Typical amenities of an RV include a kitchen, a bathroom, and one or more sleeping facilities. RVs can range from the utilitarian — containing only sleeping quarters and basic cooking facilities — to the luxurious, with features like air conditioning (AC), water heaters, televisions and satellite receptors, and quartz countertops, for example.
RVs can either be trailers (which are towed behind motor vehicles) or self-motorized. Most RVs are single-deck; however, double-deck RVs also exist. To allow a more compact size while in transit, larger RVs often have expandable sides or canopies.
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An early type of caravan is the horse-drawn covered wagon, which from circa 1745 played a significant part in opening up of the interior of the North American continent to white settlement. By the 1920s the RV was well established in the United States, with RV camping clubs established across the country, despite the unpaved roads and limited camping facilities. Several companies began manufacturing house trailers (called trailer coaches at the time). Airstream is one such company. Until the 1950s, the RV industry was closely connected to the mobile home industry, because most mobile homes were shorter than 9 metres (30 ft) long, and thus easily transportable. During the 1950s, the RV and mobile home industries became separated, and RV manufacturers began building self-contained motorhomes.
In Europe, wagons built for accommodation (rather than just transporting people or goods) were developed in France around 1810. They were used in Britain by showmen and circus performers from the 1820s. Romani people only began living in caravans (vardos) circa 1850.
In Canada, the earliest motorhomes were built on car or truck bodies from about 1910.
Although the most common usage of RVs is as temporary accommodation when travelling, some people use an RV as their main residence, which is referred to as fulltiming.
In the United States and Canada, travelling south each winter to a warmer climate is referred to as snowbirding. In Australia, the slang term for a retired person who travels in a recreational vehicle is a "grey nomad".
Regional language variations
British English: The term "recreational vehicle" often refers to a sport utility vehicle (SUV or 4×4), dune buggy, All-terrain vehicle (ATV), or indeed any vehicle that is used for recreation. British English speakers would use more precise terminology such as camper van, motorhome, caravan, or similar.
As of 2016, the average age of a person owning a recreational vehicle in the United States was 45, with a three year decrease since 2015.
A large number of terms are used when describing aspects of recreational vehicle usage. Some of these are self-explanatory while others may be unfamiliar to many readers.
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