Are you excited to embark on a thrilling road trip across the diverse landscapes of the United States? Exploring America’s great outdoors with your family in an RV is a fantastic way to experience its beauty and can also work out as a very economical way to road trip.
However, with numerous RVs – Recreation Vehicles – available for rent, choosing the perfect one for your adventure can be daunting. Our team has traveled extensively in various RVs, ranging from luxurious motorhomes to cozy campervans and everything in between.
Generally, RVs can be classified into two main categories: motorhomes that can be driven and travel trailers that are towed behind a vehicle.
In this article, we will assist you in selecting the ideal RV for your US family road trip, ensuring the perfect size to fit your family (and your budget!) for an unforgettable journey.
Types of Motorhomes
Motorhomes range in size from small camper vans for two to 45-foot coaches for large families.
- Will I need a special license to drive an RV in the USA? In most cases, no. Your regular driver’s license will do unless your rig is over 26,000 pounds.
Class A Motorhomes
Class A motorhomes are famous for their spaciousness, boasting sizes ranging from 30 to 45 feet long. Typically resembling a flat-front coach bus, these vehicles can have up to four slide-out sections to add even more living space.
The largest Class A motorhomes can comfortably house up to 10 people.
Class A rigs are known for their spaciousness and luxurious amenities, such as full-sized kitchen appliances, separate bedrooms, flat-screen TVs, and even fireplaces!
Although these rigs boast a powerful diesel engine located at the back, they can be quite heavy, resulting in a lower fuel efficiency of approximately six miles per gallon. However, this engine placement allows for a quieter ride in the cockpit and provides more torque than a front engine.
Class A rigs typically have a full bathroom and ample built-in storage space.
Class A Motorhomes are best for Larger groups or big families who want to road trip in style and have all their mod cons with them; perfect for extended stays and longer road trips where everyone can have that little extra space.
Class B Motorhomes
It may seem logical to assume that Class B RVs are the next smallest size, but that is not the case!
Through whatever quirk of naming conventions over the years, Class Cs are actually mid-sized rigs, while Class Bs are the smallest. These are essentially campervans that are manufactured, often using a Ford E-series or Mercedes Sprinter van chassis, and typically measure between 20 to 25 feet in overall length.
These compact motorhomes, also known as Class Bs, come equipped with various amenities, including a small kitchen area, a bed, and a dinette. Despite their petite size, they often boast innovative space-saving features such as swiveling driver and passenger seats, collapsible sinks, and convertible couches.
Thanks to their smaller size, Class Bs offer better gas mileage, are easier to maneuver on narrow or bumpy roads, and are more frequently outfitted with off-grid capabilities such as solar panels and battery banks for wilderness camping or boondocking.
This category is often further divided into B+; these are slightly larger and tend to look like a truck cab up front with a camper added on. They are generally 23 to 25 feet in length, and a little broader and more spacious inside.
Class B Motorhomes are best for solo travelers or couples who prioritize capability and adventure over luxury; small RVs are perfect for you. Class B vehicles allow you to enjoy a few days of camping in the wilderness and then easily drive through the city and park in most urban areas – ideal if you feel you’re a less confident driver.
Class C Motorhomes
Class C motorhomes offer a comfortable balance between the maneuverability of Class B and the spaciousness of a Class A. Typically constructed on a truck chassis, these vehicles are characterized by a unique cab-over design, featuring a bed or storage area directly above the truck cab.
With lengths ranging from 20 to 40 feet, the larger models are commonly known as Super C RVs.
Class C motorhomes typically have a slide-out feature and similar amenities to Class A motorhomes, such as full bathrooms, multiple kitchen appliances, and ample sleeping space for families or groups of friends.
These larger motorhomes provide both comfort and convenience, as they are easier to maneuver in campsites and can access roads with length restrictions.
Class C Motorhomes are best for Family vacations or road trips with friends. With the truck cab, driving feels more like a car, while the interior offers ample space for everyone to enjoy a comfortable vacation.
The campervan category includes unconventional and compact RVs such as Volkswagen Westfalias with pop-tops, converted cargo vans, and school buses, and even minivans and SUVs equipped with camping equipment.
Various companies offer basic campervan rentals, and there are also platforms that enable DIY campervan owners to rent out their customized vehicles. With the highest fuel efficiency among all RVs, simple campervans provide great flexibility for both city driving and outdoor adventures.
You may want to use a campervan with tent camping if you need more space.
Campervans are best for singles, couples and small families. They are ideal for long-distance driving, and they are versatile, easy to drive, and more affordable in fuel and rental costs than larger RVs.
Types of Travel Trailers
There are a variety of travel trailers that can be rented for different needs. The majority of these trailers require a sturdy SUV or truck for towing, except for a few lightweight pop-up trailers that can be towed using a sedan.
Renting a trailer can be a cost-effective alternative to renting a motorhome, especially if you already own a suitable vehicle for towing. However, the expenses can accumulate quickly if you plan to rent a tow vehicle AND a travel trailer.
Driving while towing a rig is more challenging than driving a motorhome for the inexperienced. Detaching your travel trailer and leaving it at your campsite while you run errands or explore in your tow vehicle is a significant advantage that makes it a more convenient option.
This category comprises towables with layouts similar to motorhomes but without engines. They can be attached to vehicles with a standard bumper hitch and come in sizes ranging from small teardrop trailers to around 35 feet long.
The interior options and layouts are essentially the same as those of motorhomes of corresponding sizes.
Camper Trailers are best for traveling with a family, especially when camping for extended periods. With the ability to unhitch the trailer, you can easily embark on mini-adventures or run errands in the tow vehicle without needing to pack up your camp
Large camper trailers and fifth wheels have similar styles, but fifth wheels require a unique hitch that sits in the bed of a heavy-duty pickup truck. Unlike bumper hitch trailers, these hitches provide more stability while towing and reduce sway. These hitch systems range from $50 to over $1,000.
Fifth-wheel trailers offer an abundance of space, with lengths of up to 40 feet and a raised forward section over the hitch attachment that provides an additional sleeping area. These trailers can even feature up to six slide-outs due to their considerable length and lack of a driving cab.
Fifth Wheel Campers are best for those who have the necessary equipment and want a strong and stable tow with a family or larger group. Plus, as they can easily be detached from the truck when needed you have more more flexibility to explore and take day trips compared to an all-in-one motorhome.
Pop-up campers are designed to fold down into compact, lightweight boxes that are incredibly easy to tow. Once you arrive at your destination, they can be deployed to double or even triple their size!
While they were once just fancy tents, modern pop-up campers come with a host of amenities, such as stoves, running water, and even wet bathrooms!
One of the downsides of using a camper is that you need to stow and pack everything each time you want to move it. Nevertheless, renting a camper is a cost-effective option and a significant upgrade from tent camping. Moreover, they can be towed by smaller vehicles.
Pop-up campers are best for those looking for an affordable starter option for RV rentals. It’s a step up from sleeping in a tent and provides a handy way to stow all your equipment. It’s easier to drive towing a small pop-up than a large trailer and more economical to run.
Have you ever heard of a toy hauler? Not for all the c^*# that comes with kids; we’re talking about grown-up toys!
They’re trailers with a spacious garage area in the back, perfect for storing large equipment such as motorcycles, kayaks, dirt bikes, and more. These trailers are typically fifth-wheel trailers due to their size and weight, and they come equipped with heavy-duty rear doors that can fold down into a ramp for easy loading.
Despite their focus on storage, toy haulers still offer comfortable living spaces with amenities similar to those found in other fifth wheels.
Toy Haulers are best for those who require large outdoor equipment when traveling to events or destinations. They provide the comfort of a luxury RV while allowing you to transport your gear safely and conveniently inside the trailer. Whether attending a motorcycle rally, exploring four-wheeling trails, or embarking on a golfing tour, a toy hauler is an ideal solution.
More Helpful Guides to RV Rental
This guide to RV types is part of our RV series for road trippers. If you’re looking for more advice to get you started on an RV road trip adventure, you may also like to read next:
- The pros and cons of renting an RV for a cross-country road trip
- The often hidden costs of renting an RV for a family vacation
- Top tips for taking a travel trail on your US road trip vacation
- The best apps we use for planning an RV-based road trip
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