What’s the difference between a vintage trailer, vintage camper, vintage motorhome and a vintage RV?

A Vintage Camper

These terms can be confusing when people get started in the hobby because they can overlap and are often misunderstood. Let’s try to define these and clarify.

Let’s start with what is vintage? Our club defines vintage very specifically as Trailers/Motor-homes built from 1946-1969 are to be considered “VINTAGE”

Our complete classifications of Antique, Vintage, Classic and New can be found here

Now let’s define the differences between a trailer, camper, motorhome and RV.

A Vintage Camper

An RV or camper are generic terms:

  • Camper – Also called pickup camper, truck camper. a truck like vehicle, van, or trailer that is fitted or suitable for recreational camping, or a pickup truck on which a structure fitted for camping is mounted. The term “camper” typically refer to trailers that are towed by trucks, or ride on the back of trucks.
  • RV – When people refer to RVs (Recreational Vehicles), they usually mean either a motor vehicle or trailer equipped with some of the amenities of home.
A Vintage Trailer
A Vintage Motorhome

Trailer and Motorhome are more specific terms:

  • Trailer – A trailer is a house on wheels that can be moved by pulling it.
  • Motorhome – A motorhome (or motor coach) is a type of self-propelled recreational vehicle (RV) which offers living accommodation combined with a vehicle engine.


  1. I have done allot of research on early Motorhomes. They are often referred to as House Cars in the 1920’s. Just some fun Historical facts. Popular Mechanics had articles on how to build them. I am fascinated by the evolution of this industry

  2. If “vintage” is defined as stRting in 1946, what do we call earlier Trailers?

  3. One cautionary note. A few years ago one of our favorite (but non TCT) vintage trailer rallies got a new host.

    While you always should check the model years allowed for later campers or modern retro campers that are allowed by each rally you’d think the term “vintage trailer rally” would also welcome vintage RVs and vintage truck campers This one always had

    But this new host took the term “vintage TRAILER rally” very literally. She turned away modern retro Trailers like the Shasta. And she turned away vintage truck campers like an Avion which had attended (from 450 miles away in Canada!) for years. She turned away two vintage RVs. She would have turned away the ultra nice 1965 Chinook motorhome that had been Peoples Choice the prior year but it towed a small vintage Bell trailer so was allowed in as a tow vehicle

    Several wanna be campers were surprised and not happy. There is a new host now

    But, it pays to check the rules and interpretations of the rally host ahead of time

  4. The Tin Can Tourists has adopted classification definitions created by Tim Heintz and used by other trailer clubs. The club will use this terminology if a rally/event has certain age requirements. This happens at some events that we are invited to as a special interest display. We may also using this as categories in rally awards, but the club is beginning to phase out judged awards.

    Membership in the Tin Can Tourists is open to all. We do not restrict membership by the classifications below. We have many new “retro” inspired trailers in the club and at our rallies. We are the most open and diverse vintage trailer club in world. Where other clubs restrict membership by brand, trailer age or the owners gender – the Tin Can Tourists is open to everyone that loves vintage trailers and motorhomes.

  5. I’m still somewhat confused. You define a trailer as a house on wheels that can be moved by puling it, yet you have a caption of Vintage Trailer under the picture of a what seems to fall under your definition of camper since it appears to be small and just for camping. Possibly one of the Spartan models could be called a trailer, under your definition, as they often cross the lines of being used as a home and being used for camping, but not the smaller ones being considered as homes. Other than during the depression, until the Tiny House craze, no one would have thought of living in the small “campers.” Finally to be contrary, having worked in the mobile home industry for some years, we would have shuddered at the thought of someone calling a house on wheels a trailer. Trailers were either travel trailers (used for traveling and camping) or cargo trailers.

  6. Hi Molly – when we say “house on wheels” we are referring to the fact that they have the same types of accommodations – storage, kitchen, beds, sometimes bathroom, etc. we aren’t talking about a mobile home or a tiny home. Trailers come in all sizes – even a teardrop is a trailer. What many consider park models today were really meant to be trailers back in the day. There is no perfect example of a trailer, it really is a general term! Thanks for the comments.

  7. I’m wondering why the “vintage” term is limited to these years only. As time passes, shouldn’t the vintage term be added to also. I have a “73” …which is 45 years old. Is 50 years old the magic number?

  8. I saw an interesting vintage motorhome in Penryn, CA recently. It was a fairly large, aluminum shell motorhome whose front end and cab was made to look like a clown’s head. It was just moved (sold??) somewhere and I’m trying to track it down.

    Has anyone here ever heard of such a vehicle or know anything about it??

  9. I love vintage campers! Thank you for the information. Now I have a question. Campsites are starting to restrict older campers. The limit is anything over 5 years. So now boon docking has become more popular.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *