A Small Motorhome Is Your Best Choice

A Small Motorhome Is Your Best Choice

We drive a small motorhome – a Class B (van size) camper. Pictured here, our
1990 Roadtrek offers everything we need in an RV in a very compact space.

Our 1990 Roadtrek camped at Wind Cave NP, South Dakota

Our home away from home. We named her

“Sweet Surrender” after the John Denver song.

If you like the idea of the frugal adventure RV lifestyle that I describe on
this site and you’re looking for an RV that best fits the bill to take you to
the places I’m suggesting, then I recommend you look for a small motorhome.

Living In A Small Space

If you’re like some of our friends, you may be asking how we can live in such a
small space. The answer is, “We don’t. We cook our meals in the RV and sleep in
it but, unless it’s raining, the great outdoors is our living room and dining

Choosing Your Small Motorhome

When looking for a small motorhome, you do have a few choices:

  1. Class B (van-size camper)

  2. Class B-plus (slightly wider van-size camper)

  3. Pop-top van

  4. Truck Camper

  5. Small Class C (preferably under 27 feet in length)

Small motorhomes have become the fastest growing segment of the RV industry in
recent years and with the recent hike in

fuel prices

this trend is bound to continue.

Increasingly popular, lightweight RVs that are towed – such as small trailers
and tent trailers provide the cheapest option of all. Some can even be towed
behind a small fuel-efficient car and are possibly the most frugal option of

Many people, including good friends of ours, pull a mid-size trailer and are
able to access many of the same camping areas we do. However, the overall
length, when combined with a tow-vehicle, will prevent you from exploring many
of the roads we take in our small motorhome. The solution, of course, is to
un-hitch the trailer and explore the road by car or truck before bringing the
trailer in.

The many advantages of driving a small motorhome can be broken into 2
categories: frugal (or cost saving) advantages and adventure advantages.

The Frugal Advantage Of A Small Motorhome

  1. Better fuel economy.

  2. Can access narrow forest roads and other dirt roads leading to free dispersed
    camping areas.

  3. Can “sneak-a-sleep” wherever overnight parking is allowed.

  4. With a larger RV, many people leave the RV behind and drive a tow vehicle to
    explore the area. With a small RV, your home and food is always with you so you
    can save on restaurant meals.

  5. If, while exploring, you find a great overnight spot, you can stay without
    having to backtrack to get your RV.

  6. Since every storage area in an RV seems to get filled, the less storage space
    you have, the less “stuff” you bring or are tempted to buy on route. (We still
    always bring stuff that doesn’t get used.)

  7. Can be used as a primary or secondary vehicle when not traveling.

  8. With the recent escalation in fuel prices, a small RV should hold its value
    better than a larger model.

The Adventure Advantage Of A Small Motorhome

  1. Easy to drive and park.

  2. Allows you to explore what’s down a narrow road without fearing that you may
    not be able to turn around.

  3. If you find a great spot, your home is with you so you are free to spend as
    much time as you like.

  4. You can be more spontaneous. Since all your gear is with you, if you find a
    wonderful hiking trail, camping area, or meet up with people, you can take
    advantage of opportunities without having to return to home base.

  5. With less indoor space in a small motorhome, you’re likely to spend more time
    outdoors which, after all, is the idea, isn’t it?
  6. Practicality – size does matter! With less storage, you’ll end up making more practical decisions (and keeping your RV more tidy).

    For example: one thing that larger trailers and motorhomes have that a smaller RV may not offer is automatic drop-down levelers. We solve our leveling issues with Lynx Levelers. We started off using wooden boards but these levelers are more practical, yet economical. They do the job better, they come with a handy travel case that takes up less precious storage space, they’re lightweight, and easy to grab and move around.

    Trust me, with a smaller rig, there will be more of that – keeping everything where it belongs is the biggest secret to making a smaller space work.

    Pros and Cons of Various Types

    Here is a comparison of the pros and cons (in my opinion) of the various types
    of small motorhomes:

    Truck Camper


    • Most trucks have higher clearance and perhaps even 4-wheel-drive and will allow
      access to rougher roads and more areas than any other small motorhome.

    • You may already own a truck and the financial outlay for the camper to add to
      it is much less than for a motorized RV.

    • If you already own a truck, additional savings include not having to insure or
      pay for annual license fees on another motor vehicle.

    • Some truck campers are made to fold down to a lower profile resulting in better
      fuel efficiency.

    • The camper can be removed from the truck and left set-up at a campsite while
      you take the truck for a drive. (From our experience this is usually just
      tricky enough that it’s not a feature you would take advantage of very often.)

    • When not traveling, you can remove the camper and have use of the truck as a
      primary or secondary vehicle.

    • You can upgrade to a newer truck, if you like, but still keep the camper and
      just transfer it to the new truck.


    • When you are in the camper you don’t have access to the driver’s seat to drive
      away without going outdoors first…could be a safety and inclement weather

    • A truck camper is higher than a class-B or class-C RV so getting in and out of
      the camper will mean climbing more steps.

    Class B, B-plus, or Pop-top Van


    • When not traveling, it can be a primary or secondary vehicle with seating for 4
      to 6 people.

    • No wasted space – on most models the driver and passenger seats turn around to
      become part of your living space while camping.

    • Some B-plus models offer a slide-out for additional space

    • In an emergency, you can get to the drivers seat from within the camper very
      easily and drive away from trouble.

    • Most are built more aerodynamically so they get better gas mileage than either
      a truck with camper or a class-C.

    • Can be parked in any regular parking space that will accommodate a van or
      extended van.

    • Easily becomes a second vehicle when not traveling. Some models look more like
      a conversion van than an RV.


    • Very compact space. Not much storage.

    • The ceiling height and the bed may not be suitable for tall people.

    • Sleeps fewer people than a Class C or truck camper.

    • The bed generally has to be taken down in order to seat more than two for

    • Usually more expensive to buy than a Class C.

    Small Class C


    • Most have a more spacious living area than either truck camper or class-B.

    • More space means more storage space.

    • Slide-outs for additional space are available on some models.

    • No wasted space – the driver and passenger seats become part of your living
      space when camping.

    • In an emergency, you can get to the drivers seat from within the camper very
      easily and drive away from trouble.


    • Not very aerodynamic, so poor fuel economy.

    • Always looks like an RV and generally more bulky so, when not traveling, is not
      as suitable as a primary or secondary vehicle.

Other RV Types

This page describes small motorhomes only but you’ll find an excellent description of the differences between all types of motorhomes at RV Living Unlimited.

Buying A Used RV

If you’re not ready to buy, there are few affordable rental options but there
is finally one that I’ve found:

Lost Campers

is based out of San Franciso, California. Although their vans don’t have all
the amenities (water, toilet, extra battery power, etc.) of a motorhome, they
are an affordable way to experiment with the boondocking lifestyle, especially
when combined with

free campsites

throughout the southwest.

When you’re ready to buy, look for the best


RV you can afford – especially if this is your first RV purchase. You’ll find
out, as you use it, what your likes and dislikes are so buying new is not an
option until you’ve spent some time on the road. A new RV can also be very
expensive and will depreciate faster than most other vehicles would. Check the
used RV ads to see for yourself; whereas, a used RV will depreciate much more

Being Frugal Means Getting The Best Value For Your Money!

The type of small motorhome you end up with may be determined as much by what
is available in your price range as any decision you make based on preference.
Any of the RV types described above will work fine. We’ve owned two Class B
campers (Roadtreks) since we started traveling nine years ago. Both were
purchased because we found them at a reasonable price.

The only thing we would change, given the option, would be to have a higher
clearance 4-wheel drive vehicle. That could expand our horizons even farther.
Although some Class B and C campers now offer these features, they are
generally quite expensive. For this reason, when we’re ready to shop for our
next small motorhome, we may find ourselves looking seriously at a truck camper.

I guess we should try that change soon, while we’re still in our fifties and
still able to manage those extra steps.

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