RV Shopper Series – Small Class A Gas

One of the most popular styles of class A motorhomes has got to be the small (under 30ft) entry level gas RV. 
It seems nearly everyone we talk to that’s looking for their first RV is considering one of these affordable little guys.  Which is why this article is the first of many in our new RV Shopper Series!

In this video we bring you along as we inspect what we found to be the best sellers, new-to-the-market and most popular small gas RV’s. We point out our top three likes and dislikes of each coach.  There are a lot of options out there and we couldn’t and don’t want to try and cover every small class A gas RV, but we hope you have fun shopping with us!

There are several other RVs in this segment including the Trek (we love the new Trek bed and walk-in closet but it wasn’t available for filming), Fleetwood Storm, Coachman Pursuit and the Jayco Precept among others.  But at the end of the day, we thought these four were a good representation of the small class A gas coaches. Here are the results from our shopping experience listed in order of favorite to least favorite:

Small Class A Gas RV

Who is this RV made for?

A small family, a party wagon for tailgating friends, someone on a strict budget or a weekend warrior.  We feel the small class A gas RV is made for the occasional traveler, someone who isn’t interested in full-time travel or long extended trips.  Sure, you can use this type of coach far beyond what we are suggesting here but they aren’t really designed for super heavy use.  It’s great for the person that is considering a class C motorhome but wants to get some of the luxuries of a class A motorhome.  You’ll find these RVs are fairly basic in design and finish and can sleep multiple people. Remember, buying an RV is an extremely personal experience, so our least favorite may end up being your top choice based on your needs and wants.

How much does this RV cost?

It’s difficult to translate the MSRP into the “Street Price” you might expect to pay.  The MSRP listed in the video for the Flair is the special launch price so it’s likely to go up in the near future.  The Vista is built to compete with the budget brands so there’s probably not a lot of wiggle room in the pricing.  In general the FR3 and ACE seem to list their MSRP higher so you feel like you’re getting a better deal, I’ve seen the FR3 and ACE we’ve compared here listed online for less than $70,000 new.

What to look for when shopping for this type of RV.

  • Gelcoat vs. Paint – Sure a paint job costs more but it’s going to last longer and provide more of a ‘motorhome’ finish, plus paint won’t peel off like a vinyl sticker.
  • GVWR, GCVWR, GVWR, OCCC – All these acronyms add up to provide EXTREMELY valuable information about your RV: how much stuff you can carry; how much towing capacity you have; how much water you can load into your tank.  Make sure you ask for this info on each RV you consider purchasing.
  • Inverter and Batteries – Most RVs in this segment won’t have an inverter so wild camping may be difficult. If you plan to add solar make sure to check for roof space and an extra storage compartment for adding more batteries and an inverter.
  • Tank Capacities – Make sure you understand the fresh, grey and black tank carrying capacities of each RV, it will vary greatly between manufacturers, models and floor plans.
  • Exterior – Some of these RVs have the exterior walls that are paper thin and applied by giant rollers to save money, the Flair and Vista are made with much stronger and thicker fiberglass.
  • Insulation – Most of these RVs aren’t made for extreme hot or cold weather so it’s important to know in advance.  It doesn’t mean it can’t be done, it just might not be a pleasurable experience.
  • General Build quality – Take note of the quality of the things you’ll use daily such as windows, storage bays, entry door, cabinets, bed, bathroom, faucets, sinks, fridge, seating comfort, A/C, heater, awning, etc.

I think that about sums it up.  If you have questions, comments or have personal experience with one of these small class A gas RVs, please share with us in the comment box below. We know the search can be exciting and exasperating at the same time but we hope this RV shopper series helps, even if it’s just a little.

If you’re considering buying an RV and haven’t checked out our article and video on the Shady Truth about Buying and RV, you may want to click over to that next.

Disclaimer – Of course we’re generalizing with a lot of this information, but by sharing our experiences we hope it helps others target which RV is right for their needs.  These are all our opinions so take ‘em for what they’re worth and then do more research!  The different RV dealerships didn’t compensate us nor are we affiliated in any way but we are thankful they let us tromp around and film in their RV’s. None of the RV manufactures featured here compensated us either.  All opinions expressed are our own and based on our RV’ing experience.  At the time of filming we traveled in a Fleetwood Excursion.

Famous for my "how-not-to" videos, and typically the man behind the camera, sometimes I’m forced to be here in the “spotlight”. When you see my face you’re probably reading something more technical than adventurous, but either way I do my best to tell it like it is and infuse my opinions into the commentary…after all this is a blog and not MSN.

Comments (62)

  • Patricia Rossi

    Love you guys and have watched so many of your videos. We are in the midst of deciding between a 2014 Forest River FR3 25DS, 2017 25.4 Vegas, and 2017 25.4 Axis. I trust your opinion so much, and this is a big important purchase for us. Have you had the chance to compare these? We really want to make a decision soon for a fall New England trip. They are all about the same perfect size and layout for our needs, but hope to get your expertise on the important other things. We really appreciate your help and opinion.

      • Robin

        WE have looked at a 2019 and a 2018 FR3 as well. LOve them both. Thanks for the great reviews.

  • Patricia Rossi

    Love you guys and have watched so many of your videos. We are in the midst of deciding between a 2014 Forest River FR3 25DS, 2017 25.4 Vegas, and 2017 25.4 Axis. I trust your opinion so much, and this is a big important purchase for us. Have you had the chance to compare these? We really want to make a decision soon for a fall New England trip. They are all about the same perfect size and layout for our needs, but hope to get your expertise on the important other things.

  • Robert Kidd

    Smack Down is from 2015. Any opinion on the Thor Vegas vs the Winnibago Pursuit? We are in process of looking at our first RV! Thanks!

    • Robin

      I know that in my research, I have found that I am not a fan of the THOR products. Search the reviews.

  • Ben

    I love your informative videos. You guys are so cute. I do wonder if you’ve ever tried to pare it down a little? The sizes of these things seems ginourmous to me. I lived year round in a truck camper on a 4×4 platform for work in a wintry mountain climate for a long time, and LOVED it. Oh, the places I went. The amazing efficiency of the thing, and the way you train yourself is wonderful. It is like a space ship for a[n overly imaginative] adult. Because of that experience, I completely understand the tiny house movement. Granted, once I add a spouse and two large dogs, things get a bit tight on a rainy day. Still, I find the size and layout of modern RVs to be incongruous/dissonant with the camping concept. In order to stay small, my next one will be an old 17 foot 1960s Winnebago or a 20 foot 1970s Winnebago or Chevrolet. Plus, the style of those old units. Too cool! If you guys ever get a chance to field test some boondocking, four wheel drive, year-round-adventure RVs, I’d love to read about it!

    • We started out in a VW Camper van (which you can see here: which we had for years and it was awesome for a couple of weeks at a time. But considering we work full time, have two cats and its our year round home…we prefer about 28-30ft RV. Sadly, there are not many made that small but it is our idea as the perfect full time size. The smaller stuff is perfect for the true recreational user. If we ever become part time travelers, that is exactly what we would look into.

  • Deb

    If you are ever somewhere that you can’t engage the slide out in the Forest River to get bed all the way out, you can sleep in the drop down bed. We have a Forest a River with the same bed and it hasn’t been an issue, but there are only 2 of us. In fact, sometimes while my guy is driving, I’ll rest on the bed even though it’s folded in half – there’s enough room for me. Also, we never even notice that it’s not one continuous mattress. We’ve rented the RV, too and have been told the mattress is comfy.

    • Robin

      THanks for this. The Forest River is our #1 pick at the moment.

  • Jerry

    Hello guys
    My wife & I have really enjoyed your RV experience that you have been sharing. I really like the smack down of the small class A RVs. As we are starting to plan on our 1st Rv for long term stay. Have you ever considered doing a smack down for class C RVs as we feel this would be manageable for my wife to drive and we seam to get more bang for our dollars with the class C.

    Thanks again & looking forward to more videos!

  • black color saleoff

    It has air max on the arm.

  • JJ

    how about a show on Engine Re liabilities and transmission durability….And why is it that Almost All Small Class A and Class C are ALL Ford chassis…. whui not use the more durable big block Toyota and Nissan.. like Sequoya chassis and Nissan Armada chassis?

  • Dan and Jan Dorsten

    Jason and Nikki,
    Thank you so much for putting yourselves out there and sharing your life with us. I watch your video’s all the time, and follow your adventures. My wife and I are going to purchase our first RV in the next few months. We come from a motocross/UTV racing family and will trade in the 32 ft toy hauler and spend winters away and come back to Ohio in the spring. Hence my question: What kind of discount % should I expect when looking at new and then used RV’s? Im using as my benchmark as far as discounts go. Next- I really like the Fleetwood Flair 30U as its the only model with a king bed. I have Forest River toy hauler, and honestly not thrilled with the workmanship. And the Thor with the bar to lock the slide in scares me. Our priorities for us are: King Bed, Fridge, view and storage. Any help would be welcome (And please don’t post online as I mentioned that RV site, so a personal reply would be welcome. Thank You.

  • Michael Markuson

    Hello! Love your site. Thinking about getting into our first RV… possibly a small Class A. Wondering why they all seem to have those hideous undulating stripe decals on the exterior. People don’t put them on their cars, so why does every RV have them? I asked at our local RV show this weekend and didn’t get a satisfying answer. Hoping for a clean, modern look.

    • Robin

      exactly. Keep it simple.

  • Doug

    Hi you two
    I was wondering what you downsized to
    I am looking at an RV that I can drive my Harley in the back area
    Did you get a diesel or a gas RV
    Just started reviewing some of your videos
    Hope you are great and enjoying your travels

  • Pablo

    hi guys! Have you seen the Vegas/Axis RUV? What are your thoughts on it? It seems to be exactly what I am looking for but since I don’t know much about RVs (this will be my first one) I would like your opinion.
    I am from California and planning on taking a long trip through a few states with my girl. Cheers!

  • Thank you for taking the time to do this video on small class A. Its quite an undertaking to make the right decision and your video was very helpful. Happy camping!!

  • David Stone

    I am reLly taken with your cats! Can you tell me what breed they are and what training you have done to make them not run off?

  • Hi Wynns…first I would like to thank you for the great job you do with your blog. Your information is terrific and for someone like me who is just beginning research on the idea of that lifestyle, it’s most helpful. Maybe you can encourage or discourage with realism my thoughts of jumping into this lifestyle. I’m single, 75 years old, restless and quite ready to look at this change seriously…any suggestions? Thank you and continue the good works.

  • Brad Swanson

    We bought our Thor 27.1 in 2013, first thing is the quality control from Thor is not so good and that went for the dealer also! They expect the customer to do the inspection and write down everything that needs to be fixed! I think they are counting on people not catching some of the shoddy work! We made a list and took it to them and they had it for over a month that is unexceptable, we are making a payment on something that is supposed to be brand new! This is their way of throwing something together then doing the repairs on our dime, is that the new business model? We finally got it back and we just wanted it so we excepted the half a– repairs that being said we like the features that make it unique, like the fold down bed over the front seats that you can put your valuables in the compartments then fold the bed back up and take the key, the L shaped dinette makes into a nice bed with a air mattress that has a built in pump, the king size bed is awesome, the auto leveling jacks work good and the backup cam is nice also the cams in the side mirrors so when you put the blinkers you can see down that side of the coach we like it but some of the materials are cheap! Oh it does have the work station in the dash on passenger side that is handy also it has a compartment by the steps going up that you can put dirty shoes they call it the mud room. Anyway thanks for letting me vent and brag in the same letter. Brad Swanson

  • Alan and Karen Fausel

    Hey guys we are first time RV buyers. We have been looking at the FR3 but the 30 foot option, and wanted to know what you thought if this was a step up from the 25 foot one you reviewed and anything particular we need to look for. We will be using it probably five times a year so we won’t be living in it full-time. we like the bigger ones like the one you guys have but maybe that’s down the road for us. Love the videos and blog!

  • Jim Watson

    For this review did you consider the the Thor Vegas or Axis? If did consider them please share some reasons the didn’t make your top four.
    Your channel is great thanks for all the info.


  • I guess my comments didn’t pass this time.
    Sorry if I was too harsh for your public.
    I’m glad that you agree with me that the products you are promoting could be a lot more interesting, esthetically. But your public likes them. Let them have it, right.

    • Sorry, I saw my posts, I though I was posting in the Class A Gas, but it was in the Diesel one. Keep on the good work!

    • George, comments don’t show up immediately. We have to approve them so you have to be patient with us.

  • DC

    Howdy Wynns! We’ll be attending the Phoenix RV show the end of this month. We’re shopping for a Tiffin Allegro Bus 37AP. We sometimes wish we could find something with the quality and amenities of the bigger buses, (if you spot something let us know!) but we’ve really shopped and for the money figure Tiffin is a quality buy. The 37AP is actually 38′ and some change. But, we also wanted to avoid the tag-axle and 4 additional tires to replace every few years.

    If you had no budget to consider, have you seen your dream coach out there?

    Keep up those videos!

    ~ DC

  • LisaD

    I really liked the FR3 when I saw it at a show. A bit big for me though.

    Hoping to see you review the new Navion/View 24J with u-booth and larger kitchen window as well as the Via/Reyo (which seems due for a facelift).

  • GoWestWardHo

    Since you mentioned the Full Body Paint in the Flair, I had a burning question I’d love your expert opinion on. I’m looking to buy a 2015 Jayco Precept 31UL and they just added two gorgeous FBP options instead of the fiberglass gel coat. But of course its a $6,500 (MSRP) option. Just how important do you feel it is to go with FBP? I have a ’01 Chris Craft 22′ boat and other than some white oxidation, the fiberglass gel coat still looks marvelous so I always thought fiberglass was the way to go (albeit the FBP looks soooo much cooler). We are in Arizona so most of our summer travels are the West Coast. I would store the MH in Prescott however – so it’s not the 110 degree sun I have concerns with, but the Ponderosa Pine tree sap! So given those parameters, plus the fact we usually keep nice things like this for a long time and take good care of them, what would you suggest? Drop the dime+ on FBP, or stick with the standard?

  • Kristen griggs

    I’m curious as to why you passed on the Tiffin? We’re looking at the Phaeton 40 AH, definitely not cheap so I’m just trying to get as much info as possible.

  • Kristen Griggs

    I’m looking into purchasing the Tiffin Phaeton 40 AH, it’s amazing!! I’m very interested in your thoughts regarding this brand or what you know of them. And more importantly, why you ultimately decided against purchasing a Tiffin.

    • It is all about personal preference. There is a reason there are so many different options out there and its because everyones wants and needs are different. What we would choose may not be a good option for you. Tiffin is a good company and if that is the coach you love, that is what you should go with. For us its the things we mentioned in the video, decor and a host of other things. We wild camp a lot (camping with no hook ups or services) so things like a good inverter, high quality wiring with multiple outlets wired to run off the inverter is important. We do have some Tiffin products in upcoming videos, so stay tuned.

  • Patrick

    Hate to say it, but I think your MSRP on the Fleetwood Flair is off by ten to twelve thousand.

  • Jonathan Steele

    Howdy y’all,
    Wife and I have been enjoying your video’s and article’s for some time, and might I say perfect timing on starting up the “shopper series.” We’ve decided to upgrade our TT to a small coach and hit the road for a month this summer touring the west coast, and maybe into Canada. Sure wish some of the smaller Crossover sized class A’s came setup using diesel.
    Mind if I ask- with all the choices out there in small class A’s how did you settle on reviewing these 4, and if you revisit or post an additional video on this size would consider reviewing the Jayco Percept? It seems like fantastic value by comparison of others in its class.
    Also, have any thoughts on rv coach roofing material? Seems like some of the smaller class A’s use something like TPO / SuperFlex Roofing (Thor ACE, Forest River FR3), and some use a seamless crowned fiberglass roof (Jayco Precept).
    Looking forward to seeing what’s next. Thanks for all the videos!

  • hi jason want you to tell ou about a new RV buying and renting place its called cruse amarica well see ya

  • Simon

    Awesome review! I’ve looked at all of those except the Flair, but looking at your review I think bang for buck with features the Flair is great value for money.

    Have you looked at the Thor Challenger 37KT? (I have yet to find one in person), but I love the floor plan of that coach.. King bed, separate kitchen, separate living space (with closing doors), which essentially gives you two bedrooms with a drop down bed in the front. I’ve seen the price on that coach as low as 99K. I hope you’ll do a review on it one day! I know it’s probably 6ft longer than you’d like! I’m hoping they still produce this model when I’m ready to buy…

    I see your still enjoying the delights of the Florida Key’s but I do hope you’ll stop by up here in New Smyrna Beach, just below Daytona.. There’s plenty to see and do with some wonderful campgrounds.

    You guys do awesome work! I’m always waiting for the next installment! Great video!

  • Don

    Great video and thanks for doing this. My wife and I have been researching RVs for some time now and will be trading in our popup for a motorhome later this year. We wanted to keep it relatively small (economy and maneuverability) but wanted some space and creature comforts, so we have been seriously looking at this size range and found one we liked – a Thor ACE 30.1 so we were interested to see what you had to say about the 27.1. Our three ups on the ACE were: great counter space in the galley, the TV was situated directly across from the sofa (I don’t understand why some put it on a far wall perpendicular to the sofa), and “nightstand” space on both sides of the bed (for eyeglasses, alarm clock, etc), and plenty of cup holders/trays in the cockpit area for driver and copilot (OK, that was 4).

    But thanks for doing this. We’ve enjoyed watching your videos, and love your cats.

      • Robin

        After reading many reviews, I’m not a fan of the Thor line.

  • Jeff and Sue

    I wish you reviewed the Thor Axis. Do you have any opinions on it.
    I know it is not a class A gas, but how about the Leisure Travel Unity.
    Love you videos my wife and I are shopping for our first home on wheels can’t wait to join you on the road.

    • MikeAndMad

      Actually, the Axis is a Class A. We have its twin, the Vegas, although, so far, we’ve only driven it the 100 miles back from the dealer.

      I will tell you that the drive back to Monterey, CA from the dealer in Dublin was very comfortable. The Axis/Vegas twins are built on a stripped (and stretched – by Mor-Ryde in Elkhart, IN)Ford E-350 chassis. Compared to other short class A’s the Axis/Vegas twins have a very long wheelbase for their length (30 inches more than the Winnebago Vista 26HE), which reduces the overhang in the rear and makes it less prone to fish tailing.

  • Just closed on an FR3 30DS and I’m thrilled to get on the road full-time. My first trip is to visit my wiz-kid buddy in Raleigh to help install solar panels, inverters, compost toilet, wifi, extra batteries etc. My 12 year old daughter will be joining me all summer and for her spring break.

    I chose the 30 b/c of the king fold was an issue and I’ll need extra storage for my work and art supplies. I ended up with a queen, but that’s fine for me. I was able to knock 30% off MSRP and shopped around for about 5 months. Thanks for your help with that btw. What I really loved was the masculine interior design, floors and drop down bed for kiddo.

    I almost got a Thor Windsport 34E since it had 2 bathrooms, but just wasn’t in the budget. If work on the road goes well, I definitely want to upgrade to a 2015 Thor Outlaw 38RE. That’s my dream gas machine until I can afford a diesel.

    My house in Franklin official goes on AirBNB & VRBO on March 1st and them I’m on the road. Check out my website too and let me know your thoughts. You’ve inspired me!

  • Mark Elliott

    I agree with you guys a bit smaller is the way to go since a 30-ish foot RV is big enough to be comfortable for full-timing and small enough to get into most every campsite. That said, it sure seems like 30 foot (and under) models are focused on cutting corners to keep the cost down as if shoppers looking for a more compact RV have low costs at the top of their priorities so do you know which if any RV mfrs makes the “Cadillac” of smaller class A RV’s? I really want the build quality of a 40 footer but on a 30 foot rig. Does such a thing exist?

    • We wish! We haven’t found a small class A at 30 ft that is a diesel much less has the fit and finish of the mid to upper level coaches. That’s why we are in a 33ft coach. If we ever find one, we will definitely share it with everyone!

      • Mark Elliott

        Hi again Nikki – just a quick btw, I just did another web search and found out the Tiffin Breeze Allegro comes with diesel pushers in 29 and 33 foot versions and they look pretty nice (RV Trader prices for the 28br from $150-200K for 2015). Are you guys familiar with Tiffin and if so, in your opinion are they well made with a more premium build quality? Given their premium price it seems like they ought to be. I’m a big fan of your independent voice so appreciate anything you and Jason can tell me, or maybe one of your readers might comment on this…

      • Steph

        I just discovered the Allegro Breeze, it is a diesel, 30ft, and has too much to write here. You can have it prewired for solar and already comes with LED lights, floor plan is great. More expensive but looks to be well built. Any opinions on this RV?

  • Martine Felts

    Yes, Jason and Nikki. Wish you had reviewed The Winnebago Vista 27N. Its the only one we really like, but we have never bought an Rv before so we really would like some other opinions on it.

  • Jay

    Hey Guys,

    Love your videos, they truly inspire the adventurer in all of us. Thank you for that. I was wondering what you thought of the New Winnebago Brave series?

  • Hi Jason & Nikki!

    I think you both were pretty generous with your rating system.

    Of all of those I think I like the Fleetwood Flair. I’m really not a fan of slides. I just look at them and see something that will break.

    A lot of them seemed dark to me also. I agree with Tsippi. I am digging the Winnebagos. My fave is the C View 24j That looks like a nice class C.

    What are you guys going to get?

    Thanks for the tour! Still stuck in Chicago! My dream would be to travel in my View 24j going to art shows and art fairs, painting faces and never seeing snow again.

    Heavy sigh…

  • Randy Spence

    2nded, the 27N is so good compared to the 26, I was shocked you picked that one.

    When I saw you in LA you mentioned how excited you were about the Flair and I never found it, good to see what you guys were talking about.

    I am still looking for an RV to full time for a year after first retirement, but I will have to wait for your review of the larger glamping style of RV (with the built in dishwasher plz).


  • Tsippi

    Hi Jason and Nikki. Did you consider looking at the Winnebago Vista 27N vice the 26E? Seems like the 27N would be closer in comps to the Fleetwood. Or perhaps you’ll consider doing another review of small motorhomes for buyers who are less price sensitive? Really enjoying your videos and learning a lot. Thanks for all your hard work.

    • We were trying to keep all the coaches in similar price points and size which is how we ended up on that particular Winnebago. There is a big price jump and fit and finish jump on the 26HE vs 27N and we definitely prefer the 27N.


Post a Comment