I am an RV enthusiast with more than 50 years of experience owning, driving, traveling and living in recreational vehicles.
What Are the Pros and Cons of Owning Class A Motorhomes?
Class A motorhomes have become extremely popular with people who want to travel in heavier, more secure vehicles that have certain amenities and comforts absent in other types of RVs.
Nonetheless, these types of vehicles may not be the best choice for some folks because they have the potential of causing financial and safety issues that make people wish they had purchased something different.
Benefits of Class A Motorhomes
There are many benefits to owning Class A motorhomes which include but are not limited to the facts that they
- are totally self-contained,
- are constructed of heavy and durable materials,
- have safety features such as engine brakes,
- provide a better view of scenery as well as the ability to monitor traffic patterns more easily,
- have large holding tanks, which gives travelers the option to dry camp for longer periods of time,
- allow travelers the option of eating without having to stop,
- provide the option of using the commode while on the move,
- have been decorated by professionals and give the appearance of being small homes or apartments, and
- eliminate many of the normal road noises you have in other types of travel units when properly outfitted.
Furthermore, most have generators, and this gives owners the freedom of being able to park wherever they like and still have electricity.
Class A Motorhomes All Have Issues
While the benefits sound good, it is important to understand that owning and traveling in a Class A motorhome has its share of problems. Below are some issues you should consider carefully before buying one.
Cost vs. Quality
People who buy such units assume that because they are paying so much, they will get a quality coach. However, these days, a few hundred thousand dollars only buys one that is mediocre in terms of construction and design. It may look great, have some nice amenities, and seem to run well initially, but before long an owner learns that any joy he thought he would have from owning one turns into frustration, anger, and a great deal of grief. The long-term financial consequences can be significant and sometimes even ruinous.
Safety Issues of Class A Motorhomes
Your RV's Wheel Base Ratios Can Save Your Life and What You Need to Know About RV Slide Rooms are articles that detail two of the most common safety issues. Other important issues include but are not limited to
- cabins that weigh too much for the chassis upon which they are built,
- underrated chassis that do not have the ability to stop a coach under normal road conditions,
- the lack of a steel bar in many models that could act as a bumper to protect the coach and its occupants in low speed collisions, and
- units that leave the factory weighted almost to capacity and thus have poor road stability.
These safety issues should all be reason enough for people to take the time to investigate units so that they know what they are (or can) be dealing with when it comes to Class A motorhomes.
The truth is that they have more structural problems than any other type of RV. At least half of them are unsound to the point that even a 20 mile per hour accident could destroy one and cause serious damage or even death to its driver and passengers!
2010 Highway Safety Commercial Bus Crash Test
The average gasoline motorhome will get between 6 to 10 miles per gallon, and those that run on diesel fuel generally get about two miles more per gallon. The biggest and heaviest diesel units get half the mileage of the average diesel unit. At $2.00 per gallon, the cost of fuel for one of these big boys for a 1000 mile trip would be about $333! If you took a 6,000 mile trip, you'd be paying around $2000 just for fuel. When prices rise, costs get even worse.
The longer a unit is, the more difficult it is to maneuver, especially when pulling into gas stations or trying to back into camping spots. Slide rooms can cause rollovers, especially if roads are slick because slides are heavy and can easily unbalance a vehicle. (Check out the attached video to see what I'm talking about.)
Few people who buy these vehicles take driver training classes or have the skill and experience they need to handle them safely. As a result, driving and parking them can become extremely stressful and make vacations more of a problem than a pleasure.
Most State and National Parks, as well as many standard campgrounds, impose size limits on recreational vehicles. As a result, owners find that they are unable to go to many places they would like to visit and often are forced to stay in expensive resorts.
Those who wish to give it a try would be wise to buy a guide like the one shown here so that they will be able to do a better job of trip planning and also avoid travel disappointments. My husband and I keep a copy on board at all times when we travel so that we can know ahead of time whether staying in a particular State Park Campground will work out given the size of our motorhome.
High Maintenance Costs
Folks who buy high-end coaches must have them washed, waxed, and cleaned regularly to keep up appearances. Since people who do this type of work charge by the foot, the bigger the coach, the higher the price. For example, a person with 45 foot long coach would pay a minimum of $450 for a total detail.
Storage costs more, too. People with Class A motorhomes often pay upwards of $200 per month for a covered site.
Dealerships charge big rig owners more for everything. For example, labor can cost as much as $60 more per hour beyond what someone with a smaller coach pays.
If you were a thief and had the choice of stealing a small, older motorhome or a bigger, newer one, which one would you choose to rob?
Although it is uncommon for someone to steal an entire unit, it is well-known that thieves like to get their hands on those fancy amenities that all big rigs house. It’s another problem for owners to worry about!
Are Class A Motorhomes Worth Owning?
I cannot tell you how many people I have seen vacationing whose trips have been ruined because their class A was substandard, they did not know how to drive it, or they could not really afford to be on the road.
If you ask me whether owning a Class A Motorhome is the right choice for you, my answer is always going to be "yes, but only if you understand its limitations, costs and dangers."
The bottom line is that you can have just as much fun in a small pull trailer as you can in a big coach. You might have fewer amenities and comforts, but you will have peace of mind. Remember, too, that Class A Motorhomes can be wonderful given the right circumstances, but they can also kill you.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2012 Sondra Rochelle
Sondra Rochelle (author) from USA on June 20, 2012:
sgbrown: Thanks for the supportive comments. I've written a lot of RV articles but thought this one should be included for the very reasons you stated. I think a lot of people buy them and really don't know what they're getting into. Maybe some of them will read this and think twice before they buy! Nice to see you again!
Sheila Brown from Southern Oklahoma on June 19, 2012:
This is an excellent, very informative hub! We have had 3 motorhomes over the last 26 years. We started with an old green church bus that we converted. We called it the "Pickle Bus". We graduallly moved up to the big motorhome, which I will NOT even try to drive myself. There is a lot of maintenance and it can be costly, even if you can do some of it yourself. There are some camping areas that you can't even fit into. I love my motorhome, but people do need to realize what they are getting into before they buy one. Voted up and useful!