Class A Motorhome vs. Travel Trailer: Which Should You Get?


Buying an RV is not a small purchase and something that, in most cases, is a significant financial investment. So, choosing whether to go for a motorhome or a travel trailer can start to get complicated. So let’s compare a Class A motorhome vs. travel trailer.

Here’s what I learned in making that choice:

A Class A motorhome is the best option for large families who travel frequently, while a travel trailer is a good budget option for smaller families that primarily do weekend getaways.

In this article, our goal is to help you understand the difference between the two and, ultimately, help you decide easier.

We will start off by looking at which is better, and then we will go into detail about everything you need to know regarding a motorhome and a travel trailer.

So, keep reading.

Are travel trailers better than motorhomes?

In terms of the purchase price, gas mileage, and maintenance costs, a travel trailer is better than a motorhome. However, most travel trailers will be too small for a family larger than 3 or 4 people and they also require a vehicle to tow them.

There is a lot that we can say about this.

There are many different types of motorhomes. Each of them is built differently and offers different experiences. There are many variables and factors that you need to consider when thinking about which is better.

That is why we are going to make 2 different sections.

In these sections, we will discuss whether or not the class A motorhome is better than a travel trailer. Then we will discuss travel trailers vs. class B and C motorhomes in more detail.

Are travel trailers better than class A motorhomes?

Purchase price aside, a class A motorhome is better than a travel trailer. It provides more bedding and living space options, has a full-sized kitchen and refrigerator, significantly more storage, and often has outdoor kitchen and entertainment options.

Class A motorhomes offer more space than almost any other RV.

That extra space can be increased with slideouts. Also, the class A motorhome has more features than a travel trailer. One of the biggest benefits of a class A motorhome is that your passengers can ride in the home section of the vehicle while you’re driving.

Everything is connected! This just adds a wealth of convenience that can’t be beaten by anything else.

Are travel trailers better than class B or C motorhomes?

A Class B motorhome is better than a travel trailer in terms of safety and the ease of driving it. A Class B motorhome will be better than a travel trailer for families of 4 or more people. The travel trailer’s biggest benefit is the low purchase price.

A travel trailer offers more space than a class B motorhome. It also offers a lot more features. A class B motorhome is relatively small. The RV will be entirely built into a van. This means that it is usually the smallest type of RV.

When it comes to travel trailers vs. class C motorhomes, things get slightly different.

The similarities between a class C motorhome and a travel trailer are quite stark.

The one major difference is that the travel trailer can have its trailer detached if you want to. On a class C motorhome, the trailer is attached to the body of the vehicle permanently.

In terms of space and features, they are similar.

How long will a Class A motorhome last?

A Class A motorhome can drive up to 200,000 miles or last up to 20 years before needing major repairs or engine replacement if it has been consistently well-maintained and serviced.

But when it comes to almost any vehicle, you don’t generally use age as a factor when discussing how long it will last. Instead, you need to use the number of miles that it will drive.

Eventually, the vehicle’s mechanical components will start to give in.

And if you don’t conduct scheduled maintenance, damaged parts will often lead to more damage. It would be best to have a booklet that tells you when your scheduled maintenance is. It will state when you should do your maintenance for every few thousand miles that you drive.

But even then, driving it too infrequently can be just as bad as putting a lot of miles on it. RVs are meant to be driven, and just like people, a lack of movement can cause big problems down the line.

In terms of the living section of your motorhome, that will last for as long as you maintain it.

In the living section, you will start finding that your plumbing or the electricity and just about anything might start giving in. You will have to replace almost everything at some stage. However, if you replace broken components with quality ones, your living quarters should last longer than the vehicle.

You also need to consider that any wood will start to chip and give in, and as long as you just keep an eye on that and sort any problems out as soon as they start, the interior will last long.

The good thing about the inside of your class A motorhome is most of the time, this stuff is just DIY.

How long will a travel trailer last?

A Travel Trailer can go for 20 years or 200,000 miles or more since most of the mechanics of driving a travel trailer are handled by the truck towing it. The tires, axels, and electronics will need occasional replacing or servicing, but a travel trailer can last indefinitely if well maintained and properly stored.

But again, for this section, we are going to use miles more than years.

It is very easy to say that your travel trailer “will last x amount of years”, but that is a disingenuous answer. It is disingenuous because it depends on how much you drive and how well you take care of the vehicle.

You need to know what the recommended service intervals are for your vehicle. You can find this in the booklet that comes with the vehicle.

Another thing to consider is the way you drive and the terrain that you regularly drive on. This can increase or decrease the mileage that you can expect to get out of the vehicle.

In terms of the trailer itself, this can last for as long as you maintain it. You will have to replace a few parts, and you might have to get your plumbing, and your electricity fixed every now and then.

Also, you will have to replace some of the items inside of it, like the beds, the microwave, fridge, and stove.

The interesting thing about travel trailers is that it is easier to replace only the vehicle and simply hitch the trailer onto the new vehicle. This can increase, significantly, the lifespan of the travel trailer.

Can passengers ride in a travel trailer while being towed?

It is illegal for people or animals to ride in any camper that is towed behind another vehicle. The primary reason is that, no matter how safe modern tow hitches are, there is a good chance of the trailer coming loose in the event of an accident.

When comparing motorhomes against travel trailers, this is one of the biggest cons of the travel trailer.

While the travel trailer still offers you the mobility of being able to travel across the country and, in some cases, across borders, you can’t do so in the same comfort.

Honestly, this is one of the reasons my wife and I decided against both travel trailers and fifth-wheels.

Our family of 5 and our 2 dogs would just be too crammed into a pickup, even if we got the largest pickup truck available. Remember, in many cases, campers drive 4-6 hours a day in between destinations on long camping trips.

That’s a lot of time spent in the close quarters of a truck.

Is it dangerous to ride in a travel trailer?

It is dangerous to ride in a travel trailer while it is being towed. Aside from not being legal, if the truck towing the trailer was in an accident, the tow hitch could fail and cause the trailer to flip. Unlike vehicles, travel trailers aren’t built with road safety features in place to protect occupants.

Most RV veterans will tell you that safety is a priority and that you need to consider it wherever you go. That is why in this section, I am going to give you a specific answer and a long answer.

You hear people say this all the time “well, I am a good driver” or “I am very aware while on the road”.

Maybe, as a driver, you could be one of the best out there; however, even though you can account for what you are going to do on the road, you can never predict what other people will do.

Let’s say that there is an accident that was out of your control and is caused by another driver. If this happens, the people in the trailer will not have the necessary safety features that a vehicle normally has.

You also have to consider that sometimes, something can happen that is not accident-related, and you will not know about it because you are not connected to the trailer. A passenger can be in trouble and might not be able to get to their phone to let you know that something is wrong in the back.

It is best that you avoid these types of situations.

What is the price difference between a Class A RV and a travel trailer?

The price range for a new Class A motorhome is between $90,000 to $250,000 or more with the average price being $150,000. Travel trailers start at $10,000 with the average price being $35,000.

But this is a very broad question because you get your average mid-range motorhome, and you get your average mid-range travel trailer.

You also get the more premium versions of both but what we can say is that motorhomes are generally much more expensive than travel trailers.

So, you could say that the price difference is roughly $50,000 to $80,000. However, that is not taking into account premium and luxury class A motorhomes.

On the more premium side of things, a premium travel trailer will cost you around $70,000 to $80,000. A premium class A motorhome can cost a few hundred thousand dollars all the way out to a few million.

Therefore, it is difficult to know the exact price difference between the premium versions of both.

What are the pros and cons of owning an RV?

Because there are so many different types of RVs out there, it can be tricky to talk about the pros and cons because you would have to list almost every type of motorhome and every brand as well.

A quick example of this is to use the fact that you can unhitch a travel trailer and then have your normal vehicle to travel around with at your destination. This is a pro for travel trailers. For a class A and C motorhome, this is a con because you cannot do it.

In this section, we will talk about the pros and cons of owning an RV in general. Some of these might change for you depending on what RV you own.

Pros Of Owning An RV

Here is a shortlist of pros that come with owning an RV:

  • Comfort: Almost nothing quite beats being able to go on vacation and be comfortable while out on the road.
  • Flexibility: Owning an RV can eliminate the rush you might find yourself in when trying to meet deadlines for the airport and for booking into your hotel. If you want to stop over somewhere, you can. Are you running a bit late? No problem, owning an RV means you are flexible.
  • Experience the country: While out on the road, you can experience America in a way that you could never have before. You can take any turn that you want to. At any time, you can turn off somewhere and experience what life is like there. You can find different attractions that you have never heard of before.
  • Creates bonds and memories: RV trips are one of the best ways of spending time with your family and creating memories while doing so.
  • Make money: Most places that rent RVs don’t own the RVs they rent. They are owned by people just like you and me. They simply give that business the right to rent out their RV when they aren’t using it. They do take a cut of the rental, but they also handle maintenance and provide year-round parking for it.

Cons of owning an RV

Here is a list of cons that come with owning an RV:

  • Storing an RV can be complicated: When you are not using your RV, the ideal situation would be to keep it parked outside your home. However, this isn’t always possible, mostly due to homeowners associations not approving of this. So, you would have to find a storage facility where you can park your RV.
  • Maintenance can be expensive: When talking about maintenance, we are mostly referring to the vehicle part of the RV. Unfortunately, servicing an RV is more expensive and servicing a vehicle. It actually costs a lot more and can become rather expensive.
  • Gear and accessories: You can find yourself spending a lot of money on gear and accessories. For example, if you are going to RV in a very cold destination, you would need to buy gear to help keep you warm. That is just one example but trust me, after a while, the amount of money you spend on gear and accessories can be high.
  • Mobility at your destination: You may think that RVs make you more mobile than anything else. That is partly true; however, when you reach your destination, you might find yourself having to rent out a car if you want to get to some places. This is because driving your RV around everywhere can become cumbersome.

Is a class A RV safer to drive than towing a travel trailer?

A Class A motorhome is safer than a travel trailer. RV safety is determined both by whether a vehicle is being towed or towing another vehicle, but also by the wheelbase. Towing adds a layer of risk while driving, but the wheelbase ratio on many Class A RVs will be better than that of a trailer and truck combined.

To determine the wheelbase-to-length ratio of a motor home, just divide the wheelbase by the length of the vehicle.

According to RV Consumer Group, a wheelbase ratio below 51% is extremely dangerous. They go on to note that :

  • 51% to 54% is not great for basic safety
  • 55% to 56% is OK
  • 57% and above is considered excellent

Generally speaking, the higher the wheelbase-to-length ratio the safer it gets.

With a travel trailer, it just gets more complicated since they just have 1 set of wheels. So you have measure the distance from the trailer’s wheels to the back truck wheels and then divide that by the total length of both vehicles.

While Class A RV’s aren’t usually great in terms of wheelbase safety compared to Class B or Class C RVs, they are often better than travel trailers and fifth-wheels.

What is the safest RV to drive?

Class B motorhomes are the safest RV as they do not tow or require towing, and have a high wheelbase ratio, and overall smaller road footprint, making them much easier to handle, quicker to stop, and much safer to drive.

When you think of safety, you need to think of how the vehicle drives, and then you need to think of the features that the motorhome offers the passengers of the vehicle.

By looking at all of this, we can conclude which is the safest motorhome to drive.

  • Stability: Unlike travel trailers, Class B motorhomes are not divided into two. In fact, the entire living section of the RV is built into the body of the vehicle, which is, in most cases, a van. This offers more stability on the road.
  • Control: The biggest difference between a class A and a class B motorhome is their size, and due to the small size and the design of a class B motorhome, you have more control. A class B motorhome is easier to drive than a big class A RV which often resembles a big bus.
  • Passenger safety: In a class B motorhome, it is easier to fit with safety features for passengers. This often means that all passengers will be buckled safely with their seat belt and will be seated facing forward.

Which Class A motorhome is rated best?

The American Dream Class A RV by American Coach is one of the highest-rated Class A RVs on the market, rating 4-stars on RV Trader with an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau with 0 complaints registered.

As you can see by the price tag below, the American Dream is a high-end motorhome.

You can choose from three different floor plans, and when purchasing your RV, you can have a lot of it customized to your preference. However, with all of that being said, when purchasing it standard, you know that you are still buying a high-end RV.

The 45-foot version offers a 600 horsepower engine, so no matter what conditions you are driving in, you should always have the power to get to where you need to go.

In order to provide the maximum amount of space when you are parked at your destination, the American Dream has 3 slide-outs.

Interestingly, the company, which was started in the early 90s, was out of business from 2004-2015. But they came roaring back to life in 2016, and haven’t looked back!

Features of the American Dream 42Q

  • Base price: The American dream by American Coach starts at around $530,000.
  • Length: When it comes to the length of the RV, you have the option of choosing either the 42 ft or 45 ft RVs.
  • Engine: The size of the engine will almost always depend on whether or not to go for the 42 or 45 foot RV. However, the two engine sizes start at 450 to 600-hp.
  • RoadWatch Safety System: Safety is a huge priority for American Coach, and with their safety system, you will have adaptive cruise control, collision mitigation, electronic stability control, and traction control.
  • Keyless entry: Because why not? Keyless entry does add a lot of conveniences.
  • Generator: The RV comes equipped with a 12.5 KW quiet diesel generator.
  • Aqua-Hot heating system.
  • Air conditioner: The RV comes equipped with three 15k BTU air conditioner units.
  • Exterior entertainment: The RV has an exterior entertainment system that comes equipped with the latest 50 inch Samsung tv and a JBL soundbar.

Which budget Class A motorhome is rated best?

The Bay Star Class A RV by Newmar is one of the highest-rated lower-priced Class A RVs on the market, rating 4.6-stars on RV Insider with an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau with only 8 complaints in the prior 3 years.

It’s worth noting that I am biased here as I own a 2020 Newmar Bay Star; they’re great!

You can choose from 12 different floor plans, and when purchasing your RV, you can have a lot of it customized to your preference. However, with all of that being said, when purchasing it standard, you know that you are still buying a high-end RV.

Newmar is a luxury RV manufacturer. But the Bay Star is basically their budget line.

Slide-outs vary by model but vary between 2 and 4. All floorplans of the Bay Star are gas-powered, making maintenance less expensive. The company has been around for over 50 years. And like a few other RV manufacturers, features Amish craftsmanship in the interiors of its RVs.

Features of the Newmar Bay Star

  • Base price: The Bay Star by Newmar starts at around $158,000.
  • Length: When it comes to the length of the RV, you have the option of choosing 31′ up to 38′ with several steps in between.
  • Engine: A 7.8-liter V8 engine with 350 horsepower
  • Camera navigation: Comes with a rear camera and both left and right side cameras which activate automatically when in reverse or when the blinker is on.
  • Televator: The large flatscreen in the living room can lower down into the cabinet below it when not needed at the touch of a button.
  • Generator: 5.5 kW Cummins Onan® Generator with Remote Switch and Automatic Changeover
  • LED lighting throughout
  • Air conditioner: The RV comes equipped with Two 13.5 Penguin Heat Pump A/C units.
  • Exterior entertainment: The RV has an optional exterior entertainment system that comes equipped with a 32″ flatscreen TV.

Which travel trailer is rated best?

The Airstream Classic is one of the highest-rated travel trailers on the market, rating 4.6-stars on RV Insider with an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau with only 2 complaints registered in the prior 12 months.

It’s also worth pointing out that I look at a lot of business pages on the Better Business Bureau website.

Finding a business that only has 2 complaints a year is VERY hard to find. Even companies I know to be reputable often have dozens. So don’t think that 2 in 12 months is bad.

Of course, everyone knows Airstream; they’re iconic.

And you probably know they are pricey for an RV compared to other brands. But let’s take a look at the features behind the brand name. That way you can really see why they charge what they charge and have the reputation they have.

Features of the Airstream Classic

  • Base price: The Airstream Classic starts at around $161,900.
  • Length: Depending on what floor plan you choose, you can either go for the 30 ft or 33 ft options.
  • 4-floor plans to choose from: Speaking of floor plans, the Airstream allows you to choose between four of them. Each of these has its own pros and cons when compared to each other.
  • Sleep up to 5: The airstream classic can sleep up to 5 people. However, the most comfortable option would be to sleep up to four people.
  • Smart Control: This nifty little feature allows you to control just about anything in the trailer’s living space with your phone. You can control the lighting, the ambiance, temperature, and so on.
  • Luxurious bathroom: The bathroom in the trailer is so luxurious that it even has heated floors in the shower and heated towel racks.
  • Projector TV: When traveling in an RV, you spend a lot of nights inside the RV, especially in bad weather. Well, the 65-inch projector TV can keep you busy.

The airstream classic is one of the most luxurious travel trailers that you can get. With all of its features that we listed above, you can be sure that you will travel in comfort, style, and also with small to large conveniences that will make your trip an enjoyable one.

Which budget travel trailer is rated best?

The Winnebago Minnie is one of the highest-rated lower-priced travel trailers on the market, rating 4.2-stars on RV Insider with an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau with 22 complaints registered in the prior 12 months.

Now 22 complaints in 12 months aren’t low. It’s not super high either, as I’ve seen a lot worse. It’s also for the company as a whole and not specific to the Minnie. But it’s also worth pointing out that those complaints were from 2020 when the world was rocked by lockdowns. That hit all manufacturers hard with low supply and high demand and long delays on delivering new RVs.

Hence that equals complaints. And 22 was double their average annual number of complaints.

I love the Minnie, so let’s look at why.

Features of the Winnebago Minnie:

  • Base price: The Minnie starts at around $32,232.
  • Length: Depending on what floor plan you choose, you can get a camper that ranges from 25 ft up to 32 ft.
  • 15-floor plans to choose from: Plans range from 1 queen bed to 1 queen bed plus bunk beds, and all feature 1 slideout.
  • Sleep up to 8: The different floorplans allow sleeping accommodations from between 4 to 8 people.
  • Outdoor entertainment – External patio speakers and TV hookup
  • Massive outdoor storage – Features 44 cubic feet of exterior storage; more than any other travel trailers in this price range

So if a big-budget camper or motorhome just isn’t an option, the Minnie is the way to go. That’s even more true if you buy a late model one that’s 1 to 2 years old which you might find as low as $20,000.

Conclusion

Ultimately the biggest factor in deciding between a Travel Trailer or a Class A RV is your budget, the size of your family, and how often you plan to use it.

A Class A is generally going to be the way to go in most cases. But that’s especially true if you have a family of more than 3 people and plan to take long trips during summer and occasionally throughout the year. Trailers are great, but better suited for weekend warriors and small families.

But lastly, there’s a huge difference in price between them. A trailer could easily be $60,000 cheaper than a Class A RV (or more). That low barrier of entry makes the RV life totally possible for people who just can’t manage a 6-figure Class A.

But no matter which way you choose, life in an RV is grand! So start making memories and taking on new adventures.

Cassandra & Jeff Campbell

Cassandra and Jeff Campbell travel on and off with their 3 daughters in a Newmar Baystar Class A Motorhome. They write extensively on both RVs, campgrounds, parenting on the road tips, remote learning & schooling, and much more!

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