RV’s, or recreational vehicles, are an increasingly popular choice for family vacations, sightseeing or even as a full-time home on the road. And a wide variety of sizes and interior layouts means there are plenty to choose from. Still getting into the lifestyle can be confusing for a novice.  So to help us sort it all out, we turned to the RVing experts.

Our own experience over the past year in a trio of Winnebago motorhomes has proven that despite today’s high cost of fuel, a camping vacation is still an affordable way to see the country.

But nobody knows the ins and outs of RVing better than the Recreational Vehicle Industry Association. This trade group represents the majority of North American motorhome and trailer manufacturers and their suppliers. We caught up with RVIA president Richard Coon at Reines RV, in Manassas Virginia, where he walked us through the camper landscape.

RICHARD COON: In the travel trailer arena, you start with a tent trailer that ranges in price anywhere from 6,000 probably up to 15-20,000 all the way up to a large travel trailer that costs $100,000. In the motor home segment, you can start with products like what are behind me for under 100,000, somewhere around 75,000..and go all the way up to 4 or $500,000.

JOHN DAVIS: Motorhomes are further divided into classes. Class Bs are generally the smallest motorhomes, under 25 feet long, and are usually made by adding sleeping and cooking facilities to an existing van, like the Mercedes Sprinter or RAM ProMaster. 

Class Cs typically use a Ford or Chevy van or truck chassis with V8 or V10 power. Factory-made cabin bodies range from about 20 to 35 feet in length.

Class As are generally the biggest RVs and carry a 30 to 50 foot fully-custom coach on a commercial truck or bus chassis. Front-engined gas models are the most affordable Class As while rear-engined diesel “pushers” are plusher and more durable. 

But while motorhomes are the most obvious ones on the highway, 90% of RVs sold are of the towable variety. And, for those travel trailers you have to factor your own vehicle’s towing capacity into the equation.

Newer, lightweight travel trailers can be hitched to a full size sedan or small crossover utility, while the big rigs require a pickup-bed-mounted fifth-wheel hitch and an equally beefy truck to haul them.

Of course, there is the matter of purchasing that RV to consider. Just like buying a car, you need to consider its intended use, number of passengers and the level of luxury and amenities you want and then balance that against what you can afford.

RVs can be considered vacation homes, so you’re not looking at a car payment, but a mortgage, with tax-deductible interest and longer loan terms, which can easily knock thousands of dollars a year off the cost of ownership.

Total RV sales are expected to hit between 350 and 360,000 units in 2014. Still, that’s a little less than the total Camry sedans that Toyota sells each year. So we’re not talking huge numbers for RVs... But for those that feel the call of the open road, there is no better way to go.

RICHARD COON: And, I think people find that lifestyle to be more and more attractive and you spend a lot of quality time with your children, so I think that’s the thing that’s great about RVing that makes it as popular as it is.