Class B RV living: 6 Pros and Cons

Roadtrek van at Whitefish Point Lighthouse and Museum

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

Class B RV van in hospital parking lot
Taking up only one parking space in a hospital parking lot meant having a place to stay when a family member was admitted to the hospital.

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!

Class B RV van parked on neighborhood street
Parking on the street overnight in a neighborhood made us easy houseguests for a friend.

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

This is the couch in our “living room.” At night, it transforms into the bed in our “bedroom.”

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.

Tiny kitchen
Kitchen in Class B RV vanFor 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.

Small refrigerator
small refrigerator with magnetsAn 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.

One of our greatest treks — so far! — was when we visited Glacier National Park in Montana.

25 thoughts on “Class B RV living: 6 Pros and Cons”

  1. I like that you pointed out that choosing this kind of RV will save us money since we will be able to pass by the city easily keep us from paying for tollways. I guess I will consider this because it is the main reason why we wanted to start living in an RV. This is to cut costs and save money so that we can start our own business someday once we reach our 40s.

  2. We have a 2004 roadtrek 210 popular and you pretty nailed the cons. On our wishlist is having a dedicated bed and dining area so that we wouldn’t have to make the bed up each night.

    Another thing we’d really like is a dry bath. That roadtrek has an aisle bath which isn’t terrible, but while we’re wishing…. why not right?

    1. There are times when we wish we had a separate bedroom with a bed ready to go. But I’ve gotten our bed set-up and take-down to be pretty quick now, so it’s not the worst thing. A dry bath would be nice, too, as you wrote, but that size implications in a Class B seem tough to us. We’d rather have the elbow room for the rest of the things we do in the van rather than just those times when we’re in the bathroom. If only we could have it all, eh? Thanks for reading and commenting! -Ari

  3. Well, one thing you can say about the Class B is everything is close by.. only a few steps to anything in the vehicle.

    We love ours and we get 18-20 MPG… how’s that for economy?

    And, driving and parking a self-contained vehicle like this is extremely easy to maneuver in all driving situations.

    1. Everything close by is a nice feature — plus cleaning takes a lot less time in a smaller rig! Being able to maneuver into smaller spaces also is a definite plus. Thanks for reading and commenting. Safe travels! -Ari

    1. That definitely sounds suspicious, and there have been reports of a number of scams with Class B vans circulating on the Internet. I would avoid this one! -Ari

    1. It depends on what you’re looking for in terms of travel style and camping style. We have the 190 and the 210 is a little bit longer and a little bit wider. We rarely have been in situations where another foot in either direction would have made much of a difference, but it can happen from time to time. We know people who have owned both and appreciate the extra elbow room in the rear of the 210. Also, while the 210 may seem big, it still has a much smaller footprint than many other Class Bs on the market right now. (And the B+ models, which are really just rebranded Class Cs, are even bigger.) Good luck with your decision, and feel free to ask additional questions if you have them. Cheers! -Ari

  4. I use to live in a van for a few years before buying my class a motorhome. Living in a van has it’s pros and cons just like a motorhome. The van got better gas milage, could go anywhere anytime and was literally a car and mini hotel on wheels. The downside for me was the conversion process. I had to choose to sleep, eat or work. And, having two people in a van or even pets makes the space even more tight. I couldn’t use the table and the bed it was either the table or the bed. Great list of things to consider!

    1. Yes, the maneuverability of the van is what makes it great, but that smaller footprint means sacrificing space. As you mentioned, we have to convert our living space daily. Since the “bedroom” and the “office” are the same space, that’s a daily routine during the week. On weekends, we tend to leave the bed in place and that helps break up the monotony of the daily bed/couch shuffle. Thanks for reading and commenting!

  5. My wife and I live in a densely-populated DC suburb (mix of single-family homes and apartment buildings) and we’re thinking of getting a class b vehicle to take extended road trips in and we’d plan to work remotely from the road on our laptops. We are completely new to the RV world. So, two questions:

    Is getting a mobile hotspot and wifi coverage difficult on the road? With all the RVers out there, I am thinking there must be a way to set up an internet connection in your RV through one of the cell carriers, but haven’t found much guidance on it online.

    Also, we’ve noticed that a lot of class bs measure out at 20+ feet in length. Is there a length cutoff at which these vehicles can’t be parked in streets and such? We read somewhere that a 19-foot camper van is treated the same as any car, but I’m not sure if that means going over 19 feet means a world of complications for parking, etc.

    If you have any perspective on this issue, I’d be grateful.

    1. Getting a signal is dependent on where you go. More populated areas tend to have better signals, whereas if you head off into some national parks you will have little to no signal at all. We tend to find an area to hang out in a while so that we can camp somewhere with a good signal during the week and then go exploring in the more remote areas on the weekend. Keep in mind, though, that you can get by with a lot slower network speeds than the local cable companies want to make you believe (and pay for).

      We recommend having more than one carrier when traveling because you just never know when one might have a better signal than the other. For example, we have a Verizon phone and a Verizon hotspot, but we also have a Google Fi phone, which taps into T-Mobile/Spring and U.S. Cellular towers.

      You also can get boosters and antennae that will help with your signal, both in terms of bars (for reference) and data speeds (which is what really matters). We have a WeBoost cellular booster that we like but it is pricey. Video: We also use a MIMO antenna for our Verizon jetpack hotspot, which is cheap and has been a game-changer for data speeds. (Antenna at Amazon: The jetpacks also tend to grab a signal better than cell phones. With any of them though, you have to some sort of signal in order to boost it.

      As for space, our van measures about 21 feet due to the brush guard on the front and the spare tire hanging off the back. We fit in a single parking space with no problem generally. There are times when we feel more comfortable backing into spaces and letting our rear overhang hang over the curb. When we travel with our bikes on the bike rack, those add 2-3 feet and we definitely notice the difference, as we don’t really fit in a single parking space well anymore.

      I hope that helps — feel free to ask follow-up questions. It’s exciting that you’re looking at traveling. We highly recommend it!


    2. Check out Pepwave routers. It accommodates two SIM cards for better reception. We were able to purchase a larger data plan through a third party reseller (300 gigs) which handles our needs.

      1. Thanks for the tip. I have looked into Pepwave routers a little bit but need to dig in further to see what’s involved and if it’s something we might want to invest in. -Ari

  6. I’m very interested in the capacity of the refrigerator / freezer. It looks tiny and I read someone say that I would be surprised how much food one can fit inside, but no one had mentioned that air needs to circulate around the food. It would mostly be one person traveling, but need food for a diabetic, so I can’t run out and then go get food. Could you give an example of an example of the amount without the dairy items as allergic to dairy, but what is an example of how much the refrigerator and the freezer will hold? I realize the subjective of what one eats, but if you gave me a sample list I would be most grateful. I have heard and read so many great things about the older Roadtreks that I have my heart set on finding one. Thank you in advance, if someone is willing to help.

    1. Hi Carol, thanks for asking about the refrigerator. It is one of the more frustrating things about traveling in the Roadtrek (or any small van-based RV). Our food and grocery lists tend to shift a lot depending on how long we’ll be gone or where we’re traveling to. Over time, you figure out how to make more things fit by playing what we often refer to as “Refrigerator Tetris.” One trick we have learned that helps a lot is to remove packaging when possible and to use square or rectangular containers rather than round containers. It is true that you need to keep air circulating to improve the cooling function, and a small, battery-operated fan that we purchased helps a lot with that. The door also holds quite a few items that need to be refrigerated, which helps quite a bit.

  7. Hi All.

    Great information. Thanks so much for sharing. I currently own a Class C and don’t use it much. It’s exhausting to drive , so I am thinking of selling my house (keeping the Class C) and buying a Class B to travel and live in. I’m going to sell my house… rent a storage space for my “special” things and just travel. I am a retired Senior, female. and do a lot of solo travel, camping, cruising and visiting places all over the USA. I plan to drive to Alaska when i am ready to sell the RV… far into the future. My travels will be close proximity to my current home base in North Central Florida because of location of family and physicans….I don’t want to be too far away from either. Keeping the Class C because my daughter and son in law enjoy using it SO much and they have a great storage facility for it.
    Everyone I know is trying to talk me out of this idea, but i really think I can make it work. and if not I can always reverse the situation. I currently live in a retirement community and am BORED out of my mind. Everyone keeps dying and this last year has taken a toll on my attitiude. I need a BIG change in my life and i think a Class B is the answer.
    Your thoughts??

    1. Hello Rae!

      I’m glad you found the information useful. It sounds like you have thought through this a lot and have come to a conclusion that gives you a great shot at doing something different and being happier. The Class B would give you a lot of options because of the flexibility of parking and ease of driving due to its size. Plus, as you noted, if it doesn’t work out, you can always change things up again. Keep us posted on what you decide and safe travels no matter what rig you decide to do it in! -Ari

  8. My wife & I are more “sightseers” than “campers” and prefer to drive the back roads rather than the interstate whenever possible (i.e., state highways, local surface streets etc.) so a Class B is a perfect fit. We’re both still working, so to date (about 15 months) we’ve been limited to a maximum 07-day trips and nothing further away from our home than 1 ½ – 02 days. We’ve been enjoying the RV for its “creature comforts” as we travel from Point A, boon docking on Walmart & Cracker Barrel parking lots and eating at local restaurants until we arrive at Point B, whereupon we check into a hotel/motel. We’ve experienced the limited space firsthand but are not deterred by this 01 “con” because the numerous “pros” make it so much more ideal. Our question – Soon we’ll be taking longer trips, (02 weeks +) and are looking for suggestions on how to limit our wardrobe and how to pack it, what to pack it in (suitcases or gym type bags) and where/how to store it while in transit. About the only other things were gonna bring is toiletries and a couple of folding lawn chairs. Thanx to everyone in advance for your help and if there’s something else we need to know and failed to mention it, tell us – please.

    1. Hi Danny — thank you for posting your comment and asking for advice.

      We also prefer to stay off the interstates and have stayed our fair share of nights in WalMart and Crackerbarrel parking lots!

      As you note, the pros of vanlife generally outweigh the cons, especially if you can minimize the stuff you’re carrying. It’s unbelievable how many things people (Jessi and I included) initially bring along a lot more clothes, tools, gadgets, etc. that they later find they don’t really use so they don’t need to pack them.

      In terms of packing, we have found success using E-bags and then storing them in the overhead cabinets above the sofa in our 2008 Roadtrek 190 Popular. Here is one of the sets we use:

      Regarding wardrobe, it depends on personal preference, but we don’t have a problem wearing shirts and pants more than once if they don’t get dirty. And carrying enough socks and underwear to change daily isn’t as big of a deal because they tend to pack down small. Rolling shirts helps them take up less space, and remember you probably don’t need as much variety as you think you do. We also look for ways that clothes can do double duty. For example, I carry a lot of pairs of cargo pants that zip off into shorts. That way, I have long pants or shorts as needed while taking up the same amount of space. We also have raincoats and cool-weather coats that roll up into stuff sacks.

      It sounds like you have the right idea to bring along as little as possible, and over time you’ll figure out what you really need and don’t need, as well as tricks for how to pack them better and store them more efficiently. I’m going to post a link to this blog post and comment on some of our social media channels to see if other travelers have great ideas to share, as well.

      Safe travels!!


  9. My wife and I have used a Explorer conversion van for our travels the past 5 years. We want to upgrade to a Class B for the wet bath and kitchen. Looked at many new units but most seem shoddy. Really want the rear bath so limits us to only a few used models. Any opinion on Winnebago Travato, Coachmen Beyond or Thor Tellaro? All will have problems so expecting nothing to be perfect. No one company stands out as the best. Thanks.

    1. Hi Fred. The Explorers have a certain charm to them, don’t they? 😀

      As far as manufacturers go, you’re right, they are all struggling right now to produce products that will hold up to even the mildest scrutiny. While we don’t have any experience with the models you mentioned personally, we have met several people traveling in the Winnebago Travatos who really seem to like them. Plus, we have friends who have owned larger Winnebagos and speak highly of the brand.

      Going for the rear bath really will limit your options — I’m curious why you would want that configuration, as I believe it also changes the available interior storage options.

      Keep us posted on your search and let me know if we can help in any other way.



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