Electrical General Mechanical Purchase

Truck versus RV

What makes your vehicle qualify as an RV

Making your vehicle into an RV is not just about what you call it. The vehicle’s title category at you department of motor vehicles has implications on your insurance costs and your yearly registration fees.

Modifications to become an RV

Each state will have specifics about what you need to have in your vehicle to qualify as a recreational vehicle for your department of motor vehicle registration. Some of the common elements that you will need to qualify include the items listed here. Not all items are required, many states require a majority of these items, but could be missing one or two and still qualify.

Virginia4 of 6 items
  • Rear cabin heat and air conditioning separate from passenger compartment
  • Rear cabin AC power separate from passenger compartment
  • Plumbing with water supply, sink, and faucet
  • Installed cooking with separate fuel source
  • Installed toilet with waste handling system
  • Installed refrigeration unit

“Motor home” means a motorized recreational vehicle designed to provide temporary living quarters for recreational, camping, or travel use that contains at least four of the following permanently installed independent life support systems that meet the National Fire Protection Association standards for recreational vehicles: (i) a cooking facility with an onboard fuel source; (ii) a potable water supply system that includes at least a sink, a faucet, and a water tank with an exterior service supply connection; (iii) a toilet with exterior evacuation; (iv) a gas or electric refrigerator; (v) a heating or air conditioning system with an onboard power or fuel source separate from the vehicle engine; or (vi) a 110-125 volt electric power supply.

Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles: Motor Home Definition


When you first purchase your ambulance, you will need to title it as required by your state. You will likely not have time to make the modifications to qualify as an RV before your requirement to title it in your state after purchase. This means that you will be titling it as an automobile, light truck, or heavy truck depending upon the chassis style of the vehicle.

I purchased an F-650 with an 8 liter Catepillar diesel engine. This vehicle was under 26,000 gross vehicle pounds, but required me to register it as a truck. As discussed below, this had implications on my vehicle insurance purchase.


An ambulance will qualify for a title as an automobile if you have van style chassis. Larger ambulances, such as those based upon pickup truck chassis or midsized truck chassis, will often require titling as a truck. You personal auto insurance policy may not allow you to have vehicle of this size under your policy. My insurance company would not allow the F-650 to be on my auto policy; I had to purchase a separate commercial policy to insure it, even though I am not using it as a commercial vehicle. If the vehicle is an RV, then I can have it under my personal auto insurance policy. The cost is about three times higher to have it as a commercial vehicle. That’s my incentive to get the modifications done to qualify as an RV and get the title changed!

Side view of F-650 ambulance

Incentive to Convert

The issues around titling and vehicle insurance may be strong incentive for you to get the modifications done. As a do-it-yourself-er, it may take some time to get all the mods done and convert the vehicle title from a truck to a recreational vehicle. Expect that you will need to budget some money for this process during the first year of owning the vehicle.

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