What Is the Easiest RV to Drive?

by John Cagney Nash
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Which RV is the easiest for an individual to drive depends upon that person's driving experience and their regular vehicle. For most persons who have only ever driven a passenger car, then a recreational vehicle converted from a small van is easiest; these are properly called Class B RVs. Smaller still are pick-up campers which bolt onto the bed of a truck, but the B-Class is by far the most common type of small, purpose-built RV.

Class B RVs

Class B motor homes are van conversions. While the smallest of chassis -- such as the Nissan Vanette -- are used by some manufacturers, 1.5-ton and above are more common. The Ford Econoline and the Chevy Express make useful platforms because replacement parts are easy to obtain, and because most mechanics are familiar with them. Class Bs are not only useful for drivers who are uncomfortable with larger rigs; users who intend to access remote areas or who plan to camp regularly in cities and built-up areas find the smaller size convenient. Retaining the versatility of a family SUV, yet providing an entirely self-contained experience, Class Bs can be parked almost anywhere and offer comparatively good gas mileage, but interior accommodations are limited.

Driving the Class B RV

Although Class Bs are the easiest to drive, that does not necessarily mean "easy." The van chassis used for most conversions are lowered to facilitate easy entry and exit, but this reduces ground clearance and creates a potential for the rear deck to hit the ground, especially when reversing into sloping driveways or campsites. Merging with other traffic requires more concentration, because the power-to-weight ratio of an RV conversion on a small-block V-8-equipped chassis is much lower than that of even an economy car. Allow increased following distances for the same reason; braking performance may be comparatively sluggish. Blind spots are also likely to be increased.

Other Ways Class Bs are Easy

"Easy to drive" does necessarily refer only to the experience of piloting the vehicle. Class B's also tend to have relatively good fuel economy; newer units can realize 17 mpg, while Class C's typically get 12 or 13 and Class A's around 8 mpg. Older gas Class A motor coaches sometimes manage less than 5 mpg. The behavior of other road users is also typically moderated by the Class B's van-like appearance; drivers of larger units are frequently passed by irritated car drivers who overtake in ill-advised places and nip in close to the front of the RV. Further, RV parking is strictly controlled in some cities -- Key West, for example, does not allow any vehicle over 21 feet in length to be parked anywhere within the city limits -- these regulations seldom affect the Class B van conversion.

Practice Makes Driving Even Easier

Learn to use the side and wing mirrors for defensive awareness just as much as the centrally mounted rear-view mirror. Concentrate on moderating your speed in preparation for braking. Make a mental note of the outside roof height, so the easy driving experience does not fool you into thinking you can breeze into multi-story parking structures or shopping malls. Remember that speed affects a heavy vehicle differently than a passenger car; speed will pick up faster on down-slopes, and driving into a headwind will negatively effect acceleration and fuel economy.

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