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Know your jargon: Classes of Motorhomes

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If you’ve ever wanted to travel in a motorhome, or maybe even if you are already living the lifestyle, you might have heard talk of different classes of motorhomes.

These classifications often causes confusion in South Africa, since internationally (Europe vs UK vs America) the different classes have different names. In Europe they refer to the classes as “panelvan”, “semi-integral” and “integral”, while in America it’s is simply classified as Class A, B, and C. Meanwhile, in the UK you get “low-profile” and “Luton-type” classes.

Where does that leave us South Africans? Well, somewhere in between Europe and the UK…

INTEGRAL

These are the largest variants, built on a commercial truck or bus chassis which is fully integrated with the body. You cannot distinguish between the chassis cabin front and the motorhome itself. The entire width of the motorhome is the same.

Basically, an Integral motorhome looks like a public bus – long, rectangular, and flat-nosed. They typically have a very large front window, giving you a great panoramic view.

Because they are big, you can kit them with every creature comfort you desire, from multiple double beds to entertainment systems, air-conditioning, a full kitchen, a dinette, a bathroom, and more. You will also have loads of packing space. The top-of-the-range units even have storage for small cars!

Integral motorhomes are the most popular variant in the United States, where they are classified as Class A and commonly referred to as RVs − recreational vehicles.

There are some imported versions of Integral motorhomes that have ended up in SA (such as Dethleffs), but locally, the only ones ever built here were WJ Elite versions in the ’80s and ’90s.

SEMI-INTEGRAL

Most of the South African-built motorhomes are semi-integral, where the chassis and entire front cabin is made by a vehicle manufacturer, and the body by a motorhome manufacturer. In other words, you can distinguish between the front chassis cabin and the motorhome body.

Semi-integral units will usually have toilet and shower facilities, an adequate kitchen and plenty of place to sleep. Semi-integral units do not have a bed above the front cabin, but some models have couches and tables that convert into beds.

OVER-CAB

The over-cab motorhome is the same as the semi-integral units, but with a bed above the front cabin.

CAMPERVAN

The smallest class of motorhomes. Campervans are typically built on a panel van, or even a minibus. The entire body is made by the vehicle manufacturer, and conversions are made to the interior. They typically feature a raised roof to create more headspace inside.

Basic campervans provide you with a comfortable sleeping area (a fold-up or fold-out bed is a popular design), but storage space and appliances are limited owing to their size.

Common installations include a fridge/freezer, sink, porta potti and kitchen.

N.B.

It is important to note that these classifications of a motorhome are not official terms in the National Road Traffic Act (NTRA) and Regulations (NRTR), and as such does not determine the Code of licence required to legally drive motorhomes.

The NTRA (1996) defines a motorhome as “an enclosed motor vehicle which is designed or adapted solely to live in, and which is self-propelled.” After an amendment in the NRTR in 2010, the licence code required to legally drive a motor vehicle (not used for transporting goods or passengers for income) is determined by Tare, not Gross Vehicle Mass (GVM).

Since a motorhome is considered as a motor vehicle, the licence required is determined as such:

Code B: Motor vehicle with Tare which does not exceed 3 500 kg.

Code C1: Motor vehicle with Tare which exceeds 3 500 kg, but does not exceed 16 000 kg.

The above licences allow you to tow up to 750 kg only. If you want to tow anything heavier (up to a Gross Combination Mass of 3 500 kg for vehicle and trailer/caravan), you need an EB licence. And to tow any combination with a GVM between 3 500 kg and 16 000 kg you need an EC1 licence.

By Francois Huysamen

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