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RV Guide: Motorhomes, Towable RVs & Truck Bed Campers

RV Guide: Motorhomes, Towable RVs & Truck Bed Campers

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If you’re like us, you love to take road trips. Traveling the open road to wherever your heart desires across the land, to places you love to visit or even to places you’ve never driven before brings a tremendous joy and sense of adventure for you. You’ve put a lot of miles on your ride and have stayed in all kinds of hotel/motel rooms, campsites, Airbnbs, and families and friend’s homes. It might be time that you may be looking to upgrade your road cruiser for something more private, convenient, livable, and homey to use while out on your road trip adventures.

For many, the logical idea for the road trip enthusiast is to purchase an RV to make temporary road living and travel more comfortable and enjoyable. If you’ve considered purchasing an RV for your road travel and camping needs, we’re sure that you’ve had lots of questions as to which RV would be the right fit for you and your needs.

We’ve created a guide in the following on the many types of RVs there are on the market and detailed information on each to help get you started on your decision making process. Let’s begin with the basics and ask the most basic question. What is an RV?


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What is an RV?

An RV is not a modular or mobile home, legally speaking. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has ruled that an RV as a vehicle or vehicular structure not certified as a manufactured home, designed only for recreational use and not as a primary residence or for permanent occupancy; and is either built and certified in accordance with either NFPA 1192-15 or ANSI A119.5-15; or any vehicle which is self-propelled.

Even though a motorized RV is not legally considered to be a “mobile home”, they are considered to be and often called a motorhome, and you’d most likely consider yours to be like your alternate home as you’re on the road.

When people say “RV”, they mostly mean motor vehicle. RV stands for recreational vehicle and is often used as a broad term that encompasses motor homes, campers, caravans, travel trailers, fifth-wheels, pop-up campers, and the like. There are several different types, styles, models, and manufacturers of recreational vehicles, but RV’s, in general, fall under specific types or classes of recreational vehicle. The following are the most common types and classes that you’ll often find of motorized recreational vehicles and towable RVs.

Classes of Motorhomes


Class A Motorhome

Class A Diesel Motorhomes

  • These resemble a bus with a vertical front windshield with large windows and are anywhere between 25 to 45 feet in length.
  • Class A motorhomes are often the higher end, largest cousins of the recreational vehicle family that offer all the amenities one would need to be properly pampered whilst on the road.
  • Class A motorhomes often offer many comforts that you’d find in a home, like a kitchen, refrigerator, bathroom, beds, furniture, microwave, TV, even a washer and dryer, all depending on the model and style you get.
  • Built on specially designed chassis, these are the big tour bus type motorhomes you’ve seen on the highway.
  • They’ve got more torque than a gas powered Class A motorhome, last longer, are more durable, and because of their rear mounted engine they’re quieter, drive more smoothly, and they’re usually pretty decked out in style and amenities.
  • Class A diesel motorhomes are the epitome of luxury RVs.
  • If you’re planning to RV full-time, this is the type of motorhome you might want to consider.
  • Some are as long as 45 feet, giving plenty of living space while traveling on the road; giving a real feel of being in a home on wheels.
  • Class A motorhomes often have separate master bedrooms with extra sofas.
  • Some models can comfortably fit 6 to 10 people.
  • License Requirements: Very few US states require you to obtain a CDL to operate a motorhome, though there may be some exceptions. CDL’s are really intended for those who drive commercial vehicles, like a tractor trailer. States like Washington, DC, and Hawaii require you to have a CDL in order to operate motorhomes over 26,000 lbs. The road test is not required in Washington, DC, but you do have to pass the knowledge test. It’s best to check your state’s Department of Public Safety .gov website to learn of their particular laws and requirements on operating RV’s within the state. Here’s the Texas DPS website link to their (Non-CDL) Class A and B Exempt Vehicles test site, as an example.
  • Length: 26 – 45 feet
  • Weight: 13,000 – 30,000 lbs.
  • Fuel Economy: (Poor) 8 – 10 miles per gallon
  • Towing Capacity: Up to 10,000 lbs.
  • Capacity: Sleeps 4 – 8 people comfortably
  • Price Ranges: $50,000 - $200,000

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Class A Gas Motorhomes

  • Just like the Class A Diesel Motorhome, but these use gasoline, or petrol, depending on where you’re from, instead of diesel fuel.
  • These resemble a bus with a vertical front windshield with large windows and are anywhere between 25 to 45 feet in length.
  • Class A motorhomes are often the higher end, larger cousins of the recreational vehicle family that offer all the amenities one would need to be properly pampered whilst on the road.
  • Class A motorhomes often offer many comforts that you’d find in a home, like a kitchen, refrigerator, bathroom, beds, furniture, microwave, TV, even a washer and dryer, all depending on the model and style you get.
  • License Requirements: Very few US states require you to obtain a CDL to operate a motorhome, though there may be some exceptions. CDL’s are really intended for those who drive commercial vehicles, like a tractor trailer. States like Washington, DC, and Hawaii require you to have a CDL in order to operate motorhomes over 26,000 lbs. The road test is not required in Washington, DC, but you do have to pass the knowledge test. It’s best to check your state’s Department of Public Safety .gov website to learn of their particular laws and requirements on operating RV’s within the state. Here’s the Texas DPS website link to their (Non-CDL) Class A and B Exempt Vehicles test site, as an example.
  • Length: 26 – 45 feet
  • Weight: 13,000 – 30,000 lbs.
  • Fuel Economy: (Poor) 8 – 10 miles per gallon
  • Towing Capacity: Up to 10,000 lbs.
  • Capacity: Sleeps 4 – 8 people comfortably
  • Price Ranges: $50,000 - $200,000 USD

Class B Motorhome

Class B Motorhomes

  • Also known as B-Vans or camper vans. These types of RV are typically built on a van chassis and can come with either a gas or diesel engine.
  • They’re just like operating a standard vehicle, easy to maneuver around in just about any location or setting, and also provide a surprisingly comfortable living environment within the rear portion of the vehicle behind the driver and front passenger seats.
  • Amenities in camper vans may include swiveling toilets, fold-away sinks in the wet bath, a TV, and other creature comforts. Some camper vans even come equipped with off-road equipment options for the more off-road adventurous type.
  • Camper vans are perfect for those who want the amenities and livability that its larger RV cousins provide, but without the bulk. Camper vans are able to head into any city or town to park in a normal parking spot or area, only taking up as much space as a normal van would, and can fit into a properly sized garage.
  • Camper vans typically range between 20 to 25 feet in length.
  • License Requirements: All you need is your state issued driver’s license to operate a Class B motorhome.
  • Length: 16 – 25 feet
  • Weight: 4000 – 9000 lbs.
  • Fuel Economy: (Best) 18 – 20 miles per gallon
  • Towing Capacity: Up to 5000 lbs.
  • Capacity: Sleeps up to 4 people
  • Price Range: $40,000 – $80,000

Class C Motorhome

Class C Motorhomes

  • These are a smaller type of motorhome usually built on a truck chassis and can come in either a gasoline or diesel engine option.
  • Engine manufacturers of Class C motorhomes include Chevrolet, Ford, and Mercedes-Benz.
  • Class C motorhomes have the distinctive “cab-over” profile that usually provides and extra-bed or storage area over the cab of the truck.
  • You may find that a Class C offers similar amenities that its larger Class A cousins provide, like kitchens, bathrooms, slide-outs, and other creature comforts, just on a smaller scale.
  • Class C motorhomes are a step up from the smaller Class B. They’re perfect for longer stays at a campsite, offering more creature comforts and space, yet smaller than the larger Class A motorhomes; making them easier to maneuver and take just about anywhere.
  • License Requirements: All you need is your state issued driver’s license to operate a Class B motorhome.
  • Length: 20 – 35 feet
  • Weight: 10,000 – 13,000 lbs.
  • Fuel Economy: (Low) 10 – 15 miles
  • Towing Capacity: Up to 5000 lbs.
  • Capacity: Sleeps 4 – 8 people
  • Price Range: $50,000 - $100,000 USD

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Do I need a commercial driver’s license to operate a motorhome?

For the most part, all you need to operate a motorized RV is your regular state issued driver’s license. CDL’s are really intended for those who drive commercial vehicles, like a tractor trailer. Very few US states require you to obtain a CDL to operate a motorhome, though there may be some exceptions. It’s best to check your state’s Department of Public Safety .gov website to learn of their particular laws and requirements on operating RV’s within the state. Here’s the Texas DPS website link to their (Non-CDL) Class A and B Exempt Vehicles test site, as an example. The following states are what we’ve found that has some exceptions:

  • States like Washington, DC, and Hawaii require you to have a CDL in order to operate motorhomes over 26,000 lbs.
  • The CDL road test is not required in Washington, DC, but you do have to pass the knowledge test.
  • Both states of Wisconsin and Indiana require you to have a CDL to operate a motorhome longer than 45 feet.
  • Most states rule that individuals operating a motorhome exclusively to transport personal possessions or family members, and are not operating as a business, are exempt from CDL requirements.
  • Here's a great state-by-state guide on license requirements for RVs done by Campanda® Magazine: 

    Do You Need A Special License To Drive An RV? A State-By-State Guide

Towable RVs

Motorized RVs are great and all, but maybe these types are not what you’re looking for. You want something you can haul with your pickup-truck or SUV when you go on a road excursion to have the creature comforts of home. You want the ability to unhitch it when you’re done using it, and you don’t want a whole vehicle to maintain as you would with a motorized RV. Then, you might be interested in a towable RV, like a fifth-wheel, travel trailer, or pop-up camper. Let’s get into the details of what these types of towable RV’s are, how they compare to each other, and their differences.


Travel Trailer

Travel Trailers

A travel trailer, also known as a caravan, camper, or camper trailer is considered to be an RV and is towed behind a road vehicle to provide a place to sleep when nomadically traveling on the road and is more comfortable and protected than a tent. Travel trailers are obviously going to be much more expensive in cost compared to a tent, but travel trailers are often a less expensive way to enjoy a RV lifestyle compared to motorhomes. This is just one of several benefits of getting a travel trailer over a motorhome.

  • Travel trailers are the most common types of RV’s on the road and at campsites.
  • Travel trailers are either towed by bumper hitch or frame hitch that extends from the front of the trailer.
  • Travel trailers come in many styles and floor plans, and come equipped with many of the same amenities that you’d find in a Class B or Class C motorhome, like a kitchen, bathroom, furniture, slide-outs for increased living space, and hookups for electricity and water.
  • Their easier to detach and setup at a campsite than a fifth-wheel, and of course add the freedom of having your vehicle to use for whatever needs you have as you would normally; leaving your travel trailer behind, safely at the campsite or at home.
  • Length: 18 – 40 feet
  • Weight: 4000 – 10,000 lbs.
  • Price Range: $11,000 - $35,000
  • Capacity: Sleeps up to 6 people, sometimes more.

Fifth Wheel Trailer

Fifth Wheel Trailers

Fifth wheel trailers are the largest type of towable RVs and require larger pick-up trucks that are capable of pulling their weight. Fifth wheels require a special mount in the rear of a truck bed using a hinged plate hitch, which means that you’d need to have this installed in your truck bed in order to tow a fifth wheel. A fifth wheel trailer is different from a gooseneck trailer in the sense that a gooseneck trailer slides over a ball hitch in the bed of a pickup, which also needs to be installed to haul a trailer of this type.


Fifth Wheel Trailer Hitch


  • Fifth wheels are the largest type of towable RVs.
  • Fifth wheels require large pick-up trucks that are capable of pulling their weight and are equipped with a hinge plate hitch in the bed of the truck to tow them.
  • Fifth wheel trailers are easier to back into campsites than travel trailers.
  • Fifth wheels have a raised forward section where you’ll typically find a living room or bedroom.
  • Fifth wheel trailers are the more spacious of the towable RVs that often come with floor plans that include slide-outs that provide a larger floor plan for a more comfortable living space.
  • Fifth wheels are a great option for larger families.
  • Length: 22 – 40 feet
  • Weight: 7000 – 20,000 lbs.
  • Price Range: $20,000 - $50,000
  • Capacity: Sleeps 4 to 8 people

Tear Drop Trailer

Teardrop Trailers

Tiny trailers or teardrop trailers have a very distinctive look and are much smaller and lighter than their larger towable RV cousins. Tiny trailers are perfect for the weekend road trip warrior who loves to spend long weekends out on the road or campsite. They’re a cheaper alternative to larger RVs and constant hotel stays. Their small, solid structures give you a cozy RV feel, and they’re much easier and lighter to haul. The lighter weight of a tiny trailer means that you don’t need to invest in a larger vehicle to haul one. A light pick-up truck or SUV can tow these types of towable RVs easily.

  • The simplest teardrop RVs are just a bedroom on wheels, which is nice to have on long road trips. They give you the privacy and proper shelter you need to sleep, and are a better alternative to booking a room somewhere or staying in a tent.
  • Teardrop trailer RVs utilize swivel toilets, folding sinks, convertible beds, and many other options depending on the model you get. They can pack quite a bit of creature comforts in such a small package.
  • Tiny trailers or teardrop trailers have gained a lot of popularity over the years due to many other tiny movements, such as tiny home living. Their ease of use, maintenance and clever designs has really brought about a whole tiny trailer movement.
  • Dimensions: 4 – 6 feet wide, 8 – 10 feet in length
  • Weight: 500 – 3200 lbs.
  • Price Range: $5000 - $16,000
  • Capacity: Sleeps 2 – 4 persons (some new larger models may sleep up to 4)

Pop-up Camper

Pop-up Campers

Pop-up campers are like a tent and RV camper in one. These types of camper trailers have a hard base and roof with canvas sides that “pop-up” to provide sleeping space. These smaller, compact, fold-up trailers are lighter to pull, usually have a canvas top that can expand, and some come with kitchens, shower and toilet.

  • If you want to have the best of both worlds when it comes to tent camping and RV living, then a pop-up camper may be the right choice for you. In a pop-up, you’ve got the canvas sides that pop-up like a tent, and you get to stay off the ground, sleep in a bed and enjoy other creature comforts that an RV offers.
  • Pop-up campers are made with two sliding beds that push out from the center of the trailer when stowed away, which stick out on the sides when fully opened. There’s often sleeping room in the interior as well, via a table and seat cushions converted to a bed in some cases.
  • Just as with other types and classes of towable RV trailers and motorhomes, pop-up campers can vary in size, weight, and style. Some pop-up trailers have a hard-sided pop-up, while others are tent-style pop-ups.
  • Pop-up campers are smaller and lighter than other types of RVs, so you don’t need a large pick-up truck to pull them.
  • Dimensions: Box size (interior dimension not including pop-out beds) 8 – 16 feet. When opened, the entire length is around double the box length.
  • Weight: 1180 – 3700 lbs.
  • Price Range: $9000 - $20,000
  • Capacity: Sleeps up to 5 people

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Truck Bed Campers

Of course, there are several other options for on the road living other than the previously mentioned classes of RVs and types of towable trailers. There are other vehicle camping or sleeping options as well, such as truck campers, which are a hard top shell placed over the bed of a pick-up truck, as well as other modern types of vehicle tents to choose from to fit your needs.

Truck Bed Campers

Truck bed campers are a great alternative to motorhomes and towable RVs. They’re especially great for those who are looking for something compact and aren’t looking for the need or commitment of owning a large recreational vehicle, but still want to upgrade from ground tent camping and refraining from hotel stays.

Truck bed campers are perfect for those who already own a pickup truck and are more interested in traveling light and camping off-grid. Truck bed campers are very minimal, super easy to maintain and there’s practically no setup, just park and camp.

Truck bed campers just slide into the bed of your pickup truck and are pretty much ready to go. There are several different styles, but generally come in two varieties: slide-in or pop-up truck camper.


Slide-In Truck Camper

Slide-in Truck Camper

  • Slide-in campers are what most people think of when they think of truck bed campers.
  • Slide-in truck campers have hard-sides, slide in to the bed of a pick-up truck, and sit fairly high in the truck bed.
  • They can offer all the amenities of larger RVs in a much more compact structure that fits in your truck bed.
  • Just as their much larger RV cousins, the truck bed camper comes in several styles, shapes, and sizes. Some designs even offer a sleeping area, a seating area, and even fully equipped bathroom and kitchen!
  • They’re fully self-contained with RV holding tanks for fresh, gray, and black water.
  • As the name implies, truck bed campers fit in the bed of a typical pick-up truck bed, may extend beyond the truck bed, and some have the ability to pop-out sections to extend the living space when the vehicle is parked.
  • Size: Truck bed length to a few feet longer than your truck
  • Weight: 1000 – 5000 lbs.
  • Capacity: Sleeps up to 4 people
  • Price Range: $10,000 - $70,000

Pop-up Truck Camper

Pop-up Truck Camper

Similar in appearance and layout to slide-in truck campers are pop-up truck campers. The way you tell the difference between the two is that pop-up truck camper’s roofs are dropped down onto the main body of the truck. To describe them in another way, when in use, the roof of the pop-up truck camper pops up to make the camper taller and give more head room, and when not in use, they drop back down making a lower profile when operating your vehicle.

  • Pop-up truck campers provide minimal amenities compared to a truck bed camper. They offer a removable toilet; they may or may not have a waste water tank or fresh water storage, and sometimes have an optional small refrigerator to store food and drinks.
  • Pop-up campers have a hard shell and roof, with soft canvas walls to allow the camper to raise and lower, depending on its use.
  • They offer a bed that’s in the cab-over section, similar to hard-side truck campers.
  • On pop-up truck campers, you’ll find lifting jacks at all four corners, as well as the same type of turnbuckle and tie-down system to secure the small truck camper to the pickup truck as you do in a slide-in camper.
  • They are lighter in weight, if weight is an issue for those who require traveling light.
  • If you’re are a minimalist, then a pop-up truck camper may be perfect for you. They’re excellent in keeping you out of the elements, convenient to have, and offer just enough for comfortable living on the road.
  • If you’re looking to keep expenses low, a pop-up camper not only saves you money from having to stay in hotel rooms, but they tend to be much cheaper than their larger RV cousins and definitely a step way up from tent camping.
  • If you’re willing to put more money down on a pop-up truck camper, just as with any other RV, there are upgrades and luxuries you could go for that can raise its price dramatically.
  • Size: 10 – 15 feet in length (fit in the bed of a pickup truck)
  • Weight: 500 – 1000+ lbs.
  • Capacity: Sleeps up to 4 people
  • Price Range: $8000 - $42,000


Truck Bed and Vehicle Tents

We thought we’d throw in a mention of truck bed tents and vehicle tents as added bonuses, even though they’re not considered as “RVs”, although they do turn your truck bed, vehicle roof, or rear hatch of your SUV into a temporary RV. If you’re on the fence about purchasing an RV or are not interested in owning one, but still would like a more convenient and comfortable way to truck or car camp, then a truck bed or vehicle tent might be the way to go.

Just like a ground tent, when you’re ready to set camp, you pitch your tent in your truck bed or wherever your style of tent is designed to be set up on your car or SUV. They’re easy to set up, easy to take down and store, and they’re lightweight.

Having a vehicle tent means you won’t require owning or using a pick-up truck like you would need for a truck camper or towable RV trailer. You’d just need enough storage space to hold your vehicle tent and your travel goods and necessities, and yourself and passengers too, of course. Let’s take a look at three types of vehicle tents:


Ground Attachment Tents

Ground Attachment Tents

  • Very similar to your standard ground tent and similar setup, but ground attachment tents have a removable wall that can be wrapped around your hatchback or SUV, allowing you access to your vehicle interior right from the ground tent interior.
  • Having the ability to wrap your ground attachment tent around your vehicle and having a removable wall allows you access into your vehicle’s entire cargo space from your tent to use for storage or extra room for sleeping while camping.
  • Ground attachment tents are the most cost-effective way to break into car camping.
  • Ground attachment tents require no ladders or tailgates to climb, so they’re the easiest to set up and get into, no matter your physical ability. They’re also the easiest to use with children and pets.
  • Special ground attachmentscan be linked to an existing truck bed tent, providing even more room for you and your family.
  • Capacity: 4 people
  • Price Range: $100 - $500

Truck Bed Tents

Truck Bed Tents

  • Very similar to your standard ground tent and similar setup, but as the name implies, truck bed tents are set up in the bed of a pickup truck. This means you either need to own a truck or have access to one, and you’ll need to have some sort of padding or mattress to sleep on so you won’t have to lay directly on the hard surface of your truck bed.
  • Truck bed tents are a cost-friendly way to sleep off the ground, if you’re not in to that sort of thing.
  • They’re very lightweight, at around 10 pounds, and only take up the footprint of your truck’s bed, which means you can pretty much sleep anywhere you’re able to drive to and park.
  • Your truck bed walls act as your tent’s walls, so you’re that much more protected from the elements, and you’re also up off the ground away from most critters and creatures, which is nice.
  • Unlike a rooftop tent, you can take your truck bed tent down after every trip. This is a great option if you’re camping with your daily driver and don’t want to commit to installing a heavy tent that’s difficult to remove.
  • Capacity: 2 or 3 people
  • Price Range: $100 - $300

Rooftop Tents

Rooftop Tents

  • These types of vehicle tents have been a pretty popular way to camp recently within the United States, thanks to social media, but have been around for decades in places like Africa and Australia. Since they are set up on the rooftop of the vehicle, they keep campers high up off the ground, out of harm’s way of dangerous critters and creatures that could be lurking around the campsite.
  • Rooftop tents are compatible with both trucks and SUVs, and installed on the roof top of a roof rack. Since they’re up so high on the vehicle, they do require a latter to get into, which are usually included with the rooftop tent.
  • You’ll need to install a roof rack or a bed rack that can support the weight of the rooftop tent. Just be aware of this, and expect to spend at least $500.
  • Rooftop tents come with a flat sleeping surface and mattress. Unlike your typical ground tent materials, rooftop tents are made from a stronger, more durable canvas, which protect you better from the elements, especially when being up so high off the ground.
  • They’re easy to set up and take down, and everything is self-contained when folded up.
  • Rooftop tents are heavy; weighing around 100 pounds on average, so installing one will require some help from a friend or two.
  • Just as with any tent at a campsite, you’ll have to take it down every time you leave the campsite, and will have to put it back up again when you need to use it.
  • Capacity: Most fit 2 people comfortably
  • Price Range: $800 - $5000



Charles H.

Man of many hats, lover of road trips, not a fan of flats.

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