Recreational Vehicle. Like a big fat camper with beds, bathroom, fold out tables, and stove. The biggest name brand is Winnebago. People take these on vacations if they want to have a real comfortable ride where the family can sleep, play cards, etc. while they drive, and if they don't mind using a LOT of gas. You can climb up a ladder on the back and sunbathe on the roof. The same people who own RVs are likely to have rec rooms in their houses.

An RV is also a term for a re-entry vehicle. This refers to any vehicle designed to survive the fall into Earth's atmosphere from space and the corresponding deceleration and heat produced by air friction on a object moving at orbital or high ballistic velocity.

Early spacecraft had RVs for their crews; the 'command capsule' that the Apollo missions returned were RVs. The Space Shuttle is technically an RV; however, the use of therm generally implies a purpose-built device, not one which is used for other phases (as the shuttle most certainly is!) The Soyuz resupply vessels which are typically left docked to the International Space Station (Or Alpha, or Freedom, or whatever the nom du jour is) as lifeboats are being used as simple RVs.

One other use of 'RV' is in the more military parlance. To the military, an RV tends to be the part of a ballistic missile; it is designed to protect the warheads on their way into the atmosphere over the target. The RV is released from a missile's warhead bus. MIRV systems have multiple RVs - Multiple Independently-targeted Reentry Vehicles.

Recreational Vehicles, or RVs as they are commonly referred to, are considered by some to be the only way to vacation. They contain most of the comforts of home such as a microwave oven, full bathroom, sofa, table, and beds for a number of people.

There are 3 major classes of RV. The Class A, Class B, and Class C. The major difference in these classes is chassis style. Class A RVs are more bus like in appearance, size, and engine. Class B RVs utilize a van style chassis and are often referred to as a van camper. Class C RVs have a more truck style chassis with an appropriate engine size.

Class A RVs range in size from 21 to 40 feet. Sleeping capacity is up to 10 people, depending on the model. Amenities can include full kitchen galley (with stove, refrigerator, and microwave), private sleeping areas (with twin, full, or queen size beds), bathroom facilities (with full tub and shower or just a shower, hot tub, and washer and dryer), and extendable living room areas. Marketing states that no special licensing is necessary for a Class A, but anyone interested should check their local laws. This style of RV can range in price from $48,000 to over $300,000. The average cost is approximately $81,000.

Class B RVs range in size from 16 to 21 feet. They generally have a capacity of sleeping up to 4 persons, depending on model. Most posses a minimum of sleeping, living, and galley areas but very limited bathroom facilities (if any at all). Class B RVs are more narrow than Class A or Class C as they utilize a normal van chassis. The average cost of a Class B RV is $43,000 with prices ranging from $33,000 to $65,000.

Class C RVs range in size from 20 to 32 feet. They generally can sleep up to 6 people, depending on the model. The buyer has many options for amenities including private master sleeping area, kitchen galley amenities (including stove, refrigerator, and microwave), bathroom facilities (including shower style), and extendable living areas. The average price of the Class C RV is approximately $48,000 with prices ranging from $39,000 to $67,000.

The major manufacturers of RVs are:

  • Winnebago® Industries, Inc.
  • Coachmen® Industries, Inc.
  • Fleetwood® Enterprises, Inc.
  • Gulf Stream Coach, Inc.
  • Airstream, Inc.

It should be noted that travel trailers, pop-up campers, and truck campers are also considered RVs but are not technically within the definition.

The types of additional campers that are commonly referred to as RVs are:

  • fifth wheel trailers
  • truck campers
  • travel trailers
  • conversion vans
  • pop-up (or folding) tent trailers

Information above was gathered in part at the following websites:

I am going to be discussing the furnishings and fixtures of Class A motorhomes. Some will vary mildly from what I am describing, but the vast majority of Class A motorhomes will be exactly as described.

Motorhomes are designed to be operable both independently or hooked up to utilities. The one I personally own is 30 years old, the newer ones look a lot nicer, but still operate the same way, even the brand new 2005 models.

Motorhomes will have a water tank underneath that can be filled up with fresh water. Some models have tanks rated for drinkable water, others don't. Your motorhome will have a water pump that can be turned on from a switch on the inside that will provide water pressure to all fixtures. Your motorhome will also have an outside water hookup that hooks up to a normal hose. When this is hooked up you will have water pressure all the time. You should always use a heavy duty hose, as cheaper hoses will start leaking soon after being hooked up.

There are two holding tanks for dirty water. One is the "black water" tank, and it takes water from the toilet. The other is the "gray water" tank, which catches the water from the shower and sinks. These normally have to be emptied manually, but if you are in a place with a permanent sewer hookup then you can just leave the dump handles open and let it all drain in there. Both tanks will have an indicator inside the home showing how full they are.

You will have a hot water heater, it will be very small, and has to be turned on manually. On older models you have to go outside to turn it on, on newer models it is done from the inside. It holds just enough water for one shower. But it heats up the water really fast. It only takes a few minutes. Most motorhomes will have propane ones, but electric ones do exist.

Now for the electricity. Your motorhome will have a gas powered generator capable of providing enough power to run anything you might have plugged in. Your motorhome can also be plugged into an electric outlet and get its electricity from there. Newer ones will also have a bank of batteries and an inverter giving electric power even when you aren't plugged in, and the generator isn't running. Not all older models have this feature (mine does not). All the built in lights will be 12 volt and will run off the RV's secondary battery. The secondary battery is constantly being recharged whenever you are plugged into electric, have the engine running, or have the generator running.

You will have one or more propane tanks under the RV. These provide the gas for the hot water heater, stove, oven, furnace, and catalytic heater. The refrigerator is also capable of running off propane as well. Mine has two tanks, apparently that is fairly standard.

The refrigerator will be fairly small. They are bigger than a dorm unit, but much smaller than a standard sized home unit. They can run off either electric or propane. These do not get nearly as cold as what you are used to. The freezers only barely get cold enough to make ice, and you should generally use things stored in the main unit rather quickly.

The oven and stove will almost certainly be propane, electric ones do exist, but they are mega rare due to the fact that most RVs and RV parks are only equipped for 30 AMP electrical services.

Newer models will have a cable TV hookup built in, older models will likely have been refitted for this feature years ago (mine was). I have seen a lot of people out in the State parks who even have a satellite dish setup.

If you just want an RV for temporary living I would suggest getting the oldest and cheapest functioning one you can find, as newer ones are really pricey, and they depreciate much like cars do. You might easily depreciate a newer one $10,000 or more in one year.

If you don't appear to need the ability to drive the thing around then you might want to look into getting a "5th wheel" RV instead. Its the same thing as what I just described except it does not have an engine and has to be towed by a truck, they are a lot cheaper.

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