The Ultimate Motorhome Buyers Guide 2019: Every Question Answered
Written by Jordan Stokes
Table of Contents
Want to travel the rolling hills of the midwest, the majestic mountains of the west and the diverse city terrain of the east all while enjoying the full comforts of home? A motorhome might be the perfect RV for you. Motorhomes are a classic, modern RV that is a fantastic option for a low-maintenance, relaxed RV experience.
Interested in learning more? Here’s everything you need to know about motorhomes. If you’re interested in travel trailers, you can read our ultimate guide to buying travel trailers. And if you want to explore all RVs, you can read our guide to buying RVs.
What is a Motorhome?
Motorhomes are completely self-contained RVs that require little to no setup and have room for your passengers to move about while on the road. There are 3 different classes of motorhomes: Class A, Class B, and Class C.
Motorhome and RV (recreational vehicle) tend to be used interchangeably. A lot of people say RV when they actually mean motorhome.
- RVs are any recreational vehicle – Class A Motorhomes, Class B Motorhomes, Class C Motorhomes, Toy Haulers, Travel Trailers, Teardrop Trailers, Fifth Wheel Trailers, Hybrid Trailers, Pop Up Campers, Truck Campers, and Towables.
- Motorhomes are types of RVs that you can camp in and drive while also having space to move around. Driving a motorhome can take some practice because you have to change your driving techniques to accommodate for the extra length and weight.
Let’s dive into the different types of motorhomes.
Types of Motorhomes: Weight, Size, Length, and Benefits
Motorhomes come in all different shapes and sizes — what are you looking for? We’re breaking down everything you need to know about Class A, Class B, and Class C Motorhomes so you can make the right choice for your needs.
What is a Class A Motorhome?
Class A motorhomes are not only the largest and most expensive, but they are also the most common RVs, which is why these big, boxy bus-style rigs are most preferred by full-time RVers.
Class As are built using a, heavy-duty frame that is built on either a commercial bus chassis, a commercial truck chassis, or a motor vehicle chassis. There is also room to move around while you’re on the road and usually a minimum of two slide-outs to increase living space at the campsite.
Class A motorhomes can fit 2-4 people comfortably in the motorhome, as there is a bedroom in the back and couches that fold down into beds in the living area.
For quality and luxury, the Class A motorhome is the way to go, as they not only offer more living space, they offer more storage space as well. Let’s take a look at the benefits of owning a Class A motorhome.
Benefits of a Class A Motorhome:
- Ample space and roomy interior
- More power and towing capability
- Better visibility due to height
- Smooth ride
- Plenty of storage
Weight: 33,000-36,000 pounds
Length: Up to 45 feet
What is a Class B Motorhome?
Class B motorhomes are compact and smaller when compared to Class A motorhomes. In fact, they are more like larger and longer vans that are essentially just basic travel campers, which gives them their nickname “camper van” or “conversion van”.
Class Bs are much larger and taller than a typical full-sized van because they allow space for living and sleeping. However, due to their size, they are much cheaper than Class A (and Class C) motorhomes and while they typically offer fewer features, they do offer some great benefits for travel.
Benefits of a Class B Motorhome:
- Mobile and maneuverable
- Can go most places that standard vehicles can
- Will often take up just one parking space
- Better fuel economy
Weight: 10,000 to 20,000 pounds
Length: 16-20 feet
What is a Class C Motorhome?
While it may seem like Class B’s would be the middle child when it comes to the motorhome family, it’s actually the Class C’s. Class C motorhomes are mid-sized RVs that are typically built on top of a van or large truck chassis and include an over-the-cab sleeping area. They are sometimes called mini-motorhomes because they are essentially a more compact version of the Class As.
They are typically lightweight for better gas mileage and offer plenty of amenities and storage space.
Pro Tip: You can tell if a motorhome is a Class C if there is a bunk over the cab. Class C motorhomes utilize that space for a bunk, unlike the other classes. If the RV is equipped with a larger motor and heavy-duty chassis, you can also tow a boat or even a second vehicle on your adventures.
Benefits of a Class C Motorhome:
- More sleeping capacity
- Easier to navigate
- Closer to the ground for easier entrance and exit
- Less interior space to cool and/or heat
- The living space is accessible while on the road
- Simpler to drive due to size
Weight: 10,000 and 12,000 pounds
Length: 20-35 feet
What are some of the Best Motorhome Manufacturers, Models, and Brands?
Now that you understand the different types of motorhome categories, let’s talk about the folks making them. From retro-style Airstream to family-owned Tiffin, there are so many RV manufacturers, brands and models available in the industry, it can be overwhelming at first. It was hard for us to narrow down the list, but we’ve rounded up some of the top RV motorhome manufacturers and brands in the industry to help you get started.
- Tiffin Motorhomes is a family-owned private company that offers smooth and quiet rides with smart driving and features that are built for experiences. The luxurious Allegro Bus is their most popular model for those who enjoy full-time RV living. Tiffin’s Class A products include the Allegro, Allegro Breeze, Allegro Red, Phaeton, Allegro Bus and Zephyr.
- Thor Motor Coach is one of the most popular brands in the industry. They offer many different sizes, layouts, and pricing for Class A, B, and C motorhomes. Popular Thor Motor Coach models include Four Winds, Vegas, and Palazzo.
- Airstream is a brand that has been in business for over 80 years. They make top-of-the-line quality touring coaches with Mercedes-Benz® Class B sprinter van chassis by keeping all the safety and performance features, but outfitting the cabin to fit a traveler’s needs.
- Winnebago offers a wide range of RVs to choose from. From quality construction Class A diesel motorhomes with spacious living to a number of comfortable Class C motorhomes, they all offer a wide range of Winnebago’s key features to keep you comfortable. Popular Class C Winnebago motorhomes include the View, Navion, Aspect, Cambria, Trend, Fuse, Minnie Winnie, and Spirit.
- Newmar hand-builds each coach one by one and they have been for 50 years. They offer luxury, diesel, and gas Class A motorhomes and their mobility lineup features the world’s leading wheelchair-accessible Class A coaches. Explore the Newmar luxury motorhome lineup, which includes King Aire, Essex, London Aire, and Mountain Aire. Other popular Newmar models include Ventana, Bay Star, Canyon Star, and Dutch Star.
- Forest River is one of the largest manufacturers of quality RVs who offers a variety of models and floorplans. They offer a wide range of motorhome brands to choose from so you can find one that fits your needs. Popular brands include Coachmen, Georgetown, and Forester.
Pro Tip: There are so many incredible brands and models to choose from, not one is better than the other. They all have their pros and cons and everyone has different preferences. When making your decision, just be sure the motorhome you choose has all the features you are going to need so you can travel comfortably on the road.
What are the Best Motorhomes for Full-time Motorhome Living?
There’s nothing like hitting the open road without any place to be (or be tied down to!) — just you, your family and your home on wheels. Before you get started, we have the most common questions on full-time motorhome living answered.
Which type of motorhome is best for full-time living? How many people can fit?
- Class A Motorhomes can comfortably sleep somewhere between 1-10 people depending on their size and how you utilize the space.
- Class B Motorhomes are the smallest motorhomes and can only sleep about 2-4 people. Due to their smaller size, they also have a small interior so unless you’re traveling with 1-2 people, it might be best to stick to weekend trips.
- Class C Motorhomes are great for living in on a more permanent basis, as they typically have enough beds and convertible sofas to comfortably sleep 4 to 8 people.
Where can I park my motorhome permanently?
First thing’s first: where do you want to be? Whether it’s sandy beaches or trail adventures, there are plenty of RV parks that allow permanent or long-term parking. Check out our list of the 10 best RV parks in the U.S. If you haven’t already, you may also want to join Passport America, the Original 50% Off Discount Camping Club.
In addition to fulfilling your adventurous soul, don’t forget about your community and proximity to things you might need or want. Things like school, church, gym, stores, and markets can help you feel more at home when full-time RV living.
What else do I need to know if I am going to live full time out of a motorhome?
If you’re living on the road full-time, there are a few things you should know.
- Establish a Domicile Residency. There are several states across the country that allow full-time RVers to claim residency without owning or renting property — Florida, South Dakota, and Texas are the three most popular. Learn more about how to establish your residency here.
- Get Insurance. Along with a domicile you will also need insurance, which will likely help you determine which state you would like to domicile in. You can learn more about RV insurance here.
Check out our Beginner’s Guide to Full-Time RV Living: 8 Ultimate Tips for Life on the Road for everything you need to know.
Worried about keeping the family occupied during your long trips? We rounded up the Top 10 RV Games to Play on the Road with your Family for a good time.
How Much Does a Motorhome Cost?
Each class of motorhome is essentially categorized by size, which correlates to price. This means that Class A Motorhomes will be on the higher end, while Class C Motorhomes will be on the lower end.
- Class A Motorhomes will cost around $50,000 to $200,000+.
- Class B Motorhomes typically costs about $40,000-$100,000.
- Class C Motorhomes are about $50,000-$100,000.
All of these prices can vary depending on how new the motorhome is, what brand or manufacturer it is from, who is selling it, the amenities, special features, upgrades etc.
*If you are going custom, prices are unlimited.
If you are considering making the leap and investing in a Motorhome, most of us will need to finance these behemoth vehicles. Find out the best tips and tricks to get the best possible loan rates with our Finance Guide. Worried about your credit and how it might affect your loan for a Motorhome? We’ve got your covered. Just because your credit isn’t in the best shape doesn’t mean you can’t afford a Motorhome. Learn more with our Guide to Getting a Loan with Bad Credit.
What Other Costs are Associated with Owning a Motorhome?
Other than purchasing the motorhome itself you will have to consider costs for insurance, gas, campsites, licensing, maintenance, repairs and more.
Are there any costs associated with a motorhome that are not associated with a towable RV?
Because towable RVs aren’t drivable, their costs differ from motorhomes. They might be cheaper than motorhomes, but one cost you do have to consider if you have a towable RV is whether or not you have a vehicle that is capable of towing it.
Additional costs that are associated with a motorhome would be utility and power sources such as propane, batteries, generators, and inverters. Motorhomes also depreciate in value much quicker than towable RVs because of their engine.
Learn more about the Total Cost of Owning an RV here.
Finding the right deals to make your investment worthwhile can be tough. Luckily, we have some tips to help you get started. Check out How to Take Advantage of Powersport and RV Manufacturer Incentives on Your Next Vehicle Purchase and Best Motorcycle, ATV and UTV Deals and Incentives so you can make the most of your motorhome purchase.
How much do motorhomes depreciate?
Depreciation on motorhomes is much more closely tied to the year of the motorhome and not the mileage. This is because gas RVs can easily run about 200,000 miles, but they rarely last that long before other things settle in like water damage, etc.
New RVs start depreciating and drop in value by around 20% the second you ride them off the lot. Likewise, most RVs are traded or sold after three to five years, meaning they have depreciated about 30%.
Pro Tip: There is no significant difference in the depreciation of a Class A motorhome compared to a Class C motorhome.
Motorhome MPG Explained
The smaller the motorhome, the better the gas mileage. Here is the ‘miles per gallon’ breakdown of Class A, Class B, and Class C motorhomes.
- Class A Motorhomes average about 8-10 mpg and hold 100-150 gallons.
- Class B Motorhomes average about 15-25 mpg (depending on size) and hold 25 gallons.
- Class C Motorhomes average about 10-15 mpg and hold 25-55 gallons.
Pro Tip: For a 20,000 mile cross-country road trip, you can expect to spend about $5,000 to $10,000 on gas. The typical RV family drives less than 5,000 miles a year with their RV, so sometimes fuel consumption is not a major budget consideration.
Gas Vs. Diesel: There are gas and diesel motorhomes, so depending on which you use, your gas prices can vary. Diesel is preferred by long distance travelers because it is much more fuel efficient and has a greater energy value than regular gasoline.
Use gasbuddy.com to help you find the cheapest gas prices near you.
Speaking of Gas, Are There Any Eco-Friendly Motorhomes?
Manufacturers are continuing to take a more “green” approach and using more eco-friendly, green and renewable textiles, including power-saving light features and more.
Due to their smaller size, Class Bs offer the best fuel economy, making them the most eco-friendly in terms of fuel efficiency.
Airstream has taken an environmentally friendly approach for nearly 80 years. Airstreams are durable, eco-friendly, and designed to spend time on the road. Even the primary components (aluminum, steel, and wood) are easily recyclable!
There are also other ways you can go green on the road:
- Use solar panels to power some onboard systems
- Minimize disposable dishes
- Use marked campsites
- Reduce water
There are countless ways to reduce your carbon footprint on the road, these are just a few examples.
If you are serious about being eco-friendly on the road, good news! The world’s first pure electric drive motorhome: the Iridium E Mobil RV could debut this year.
New vs. Used Motorhomes: Which Do I Buy?
There are pros and cons to each, as well as certain factors you’ll need to consider in order to choose the right one for you.
Buying New Motorhomes
When you’re buying it brand new, you’re typically going to get everything you need (and possibly want) in your RV, including a limited warranty, but all of that comes at a price. Here are the pros and cons of buying a new motorhome.
- Pros: Brand new, customizable, comes with a warranty
- Cons: Higher price, higher insurance rates, starts to depreciate right as you drive off the lot
Not sold on buying something brand new? Used RVs are heavily sought-after because they are a few years older and more broken-in. Let’s take a closer look.
Buying Used Motorhomes
Used motorhomes have lower price points and lower insurance rates than those that are brand new. However, you might need to think about the fact that they may also require more maintenance due to previous ownership. Here are the pros and cons of buying a used motorhome:
- Pros: Lower price, lower insurance rates, more broken-in, might have upgrades
- Cons: More maintenance, unknown or hidden damage, no warranty
Where should I go to look for a used motorhome?
There are a few things that you should keep in mind if you are looking at used motorhomes, and that is the condition of the RV. Ask yourself these questions:
- How many prior owners were there?
- How well did they maintain it?
- Do they have maintenance and service records?
- What is the overall condition compared to a new one?
- Do you have all the information you need on the RV?
Depending on the previous owner, the RV may also have less worth and less value than a new one. You can look up the RV’s value on NADA, the Kelley Blue Book for used RVs.
If you still don’t know whether or not to buy a new or used RV, check out our RV Buying Guide: Buying a New RV vs. Buying a Used RV for further guidance.
How to Finance a Motorhome
A motorhome can cost a pretty penny. Most people will need to take out a loan in order to purchase one. If you do take out a loan, you want to make sure you get the best possible loan rate, so that you owe as little interest as possible. Searching for good loan rates and negotiating pricing can be daunting. Luckily, we have a Definitive Guide to RV Loans that goes over everything you need to know about how to finance an RV.
Concerned about your credit and how your score might affect your ability to finance or purchase a motorhome? Educate yourself on how to use the tools in your shed to still get the best rate possible with our Guide to Bad Credit Loans.
How to Buy a Motorhome
Now that you know everything you need about motorhomes, you probably have a good idea of which vehicle you want to look into. If you are feeling ready to search inventory, start with GoRollick’s nationwide network of new and used inventory. GoRollick works with the best dealers in the country who are dedicated to price transparency and a great buying experience. With GoRollick you can get an upfront price and a special offer on your next motorhome, plus savings on after-purchase products. Then when you’re ready, you can shop at one of our Certified Dealers.
Not quite sold? Maybe this will help. Use our guide on How to Take Advantage of Powersport and RV Manufacturer Incentives on Your Next Vehicle Purchase to get the most bang for your buck, and when you are ready to buy, check out our list of the latest available manufacturer incentive to ensure you are getting the best price available.
Post-Purchase Considerations for Motorhome Ownership
Once you purchase a motorhome, the fun really starts! Trips, tailgates, parties, and memories that will last a lifetime. Your motorhome is an awesome piece of machinery, but it needs some love and care to make sure it lasts as long as possible for you and your family.
Where Can I Park My Motorhome When Traveling?
As much fun as the drive might be, there is usually an equally as exciting destination. When you get there, or on your way, you will need to stop and park your RV somewhere safe and legal.
There are several places you can park your motorhome while you are on the road. Many of these places are safe, free and available for temporary parking, you just have to know where to look. One of the best and easiest places to park for an overnight break from driving is a truck stop, but these can fill up quickly. Also look at places like Walmart, K-Mart, Lowes, Home Depot, Cabelas, and Camping World for quick, overnight, dry camping.
If you are looking for a stop along your trip, there are literally hundreds of beautiful state parks, national parks and RV campsites for RVs to set up for anywhere from a night to a few weeks, dry or wet. Check out Campendium or GoodSam or to find RV parks and campgrounds and to check their price, availability and amenities.
If you need some more concrete ideas on where to park your motorhome while you’re on the road, check out our list of the Top 10 Best RV Parks in America and plan your next trip! There is a wide variety of RV Parks and campgrounds across the country that range from $15 a night to $45-$50 a night.
Motorhomes are just like houses or cars, they will need continual upkeep in order to remain safe, efficient and enjoyable.
- How often do you need to maintain motorhome? You should maintain your motorhome after each trip or at least once per month.
- Where can you maintain your motorhome? You can do the routine maintenance yourself or take it to a body shop if you aren’t one to get your hands dirty.
- How much does it cost to maintain a motorhome? Motorhome maintenance can cost you around $600-$5,000 per year depending on how much you use it, how much of it you do yourself, etc.
Here are some tips for motorhome maintenance.
- Wash your motorhome often, especially after each trip, and open vents
- Check the condition and the water levels of your battery at least once per month and before each trip
- Check the condition and pressure of your tires at least once per month and before each trip to avoid any problems on the road
- Run the generator with a load every month
- Inspect the roof seals and seams of your RV every six months
- Change the oil every 3,000 to 4,500 miles (but be sure to check your owner’s manual for your specific motorhome)
- Check of the Supplement Cooling Additives (SCAs) count of the engine coolant each year
- Change air, fuel, oil and other filters as needed
- Drain your waste tanks after each trip
Of course, maintenance varies depending on how often you use your motorhome, but these steps should be taken in order to maintain its condition, which brings us to motorhome storage.
Motorhome Storage Explained
Where can I store my motorhome?
You can store your motorhome either indoors or outdoors.
Use a Cover
A more simple and more affordable option would be to use an RV cover. Look for a cover or tarp that has breathable material to prevent moisture from getting in and UV radiation from damaging paint etc. Waterproof RV covers can cost anywhere from $100-$300+.
Pro Tip: Be extra careful when storing your RV outside as the snow starts to pile up during the winter months. You can learn all about how to store your RV for the winter here.
Rent a Garage Space
Renting an indoor storage or garage space will ensure that your motorhome will stay protected year-round, especially during months of freezing temperatures, snow, and high winds. Storage units and garage spaces (both indoor and outdoor) range anywhere from $30-$100+ a month.
Pro Tip: If you are storing your motorhome outside, just remember that it will be exposed to sun, wind and other weather. Make sure everything is properly sealed tightly and the blinds are closed in order to prevent damage.
Check out our RV Storage Checklist for the best ways to store your motorhome for the winter.
Does size matter for storage?
Yes! If you are storing your motorhome in a garage storage space, you are going to need to make sure it can store your RV properly, which means it has to fit! If your RV is 17 feet tall, then you need to make sure the garage door is at least that tall so your RV can clear the opening.
The same goes for covers — why invest in something if it doesn’t fit? Make sure your RV cover will keep your whole RV protected.
Common Questions About Motorhomes
Do I need a special license to drive a motorhome?
In most cases, you can just use a regular driver’s license to drive your RV. In fact, RVs under 26,000 pounds (Class Bs and Class Cs) don’t need any special license at all. However, if your rig is heavier than that (talking about you, Class As), you may need a special license depending on where you are traveling.
The following states require special licensing for rigs over 26,000 pounds:
- North Carolina
- New Mexico
- Washington, D.C.
Some states might require a CDL (commercial driver’s license) for RVs heavier than the maximum weight requirements: Connecticut, Hawaii, Kansas, Michigan, New York, South Carolina, Indiana, and Wisconsin.
Pro Tip: Keep in mind that some states require different license classes and have different length and weight requirements. It’s always a good idea to check your state’s specific laws or local DMV before you hit the road. If you want to be sure to avoid any confusion with licensing, choose a smaller RV such as a Class B or C.
Do I need insurance for a motorhome?
Most state laws require motorhomes (and all vehicles) to have minimum liability insurance coverage if you are driving on the road.
Liability Coverage Includes:
- Bodily injury liability
- Property damage liability
If you travel often or are living in your RV full-time, you should consider additional insurance coverages. You should also consider additional coverages if you took out a loan to finance a motorhome or if your RV is a rental. Additional coverages can include things like collision, roadside assistance, uninsured/underinsured, total loss and more. Learn more about RV coverages here.
Can I claim my motorhome as a residence for tax purposes?
Yes, you can claim your motorhome as a residence for tax purposes, but there’s a catch.
The IRS allows taxpayers to designate only one residence only as a main home at any one time. That means that the “main home” must be the one where you ordinarily live most of the year — and if that’s your motorhome it must have all of the proper facilities.
Most people claim their motorhome as their secondary residence if it qualifies as a second home. The benefit of treating your RV as either a primary or secondary residence on your tax forms is to take allowable homeowner tax deductions that can decrease your overall tax bill.
Pro Tip: As long as your RV is security for the loan used to buy it, you can deduct mortgage interest paid on that loan.
That’s a wrap on everything you need to know about motorhomes! Whether you’re looking for a bus-style Class A, a camper van Class B, or a mid-size Class C, there are so many options of motorhomes to choose from. Each with their own special features, you can find something fun and comfortable for the whole family!
When you’re ready to add some toys to your RV, you can read about our 10 best motorcycles and 5 best ATVs, and you can see pricing at gorollick.com.Not convinced on motorhomes? Learn all about Travel Trailers here.