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What Are The Different RV Classes?

Rating: 5 · Review by Autotrader
What Are The Different RV Classes?

Author: Chris O’Neill

Table of Contents

Different RV Classes

There's a lot to learn when considering RV ownership. As a rule of thumb, RVs can be put into two primary categories - motorhomes and towable trailers. Motorhomes are RVs built upon a drivable chassis while towable trailers need a large vehicle, usually a truck or SUV, to tow them.

There are aspects that different buyers find appealing. A motorhome allows your passengers to move throughout the entire cabin and driver’s area without stopping. Some find a motorhome a bit cumbersome when you reach your destination given its size; this is why many RV owners pull a small vehicle behind their motorhome allowing errands and short trips to be carried out in a nimble car. Since towable trailers are hitched behind your tow vehicle, they don’t allow a driver and a passenger to easily switch until you pull over and stop.

Bottom line - all RVs have their benefits and their drawbacks. To help you get started finding the right RV, we have outlined the five major classes of recreation vehicles below, their fuel economy, pros and cons of each, and how much they cost.

Class A RV

Class A motor homes are the big ones. These are typically large, bus-like vehicles with vertical or gently sloping front windshields. Despite being the largest recreational vehicle class available, you still don't need a commercial driver's license, in most cases, to drive a Class A RV. This usually comes down to weight though, and the laws differ by state, so you should check with your state's DMV to be sure.

Class A RVs are all about luxury and space, as these are the biggest, most expensive RVs you can get. Most Class A RVs can range from 20 to 45 feet in length, typically sleep six to ten people, and often have pop-out sections that expand their floor plans, even more, when parked. The Class A RV's greatest strength is also its greatest weakness, as its size makes it impossible to maneuver in tight spaces. As a result, Class A RV owners are greatly limited in where they can go with their RVs, so most tow a vehicle behind their RV.

Class A RVs Gas Mileage, Tank Size, and Fuel Economy

Don’t kid yourself, you will spend a lot of money on gas when you drive a Class A RV. Your typical gas-powered Class A motorhome averages around 6 – 12 miles per gallon. A smaller Class A RV might average around 13 mpg. Diesel-powered Class A motorhomes are only slightly more fuel efficient, and some owners have reported between 9 and 13 mpg. Road conditions, wind, and your RV’s size and weight can all influence your actual gas mileage.

The typical fuel tank in a Class A RV will hold between 100 to 150 gallons and at 10 mpg, you should be able to drive approximately 1,000 to 1,500 miles on one tank. Using an average gas price of $4.00 per gallon, you should expect to pay between $400 and $600 to fill up your Class A’s gas tank. As to be expected, with rising gasoline prices the demand for some of the larger Class A RVs could soften, so perhaps this might pose a buying opportunity for the savvy buyer.

Pros and Cons of Class A RVs

Pros
  • Plenty of amenities and features
  • Spacious and luxurious
  • Sleeps up to 10 people
  • Cockpit connected to living space
Cons
  • Not maneuverable
  • Need to tow a “toad”
  • Poor fuel economy
  • Expensive

Class A RVs for Sale

Here are some of the most popular Class A RV Makes for sale:

Here are some popular Class A RV for sale searches by price, condition and by private sellers:

Small Class A RV

Downsizing to a smaller Class A RV is a way to possibly save money, get better gas economy, and have a motorhome that can fit into tighter spaces since it is more maneuverable. All these Class A RVs are 30 feet in length or smaller, so definitely on the smaller scale size. Another benefit of a smaller Class A RV is the lower price point compared to their full-size counterparts. Here are six small Class A RVs which might be fit your needs.

How much is a Class A RV?

Buying and maintaining a Class A RV requires a big budget. New examples typically start in the six-figure range and can exceed half a million dollars quickly. Gas and diesel models are available, with diesel versions commanding a premium.

Surprisingly, at the time we updated this article there were 65 Class A RVs for sale on our site with a price of $25,000 or less although most of these were at least 25 years old or more. At the end of Q1 2022, the median price range among all the Class A RVs for sale was between $195,000 to $205,000 with most of these being new 2022 models.

On the lower end of the market, a modern, used Class A RV can be purchased for under $125,000 and if we were shopping on a budget, we’d focus specifically on the $75,000 to $125,000 price range.

Class B RV

Class B RVs are often referred to as Camper Vans. Oddly, Class Bs are the smallest of the three RV classes, despite falling in the middle alphabetically. These are typically built using a Ford Transit, Ram ProMaster, or Mercedes-Benz Sprinter van as their base.

The main benefits of a Class B are its efficiency and its maneuverability. Most Class B RVs will fit into a normal-sized parking spot and can even be used to run some errands in a pinch. This makes them great for outdoor-focused trips and for spontaneous adventure. On the other hand, while most Class B RVs come with a sink, toilet, and even a shower, they typically offer fewer amenities than their Class C and Class A counterparts.

Class B RV Gas Mileage, Tank Size and Fuel Economy

Camper Van Class B RVs are the most fuel-efficient RVs among the big three traditional classes (A, B, and C) and you will often see a range of 18 – 25 miles per gallon cited as the average for this class. You can attribute their good fuel economy to their slender build design, especially the camper van’s front, and their somewhat low weight.

Road conditions, wind, and your RV’s size and weight can all influence your actual gas mileage. Is there a Class B RV which gets the best gas mileage? Owners and reviewers of Roadtrek’s E-trek Class B RV have regularly reported earning 25 mpg, making it one of the most fuel-efficient RVs in this class.

The typical fuel tank in a Class B RV will hold around 25 gallons and at 21 mpg, you should be able to drive approximately 525 miles on one tank. At 25 mpg, you should be able to drive up to 625 miles. Using an average gas price of $4.00 per gallon, you should expect to pay $100 to fill up a 25-gallon Class B gas tank.

Pros and Cons of Class B RVs

Pros
  • Fuel efficient
  • Maneuverability
  • Easy to park and drive
  • Good for a couple
Cons
  • Fewer features
  • Smallest RV type
  • Not ideal for a family
  • Not as cheap as you think

Class B RVs for Sale

Here are some of the most popular Class B RV Makes for sale:

Here are some popular Class B RV for sale searches by price, condition and by private sellers:

How much is a Class B RV?

Another benefit of the Class B is its price point. New examples typically sell in the $115,000 to $195,000 range. With the pandemic and the number of YouTube videos focused on travel vans, many consumers became more aware of the #vanlife trend and due to the skyrocketing demand combined with their easy drivability, the prices of Class B RVs have risen substantially. Gone are the days when you could, as we previously said when this article was first published in 2018, find “gently used examples for as little as $50,000.”

At the end of Q1 2022, the median price range among all the Class B RVs for sale (new or used) was between $195,000 to $205,000 with most of these being new 2022 models. You may find a used Class B RVs available in the $55,000 - $65,000 range as well but your choices are going to be limited.

If you are trying to find an affordable Class B RV or are on a budget, we would focus on the $80,000 to $110,000 price range, with some new 2021 models available at the top end of that range.

Class C RV

Class C RVs can be viewed as hybrids between Class As and Class Bs and they rank as the most popular type of RV. Class Cs are built upon chassis cabs, typically from Ford, Ram, or Mercedes-Benz. A chassis cab is a van or pickup cab with a bare chassis to the rear, upon which a living space is built by a third-party up-fitter like Winnebago.

Sized at up to 35 feet in length, Class Cs offer more space than a Class B while still being smaller and more cost effective than a full-blown Class A, making for a great balance overall, although their designs are typically less sophisticated than the alternatives. If you want to bring a long a small car for errands and day trips, you can tow it behind your Class C.

Class C RV Gas Mileage, Tank Size and Fuel Economy

Class C RVs sit right in the middle of the three major RV classes in terms of fuel efficiency. With an average of 15 – 19 miles per gallon, they earn better gas mileage than the large Class A RVs but less than Class B RVs. There have been some RV reviewers who have reported earning as low as 10 mpg in some Class C RVs. Road conditions, wind, and your RV’s size and weight can all influence your actual gas mileage.

Is there a Class C RV which gets the best gas mileage? Owners and reviewers of the Winnebago View 24V and Itasca Navion have reported earning 17 mpg and 18 mpg, respectively, making them among the most fuel-efficient RVs in this class.

The typical fuel tank in a Class C RV will hold between 25 and 55 gallons although a few Class C RVs have 100-gallon tanks, but these are the outliers. At 17 mpg, you should be able to drive between 425 to 935 miles on one tank. Using an average gas price of $4.00 per gallon, you should expect to pay between $100 and $220 to fill up your Class C RV’s gas tank, depending on the size of the tank. A Class C RV with a 100-gallon tank would cost you $400 to fill up.

Pros and Cons of Class C RVs

Pros
  • Good for small families
  • No need for a tow vehicle
  • No hitching and unhitching
  • Good for boondocking
Cons
  • More expensive than a towable
  • Not the best gas mileage
  • Tight storage space
  • Can’t be parked everywhere

Class C RVs for Sale

Here are some of the most popular Class C RV Makes for sale:

Here are some popular Class C RV for sale searches by price, condition and by private sellers:

How much is a Class C RV?

New Class C RVs start around $50,000 and can reach upwards of $450,000, while used examples can be had for far less. The bottom end of the new price range is going to be between $50,000 to $85,000 although some of these “new” models are several years old, meaning they were never sold while the top end of the price range is going to be concentrated in the $375,000 to $465,000 range.

A used Class C RV is where buyers may find some opportunities for deals. We found the low-end used price range to be between $15,000 to $45,000 and the top end used prices were in the $200,000 to $300,000 range. Overall, the widest selection of Class C inventory seemed to be concentrated in the $150,000 to $225,000 range so if we were going to buy, we would set a budget around there.

The median price point among all new and used Class C RVs, which had the largest selection of models, seemed to be in the $110,000 to $125,000 price range. All these prices were found at the end of Q1 2022 and are subject to change based on market conditions and consumer demand.

Travel Trailers

Travel trailers or tow behinds connect to your vehicle via a traditional trailer hitch. The obvious benefit compared to a fifth-wheel camper is that you don't need a pickup to tow one, as they don't require a special connection. Compared to a traditional RV, a tow behind enables you to disconnect once you have reached your destination, allowing you to use your vehicle however you please without being tethered to an RV living space.

Tow behinds are the simplest solution for anyone looking for a mobile living space, and they typically cost the least out of all the options mentioned above. Their main drawback is their lack of durability and the added challenges they present due to needing to be towed behind a vehicle, like an SUV. While a large, traditional tow behind is displayed here, tow behinds come in all shapes and sizes and can be tailored to a variety of needs.

If you are new to RVs and travel trailers, you may want to review the seven things to know about towing capacity.

Pros and Cons of a Travel Trailer RV

Pros
  • More affordable than other RV types
  • Tow vehicle is your main transportation
  • Wide variety of shapes and sizes
  • Lower insurance and maintenance costs
Cons
  • Parking and towing require skill
  • Set up time and effort after parking
  • Can’t ride inside the travel trailer
  • Less storage than fifth wheelers

Travel Trailers for Sale

Here are some of the most popular Travel Trailer Makes for sale:

Here are some popular Travel Trailer for sale searches by price, condition and by private sellers:

How much is a Travel Trailer?

The pricing of travel trailers can be all over the map. New travel trailers can be priced as much as $140,000 to $195,000, while used models can be purchased for a lot less. You’ll find some new Airstreams, known to command a premium, priced at the top end of this price range. At the low end of the new price range though, you will find smaller 2022 models going for between $12,000 and $22,000. There is quite a discrepancy between the higher-end priced models and entry level models in terms of features, insulation, and space.

There is an extremely wide selection of used travel trailers for buyers. We found used travel trailers at the high-end were priced between $70,000 and $165,000 and not surprising, some of these included 1–4-year-old Airstreams. At the low end of the used price range, there exists quite a selection in the $5,000 to $15,000 range. If you are set on buying a used travel trailer model, we suggest focusing on the $20,000 to $35,000 range as it seems this is where the most amount of inventory could be found.

The median price point among all travel trailers, both new and used, was in the $35,000 and $40,000 price range. All these prices were confirmed at the end of Q1 2022 and are subject to change based on market conditions, availability, and consumer demand.

Fifth Wheel

A fifth wheel is typically similar in size to a large tow behind but connects to the bed floor of a pickup via a special connection integrated into the truck bed. That special coupling connection is shaped like a “U” and resembles the same connection used on many commercial semi-trailers. The benefit of the fifth-wheel camper is that it's easier to maneuver than a basic tow behind, and most pickups can tow more weight via a fifth wheel than they can via a traditional bumper-mounted hitch. Due to the similarities of a travel trailer, many buyers often weigh whether to get a fifth wheel or a travel trailer. Lastly, most fifth-wheels are approximately 20 to 40 feet in length and require a truck with a high towing capacity.

We should mention that both travel trailers and fifth wheels can have versions which are a Toy Hauler. These are trailers with a fold down garage door in the back allowing easy storage for large toys, such as stand-up paddle boards, dirt bikes, bicycles, etc.

Pros and Cons of a Fifth Wheel Camper

Pros
  • More stable, safer than travel trailer
  • Tow vehicle is your main transportation
  • More storage space than travel trailer
  • Like a towable house
Cons
  • Larger and heavier than a travel trailer
  • More expensive than a travel trailer
  • Most require a large truck to tow
  • Separate driving and sleeping space

Fifth Wheels for Sale

Here are some of the most popular Fifth Wheel Makes for sale:

Here are some popular Fifth Wheel for sale searches by price, condition and by private sellers:

How much is a Fifth Wheel?

Fifth Wheels can have a wide extreme in pricing when looking at the least expensive models to the top-tier and most expensive models. New fifth wheels can cost upwards of $250,000 or more but the bulk of the highest priced new models are concentrated in the $150,000 to $230,000 price range. At the low end of the new price range though, you’ll find opportunities to buy around $40,000 to $55,000. The median price point for a new fifth wheel is around $100,000. There is large discrepancy between the higher-end priced models and entry level models in terms of features, insulation, and space.

A used fifth wheel may present an opportunity for a good deal. Used fifth wheels can cost upwards of $200,000 or more but the bulk of the most expensive used models are in the $90,000 to $130,000 price range. At the low end of the used price range though, you’ll find models around $15,000 to $25,000 although some of these can be 10 years old or older so we’d highly recommend a thorough inspection prior to purchasing. The median price point for a used fifth wheel RV is around $50,000.

In researching fifth wheel listings from our site, we did find some RV dealers who had accidentally mis-categorized a travel trailer as a fifth wheel so be sure to review the search results carefully. All these prices were confirmed at the end of Q1 2022 and are subject to change based on market conditions, availability, and consumer demand.


Published May 18th, 2022
  • What is a Class A RV?

    Class A RVs are the largest, most luxurious, have the most interior space but cost the most to purchase and maintain. They typically sleep six to ten people but since they are so large, they are hard to maneuver in tight spaces.
  • What is a Class B RV?

    Class B RVs, sometimes called camper vans are the smallest of the three primary classes and are known for their efficiency and maneuverability. While most Class B RVs come with a sink, toilet and even a shower, they typically offer fewer amenities than their Class C and Class A counterparts. Class B RVs are perfect for one to two people but not for a larger group.
  • What is a Class C RV?

    Class C RVs have a van or truck cab in the front and a living space in the back. They have more space than a Class B but are smaller than a Class A making them a great balance overall. Class C RVs can be viewed as hybrids between Class As and Class Bs.
  • Can you drive a RV with a car license?

    Yes. You don't need a special driver's license to drive most RVs. If the RV weighs under 26,000 pounds, you can drive it with a regular driver's license.
  • What is a tow behind or travel trailer?

    Tow behinds and travel trailers connect to your vehicle via a traditional trailer hitch. Compared to a traditional RV, a tow behind enables you to disconnect once you've reached your destination, allowing you to use your vehicle however you please without being tethered to an RV living space.
  • What are the differences between a travel trailer and a fifth wheel?

    • Travel trailers range from 12 to 35' feet in length. A smaller cabin space means you can tow with a less powerful vehicle such as an SUV or mid-sized truck.
    • Fifth-wheel campers generally have an overall length from 25 to 45' feet. Given their size, you'll need to ensure your vehicle is powerful enough to tow. Of course, this extra size means a larger, interior living space too.

    Most fifth wheels are easier, more stable and safer to tow than a travel trailer because of where the gooseneck hitch point is located. This means an improved turning radius, lower sway and more even weight distribution. In terms of average cost, a fifth wheel can range from $25,000 to $100,000 whereas the average cost of a travel trailer is between $15,000 to $50,000.

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