I’m currently towing a travel trailer for my RVing fun, but I’m really looking into getting my first motorhome. Consequently, I’m heavily researching the differences between a Class A and a Class C RV.
Just to be crystal clear, I’m NOT AT ALL suggesting that Class C RVs are better than Class A RVs. Obviously, it depends on your specific needs. The point of this post isn’t to say which is better, but merely to recognize some reasons that people may want to choose a Class C instead of a Class A–IF those reasons better fit your needs. There are also very compelling reasons to choose a Class A, which we’ve written about before (And I included 23 reasons to choose the Class A in that article).
Purchasing a Class C RV is a significant investment that requires a lot of time and research. One way we recommend doing your due diligence is trying one before you make a purchase. RVShare is a great way to try a Class C RV for your next camping trip. Check out your local rental inventory by clicking here. If you’re reading this article and aren’t quite sure what a Class C is, you can read this article I wrote that explains just what it is, along with more of its advantages.
Class C Gas/Brake Pedal Location
On a Class A, the gas and brake pedals are skewed over to the right hand side, which can be really annoying for the first 5 or 6 times you drive one. The first time I drove a Class A, I had to keep looking down to make sure my foot was on the right pedal, and I had to once look down to find the brake! This is because the steering column runs between the driver’s legs.
On a Class C, the pedals are where you expect them to be.
This is obviously something you’ll get used to, but is another thing to consider.
More Sleeping Space
In general, you’ll get more sleeping space in a Class C because of the bunk over the driver/passenger seats.
This benefit is changing, however. Since Thor came out with the A.C.E. (#1 selling motorhome on the market), many manufacturers have followed suit and now it’s common to find Class A motorhomes with a bunk above the driver/passenger seat in the front.
Class C Rvs have a driver’s door, a passenger door, and also a door in the middle of the living area. Three entrances/exits is not only a safety feature, it makes it much more convenient to get out of the rig to fill up the gas, etc.
Class C saves a ton of money. Typically, a Class C will cost about $15k less than a similarly appointed Class A of the same length. This is one reason why Class C is the most popular type of RV for rentals. Here, you can find an article I wrote where I give 13 tips for buying a Class C, including whether or not to buy it new or used, renting, and other tips!
Significantly Safer for Front Impact Accidents
Class A motorhomes may seem safe when you see a huge bus, but if you’ve seen any of them after a car accident, you’ll realize that they are actually very dangerous machines.
A class C RV has a large hood and engine in front of the driver. When there is an accident, the engine drops and there is a large crash box in front of the driver intended to take the impact and save the driver and passenger.
On a Class A rig, the engine is accessed partially in front, and partially in the dog house inside the home. This makes maintenance and repairs a NIGHTMARE! There are many many mechanics who won’t even work on Class A’s for this reason. A Class C is a normal Ford or Chevy truck in the front. Lift the hood and everything looks familiar and is easily accessible.
In general, a Class A motorhome weighs significantly more than a Class C. A 30′ Class C will typically weigh about 14,000 pounds, and a Class A of the same size will often weigh 17,000 or 18,000 pounds. However, Class A motorhomes can generally tow more weight behind the coach if you have a boat or car.
This one is tough to quantify because each rig is different, but in general, the reports I’ve read from people who own both is that a Class C gets very slightly better gas mileage–in the 2 or 3 miles per gallon range.
But please put that into perspective. If you drive clear from San Francisco, California to Richmond, Virginia (that’s all the way across the US if you aren’t much for geography), that’s 2,822 miles. Assuming gas is high at $3.25 per gallon, the price difference of a vehicle that got 10 miles per gallon instead of 8 would only be $228.42. That’s it. When we’re talking about buying an $85,000 motorhome, that difference is not even a blip on the radar. I wrote an article that includes a giant guide to motorhome gas mileage, where I go over each type of motorhome and discuss it’s mileage. Find the article here.
Lower to the Ground
C Class RVs are generally lower to the ground than the Class A. This is certainly true from the driver’s perspective, but also usually true from the bottom of the coach. This means that driving the Class C feels similar to driving a truck, and also it means that the clearance is similar.
Less Likely to Roll
Because a Class C is lower to the ground and hugs the pavement when you make a tight corner, it seems that it would be less likely to topple or roll if you over-correct on the steering wheel.
This is one of the biggest factors for me in considering a Class C. The Class C has airbags just like a normal vehicle does. This obviously makes it significantly safer. Class A coaches do not have airbags!
Easier to Find Campsites
Because a Class C is so much smaller in general than a Class A, it can be much easier to find camping spots. If you are going to buy a big one, I’d recommend staying 35′ or less, which is a common cut-off point for many campgrounds in national and state parks.
Easier to Cool Driving Area
Class A rigs have a gigantic windshield which makes for a beautiful view, but also turns the cab area into an oven on a hot day. A class C is very much like a normal truck windshield and is consequently easier to evenly cool on a hot day.
Easy to See In Front of the Vehicle
One of the most intimidating aspects of driving a Class A is that the windshield is a long arm’s stretch in front of you, and the front of the vehicle is chopped flat, so you can’t see what’s directly in front of you. If a kid walks in front of the vehicle, it would be nearly impossible to see her.
A class C is lower to the ground from the driver’s perspective and consequently safer in this regard.
Tighter Turn Radius
No motorhome has great turning radius, but generally, a class C will beat a Class A in terms of turning radius. This is due to the tighter turning of the vehicle itself, and the fact that the wheel base is brought forward.
Less Wind Drag
The lower ceiling height on a Class C means that it is less likely to catch the wind. This can be a serious safety hazard as a sudden gust of wind can easily sway a vehicle and cause the driver to overcorrect.
Easier to Find Mechanics
Not only are parts cheaper on a Class C, but it’s much easier to find a mechanic. Any Ford dealer can work on your Class C motorhome, in addition to RV specialists and really any normal mechanic shop.
There are many reasons to choose a Class A. In fact, most full-time Rv families end up with a class A, and there’s good reason for that. However, I strongly believe that it’s worth your time to consider a Class C. You may just find that the benefits of this system outweigh the drawbacks.
What benefits have you found of a class C over a class A? I’d love it if you’d contribute #19 to this list in a comment below.