We absolutely 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 travel trailer can be a great option. Travel trailers are an awesome way to dip your toe into the RV world with slightly less commitment. Plus, they come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and qualities to meet any travel need or budget.
Travel trailers are the most common type of RV on the road and one you should definitely know about. So keep reading to become a travel trailer guru and decide if this is the perfect RV for you!
What Is a Travel Trailer?
A travel trailer is a type of RV that you can tow behind your everyday vehicle. Depending on the size of the trailer, you may haul a travel trailer with an SUV or you might need a truck. 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!
Travel Trailer Details
Travel trailers are extremely versatile. They range anywhere from 10 to over 30 feet long and sleep between 1 and 10 people (although, 10 would be a super tight squeeze and not something we would really recommend). These specs mean you can find a travel trailer to fit the needs of any individual, couple, or family!
Some travel trailers don’t have any slide outs. However, most will have at least 1-2 slides. The more slides your travel trailer has, the larger your living area will be.
Small travel trailers weigh as little as 1,200 pounds, meaning you can tow them with a wide range of vehicles. Larger travel trailers usually weigh around 6,700 pounds but could be up to 12,000 pounds or more.
Even on the large end, a travel trailer typically weighs much less than a fifth-wheel RV. This makes them a more popular choice for people who don’t want to spend tens of thousands of dollars on a large diesel truck.
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.
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.
The fundamental difference is the hitching mechanism. A fifth wheel uses jaws and a kingpin in the truck’s bed to hook up. A travel trailer attaches to your tow vehicle’s hitch at the back.
Another difference is the 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. Additionally, a fifth wheel has an upstairs bedroom or living area, whereas a travel trailer is just one level.
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, where the fifth wheel is much easier to hook up and will be a better more stable towing experience.
One of the largest benefits of the travel trailer over the fifth wheel is the ability to use the full bed of the truck for other purposes as it is not taken up by a hitch. Not to mention, many travel trailers can be towed with an SUV or even a car, but a fifth wheel always requires a truck.
Features and Amenities in Travel Trailers
Travel trailers have a lower price tag than many other RVs on the market. But that doesn’t mean they don’t still pack a lot of amenities into their small space. In fact, they are the most popular type of RV because they have so much to offer.
Travel trailers usually include a residential-style kitchen with amenities like a refrigerator, stovetop, oven, and so on. They also have a full-sized bathroom (some even have more than one, which is great for families when one kid “just can’t wait!”). Your travel trailer can also include at least one separate bedroom, giving you more privacy on the road. And if you have a big family, you can find travel trailers that have a separate bunk room for the kids.
Then, at the end of a long day, you can relax in the living room, which will typically come equipped with an entertainment system. Travel trailers also feature smart interior storage options. And they even come with classy-looking interior designs, so you’ll hardly notice you’re in a trailer!
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.
They also come in a wide range of lengths and sizes. If you already have a truck or an SUV, you can likely find a travel trailer you’ll be able to tow with your current vehicle. Because they tow from the back of the vehicle, travel trailers allow you to utilize the full space of the truck or SUV for passengers, storage, or even additional toys, like ATVs or motorcycles.
Travel trailers are all about variety, and the floor plan variety is no different. There are lots of options to choose from. And as we mentioned before, a floor plan with a bunkhouse is excellent for families with kids.
Another bonus of travel trailers is that 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.
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. One major downfall of the travel trailer is the towing experience. It is much less stable than towing a fifth wheel. This is because the connection point is so far behind the rear axle.
An uncontrollable sway is possible if proper sway control and weight distribution hitches are not used or if they are hooked up wrong. Because many require a weight-distribution hitch, bumps in the road can be much more noticeable with a travel trailer.
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.
Lastly, it is very important to properly load a travel trailer with enough weight towards the front. If they are improperly loaded, loss of control is much more possible.
Another disadvantage is that travel trailers have less storage space than most other RVs. While many RVs have an abundance of outdoor storage space underneath, the travel trailer does not. That means if you want to bring something on your trip, it needs to fit inside your rig or in your tow vehicle.
Along with storage, most travel trailers have lower weight carrying capacities, meaning you cannot bring along as much stuff. This is because most travel trailers are built to be budget RVs with lighter componentry. However, higher-end models may still have ample weight capacities.
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.
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.
For families with kids, a travel trailer with a bunkhouse makes camping much easier. You have your own bedroom, the kids can have theirs, and you can all stay out of each other’s hair a bit more.
Travel trailers are usually the most cost-effective and versatile RVs on the road, but they have their drawbacks. If choosing a travel trailer, be sure to learn how weight distribution and sway control hitches work. Also, know your weight limitations on both your vehicle and trailer, as these are the biggest safety issues.
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.
A travel trailer might make the most sense if you’re trying to maximize your space within a budget, or if you want to have cargo or passengers in the tow vehicle. They are also great for families, first-time RV owners, or part-time RVers, which is why they remain the most common RV on the road.
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