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Class A versus Class C

One of the eternal RV debates focuses on the type of rig you drive. Some folks swear by fifth wheels, some by travel trailers, and still others by a self-contained motor home. Even when we agree on the general type, we still argue about the virtues of one sub-class over another. Thus when one member asked, "Besides the price, is there any advantage of buying a Class C over a Class A," he got plenty of responses.

There is no correct answer, for both types have their advantages and their disadvantages, but here are some of the reasons the Class A folks love their RVs:

  1. The biggest advantage of a Class A is that there is no engine hump. One member said he and his wife were seriously considering a C until they tried to get from the front seats to the main living part. Neither are particularly small people, and they never found a C that wasn't a real pain to move from the driving seats into the living compartment. (This is only true of diesel rigs; however, a Class A with a gasoline engine will also present some problems, though usually not as many as the Class C.)
  2. The windshield on a Class A is usually larger and doesn't have a dividing line in the middle. This makes the road easier to see (though it may prove a drawback when driving into the sun).
  3. Many members feel that a Class A is safer in case of a collision. In a Class C, the driver and co-pilot are closer to the ground and have just the door of the vehicle to protect them. In a Class A, folks are sitting higher in a much more massive vehicle frame. Overall, if a car hits from the side, these members feel it's generally going to hit below the seats and it will hit the frame first.
  4. That higher position also makes for better visibility, so the driver can see over traffic in many cases and can usually see further away.
  5. For some folks, the standard width of the rig may make it seem easier to drive. As one member said, "I could see me forgetting the extra couple of feet overhang behind the cab." Probably would not be a problem in reality, but the perception may make the A more comfortable.
  6. If you have ever been jostled by a large truck passing on the interstate, you may feel less sway in a Class A, since the heavier frame is less susceptible to the draft; the lower center of gravity often helps as well. (Note: the wheelbase- to-length ratio is also a factor in the swaying problem.)
  7. Many drivers feel that the seating in a Class A is more comfortable, especially for the passengers, either because the seats themselves are larger and better padded or because the co-pilot (*not* the driver) can get up and move around if the old bottom gets too tired - all the time, of course, remaining in the safety belt!
  8. The difference in the size of the two rigs is also an advantages for many folks. While there are large Class C rigs, a Class A tends to be a larger unit. This size may be a drawback while on the road, but it certainly would be a factor once you are parked. As one member put it, "I have seen many more Class A rigs that *I* would prefer to live in."
  9. For us older folks, the sleeping arrangements in a Class A may be preferable. Climbing up in the bunk over the driver's seat is fine for the children out there, but for more than a weekend, many prefer a nice bed. Some Class C models do have a separate bedroom, of course, with the cab-over space dedicated for a TV center or storage, but that's not the normal setup.
  10. Oh yes, there is also the "snob factor." There is a perception that the Class A is more prestigious (look at the ads and you will see what I mean). No member of the RV- Club would consider that important, but if you are trying to talk a reluctant spouse into full-timing, that might prevent an argument. Those who have a Class C rig, of course, have their own reasons:
  1. Entering and exiting the rig from the road is easier, since you have doors in the front on both sides. In a Class A, you must enter from the passenger side; even if you have a bus conversion, that isn't always as convenient. As one member put it, "You enter the driving compartment from the ground and exit a lot more than you go back and forth between the driving and living compartments. This could make a big difference for those who are even slightly mobility handicapped." (Some Class A's also have driver's doors, of course, but they are in the minority; also the height of the rig makes climbing in and out of them rather cumbersome.
  2. Getting repairs for the engine may be easier for those who own a Class C, since the setup is more of a standard Ford/Chevrolet/Dodge. Many garages simply are not familiar enough with the Class A setup and are reluctant to try it; that can be a real hassle if you have problems in a rural area. Also if you have an "orphan," it may be easier to get replacement parts for the standard engine.
  3. For some folks, the narrower front end may not be as intimidating. The total width may or may not be as wide as a Class A, but it doesn't *seem* as wide. You don't get the feeling you are driving a bus (even though the actual length and total width may be identical).
  4. The smaller Class C units may be easier to maneuver in traffic and park. It's not quite the same as your family car, but less cumbersome than most of the Class A's. There are exceptions, of course, but on the whole, Class A's are larger.
  5. The question of gas mileage, of course, is a no-winner, for the driver's habits probably constitute the biggest factor here, but on the average, Class C units do seem to use a bit less gas.
  6. The extra storage or sleeping area over the driving compartment is a bonus for many folks. A Class C, on the whole, will sleep more folks and size-for-size may offer more interior storage space. If you have a rear bedroom, one of the major drawbacks for older folks disappears and the extra storage room becomes an advantage. The storage space must be carefully used, however, for heavy objects could overload the frame structure and/or the front axle of the vehicle.
  7. In a front-end crash, many feel the Class C offers more protection, since the engine compartment may absorb some of the impact. You will also find passenger air bags in a Class C, while none will be found in a Class A.
  8. The initial question about price is probably correct. There are certainly some expensive Class C rigs out there and some less expensive Class A units. But the introductory Class C RVs are less expensive, and the big ticket items are the Class A's. (When is the last time you have seen a $650,000 Class C?)

The bottom line, as one member said, "is that EVERYTHING in the world has advantages and disadvantages. C's are better than A's in some areas. And A's are better than C's in others. Perform a lot of research before making your decision and you should be happy with your choice for years to come."

And, of course, once you have selected a rig you like, throw out your questions to the folks at the RV Club. Chances are that someone here has something just like it. (But ask *before* you buy; afterwards, you might not want to know!)