Recreational Vehicle: The Complete Guide [RVs] [Features, History, Types & Legality]

Recreational Vehicle: The Complete Guide [RVs] [Features, History, Types & Legality]
a woman is camping with a dog outside a camper van


RV is an abbreviated form of Recreational Vehicle. RV can be a motor vehicle or a trailer which includes living quarter for accommodation. [ref] , [/ref] The usages of RV is temporary accommodation while traveling but some people also use it for main residence purpose.


Features of RV

Typical features of an RV include a sleeping room, bathroom, and a kitchen. RV can be luxurious as well as utilitarian. The utilitarian one has a sleeping quarter and a kitchen whereas the luxurious one may have features like a water heater, air conditioning, televisions and communication systems. [ref] [/ref]

RVs can be self-motorized as well as trailers ones which have to towed behind a motor vehicle. [ref] [/ref]

Most of the RVs have a single deck but the double deck is also considered by campers. Nowadays more compact size of RVs consists of expandable sides which are called slide outs or canopies.


History of Recreational Vehicles

Early types of the caravan were horse driven and they were important during 1745 when they were used to explore the interior of North American continent. Till 1920 the RVs were popular in America and there were RV camping clubs across the country.

In those days many companies were manufacturing house trailers, one of the company was Airstream. Until the 1950s the mobile home industry and RVs industry were the same where mobile homes were shorter than 9 meters long and were easy to transport.

In the 1950s, The RVs and mobile home industry separated and this was the time when RVs manufacturers were building self-contained motorhomes.

In 1810, wagons were made for accommodation rather than just transporting people and good in France. During the same time in Britain, showmen, and circus used to live in these wagons during the 1920s.

Even during 1820s Romani people were using caravans for a living. [ref] [/ref]  In 1929, the first motorhome was built in Australia. [ref] [/ref] In 1910, the earliest motorhomes were built for cars and truck in Canada. [ref] [/ref]


What is the use of RVs?

RVs are used as temporary accommodation for traveling. Although some people also use it as a main residence purpose.

In the USA and Canada, snowbirding is the word which used to describe the traveling from clod to warmer areas in winter.

Whereas, Grey nomad is the term used for a retired person who uses an RV in Australia. [ref] [/ref]


Types of RVs

Class A Motorhome (Bus Conversion)

These types of motorhomes are either made on truck chassis which is a specially designed vehicle chassis or even a commercial bus chassis. Most of the Class A motorhome looks like a bus in design and also have a flat or vertical front end.

One special feature of this kind of motorhome is that they have large windows. Another feature which changed the industry is that now the motorhome was having wider living area because of slideouts.

A portion of the vehicle now can come out to extend the inner area. During this time the vehicle has to be stationary mode.

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Class B Motorhome (Campervan)

These campervans are built by either raising the roof of a conventional van or by replacing the low-profile body such as a.k.a coach-built.

But in Australia, you will find a Class B Motorhome quite different from a campervan because it based on a very large type of van which in turn is based on a truck.

The weight of these kinds of motorhome can be up to 4500 kilograms. The length of it is up to 6.4 meters.

Examples – Ford Trader and Isuzu NPR 300

Many of the Australian campervans are smaller vehicles but the middle ground is mostly populated by a large type of vans which is quite blurry in a definition of a campervan and a motorhome.

Examples – Ford Transit, Fiat Ducato, Iveco, and Mercedes-Benz Splinter

While in the USA and Canada the motorhome is built on different chassis as it depends on the manufacturer.

Examples of chassis are – Dodge Ram Promaster gas, Ford transit, Chevrolet Express gas and Mercedes Benz Sprinter.

There are some rules in some state of USA for a vehicle to be qualified as a Class B Motorhome, such as in California.

In the state of California, a vehicle should have 4 out of 6 built-in items to qualify as a Class B Motorhome.

  1. A water system (sink or a shower)
  2. A cooking system
  3. A refrigerator
  4. A fuel or a 110v electrical system
  5. An AC (Air Conditioning) system
  6. A toilet 


Class B Motorhomes

These are large motorhomes, a Class c motorhome is usually built upon a minimal truck platform which is connected by a forward engine and the transmission is connected by driver-shaft to a rear axle that propels the dual mounted rear wheels.

Most of the Class C motorhomes are powered by gasoline (petrol) and diesel but some have been converted to run on propane (autogas). These vehicles mostly have automatic transmission.

During the building phase, the original chassis is taken from a truck factory and is taken to a coach builder which is attached to a forward cab section, that is a van or can be a conventional truck. This kind of chassis is known as cutaway chassis.

Ford E350 or E450 chassis were used in North America during the 21 century but earlier it was Dodge/Ram and Chevrolet/GMC chassis which were used. While in Europe most of the Class C motorhomes chassis are manufactured by either Ford or Fiat.

The outer structure of the Class C motorhomes is made from fiberglass, plastics, composites and also from lightweight metals. Earlier it was made from a wooden frame which was then covered by a thin sheet of metal.

The characteristics of Class C motorhome can be a distinctive cab-over profile like it contains an upper sleeping area, entertainment section or storage space.

In United kingdom cab over is also known as Luton body or Luton peak. Interior of a Class c motorhome is equipped with a kitchen cum dining area which has a refrigerator, a microwave oven and a table with a seating facility.

There is a lavatory with bath shower, sleeping area, an AC, a water heater, a furnace, and an outside canopy. It can also have a generator and roof-mounted solar panels.

A toy hauler is a subcategory of a Class c motorhome, which has a typical configuration and additional space for hauling dirt bikes, bicycle, and ATVs.

You can also find a feature in these motorhomes which can pull lightweight trailers such as for boats. Class C motorhome is also called as mini motorhomes.


Truck Camper

A truck camper has a living space which is usually mounted into the bed of a pickup truck. It is often secured against any tipping or wobbling when the truck is in motion.

You should take care in matching the weight balance of the truck camper. The truck camper is useful for those who do not wish to own a motorhome or a trailer and use it for part-time.

Truck campers are commonly used for

Backwood travel




In North America, it is generally used to drive off-road via rough roads to reach campsites. It can have features like refrigerators, oven, AC, furnace, water heater, lavatory and shower whereas the small can have a sleeping area and an icebox.

Some of the pick-up truck which is used in North America for hauling slideout equipped campers are:

Chevrolet/GMC 2500 through 3500

Ram 2500 through 3500

Ford 250 through 350


Popup Camper

Other names of popup camper are tent camper, folding camper, tent trailer, and camper trailer. [ref] [/ref] Popup trailers are of very lightweight, you can pull out the bunks and the tent’s wall.

These bunks and the tent walls are collapsible which can be used for towing and storage. It becomes easing for most of the vehicles to toe them such as minivans, SUVs and small pickup trucks even for compact cars.


Travel Trailer

Travel trailers are rigid sides design which is generally towed by a pickup truck, SUV or by a minivan. In the past in North America, very large cars were used to tow these travel trailers such as Chevrolet or GMC Suburbans, Ford Broncos, etc. In the UK travel trailers are known as caravans.


Teardrop Trailer

These are compact and lightweight travel trailers and it looks like a teardrop hence the name. These teardrop trailers can be towed by motorcycles too.


Hybrid Trailer  

These are a hybrid version of a travel trailer and a folding tent trailer. In some designs, you will get a rigid side and a pull-out tent section which is generally beds.

In another design, the top section of the walls and also its roof can be lowered over its bottom section to reduce its height for towing.


Fifth-Wheel Trailer

It has a fifth wheel coupling, a special inbox hitch, which is specially designed to be towed by medium-duty trucks and pickups. These types of trailers body can be extended over the truck bed which can shorten the total length of the vehicle and trailer too.

Some of the fifth wheel trailers can extend over 40 feet (12.2m) in length and can be 18000 pounds (8200 Kilograms) in weight. These are very heavy trailers which can be pulled by small Freightliner or full-size class B truck such as Volvo.

They were first used for a commercial purpose during the 1960s and since then have become popular.


Park Model (Vacation/Resort cottage)

These trailers are large and generally, they are 35 to 45 feet in length. It is useful for park camping. These are not suitable for dry camping as they do not have any water storage tanks and also must be used with hookups.

These types of trailers are designed to remain stationary for a long time, but they differ from mobile homes in that they are often moved during off seasons.


Legality & RVs

in the USA there are regulations that affect the conversion of a school bus into a recreational vehicle. Like in Illinois and California it is required by law that the signaling equipment of the bus like stop sign, flashing lights, etc should be removed. The yellow paint of a typical school bus to be changed too.

In other states, it requires that the school bus signage should be removed from the front and rear.

In other countries, you may be required to have a second driving license to purchase or legally own a vehicle. Like in the UK, you need an owner of a Passenger Carrying Vehicle (PCV) category D1 or D license to drive the vehicle on UK roads.


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