conversion on your own.
As you can imagine, the shorter size of a class B RV often means a decrease in amenities, especially when compared to a larger vehicle like a class A motorhome. Therefore, these vehicles are generally best for dedicated vanlifers or for 1 to 2 people who are looking to get out on a short road trip.
Also read: Winnebago Revel Review: 6 Owners Tell All
Amenities vary substantially from model to model, though some campervans, like the Winnebago Revel come with the following amenities:
- Dinette/seating area
- Bed (might be a convertible dinette)
- Gear storage
- LED lighting throughout
That being said, some amenities, such as an interior bathroom system, swivel seats, tables, and other items you’d find in a larger motorhome aren’t always possible in a class B model as space is highly limited. But, you’d be surprised at what’s possible inside a class B RV when designers start to get creative.
Class C Motorhomes
- Typical Length: 20-35 feet (6.1-10.6m)
- Typical Weight: 10,000-12,000 lbs (4,535-5,450kg)
- Chassis Type: Truck or Cutaway Van
- Sleeping Capacity: 2 to 8
- License Requirements?: Generally not
- Best Use: Family camping trips, extended road trips
Finally, we have the class C RV, which, as we’ve mentioned, is smaller than a class A motorhome but larger than a class B. Class C motorhomes are what many people think of when they picture an RV as it has the traditional RV shape with overhanging sleeping quarters above the main cabin of the vehicle.
These motorhomes are built on the chassis of a small truck or on a cutaway van chassis, so they’re generally much easier to drive than their larger class A counterparts and they have better gas mileage. In fact, most states in the US have no special license requirements for driving class C RVs, though it’s important to check your state’s laws before buying or renting a new motorhome.
Like class A RVs, class C models come chock full of amenities. While they may not necessarily be as luxurious as a class A model, class C RVs, such as the Jayco Redhawk, come with everything you and your family needs to live life on the road, such as:
- Full kitchenette
- Dinette and seating areas
- Multiple sleeping areas
- LED lighting throughout
- Entertainment system
- Storage space
- Bathroom (usually full bath)
As you can see, there are a lot of similarities between the amenities of a class A and a class C RV. That being said, depending on the size of your class C motorhome, you may find that you have a wet bathroom instead of a dry bath or that you don’t have space for a shower.
The primary disadvantage to a class C RV is that it just doesn’t have as much space as a class A motorhome. This might not be a problem for you, though, depending on your specific travel needs.
Although we’ve spent much of our time thus far comparing a class C RV to a class A model, it’s also worth pointing out some of the differences between a smaller class C and a class B. Indeed, if you’re a solo traveler or you’re looking to adventure with just one other person, you may find yourself deciding between a campervan and a small class C RV.
In these situations, the decision generally comes down to priorities. If you’re okay with decreased gas mileage and a slightly larger vehicle that’s more difficult to drive in exchange for added comfort, a class C is a sure bet. Otherwise, if you’d rather prioritize ease of driving and your ability to blend in among other vehicles, a class B campervan is likely your best option.
Here are our answers to some of your most common questions about motorhomes and RVs:
What type of RV is the easiest to drive?
A class B RV is the easiest type of RV to drive. Class B motorhomes, which can also be called campervans, are built within the body of a traditional full-sized van, so they’re not much more difficult to drive than your standard passenger van.
Of course, these class B RVs are slightly more difficult to drive than a sedan or crossover, but they’re certainly easier to maneuver than their much longer and heavier class A and class C counterparts.
Do you need a specific license to drive an RV?
In most places in the US, you do not need a specific license to drive an RV. However, driver’s license laws vary substantially from state to state so it’s critical that you check in with your local DMV before you buy or rent an RV.
The main exception to this, however, is when you start to break into the world of larger class A motorhomes. These RVs can be very long and very heavy, so you may find that you need a special license to be able to drive them legally in certain states.
As a general rule, you should expect to need a commercial driver’s license (CDL) or a special license if you’re driving a vehicle that’s over 26,000 lbs (11,800kg) or if the vehicle you’re driving is particularly long, over 35 feet (10.7m).
Alternatively, some states require a special license if your vehicle can transport a certain number of passengers (usually 15+) or if your vehicle weighs a certain amount and you’re planning to tow something behind it.
Therefore, it’s difficult to say “yes” or “no” to this question, especially since the rules change all the time. If you want to avoid the special licensure issue altogether, a small class C or a class B RV is usually the wisest choice.
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David is an accomplished mountain endurance athlete who has completed over 25 ultra marathon races (follow on Strava). He is most proud of his finish at The Drift 100 – a high elevation, 100 mile winter foot race that zigzags along the Continental Divide in Wyoming. In the future he hopes to compete in the ITI 350 and ultimately the full 1,000 mile Iditarod Trail Invitational that follows the same path as the historic dog sled race.