Figuring out the different classes of campervan and motorhome can be confusing. What is a class A camper, or a class B? What’s the difference between the two?
In this guide we will take you through the first, and largest classification of motorhome, the class A. We will discuss the pros and cons, average costs, and the type of facilities onboard.
Different Campervan and Motorhome Classifications
Recreational vehicles, that is campervans and motorhomes, are largely divided into 3 main categories. These are, A, B and C. Each category is differentiated by size. Class A vehicles are the largest, between 21-45 feet, and typically called motorhomes and RV’s.
Class B vehicles are true campervans, like the beloved VW T2s, and are the smallest of the lot. For some reason class C vehicles are closer relations to class A than class B vehicles are. Class Cs are also motorhomes just in a smaller range, often 20-30 feet.
This classification system can seem slightly confusing at first, because the smallest campervans are given the Class B title. However, once you understand that you are well on your way to working out what class camper is right for you.
What is a Class A camper and what facilities does it have?
So, we have established class A recreational vehicles (RVs) are the biggest on the block. What does that mean in terms of facilities and comfort? Class A motorhomes are usually filled to the brim with luxury and amenities.
A typical class A motorhome will include a TV, shower with water heater, large fixed bed, fridge freezers, oven, microwave and air conditioning. A class A motorhome can provide you with all the regular comforts of home on the road.
In Europe class A vehicles are generally up to 30 feet in length. It may come as no surprise that in the USA a class A RV can be a whopping 40 feet. The sky is really the limit when it comes to class A vehicles, and they are often called the king of the campground.
Below is a diagram of a typical class A motorhome layout, although this can vary a lot between manufacturers. This layout diagram should give you a good indication as to the amount of living space available in these vehicles.
Cost of a class A camper
Class A motorhomes don’t come cheap. As they are the highest spec campers available on the market you can expect to pay upwards of £60,000 for a new vehicle. While this might seem like a large initial pay out if you think about the potential savings, it can make sense. If you compare the cost of renting an Airbnb on the coast of Cornwall for a week to the cost of a campsite for a week you will see what I mean. You could compare this to the cost of converting a Ford van into a camper for a comparison to a DIY camper conversion.
I’m not saying you will earn back your £60,000 within a year, but it’s definitely a saving worth considering. Especially as your new class A motorhome will likely bring the same comfort as a rental Airbnb, if not more.
Due to the cost of buying a new class A camper there is a healthy second-hand market. The average cost to buy second-hand is approximately £30,000. This is a harder figure to nail down because you can haggle and shop around for a great deal. Some notable brands to look out for are Rapido, Hymer and Pilote.
There are also running costs associated with owning a motorhome. The average MPG of a class A vehicle is about 30. Yearly tax costs are about £200 and insurance, although it can vary, is approximately £400. Service and maintenance usually cost a few hundred per year, however buying significantly older second-hand vehicles could mean this will be higher.
How to choose the right class vehicle for you?
Choosing a vehicle is daunting. The best advice you can receive is to view lots so that you get an idea about different lay outs and sizes. Here are a few things to ask yourself when deciding what class camper to choose.
- How many people will be travelling?
- How far do you want to drive?
- If you are in Europe, do you want to travel by ferry?
- Do you want to wild camp or stay in campsites? Off grid or on?
- Are you bringing lots of gear? i.e., rock climbing equipment or surfboards
- Will you be bringing a pet?
- Will you be travelling long term or just weekend trips?
All of these can help you narrow down your criteria. If you are travelling with lots of people, then you obviously need more space.
Travelling long distances or by ferry would dictate a fuel-efficient vehicle and one that isn’t too large. In-fact this goes for wanting to wild camp and be off-grid as well.
Pets and gear storage will require more space, so these will push you to a larger size vehicle. Long-term travelling often means you want more comfort, so that the lifestyle is sustainable. Not everyone wants to live in a small campervan with no toilet and shower. Go through these questions to try and get a better idea of exactly what you need from your camper.
Specialised license required for Class A campers, UK specific.
Many class A campers have a maximum authorised mass (MAM) of around 3.5 tonnes. If a vehicle has a MAM of up to 3.5 tonnes with a maximum of 8 passengers a regular category B license will suffice. If the MAM is over 3.5 tonnes you will require a category C1 licence. This seems straight forward but there’s another caveat.
If you passed your test before the 1st of January 1997 then you can drive a vehicle with a MAM of up to 8,250 kg on your normal licence.
If you passed after this date, your normal licence is restricted to a vehicle with a MAM of less than 3,500kg. Because of this you would have to take another test to drive a vehicle exceeding 3,500kg.
So, what does this mean for you? If you passed before January 1997 then you should have no problems driving a larger vehicle. If you passed after January 1997 then you need to be very careful about what vehicle you purchase.
Alternatively, you need to take another driving test. Tiny Home Hub is not a specialist on the law and licence requirements, so please do your own research before purchasing by using the Gov.uk website.
The positive out of this is that the motorhome industry is starting to create class A campers, under 3.5 tonnes. This makes them more accessible to the average person who only holds a regular licence. The Carado 338 Clever+ is a great example of a class A motorhome with a MAM of 3.5 tonnes. It costs around £45,000 new. It sleeps 4 and is 7m long.
Pros and Cons of a Class A motorhome
Choosing what class camper is right for you is really challenging. There are so many advantages and disadvantages to each that it can quickly become overwhelming. Below I will run you through the pros and cons of owning a class A camper to help in your decision making.
A class A motorhome will provide you will unparalleled comfort and facilities. No other class of vehicle can compete with this. If you want a shower, tv, microwave and AC then a class A is probably right for you.
Space is not limited with a Class A vehicle. They are the largest recreational vehicle on the road, so you get the most living space. A class A camper could be right for you if you find small vans too claustrophobic, like to have lots of room or are travelling with family and pets.
Larger storage for water and waste. While this may not seem like a big deal initially, if you are spending two weeks at a campsite you might need to fill up a regular motorhome.
Due to the size of a class A they often have greater capacity for water and waste storage. Meaning you get more time doing the fund stuff and less time doing chores.
Class A campers can also tow a small car behind them. This gives you a run-around for when you get to your destination. You won’t want to drive your 7m motorhome to the local supermarket!
Size is a double-edged sword. Its nice at times, but it’s a pain at times. If you find driving stressful then a 7m long vehicle probably isn’t right for you. Long and wide vehicles can be challenging to navigate, especially if your sat nav starts sending you down country lanes.
You won’t be able to travel locally in your motorhome. Once you’ve made it to your campsite it’s unlikely that you are going to be able to drive around town in your motorhome. This means you will either need to walk everywhere, have bicycles, or tow a car. If you need something from the shops, you can exactly nip down in your behemoth.
Class A campers do get lower mileage than smaller vehicles. These vehicles have big engines and are very heavy. If you are planning long road-trips this will quickly add up to become your largest expense.
A lot of people don’t live in their motorhome full-time and nor do they take trips in it every season. Some people like to store their vans over winter. If you think this will be you then you need a very large place to store it. This is something that you shouldn’t overlook.
I hope that answers the question, what is a class A camper? It’s a difficult decision trying to decide what size camper to purchase. Hopefully this has given you some useful insight into the realities of owning a class A motorhome.
Over the next week we will be breaking down the same question for classes B and C. Be sure to check those articles if you are still trying to pick a camper.
Do you think a class A camper is right for you? Let us know via email or Instagram DM. Tag us in your tiny home adventures @tinyhomehub.