How Camper Vans Surpass RVs

Lyle Ellerbee

If you enjoy some of the comforts of home while exploring the great outdoors, camper vans offer an economical and dependable way to be comfortable and reach your destination with ease.

Whether new or used, Class B camper vans are self-contained and offer all of the comforts of an RV without the hassles. Easier storage and drivability are two advantages of a camper van over an RV.

Cost is another advantage-not only do you save on fuel costs, you save on storage fees since Class B vehicles can be easily parked at your home, apartment or office. You can further cut costs by purchasing a used camper van.

Many people don’t know the difference between a Conversion Van, Camper Van, or Motorhome. Knowing the differences can help you make good decisions when buying a conversion van. The differences become important for practical reasons like:

  • Does my neighborhood association or city allow me to park my van at my home?
  • Do I need a special driver’s license?

Camper Vans are not truly motorhomes in the traditional sense, but they can offer many of the features of a motorhome. Confused? We can look at a few specifics to clear up the differences!

Keep in mind there is no de facto industry definition-just guidelines. Let’s start with a basic Wikipedia definition of the terms Class A and Class B vehicles.

Class A
Constructed on a commercial truck chassis, a specially designed motor vehicle chassis, or a commercial bus chassis, a Class A motorhome resembles a bus in design and has a flat or vertical front end and large windows. Equipped with living space and amenities found in a home, they can be driven or pulled.

Class B Camper Van

Built using a conventional van chassis, using the original body or only small extensions to it, camper vans may be equipped either with a “pop-up” roof which is raised during camping or a fixed roof, either shared with the commercial van that forms the basis of the vehicle (commonly a “high-top” model), or as part of a custom coach-built body. A camper van is a self-propelled vehicle that provides both transport and sleeping accommodation. Also, in order to qualify as a Class B Motorhome the van must have built-in sleeping, eating, and bathroom facilities (including properly mounting fresh and grey water holding tanks).

Now that we have a basic visual difference (size and driven/pulled), let’s look at other varying factors between class A motorhomes and class B vans.


Class A motorhomes (RVs) contain pretty much whatever features the owner desires. The interior design is limited only by your imagination-and your wallet. On the other hand, camper vans are smaller and, therefore, somewhat limited but not nearly as much as you might think.

For example, Class B vehicles usually have a small kitchen with a refrigerator (which is often operable by a choice of gas, battery, or electricity) and a two-burner gas stove and grill. They generally have dual-voltage lighting which can work from either a dedicated battery or from AC power, supplied at a campsite via a hook-up cable.

Many people who are interested in buying a Class B are surprised to find out they include a water heater, space heating and air conditioning, a toilet and even an internal shower.

Some camper vans are almost indistinguishable from a conversion van, yet contain the full complement of RV luxuries: stove, fridge, microwave, hot/cold water, shower, TV, gas heat, AC.

Driving a Camper Van versus an RV

Ease of driving is one of the principal reasons people prefer purchasing a Class B van over a Class A RV. Even the smaller RVs are larger than camper vans and, thus, easier to drive. For example, maneuvering a van is much less difficult than a bus, which for most people would require a good amount of practice-and a really large empty parking lot.

Turning a vehicle the size of a bus requires a completely different set of principles than vans!

Another driving force (pardon the pun) for purchasing a Class B van is driving it without worrying about the hassles associated with obtaining a special driving license like a CDL. Even though most RV’s can be driven with a regular driver’s license, some states require a special license for large RV’s.

These great vans are well-known for getting superior mileage, which is a concern for most people considering the ever-increasing gas and diesel prices. Having to fill the tank less often makes a huge difference when taking those longer trips.

Parking & Maintenance Issues

Class B can typically be serviced in any auto shop-so you don’t have the expense or inconvenience of taking it to a specialized truck or RV shop. They also enable mechanically-savvy owners to work on the vehicle without the need of a paid professional.

You can park your camper van anywhere you can park your car. Home associations and city ordinances that prevent owners from parking RVs in the street have no restrictions against camper vans because they are classified as a van and not an RV.

No storage fees are associated with owning a camper vans because there are no regulations preventing you from parking a camper van in your driveway or in front of your house.

The term motorhome is sometimes used interchangeably with camper vans, but the former can also be a much larger vehicle than a camper van and is intended to be more luxurious, whereas the latter is more concerned with ease of movement, driving convenience and low cost while also providing the conveniences and comfort of an RV.

Go where you want to go; stay where you want to stay-and leave the payment behind.

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