The Class B Campervan’s popularity in the United States has developed subcategories that have opened new RVing segments. Social media movements like #VanLife and blog media have developed specializing in this RV sector. Before you jump in with both feet, you do need to know the other side of Class B motorhomes to avoid and why you may want to avoid them.
In this article, we’ll feature the following RVs in our discussion:
- Airstream Atlas: Why Are Class B Motorhomes so Expensive?
- Coach House Platinium 220TB: Limited Floorplans For Class B RVs
- RoadTrek Zion SRT: How to Pack a Class B RV with Limited Storage
- Sportsmobile Transit EB: The Smallest RV With a Bathroom
- Pleasure-Way Tofino: RV Living Without Real Beds
- Winnebago Revel: Can You Live In a Class B RV?
We’ll walk you through the common issues RVers find challenging about Class B RVs through examples. It’s easy to let your emotions make decisions for you. When it comes to a big purchase like RVs, you want to make sure you keep your feet on the ground and understand the RV category fully.
And lastly, before we proceed further, do note that what you read here are my opinions. Hopefully, this article helps you make a more informed buying choice if you’re in the market. If not, hopefully, it’s entertaining and gives you a perspective you hadn’t considered.
That aside, let’s jump into the article.
What Is a Class B RV?
If you want to learn more about Class B motorhomes — this article covers 6 reasons to own one, we recommend learning more with our detailed discussion about them. The previous article points out subcategories, fuel efficiency, popular chassis, standard features, and other essentials. To help you find the Class B RV that’s right for you, we point out some popular brands on the market.
Essentially, a Class B campervan is a motorhome built inside a full-size cargo van. B Plus RVs use the van chassis and increase the cargo space for more interior space. In the world of vans, you’ll now find two different styles. The first is the now popular European-inspired vans that have a tall and slender look. The three most popular include:
- The Mercedes-Benz Sprinter
- Ford Transit
- Dodge ProMaster
The other style is the classic American look with a wide square-like shape compared to the European-style long rectangle. Class B manufacturers add roof extensions on the roof and lower the floor to compensate for the height issue. The Chevrolet Express, Ford Super Duty E-Series (formally Econoline), and Nissan’s NV are great examples.
You don’t see too many of the American styles in the new market anymore, but they exist. DIY stealth campervans and some independent RV manufacturers build on these chassis. You’ll also see a handful of DIY and company-built Class B minivan campers from popular production vehicles like the Toyota Sienna, Dodge Caravan, and Honda Odyssey, to name a few.
Generally, the majority of the category uses full-size vans. Some have a driver-side slideout to increase space. You’ll find all of the same features Class A and Class C motorhomes have, but in smaller dimensions. Luxury Class B RVs use the same top-end materials the million-dollar rolling mansions have in an easier RV-to-drive vehicle.
If you’re thinking a Class B is the best motorhome for the money, here are some considerations you should look for when buying a motorhome in this category.
Class B Motorhomes to Avoid Based on Common Characteristics
Airstream Atlas: Why are Class B Motorhomes so Expensive?
|Chassis||Mercedes-Benz Sprinter 3500|
|Engine||3.0L V6 Turbo Diesel- 188 hp @ 325 lb./ ft.|
(Yes, it’s insanely expensive, which is, in my opinion, why it should be avoided.)
Since the 1940s, America has known Airstream as the RV manufacturer with the iconic silver-bullet travel trailers. Airstream’s Class B motorhome division is quickly gaining a similar reputation due to its high-quality luxury campervans. When you look at their sticker price, you’ll find that their high price competes well within the Class B sector, unlike their towable counterparts.
There are many reasons Class B motorhomes are so expensive. When you boil it all down, it comes down to one basic idea: the RV manufacturers are putting all the same features you’ll find in a 40-foot Class A into a van half its size. Doing this takes a great deal of engineering, technology, and innovation to scale down the components.
The Airstream Atlas is one of the very few campervans with an all-in-one dry bath and full-length wardrobe. The company accomplishes this by adding a mid-coach slideout with a three-person sofa. A queen-size Murphy bed folds over the couch. The small L-shaped kitchenette has a sink, two-burner induction cooktops, a refrigerator, and a microwave.
Add a televator to this without blocking the side sliding door, and you have a full-featured RV on a Mercedes-Benz Sprinter chassis with holding tanks and storage. The Atlas took years of design evolution and finding the right third-party vendor technologies. The difficulty of shrinking components takes time, effort, and innovation.
If pricing is a concern for you, there are plenty of ProMaster, Sprinter, and Transit Class B RVs on the used market worth consideration. You may find that the best used Class B RV to buy are the classic American body styles that came before the European models that have plenty of life left in them.
Coach House Platinum 220TB: Limited Floorplans for Class B RVs
|Chassis||Ford E-450 Super Duty Chassis|
|Engine||Ford Godzilla 7.3L V8 Gas- 350 hp @ 465 lb./ft.|
|Floorplan Type||Rear Dual Twin Beds|
The Coach House Platinum 220TB has dual twin beds in the rear of the motorhome. As you saw previously, the Atlas had a mid-coach murphy bed. If you explore the entirety of the category, you’ll find that Class B floorplans exist in one of three different layouts.
- Mid-coach bedrooms
- Rear bedrooms
- Rear full-width bathrooms
RV manufacturers add their variations to these layout templates. Class B RVs that sleep four have pop-up lofts ideal for children to add additional sleeping space. You’ll find that movement throughout the motor coach has to be strategic if two or more people are standing up.
RVs that allow multiple people to move around and have a more diverse floor plan exist in other categories. Class B motorhomes give you excellent fuel economy and ease of driving. Yet Class C RVs balance space, layout variety, and drivability to satisfy all of your needs.
Platinum 220TB Coach House (Video)
Roadtrek Zion SRT: How to Pack a Class B RV With Limited Storage
|Chassis||Dodge Ram ProMaster 3500|
|Engine||Dodge Pentastar 3.6L V6 Gas- 280 hp @ 258 lb./ft.|
|Storage Capacity||5.3 cubic feet in a refrigerator, 42 cubic feet in cabinetry|
Storage in Class B RVs can be limited. The Roadtrek Zion SRT has 42 cubic feet of total space in its cabinetry. If you fold down the rear seats in a mid-size SUV, the cargo space in that vehicle is about the same amount you’ll have in the Zion SRT’s various storage cabinets, including the refrigerator.
The Cargo Carrying Capacity (CCC) of the motorcoach is 1,250 pounds. The CCC includes the weight of the passengers, all holding tanks, and packed gear. With a full tank of fuel, freshwater, and two passengers, that doesn’t leave much room for much else.
The weight of water per gallon is 8.34 pounds. We recommend traveling with half a tank unless you’re going on a long trip where you’ll be off-grid. A gallon of unleaded gasoline weighs 6.3 pounds. The freshwater tank holds 37 gallons and the ProMaster 3500 chassis comes with a 24-gallon fuel capacity.
If we assume two passengers weigh 200 pounds (using simple numbers), the Zion SRT has a half tank of fresh water (154.29 pounds) and a full tank of gas (151.2 pounds), and the total CCC before gear is 705.49 pounds. That leaves 544.51 pounds for your items and food.
At this point, you may think you’re safe weight-wise, but you have to remember that the more weight the engine has to haul, the less horsepower it has for acceleration and driving conditions. We recommend keeping your gear light, focusing on the essentials, and don’t pack for the whole trip. Plan on shopping for food and other things during your trip to lighten the load.
In the RV World, storage space is more precious than gold. There are Class B RVs with bigger storage capacities and CCC tolerances. If you need significantly larger capacities, campervans might not fit your RV lifestyle.
Roadtrek Zion SRT Class B RV (Video)
Sportsmobile Transit EB: The Smallest RV With a Bathroom
|Chassis||Ford Transit Extended Body|
|Gas Engine||Ford EcoBoost 3.5L V6- 306 hp @ 400 lb./ft.|
|Diesel Engine||Ford Eco Blue 2.0L Inline 4- 210 hp @ 369 lb./ft.|
|Bathroom Type||Combo Wet Bath or None|
Affordable Class B campervans reduce amenities to keep the motorcoach under certain price limits. One of the first things stripped out is the bathroom. Mid-level Class B RVs with bathrooms have wet baths installed. Within the water closet, you’ll find the commode, sink, and shower all in one space. Open-minded part-time RVers find wet baths good enough to use while traveling as long as there’s enough room to maneuver.
Luxury-level Class B motorhomes find ways to include dry baths that separate the shower from the other features, but the one thing all Class B RV bathrooms have in common is space efficiency. You may find going through your morning routine in the shower space is a confining experience. Shower loofahs mounted to long handles may help with the process.
Since 1961, one of the key players in the American Class B RV Industry is Sportsmobile. When they design and build their custom motor coaches for their customers who choose the Ford Transit, they use the standard or extended body. Of the 22 different layouts, only five come with wet baths.
The wet bath compartment measures 24 inches wide by 36 inches long (or 2 feet by 3 feet). When using the shower, the bather must sit on the commode cover. There isn’t enough room to stand with the sink on the opposite wall. Their wet bath has a shower curtain to keep the water in and a solid door that closes the space off when not in use.
Generally, except for luxury Class A motorhomes, you use an RV shower to clean up and move on. Although, some models give you more space to enjoy the experience better. When you’re looking at campervans, spend a few moments in the shower to get the feel of them. Figure out the logistics of using it and decide if you can deal with it or not.
Pleasure-Way Tofino: RV Living Without Real Beds
|Chassis||Dodge Ram ProMaster 1500|
|Engine||Dodge Pentastar 3.6L V6- 280 hp @ 260 lb./ft.|
|Bed Type||Manual Rear Fold Down Bench and Pop-up Roof Loft|
Pleasure-Way is another icon in the Class B Category. Since 1986, this Canadian-based company has upheld the benchmark of quality for campervans in North America. While Detroit’s Big 3 were offering van conversions, Pleasure-Way showed the continent the true potential of a van.
The Tofino Series is one of Pleasure-Way’s best-selling lines in low-end Class B motorhomes. It’s easily recognizable with the pop-top loft space, even though the manufacturer has used different chassis throughout the years. The master bedroom is a rear bench that manually folds out to a full-size bed.
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Some Class B RVs have permanent dual twin-size beds, but if you want a mattress that’s sharable with your significant other, you’ll have to make do with convertible bed spaces. Dual twin beds may have bridge pieces that can support some weight, but you’ll want to pick one side or the other for those times when you want to be close.
Full or queen-size beds are either murphy beds, tri-fold sofas, or drop-down beds from the ceiling. You’ll find that most of the furniture and features have multiple purposes. RV manufacturers incorporate the pilot seats as living room seating that does open up the mid-coach area, but if you’re looking for an RV for tall people, legroom may be problematic.
Those looking for large permanent beds and defined furniture may not find Class B RVs comfortable for their RV lifestyle. If you want an RV you can walk into, drop your stuff, and fall into something to relax, we advise a bigger coach. Campervans have sofas, pilot seats, and twin beds that make this possible. Otherwise, to avoid the “some assembly required” issue, look into a larger drivable category.
Pleasure-Way Tofino (Video)
Winnebago Revel: Can You Live In a Class B RV?
|Engine||Mercedes 3.0L V6 Turbo Diesel- 188 hp @ 325 lb./ft.|
|Holding Tanks||Fuel- 24.5 gallons, Fresh- 21 gallons, Grey- 21 gallons, Black- 5-gallon cassette|
|Power Sources||(2) 125 amp-hour Lithium-Ion Batteries, 30-amp shore power cord, 2,000-watt inverter, Standard 215-watt solar panel system with a dual battery charging|
Ever since the Winnebago Revel came out, it’s received a lot of positive reviews. Each year, Winnie followed the philosophy of its subsidiary, Grand Design, by making changes based directly on customer feedback. Yet the question remains, how livable is a 20-foot campervan?
It depends on how you plan to use it. You will see YouTube videos of lone travelers going out to remote areas for extended periods off-grid. What they’re not telling you are the sacrifices they make to achieve this. The Revel has a vast rear bay for storage. The owner must clear out large items from the truck space to lower the bed if they want to use it.
The cassette toilet, grey tank, and freshwater can last about a week if used strategically. Using the Sanidump app to find the closest dump station to cycle the tanks is a must. While you’re around civilization, you’ll need to restock your supplies for the next week. If you don’t have to use a gas generator while you’re out in the bush, fuel won’t be much of a problem unless it’s a long hike back and forth to your campsite.
Class B RVs are excellent for boondocking (boondocking means camping off-grid in places other than campgrounds without outside utility hookups). They provide a mobile headquarters while you’re traveling and adventuring. Empty-nesters use campervans as a way to crisscross the country to visit their kids and grandkids comfortably.
Even the highest-level luxury Class B motorhomes have a limited indoor camping experience. The materials and construction are the best the industry has to offer, but cabin fever can set in if you’re stuck inside during a two-day rainstorm.
If you want a drivable with the best indoor RV experience, larger motorhome categories or towables may suit your needs better. Talk to your RV dealer about what you’re looking for so they can show you all the options available. You may see something you haven’t thought of before.
Winnebago Revel (Video)
Is a Class B RV Worth It?
Class B motorhomes are ideal for numerous reasons:
- They’re the easiest to drive.
- You can park them anywhere.
- Campervans are excellent mobile HQs
- Off-road models are great for a self-contained trip into the backwoods.
- Class B RVs make long journeys comfortable.
- The category works well for short vacations.
- These motor coaches are fuel-efficient enough to act as your secondary home vehicle.
We always recommend you try before you buy if you’re considering purchasing one for yourself. Peer-to-peer RV rental companies like Outdoorsy, RV-Ezy, RVshare, or regional companies are a great place to start online. You’ll find great deals on real coaches owned by people, not corporate fleets.
Owners walk you through the vehicle’s operation and may offer additional features to make the rental experience better. The rental company guides you through the entire process, so if this is your first time, you will find these highly accredited companies are on your side even in these uncertain times.
Make sure you bookmark the RV Troop Website and check in often. We’re continually adding new content about the various RV categories, trends, and camping tips. Whether you’re buying your first coach or heading out for the umpteenth time, there’s always something new to learn.
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