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What Is a Class B RV?

Alan Rankin
Alan Rankin

A class B RV, sometimes called a camper van, is a compact recreational vehicle (RV). The size of a standard cargo van, it is smaller than most other kinds of RVs. This offers several advantages in terms of affordability, maneuverability, and gas mileage. Despite its small size, a class B RV can include many amenities, including kitchen, bathroom, and sleeping facilities. Although it can accommodate up to four people, for maximum comfort this kind of RV is best for one or two campers who know each other well.

RV owners and dealers classify recreational vehicles based on their size. A class A RV is the largest and most expensive of motor homes, built on a bus body and often customized to the owner’s specifications. A class C RV is smaller than a class A, based around a van body like the class B, but with a wider camper area that often juts over the driver’s cab. Various other campers, including the so-called fifth wheels, are large trailers designed to be towed behind another vehicle. A class B RV, by contrast, is self-contained, only slightly taller than a standard van, and will fit into a single parking space.

The appliances in a class B RV can be powered by independent power sources, such as an extra car battery.
The appliances in a class B RV can be powered by independent power sources, such as an extra car battery.

The class B RV was introduced as a novelty in the 1970s and quickly became popular worldwide. According to the RV Consumer Group, 23,000 class Bs were produced in the United States alone in 1972. The small vehicle handled like a car and did not require learning a new set of driving skills, as the larger RVs did. It also consumed less gasoline than the class A and C RVs. These advantages continue to make the class B RV an attractive alternative for some prospective campers.

Like all recreational vehicles, the class B RV can include all the comforts of home. Amenities such as a stove, toilet, and shower are all ingeniously designed to fit inside the vehicle’s living area. A high roof or occasionally a low floor allows campers to stand up to their normal height. Appliances can run on independent power supplies, such as an extra car battery, a solar storage battery, or a propane tank. Water and sewage can be stored in tanks within the vehicle or processed to external lines, called hookups, at RV parks or campgrounds, which can also offer electricity.

The main advantage of the class B RV, its small size, can also be a disadvantage. Some facilities must be compressed to save space; for example, the toilet is often enclosed within the shower stall. For safety’s sake, many amenities must be collapsed and secured before the vehicle can be taken on the road. Although the class B works well for singles and couples, families with children often find they have soon outgrown the limited living space. For those who don’t require a lot of room, however, the class B can work well for both short trips and longer excursions.

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Discussion Comments


If I had the money, I'd get a Class B. The Class A RVs are just too darn big. Plus, they cost a fortune to operate. The gas alone is unbelievable!

A Class B is small enough to be feasible, as far as operating costs go, and you can find many more places to park them so you don't take up two campsites because your RV is longer than the Titanic.

I don't know how people drive the Class A RVs, either. It would be worse than driving a semi, and if you're towing a passenger vehicle, it would be even worse. Gah. How do people do it? I see those big rigs on the interstate, and even though they're impressive, I wonder how people pay for them and then drive the suckers!


I have a friend who has a Class B RV and she loves it. She lives in northern California, and during fire season, she stocks it up with emergency supplies and any valuables she wants to keep, and keeps it gassed up in case they have to evacuate.

So far, they've had to evacuate once, but thank goodness, the fire didn't get to their home. She said one good thing about keeping the RV is that they can take their dogs with them. They don't have to find a safe place for them -- they have one already. She said that was worth the expense all by itself, that they had a place for their pets.

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    • The appliances in a class B RV can be powered by independent power sources, such as an extra car battery.
      By: Avantgarde
      The appliances in a class B RV can be powered by independent power sources, such as an extra car battery.