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 jumping in with both feet, you 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 proceeding further, 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, including 6 reasons to own one, we recommend reading this detailed discussion to learn more. This article highlights 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 think a Class B is the best motorhome for the money, here are some considerations you should consider when buying a motorhome in this category.
Understanding the Comfort and Accessibility Limitations of Class B RV Travel
The journey in a Class B vehicle can be quite an experience, particularly for those with specific health needs. While these compact RVs are known for their efficiency and ease of maneuverability, they aren’t always the most comfortable for passengers who need to elevate their legs or move around frequently.
For those who can’t sit entirely in the cab due to health reasons, the ride can be especially challenging. The necessity to elevate legs means that the confined space of a Class B can feel even more restricting. This limitation is compounded by the vehicle’s design, which is optimized for space-saving rather than spaciousness. Consequently, passengers with such needs might find themselves struggling to find a comfortable position, especially on longer journeys.
Moreover, the ride in the back of a Class B can be described as nothing short of “horrible” by some. The lack of proper seating and the vehicle’s compact structure contribute to a bumpy and uncomfortable ride. This discomfort is particularly pronounced on uneven roads or during long trips, making the experience quite unpleasant for those seated in the rear.
The situation becomes even more inconvenient when a passenger needs a restroom break. Unlike larger RVs, Class B vehicles often have very compact or even no onboard bathroom facilities. This can be a significant issue for passengers who require frequent bathroom breaks due to health reasons. The lack of easy access to restroom facilities means that the vehicle has to make frequent stops, which can prolong the journey and add to the discomfort.
Overall, while Class B RVs offer many advantages, such as ease of driving and parking, they can be less than ideal for passengers with specific health requirements. The lack of space to move around, coupled with minimal facilities, can turn what should be an enjoyable journey into a challenging ordeal. For these passengers, considering alternative modes of transportation or RVs with more accommodating features might be a better option.
Class B Motorhomes to Avoid Based on Common Characteristics
Airstream Atlas: Why are Class B Motorhomes so Expensive?
|Mercedes-Benz Sprinter 3500
|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.
Airstream is known for using top-notch components and hardware. However, this advantage has diminished over time, as other campervans now offer similar qualities, contrasting the situation 25 years ago when Airstream’s superiority was more pronounced. This justification for Airstream’s higher prices based on component quality isn’t as strong as it once was.
Longevity remains a significant reason for Airstream’s higher prices. Airstreams tend to outlast other RVs by years. Yet, this point is less impactful for campervans, as many now share similar build quality and are constructed on the same chassis as Airstreams.
The most influential factor in Airstream’s pricing is the brand itself. The Airstream name carries considerable weight, contributing to its premium pricing. However, this has the downside of placing models like the Airstream Atlas beyond the financial reach of many in the middle class.
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 with plenty of life left.
Coach House Platinum 220TB: Limited Floorplans, Sketchy Customer Service, and Poor Door Catches
|Ford E-450 Super Duty Chassis
|Ford Godzilla 7.3L V8 Gas- 350 hp @ 465 lb./ft.
|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.
Also, the door catches in these campervans, which are spring-loaded, tend to have a limited lifespan, and there’s a noticeable scarcity of USB ports. For campervans priced over $150,000, expectations like durable magnetic catches and ample USB ports for charging various devices are quite reasonable.
Interacting with Coach House can also be challenging. Often, customers experience delays in communication, characterized by unreturned calls and no responses to emails, which can be frustrating when awaiting follow-up.
Platinum 220TB Coach House (Video)
Roadtrek Zion SRT: How to Pack a Class B RV With Limited Storage
|Dodge Ram ProMaster 3500
|Dodge Pentastar 3.6L V6 Gas- 280 hp @ 258 lb./ft.
|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 has 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 to lighten the load by shopping for food and other things during your trip.
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
|Ford Transit Extended Body
|Ford EcoBoost 3.5L V6- 306 hp @ 400 lb./ft.
|Ford Eco Blue 2.0L Inline 4- 210 hp @ 369 lb./ft.
|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
|Dodge Ram ProMaster 1500
|Dodge Pentastar 3.6L V6- 280 hp @ 260 lb./ft.
|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.
For those who prioritize a luxurious sleep experience, the Pleasure Way Tofino might not be the ideal choice. Its bed, at 52″ x 75″, is smaller than other similar campervans and requires manual setup.
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This limitation isn’t entirely the manufacturer’s fault, as there’s a market demand for smaller campervans, necessitating some compromises. Nevertheless, if a comfortable night’s sleep is a priority, other campervans have more accommodating bed options.
In terms of safety, the bed in the Tofino, when converted into a seat, is equipped with standard lap belts instead of the more secure three-point seatbelts. A notable drawback is the lack of storage space under the bed, a feature that’s highly beneficial for those needing to transport a significant amount of gear. Sufficient storage is often a critical consideration for campervan users.
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?
|Mercedes 3.0L V6 Turbo Diesel- 188 hp @ 325 lb./ft.
|Fuel- 24.5 gallons, Fresh- 21 gallons, Grey- 21 gallons, Black- 5-gallon cassette
|(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 many 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 the Revel 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 Sanidumps 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.
Campervans typically cater to those interested in boondocking or off-grid living for extended periods, and the Revel aligns with this trend. 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. However, its size poses a challenge, being somewhat cramped even for a single camper, let alone more than one.
Balancing adequate living space with necessary amenities in a campervan can be tricky, and the Revel just about achieves this. Yet, it falls short in terms of storage space, which might concern avid outdoor enthusiasts who need to carry a lot of gear.
Although the Revel is advertised as suitable for all four seasons, this claim doesn’t entirely hold up in practice. To make it truly winter-ready, especially in regions with harsher winters than those typically found south of the Mason-Dixon Line, additional winterization is necessary. The Revel doesn’t quite meet the expectations for handling extreme winter conditions as is.
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 improve the rental experience. 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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