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Which motorhome is better for a family of four?


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Interior of a Class A motorhome
A class A motorhome typically looks like a bus

We are first time RV buyers and a family of four. We have decided that we want a motorhome rather than a trailer. But we're not sure whether to go for a Class A or Class C. We'll be using it every year for family vacations. Do you have advice you can give?

Dear RVer,

A motorhome is a big investment and one should consider a lot of factors first before making the big decision. We’ve come up with the pros and consfor both so you can make an easy decision. We will also ask you a few self-assessing questions in order for you to get a clearer picture of what you need in a motorhome.

First up - what is your budget? Class A motorhomes are typically more expensive than Class C motorhomes. So this might make your decision an easy one if you’re budget does not allow for a Class A motorhome.

Here are the main pros and cons of Class A and Class C motorhome:

Models can also vary a lot within each class of motorhome. So we recommend that you before you buy anything speak to other owners, test drive them and even trying renting some for a weekend to really try them out. Also visit a local trade show, (a list of trade shows can be found at RVIA) and look at what is on offer. It's the best way to compare layouts and features side by side. Talk to dealers, other owners and other buyers. Get brochures, take photos of ones you see and study floor plans to give you ideas of what will suit you and your requirements. You should also visit your local RV dealers too. You can find your local dealer at RVDA. Finally consider joining a local RV club, subscribe to recreation vehicle magazines and newsletters and search various RV forums to hear peoples stories, tips and advice on RVs and buying.

Class A Motorhome

Class A motorhomes are the largest among all RVs and they typically have a bus-like appearance. These motorhomes are also the most luxurious among all RVs and are popularly used by celebrities and musicians as tour buses. A typical Class A provides all the necessary conveniences with amenities such as a full bathroom with shower, toilet and sink, master bedroom, a kitchen, dining facilities and basically all the comforts of home.

Pros:

  • Built on a converted, stripped or custom truck chassis making it the roomiest of all RV types and most suitable as a fulltime home.
  • Even the most basic Class A models have complete amenities and a range of optional extras to provide not only basic comfort but luxury.
  • Have multiple slide-out features that further enhance and open up the living space by up to 1 meter.
  • Large storage compartments, storage tanks and carrying capacity. Largest among all RV types with a typical length of 26-45 feet.
  • Most Class A RVs can sleep up to 8 people.
  • Easiest to drive and provides the smoothest most stable ride among all RV types when in smooth and free moving traffic, like the highway.
  • Very convenient for the driver as the driving and living compartments are connected. There is full access to the living area even while vehicle is moving and there is no need for the driver to get out of the RV during stops.
  • Provides clear and wide driving visibility as it has a full windshield and elevated driver position.
  • Since Class A RVs are typically furnished with all the necessary amenities such as electricity, A/C, full bathroom, etc., you are assured a comfortable stay no matter what facilities or amenities a campground or RV park offers. The Class A is great for enjoying extended trips in comfort.
  • Have numerous options for customization such as power steering, power brakes, gasoline or diesel engines and automatic transmission.
  • Have fully winterized models that allow customization to include heated tanks, upgraded insulation, high BTU furnace, etc.
  • Is able to tow a small vehicle behind or hold a carrying platform on trailer hitches.

Cons:

  • Because of its large size, Class A RVs will have limited to no access on certain back roads, parks and campgrounds that are restricted to smaller type RVs.
  • Full-timers will have some difficulty with parking as some residential areas limit RV parking space. Also, a Class A RV owner needs a very large area where they can store this large motorhome when not in use.
  • Requires a back-up monitor for reverse parking.
  • Top clearance can pose difficulties with regard to low structures such as bridges and low hanging branches.
  • Requires repairs to be done in specialized shops.
  • This is the most expensive type of motor home in terms of upfront cost, ranging from $60,000 to more than $600,000. The best and most elegant Class A RVs can cost more than $1,000,000. Not only is it expensive to purchase but Class As are also the most expensive to operate.
  • For full-timers, an alternative transportation is required as a Class A is too bulky to drive around town.
  • Driver’s elevated position and vehicle width makes it difficult to estimate right side clearance.
  • Driving compartment not separate from living area making some uncomfortable with the idea of "living in a vehicle".
  • Have more structural and safety issues as compared to other RV types.
  • Poor fuel economy

Class C Motorhome

Class C motorhomes have a very distinct appearance. This type of RV has a "truck cab" and an over-cab bed and looks very much like a camper. Class C RVs or sometimes called mini-motorhomes, have always been a popular choice for families ever since the 70s.

Class C models have the versatility of coming in economical models but it can also be customized to be very luxurious. It is smaller than Class A RVs with an average length of 20 to 32 feet. Like the Class A, a basic Class C motorhome also has all the necessary comforts of home albeit a little less spacious and elegant.

The entire front of a Class C RV (composed of the cockpit, doors, dash and engine) resemble a van or pickup truck in appearance as well as in construction because it is built on a cutaway chassis; that is why Class C motorhomes are also referred to as a van conversion.

Pros :

  • One of the most noteworthy strengths of a Class C is its built-in safety features. The Class C RV is generally a safer motorhome compared to Class A motorhomes because of how its cockpit is constructed.
  • Basic amenities: kitchen, bathroom, dinette, heating, A/C, and depending on the model, entertainment features.
  • Cost efficient and typically cheaper than a Class A. Costs approximately $50,000 to $170,000.
  • Fuel economy better than a Class A.
  • Majority of the Class C models have the TV mounted in an entertainment center in the cabover, either behind the cockpit or to one side of the living area. This is safer as compared to having the TV mounted overhead in the cockpit.
  • Some Class C models have slide-outs that allow the room to expand outwards extending the living space. In terms of safety, multiple slide-outs are not advisable as they weaken the structural integrity of the motor home’s walls.
  • There are Class C’s that rival Class A’s in size and luxury. These are referred to as Class C+ motor homes and are built on Chevy, Ford, International, or heavy-duty Freightliner truck chassis. These are of course, in the same price range as Class A RVs.
  • Class C motor homes can sleep up to 10 people because of the overcab bed feature.
  • Easier to drive than Class A RV’s and most trailers. Class C owners say that driving Class C RVs feels like driving a heavier and bigger SUV.
  • Because it is more compact than Class A, it can be driven on most roads.
  • Have full internal access to the whole RV (living area and cockpit).
  • Can be considered a cross between an economical Class A and a high end Class B. overall, it fits between the A and B class in terms of purchase, operating and maintenance cost, storage and carrying capacity, handling and parking, comfort and space.

Cons :

  • Smaller than a Class A.
  • Room and beds may feel constrained and cramped
  • A bit cumbersome as beds needs to be assembled and restored every time.
  • Front windshield is small and often the same size as a regular truck.
  • Although fuel economy is better than Class A RVs, the difference is not all that significant.
  • More expensive than most trailers.
  • Although it is smaller than a Class A, it still requires a large area for storage.
  • Driver's elevated position and vehicle width makes it difficult to estimate right side clearance.
  • The price depreciates faster than Class A RVs
  • Passengers don't see as much out the window.

Both types of motor homes have their advantages and disadvantages. But as you are a family of four looking for an affordable yet comfortable motorhome that you plan to take with you on family vacations, we highly recommend the Class C. If you do not require a lot of living space and storage, the Class C will be perfect.

It offers all the comforts of a Class A RV but is more modest in size, amenities and price. It is spacious enough to provide comfort but compact enough that it is welcome in most campgrounds and RV parks.

It is safer and easier to maneuver plus it has more access to small and even remote locations.

We hope this has helped you make a decision. Please check out our How to buy an RV article as this also includes tips on price negotiation and how to inspect the RV that you're going to buy. The key thing is do lots of homework and research before buying anything that it is a sizeable investment.

Copyright ©2011 Camping Road Trip, LLC

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