Whether you choose to drive the RV or tow it is a personal decision. I’m often asked what I recommend. It is difficult for me to recommend something because I have no idea of your lifestyle. However, I do have some guidelines that may be helpful.
If you like to meander… that is, spend a few days here, a week there, see the local sites, eat the local food—and move on to the next stop (30 or 300 miles), then I recommend a motorhome. It is the ideal vehicle for this type of travel. Plus you must drive a motorhome—especially a diesel—some specific amount each month to maintain the warranty and keep everything working. Just parking it for weeks or months will cause any vehicle to rapidly deteriorate.
If you like to get to your destination… park, and stay several weeks or months, then a towable RV (5th wheel or travel trailer) is perfect. Arrive, set it up, and it’s a great place to live with lots of storage and space. I’ve always considered a 5th wheel or travel trailer the perfect “snowbird” RV since they typically spend a few winter months in one location.
Motorhome Advantages and Disadvantages
There are two unusual advantages to having a motorhome. One, you can actually “set up”—ready to live in it—without having to go outside. This, of course, does not include actually hooking up to utilities but does apply to every boondocking site.
You can level the coach, put out the slides, fire up the TV, fix dinner, take a shower, and even go to bed for the night without stepping outside. You cannot do those things with a towable RV. This can be a significant advantage during a long and heavy downpour.
A second unusual advantage is the ability to drive away almost immediately—a factor in really bad or dangerous weather. Unhooking a motorhome and being ready to drive can actually be accomplished in about five minutes! I don’t suggest doing it that quickly under normal circumstances as you will not have time to check thoroughly on everything. However, in a real emergency, you can drive away in a hurry.
Pro’s to owning a motorhome…
- safety when driving since you sit up high and can see over normal cars and trucks
- the view out the front when parked
- full access to living area without going outside
- smoothest ride of any vehicle
Con’s to owning a motorhome…
- higher initial cost—especially diesel pushers
- lower fuel economy—the larger the unit, the lower the mpg
- requires a second vehicle (the toad) if you want to run around
Towable Advantages and Disadvantages
Many RVers in rural areas purchase a 5th wheel. They may already own a pickup that can pull some type of towable. The addition of a hitch may be all they need thereby enabling them to keep their initial purchase costs to a minimum.
Pro’s to owning a towable…
- only need to maintain one vehicle—the truck (or car with a travel trailer)
- less overall expense and tire cost
- fuel economy (mpg) better than a motorhome
- more of a “home-feeling”—bedroom at one end and kitchen/dining at the
- more overall living length—none lost with dash
- higher ceiling height allows more upper storage, ceiling fans, etc.
- easier to store for the winter (no engines to start) and can store longer
Con’s to owning a towable…
- the tow vehicle is larger and typically much harder to park in shopping
centers, downtown, etc., than a toad (typically a car)
- backing a 5th wheel or trailer may be more difficult due to blind side
- some upscale RV “resorts” only allow motorhomes—no 5th wheels or
- takes longer to unhook and hookup to get underway than a motorhome
- takes more time to level than a motorhome
- when traveling, no access to the fridge or bathroom without going outside
- the tow vehicle “ride” is usually rougher than a diesel-pusher motorhome
Money or Lifestyle
The purchase of an RV is a major expense. Simply trading the payment on an RV for the payment on a house may be just a wash when estimating your fulltiming budget. Keeping the house plus paying for the RV can be expensive. If you try “justifying” the cost of buying an RV while keeping the house, you will likely go a bit crazy. It really can’t be justified. If you keep the house, your cost of RVing will increase
significantly due to the RV payment becoming an additional, not a replacement, expense.
Your overall lifestyle will naturally change when you are in the RV regardless of whether you travel part time or full time. Another factor in your lifestyle is that in the RV, you will travel—but you did not do this while living in a house. I think of this as… “Your are at home in your RV but your RV is never at home.”
So, selecting your type of RV is a difficult but important choice. It’s fine to listen to friends and neighbors advice but always with the thought that you have to live in it, not them. Plus, the more expensive the RV will be, the more important that the choice is correct for you.