Your Ultimate Guide to Understanding RVs

What is an RV? 

If you're thinking about heading out on a camping or road trip, an RV may be an essential part of your journey. So, what is an RV? These recreational vehicles can come in many forms suited for various needs.

The Different Classes of RVs

RVs fall into two main categories: motorized and towable. As the names suggest, a motorized RV will come as a complete package, while a towable one will be smaller and will need to attach to another vehicle to go anywhere. Within each of these larger groups are subcategories.

Motorized RVs (Motorhomes)

Class A RVs are what most people think of when they consider motorhomes, and they have a complete RV interior and a dab for the driver. Class As are easily one of the most expensive options since they allow for passengers to move about, even while driving, and there's plenty of space for amenities, making them excellent choices for campers.

Class B RVs are much smaller than Class A motorhomes and are often closer to the size of vans. Many RVs in this class were initially retrofitted from vans before they became more prevalent for manufacturers. With a smaller amount of space available, a Class B RV is often more accessible in terms of price.

Class C RVs round out the motorhomes section and fall between the size of a Class A and a Class B. Class Cs often look much more like trucks than vans, and one of their distinguishing features is that they have an overhanging section over the front cab, which provides extra space. Super C models are also available, which are similar in design but have engines like those found in 18-wheelers for additional power.

Towable RVs

Towable travel trailers can make for an excellent option for those new to RVing, as they come at various sizes and prices. More compact options can provide enough space for sleeping, with larger models giving more comforts.

A fifth wheel model is a type of RV that works correctly with pickup trucks. They connect to the truck bed and are often easier to maneuver than a standard tow-behind. These RVs often are the size of a towable trailer and have plenty of space.

For anyone who has some extra gear they want to take with them, sport utility RVs have both a compartment to live in a while also having a back designed for hauling equipment like dirt bikes. Depending on what you want to carry with you, various designs and custom options can best fit your need.

The History of RVs

While the fancy features of modern RVs are relatively newer, RVing as we know it had its origins in the early 1900s when motor vehicles were becoming more popular. These first RV models were towable models, which had basic amenities like beds, storage, and cooking areas. By the end of 1910, the first RV with essential bathroom amenities entered the market.

Over the next two decades, RVing became more popular as a hobby, and automotive manufacturers started to develop more advancements to these campers. Throughout the 1930s, RVs of the time became more durable, and water and electric systems began to become more popular features.

When the World Wars and the Great Depression occurred, RVs became much scarcer due to the shortage of supplies; manufacturers of the time offered trailers for mobile hospitals and other needs. RVs would come back into focus in the 1950s, which set off the modern RV era. Many notable manufacturers started to produce a variety of models to meet customer needs.

More innovations have happened since then, as we can see the changes in the RVs available on the market today. More appliances and amenities are available than ever before, such as included showers, washers and dryers, microwaves, dishwashers, cooking tools, and satellite dishes that allow for internet and television access—giving new meaning to what serves as a motorhome.

While the motorhomes and travel trailers today are a far cry from their origins at the beginning of the twentieth century, the spirit of travel and life on the road is the same as ever.

RV Terminology

With a history stretching past one-hundred years, it's no surprise that RVing has its own set of terminology involved. Here are seven words and phrases you should know to keep up with the RVing community!

  • Boondocking, also known as "dry camping," is whenever you camp without using external water, sewer, electricity, or another hookup.
  • A dinghy or toad is the term for the vehicle that your motorhome is towing behind it.
  • Full-timers are any RVers that choose to live out of their RV throughout the whole year, rather than just using it for the occasional trip.
  • Snowbirds are RVers who head north in the summer and south in the winter to get the best out of the weather and avoid uncomfortably cold conditions.
  • Full hookups are campsites that provide connections for all the wanted utilities while RVing: electricity, water, and sewage.
  • Wheel chocks are slanted blocks used to keep the RV from rolling while parked or camping. Wheel chock materials often are plastic or wooden.
  • The term diesel puller refers to a motorhome with the engine in the front of the vehicle. On the other hand, diesel pushers have the motor mounted in the rear of the RV.

Of course, the complete RVing lexicon includes more than just these terms but knowing what's on this list will help you get started at understanding what other RVers are talking about when you stop to chat.

RV Prices

With so many sizes, styles, and features available when it comes to RVs, it shouldn't be a surprise that you have a wide range of prices when searching the market. Motorhomes with their engines will be more expensive than towable travel trailers, and you can expect a higher cost the more amenities included in your RV. Average starting ranges for new RV prices are:

  • Class A: $50,000-$100,000
  • Class B: $40,000-$150,000
  • Class C: $60,000-$150,000
  • Fifth Wheel: $15,000-$50,000
  • Travel Trailer: $10,000-$65,000
  • Pop-Up Trailer: $8,000-$20,000
  • Truck Bed Camper: $3,000-$40,000

Note that these numbers are generally just the starting point when it comes to figuring out an RV price. It's not unheard of for there to be Class A motorhomes worth up to a million dollars, depending on what features they include. Thankfully, RV manufacturers understand that not everyone has that money to spend, so it can be easy to find an affordable option, especially with the use of an RV finder.

Used RVs, on the other end, don't cost as much as new models, just like you'd see with cars or any other type of product. However, while a used RV can save money up front, you will likely still spend a substantial amount in repair costs if you don't thoroughly vet an RV beforehand.

Aside from the initial cost of the RV itself, the total cost will include additional accessories you'll need (such as a generator), a storage space fee, insurance prices, other operating expenses, and also the price of campground fees when you hit the road. For these reasons, some people prefer to rent an RV whenever they only need one.

Wrapping Up

With an extensive history, RVs have changed a lot over the years, but the concept remains the same: a place to have additional comforts when traveling. Whether it's a camper or a motorhome, these recreational vehicles will give you worthwhile travel experience.