This is a brief introduction to the Class C Motorhome type of RV, intended to provide essential information for choosing the best RV type. (Looking for Class C Manufacturers?)
Not sure if this is the right RV type for you? Please take a look at our RV Types Pros & Cons Checklist.
What Is a Class C Motorhome?
Definition of a Class C RV
Class C motorhome is a recreational vehicle (RV) built on a cutaway van or commercial truck chassis where the driving compartment is an integral part of the RV interior. Class C motor homes look like an archetypical rental RV, complete with the front cab-over.
Unlike towable RV campers like 5th wheels and travel trailers, you drive a Class C motorhome. And no, you don’t generally need a special license to drive one!
Lengths range from 16 to 44 feet, with 18 to 32 feet being the most common. Width ranges from 6 ft 8 in to 8 ft 6 in.
Class C motorhomes are widely split into two/two subsets:
- Compact C
- Class C
- Super C
- Gasoline vs. Diesel
Both types of Class C motorhomes have a cab-over, which usually contains a bed or entertainment area.
Regular Class C motorhomes are built on cutaway van chassis and are usually 20-28 feet in length.
Compact Class C’s are being built on cutaway versions of popular chassis usually used for Class B campers, such as the Mercedes Sprinter chassis.
Some of the larger manufacturers have introduced “Super C” RVs as a way to combine the best of both Class A and Class RVs. These Super Cs are as long (up to 44 feet!) and almost as wide and tall as a Class A motorhome, but they are built on a cutaway medium-duty truck chassis like the Ford 550 or 600 series.
Virtually all Class C motorhomes have front-mounted engines. Gasoline engines are standard, but diesel engines are a common upgrade. Whereas V8 or V10 gasoline engines may wear out in just 100k-200k miles, diesel engines can last 2-3x longer!
Fuel economy for a Class C motorhome ranges from 6-15 miles per gallon, with most being between 8 and 12 mpg.
Introduction to the Class C RV Model Type
A Class C motorhome is the Goldilocks RV: Not too big, not too small. It can fend for itself on gravel roads or putter around urban streets. It doesn’t do well with extremes, but if you’re looking for a jack-of-all-trades motorhome, it’s hard to beat a Class C.
You’ll find an astonishing variety of sizes, quality, and customization within the Class C RV world.
- Compact Class C’s are not much bigger than Class B’s, but they offer the higher roof height and slide-outs of conventional Class C’s.
- Regular Class C’s are the perfect getaway vehicle for an All-American road trip. They are large enough to accommodate a whole family, but small enough so you don’t feel like you’re piloting a Panzer.
- Super C’s are a relative newcomer fast growing in popularity. They offer the convenience and spaciousness of a Class A RV paired with the mechanical reliability of a cutaway chassis and engine.
Major manufacturers of Class C chassis include:
- The Ford E-Series and F550 Series
- Mercedes Sprinter Cutaway
- Chevrolet Express and Silverado Series
A few Super C’s, such as the Newmar Supreme Aire, might be built on a Freightliner M2 Chassis.
And perhaps that’s the first thing you should know about Class C coaches. The RV manufacturer doesn’t build the chassis or powertrain (thank God). Think of the RV manufacturer more as the final assembler.
Unlike a Class A motorhome, the chassis of a Class C RV comes equipped from the OEM with a driving compartment. The back of the cab compartment, behind the B pillars, has been laid open. The RV manufacturer will build an RV body attached to this driving cab.
Other than the cab, the Class C chassis also includes the following major components: frame, engine, fuel tank, axles, drive train, wheels, tires, steering column, engine and braking controls, and dashboard instruments.
Who Might Want a Class C RV?
If you’re a seasonal or hardcore weekend recreational camper, you’ll love a Class C RV!
These motorhomes are also quite popular among retiree couples. With only two of you, there’s no need for a behemoth Class A. But you also don’t want to mess around with the physical labor of dumping a cassette toilet from a Class B or jacking up a travel trailer. A Class C hits the spot!
A Class C motorhome is a sizeable investment, but if you camp regularly, you’ll find the space, comfort and convenience is well worth it. For that reason, a Class C is a common choice for snowbirds, seasonal travelers, and roadtripping RVers. Many campers prefer the shorter length and height of a Class C compared to a Class A, which can be difficult to drive anywhere beyond the interstate.
You don’t have to sacrifice any comforts in a Class C. There are dozens of floorplans on the market. You can have a queen-size bed AND a full bathroom. Purchase prices range from $70,000 to $250,000 and up.
However, Class C’s come with a major concession. Unlike a Class B, they aren’t small enough to be a daily driver, and unlike a Class A, most don’t have the capacity to tow an extra vehicle. By the time you load your gear and equipment into a typical Class C with a “towing capacity” of 5,000 lbs, there isn’t much leftover for actual towing.
Class C Motorhome Pros and Cons
- Easy to drive on major highways and Interstates.
- Spacious, open floor plans suitable for medium-size families and seasonal travelers.
- Elevated driver position provides a good view of the road ahead.
- Driving and living compartments are connected. No need to get out of the RV during stops. Living area accessible even while moving.
- A fair amount of cargo storage and lots of room for adventure gear and equipment.
- Self-contained facilities (propane, water) make for easy dry camping.
- Does not need to be deployed to be used or accessed (with the exception of slide-outs).
- Better crash-worthiness compared to a Class A.
- The “Goldilocks” choice – can do just about everything!
- Huge range of quality; some Class C’s aren’t worth buying!
- Most Class C’s have limited payload. It’s easy to overload them! (Super C’s are an exception).
- Larger models can be difficult to maneuver in tight spaces.
- Driving compartment being part of the living space does not appeal to some people, feeling like they are always in a vehicle.
- Despite what the manufactures may say, most cannot reasonably tow a second vehicle. You will likely need a large diesel-powered Class C or Super C if you want a “toad.”
- Top clearance can be a problem under low branches and structures. Problem compounded if carrying items on roof, such as kayaks.
- Requires large storage area when not in use.
- Poor fuel efficiency. Figure 8-12 mpg for gas models, 10-16 mpg for diesel.
Key Features in a Class C Motorhome
The most obvious appeal of a Class A motorhome is the unparalleled luxury. Living inside a full-size coach is very similar to dwelling in a luxury apartment suite or a single-family house.
However, there’s more to the story. Just because Class A’s look like a luxury apartment doesn’t mean they’re built like on.
- Master bedroom
- Kids/guest sleeping quarters
- Full or three-quarter dry bathr
- Convertible dinette
- Full kitchen
Most Class C RVs have slide-outs to expand the interior living space or sleeping quarters. Some slide-outs may need to be deployed to use the feature or space.
Seating and Sleeping
Class C RVs come in a baffling variety of floorplans and layouts. When it comes to seating and sleeping, you need to answer some questions:
- What size of bed (twin, full, queen, short queen, king) do I need?
- Am I going to sleep in the same bed as my partner, or will we need dual twin beds?
- Can we scoot to the end of a bed, or do we need to roll off the side?
- How much visual or acoustic privacy do we need? Will a curtain suffice, or a solid wall and a door?
- Do we need a TV in our bedroom?
- Do we need an adjacent master bath?
- Do we need a full-size bed for kids or guests, or will a murphy, sofa or bunk bed do the trick?
- Where will we eat breakfast, lunch and dinner? Do we need a breakfast nook in addition to the main living area?
- Do we need a separate table for office space?
- How many people need to be able to watch TV or eat a meal at once?
Once you answer these questions, you will be better prepared to evaluate and compare Class C floorplans.
For instance, let’s look at this Sunseeker floorplan from Forest River:
This is their 24-ft version, and as you can tell, things are a little tight. The master bed doesn’t a lot of privacy beyond a pleated wall, and when the pleat is shut, no one else can access the bathroom. Also, when the door is shut, it looks like there isn’t much room to roll off the front side of the bed; you’d have to scoot to the edge.
There is also no “comfort” seating, just a U-shaped dinette.
Nothing wrong with this layout! But if you were camping with kids, or one traveler needed a dedicated office space, then this isn’t the layout for you.
Next, let’s look at a larger version of the Sunseeker:
What’s the first thing you notice?
I notice that the master bed has more visual and acoustic privacy. And once the pocket wall is slid shut, both sleepers still have access to the sides of the bed, and everyone still has access to the bathroom!
This floorplan also has dedicated comfort seating in the form of a loveseat sofa.
However, the kitchen is still the same size: small. And that extra sofa takes up a lot of otherwise useful storage space.
So if you’re a packrat or a gourmet chef, then this probably isn’t the layout for you.
It’s also worth noting that neither floorplan has a fixed bed. In both cases, you have to fold up the bed to shut the slide-out. If you sometimes boondock in parking lots where there isn’t the clearance for slide-outs, then maybe this isn’t the camper for you.
See how this game is played? There is no perfect floor plan. You just have to identify and prioritize your needs and wants.
Smaller RVs are forced to make the most of every square inch. In a Class C motorhome, space is a luxury.
So you might see residential-style features like:
- Full bathrooms (with standup showers)
- Full kitchens with residential-sized refrigerators and dishwashers
- Multiple televisions
- Residential-style coil spring or pillowtop mattresses
Only you can decide if these features are necessary for you.
By the way, don’t confuse the term “residential-style” with “residential-quality.” The uncomfortable truth is that many $150,000 Class C motorhomes are built with similar or identical components as $30,000 travel trailers.
(Psst. I dive deeper into this idea in this construction quality report from AskTheRVEngineer.)
Class C Motorhome Sub-Types
The Class C motor home has two sub-types:
Compact Class C
A compact Class C RV is usually built on a commercial van chassis with a cutaway cab. Most are 18-22 feet, so they can be parked in regular parking spots (or close to it, anyway).
Compact Class C’s may also be shorter and narrower than a typical Class C, perhaps 80 or 84 inches wide rather than 96 or 102. The front cab-over is usually shortened and used for entertainment or storage, not for sleeping.
Most compact Class C’s still have one (sometimes two) slide-outs, unlike a Class B. You may find space-saving layouts like a wet bath, murphy bed, or folding bed.
Super C (C+)
The name gives it away— the Super C is a regular ol’ C that’s been supersized!
These things look like slightly smaller and shorter Class A coaches. The big difference is the driving cab. The RV manufacturer didn’t make it; the chassis manufacturer did. And quite frankly, that’s a good thing. That means you’re getting an automotive-style cab, which is crash testing. Plus the overall build quality is usually better.
A really good Class C is more like a commercial truck than a Class A. If they’re built on a commercial truck platform, you’ll get exceptional mechanical reliability. Payload and towing capacity are often double or triple what you’ll find on a typical Class C.
Class C Motorhome Major Manufacturers
There are about 15 major Class C motorhome RV manufacturers in North America.
Some of the biggest names include:
- Forest River Berkshire
- Adventurer Manufacturing
For a full list of manufacturers, check out our comprehensive RV manufacturer’s list!
There are also dozens of custom coachbuilders who will design you a bespoke Class C or Super C motorhome, complete with toy hauler garages, double queen beds, 10-speed rain-sensing time-scheduled ceiling fans, or whatever else your heart desires. They are not shown on our lists.
We’ve spotlighted a few brands below. These brands are either known for their popularity, quality, or innovation.
Thor Motor Coach
Thor is Big Dog. The company manufactures 11 lines of Class A motorhomes, including the classic Four Winds and the popular Chateau series. They almost make two lines of diesel-powered Super C’s.
Everyone 1 out of 4 motorhomes sold in America is a Thor. You’ll find no shortage of configurations, lengths, floorplans, features and styles.
Forest River RV is an RV manufacturer based in the state of Indiana and has been in operation since 1996. The company is owned by Berkshire Hathway (that’s right, Warren Buffet is daddy).
Forest River is the second-largest RV manufacturer in America. You can find any size, shape or style or toy hauler, fifth wheel or travel trailer. Their Class C families are the Solera, Forester and Sunseeker. Each family has its own models and series.
Jayco is an RV manufacturer based in the state of Indiana and has been in operation since 1968. The company is owned by Thor Industries.
One of America’s most well-known RV brands, Jayco is best known for their affordable Class C motorhomes and conventional travel trailers. Their Class C lineup includes the Redhawk, Redhawk SE, Greyhawk, Melbourne, and Seneca. The cheapest starts just over six figures.
The Seneca is their diesel Super C lineup, pairing Cummins diesel engines with Allison transmissions.
Winnebago is an RV manufacturer based in the state of Iowa and has been in operation since 1958. The company is owned by Winnebago Industries.
An iconic RV brand, Winnebago builds almost every size of RV available! They are known for their high quality, reasonable prices and long-lasting value.
Winnebago offers a whopping 7 families of Class C ranging from all sizes and styles, including both gas- and diesel-powered. The Minnie Winnebago is a classic cult favorite.
Class C Motorhome FAQs
Because they are fully self-contained, Class C motorhomes are good for “dry camping” or “Wallydocking,” the art of self-contained camping without hookups. Thanks to their big propane, water and waste tanks, they can run off-grid for some time. And in a pinch, you can always fire up the engine to get power!
Compact Class C’s are good for primitive camping or boondocking, which usually involves tight spaces and high-clearance roads. Larger Class C’s, especially those with 102″ widebodies and longer wheelbases, may not fit in those tight spaces!
Plus, appliances on Class C motorhomes are power-hungry. You’ll need a hefty generator to run your RV for 48-72 hours off-grid with full use of appliances.
Sometimes. But less often than you’d think.
Even though many Class C’s are advertised as “able to tow a second vehicle,” by the time a Class C is loaded to its traveling weight, there isn’t usually enough payload capacity left over to tow a vehicle of any size – especially up and over tall mountains!
If you want a Class C that can reliably tow a second vehicle (and not wipe out the transmission after 10,000 miles) then invest in a diesel-powered Class on a commercial medium-duty truck chassis.
The second vehicle is called “toad.” Most vehicles require a tow dolly so only the rear wheels spin freely on the road. A few vehicles, such as Jeeps, can be flat-towed with all four wheels rolling on the ground.