Comparing Travel Trailers and Motorhomes: Choosing the right RV for your adventure

Motorhomes and travel trailers are both popular choices for individuals and families seeking the freedom of the open road travel.

Exploring the country in an RV allows Americans to embrace the full spectrum of experiences while enjoying the comforts of home, including amenities like electricity, drinking water, a kitchen, and a bathroom.

Motorhomes and travel trailers are both types of recreational vehicles (RVs), but they differ significantly:

Travel Trailers

Travel trailers are non-motorized units that require a separate towing vehicle, such as a truck or SUV.

Since travel trailers are detached from the towing vehicle, you can set up a campsite and leave the trailer behind for day trips without bringing the entire living space.

Generally travel trailers tend to be more affordable than motorhomes, reason why they are a popular choice for those looking to enter the RV lifestyle without a significant upfront investment.

They come in various sizes and layouts, offering flexibility to choose a unit that suits your preferences and needs.

There are different types of recreational vehicles: fifth-wheel trailer, toy hauler, hybrid or expandable trailers, pop-up camper, teardrop trailer, truck camper and more.


Motorhomes, also known as motor coaches or motorized RVs, are vehicles with an integrated living space. They have their own engines, combining transportation and accommodation in one unit.

Motorhomes can be more expensive than travel trailers, especially larger Class A models.

The three motorhome classes

Motorhomes come in different classes, including Class A (larger, bus-like), Class B (compact, van-like), and Class C (a mid-size option with a distinctive over-cab area)

1. Class A RVs

Class A RVs are the largest and often the most luxurious. These are typically motorhomes built on heavy-duty chassis, resembling large buses.

Class A RVs can include amenities such as full kitchens, bathrooms, entertainment systems, and spacious living areas; they typically have taller ceilings, as well.

They are ideal for extended trips and often come with slide-out sections to increase interior space when parked. Class A RVs range in size from 21 feet to a whopping 45 feet – it may be intimidating for some to drive.

The main disadvantage of Class A motorhomes, compared to their smaller counterparts, is the difficulty of storing them when not in use; parking one in the backyard or driveway is not a straightforward option.

As a results, many Class A RV owners resort to RV storage facilities, which leads to additional expenses.

Additionally, higher fuel expenses when compared to smaller RVs make it the most expensive class to maintain.

Note: When camping in a Class A motorhome, whether it be at a state or national park, recreation area, private campground, or RV resort, the first step is to ensure that your RV will fit within the designated campsite.

2. Class B RVs

Class B RVs, also known as camper vans or van conversions, are more compact and maneuverable, compared to towables and larger motorhomes.

They are built on van chassis and are a popular choice for those who want a balance between comfort and mobility, ideal for a couple or small family.

Class B RVs often include basic amenities such as a kitchenette, bathroom, and sleeping quarters.

They are suitable for smaller groups or individuals who prioritize ease of driving and parking.

3. Class C RVs

Class C RVs fall in between Class A and Class B in terms of size and features. They are built on a truck chassis with an attached cab section over the driver’s compartment.

Class C RVs often offer a more affordable option compared to Class A, with amenities similar to those found in larger RVs. They offer greater sleeping capacity, increased storage, and larger tanks when compared to Class B motorhomes.

They are a popular choice for families and groups who want a comfortable RV experience without the size and expense of a Class A motorhome.

The size of your Class C RV should generally allow for easy accommodation in most camping sites at state parks, recreation areas, private campgrounds, or national parks.

A Class C motorhome is akin to driving a standard truck or van, featuring a familiar chassis, gas and brake pedal layout, as well as a dashboard and steering wheel setup for quick and comfortable driving.

Class C motorhomes are less intimidating than Class A RVs!

Here’s a comparison table for motorhomes and travel trailers:

Feature Motorhomes Travel Trailers
Driving Convenience Integrated living space with its own engine; drive and live in the same unit. Requires a separate towing vehicle; the living space is detached.
Mobility All-in-one unit; no need for a separate towing vehicle. Flexibility to leave the trailer behind for day trips without the entire living space.
Variety Classes include Class A (larger), Class B (compact), and Class C (mid-size). Various sizes and layouts available.
Cost Can be more expensive, especially Class A models. Generally more affordable than motorhomes, making them accessible for those on a budget
Size Different classes cater to various sizes Various sizes and layouts

Regardless of the recreational trailer or RV you choose, take you time with the decision-making process.

Most contemporary RVs are equipped with air conditioning units, and many also feature dual-purpose heating and cooling systems. (RV heating options typically fall into two categories: heat pumps and furnaces.)

While older models may have different configurations, nearly all modern RVs, including motorhomes and travel trailers, come standard with pre-installed air conditioning.

These units are specifically designed for efficient cooling in mobile homes and offer a space-saving advantage. Available in various sizes and power capacities, these AC units cater to the diverse needs of different RV models.

Read more: Do RVs have air conditioning?

Licensing requirements for RV drivers

Typically, a valid driver’s license (non-commercial) is sufficient for legally renting and driving most RVs, though certain states or specific RV types may need a commercial driver’s license (CDL).

Certain states may require a Class A CDL or Class B CDL though:

CDL Class Criteria
A If GCWR of the tow truck is 26,001 pounds or more, and the towed vehicle alone exceeds 10,000 pounds GVWR.
B If the GVWR of the tow truck alone is 26,001 pounds or more, the driver is required to have a Class B CDL in the following scenarios:

  • (a) driving the tow truck without a vehicle in tow, or
  • (b) driving the tow truck with a towed vehicle of 10,000 pounds or less GVWR.
C If the driver of a tow truck or towing configuration doesn’t meet the criteria mentioned above but tows a vehicle requiring placards for HM during a “subsequent move” after the initial transport of the disabled vehicle to the nearest storage or repair facility.

(GCWR – Gross Combined Weight Rating; GVWR – Gross Vehicle Weight Rating; HM – Hazardous Materials)

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