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Buying an RV is a big investment. Whether it is intended for weekend escapes a few times each year, as a full-time residence, or somewhere in between, choosing the right RV means many years of happy memories.
Choosing the wrong RV can lead to frustration, disappointment, and loss of investment. While there is no way to guarantee a successful RV purchase, thorough research can help avoid buyer’s remorse. A well-informed RV shopper is more likely to become a satisfied RV owner.
For those considering purchasing a Class C RV, asking the right questions can help you to not only find a great RV but the best possible fit for you and your family.
- 1 What is a Class C?
- 2 Why choose a Class C?
- 3 Questions to ask yourself:
- 4 Other Important Details to Consider
- 5 Class C Models to Consider
What is a Class C?
A Class C is a type of motorhome, so it has its own engine and does not need to be towed. Their chassis technically classify motorhomes, but the differences are easily seen even without understanding all the technical jargon. The most confusing thing about the classification of motorhomes is that the categories are somewhat counterintuitive.
A Class A motorhome looks like a bus, and it is generally the largest class of motorhome. A Class B motorhome is also referred to as a “campervan” as it is built on a van chassis. Class B is the smallest category of motorhomes, often small enough to park in a regular parking space.
In between these in size and function, though not alphabetically, is the Class C. Class Cs are built on a van cutaway chassis and they are easily recognized by their characteristic overhang. This overhang space, typically a bed, extends above the driving cab in order to add space without adding length. Class Cs come in a wide variety of sizes, layouts, and price classes, but all have this “over cab” space in common.
Why choose a Class C?
If you are looking for a motorhome there are many reasons to choose a Class C. It is an excellent compromise between Class B and Class A, particularly in terms of size and function. A Class C is generally large enough to tow a separate car while still being small enough to allow access to parks and campgrounds that are not big-rig friendly. It allows for much more living space than a campervan, but is much easier to drive than a Class A.
Fuel economy is also compromise. The location of the engine in the front makes it easier to access when mechanical issues arise, and it also makes them safer in the event of an accident when compared with Class As.
There are many reasons to choose a Class C motorhome. But this choice is just the first step. With such a wide variety of Class Cs available, it is important to ask yourself a series of questions to determine which make, model and floor plan will best suit your needs.
Questions to ask yourself:
Fuel: Gas or Diesel?
The gas or diesel question is not a new one in the RVing community, and there are strong, well-reasoned opinions on both sides of the debate. The right answer for you comes down to personal preference and how you plan to use the RV. There are advantages and disadvantages to both.
|Diesel Class C RV||Gasoline Class C RV|
|+ Stronger engine, better speed uphill + Fuel efficiency about 10% better than similar gas engine + Higher tow rating + More miles per tank and more miles between service + Engine usually lasts longer + Generally higher resale value||+ Responds better in cold temperatures and higher altitudes + Easy to find service when needed + Lower fuel cost per gallon + Availability of fuel + Lower initial purchase price + Minor repairs and service easier to DIY|
|– Service and maintenance can be expensive and hard to find – Uses a lot of oil and oil changes are not recommended to DIY – Cost per gallon usually higher than gasoline – Initial purchase price much higher||– Weaker engine means weaker performance, which is most noticeable in mountainous areas – Lower tow rating – Less fuel efficient than diesel – Oil change and other routine service needed more frequently|
Consider all these factors and weigh them against your individual needs and priorities. If you tend to stick to interstates and major highways, then diesel availability should not be a problem. If you prefer to take the scenic route through small towns, you might not find diesel stations easily. Also, If you will frequently drive over big mountains and you plan to tow a vehicle, diesel may be the best choice. If the overall cost is your biggest concern, a gas-fueled RV might be a better choice.
To get an idea of cost comparisons based on current fuel rates, check out The Fit RV’s Gas vs Diesel Breakeven Calculator.
What are your size limitations?
Length: Class Cs can vary in length by more than 20 feet. The smallest Class Cs are under 20 feet, and the longest is over 40 feet. There are many options, so it is important to know what your limitations are. Think about where you hope to drive and park your RV. Many roads, such as the Pacific Coast Highway and scenic roads within national parks, limit vehicle length for safety. Many states and national park campgrounds also have limitations. On average, an RV under 25 feet can park in 93% of national park campgrounds. If you go up to 32 feet, that number drops to 81%, so If you plan to camp in national parks often, choose a shorter length. If you are planning to visit specific parks, you can check their specific size limitations or check this list of popular national park campgrounds. Don’t buy an RV that can’t take you where you want to go.
Height: Many roads have maximum height restrictions because of clearance under tree branches or tunnels. This is more common in some regions than others. If you plan to travel extensively in the Northeast, you will want to be aware of clearance restrictions even on larger roads. The average height of a Class C motorhome is 10 feet, but it varies from one RV to the next. If low clearance is a priority for you, keep this in mind as you shop. Don’t forget the added height of any aftermarket add-ons, such as air conditioners, antennas, or solar panels, mounted on the roof.
What is your Ideal Layout?
Sleeping Space: How many people should be able to sleep comfortably in your RV? Should they all be able to sleep in permanent beds or will you convert a dinette or sofa into a bed each night? Do you need the extra floor space you would get from a slide room? Is privacy a concern? Depending on how you answer these questions you may be looking for a Class C with a bunkhouse, or a master bedroom with its own door. If you only need extra beds occasionally, then a bunkhouse would usually be wasted space and converting the sofa to a bed is not an unreasonable inconvenience.
Space Priorities: Will you be working from the road and need a designated office space? Do you love cooking and want a spacious kitchen area with extra countertop space? Is it a priority for you to gather the family around the dinner table each evening, and therefore you need a table that can seat 5 or 6 at once? It is rare to find a floor plan that offers everything you could wish for in your RV. It is important to consider your priorities and know what your deal-breakers are.
Touring RVs is a great way to learn your layout preferences. Visit a dealership and ask to tour several different models. Share your priorities and questions with the salesperson so he or she can show you the models that might be most interesting for you. RV shows are also a great way to learn and explore options before purchasing. This list of RV shows across the United States and Canada can help you find an RV show near you.
Is Tow Capacity in your Interest?
Many motorhome owners also choose to tow a small separate vehicle. There are many advantages to have a towed vehicle or a “toad”. Smaller vehicles are more fuel efficient for driving around and exploring. They are much easier to drive and park, especially in cities.
Once your RV is set up in a campsite, it is inconvenient to disconnect everything to run errands or pick up groceries. For weekend trips, this may not be much of a consideration. For frequent or full-time travelers, a “toad” is great to have.
There are many factors that affect how much a Class C RV is able to tow. It will vary depending on the strength of the engine, the rating of the hitch, and the overall maximum Gross Combined Weight Rating (GCWR). The GCWR counts everything from the water in your tanks to the cans of soup in your pantry to the people in the cab. It also counts the weight of your towed vehicle.
If you are planning to tow a vehicle, be sure the RV you are considering will be able to safely tow the vehicle you want to tow (and the weight of a dolly if you choose to use one.) Be sure to learn more about motorhome tow capacity before purchasing a Class C RV.
Other Important Details to Consider
New or Used? Whether it is better to buy a new RV or a used RV is a hot topic in the RVing community. In the end, it is a matter of personal preference and individual circumstances. There are clear advantages and disadvantages to both options.
|New Class C RV||Used Class V RV|
|+ Everything is brand new! There has been no wear and tear on moving parts. There are no scratches, dents or dings. + Factory warranty + Custom order your RV exactly how you want it. + Up-to-date, modern, efficient features||+ Most cost-effective option. + Manufacturing issues have already been dealt with by someone else. + Lower insurance costs + If it is still in good shape after several years, the construction is solid + Previous owner may have made improvements or upgrades|
|– Cost. New RVs can be very expensive. – Value depreciates immediately. A lot. – Manufacturing issues are common. Yes, they’re covered by warranty, but they are also time consuming. – Higher insurance costs||– Uncertainty regarding maintenance history, and if it has been used and stored properly – Usually not covered by warranty – Selection is limited – Some RV parks have age limits and won’t accept older rigs. – Can be difficult to get financing|
Electricity: 30 or 50 amp? Whether you should choose a 30 or 50 amp electrical system depends on how you plan to use your RV and where you plan to use it. While most RV parks have at least some 50 amp service sites available, this is less common at state and national park campgrounds. For ease of compatibility, 30 amp rigs are preferable. The drawback to 30 amp systems is that they can easily be overloaded. A larger rig with two air conditioning units will need a 50 amp system to accommodate the load. In a 30 amp motorhome, you might need to turn off the air conditioner to use the microwave. Whether you decide to buy a 30 amp or a 50 amp RV, be sure to travel with an adapter to the other so that you can plug in wherever you go. Learn more about 30 amp vs 50 amp service.
Over-cab Weight Capacity? How will you use the bed area above the driving cab? Be sure to consider the weight limits and ratings of this area to find a Class C that will suit your needs. If it is used as a bed, consider the combined weight of the people who will sleep there and add some margins for their belongings. If you plan to use it for storage, estimate the weight of the items you plan to store and remember that the weight rating refers to when the RV is parked and supported. The capacity will be less when driving. It is common for an average Class C to have a 350-pound rating for the over-cab area.
Class C Models to Consider
There are many excellent Class C RVs on the market, both new and used, that can suit a variety of needs. Here are some specific models worth considering to get you started on your search.
Under 30 feet
The Freelander series from Coachmen is a high-quality line of Class C motorhomes ranging in length from 23-31 feet. With 20 different floor plans available, customers have options to find a layout that meets their needs. The Freelander is lightweight and the longer ones offer several slide-out options. Depending on floor plan, the Freelander series can sleep up to 8 people.
Other under 30 feet Class Cs worth exploring (click each to watch a video tour):
|Name||Length (ft)||Floor plans available||Sleeps|
|Gulf Stream Conquest||24-32||12||5-8|
Winnebago Minnie Winnie 31K
Winnebago has earned the trust of the RV world by consistently making quality vehicles for many years. The Minnie Winnie 31K is just under 33 feet in length with a large slide out. A spacious u-dinette and a split bathroom are just some of the features that customers appreciate on this model. Many optional upgrades are available. The Minnie Winnie 31K sleeps 7.
Also worth considering is the Jayco Greyhawk Prestige. Many of the series recommended in the under 30-foot category also offer longer floor plans that would be great options in this category.
The “Super C”
Sometimes called a C+, these larger Class C motorhomes are built on a Freightliner, Ford F-550, or similarly sized chassis. They are longer, taller, and stronger than most other Class Cs. Most of them run on diesel fuel. They are increasingly popular as RVers are looking for the advantages of a Class C without sacrificing size or luxury. These are less common on the used market but Jayco, Forest River (Dynamax) and Thor make some great new options.
Asking the right questions and researching well can help you find the perfect RV to meet your needs. May you have many miles of happy memories in your Class C motorhome!