Motorhomes vs. Travel Trailers – Know the Difference

fifth-wheel-sketch

Traditional Class B motorhome (top) and a fifth wheel camper (bottom).

The terms motorhome, RV, camper, travel trailer, and fifth wheel are all often used interchangeably to describe some sort of driven or towed structure used to explore the great outdoors. While everyday slang has somewhat blurred the lines between these words there are definite differences between motorhomes (drivable campers) and travel trailers (campers that need to be towed by another vehicle.)

Motorhomes
The largest distinguishing factor between a motorhome and a travel trailer is that a motor home can be driven. No hooking this camper to the family pick-up and toting it around the countryside – this style of camper has it’s own engine and drivetrain, and often comes with the option of gasoline or diesel power. While motorhomes are set apart from travel trailers, there are even sub-categories of motorhomes based on the type of chassis used to support the entire vehicle.

  • Class A – The largest of the motorhomes, these are probably the most common type that come to mind when someone mentions the term RV. Though not quite the same size as a bus conversion, the Class A motorhome gives rock star tour busses a run for their money and can be packed to the gills with amenities.
  • Class B – While Class B motorhomes are second alphabetically, they’re actually the smallest of all the classes of motorhomes. These RVs are built on a van chassis and are ideal for mid-length vacations as their quarters are the tightest.
  • Class C – The middle of the road between Classes A and B, these motorhomes are also build on a van chassis, but have the easily distinguishable extension of sleeping quarters that hang over the driver’s cab. This class of RV is often referred to as a mini-motor home, despite occasionally being just as long in length as the vehicles in Class A.

Travel Trailers
Separated from the motorhome, these styles of campers do not have an engine or drivetrain of their own. These trailers are not grouped into classes in the same way that motorhomes are, but are typically recognized as falling into one of two groups: travel trailers or fifth wheels.

  • Travel Trailers – These campers are smaller and must be hitched and towed completely behind another vehicle. Sometimes referred to as pop-up campers, these trailers sacrifice total square footage for portability and flexibility. The only real limit to travel trailers is the tow capacity of the lead vehicle.
  • Fifth Wheels – Similar to travel trailers, these campers lack an engine and drivetrain of their own. However, fifth wheels have a goose neck extension on the front that connects to a tow hitch in the bed of a pick-up or deck of a flatbed. Because of that goose neck, fifth wheels give you more livable space when parked, but limit the type of vehicle that is able to move the trailer from site to site.

Regardless of which style of camper you choose to purchase, it’s important to discuss all the pros and cons of each model with the salesperson or with a season RV owner – especially if you’re looking to purchase a used RV from a private party. For more help, be sure to check out our earlier post with tips on how to buy a used RV.

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3 comments

  1. […] more information about RVs and car care see our posts on winterizing your classic car, motorhomes vs. travel trailers, and tips for buying a used […]

  2. Great photos of the best layouts for Wildwood Travel Trailers. These trailers are luxury and comfort at it’s best that you’ll think you never left home.Fifth Wheels – Similar to travel trailers, these campers lack an engine and drivetrain of their own. However, fifth wheels have a goose neck extension on the front that connects to a tow hitch in the bed of a pick-up or deck of a flatbed. Because of that goose neck, fifth wheels give you more livable space when parked, but limit the type of vehicle that is able to move the trailer from site to site.

  3. Now i know its difference could not be vary by its size but also to its quality.

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