Different Types of Motorhomes - A Complete Guide

Jim TrummNov 30, 2017

Whether you’re a veteran RV enthusiast or someone who’s thinking about buying one for the first time, it’s a good idea to understand the differences among the nine major types of RVs. Those differences have a significant bearing on what you’ll pay to insure your RV.

Class A Motorhome

Class A motorhomes are the 800 pound gorillas of the RV world. They’re big—sometimes as long as 45 feet, or three times as long as a Honda Civic. They’re also expensive—prices range from about $60,000 up to $400,000. Lastly, they’re roomy and luxurious—think bedroom suites, expandable rooms, lavish audio/video systems, laundry facilities, and high-quality fixtures and finishes. Despite their size, you don’t need a CDL license to drive one.

Class B Motorhomes

Somewhat smaller than Class A motorhomes are (surprise, surprise) Class B motorhomes. These may be modified vans or custom-built bodies that are mated to a commercial van chassis. They are versatile and useful for one or two people, though given their small size, if two people take a long trip in one, they better be very good friends. You can expect to pay between $40,000 and $80,000 for a new model, though a fair number of these vehicles are home-built rigs that cost considerably less.

Class C Motorhomes

You’d expect that since Class B motorhomes are smaller than Class A motorhomes, Class C motorhomes would be smaller still. Though logical, it’s incorrect. These vehicles—which are also known as camper vans—are built on a truck or van chassis and often have an over-the-cab bedroom that makes them roomier than their Class B brothers. The extra room does not come cheap—prices run from $50,000 to $140,000.

Conventional Trailers

Also called travel trailers, these RVs don’t have an engine and drivetrain of their own, but are towed behind a car, SUV, or truck. It you’re familiar with the iconic, silvery Airstream trailers, you have some idea of what these living spaces on wheels look like. One of their big advantages is that they can be detached from the towing vehicle. This makes it easy, for example, to run out to the grocery store without taking your whole house-on-wheels with you. Trailers cost anywhere between $12,000 and $40,000, depending on how they're tricked out—and of course that’s in addition to the cost of the vehicle that does the towing.

Fifth Wheel Trailers

Like conventional trailers, fifth wheel trailers are towable wheel estate. But they’re generally longer and wider than conventional trailers and must be towed behind a pickup truck. Instead of connecting to a simple trailer hitch, fifth wheel trailers connect to an assembly that’s bolted to the pickup bed. They have an overhang, like Class C motorhomes, that projects over the pickup cab and creates additional interior space. Many of them have expandable sides that make the interior space even larger. Like Class A motorhomes, fifth wheel trailers are often outfitted with an impressive array of appliances and luxuries.

Pop-Up Tent Trailers

If Class A motorhomes are 800 pound gorillas, pop-up tent trailers are more like Chihuahuas. They’re compact boxes on wheels that are towed behind another vehicle. Once parked, they open and expand, usually with tent-like canvas or nylon sides and tops. They’re inexpensive and great for people who are looking for little more than a tow-along to sleep in.

Mounted Truck Campers

Often called truck bed campers or just truck campers, these units slide into or drop onto the bed of a pickup truck and are attached to the truck with brackets, chains, and/or cables. As with fifth wheel trailers and Class C motorhomes, their forward edge projects over the truck cab. They are usually entered through a door at the back, which hangs over the edge of the tailgate. These venerable campers don’t offer much room for anything beyond sleeping and (maybe) cooking, but they’re great for people who want a go-anywhere RV that doesn’t cost a fortune.

Toy Haulers and Horse Trailers

Where fifth wheel trailers are like houses on wheels, toy haulers are like houses on wheels with a garage in back. They have a large rear door, hinged at the bottom, that becomes a ramp when opened, and leads to the garage space. That area can be up to twelve feet long, more than enough to stow motorcycles, ATVs, and other vehicles. On some models, the rear door/ramp  doubles as a back porch. This kind of storage doesn’t come cheap, of course. Many models are priced above $100,000—and of course that doesn’t include the extra-large pickup needed to tow them. One variant of these RVs is equipped to carry horses, rather than motor vehicles, in back—and these are, unsurprisingly, called horse trailers.

Cargo/Utility and Single Horse Trailers

Cargo/Utility trailers, with only a few exceptions, are used to haul stuff, not to accommodate people. Essentially metal boxes on wheels about the size of a pop-up trailer, they can be towed with a regular trailer hitch behind a car or truck. Some are equipped with a ramp in back for easy storage and transport of motorcycles, bicycles, and the like.