The Pros and Cons of Compact RVs

Josh SchukmanMarch 22, 2024

The Pros and Cons of Compact RVs

Ever dreamed about a cross-country adventure in an RV? The allure of the open road has led many to embrace the simplicity and convenience of compact RVs. These vehicles represent a shift towards a more agile form of travel, offering numerous benefits over their larger counterparts.

For many, the romantic notion of hitting the open road is an enticing one. But before you jump into the RV lifestyle, it’s critical to understand what you’re getting into. That means considering the pros and cons of this type of smaller RV.

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What is a Compact RV?

Compact RVs are essentially scaled-down versions of their larger counterparts. They might not have all the amenities and space that larger RVs provide, but they make up for it with versatility and cost-effectiveness.

They come in various types, including travel trailers and campervans, each offering unique features and benefits.

Compact RV Types

The term ‘compact RV’ includes a variety of smaller vehicles such as campervans, travel trailers, and Class B motorhomes.

  • Campervans: These vehicles are built on a van chassis and are suited for individuals or couples.
  • Travel trailers: These are towed and provide more living space than campervans, but do not have their own engines.
  • Class B motorhomes: They combine the drivability of a van with RV comforts.

Compact RVs are generally between 10 to 20 feet long, which is considerably shorter than the 40-foot length of some larger models. They are designed with space efficiency in mind, featuring multifunctional areas and amenities.

Compact RV in the mountains

Advantages of Compact RVs


One of the most appealing benefits of compact RVs is their cost-effectiveness. Small RVs are generally less expensive than larger RVs, both in terms of initial costs and maintenance expenses.

Fuel Efficiency

Another advantage of lighter RVs is their fuel efficiency. Campervans, for instance, are known for their impressive miles-per-gallon ratio. Uprooted Traveler states that campervans usually get between 18-25 mpg, a significant improvement over larger RVs. The fuel efficiency of travel trailers, however, will largely depend on the vehicle you’re using to tow them.

Accessibility and Mobility

Compact RVs excel in terms of accessibility and mobility, making them ideal for those who enjoy exploring both urban and rural areas. Smaller RVs can navigate city streets and rugged rural terrains without much difficulty. As The RV Geeks point out, smaller RVs can maneuver through tight spots and narrow roads with relative ease.

Similarly, RV Life notes that Class B RVs, which are in the compact RV category, can easily be turned around or backed up, even on busy city streets.

The unique benefits of compact RVs include:

  • Lower initial and maintenance costs
  • Greater fuel efficiency
  • Improved maneuverability and accessibility
  • Easier to drive and park

Resale Value and Market Demand

Compact RVs maintain a strong resale market, with demand often exceeding supply. They experience lower depreciation rates, making them a more prudent investment for those considering resale value. The increasing interest in a minimalist, mobile lifestyle has sustained the market demand for small RVs.

Compact RV at a beach

Disadvantages of Compact RVs

Limited Space

The most significant disadvantage of compact RVs is the limited space they offer. While their small size allows for greater mobility, it also means less room for storage and amenities. The RV Geeks highlight that smaller RVs generally offer less storage space than their larger counterparts. The most compact camping trailers, like Coleman’s Rubicon 1200RK, are just big enough to sleep in, according to Camping World.

Compact RVs offer cost-effectiveness, fuel efficiency, and improved mobility, but with less space and fewer amenities. Deciding whether to purchase this type of RV will largely depend on your personal needs, budget, and travel preferences. Ultimately, it’s about finding the RV that best fits your lifestyle and travel needs.

Lifestyle Adjustments

Owning a compact RV requires lifestyle changes towards minimalism and efficiency. Space is limited, so each item must serve a purpose. This limitation promotes a more mindful approach to travel, focusing on experiences over possessions.

Practicality for Long-Term Travel

The practicality of compact RVs for extended travel depends on balancing comfort and flexibility. They are easier to maneuver and less expensive to maintain, but the smaller living space might become challenging over time. Travelers must weigh the immediate advantages against the potential need to adapt to a smaller living area as time passes.

Compact RV on a waterfront

Key Considerations When Choosing a Compact RV

Before settling on a compact RV, several factors should be considered. Your budget is one of the most critical aspects. Small RVs are generally more cost-effective than larger ones in terms of purchase price, maintenance costs, and fuel efficiency. However, it’s necessary to factor in other potential expenses, like insurance, storage, and campsite fees, which can accumulate over time.

Your travel needs and lifestyle are also significant considerations. If you’re planning to live full-time in your RV or spend a lot of time on the road, a compact RV’s limited space could be challenging. Conversely, if you’re only using it for weekend trips or short vacations, a compact RV can provide all the conveniences you need without the bulk and expense of a larger model.

Lastly, consider the type of traveling you plan to do. Compact RVs are great for urban exploration and navigating rugged terrains, due to their size and maneuverability. Yet, if you’re planning to stay in one place for extended periods, a larger RV with more amenities might be a better fit.


The decision to invest in a compact RV is a personal one that largely depends on your budget, travel plans, and lifestyle. Small RVs offer distinct advantages, such as cost-effectiveness, fuel efficiency, and mobility. They are an excellent choice for those who value versatility and the freedom to explore both city streets and off-the-beaten-path locales.

However, they also come with some drawbacks, primarily their limited space and amenities. So, it’s crucial to weigh these pros and cons carefully before making a decision. Rent one of these compact RVs near you to try before you buy.

Josh and his wife traveled around the country in an '88 Airstream for 4+ years of full-time RVing. They made an unexpected pitstop in Montana in 2020 and haven't left since. That's because they got hooked on the glamping resort they run by Glacier National Park. Fittingly, they keep up their RVing love by renting out vintage Airstreams and other retro RVs to travelers hitting Montana.

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