RV vs. Camper

Are you looking to hit the highway on an epic road trip? Are you torn between deciding on an RV or camper? These are broadly used terms that describe some form of accommodation on wheels. But how do they differ?

Let us help you understand the differences between RVs and campers.

RV – An Umbrella Term

RV stands for “Recreational Vehicle,” which is an extremely broad term. There are multiple types of RV split into categories including Class A motorhomes, Class B motorhomes, Class C motorhomes, travel trailers (modern, vintage, Airstream, etc.), fifth wheel haulers, and campers. 

Campers can be considered RVs, but not all RVs are campers. After all, an SUV with a roof-mounted tent and some amenities can technically be classified as an RV (though it more closely resembles a camper.

Motorhomes – What Most People Call RVs

  • Motorhomes are the quintessential RVs that we picture in our minds.
  • Class A motorhomes are massive behemoths at over 40 feet in length and contain most of the modern conveniences one can expect in a home.
  • Class B motorhomes are much smaller, usually 18 to 24 feet in length, and they offer a more spartan camping experience with higher practicality.
  • Class C motorhomes straddle Class A and Class B, coming in at 20 to 40 feet in length and offering a decent blend of luxury and practicality.

When you think of RVs, you probably visualize some sort of truck-like vehicle, similar to a medium or large bus, with a powerful engine, a septic tank that must be emptied periodically, and a built-in generator. Essentially, it’s a tiny house on wheels. 

Indeed, these are what Class A motorhomes offer — a living room, a fully-equipped kitchen, and a bathroom with a toilet and a shower. Many motorhomes also have a comprehensive entertainment system with drop-down LCD screens, double-decker rigs, rooftop sundecks, and even jacuzzis. 

With a Class A motorhome, the sky or rather, your budget is the limit. They can easily exceed 40 feet in length and have slide-out portions that expand the interior space. These slide-out portions mean that the width of your motorhome is no longer governed by the vehicle’s width when on the move, a factor typically constrained by the highway codes and regulations.

Class B motorhomes are somewhat smaller and usually built on a van chassis. They range from 18 to 24 feet in length. These are more suited for solo travel or couples and may not offer full toilets with showers or separate living and cooking quarters. Everything will instead be packed into a single space. 

Driving a Class B motorhome is more akin to driving a large SUV, van, or U-Haul, and it may not require a heavy vehicle license. They also offer the benefit of being able to venture on narrower roads than a Class A motorhome and in essence, bring you close to nature. Thus, Class B motorhomes are the most practical of the three classes.

Class C motorhomes are a cross between Class A and Class B in terms of size, offering a blend of the advantages provided by both. They may range between 20 to 40 feet in length and include a section over the cab, which is typically where sleeping accommodations are located to maximize space. 

There are also unpowered motorhomes similar to 40-foot containers, and they require a separate vehicle to tow them. Unpowered motorhomes are often what you would find movie stars using on film sets. They are towed via a semi-tractor and set up at the desired location, where they may remain for weeks or even months at a time.

Campers – Typically Unpowered

  • Campers are typically unpowered affairs towed behind a vehicle.
  • They are designed to be nightly accommodation and, thus, do not have many luxuries.
  • They may not have dedicated toilet/shower facilities.
  • They can venture into the woods and take you closer to nature.

Campers are often referred to as caravans in the UK and Europe. They are unpowered and towed behind a vehicle, which may be the family car or SUV. They may have a single axle, although larger ones have dual axles. A camper typically may not have a separate toilet or shower. That said, many campsites offer fully-featured toilets and showers, so this is no longer a concern for those who shudder at the thought of “going” in the woods.


We hope that this article has been helpful toward understanding the differences. We have only scratched the surface, but we trust this guide is sufficient for you to make an informed decision on which vehicle type is best for you.