When you’re ready to start that RV lifestyle, you need to pick the best rig for your needs. Are you going to be a weekend warrior, a full-time RVer, or something in-between? For many people, class B and class C RVs offer many excellent benefits, but there are some significant differences between the two.
So, to help you make an informed decision, this article will break down both classes and how to pick the right RV for you.
What is a Class B RV?
Another term for a class B RV is “campervan,” so that should give you an idea of what to expect. While class A motorhomes are monstrous vehicles that offer spacious interiors and high ceilings, class Bs are much smaller and nimbler.
On the smaller end of the spectrum, you can make your own class B RV by converting a minivan and installing various amenities (i.e., a bed). On the larger end, you can find pre-built models from Thor, Winnebago, and Coachmen. The size difference between a large class B and a small class C is relatively small, but the shape of each vehicle is unique.
What is a Class C RV?
Class C RVs are an excellent family-friendly option when you don’t want something as massive (or expensive) as a class A motorhome. Typically, class C models come with a bed over the cab, giving them a distinct look from other RVs. However, you can find a few class C rigs without the cabover bed, making them look like extra-large camper vans.
Comparing Class B vs Class C RVs
The appearance of both class B and class C RVs isn’t the only way these motorhomes differ. We’ll break down these unique elements:
- Size and Dimensions
Size and Dimensions
Class C motorhomes can be between 20 and 28 feet long, while class B models are often between 16 and 19 feet. As far as height clearance, small class B rigs can be around seven or eight feet tall, with a few models reaching nine feet. Class C RVs are often at least 10 or 11 feet tall, depending on what’s on top, such as roof racks or an A/C unit.
The width of both vehicles is about the same since they both have to be street legal. However, camper vans can be a little narrower, depending on the chassis used. Most pre-built camper vans are installed in a Sprinter or Ram Promaster, while class C RVs are often built on Ford trucks with the rear compartment replaced by an RV section.
Finally, class B RVs weigh between six and eight thousand pounds, while class C models can weigh between 10 and 12 thousand pounds.
Why It Matters
There are several reasons to pay attention to your RV’s dimensions. First, if you’re planning on storing your motorhome in the garage, you need a large enough structure to fit it. As a rule, a class B motorhome should fit in most garages, but a class C motorhome won’t.
Another reason to know your RV’s dimensions is to avoid clearance obstacles while driving. Class B motorhomes can pretty much go anywhere without any issues, but class C rigs can run into problems. For example, if you’re going under a low bridge or you’re in a campsite with low-hanging trees.
As a rule, all RVs are equipped with the following elements:
- Bed/Sleeping Area
- Cabinets and Storage Compartments
- Dining Table
If you buy a conversion van, you likely won’t have much more beyond these elements, although some larger minivans may allow for a toilet. If you buy a camper van “off the rack,” it should also include a kitchenette and potentially a stove or hot plate.
One element that many camper vans don’t have is a full bathroom. If there is a toilet and a shower, you likely have a wet bath, meaning you shower in the same space as the toilet. However, showers are often the first thing to go, especially because class B motorhomes don’t have much storage space for water tanks. In some cases, your RV may not have a freshwater tank at all.
When it comes to sleeping arrangements, class B motorhomes are generally good for one or two people. If you’re traveling with a family, it’s often better to upgrade to a class C RV. However, some class B models come with pop-up tops so that you get an extra bed.
Why It Matters
As we’ll discuss later on, you need to pay attention to different features and how they’ll affect your travels. Just because you’re adventuring in an RV doesn’t mean you have to skimp on the amenities. For example, if a bathroom is important to you, that will eliminate most class B RVs. Conversely, if you want a motorhome that allows you to travel virtually anywhere, a class C might be too large and bulky.
Because class B motorhomes are smaller and don’t have as many built-in options, you’d think they would cost less than class C models. However, camper vans can often cost more than a similar class C. For example, a Winnebago Travato can cost over $120,000, while a basic unit can cost around $60,000. By comparison, a new class C motorhome can run between $50K and $100K for a top-of-the-line unit. However, if you go with a van conversion, you can often spend about $30 to $40K for a professional company to build it for you.
However, one of the best things about class B RVs is that you can make one yourself. All you have to do is buy a used (or new) minivan and build everything from scratch. There are quite a few manufacturers that make modular elements like cabinets, kitchenettes, and dining areas. So, you can just pick and choose which pieces you want for your rig and then install them as needed. If you go the DIY route, you can save a lot of cash, but you have to consider the cost of your time and whether you have the tools already.
But, why are class B RVs more expensive than class Cs? The primary issue is labor. The benefit of a class C motorhome is that the manufacturer can build the living space first and then attach it to a vehicle chassis. With a class B, they have to start with the van chassis and rebuild it from scratch. So, with more labor hours involved, the higher the price.
In addition to the upfront cost of buying an RV, you also have to consider upkeep and maintenance. Generally, class C motorhomes can come in either gasoline or diesel models. Diesel engines have better gas mileage and don’t break down as often. However, you can find diesel class B RVs as well, so keep that in mind. Also, remember that the weight of your rig affects the gas mileage, so a heavier RV will burn through more fuel than a lighter one.
When it comes to equipment breakages and wear and tear, class C RVs may be cheaper to fix because the parts are off the shelf. However, if you bought a van conversion, you might have to pay more for parts and labor.
Overall, don’t assume that a class B motorhome is cheaper than a class C. In many cases, the reality is the exact opposite.
Why It Matters
RVs can often cost as much as a small house, so you need to be aware of all costs and expenses. Not only will you have to make monthly payments on your new rig, but you’ll also have to pay for gas, maintenance, cleaning, and other costs. If you go into the RV-buying experience blind, you could wind up with a hefty bill you can’t pay.
How to Choose Between Class B vs Class C
Knowing the different features and amenities is one thing. Now, you have to take that knowledge and apply several other factors to determine which RV is right for you. So, let’s look at the top considerations to make when finalizing your selection. Remember, an RV is a substantial investment, so you have to plan for your current and future needs.
Vacationing vs. Full-Time RVing
If you haven’t traveled in an RV before, the experience can be a little jarring at first. If you’re used to full-sized bedrooms, bathrooms, and dining rooms, an RV (especially a class B model) can feel cramped and crowded.
That said, if you’re only traveling for a few days at a time, it’s relatively easy to get used to these arrangements. However, if you’re trying to hit the road full-time (i.e., months or years at a time), you have to shift your focus completely.
As a rule, class C RVs are better for those who just want to get away for a weekend with the family. Since these rigs have more amenities, storage space, and living areas, they can feel somewhat like a hotel on wheels. By comparison, a class B RV may be too cramped to be comfortable, especially for those who don’t travel as often.
For full-timers, what matters is the places you want to go. If you’re planning on staying at campsites for weeks at a time, a class C can feel more accommodating. However, if you like sleeping under the stars and exploring nature, a class B might be the better option.
If possible, try to rent both types of rigs for a weekend getaway. This way, you can determine which features are most important and you can get used to the idea of RVing for extended periods.
Number of Travelers
This factor is huge when figuring out which RV type is the best for your needs. For example, if you’re traveling solo, a camper van will likely have everything you need to stay comfortable. Even if you’re heading out with one other person, the rig might not feel so crowded.
For family camping, a class C RV is often the better choice. Not only do you have more room to spread out, but you can often ensure privacy and space for everyone, which is especially important if you have teens or pre-teens.
Another point you might want to consider is if you’ll be adding and subtracting travelers during your journey. For example, perhaps a friend or family member wants to tag along for one weekend, but usually, you’re by yourself or with your partner. Generally speaking, a larger class RV will be easier to accommodate guests.
Just because you’re traveling with one or two more people doesn’t mean that everyone wants to share a bed. Before putting a down payment on an RV, you should determine the number of beds necessary for everyone to feel comfortable. For example, if you have you and your spouse and two kids, will each child need their own bed? Could one person sleep on a sofa if necessary?
Another point to consider is privacy. Class B RVs often don’t have any privacy except for a toilet (if it’s included). One way to keep people apart is to use enclosed bunk beds, but those are usually only available on a class C RV.
One way to avoid any issues with sleeping arrangements is to bring along camping gear and have some people sleep outside. You can also buy an RV with a pop-up section so that there’s a private room for one or two travelers.
Off-Roading and Boondocking
Depending on who you ask, boondocking is either an integral part of RVing or it’s something you only do in emergencies. For the uninitiated, boondocking is when you stay the night somewhere but don’t connect to any water or power hookups.
On the one hand, boondocking offers extra freedom since you can park virtually anywhere you want. On the other hand, no hookups mean you’ll have to be more careful about water and electrical usage.
As a rule, class B motorhomes are better for boondocking because they’re smaller and more agile. However, if you need water and power, a class C rig will have more of both, so you could stay untethered for longer periods. You can also install solar panels to avoid electrical shortages, but you need to figure out how to replace your water when necessary.