I want to tell you about living in a small RV, and why we think it's the only way to go RVing. But, mark my words, to love living in such of a small space you have to be a bit of a hobo! Maybe there is a bit of the gypsy in our bones, we don't know. But we can say that “bigging it up” is not our bag, the lazy comfort of a large RV would be too expensive, too cumbersome, not nice to drive and too much like being grounded at home…
On This Page
- The Best Small RVs
- What Exactly are Small RVs?
- Unity Small RV by Leisure Travel Vans
- Chateau Small RV by Thor Motor Coach
- Small RVs Provide Accessible Mobility
- The pros of small RVs
- Are small RVs still a pain to drive?
- Small RV's and Campers
- Loading and Packing for Living In Your RV
- Summing Up and Conclusion
The Best Small RVs
We had already talked about living in a small RV and I was really sold on the idea, but my husband thought I was only half-serious. Wrong! So, it all started by my talking him into having a small yard sale. We agreed to sell off some of our belongings in an effort to have less stuff. The date was set, and as the 2 weeks went by he began to see that I was making one hell-of-a-big-pile for the yard sale! So, about 1 week in, my husband realizes how big that baby was getting!
I got him online next to me, and we researched small RV's and I'll be danged if he didn't start liking what he was seeing! That was near on 5 years ago now, and we never looked back after selling most of our stuff and putting the rest in lock-up storage. In this article I want to give you all I know about living in a small RV now that we've been doing it, starting with our little list of the best all-time small RVs for road trips:
- The 1999 Winnebago Rialta motor home was built as an alternative to larger Class A motor homes and the conversion vans. It has an aerodynamic design and a mere 20 feet 8 inches in length; making it exceptionally easy to maneuver.
- 2018 Winnebago Travato 59K: Traveling in Class B is easier than you think. We think it is more fun than a lumbering giant one. And we do not want to tow anything. We can rent and leave behind most anything we desire. No parking or backing up stress. No extra maintenance costs, insurance, additional fuel for towing, etc. We are Happy Campers with our Travato 59K.
- 2015 Winnebago Travato 59G: Excellent RV for boondocking or for just running around town. Has all the hookups for regular campgrounds too. Includes bathroom, shower, kitchen sink, stove and counter. Drives smooth even on mountain roads. Awesome storage for bikes and kayaks.
- 2017 Thor Motor Coach Synergy TT24: Loved the ease in handling this coach, the floor plan is great and roomy for travel and for camping. Perfect for 2 people but can sleep more in a little more crowded fell obviously. Just a great little coach.
- 2002 Roadtrek Versatile 190: This is a very smart vehicle. Can sleep 4 comfortably and carry 6 with seatbelts. Only 19′ long so can park in a regular parking place. Roomy shower/bathroom area, nice kitchen area. Outdoor awning. We'll-equipped, easy to drive.
The above list of Class B RV Reviews was compiled from excerpts from owner testimonials, on RV Insider at: rvtrader.com
But, although the Class B's (18 to 24 feet) are the smallest of the RV classes, and a lot are sold for their lower price and being easier to store on front-drives than the larger classes B+, C. and A, when many people talk of small RVs they tend to think of and love the roomier Class C's.
But what is an RV? RV stands for ‘recreational vehicle’ and any vehicle with living quarters onboard counts. It could be a campervan, a fifth wheel, a motorhome, a truck camper, or a pop-top camper. Today we’re going to be looking at smaller RVs as, on top of being able to get to remote locations, small campers have loads of positive points.
What Exactly are Small RVs?
It's the small Class C RVs (just a teeny bit bigger than our favourite Class Bs) which tend to be commented upon as really seeming to have the best of both worlds, but to find the best Class C motorhome (30 to 33 ft), we should really start by defining, as best we can, what a Class C motorhome is, in a nutshell:
- not too big or small
- offer Class A type luxurious (the same level of luxury as the largest class (29 to 45 feet).
Bigger isn’t always better though. While the Class A motorhomes that are nicer than many bricks-and-mortar homes, and are surely impressive, they’re not for everyone. For one, they are not in everyone’s price range. In RVing, we think that it's not just motorhomes which get just a bit too “bloated”. Even the type of trailer home known as “fifth wheels” are bigger and pricier than many people need. People that truly enjoy nature while they travel, and don't wish to harm it by excessive use of resources are turning to smaller RVs. That's we have always found best having always traveled in Class Bs for the many benefits they pack in a small but powerful punch at just 18 to 24 feet long:
- the smallest and cheapest of the motorhome classes
- not much storage nor a great deal of space,
but, hey! Who wants to be inside a motorhome any longer than necessary when you have such wonderful places to explore all around you while traveling!
Small travel trailers and small fifth wheels share the benefit of:
- fitting easily into most campground spots, and
- they’re more convenient than large units in terms of storage and maintenance at home
- unbeatable for the appeal of quickly packing up and heading off for the next weekend journey!
They’re generally easier on the budget, and many people prefer these smaller RVs simply based on personal preference. OK. It's a bit silly perhaps to mention this but I love 'em for their “cuteness” factor!
If you don’t already own one, figure out what type of RV will meet your needs based on how and where you plan on using it. When it comes to living in an RV year-round, the amount of space is especially important to consider. There are many classifications of RVs to choose from. Some are all-in-one motor homes and others are trailers that need another vehicle to pull them.
All small RVs will have even smaller kitchens. Ours is among the tiniest, with a compact sink, modest countertop, 2-burner stove, 3. 8 cubic foot fridge, and microwave. But, perhaps surprisingly, while living in a small RV we always eat well when we’re traveling. My husband is a darling when he says; “that's because I travel with an excellent cook (my wife) who seems to enjoy the challenge of combining limited ingredients in new and interesting ways”.
Small “Winnebago” Admirers
We are small Winnebago fans, but that manufacturer sells RVs at the top-end that start with the giants of the RVing world. They also have a number of “class C” RVs, larger than ours, but the “Fuse” is the cutest and the smallest Class C RV currently in their product range.
As we said before, people are turning to smaller RVs for the many benefits they pack in a small but powerful punch. Smaller RVs aren’t just for people dipping a toe in the RVing lifestyle anymore. Some experienced RVers are even downsizing for the benefits a smaller RV offers. First off are the cost benefits that purchasing a smaller RV offers. Many motorhomes can run north of a quarter of a million dollars, even nearing $500,000 and up! Make sure you have a fistful of greens in your pocket if you want one of those!
There are many classifications of RVs to choose from. Some are all-in-one motor homes and others are trailers that need another vehicle to pull them. While you may have great fun getting away with a small pop-up trailer for short getaways, it’s not a great long-term option. A motor home can be the best choice to fit all your essential needs for a longer period.
There are many “whys” for people living in RVs. I have met many who said they wanted more freedom to travel, wanted to maintain less, want a more simple life, and so on. Our “why” is a little bit different than most. Our true dream now is to one day live on a sailboat and travel the shoreline.
In the past, the US left it to the Europeans to have compact Class C motorhomes, with clever layouts and great functionality, and to top all off with stylish and contemporary decor. But gosh, there are a lot of European motorhome manufacturers! and since the Europeans specialize in the smaller RVs, there are loads of small Class C motorhomes that I could have included in my short list above.
Benefits of Small RV's
First off are the cost benefits that purchasing a smaller RV offers. At nearing $500,000 and upward for the truly majestic, but massive, beauties of the RV world this is just too expensive. For the majority of people, especially younger families, this simply isn’t in the budget. The cheapest smaller RVs are typically the used examples of travel trailers and can range in price from $10,000 to $50,000 and up. But smaller RVs typically fall within the $10,000 to $30,000 range.
The smallest Class c RV that I’ve been able to find is by Australian manufacturer Explorer Motorhomes. At just 5. 8m this is the smallest Class C on the market and manages to include everything you need in its innovative layout.
Smaller RVs are typically bought as travel trailers. But smaller RVs typically fall within the $10,000 – $30,000 range. There are also Class B motorhomes, campervans, but they typically fall in the pricier range. Another cost saver and convenience factor with a smaller RV is the issue of storage. For the majority of people that aren’t full-timers, RVing will be a fun summer activity, with maybe a few longer trips interspersed. For those people, there is no real problem with keeping their possessions to the minimum.
Small inevitably means that they are easy to drive and easy to load. Their small size means these RVs are easy to move around town and don't underestimate the benefits of being able to fit in regular parking spots. They do still have all the basic conveniences of home for bathing, sleeping, dining and cooking. If they are themselves small and light they are more useful for towing. That means you can tow a boat, a snowmobile, a small family car or even a camping trailer for extra sleeping room.
Finally, let's think again about that other cost saver and convenience factor with a smaller RV, which is the issue of storage. For the majority of people that aren’t full-timers, RVing is a fun summer activity. For most of the rest of the year when you’re not using your RV it has to sit somewhere. Smaller RVs cost less to store, and may even be able to sit on your property without becoming a hulking great presence that causes your neighbor to curse you under their breath.
State-of-the-Art RVing in Travel Vans
We’re including this Class B from Unity Small RV by Leisure Travel Vans to mix it up a bit in this article and show you what state-of-the art RVing can be like. You get all comforts in this small a van with the minimum of maintenance! Most small RVs sold in the US and Canada fall into this “travel trailer” category. The Unity, is a relatively small van that has the luxury of huge motor coaches. There’s a lot of technology in this unity. In fact, Dometic, the innovative fridge manufacturer, is using leisure travel vans as the brand to implement its latest innovations. Msrp: $134,210, gvwr: 11,030 lbs, length: 25′ 1″.
Chateau Small RV by Thor Motor Coach
OK! Give me a break this is a chateau? Based in Elkhart, Indiana. Thor Industries is a large RV manufacturer with several small RVs to choose from. Models include the chateau, compass, four winds, Gemini and Quantum.
Small RVs Provide Accessible Mobility
Looking for maximum mobility? Small RVs are the best solution for traveling the wilds with all your stuff in tow. They can often fit into smaller spaces (like parking spots at national parks) much better than either class A RVs or towed trailers, which often require special oversized parking. Unlike trailers, small RVs have connected living and driving sections of the vehicle, making all your things fully accessible while in transit. If it's raining when you stop for a comfort break just walk back into the trailer – it's all there!
Models to look for on the used market feature by feature:
- built for two, or 4
- heating and cooling
- ease of leveling
- built-in wall sliders, awnings
- internal and external storage space
- solar power equipped
- TV and wi-fi provision.
Watch walk-throughs on YouTube to compare, models and to give you an idea of the build quality and layout. You can always seek out used RVs to match your budget, once you know what each model offers.
As mentioned above, unlike trailers, small RVs have connected living and driving sections of the vehicle, making all your stuff fully accessible while in transit. This may not be such a big plus for solo travelers but for couples or families it really is! This fact alone can make for a drastically more enjoyable travel experience. Kids can play games, watch movies, take naps, eat snacks, even go potty, all without ever stopping the vehicle.
Another example is Born Free Motorcoach. They built several small class C RVs under 25 feet before the company closed its doors in 2017 and can be worth considering. Models to look for on the used market are the President, or Reign. Born Free also manufactured wheelchair-accessible RVs. This small class C motorhome manufacturer no longer has a website, but you can find information by looking up owner’s groups like the Born Free Leap’n Lions RV Club.
Summarizing the Pros of Small RVs
Enjoying camping vacations in an RV has become quite fashionable, and for many, it has even evolved into a lifestyle. Large class A motorhomes and 5th wheels make it possible to carry along your entire life as you traverse the country. But sometimes bigger is not always better. There has been a move recently to downsize RV life into smaller, more mobile vehicles that can take you further faster.
Are Small RVs Still a Pain to Drive?
It depends on your pain tolerance! No, I am only joking. Sort of! Obviously, a small RV isn’t going to maneuver as a car would, but class B RVs, in particular, can actually be really enjoyable rides. Always test drive the RV you plan to buy, you might be surprised by the difficulty or ease you find behind the wheel.
Small RV's and Campers
You can find small recreational vehicles in almost every type of RVs. The largest are the class C motorhomes. These campers are built on a truck chassis and can be as large as a truck chassis can be! come in lengths up to 32’. What would be considered ‘small RVs' are the models based upon large vans that range from 19’ to 24’ long.
Living life in an RV means a life on the road. All that driving, even in the most scenic areas of this gorgeous country, can get really monotonous. While trailers or the very large campers might be a great lower-cost option for people wanting to set up camp and stick around a while, small RVs are ideal for people planning to spend most of their time in transit.
Perhaps the most important reason why so many people choose a small camper is the cost. Pop-up campers and lightweight trailers are the most affordable RVs, and because they are popular there are lots of new and used options. You can find great deals on used RVs. Sure, the décor might be a little dated but does that matter when it saves you a few thousand dollars? If you plan to spend lots of time outdoors and prefer to buy new, you can finance your purchase and work it into your monthly budget.
Your first decision is whether to own an all-in-one motorhome or a tow-behind 5th wheel/travel trailer. I’ve always loved the simplicity and security of a motorhome. Imagine this – you don’t have to step outside the vehicle at night to go to bed when you’re traveling! But if you already own and need a truck, then a camper you can pull behind makes lots of sense.
Smaller RVs don’t offer much space for the storage of personal items. They have fewer beds and these campers can’t accommodate more than a few sleeping-in quarters. Typically, only 2 people can sleep comfortably in most tiny RVs. But, that, of course, doesn't stop you bringing a tent, or pulling a trailer, for additional sleeping accommodation.
Of course, any ‘best’ list is subjective, and our shortlist of the best small rv camper vans is no different! I’ve made no secret of the fact that I love small RVs, and one of my favourites is the camper van.
Loading and Packing for Living In Your RV
I am an RV enthusiast with more than 20 years of experience owning, driving, traveling and living in recreational vehicles. It is extremely important to learn how to load and pack your recreational vehicle both from comfort and safety standpoints. People often forget that an RV is basically just a vehicle, and as such, it needs to be well balanced if it is to move safely along roads and highways.
“Buy an RV!” they said. “it’ll be fun. ”they also told you boats, golf carts, and living off the grid would be fun. And they are, if you have the right kind of power. Or, the right way to power. People who love outdoor adventures are enjoying faster travel, longer backcountry trips, and better ways of using solar power. This means more memorable vacations and living experiences.
The most important thing to remember? Only take with you the essentials. Learn to maximize your RV's storage and take advantage of every inch of your RV's cabinets and shelving. Once stuff starts cluttering up your small RV's kitchen table and other open living spaces, it’s all over. Finding unique storage ideas and solutions is actually part of the fun of decorating a small RV, and is one of the best ways to make even the tiniest space feel downright roomy.
Chairs for Outdoor RV Living
You will need regular folding chairs for your RV outdoor living space too. We opted for bag chairs since they are easy to store under the RV and double as chairs we take with us to events or the beach. Bag chairs aren't always supportive but we have been very happy with these bag chairs. They are sturdy, yet lightweight and easy to carry on your shoulder. A plus is they come in various colors so you can show off your personality if you want to!
Summing Up and Conclusion
Class B small motorhomes are essentially vans converted or retrofitted into living quarters. While that description might have you feeling claustrophobic, many class B RVs are actually quite spacious considering their tiny footprint. Living in a small RV is ideal for solo travelers or couples looking for a more rugged experience. Class B small RVs are by far the easiest RVs to maneuver and drive and can fit in most garages (given enough headroom) and driveways.
Living together in a small space can be challenging, and finding things to do on your own can be great for your mindset. I like to go on hikes by myself or take the dogs out on long walks. When the weather is bad and we have to stay inside, we pass the time reading, watching Netflix, organizing our next stopover, and so on.
That's not so different to what you'd be doing in a regular home, but just think how much more you'll be getting the moment the weather improves when living in a small RV!