A 35 feet travel trailer pulled by an SUV by the side of the road on a clear day cloudy sky.

What’s the Difference Between a Motorhome, RV, Camper, and a Trailer?

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Are you having a hard time choosing which RV is perfect for you? When talking about RVs, motorhomes, and travel trailers, sorting out the different terms can be confusing. Deciding what to buy can have your head spinning, and someone who knows nothing about RVs may think they are all the same. 

What is the difference between a motorhome and an RV?

RV stands for Recreational Vehicle, which is a catch-all for campers, motorhomes, campervans and travel trailers. A motorhome is a drivable RV that is either class A, B, or C. Towable RVs are called travel trailers and fifth wheels. 

Motorhomes and travel trailers come in different sizes and capacities. When deciding what to buy or rent, consider how many people will generally be along on your adventures and how large of a rig you want to handle.

Most motorhomes are about 25 to 45 feet long, depending on their class, and can fit 4 to 12 adults. On the other hand, trailers can range from 10 to 40 feet – but you need to include the tow vehicle in the total length. Travel trailers can accommodate 2 to 12 adults depending on which type of trailer it is. 

Aside from sizes and capacities, we will discuss more information you may need to know about these two types of RV. This guide will teach you to distinguish between an RV, camper, motorhome and a travel trailer so you will know what is right for you.

What’s The Difference Between an RV and a Camper?

The terms “RV” and “camper” mean the same thing – a moveable unit that you can live out of.

Again, “RV” stands for Recreational Vehicle. It includes all classes of drivable RVs, or motorhomes (A, B, and C classes) as well as towable RVs, which are known as travel trailers and fifth wheels.

“Camper” is another umbrella term just like “RV”. Essentially, a camper is any recreational vehicle that you would take camping, or otherwise travel and sleep in. So a camper can be a travel trailer, fifth wheel, pop-up, motorhome, or any other make or model of RV.

Therefore, the terms “camper” and “RV” are interchangeable. A camper is an RV, and vice versa.

What are the Classes and Types of RVs?

A motorhome (or motorcoach) is a self-contained RV that serves as both a camper and a driving vehicle. Motorhomes are usually distinguished by the length of their rig and their class, of which there are three: Class A, B, and C.

Next we will provide more information about the differences between motorhome and RV classes.

Related Reading: See our article on Which Type Of RV is Right for You: 11 Types and Classes Explained.

Class A Motorhome

A gray and white Class A RV by a mountain side road with a few trees behind.
Class A Motorhome with one slide out
Image source: ©benkrut via Canva.com

Class A motorhomes are the most luxurious type of drivable RV. These motorhomes resemble traditional busses with vertical windshields. These motorcoaches are expensive but very comfortable. You might see some celebrities buying these so they can have a comfortable place to relax when working away from home.

The major drawback for a Class A motorhome is that you are limited to flat campgrounds because you can’t take it off-road.

  • Sleeps:  4-12 people
  • Average length: 25-45 feet
  • Rental Cost Per Night: $200 – $500 
  • Rent this Class A Motorhome in Colorado Springs, Colorado: 2012 Coachmen Mirada at RVezy.

Class B Motorhome

A gray class B van-like with gray and black accent swoosh stickers RV being driven by the middle of the road. road.
Class B Campervan on the road
Image source: ©MCCAIG via Canva.com

Class B motorhomes are mid-sized camper vans on a van chassis. Camper vans are versatile and popular in both mountain states and urban areas, and throughout Europe.

Singles, couples, and small families tend to choose this kind of RV because they are easy to maneuver and drive. They can also be parked in normal parking spaces.

The major drawback of this kind of motorhome is the living space. Although some larger models are equipped with bathrooms, lounge areas, and bigger holding tanks, the most common size just includes the essentials like a bed and small kitchen.

  • Sleeps:  1-4 people
  • Average length: 16-21 feet
  • Average Cost Per Night to Rent: $85-$200
  • Rent this Class B Motorhome in Golden, Colorado: 2019 National Regency Traveler TVL from RVezy.

Class C Motorhome

A class C motorhome parked by the side of the road with a beautiful lake and aspen trees and ice capped mountain view.
Class C motorhome in the mountain states
Image source: ©RobsonAbbott via Canva.com

Class C motorhomes are cheaper and smaller alternatives for Class A rigs. Class C motorhomes are built on a standard truck chassis with an extra space or compartment extended above the roof of the truck.

Many Class C motorhomes have slide-outs that can add extra interior space when parked and extended.

The drawback for this kind of motorhome is that you essentially have to take your whole camp everywhere when you decide to go out exploring. Travel trailers have the advantage there, in that you can leave them parked in the campground.

  • Sleeps:  2-8 people
  • Average length: 21-36 feet
  • Average Rental Cost Per Night: $150 – $300
  • Rent this Class C Motorhome in Longmont, Colorado. 2009 Coachman Freedom Express from RVezy.

Travel Trailer

A 35 feet travel trailer pulled by an SUV by the side of the road on a clear day cloudy sky.
35 foot Travel Trailer pulled by an SUV by @Family Travel Fever

Travel trailers – sometimes called bumper-pulls – are RVs that you pull with a separate vehicle. This type of RV is popular to own because of its cheaper entry point and versatility. In fact, we own a 35-foot trailer that we can pull with our SUV when we travel. We then set it up in a campground and go around town in our car.

When we’re not traveling, we rent it out on Outdoorsy or RVShare.

The drawback to this kind of trailer is the turning radius when towing it. Since you will be attaching this to your vehicle, you may need to adjust from driving the car itself and driving it while pulling your trailer.

The other problem is you may need to upgrade your tow vehicle if it doesn’t correctly match the size of your trailer.

  • Sleeps:  2-12 people
  • Average length: 19-40 feet
  • Average Rental Cost Per Night: $90- $250
  • Rent this Travel Trailer in Greeley, Colorado. 2021 Keystone Springdale 275BH from RVEzy.

So, there you have it. The main types of RVs include travel trailers and Class A, B, or C motorhomes.

If you are unsure which one to buy, we recommend first renting one out on Outdoorsy or RVezy. This way you can try them out yourself and see what you like or dislike.

What Type of RV Is More Comfortable to Drive?

When it comes to drivability, we would say that driving a campervan or Class B motorhome is much more comfortable than driving with a travel trailer. In a motorhome, you can drive for 6 to 8 hours without any discomfort as they are similar to driving a car or SUV, and are very easy to maneuver.

However, while towing a travel trailer, a 4-hour drive may completely drain and tire you because of the learning curve and focus required to tow a trailer.

However, we own a trailer. What sealed the deal for me is that my family, especially the kids, are safer if they are in the towing vehicle. They will be secured in a car seat and adults have shoulder belts.

What Are the Luxuries and Amenities Included in a Motorhome and a Trailer?

Travel trailers usually have storage and a tiny kitchen inside. Some have an outdoor kitchen that you can use if you want to eat, drink, or grill outside. It also has an all-in-one bathroom with the toilet, shower, and sink area in the same small room.

Many travel trailers have at least one separate bedroom. These will have one – or sometimes several -beds for a couple or a family to sleep in.

Now with some motorhomes, you will get more luxuries and amenities. Depending on what Class and size the motorhome is, it may have a spacious bedroom, living room, kitchen with lots of storage, laundry area, a bathroom and possibly a separate shower room.

Some class A motorhomes even have an outdoor entertainment area. Aside from that, a motorhome’s interior will give you more of a feeling of home or a hotel.

In addition, motorhomes have some conveniences that trailer generally lack, especially for the passengers. With a motorhome, you can easily access the bathroom, bedroom, or kitchen anytime while on the road. Whereas, on a travel trailer, you have to pull over to access any of these.

In my trailer the inside is very cramped when the slides are in so the only thing we can use easily is the bathroom.

Should I Buy A Motorhome or a Trailer?

From here on, I will focus on helping you decide whether you should buy a motorhome or trailer if you are ready to buy your own RV.

If you feel that you need to rent first, the sections above may help you. You can also see our entire article “How to Rent an RV for an Epic Vacation”

How Much Does It Cost to Own a Motorhome or a Trailer?

Motorhome prices vary depending on their class since they all have different features and benefits. Generally, though, motorhomes are expensive as they are motorized and are designed as a home on wheels. 

On top of that, you also have to know the cost of maintaining this kind of RV. It has generators, engines, chassis, battery banks, and some other things that you have to maintain monthly or yearly on a motorized vehicle. Therefore, repair costs can add up quickly if you have trouble with any of these.

Conversely, trailers are more affordable and have less to maintain. Trailers have similar maintenance costs associated with the tires, roof, slides, and other mechanical parts, though.

One major cost you will have from a travel trailer is the fuel and maintenance for your towing vehicle – especially if you are going to tow a large trailer.

If your truck and trailer are a mismatched size or if you are too speedy you may need a new transmission sooner than expected.

Cost of Buying an RV Motorhome vs Trailer

Here are two price comparison tables to show what you should expect to pay for a new Motorhome and for a new Travel Trailer. Costs are reflective of April 2023 pricing.

Prices of new Motorhomes – 2023

2023 Fleetwood Discovery LXEClass A$495,479
Discovery LXE 40M 2023 (Anniversary Edition)Class A$527,130
2023 Pace ArrowClass A$336,691
2023 Fleetwood SouthwindClass A$249,527
2023 Fleetwood BounderClass A$235,104
2023 Fleetwood FortisClass A$220,847
2023 Fleetwood FlairClass A$158,503
2023 Mercedes Benz Interstate 24GLClass B$233,700
2023 Roadtrek Pivot SlumberClass B$194,586
2023 Mercedes Benz Sprinter CampervanClass B$43,500
2023 Forest River Sunseeker LEClass B$120,863
2023 Coachmen Leprechaun 3500Class C$90,014
2023 Four Winds Thor 22BClass C$129,900
Examples of the cost to buy a new motorhome in 2023

Prices of new Travel Trailers – 2023

2023 Forest River Ozark 1650BHK$23,999
2023 Jayco Jay Flight SLX 174BH$24,309
2023 Heartland Pioneer RD210$31,301
2023 Crossroads Zinger ZR328SB$45,995
2023 Heartland Mallard M27$50,102
2023 Keystone Premier 29BH$47,505
2023 East to West Silver Lake 31KBH$47,799
2023 Keystone Sprinter Limited 341BK$59,495
2023 Keystone Springdale 1800BH$30,788
Examples of the cost to buy a new travel trailer in 2023

Questions to Ask When Choosing an RV: Motorhome or Camper Trailer?

Now that you know the main differences between a motorhome and a trailer, it’s time to start deciding which RV suits you best. Here are some questions you may want to consider:

  • What kind of camper are you?
  • How often would you like to travel?
  • Are you a seasonal traveler?
  • Would you like to do it for a living?
  • Who are you going to travel with?
  • What kind of places are you going to explore?
  • Would you like to drive on small roads, rough roads, or wide roads?
  • Do you own a truck or do you still have to buy one?
  • And how much is your budget? 

Before you buy an RV, you should ask yourself these questions to understand which type of RV would suit you best.

You may want to make a list of any other relevant questions and answers that you think will help you decide. 

Read More about 17 Undeniable Reasons NOT to buy an RV

A class b motor home towing a red jeep
A class B motorhome towing a red Jeep

Other Considerations When Choosing Between a Travel Trailer and Motorhome

If you are not going to use an RV often and you want to stick to a budget, we recommend getting a travel trailer instead of a motorhome. Leaving a motorized vehicle in your garage or your driveway for a long time is not good for the engine.

Speaking of being a budget, if you just want to dive in and see how you feel about RVing – and you already have a truck – you should buy a trailer first. However, already having a truck and knowing how to tow a trailer is key here.

Furthermore, if you want to have more freedom on your road trips and be able to visit many places, a trailer is better than a class A or C motorhome. You can park your trailer then go exploring with your tow vehicle. 

This does not necessarily apply to a Class B campervan that is easy to maneuver – as long as you keep a tidy camp.

If you are going to travel with your kids, a travel trailer is the safest option. Although couches in motorhomes have seat belts, based on our own experience it is still much safer for kids to sit in a truck with a car seat. 

a toddler eating a cracker in a camping chair with another toddler behind
When traveling with kids, it’s safest to have them in a tow vehicle that’s pulling a travel trailer.
Image source: Courtney Hale via www.canva.com

When it comes to interior space and off-road driving, you have a lot of choices. There are many sizes of motorhomes and travel trailers that can accommodate you and are easy to drive and maneuver on any kind of road.

On the other hand, if you are someone who’s planning to travel across the country, have a bigger budget, and prefer to travel smoothly without any inconvenience, we recommend buying a motorhome. 

Motorhomes can be very comfortable to travel and live in. Class B campervans have the benefit of being easy to mauver and drive as well.

You can also rent an RV if you want to try first. Here are some resources for renting an RV:

Other Questions About Differences Between RV, Motorhome, and Trailer

Is an RV the same as a motorhome?

RV is short for “Recreational Vehicle”. It is an umbrella term for different kinds of vehicles which includes motorhomes and travel trailers.

What is a drivable RV called?

Motor Coaches or Motorhomes are drivable, self-powered RVs that come with an engine and chassis. On the other hand, towable RVs must be pulled by a separate vehicle.

What is the difference between a 5th wheel and a travel trailer?

A fifth wheel attaches inside the bed of a truck and is secured by a “hitch,” while a travel trailer is pulled by the bumper hitch of the vehicle using a “ball and coupler.”

What is the difference between a mobile home and an RV?

An RV is a recreational vehicle, which is commonly moved from place to place for travel and leisure. A mobile home, on the other hand, is an outdated term for a “manufactured house” – these are designed to be permanent residences that get moved to one location and parked there.

Pinterest image of What's the Difference Between an RV, Camper, Motorhome and a Trailer featuring Class A motorhome, Class B motorhome, Class C motorhome, and a travel trailer pulled by an suv
What’s the Difference Between an RV, Camper, Motorhome and a Trailer?

Final Thoughts on the Difference between a Motorhome and a Trailer

Being able to go anywhere, anytime you want, is such a great feeling. Just thinking about seeing and exploring different places with your family or friends can make you really excited.

If you are still undecided after learning the difference between RV types, we recommend that you try renting for now. (You can check out this article to see the RV Rental Types). The good thing about renting is you can experience all kinds of RVs, making it easier to decide once you’re ready to purchase one. 

Regardless of whether you travel via motorhome or trailer, the goal is the same: to bring you and your loved ones to amazing new places that you will treasure forever.

As a part of our RV series, we have compiled other resources that may be of help to you.

Anytime you’re planning to head out in your RV, there are a lot of things to plan ahead for. I recommend visiting my Etsy Store, where you’ll find lots of helpful printable planners and journals.

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    Shauna Kocman founder Family Travel Fever
    Shauna Kocman founder of Family Travel Fever

    Hi, I’m Shauna – Welcome to Family Travel Fever.  We are a large family, that was bitten by the travel bug!  I take the kids by myself because I don’t mind flying or driving solo with my crew to discover the coolest places.

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    1. Really appreciated your knowledge. I’m a newbie and considering a travel trailer now that I know the difference. I would like to find out the best quality for the money. I want a small one since I’m alone and may use it for a home.

    2. Why is it not a good idea to get a class B for seasonal use ? I’m single with no kids so that would be the best fit for me.

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