MotorHome & Travel Trailer Territory

MotorHome & Travel Trailer Territory

So, you have finally decided that the RV camping lifestyle is right for you and your family.  Now you must decide which vehicle will best fill your needs.  There are travel trailers, fifth wheel trailers, and of course, self-powered motorhomes. Determining the best fit for your family will require you to consider your budget, how you plan to camp, your party size and travel plans. Budget, both initial capital and ongoing expenses, is probably the first thing to be considered. After all, there is no point wasting time on something that is financially out of the question.  So let’s look at how these would break down. The capital cost for each, from the least to most expensive, would be travel trailer, fifth wheel trailer and then 5th wheelmotorhome.  The yearly fixed overhead would be relatively minimal for either trailer choice.

However, the motor home would have some higher ongoing costs. Insurance, for one, would be substantially higher for a motorhome than that of any trailer. This is due to it being a motorized, self-powered vehicle for use on the highways.  Maintenance would also be much higher than either trailer choice.  Regular care and at least a yearly oil change would be a minimum requirement for a motorhome. However, either trailer choice would require a tow vehicle.  If it were to be a travel trailer, a rear-wheel drive vehicle may be the minimum needed.  The fifth wheel would need a capably rated pickup truck in order to tow it.  If you do not own one now, then both capital and ongoing expenses are also applicable. So, if you own a Ford Focus, you will need to replace it or add an additional vehicle to your garage.  Either way, it’s going to cost money.  On the other hand, if you were to choose a motorhome, the Ford Focus can be towed behind for use while in camp.

IMG_1731Now we will look at the intended use.  Trailers, and especially 5th wheel units, generally have more usable room when compared to motorhomes of the same length.  This is due to a loss of living space in the motorhome measured from the front bumper to the front seats. Trailers also are capable of being located in one location indefinitely with little mechanical deterioration.  The same can probably not be said about a motorhome as it fairs better with some regular use. Motorhomes can travel and camp comfortably in freezing weather, thus extending the season.  Trailers generally do not venture out in the colder weather.  This is due to its lack of ability to keep the onboard water from freezing and the need to heat the interior from scratch each travel day.  Comfort and security are better when using the onboard rest room in a motorhome as no need to exit the unit is required. Of course there are many more considerations than I have space to mention.  But, basically they all offer stationary self-contained living quarters. The motorhome adds another dynamic dimension, living quarters while in motion. The RV purchase process can be fun, and you are only starting.  Enjoy.

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  1. Robert C Charles Parker

    Have had them all .rather have travel trailer .can use weather truck are Car .But love the 5 wheel .

  2. Risa Spencer

    I disagree. My vacation starts the second I am in the tow vehicle. alot of times even before that! it's about ENJOYING the time off, not how I drive.

  3. James Okvist

    I am an engineer and I started researching RVing several years before I retired. I thought my RVing would be limited to the see america after retirement, so I expected to sell what ever I bought after we had seen america.
    I decided to go with a smaller travel trailer. Since I had no reason to own a truck or other suitable tow vehicle I decided to buy a lightly used Ford Explorer with a V8 engine and a rear axle gear ratio's for towing. We decided that we could use this as our second car. A year before I retired I went on a week and a half long test trip. I rented a trailer and drove down to the Carolinas from New England. The first 24 hours were the travel trip from hell. We did everything wrong. After that we enjoyed the trip and decided that RVing would work for our Across America trip(s).
    That decided for me that travel trailer was not the solution for us. My reasons were:
    The explorer was marginally powerful enough and would not allow me to go bigger trailer. Note that I had little use for a bigger tow vehicle.
    The trailer was much harder to drive and back into RV spaces in parks. Since on our across America trip we would be moving a lot rater than staying in one place for longer periods of time this difficulty would be magnified.
    The storage space in a Class A RV is more conducive to more frequent travel.
    By towing a small car behind the Class A we could travel around to sight see with a easy to drive and fuel efficient car. That car was my full time drive when I was not RVing.
    We ended up buying a slightly used 32" Class A gas RV. The cost of that RV was not much more than a bigger tow vehicle and fifth wheel would have been. Maybe less.
    We did our seeing America trip. We crossed the country twice, once on the southern trip (6.5 months) and again on the northern trip (4.5 months). We have spent at least 3 days in all the lower 48 states and have visited most of the bigger National parks. We decided that we liked RVing and still have our RV. The class A decision was correct for us. We have been RVing for 6 years now going on seven. We become snowbirds in the winter, living in the south for January till the spring. We also take a one month (sort of) trip to bring the RV south in the fall.
    I think that one of the biggest factors is to determine what type of RV to buy is to determine how you expect to RV. If you own a vehicle or want to own a vehicle suitable for towing a trailer or fifth wheel that swings the needle toward trailer or fifth wheel. If you expect to camp in limited spots for longer periods of time then that would point towards trailer or fifth wheel. If you plan to move around a lot the self contained nature of a Class A may be for you.
    Note if your RV trips are shorter in nature, ex. weekends, week or two weeks, you can get away with smaller class b or class c in stead of class's or smaller travel trailers than fifth wheels. Of course there are dozens of other factors that come into play.

    Good luck with the decision.


  4. AS a retired person we have enjoyed our motor home . but we are finding the cost of maintaining it with oil changes and repairs are cutting into our savings big time. We have a Class A, diesel pusher which is great for mileage its a 2003 34ft Just fueled it up not that long ago. and with filling the fuel tank and the propane tank it was $500.00 Just for fuel. And things are starting to need replaced some parts aren't bad in price, its the Labour that hurts. We will be heading south this year with a trailer. I will miss driving my bus, that's for sure. We have thought about this for months

  5. In a trailer your vacation starts when you get there. In a Motorhome it starts when you leave.

  6. In a trailer your vacation starts when you get there. In a Motorhome it starts when you leave.