The term recreational vehicle1 (RV) refers to mobile dwelling vehicles normally used for camping. Available in a wide variety of designs and uses, most include sleeping, bathroom and kitchen facilities. Recreational vehicles can be divided into two broad groups, motorized RVs and towable RVs. Many RVs now include slide-out features that greatly expand the living areas.
Most motorized RVs are considered to be motorhomes, which are further broken down into classes A, B, and C. Other motorized RVs are available that don’t precisely fit into these classes. These include expedition vehicles, truck campers, and large semi-truck based RVs.
A motorhome is a recreational vehicle with living accommodations built on a motor vehicle chassis. There are three basic classes.
- Class A motorhomes resemble buses in their design, usually with a flat or vertical front end and large windows. They may be constructed on a commercial truck or bus chassis or a specially designed motorhome chassis.
- Bus Conversion — passenger or school buses, often the largest motorhomes and sometimes highly customized with luxury components.
- Diesel Pusher — typically a Class A motorhome with a powered by a diesel engine in the rear of the vehicle.
- Class B motorhomes have historically been built on conventional van chassis, often modified with either a raised roof or a low-profile coach-style body. Use of larger vans such as the Mercedes Benz Sprinter blur the historic difference between Class B and Class C motorhomes.
- Class C motorhomes are built on truck or van chassis. Most have a wider coach-style body that provides more room than similar length Class B models and include a cab-over area in their design, with the cab-over area used for an additional bed or storage or, in some models, to house entertainment equipment. Some Class C motorhome models, such as the Navion IQ, do not have the cab-over feature.
Offroad and Expedition Vehicles
Some RVs are capable of going offroad, away from maintained public roads. Off-road RVs range from Class B motorhomes on a four-wheel drive van chassis to expedition vehicles capable of sustaining extended camping and going places few others can reach. Using multi-wheel drive, heavy duty chassis designed for travel over rugged terrain, expedition vehicle RVs have either custom built bodies or are conversions of preexisting commercial bodies.
A truck camper is a camping unit that can be mounted in the bed of a truck, normally with a cab-over area. Campers range from light pop-up models that can be mounted in light duty trucks to large hard-side models with slide-outs and features that rival those of motorhomes.
Towable RVs are camping trailers that are connected to the towing vehicle through a connection called a hitch, generally either a ball type hitch at the back of the towing vehicle or a fifth-wheel hitch located in the bed of a pickup truck. Today, there are camping trailers that can be matched up with just about any tow vehicle. Some hybrid models combine the
Designed to be towed by means of ball type hitch connected to the bumper or frame of the tow vehicle, conventional travel trailers come in a large variety of shapes and sizes, from about 9’ up to near 40’, and, for the most part, have rigid sides and roof. Hybrid travel trailers combine the features of a pop-up trailer and a hard-sided trailer. In their camping configuration, one or more bunks fold down from the side with canvas tent covers. When in travel, the bunks fold up into the side of the trailer leaving four hard sides.2
A fifth wheel trailer is a camper that is designed to be towed using a special hitch mounted in the bed of a pickup truck. In this arrangement, the trailer is attached over the truck’s rear axle and wheels, which then supports a significant portion of the trailer’s weight. The phrase fifth wheel refers to the connection of the trailer to the hitch in the bed of the truck. The phrase originally referred to a turntable device that allowed the front axle of horse-drawn wagons and carriages to pivot with the animals as a turn was made.
Popup trailers, also called tent or folding campers, are light-weight campers, most with pull-out bunks and tent walls that collapse for towing and storage. The sidewalls can be made of hard-wall construction or canvas. Pop-up’s are easy to tow and they give you the feeling of camping in the outdoors while still being protected from the elements. 3
A teardrop trailer, also known as a teardrop camper trailer, is a streamlined, compact, lightweight travel trailer, which gets its name from its teardrop profile. They usually only have sleeping and storage space for two adults and often have a basic kitchen in the rear.
Information about RVs, by type, with links to manufacturers, including listings of current models:
- Class A Motorhomes
- Class B Motorhomes
- Class C Motorhomes
- Fifth Wheel RVs
- Popup Campers
- Travel Trailer RVs
- Tear Drop Trailers
- Truck Campers
- Off Road RVs
External links on types of RVs:
- RV Types Explained: Motorhomes from Interstellar Orchard
- RV Types Explained: Towables from Interstellar Orchard
- How to Choose the Best Type of RV from Interstellar Orchard
1 This site is about RVs in North America, primarily the U.S. and Canada, and uses terms and descriptions that are relevant there.
2 Camping World hybrid camper sales page, 1/14/2014
3 Camping World popup camper sales page, 1/14/2014