If you’re looking for a versatile motorhome that’s easy to drive, has all the features of a full-size RV, and fits anywhere, then you want a Class B RV.
These drivable coaches are small enough to fit inside a full-size van but have all of the amenities you’d find on 40-foot rolling mansions.
In this article, you’ll learn about their specifications, standard features, and what type of RV lifestyle you (and your family and friends) can have in one of them.
What Is a Class B RV?
Many people think that Class B motorhomes are relatively new in the RV industry. The reality is they started shortly after World War II when third-party companies, like Westfalia, would buy the Volkswagon Type II Combi Bus and renovate them in Germany.
It wasn’t until the 1970s and early 1980s that North America saw their own camper van companies. Pleasure-Way and Roadtrek were the first to hit American and Canadian roads with their motorhomes built inside full-size vans. While automakers offered van conversions with comfortable traveling features, these two RV companies made fully functioning camping vans.
A Class B RV is a drivable motorhome contained within a full-size van frame and chassis.
Defining a camper van with the definition above is a simplistic approach, but it gives us a starting point. Raising the roof and lowering the floor a few inches in each direction allows adults to stand straight. Most have full features like a kitchen, bedroom, bathroom, storage, and seating so that you can live in it for an extended period. The RV keeps its overall van appearance, but manufacturers add running boards, coach air conditioners, storage bays, and utility components to the exterior. Camper vans will have the same features as big RVs but downsized for their measurements.
The B Plus Subcategory: What is a Class B Plus RV?
B+ camper vans use the European-style or super-duty van chassis. RV manufacturers extend the sidewalls and the roof, making them appear like Class C motorhomes without the front loft bed. The extra width and height allow bigger component sizes and allow mid-coach furniture fold-out for guest sleeping.
You’ll find this subcategory of RV in campgrounds and dry camping when they’re traveling to their destination. B plus motorhomes are more luxurious compared to traditional camper vans. Families and grandparents enjoy the extra space due to the superior creature comforts.
Stealth Camper Vans Subcategory
Those who want to build an RV themselves or have a budget-friendly camper van built for them may choose to have a stealth Class B. The outside appearance of these RVs looks like a standard van. The interior has custom interiors built with sleeping space, kitchenettes, workspace, and other essential amenities.
RVers who enjoy this #VanLife will run their electric service with gas generators or solar power systems. They blend in well in urban environments, and some use them for city dry camping. They are best suited for those that enjoy a minimalist lifestyle.
Class B RV Specification Ranges
|Class B Length||16 to 22 feet|
|How many folks can a Class B RV sleep?||2 to 4 people|
|Fuel Type||Gas or Diesel|
|Price Range||$60,000 to $200,000|
Gas Mileage of a Class B RV
The average gas mileage of Class B RVs ranges between 18-25 miles per gallon (MPG). With the 25-gallon gas tank, you’ll find you can reach a distance of 450-625 miles. There are mitigating factors that reduce this figure. Road conditions, running your built-in gas generator, and other factors will shorten your distance.
For perspective, here are some other MPGs that are common in the RV world:
|Class A RV||8-13 MPG|
|Class C RV||10-15 MPG|
|Heavy-Duty Pickup Trucks Towing 5th Wheels||8-13 MPG|
Wise RVers also stick to a few safe driving rules. If you’re going for a long driving day, always fill up around a quarter of a tank. You still want a little in reserve if you can’t find a gas station.
There’s also the 2-2-2 rule for RVing (some use 3-3-2 or 4-4-2).
The first “2” suggests you should stop every two hours to stretch your legs. It prevents road hypnosis and possible blood clots from forming.
The second “2” suggests you shouldn’t travel more than 200 miles per day. It’s a reasonable distance and gives you plenty of daylight to set up wherever you stop for that leg of the journey.
The last “2” stands for staying a minimum of two nights at your stopping point. You may be eager to get to your destination, but giving yourself a full day to relax prevents exhaustion. Remember, part of the RV experience is the journey.
The European-style van models that American automakers are producing have opened the Class B market exponentially. The width may be slightly narrower than previous American van models, but the roof height gives modern vans headspace. The new designs also solved the top-heavy problem with better wheelbases and weight distribution.
There are four van chassis RV manufacturers use for their Class B RVs. Chevrolet still uses the classic American-style van body that’s more wide than tall. Some RV manufacturers offer the chassis, but the other three are more common.
- Chevrolet Express 3500 4.3L V6 276 hp @ 298 lb.- ft. Gas
- Dodge Ram ProMaster 3500 3.6L V6 Pentastar 280 hp @ 260 lb.- ft. Gas
- Ford Transit 350 3.5L V6 EcoBoost 310 hp @ 400 lb.- ft. Gas
- Mercedes Sprinter 3500 (XD) 3.0L V6 Diesel 188 hp @ 325 lb.- ft. Diesel
Popular Class B RV Manufacturers
You’ll find a good mix of big-name and independent brands that build Class B RVs. All of the big four parent companies (REV Group, Forest River Inc., Thor Industries, and Winnebago Industries) have their hands in the category through their daughter brands.
Some independent brands make them for the American market. One brand is now an affiliate of Groupe Rapido, the giant parent RV corporation in Europe.
|American||Coach REV Group|
|Coachmen||Forest River Inc.|
|Midwest Auto Designs||REV Group|
|Renegade RV||REV Group|
|Thor Motorcoach||Thor Industries|
Features You Can Expect In a Class B RV
Why Are Class B RVs So Expensive?
You’re probably looking at those price points and asking why Class B RVs are so expensive? You have to remember; the RV manufacturers are taking the components of a 35-40 foot Class A RV and placing them into a motorcoach half the size. Most Class Bs have the best materials like real leather, the best wood, and the latest technology.
The kitchen will have a traditional kitchenette configuration. All of the basic amenities exist in a cabinet and countertop. You’ll find a sink, two-burner stove, tall dorm-sized refrigerator, and a microwave. Higher-level models may have a convection microwave.
A few Class B RVs under $80,000 that don’t have plumbing have a solid countertop and plenty of electrical outlets nearby to set up portable cooking devices. Either way, the kitchen cabinets are going to give you plenty of storage space for all of your kitchen necessities.
The living room/sitting area will be a multipurpose space. Seats may convert for sleeping space, tables will set up or move, and TV screens might be brackets that hold your tablet. Luxury models use televators to hide TVs when they’re not in use.
The space you watch your favorite show is your dining room and bedroom in some models. You’ll find that the driver and co-pilot seat swivels, giving you seating for four when combined with the second-row sofa or captain chairs.
You’ll find two floorplan types in camper vans: rear bedrooms and mid-coach versions. Rear beds come in either a sofa that flattens out, a murphy bed, or a bed that lowers from the ceiling. They measure in either a queen or king. Many mid to top-end Class B motorhomes use the best memory foams to give you an incredible night’s sleep.
Mid-coach sleepers usually have murphy beds that fold over the daytime sofa. If not, then manufacturers use a tri-fold sofa. If you see a Class B RV with a slide-out, and there’s a sofa on it, more than likely, it has a mid-coach bed.
You would think that a Class B RV with a full bathroom is reserve for the most luxury models. The reality is, most have full bathrooms or combined wet baths. The smallest Class B RVs will have cassette toilets or none at all.
Camper vans have holding tanks between 8-35 gallons depending on the tank. Fresh (drinking) and grey (sink and shower) tanks are usually bigger than the black (sewer) tank.
If you’re concerned about fuel-efficiency, it’s a good idea to travel with no more than a half tank of fresh water and have the others empty. You always want to have drinking water for emergencies and to use the onboard plumbing. Water weighs 8.34 pounds per gallon, so balance safety with superfluous weight.
Power and Propane
Propane tanks in camper vans are starting to become a scarce feature. Now that stovetops and water heaters have affordable electric alternatives, RV manufacturers make these motorcoaches without them. It gives the Class B storage space opportunities.
Electric power sources have many alternatives. Besides direct plug into campground power boxes (shore power), Class B motorhomes may have a built-in gas generator or come with solar panels plugs connected to the RV’s side.
Some Class B RVs have solar panels installed as standard features. Other manufacturers offer solar panels as an option. If not, you can purchase various aftermarket solar systems on your own and have them installed.
You can expect the latest technology for entertainment, driving assistance, and other features. All Class B RVs come with rear backup cameras. Most now include side cameras. The auto manufacturers install the full package of driving assist features like brake assist and lane crossing alert.
The multi-media system will take virtually any input and give you the best sound in and outside the coach through the best speakers. LED lighting uses almost no energy and lasts for years. Your mobile device can download an app to operate the awning, exterior lights, and give you real-time readings on your RV’s status.
The driver’s area is nothing like a regular van. While the dashboard is mostly from the automaker, the RV manufacturer finished the space the way RVers want it to be. The driver’s seats give you the ultimate comfort while you’re traveling down the road. The captain’s chairs will feel similar to your favorite living room recliner.
Your dashboard screen gives you all of your camera angles, Android, Apple, and GPS travel aides. You’ll find plenty of cigarette lighter ports, 110v, and USB connections for all of your various devices. Some co-pilot spaces have foldable workspaces so your traveling companion can share the highlights of your journey.
Best Class B RVs by Category
If you’re interested in checking out great examples of Class B RVs, check out the below list for our thoughts on the best ones by category.
|Smallest Class B RV||Roadtrek Agile SS|
|Cheapest Class B RV||Gulf Stream BT Cruiser 5210 (B+)|
|Best Luxury Class B RV||American Coach Patriot MD2 Loft Bed|
|Best 4×4 Class B RV||Winnebago Revel 44E|
|Best Class B RV With Two Slides||Phoenix USA RV Phoenix Cruiser Slideout Queen Series 2910D (B+)|
Factors That Determine if a Class B RV Is Right for You
Is a Class B RV worth it? Not everybody is suited to the #VanLife. Camper vans have enough variety in them to appeal to most couples and small families. As a category, their resale value holds up well compared to many of the other types.
The two consumer groups that are the biggest buyers of camper vans are the two most prominent RV buyers in today’s market: baby boomer retirees and young millennial couples. Those with families trend towards Class C or A motorhomes because they need more space for the whole family.
Positive Class B Reviews and Ratings: (Pros)
Class B RVs have many things going for them. People who are nervous about driving large Class C or A motorhomes won’t have any problems with this category. If you’re an SUV driver, you’ll feel cozy cruising the crossroads in these camper van campers.
Using a Class B shouldn’t stay isolated to camping adventures. They are great for tailgating, day trips, and meandering through those narrow New England roads built before automobiles were scaring horses.
You’ll love the fact that you’ll never have to contend with national park RV length restrictions. Since many of the parks can’t modernize their campgrounds, the average cutoff length is around 30 feet. The longest Class B motorhomes measure 22-feet from bumper-to-bumper. Camper van sizes give you a lot more options at other public and private campgrounds.
In the great debate of towing a travel trailer or toading a dinghy (RV slang for towing a car behind your motorhome), Class B RVs have towing capacities up to 5,000 pounds. Towing your vehicle isn’t a problem for them. It solves the problem of having to unhook your utilities every time you want to leave the campground.
Outdoor enthusiasts gravitate toward Class B motorhomes for the toy hauler features they offer. Many models have a clear center aisle and reward doors that allow long items like kayaks or bikes to fit. Back hitches, roof or rear door racks give camper vans plenty of areas to connect adventure toys for travel.
Finally, there are various Class B RV storage ideas you can use that are affordable. Indoor RV storage, like garages or warehouse operations, works well. Outdoor RV storage in self-storage parking spaces or covered RV storage in parking slips won’t be a problem due to length issues. Many of the length requirements span between 20-30 feet.
Does Your Lifestyle Fit a Class B RV?
Camper vans are great to look at, but buying an RV is the second-biggest investment you’ll make. You have to determine if this category fits your camping style and accommodates your needs. Here’s the “other side of the coin” you need to think about before you start shopping.
Class B RVs have tight living quarters compared to other categories. When you calculate their price per square foot, they have the highest cost. Floor plans boil down to either rear or mid-coach bed areas, and it’s challenging to spend a lot of time inside them for long periods.
Camper vans are best suited for active people who use the coach as a basecamp. Those that explore the area, urban or rural, enjoy the Class B experience more than those that prefer quiet nights inside. Even the most luxurious versions that cost over $200,000 will give you cabin fever if you don’t get out and stretch your legs.
Some use their Class B RV for full-time living, but it’s a minimalist lifestyle. Glampers will love the luxury of top-end models from American Coach, Embassy, and other luxury-liners. Off-roaders and those looking for necessary conveniences will enjoy what Pleasure-Way and Winnebago are doing. Be prepared to change your tanks and refill your supplies often.
If you’re looking for a cold-weather motorhome, camper vans don’t have the features needed for the dead of winter. They can handle early or late season weather, but not extreme temperatures. The best four-season RVs in the motorhome categories are Class C RVs. Some of them have all-weather insulation and other amenities.
The Class B lifestyle is synonymous with the word “adjustment.” You can’t pull in somewhere, walk into the living room or bedroom, and crash. There’s always a button to push, chair to move, table to set up, or some other feature you have to move around to use it. Class A and C RVs are big enough to have permanent room sections and furniture that allow this.
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Recommendations for How to Find the Perfect Class B RV
Now that you have a general understanding of what to expect in a Class B RV, we recommend taking the next step. You can check out the latest models in the RV market through our website to learn about the newest technologies and features manufactures are now offering. It’s always a good idea to have a notepad with you to write down your favorite models and features.
We also suggest you rent a few to get some firsthand knowledge of the camper van experience. Peer-to-peer RV rental companies like Outdoorsy and RVshare can help you find Class B Motorhomes in your area. Take a few weekends to try different versions with various floor plans to help you solidify what you like.
With your rental experience and the knowledge you gain from our walkthrough articles, you’ll be ready to find the perfect Class B RV.
"Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore."
-- Andre Gide