Thursday, November 29, 2012

Class Wars! - How To Narrow Your RV Choices

1991 Aero Cruiser RBa
    Everyone who has considered buying an RV of some sort has had to make a choice, often with great compromise. I'm included in that "everyone." When I first began my quest for the perfect RV I really didn't know all that much about them. Sure, I had rented several 40ft Diesel Pushers and gas powered RVs and had owned (briefly) a small travel trailer but past that I was woefully unprepared to face the the myriad choices out there.

It's a Class A

After some basic research into the various Classes of RV....A, B, C and Travel Trailer with info about the "in-between" B+ styles thrown in, I was more confused than when I started! Obviously, I had to make some choices about how I wanted to use the RV and what features were must haves versus wants. This wasn't as simple as it sounds (not that it sounds simple at all, mind you!) I really had to sit down and think about what was important to me and how and where I would be travelling.

After much rumination I finally had a short list, culled from the incredibly long one I started with.

Interior Forward View
  • Small and Low profile (Height) enough to go anywhere
  • Self propelled (this took out travel trailers)
  • Separate Shower and Toilet ("Dry Bath")
  • A fully equipped kitchen (galley) with decent counter space
  • Large comfortable bed
  • Good gas mileage
  • Easy to repair and source parts
  • Large enough tanks for a minimum of 7 Days boondocking use.
  • Ability to become self sufficient (Solar)

That being said, what would I be willing to compromise on? Obviously, if the RV itself were small, space would be at a premium.
Interior Aft View
  • Storage. More is better, but as long as I could fit what I wanted to take with me that would be OK.
  • Internal space. While it had to be comfortable  I could live with a smaller more efficient space.
  • Engine power. I could deal with a smaller engine if it wouldn't struggle with hills/passing.
  • Model year wasn't critical.
  • I could spend the time to find the right RV.
  • I could update systems as needed.
  • I could repair/replace some items depending on cost and availability.

The Bed
Once I had these basic decisions made I could begin researching the various types, manufacturers, styles and models. While still a HUGE list of possibles, I had managed to bring down the size to something approaching manageable. There is a saying, "Y.M.M.V." this stands for Your Mileage May Vary. What I was looking for may not be what YOU are looking for, but the basic decisions and process remain the same.  The internet is a great resource for research on everything, but the sheer volume of information can be quite overwhelming! Don't try and do everything the first day. Browse around...start with Class A's (or B's or C's) and try to get a feel for what you'd like to have.

Let's take a moment to talk about what those "Classes" actually mean. To most this is pretty obvious, but to new folks it can be confusing! Here's the scoop:  

a typical Class A RV starts with a pre-built chassis and driveline, adds in water/propane tanks, a generator, the exterior body and interior fittings (appliances, cabinets, etc.) Usually these are front engine when using gasoline engines and rear when using diesel (DP or Diesel Pusher) The body fully encloses the chassis, engine and cockpit. 

a typical Class B RV begins with a van chassis (or the whole van) and at least the front end of the host vehicle and builds on top from there. At the most simple it can be a raised roof on an existing factory van. On the higher end models it can be very much like a lightweight Class C. It has the same, albeit smaller, basics as it's Class C brethren but usually at a cost of smaller interior space, less tank capacity and smaller appliances.

a typical Class C RV starts with a large pickup truck or van chassis and adds the entire living area on top. Usually there is a bed above the "cab" of the truck and the rest of the layout overhangs the chassis from side to side and over the back. They are fully equipped with generators, tanks and all the comforts of home, just like a Class A, but can suffer from the limitations of the host vehicle's weight restrictions and are usually not as aerodynamic as a Class A. Since the host vehicle is carrying a lot of weight, often close to it's normal gross (max) weight, the handling can be a bit...well...ponderous.

Of course there are also travel trailers, these are designed to be towed by another vehicle and come in all shapes, sizes, configurations and costs. We'll talk about them in another article. Believe me, there are some REALLY cool ones if you want to tow your RV.

There are also versions that are in-between the main classes. They can be a bit bigger than their counterparts, i.e. a "B+" or have some variation on the way it's built. I have seen Class B RVs that the entire body is built by the manufacturer like a Class A...take a look at the Winnebago Via/Itasca Reyo from this year as an example. Many of these are built on the "Sprinter Chassis."

Overwhelmed yet?
 I was. If you are limiting yourself to new vehicles only, the choice is more about 
Be Happy With Your Choice!
floorplans and features...I wasn't, so I had a lot of years to go through. Luckily, I had stumbled upon a few RVs that fit my basic decisions within the first few months. The next step was to find out all I could about them. One, the Winnebago Rialta was perfect....or so I thought! It seems that the bathroom isn't a room at all, but an accordion folding wall Rube Goldberg contraption that just wasn't going to work for me.  The process of elimination really led me to my final choice. I went through Europas, Maucks, Mallards and all sorts of oddities before I found the Aero Cruiser.
All in all, it took me two years to finally find and buy my perfect RV. Yes, I know mine was a hard to find "orphan" so it should be a bit less time consuming for you! I'm quite happy with the decision and will likely enjoy tinkering with it for the foreseeable future. of course there is this Spectrum 2000 that Winnebago made in the late 80's that's pretty cool.....

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,
Rich "The Wanderman"


  1. Finding the perfect RV is like finding the perfect doesn't exist. Many requirements are mutually exclusive like small size and lots of storage. All the amenities but good fuel economy and handling. And even when you do find one that is close there is always something, usually the price that is off putting.

    The biggest thing hanging me up is paying house prices for something that depreciates like a car. I know buying pre-owned can take the bite out of that a little, but used RVs still depreciate, just at a slightly reduced rate.

    Oh well, I keep searching for the one that's right for me.

    1. Jscott,
      You are so right! I hate that RV's in general are so highly priced, yet the quality goes down every year. My goal with this article was getting new folks thinking about what RV would work for the, The choices are all over the place.

      Hopefully, this will get the creative thoughts flowing and bring another group into RV'ing!

      Rich "The Wanderman"


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