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What You Need to Know About Travel Trailers

We love traveling in our fifth-wheel full-time, but if you’re in the market for something a little smaller or if weekend adventures are your jam, a big fifth-wheel might not be necessary. Instead, a travel trailer is a great option for comfortable camping. Plus, they come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and qualities to meet any travel need or budget. 

Today, we’re taking a closer look at everything you need to know about these unique campers before you dive into the travel trailer life. Let’s dive in!

The Truth About Owning A Travel Trailer

What Is a Travel Trailer?

A travel trailer is a type of RV that you can tow behind your everyday vehicle. Some people call a travel trailer a “bumper-pull.” But don’t worry, modern travel trailers hook up to your tow vehicle’s hitch, not the bumper itself like they used to.

Depending on the size of the trailer, you may be able to tow a travel trailer with an SUV. Others may require a truck for towing. Small travel trailers weigh as little as 1,200 pounds and larger travel trailers usually weigh around 6,700 pounds but could be up to 12,000 pounds or more. 

Tom from Mortons on the Move by travel trailer
Camp in style in a travel trailer.

Travel trailers can range anywhere from 10 to over 30 feet long and sleep between 1 and 10 people. Some travel trailers don’t have any slide-outs. However, most will have at least one or two slides for a larger living space.

If you’re in the market for a brand spanking new travel trailer, you can expect to pay between $11,000 and $55,000. If you want a more upgraded interior, a larger space, more slides, and so on, you may see that price climb a little higher.

Can You Live Permanently in a Travel Trailer?

Travel trailers used to have a reputation for being a more temporary RV option for weekend or short adventures. However, in recent years, travel trailers have gotten a significant upgrade. Many models come with spacious interiors, with beds, dinettes, full bathrooms, and more. There are also many four-season travel trailers so you can comfortably use your travel trailer in any weather. Not all travel trailers are meant for permanent living. However, if you purchase wisely, there are plenty of models for permanently living in a travel trailer.

Pro Tip: Ready to find your perfect travel trailer? Check out these 9 Unique Travel Trailers That Will Catch Your Eye.

Travel Trailers vs Fifth Wheels

If you’re new to RVing, you might wonder what the difference is between a travel trailer and a fifth wheel. After all, aren’t they both towable RVs? Well, yes, they are, but there are some key differences.

Travel trailers
Travel trailers come in all different shapes and sizes.

The fundamental difference is the hitching mechanism. A fifth wheel uses jaws and a kingpin in the truck’s bed to hitch to the fifth wheel. A travel trailer attaches to your tow vehicle’s hitch at the back.

However, there are a few other differences between a travel trailer and a fifth wheel such as:

  • Length – Although you can buy travel trailers up to 40 feet long, they are less common. Usually, travel trailers are shorter and lighter than fifth wheels. 
  • Height Clearance – Compared to a fifth wheel, travel trailers are usually much shorter, so overhead clearance is not as big of an issue. However, they usually require sway control and weight distribution hitches that fifth-wheels do not.
  • Weight – Even on the large end, a travel trailer typically weighs much less than a fifth-wheel RV
  • Towability – Travel trailers do not use the full truck bed like fifth-wheels do, since it is not taken up by a hitch. Depending on size, they can also be towed with SUVs, whereas a fifth wheel always requires a truck. 

Considering these differences can help to decide if a travel trailer is the right option for you.

Pro Tip: Looking for a smaller travel trailer? Learn more about Sunray Campers: Tiny Travel Trailers for Big Adventures.

Advantages of Travel Trailers

Travel trailers have a lot of key advantages that make them such a popular choice. First, even newer units come with a much lower price tag than other types of RVs. This makes them a more affordable option. There are also many sizes of travel trailers to fit your needs and make towing easier. 

Travel trailers are all about variety, and the floor plan variety is no different. There are lots of options to choose from. Plus, you can find models customized for off-road travel. They come with independent suspension, beefy tires, and solar capabilities so you can take these bad boys anywhere.

Travel trailer with slides out
Some travel trailers have slides to provide extra space inside.

Finally, with any trailer, having your home and your vehicle engine separate is convenient when your vehicle needs work. Even if you have to drop your truck off at the shop, you won’t be stuck without anywhere to stay when you have a travel trailer.

Disadvantages of Travel Trailers

Although there are plenty of benefits to having a travel trailer, there are a few downsides, as well that you will want to consider before buying one. Some cons to travel trailers include:

  • Towing sway – Because the connection point for a travel trailer is so far behind the rear axle, the travel trailer can sway while being towed. Bumps in the road can be much more noticeable with a travel trailer.
  • Harder to steer – Without a weight-distribution hitch to act as a spring between the vehicle and trailer, the tongue weight of the trailer will lift weight off the front steering tires of the tow vehicle. This makes steering light and very squirrely, which is not ideal. 
  • Less storage space – While many RVs have an abundance of outdoor storage space underneath, travel trailers do not. That means if you want to bring something on your trip, it needs to fit inside your rig or in your tow vehicle.
Travel trailer outdoor kitchen
Minimal storage space means you will have to get creative while camping in a travel trailer.
  • Lower weight carrying capacity – Most travel trailers have lower weight carrying capacities, meaning you cannot bring along as much stuff. Higher-end models may still have ample weight capacities, but you will likely need to downsize your personal belongings when using a travel trailer.
  • Minimal amenities – Travel trailers also have fewer amenities than larger RVs, mainly due to their cheaper cost and weight restrictions. And even though they have high sleeping capacities, you cannot legally have passengers riding in a travel trailer. This limits you somewhat and may complicate the logistics of large family camping trips.

No one RV will ever be perfect. So long as you know the good and bad parts of using a travel trailer to go camping, you can make a more informed decision if one is right for you.

Pro Tip: Don’t break the bank buying a new RV. We found the Cheapest Travel Trailers On the Market Today.

Is a Travel Trailer Right for You?

A travel trailer is a wonderful choice for people looking for a lower cost RV. They are one of the most affordable types of RV on the market. But they still offer a lot of amenities, floor plans, and sizes to choose from. A travel trailer could also be good if you don’t want to purchase a new tow vehicle to pull something larger like a fifth wheel.

Motorhome, Fifth Wheel or Travel Trailer For Full Time RV Life

However, there still are some drawbacks to travel trailers. You will need to learn how weight distribution and sway control hitches work. Plus, for your safety, you will need to know the weight limitations on both your vehicle and trailer. If they don’t align, you may need to get a new towing vehicle. 

The challenge with picking an RV is that each one will have its pros and cons, and unfortunately, there is no perfect RV out there. Selecting the RV that works best for your current travel and lifestyle needs is the best you can do.

Do you think a travel trailer is the right RV for you? Tell us your thoughts in the comments!

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About Tom and Caitlin Morton

Tom & Caitlin Morton of Mortons on the Move gave up the stationary life for one where they are constantly on the move. They are full-time travelers, television hosts, and digital media producers.
They left their jobs, sold their house and possessions, and hit the road in September 2015 in their full-time “home on wheels”. Since then they have traveled the US, Canada, and even internationally by RV.
Now, they are Discovery Channel & PBS TV Co-stars of “Go North” on Amazon Prime Video, co-founders and instructors of RV Masterclass, and contributing authors for Hwy.co and an Arizona travel guide.

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Tom Brian

Wednesday 29th of December 2021

It's crucial to know how wide an RV is. Verifying the width of a camping vehicle allows you to estimate the amount of space it takes up, which can help you avoid mishaps.

Kipp Hoffman

Thursday 21st of January 2021

I am living full time in a 32 ft. travel trailer. It has a thirty amp system. Is it okay to leave it hooked up to the 50 amp breaker?

Mortons on the Move

Thursday 21st of January 2021

Yes you can hook it to the 50 amp breaker but there is one vulnerability that I explain in this article. https://www.mortonsonthemove.com/can-you-hook-a-30-amp-rv-to-50-amp-power/

Beth Phelps-Hodges

Thursday 14th of January 2021

Our first camper was a 2016 Winnebago Minnie travel trailer! My husband and I both loved it, but when we decided we would eventually go full-time, we bought a 2018 Grand Design Solitude 5th wheel. I decorated the travel trailer and 5th wheel to make it ours. Can't wait to get on the road in our 5th wheel!!

John

Wednesday 13th of January 2021

Nice article. My toy hauler is tall and winds can definitely cause problems. My sway bar hitch has helped a lot.

Mortons on the Move

Wednesday 13th of January 2021

Thank you. The right hitch makes all the difference!