Break free. Hit the road. Fuel your imagination.
But if you’re feeling the call of the open road, how will you get there? And what RV caravan will you choose to show up in?
Choosing an RV for full-time travelling isn’t easy. And you may not want to deal with the hulking bulk of a Class A coach or a 5th wheel.
Well, you’re in luck! You can go full-time with a small RV! I travelled through Europe for a year with my family in a 1998 Fiat Hymer B35 motorhome. We explored Germany, Switzerland, Italy, France, Andorra, Spain, and Portugal.
Let’s cover my two favorite RV models: Class B conversion vans and Class C motorhomes. In Europe, these are called camper vans (Class B’s) and alcove motorhomes, also comparable to some integrated and semi-integrated motorhomes (Class C’s).
You might be living in your RV alone or with a partner, perhaps with a few pets. Either way, you will need to consider not only space, but – well, keep reading, and you’ll see!
Below are my top things to consider before purchasing an RV for full-time living.
1. HOW SPACE AFFECTS SANITY
Space (or the lack of it) will be a BIG consideration before purchasing your RV. If you find yourself living in your RV full time alone, you will have more space for your things. However, if you are travelling with a partner or pets, there are a few things we have recognized as must-haves.
Before I purchased my RV, which is a Class C, a friend of mine explained the importance of having two living quarters (in this case, two places to sleep).
- One area is my personal space where I can work.
- The other is for my wife who uses the alcove to do her work, which is divided by a curtain.
Class B’s don’t have this luxury of two sleeping spaces. Some vans don’t even have a permanent sleeping setup! – just a Murphy bed or folding fulton that must be broken down and set up daily. You will have to decide if the back of the RV is for sleep or work.
The added luxury of a private working or lounge space within our RV has most definitely maintained our sanity while living in confinements. Live and let live!
2. CLOTHING CACHE FOR THE ELEMENTS
Given that the United States is a massive area of land, you will find that crossing over mountain ranges will lead to completely different climates from one side to the other. Have this in mind!
Class C RVs have more cabinets and storage under the back that can provide you with extra room to store clothes and sports equipment. Meanwhile, Class B RVs may have a few overhead cabinets for storage, but lack the extra storage in the back.
Perhaps you need to account for a roof mount to carry boards, whether they be for snow or water. Class Cs can provide this extra roof space whether it be for boards or an extra storage locker.
3. FOOD PREP AND STORAGE FOR THE LONG HAUL
Depending on your route, food storage and the ability to prepare your meals will play a big part in the kitchen setup. If you plan to drive the roads less taken, you will need to account for your ability to prepare and store food. If you’re planning to hop from one town to the next, you won’t have to worry about food preparation as much.
The smaller conversion vans don’t usually have a full kitchen in them. You might be limited to a single burner or hot plate. Converted minivans usually don’t have any interior cooking facilities. However, the alcove motorhomes do have smaller stove tops that will allow you to cook pasta or rice.
4. COMPARING CLEAN WATER SUPPLY
Are you someone who likes to have a shower every day, or even every other day? Or is it okay to go a week without showering?
Class B RVs usually have between 14 and 20 gallons of freshwater depending on make and model, while Class C RVs have on average 60 gallons.
This is a huge difference when weighing your need to shower, wash hands, clean dishes and so on! In my RV, I removed the shower and instead opted to expand this space for clothing storage for my wife.
5. KEEPING WARM IN WINTER
If you’re like me, there’s a dejavú feeling I get when returning to my warm RV after snowboarding. Using a gas heater to maintain a comfy-cosy environment in winter is a must.
However, after a few weeks in my RV in the Swiss Alps, I found I was running out of gas quickly. So, given that my RV is a C Class motorhome, I was able to add an additional compartment under one of the couches, which I turned into a backup propane bottle storage. This allowed me to go longer in winter without having to find bottle exchange locations.
The smaller B-Class RVs don’t have this option. They are smaller and space will be more limited. However, on the flip side, since the B-Class RVs are smaller, you won’t need to heat such a large space!
6. SIZING UP ROOF SPACE
Are you someone who keeps everything thinking “Maybe one day I’ll need this?” Or are you someone who thinks “I’ll travel light and see how things go along the way”?
Think about this for a moment: the more things you want to bring with you along your journey, the more space you will need. If you’re travelling with someone who requires additional things, what will they need to bring?
You will need to consider your needs and those of your travelling companion should you have one.
Given that the C-Class RVs have a longer and bit wider roof, you can always mount extra storage boxes on the top. This will act as a “maybe I’ll need this in the future” storage. I had an extra box on top of my C-Class where I stored my backpacks and sporting equipment. With a B-Class, you won’t be able to mount these large storage boxes due to limited roof space.
7. PRICING AND MECHANICS
When deciding between a Class C or Class B RV, a huge factor will be pricing!
For most of us, $30,000 is quite a bit of money. This is on average the price difference between these two types of RVs, the Class B being the more expensive. This is due to supply and demand and the different amenities found within each RV.
It sounds counterintuitive since Class B vans are smaller than Class C motorhomes, but generally vans are built to a higher construction standard. They are also built on an enclosed van chassis, rather than the cheaper cutaway cab chassis of an alcove semi-integrated motorhome.
8. EXTRA ENTERTAINMENT
If you’re planning on taking this journey, you will need to consider the amount of time you will be spending outdoors, and the extras you may want. Perhaps you want to have a BBQ, some lawn chairs and a nice place for your dog to relax outside of your RV.
Considering this and much more, what are all the extras you want to bring with you? A Class C RV will give you much more storage space for your outside garden atmosphere. Most Class Cs have extra storage on the sides and in the back. In my Class C motorhome storage compartment, I stored my BBQ grill and three saucer camping chairs for extra comfort, and my folding table.
Since the weather is so nice in Spain and Portugal, I am very happy I chose to travel with a Class C. My friend who was travelling with us had a Mazda that she converted into a Class B conversion van. She was always saying she wished she had more space to store extra things like the garden materials mentioned above.
MAKE A DECISION!
If you’re a solo traveller who travels light and doesn’t mind living with few extras, a Class B may be the better option.
If you have a partner, pets, or want to have the added luxury of storage space, a Class C would probably be the better option for you.
If you’re still not satisfied, here’s some more pros and cons information on choosing a Class C motorhome or a Class B Van.
Take a look around where you’re living now and consider all the things you would want to bring with you. Will it all fit? Make sure to consider weather and climate, travel distance, sports equipment, water, and food storage.
No matter which option you choose, enjoy the wide open roads – and try not to get lost.
Bilingual Spanish and English writer. I lived in a RV for a year while traveling through Germany, Switzerland, Italy, France, Andorra, Spain, Portugal.