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Class B motor homes — it's a tight fit, but everything's there

By Chuck Woodbury, editor
Beginners Guide to RVing

Foot for foot you won't get more RV than in a Class B motorhome. Viewed from the outside, these small recreational vehicle's looks are deceptive: it looks like there's no room for the standard features of the motorized RV big boys — the class A and class C motorhomes.

But, indeed, there is plenty of room. Class B motorhomes, often called van campers, pack in a lot! And they do it in a space so compact that they will fit in most home garages. Try that in your Winnebago.

The first motorhome I ever drove was a Class B. A friend of mine and I rented it for a winter travel writing trip in northern Nevada. That little motorhome was like a magic carpet, taking us to remote spots where there wasn't a motel in sight, and it did so in relative comfort. Inside at night with the heater running, were were cozy, and the little motorhome seemed like a
The Roadtrek 190 — a lot of RV in a limited space.
miniature palace.

Class B motorhomes sell from between $33,000 to $65,000 and generally sleep up to four people.The Type B is the most economical, versatile and maneuverable of the motorized RVs. These van campers are easily loaded and readied for any travel occassion and double as second family vehicles or even as carpool vehicles for commuters.

A type B motor home makes a fine towing vehicle and is often used in tandem with a camping trailer, especially with a trailer that is not equipped with full bathroom facilities. The type B motorhome is narrower than other RVs because it utilizes the space within the existing van body. However, most are equipped with a raised roof, and sometimes dropped floors providing full stand-up room.

With their compact size and many amenities, van campers can provide comfortable living space and essentials for couples and young families. And some RV veterans move "down" to a Class B, often because they plan to travel less: they want to keep enjoying the RV lifestyle, but they don't feel the need the big 36-foot Bounder Class A anymore.

One of the most popular Class B motorhomes is the Roadtrek. Made in Canada, the Roadtrek comes in 17 to 20 foot models with most of the features of much larger motorhomes including generous-sized holding tanks and storage capacity (considering the limited amount of total space), and even a toilet and shower. The inside ceiling is 6' 3", so most RVers will never have to bend to move about. Because of its streamlined aeerodynamics, overall weight and engine efficiency, the Roadtrek offers better gas mileage than bigger motorhomes. This is true with other Class B's as well, although the gas savings over most Class Cs is not dramatic.

Another popular Class B is the Sportsmobile, which began its life in 1961 as a modified Volkswagen Bus. Today, Sportsmobiles come in a variety of models, including four-wheelers to get RVers far off the beaten path. Unlike the Roadtrek, the Sportsmobile in sold factory direct, not through dealers. One interesting model of Sportsmobile features a pop up bunk that allows an "upstairs" bed that sleeps two. Prices begin at $38,000. Information is available by email at

A step up from the Class B motorhome, is the Chinook RV Camper Van, which originated in 1961 in the garage of Don Lukehart Sr. Although the company considers the Chinook a Class C motorhome, it doesn't feature the bed over the cab like most other Class Cs, making it appear more like a cross between a Class C and Class B.
In 1971, Gary Lukehart designed the present day Concourse, providing the public with the first one piece, fiberglass body motorhome, that carries the only lifetime guarantee in the RV industry.
The Winnebago Rialta

Another motorhome that looks like a Class B but is called a Class C by its manufacturer, is the Rialta from Winnebago. Unlike Class B conversion vans, the Rialta isn't adapted from another vehicle but is engineered from the ground up with a VW chassis and a fuel-efficient 140 hp Volkswagen-engineered VR6 engine.

Other Class B motorhomes include the Leisure Travel Van, Coach House and Pleasure Way. But there are others.

If there is one negative aspect of Class B motorhomes it's that per foot they are generally pricier than their Class A and Class C counterparts. But for RVers who are looking for comfort in a small package, the price is usually not a roadblock.

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Copyright 2004 by Out West Newspaper