Go Anywhere. Park Anywhere. Sleep Anywhere. That’s our unofficial motto for vanlife in our Class B RV.
Unfortunately, those awesome perks don’t come without their share of challenges. Every RV has advantages and disadvantages no matter the type or size.
On a recent trek, we discussed some of the pros and cons of our Roadtrek Class B RV. (We have a 2008 190 Popular 4×4, which is built on the Chevy 3500 extended van chassis.) Below you can find out some key things we enjoy, what we struggle with, and which outweighs the other. For more details, you can watch our recent video on the subject. (The video also covers a crazy, unexpected forest in Alabama!)
Some Advantages of a Class B RV
Only using one parking space
Our Roadtrek 190 is 19 feet long in its base configuration. With the brush guard up front and spare tire off the back, we’re closer to 21 feet. Even at 21 feet, our Class B RV still fits into a standard parking space. This has definite advantages, especially in busy parking lots or cities. For example, we only need one spot when boondocking for the night at Cracker Barrel or Walmart. That makes us less conspicuous and less in the way of regular customers.
It also allows us to get closer to our destination. One of our biggest wins in this department was parking at a metered parking spot on a street in downtown Oklahoma City directly in front of the Oklahoma City Bombing Memorial. You can’t do that in a Class A RV!
Driving in big cities
We’re not big fans of big cities, but navigating them is sometimes a necessity. On a recent trip, we wanted to avoid a toll road and decided to cut through Louisville, Kentucky. The advantage to a Class B RV is being able to hop off the freeway and head through a city without any hesitation. Less than 10 minutes and a few stoplights later we had taken a short detour through downtown, saved some money, and seen new sights. That is not something we would likely be doing if we were hauling a travel trailer or fifth wheel!
Parking in a neighborhood
Because our Class B RV is van-sized, it can park almost anywhere a regular family vehicle can. In our most recent case, that meant in the street in front of a friend’s house for a weekend. Their driveway was too sloped (and filled with their cars), so the only option was the street.
The advantage here was that they live in a subdivision with lots of neighbors, many of whom also had parked on the street with minivans and trucks. We blended right in. If we were in a large travel trailer or even a Class C, we would have stood out.
Some Disadvantages of a class B RV
Living Room or Bedroom?
One of the biggest disadvantages to a Class B RV is that every inch of living space has a dual purpose. While the ingenuity behind the design is remarkable, it can pose challenges. For example, the living room and the bedroom are the same space. Our couch folds down to become a bed, so you have to decide which activities you’ll be doing and when.
We choose to put away the bedding each morning so during the day we have a couch and more room to walk around. But that means that if one of us sleeps in late, the only other seating available is the front passenger seat. That seat swivels around to provide a good space for reading or computer work. But the distance between our “living room” and “bedroom” is just a few feet. So whoever is up first (usually Ari) needs to be disciplined about light and noise so as not to disturb the other person.
For the size of our Class B RV, we actually have a decent amount of kitchen space, but it still is quite tiny and a disadvantage over larger RVs. We have a small two-burner stove, a small sink, and a small amount of countertop. We at least have a secret slideout that rests on top of the silverware drawer that extends the counter space.
Also, because we have an older unit, they had not yet turned the stove sideways to place the burners side by side instead of one in front of the other. We understand the safety concerns about reaching over lit burners, but turning the stove meant taking away even more precious counter space. Plus, the newer sales pitches like to count the lids for the sink and the stove as “extra counter space.” That’s not realistic since you generally need the sink and stove when preparing meals!
It doesn’t take much to run out of space when cooking a meal. A few prep bowls, spatula, cheese, bread, rice, strainer, onion, a package of meat, a cutting board… and now we’re out of space. You have to use and put away things as you go to keep from dropping stuff on the floor or in the sink.
An even bigger disadvantage than the kitchen is the teeny refrigerator. It’s smaller than your average dorm fridge. And you have to be careful not to pack it too full or it will compromise the airflow and not maintain a cold enough temperature to keep your food fresh.
Trying to fit even basic necessities (milk, eggs, condiments) can be a challenge due to the height and width restraints. Trying to add a pound of hamburger, a head of lettuce, celery, a bottle of juice, or a bag of grapes kicks off Refrigerator Tetris. We try to buy or take the smallest containers possible. Unfortunately, smaller always seems to be more expensive, which is frustrating. (One advantage though — it forces you to eat the food quicker and shop fresher.)
Which side wins?
No matter how tiny or multipurpose our spaces are, we feel the advantages of a Class B RV far outweigh the disadvantages. We’ll gladly go food shopping more if it means we can navigate a big city to park near a museum or memorial. And we will put the bed up and down every day if it means parking at a friend’s house. Besides, we always say we live out of our van, not in our van.
The reason for our RV is to travel and see the sights. We like to call the van our Adventuremobile. So a few minor inconveniences are well worth it if it means ending our day someplace special.