RV Review: What are the Best Class B RV Motorhomes
A Class B Motorhome is essentially a Custom Van built on an assembly line by a motorhome manufacturer. In the US the most popular van chassis as a base for the customization are the Mercedes Sprinter, the Ford Transit, and the Dodge Ram ProMaster. Some of the top Class B RV manufacturers are Airstream, Pleasure Way, Coachman, Winnebago, and Hymer-Road Trek.
What is the difference between a Class C and a Class B Motorhome?
What distinguishes a Class C motorhome from a Class B is that in the former case only the Cab section and underlying frame and running gear come from the vehicle manufacturer. Whereas in the Class B it is the entire vehicle. Inside a Class B and a Class C vehicle may look very similar; however the interior width of a Class B is limited by the basic width of the van chassis. So in general, for a given overall vehicle length, a Class C is more spacious because the coach section of the RV is wider than the cab.
Advantages of a Class B RV
One advantage of Class B is price and value. For the motorhome manufacturer, it is less expensive to convert and customize the van chassis over having to build a coach section from the ground up. Another advantage is driving ease. Many Class Bs feel as easy to drive and park as an SUV or large pickup truck. Service is also a plus since just about 100% of the drive train, running gear, etc. are standard parts and service that are available from a Mercedes, Ford, Chevie or Dodge dealership.
There is also a broader array of interior design options because you aren’t limited to the major RV manufacturers models. A whole small industry has sprung up of small custom van shops that build a Class B or custom camper van based on a customer’s specifications. The most popular of this group of custom RV manufacturers is Sportsmobile. They have 3 manufacturing shops (Texas, California, and Indiana) and offer both standard models and custom design-your-own van or motorhome.
Lately there are also small van component manufacturers who offer do-it-yourself kits to convert the interior of a van into a completely furnished RV. The kits offer modular units that slide in place. Some are meant for permanent installations, but others are built in a way that you can easily remove them so you can use your van for general cargo carrying.
The Top Class B Motorhomes
While the custom-job and component shops offer many interesting options, our Class B review here focuses on what is available from the traditional RV manufacturer. We are also focusing on vans that are full-featured motorhomes in contrast to camper vans that may not have a bathroom or lack a furnace or air-conditioning unit.
The major disadvantage of the van-built RV is space, space both for interior comfort in the “coach” or living section of the unit and space for storage of clothes and gear. How a particular manufacturer and model handles these challenges is a major consideration in our ratings.
Some of the criteria we considered in narrowing the field:
- Less than 23 feet long; too long affects ease of handling and parking
- Luggage space – room enough for two golf club bags
- Natural Lighting – this is particularly important due to the small living space
- Dinette option that doesn’t require tearing down your bed
- Seating and Seat Belts for at least 4 people
- Convenience accessories and appliances equal to larger units
- Cost – under $125,000, otherwise why not get a Class C
Using these criteria narrowed our options greatly. As we observed with our review of Class Cs, European RV manufacturers do a much better job than their American and Canadian counterparts in packing a huge amount of value and convenience in a small package.
One of the standards features you often find in Europe are the dinette set up front behind the cab that doesn’t require being broken down for the main bed, allowing the rear bed to remain made-up during the day if desired. A few American and Canadian Class Bs are employing that feature including all of our top rated units.
Our Top Picks for Best Class B Motorhomes
An expanded version of one of the long time best-selling Class B, the RoadTrek 190. Read our RoadTrek 210 Review here.
European manufacturer Hymer is bringing their classic compact designs to their new manufacturing facility in Canada. Read our Hymer Aktiv 2.0 Review here.
The originator of the modern mass manufactured motor homes has 4 Class B models; we think the Travato is the best of them. Read our Travato Class B Van Review here.
If you only expect to transport two people or are a solo RVer, the compact RoadTrek 190 would be worth looking at. We also were impressed with the Canadian Manufacturer Safari Condo and their XL FLEX 22′ model. The one drawback we saw in this one was it appeared the dinette table had to be broken down during traveling. If off-roading, boondocking, and bringing your bikes or kayak with you fits your life style, the Winnie Revel is a clever compact 4×4 with just about all the amenities you’d need. Practical capacity would be 2 adults + one kid and you’d need about $150,000 to get set up right in this little guy.
Postscript – December 5, 2019
Unfortunately 2 of the 3 recommended Class B Van Motorhomes featured in this article are at present no longer in production. This was due to a major financial fiasco (including possible malfeasance by top executives) of Hymer North America, the Canadian manufacturer of both RoadTrek and Hymer brands of motorhomes (read more here).
That leaves the Winnebago Travato alone at the top of this market. Good for Winnebago, but not so good for choice of options by the consumer. One of the options is buying a basic Van and tricking out as a Custom Camper Van by using modular camping units that are being offered to the RV Market. Look for our article on this soon.
More RVing Resources
See our calendar of Best RV Shows for 2020.
See our recommended RV & Scenic Travel Guides.