Types of RVs, Campers and Trailers: Which is Right for You?

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If you are thinking of renting an RV or buying an RV, you may be a bit confused as you learn about all the different types of RVs that exist.  From camper vans, trailers, to massive buses; there are not only unique features of each type, but pros and cons as well.  So to help you understand the differences, and decide on the right style for your needs, here’s a breakdown of the different types of RVs so that you can enjoy the RV travel lifestyle!

Camper Vans

These vehicles are just what they sound like, a van that you can camp in. But they can vary dramatically!  Camper vans range in size from very small to fairly big, and they typically have a lot of interesting customization to them. Many camper vans may only have 1 bed, but in the larger models there could be an additional sleeping area or bunks (if the roof is raised).  Some of camper vans even have pop-tops that expand so you can stand up inside, and open the vents to get airflow.

Most camper vans will have some type of kitchen appliances, but they will usually be quite small and simple; possibly just a burner stove and a cooling compartment.  More rustic versions may just have a jug with a pump for water, while larger sophisticated vans could have a reservoir with a running water and even a type of wet-bath with a shower and toilet!

Pros & Who Will Love ‘Em:

Camper vans vary greatly with size and features.  But overall, they are best for just a couple people.  Simple camper vans are good for those who just take weekend trips or prefer to rough it a little (but still have more comforts than a tent).  But larger and more luxurious models are good for extended trips too — as long as you are ok being in a tight space.  Camper vans are also wonderful for maneuverability around town, parking in tight places, and even “boon-docking” more inconspicuously.

Camper vans can be pretty charming and hold a lot of nostalgia for some people, especially the classic VW versions (even though we have a motorhome now, Josh constantly talks about getting a classic VW campervan one day).

As far as affordability, that depends.  Camper vans are typically pretty good on gas overall, but the prices of the vehicles can vary drastically.  Cheaper options may not have many features, while more luxury options can cost a small fortune.

Pop Up Campers

Sometimes these are called “pop up trailers” or “tent trailers” — essentially they are kinda like a tent on wheels.  They have some basic features, like a couple of beds, a dinette and a small kitchenette.  Larger models may even include a type of wet-bath!

Pros & Who Will Love ‘Em:

Pop up campers are great if you are just looking for a step up from a tent.  They are fairly inexpensive and light, so they can be towed fairly easily with many vehicles, even some of the more powerful cars.  The downside is that you do have to set it up and take it down each time, which can be a pain.  You are also at the mercy of the weather – if there are strong winds or rain it could be less comfortable inside.  Plus, the fabric can always rip or leak.

If you enjoy tent camping but are looking for something a little larger, yet simple, then a pop-up trailer may be good for you.  Also, you need to have a vehicle that can pull it — but luckily, it doesn’t really take a special or super expensive vehicle to tow these.

Truck Campers

If you already own a strong truck and want an option more comfortable than a camper van, these are good options.  Truck campers are a type of living space that can be temporarily added on top of a truck bed.  Depending on the size, you can get a bed and small kitchenette plus a table area inside these campers.  Some of the larger ones may also have a small wet-bath option too.

Pros & Who Will Love ‘Em:

The convenient thing about truck campers is that they are a great option if you already have a good strong truck, and yet they are compact for traveling around and you can get into tight areas with them.  You also don’t have to worry about towing anything behind a vehicle (and all that entails when driving, turning around, parking, etc.).  However, you must be sure you have a sturdy truck and that you mount it properly so it is secure and safe.

Truck campers are preferred by those who want RV comforts without investing in a separate vehicle, or towable trailer.  These are quite popular with hunters or other types of outdoors enthusiasts because they are compact, and can be put on a truck for use then taken off so the truck can be used for other things.

Travel Trailers

These can vary in size & features dramatically! Small trailers can be towed with just a truck, SUV or even some mini-vans.  Smaller trailers may have 1-3 beds in them (including a table that converts), seating areas and a kitchenette.

As the trailer gets larger, so does the kitchen, seating and storage areas.  Small trailers may just have a wet-bath and small sleeping areas, while larger ones could have entire bedrooms and a bath tub!

Unique Types of Travel Trailers

Teardrop trailers are a super compact version of travel trailers.  They can be towed easily and typically just a bed a few other features.  There are also some unique trailers that are low profile, but have automatic pop-up features — but it’s a hardshell instead of a tent!  These may be called hybrid trailers, or something similar.

Pros & Who Will Love ‘Em:

Overall, one of the perks to having trailers is that you have a separate vehicle that you can easily detach and drive around at your destination, without having to break down your campsite.  Also, trailers are typically less expensive than actual motorhomes – and you can easily change the car, if necessary.  The downside is that not everyone feels comfortable towing a trailer.

Travel trailers are good for a large variety of travelers.  They are relatively affordable and vary widely in size and features, so people can pick what is right for their needs.  However, you need to have a vehicle that can handle towing it.

Fifth Wheels

Similar to a trailer, they are towed behind a vehicle.  However, the vehicle must be a truck because it has a special in-box hitch where it attaches inside the bed of the truck (usually with a bedroom or some part of the trailer body extending out above the hitch and over the truck bed).

Pros & Who Will Love ‘Em:

The advantage to this is that fifth wheels are more stable when driving down the highway than a typical trailer.  However, they require more customization and expense when setting up the towing hitches.  Plus, having the trailer hitched in the back of the truck bed takes away valuable storage space for some people.

As far as features, fifth wheels tend to be quite comfortable and have a lot of features of a home – especially the new massive ones.  In fact, walking around many RV parks you will certainly see a number of these massive, luxurious fifth wheels — some may seem as big as an apartment!

Fifth wheels are preferred by people who already have good strong trucks, but are looking for a larger living space.  These are quite popular by “snowbirds” and other people who live on the road for extended periods of time because they are so spacious comfortable.


This is a special type of travel trailer or fifth-wheel (and even some motorhomes) which basically includes a back room where you can store “toys” — such as ATVs, golf carts, bikes, etc.  It opens up in the back with a ramp so you can put these vehicles inside the back of the living area – kind of like a mobile garage that’s attached.  But some toyhauler “garages” actually convert to a usable room too when the toys are unloaded – possibly having drop down beds or couches.

Pros & Who Will Love ‘Em:

If you have a lot of “toys” that you want to bring with you on your adventures, this is a good option!


Motorhomes are basically an engine and a trailer combined into just 1 vehicle.  The advantage of this is that it’s comfortable to drive, and you have the ability to get up and move around within the living areas as needed.  Plus, you aren’t putting wear and tear on a vehicle to tow a trailer.  However, the downside is that motorhomes are quite a bit more expensive than trailers because you are essentially buying a car too!  Plus, if there is an engine issue you can’t just sell the truck and get a a new one…it affects the whole RV.  Lastly, many people don’t want to drive a big RV around town for the day, so they end up towing a car that they can use to zip around without tearing down camp.

There are many different styles of motorhomes.

Class A Motorhome

Class A’s are the big bus-style RVs that you see driving down the road.  These are big to drive, but have a lot more living space and storage. They are typically build on a truck / bus kind of chasis and have large windows, and sit up higher – which gives you some great views over traffic ahead of you and of the scenery around you. My dad loves his class A motorhome, and we definitely enjoying traveling with them in their class A.  The downside is that they are real gas-guzzlers, and can be difficult to drive.

Class C Motorhomes

We named our new RV “Eva” — which came from a texting typo…and we just decided to keep it!

This is the kind of RV we bought.  Class C’s look almost like a camper because they have a driving cab with a sleeping bed / storage area resting over the top of the cab.  Class C’s are on a minimum truck chassis, so they feel more substantial but are not like the large class A’s.  They tend to feel similar to driving a big van as opposed to a giant bus (at least from our opinion) and are less intimidating for newbie RV owners to drive.

Class B Motorhomes

Similar to a camper van, but just a bit larger overall.  Not quite the size of a Class C.  Great for maneuverability and a bit of added comfort.  They are small inside, but great for a couple people or short trips.

Pros & Who Will Love ‘Em:

Motorhomes are popular for people who want more space than a van, but don’t want to tow a large trailer, or don’t want to invest in an expensive truck.  They are great for all types of travelers, but it’s important to find the right style of motorhome for your needs – whether it’s a class A, B, or C.

Which Type of RV is Right for You?

Now that you know about the types of RVs out there and their differences, as well as their pros and cons, you should be able to narrow down which options are right for you and your travel style.  There are a lot of features of RVs to consider, so take some time and look around at the different options out there to see what might work best for you.  Once you know that, then you will be better able to buy an RV that suits your needs best. 

Check Out Our Complete RV Travel & Lifestyle Guide!

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