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What Qualifies as an RV or Motorhome?

By: Kathy TeelJuly 21, 2012

The term "motor home" is often used interchangeably with "RV."  "Motor home," however, is an informal phrase, used to describe a variety of recreational vehicles, while "recreational vehicle" (or RV) is a technical and legal term. Understanding which kind of RV or motorhome you have will help you with RV registration.

In asking which vehicles qualify as RVs or motor homes during the registration process, it's easiest to remember that the U.S. Department of Transportation categorizes RVs by class.

Class A Recreational Vehicles

Class A recreational vehicles are motor homes, regardless of the type of chassis beneath them and whether or not the vehicle contains "slide-outs" (additional living spaces that slide out when the vehicle is stopped for camping). Class A also includes commercial passenger and school buses that are converted into RVs (these are often the largest mobile homes available).

Class A RVs are generally luxurious mobile homes with a solid body, a panoramic front window, berths that convert from living room or dinette areas, and bathroom facilities.

Class B Recreational Vehicles

Class B recreational vehicles are campervans. Campervans are conventional vans with raised roofs (either "pop up" or "fixed"). They often have small kitchens with refrigerators and gas grills.

Larger models may have a water heater, heat and air conditioning, a portable toilet, or an internal shower. (Smaller models usually have a portable toilet and an external shower, which can be used with an awning to ensure privacy.)

Class C Recreational Vehicles

Unlike a Class A mobile home, which is built on a single chassis, a Class C vehicle is attached to a truck and hauled behind. Class C RVs are characterized by a distinctive alcove which fits over the truck cab, providing either a double berth for sleeping or, sometimes, an "entertainment" section, with a TV and video games.

Other Recreational Vehicle Types

In addition to the three classes of RVs, there are also other types of recreational vehicles or motorhomes:

  • Truck Campers: Similar to the C-class vehicles described above, these are smaller RVs, carried in the beds of pickup truck.
  • Pop-up Campers: Collapsible campers with pull-out berths and tent walls, towed in a compact unit behind a vehicle.
  • Travel Trailers (sometimes called "caravans"): Non-collapsible, light-weight trailers with simple amenities, towed behind a vehicle.

What kind of RV or motorhome do you have?

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