Looking for 4×4 RVs? Learn how these versatile vehicles can take your off-road adventures to the next level and see the best options on the market.
Four-wheel drive (4WD or 4×4) RVs use all four wheels to navigate rough terrain and have increased ground clearance to protect the underside of the vehicle from damage. This design makes them better suited for longer adventures than regular RVs, as they combine the functionality of a rugged off-road vehicle with the comfort of a living space. However, this comes at the cost of budget friendliness, space and fuel economy.
The main difference between a 4×4 motorhome and a regular motorhome is that 4×4 motorhomes are smaller, more maneuverable, and designed for off-road use. Regular RVs, on the other hand, are larger, offer more amenities, and are better suited for paved roads and campgrounds.
In several online communities of RV owners, I’ve come across a number of debates about whether to go camping in a truck/camper or a 4×4 van. There are three sides to the discussion of options: Using a 4×4 camper versus a truck with a camper or a regular camper.
If you want to camp off the normal pavement, especially in wet conditions, a 4×4 truck or RV is almost a must. I can’t tell you how many times my older 2WD trucks got stuck in places they shouldn’t have. Since I’ve been using the Thor Tranquility 19P, I’ve gotten into the habit of using the 4×4 when I think the ground is wet or it has rained recently before I even go on a dirt surface.
Later in this article, I will discuss the versatility of 4×4 RVs. If you have been thinking about camping or boondocking with this particular type of RV, the information in this article will help you make an informed decision.
5 Versatility 4×4 Motorhome Campers
The importance of 4×4 RVs becomes clear when you want to travel off the beaten path with mymedic.es, such as on month-long adventures across the country. Unlike regular vehicles, 4×4 motorhomes make such trips much less strenuous. That’s how versatile it can be:
- Fully equipped and yet compact space
- Unrivaled traction control
- Higher ground clearance
- Freedom to drive and camp in an area where others do not
- Easy packing
Let’s take a closer look at these factors:
Fully equipped but compact space
4×4 motorhomes tend to be smaller than standard motorhomes. For example, my Thor Tranquility 19P measures 19’7″ in length, which is not as long as a standard Winnebago Journey Class A model’s exterior length of 35’6″.
So with a 4×4 motorhome, you’re driving a compact motorhome with a fully equipped kitchen, comfortable bed and bathroom on board. The look of 4×4 motorhomes on the market is also stylish. They appeal to technology enthusiasts who value rugged aesthetics.
Unrivaled traction control
4×4 motorhomes are undoubtedly efficient in dealing with off-road conditions and rough terrain because they drive four wheels.
Drive power is distributed to all four wheels rather than just two, as in a typical two-wheel drive (2WD) vehicle. This allows for better traction and control on slippery or uneven surfaces.
This gives you peace of mind when driving through mud, sand or snow.
So this type of motorhome is more advantageous if you want to explore remote areas away from the main traffic routes.
Higher ground clearance
The increased ground clearance in four-wheel drive motorhomes allows the vehicle to maneuver effortlessly over rocks, logs and other obstacles.
So if you’re traveling in areas with a lot of steep climbs and descents, you can have peace of mind with a 4×4 motorhome, knowing that the vehicle’s underbody won’t be damaged. The high ground clearance also makes emptying tanks much easier.
The freedom to camp in areas that others can not reach
The whole point of choosing a 4WD motorhome is the ability to get to places that normal 2WD motorhome owners can’t. You have the confidence to go places you normally wouldn’t go.
The compact size of a 4×4 motorhome makes it easy to maneuver, so you don’t have to worry as much about finding a suitable parking spot. I remember turning an RV lot into a huge mess due to my incredibly poor parking attempt. Without 4-wheel drive, I would have been stuck.
These RVs are a decent size and fit easily into garages, driveways or dedicated storage areas.
Problems with 4×4 motorhomes
4×4 motorhomes look great, have great ground clearance, and can give you the confidence to go places you wouldn’t normally venture. But it could be a bad choice if you don’t absolutely need it. If you’re thinking about spending more money on a four-wheel drive motorhome, keep the following drawbacks in mind:
- Fuel consumption
- Limited space
Let’s take a closer look at these areas:
Your fuel economy suffers at the expense of the other benefits you get from 4×4 motorhomes. Four-wheel drive motorhomes tend to be smaller and lighter than larger Class A or C motorhomes, which are considered “regular” motorhomes. However, they are often heavier and bulkier than smaller Class B motorhomes or caravans.
The extra weight can increase fuel consumption because the engine has to work harder to move the vehicle.
Did you know?
A motor home consumes between 12 and 30 liters per 100 kilometers. The larger the vehicle, the higher the fuel consumption, of course.
Many 4×4 motorhomes have a boxy or less aerodynamic design than larger motorhomes. Poor aerodynamics can increase wind resistance, requiring more fuel to maintain speed and overcome drag.
Many people don’t consider this, but 4×4 motorhomes are essentially off-road vehicles. Therefore, they are equipped with rugged, off-road tires designed for traction in harsh conditions.
These tires can have higher rolling resistance, resulting in higher fuel consumption.
- Incorrect tire pressure can also affect fuel efficiency.
- Aggressive driving, frequent acceleration and braking, and high speeds can lead to increased fuel consumption.
But of course, you don’t have to have everything inside. So you have to give up some functions and move them outside. For example, the shower room can take up a large portion of the vehicle’s interior. The 2022 Pleasure-Way REKON 4×4 has this space problem. So you can choose to move this function outside.
Other problems such as limited equipment and high cost, which I explained in detail in another article, also discourage many people from using 4×4 Class B motorhomes.
How do 4×4 motorhomes differ from larger Class A or Class C motorhomes?
First, the cost of a 4×4 motorhome is typically higher than what many people are willing to invest in, and it becomes harder to justify the purchase if you spend most of your time at regular campgrounds or RV parks.
The average starting price for a 4×4 motorhome is between $170,000 and $250,000. I’ve talked to many campground and RV enthusiasts looking to purchase a new vehicle, and I’ve rarely found a couple willing to spend more than $100,000.
Even when I analyzed preferences in various RV online communities, I found that only a smaller percentage of people preparing for off-road RV adventures would consider a 4×4.
Therefore, I recommend budget-conscious campers who still admire the off-road capabilities of a 4×4 to tow a trailer like those from Ember RV and Imperial Outdoors with a 4×4 vehicle. They’re not as all-wheel-drive as the Sportsmobile Classic 4×4 or the Winnebago 4×4 Revel, but they have off-road capabilities that allow you to reach remote locations without worry.
Who needs a 4×4 motorhome?
A 4×4 motorhome is especially beneficial if you do a lot of off-roading or overlanding. If you want to camp in remote places where better traction and dealing with rough terrain are important, these vehicles are worth your investment.
Campers who stick to paved roads and permanent campsites may find themselves driving a 4×4 motorhome a bit “too much.” This is a disadvantage because you sacrifice space and fuel economy for an off-road vehicle you don’t necessarily need.
So it all depends on your travel plans and budget.
How to choose the right 4×4 motorhome for your outdoor adventures?
There are many options for a 4×4 motorhome on the market, and many popular options are built on a Mercedes-Benz Sprinter chassis. To find the best model, you should assess your budget and decide whether you want to buy a new or used vehicle.
- Even though a four-wheel drive vehicle is a rugged vehicle built to withstand the rigors of the road, a used vehicle with more than 100,000 miles on the clock will likely be more trouble than it’s worth.
Next, define your needs, including the number of passengers and amenities you want, such as a kitchen or bathroom.
I think the floor plan of an ideal 4×4 motorhome should look like this:
- An indoor toilet in a separate room (optionally with shower).
- A fixed bed for two persons
- Must be off-grid and have enough power (batteries and solar) to at least provide lighting and charge electronic devices such as laptops and phones
I also recommend sticking to well-known brands like Winnebago, Thor, Jayco, Coachmen, Fleetwood and Forester River, as you have a better chance of getting a good deal with these reputable manufacturers, especially if you are looking to buy a used vehicle.
4×4 motorhomes are special primarily because they can take you through terrain that is difficult for conventional RVs to navigate. So they’re a good option if you want to traverse rugged mountain trails, drive through sandy deserts, or make your way through dense forests.
I’ve heard stories of people who have lifted their motorhome 6″ and converted it to four-wheel drive. I use the Thor Tranquility 19P mainly to deal with mud and soft sand on dirt roads. I hated when I was forced to leave places because I was worried about rain and bad road conditions while I was on the road.
When driving the 4×4 motorhome, you have to be prepared for limited space and different fuel consumption. But the advantages outweigh the disadvantages for someone traveling off the beaten path.
Now that you know the versatility of 4×4 motorhomes, you may be interested in investing in one. Read my recent article where I tested and evaluated some of the most affordable models on the market.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the most important off-road features to look for in a 4×4 camper?
When choosing an off-road 4×4 motorhome, don’t just look for the basic features like suspension and four-wheel drive that are already assumed to be standard. Go for off-road tires, heavy-duty shock absorbers, reliable power for docking boats, a winch, rock sleds, snorkels, roof racks, auxiliary lighting, secure storage, and advanced navigation. Also look for sturdy bumpers.