As the unforgettable 90s hit reminds us, life is a highway.
How will you travel on it?
Whether you are looking for a quick and refreshing trip or seeking a longer journey across old or new landscapes, you need a reliable and comfortable vehicle to get you there.
If you’re debating whether to rent an RV or a camper, you’ve come to the right corner of the internet. In this article, we’ll leave no stone unturned as we compare how both vehicles stack up in many important categories.
Buckle your seatbelts for this RV vs. camper showdown.
What’s the difference between an RV and a camper?
Both RVs and campers are a great way to enjoy nature on the road. But there are key differences between the two.
In an RV, the driving controls are located inside the vehicle, so you don’t need a separate car to take it. On the other hand, a towed camper attaches to a car with the horsepower required to tow it. The larger the camper, the sturdier the vehicle you’ll need to tow it.
Another difference to be aware of includes regulations around towed campers. In some states, riding in a towed camper while the vehicle is in motion is not allowed. This means that everyone will have to fit into the vehicle that is towing the camper, or you’ll need to take a separate vehicle along.
RV vs. Camper Cost
A great trip requires diligent planning. One important aspect of this is considering costs.
RV rentals typically break the cost down by multiple factors, including:
- How many nights you will be utilizing the RV
- How far will you go in terms of miles
- Optional add ons (supply kits, kitchen kits, etc.)
Here are a few steps to determine the cost of renting an RV.
First, take the nightly rate and multiply it by the number of nights you’ll have the RV. For instance, if the nightly rate is $92 and you stay for six nights, the cost is $552.
Then, take the mileage you’ll be traveling and multiply it by the mileage rate, so if you’re traveling 400 miles at 40 cents per mile, that is $160.
The total six-day trip cost to rent an RV is $712.
Now, let’s look at the cost of renting a towed camper. The price takes into account the camper but not fuel or mileage cost since you will be using your vehicle. Towed campers differ in size, which affects the price.
Here are some general price ranges based on sizes.
- Folding or Pop-up Trailers: $50-175+ per day
- Travel Trailers: $80-200+ per day
- Fifth Wheel Trailers: $125-250+ per day
The daily rates are comparable to that of RV rates, but there are less expensive towed camper options. There is also no additional mileage charge, so the price comes out to be cheaper initially. You’ll have to calculate the gas costs of your vehicle and add it to the rental price to determine a complete price point.
Photo Credit: Stephen Denton Photography
RV vs. Camper Convenience
The next battleground in this RV vs. towed camper debate is all about ease of use. You want to spend your vacation time enjoying the outdoors, not attending to your vehicle. Here’s how the two stack up.
Since RVs are larger than towed campers, many assume they are more difficult to maneuver. But this is not the full story. Class C motorhomes are smaller than their larger Class A and B counterparts. These RVs are low to the ground, allowing for good visibility of surroundings. The turning radius is similar to that of a family passenger vehicle. Parking and backing out are not a problem in this shorter and smaller RV. You still maintain the comforts of home but don’t have to deal with the overwhelming size of a behemoth RV.
Learning to drive while towing a camper takes some adjustment. It can feel unnatural, and backing into spots is challenging. Fifth wheel campers require a truck to tow them. More lightweight campers can be towed with front-wheel drive vehicles or SUVs. Towed trailers also require a bit of setup when you arrive at your destination. You must unhitch your vehicle, unhook anti-sway bars, and make sure it’s firmly secured. It is less mobile than RV that can easily be unhooked from water hookups and hit the road again.
As you can see, there are more elements to worry about when towing a camper than when operating an RV. If you don’t want the hassle of learning how to tow, an RV is your best bet.
Photo Credit: Instagram User @eddy_papeoo
RV vs. Camper Fuel
Every adventure requires adequate preparation. Before you fill up, let’s examine how RVs and towed campers differ in fuel costs.
If you want to avoid a gas guzzler, consider renting a class C motorhome. This type of RV is smaller, so fuel efficiency is an added benefit. The average gas mileage for large class A motorhomes falls between 8-13 miles per gallon (mpg). With a class C motorhome, you can get 10-15 mpg. Our standard RV has a 55-gallon tank. Additionally, class C motorhomes do not require diesel. You can fill up with unleaded gas and keep costs down.
Estimating gas mileage with a towed camper is difficult due to the many variables at play. Since the motor and driving capabilities are separate from the camper, gas mileage varies depending on the car that the camper is attached to. Much like large RVs require more frequent fill-ups, larger campers will bring down fuel efficiency. Carrying a trailer will bring down the fuel efficiency of your vehicle.
A common rule of thumb for calculating the drop in gas mileage is to subtract a percent from your normal gas mileage based on the weight of the trailer.
- Loads under 2,500 pounds: subtract 10 to 15 percent
- Loads between 2,500 and 5,000 pounds: subtract 15 to 25 percent
- Loads of 5,000+ pounds: subtract 25 to 35 percent
In this showdown, fuel economy truly depends on the vehicle at hand. Learn more about gallon sizes and fuel costs for different RVs here.
Photo Credit: Instagram Users @kristamayphotography, @canseiviajei, @keepnautrewild, @monzinalifetime, and Hipcamp
RV vs. Camper Comfort
When you’re on vacation, comfort is of utmost importance. A spacious and relaxing vehicle offers the perfect place to recharge after an eventful day.
RVs are known for their comfort and ease of use. There is ample space for passengers to move around, and there are storage compartments all around the vehicle. There is easy access to snacks and games since the driving controls are connected to the RV body. The comfortable arrangement of beds, kitchen, and living areas means there is no RV overcrowding. Long drives are much more enjoyable with easy access to all the comforts of home right there on the road.
Campers tend to be smaller than RVs, so there is less room for storage. When you’re on the road, you ride in the vehicle that tows your camper. This means you are separated from the camper and have to stop to get out and access the camper. Additionally, campers' compact nature means there is less room to move around freely and cramped sleeping quarters for more than two people. The comforts of home are not as abundant in campers. For instance, while RVs come with showers, this is not a guarantee in all campers.
Photo Credit: Instagram User @jillrichardsphotography
Travel with ease and comfort for your next vacation
The RV vs. camper debate is a common feud between camping enthusiasts. We hope this breakdown sheds some light on the option that is right for you.
A comfortable vehicle makes for an enjoyable vacation. So, book an online reservation with a reputable RV rental company like Cruise America.
Cruise America RVs come decked out with amenities like a gas cooktop, shower, microwave, a generator, and more. Plus, all of our RVs are class C motorhomes so you can operate them with confidence. Browse your options with Cruise America today!