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What RV is right for me? Every type you can get (and which one you should)

What to consider when getting an RV

An RV driving through the mountains
Siggy Nowak / Pixabay

Ah, the joys of RV travel. Can anything feel more nostalgic and cozy while still embodying the spirit of adventure? Maybe only dispersed camping in a tent, but that’s another topic. For now, we’re focusing on RVs and all the different types of RVs you can choose for your open-road journeys.

While it may seem exciting to invest in a new shiny RV or spend big bucks on renting a travel trailer model that looks cool on the road, you’ll need to find the best choice depending on the size of your group, your driving experience, and the type of trip you’re planning.

So we’ve put together a guide to help you figure out which RV is right for your trip into the wild. From hitch campers that offer just enough room for two, to a massive Class A motorhome with all the bells and whistles, we’ll help you find the right choice.

Blue camper van parked at the coast
Ingo Doerrie / Unsplash

Camper vans

A camper van is also known as a Class B motorhome, which means it’s built on a small van chassis. Camper vans are the smallest type of motorhome and combine the features of easy transportation and comfortable living quarters into one.

It differs from a traditional van in that it’s often taller and contains a small kitchen, sleeping area, and possibly even a bathroom. They’ve been popularized by the company Winnebago, and many modern variations have become a trendy choice for van life enthusiasts.

This type of RV is great for:

  • Solo travelers
  • Couples
  • Small families
  • Travelers with one or two small pets
  • Those going into wild areas for sightseeing, photography, or smaller hikes
  • Beginner RV drivers

It tends to be easier to operate camper vans because they often work like regular vans and offer better fuel efficiency. However, the downside is that they don’t have as much living space or amenities compared to larger RVs.

If you’re technically savvy, these van conversion tips can help you make the most out of the compact space. Several camper van rental companies also offer fully modifiable options that come with luxury features like solar panel kits, pop-top roofs, and built-in bathrooms.

A pop-up trailer in the middle of the woods
Korey99 / Wikimedia

Pop-up trailers

Next up is the pop-up trailer, also known as a tent trailer or a folding trailer, which is the ultimate choice for those looking for the best storage capacity. It’s a hybrid design that attaches to the back of a truck or SUV. When you’re ready to set up camp, simply fold out the sides and roof for additional living space.

Inside a pop-up trailer, you’ll find comfortable sleeping quarters, dining areas, and sometimes even basic kitchens. There usually isn’t a separate bathroom, but some models do come with portable toilets or outdoor shower attachments.

The walls of a pop-up trailer are soft, which makes the overall construction lighter and easier to work with. However, keep in mind that several campsites won’t allow soft-sided trailers to avoid dangerous bear attacks.

Pop-up trailers are great for:

  • Budget-conscious campers
  • Travelers with smaller vehicles that can’t tow larger RVs
  • Campers with minimal home storage options
  • Short camping trips or weekend getaways

With pop-up trailers, keep in mind that you’ll have to lift and lower the top of the trailer each time you set up or pack up camp. You’ll also need to make sure your car is capable of towing the pop-up trailer. Do this by checking out your vehicle’s towing capacity, hitch class, tongue weight, and break controllers. Refer to your vehicle manual or directly reach out to the manufacturer if you’re still unsure.

An SUV pulling a teardrop trailer in nature
Mike Goad / Pixabay

Teardrop trailers

For a compact trailer option that has hard walls, the teardrop trailer is the perfect choice. They look sleek due to their tapered shape, which makes both storage and road aerodynamics much more efficient.

Teardrop trailers, on average, weigh 1,700 pounds, which is under most towing capacity limits. This means that you don’t need a large truck or SUV to tow the trailer, although it’s still important to check your vehicle’s towing capacity, hitch class, tongue weight, and break controllers.

Inside the teardrop trailer, you’ll find a sleeping space and a small pop-up kitchenette, as well as minimal storage. It’s not a unit meant for standing up or extended living, but it’s a comfortable and cozy space for sleeping, resting, and changing clothes.

Teardrop trailers are best for:

  • Solo travelers
  • Minimalist travelers
  • Campers and travelers who need to relocate quickly
  • Couples

Setting up your teardrop trailer involves properly parking, leveling the trailer, and opening the rear hatch to access the kitchenette. As they’re fully enclosed, they require less setup than pop-up or tent trailers. Models like the Escapod Teardrop Trailer require next to no setup, making them great for late campsite arrivals and quick transitions.

Retro RV trailer sitting in a camptsite
4921477 / Pixabay

Hitched full-size trailers

If you want your trailer space to be separate from your vehicle but still want the luxuries of a full-sized trailer, these hitched full-size trailers have got you covered. There are a few different options, including:

Conventional trailers

In conventional trailers, the trailer attaches to a hitch at the back of your vehicle. They typically include a living room, dining area, bedroom, and bathroom, varying greatly in size and layout. Conventional trailers vary in size and can be as small as 12 feet or as large as 35 feet.

Fifth wheels

Fifth wheels are a type of RV that attaches to the bed of a pickup truck, making it simple to tow and maneuver. They offer more living space compared to conventional trailers, with some models even having multiple levels and bedrooms. This is because the truck bed allows for more weight to be distributed, meaning more space for amenities.

Sports utility

Sports utility vehicles or toy haulers offer the best of both worlds for adventure-focused travelers. They have a garage-like compartment at the front for storing outdoor gear for active users who may bring ATVs or motorcycles on the road. There’s also a sleeping area, kitchen, and bathroom at the back of the trailer for privacy and relaxation after long days exploring the great outdoors.

These hitched full-size trailers are ideal for:

  • Large families or groups
  • Campers who need more storage space
  • Travelers planning extended stays in one location
  • Full-time RVers

Setup for these travel trailers is relatively simple, with most models having electric or hydraulic lifts that do the heavy lifting. However, you’ll need to make sure your vehicle has a compatible hitch and a strong enough engine to tow the trailer.

These types of hitch trailers can be much more challenging to drive, especially for new users. But the fact that they can detach from your vehicle and allow you to navigate more challenging spaces like scenic roads or city traffic makes it worth the effort.

Class C motorhome parked under the night sky
JillWellington / Pixabay

Class C motorhomes

If you want your motorhome to double as a vehicle as well, then the Class C motorhome is the best option. This recreational vehicle is attached and built on a cutaway van chassis, which means there is a sleeping area above the cab. This type of motorhome typically has a living area, kitchen, bathroom, and sleeping space in the back.

Class C motorhomes have all the amenities you’d expect from a full-sized RV, including fully functional kitchens, bathrooms, living spaces, and multiple sleeping areas. They’re easy to drive with stable attachments and have good gas mileage compared to the larger Class A motorhome.

Class C motorhomes are great for:

  • Medium-sized families
  • Long-term travelers
  • Travelers who need more amenities
  • Those who want to use their RV as a primary vehicle

Setup for Class C motorhomes is relatively simple, but they do require additional maintenance compared to other types of travel trailers. You’ll need to make sure your vehicle has proper brake controllers and that the living space is properly secured before hitting the road. Otherwise, you may end up with a bumpy ride or even damage your belongings.

It can be challenging to take a Class C motorhome into all the nooks and crannies of the great outdoors because you can’t simply take off the living space and drive with just the cutaway van. But if you really want the option to drive off from your living space, you can hitch a car to the back of the motorhome for day trips and errands. Check out your car’s specs to find out if it’s compatible with your RV.

Retro Class A RV in a parking lot on a sunny day
Steven Weeks / Unsplash

Class A motorhomes

Ready to learn about the Rolls-Royce of RV adventuring? Behold the Class A motorhome — the king of the road when it comes to hitting the road.

These full-sized options can feel as comfortable as a traditional home and offer features such as full-sized kitchens, bathrooms, and multiple sleeping areas. They also offer areas to sit and dine, making it feel like living in a luxury apartment on wheels.

Since Class A motorhomes are attached to the chassis, they offer more stability while driving and make it easier for passengers and drivers to connect or quickly switch in and out of the driver’s seat.

Choose the Class A motor home if you’re:

  • Used to driving large vehicles long distances
  • Bringing a large group on the road
  • Looking for comfort and space for an extended stay
  • Traveling through different regions and climates

If your Class A RV weighs under 26,000 pounds and is no longer than 40 feet, a regular driver’s license should suffice. But if it surpasses these limits, you might need to complete an RV safety course or obtain a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) for road use.

You can choose between two types of Class A motorhomes: gas or electric. Gas motorhomes are often less expensive to buy and easy to fill at a gas station. However, they have lower fuel efficiency, which can be challenging for long-distance trips.

Diesel motorhomes, while pricier, offer better mileage and longevity, and their rear engine placement results in quieter, smoother rides. However, they may require more expensive maintenance due to specialized mechanics and parts.

A line of RVs for sale in a wooded lot
Siggy Nowak / Pixabay

Important considerations when selecting the right RV for you

As you can see, there are tons of options when it comes to recreational vehicles. But how do you discern which one is the right fit for your lifestyle? Here are the crucial factors to keep in mind when getting ready to rent or buy the right RV for you:

  • Power sources: Decide how you want to power your RV, whether that’s through electricity, gas, or a combination of both. Solar options are becoming increasingly popular, and many travel trailers and RVs come pre-wired to work with solar panels.
  • Accessibility: RVs are big in the world of accessibility, making it easier for differently abled individuals to enjoy the outdoors. If you need accessibility features, consider looking for models with wide doorways, a wheelchair lift, and spacious bathroom sections.
  • Fuel efficiency: Larger RVs typically use a lot more gas than smaller ones, so make sure to calculate this continuous expense when making an initial investment.
  • Your car’s towing capacity: If you’re investing in an RV with a hitch, make sure your car can handle the weight and size of the trailer safely.
  • Storage: The point of taking an RV on the road is so you can bring all of your outdoor gear and home comforts with you. So make sure to determine exactly what you want to fit into your vehicle beforehand to make sure you’ll have enough space.

Some additional considerations include weather capacities, internet capabilities, additional amenities, and overall pricing. Don’t let these features overwhelm you. Instead, start a well-organized document where you can track all of the vehicles you’re interested in, their pros and cons, and any other relevant information.

And remember, always test drive before committing to a purchase or rental. This will help you get a feel for driving and living in your new home on wheels.

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Rachel Dennis
Artist & writer with a flair for the outdoors, sustainability & travel. Off-duty chef, bookworm, and conversation lover.
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