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7 Reasons to Avoid Towable RVs

7 Reasons to Avoid Towable RVs

Some novice and veteran RVers use towable RVs for weekend and full-time adventures. Many who use them absolutely love them. But being the most popular doesn’t make them perfect or the best choice for everyone. Today, we want to share with you seven reasons we think you might want to avoid a towable RV. Let’s get started!

What Is a Towable RV?

A towable is an RV trailer that is not motorized. Rather, it requires a separate tow vehicle, usually a truck or SUV, to pull the RV via a hitch. On the other hand, a drivable RV, often referred to as a motorhome, has an internal engine. Meaning, you can drive the RV itself without a tow vehicle.

Types of Towable RVs

Before we get to the reasons you should avoid towable RVs, let’s take a look at the various RV trailer types.

Fifth Wheel

Fifth wheel RVs are a popular choice. These are generally larger RVs that can reach 44+ feet in length. They utilize a hitch in a pickup truck’s bed, which creates a more stable towing experience. Fifth wheels provide a generous amount of storage space in outside compartments and plenty of room inside.

Newer fifth wheels also come equipped with auto-level functionality, which makes setting up a breeze. After getting as level as possible, just unhitch and press a button, and the trailer will begin to level itself. Getting at least somewhat level helps keep the leveling system from lifting your wheels off the ground.

These units are often trendy amongst those choosing to travel full time but also used for recreational camping. However, because fifth wheels hitch to a truck’s bed, many fifth wheel owners miss the bed space for storage. 

Travel Trailers

Plenty of large and small travel trailers are great for different camping styles. If you want to travel full time or make memories in a local campground on the weekends, there’s a travel trailer for you.

Travel trailers connect to your tow vehicle via a ball hitch and receiver system. The travel trailer’s size and weight will greatly determine what size vehicle will be required to efficiently and safely tow it. The correct hitch and truck for towing a travel trailer will minimize sway and prevent unsafe towing conditions. You’ll find travel trailers as small as 13 feet and as long as 40 feet.

Toy Haulers

You might have a dirt bike, golf cart, or other large toys you want to bring with you. Toy haulers are similar to a fifth wheel but have large doors on the back to store toys of various sizes. The garage portion of these RVs can be a multi-purpose space that allows users to customize the space.

Toy haulers are built on heavier frames to help them haul loads in the garage space. Due to the heavier structure and the weight of items in the garage, you’ll need a larger truck to tow these. 

Many toy haulers will require a dually truck for effective and safe towing. The largest of toy haulers can reach an impressive 48.5 feet in length!

Other Towable RVs

Not everyone that owns an RV requires a large amount of space. Some RVers only want a shelter and place to sleep. Pop-up campers, hybrids, and teardrop trailers are a few options for campers not requiring much square footage or amenities. Because each of these RVs is often lighter, they might not need a large tow vehicle.

Pop-up campers are compact campers that collapse into themselves for travel but expand vertically and horizontally when set up at the campsite. These provide the bare necessities for individuals or small families seeking adventure on the weekends. You may not have a bathroom or shower, but many campgrounds offer these facilities.

pop up campers

Hybrid campers are a mixture of travel trailers and pop-up campers. They often look like a standard travel trailer with rigid sides but have canvas pop-outs on one or more ends for extra sleeping space. This provides optimal use of the main living space without taking up room for beds.

Teardrops are among the smallest RVs you’ll see in a campground. They’re designed for one or two campers maximum and often require an outdoor kitchen for cooking and meal prep. There are even certain models intended for rugged terrain that enable campers to take their trailer to remote locations.

7 Reasons to Avoid Towable RVs

While many people love their towable RVs because they provide a comfortable home on wheels, we’ve got seven reasons they might not be for you.

1. Need an Expensive Tow Vehicle for Larger Towable RVs

It’s easy to buy a towable RV that’s too big for your tow vehicle. It’s a common mistake that many RVers make, which often requires an expensive truck upgrade to safely and legally tow. Many RVers think their tow vehicle is more capable than it is and are severely disappointed to discover it’s not after signing on the dotted line.

Depending on the size and where you plan to use your trailer, you could easily spend $50,000-$70,000+ on a truck equipped to tow your trailer. No one wants to sign more financing paperwork shortly after buying a towable RV.

2. Towing Gas Mileage Can Be Insanely Bad

Depending on the size of your tow vehicle, you might already have lower miles per gallon. Hook up a few thousand pounds of additional weight to your tow vehicle, and you’ll see the MPGs drop considerably. It’s not uncommon for larger diesel trucks to average 8-10 miles per gallon when towing larger rigs and gas counterparts to average 7-9 miles per gallon.

The costs of towing your towable RV to the campsite can quickly add up, especially if you regularly camp far away. You’ll discover there are some hidden expenses in RVing, and fuel expenses are one of them.

3. No Access to Trailer While Traveling

Your towable RV may be large enough to store all of your possessions, but you won’t have access to them while traveling. You’ll have to park your rig, go outside, and then into the RV to make use of all the fancy amenities your towable RV offers. It’s much more convenient to have access to your bathroom, kitchen, and bedroom without ever having to geet out of the vehicle.

4. Notoriously Poor Construction on Certain Brands and Models

A few brands are exceptions to the rule, but many towable RV brands and models are poorly constructed. Many RV manufacturers use the cheapest possible components and materials but put a premium price on the finished product.

You don’t have to peruse reviews or Facebook groups for long to discover that there are few happy campers when it comes to their towable RV’s initial construction. Even brand new rigs can face issues that need repair.

The Truth About Owning A Travel Trailer

5. Very Little Storage on Smaller Towable RVs

Smaller towable RVs like pop-ups or teardrop campers have very little storage space. You may get lucky with these models and have a small front storage compartment or get even luckier if it’s a pass-through storage compartment. Most of these units barely have enough storage space outside for a weekend’s worth of supplies. 

Inside storage space is also at a premium with smaller rigs. We’re not just talking about clothing items but also essentials like food and cooking supplies. Figuring out how to store the gear you’ll need often requires both trials by error and luck.

6. Difficult to Hitch/Tow/Set Up When Solo

There are several unique steps for hitching, towing, and setting up towable RVs. While a solo camper can do these things on their own, it’s not ideal. Having multiple sets of hands and eyes during each of these steps ensures a smoother process.

truck towing small travel trailer RV

We highly recommend having a partner to help during the hitching and setting up process. Lining up your truck to the small ball can be difficult and frustrating when solo.

Many trucks have cameras to assist, but it’s much easier with a partner. Being able to divvy up responsibilities during setup makes camping much more enjoyable. Forgetting steps during this process can ruin a weekend of adventuring.

7.  Learning Curve of Towing and Backing Up

Towing and backing up a towable RV doesn’t feel natural. Everything you’ve learned about driving and backing up goes out the window when you hook a trailer to your vehicle. Your instincts tell you to turn in one direction, but the RV will turn in the opposite. It might feel like you can only learn to back up an RV through trial and error.

Towing an RV requires being aware of many potential hazards. How your trailer responds when turning, whether sharp or not, is entirely different from piloting a drivable RV. For some people, the fear of towing or backing up pushes them to select a drivable RV.

Tip: Check out How To Tow An RV: The Beginner’s Guide if a towable RV still sounds right for you!

Towable RVs Aren’t for Everyone

Don’t get us wrong; we love towable RVs and think they’re great for adventuring and traveling the country. But we know they’re not for everyone, and we want you to be aware of the most significant downsides. Overall, we hope our list helps you consider the whole world of towable RVs before making a big purchase.

Do you have a reason to avoid towable RVs that we didn’t mention? Let us know in the comments.

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Brian Vaughan

Monday 24th of January 2022

Wow! What a bunch of whiny reasons ! And all so obvious.

Tom Halligan

Monday 3rd of January 2022

As the owner of a 5th wheel toy hauler I must say that I would not own a drivable RV. One key limitation is the lack of a vehicle to go off and explore once the RV is set up. Yes, one can tow a vehicle but you are then effectively no different than pulling a trailer. Plus some car towing setups don’t allow for backing up without first disconnecting the towed vehicle. Lastly. We are also able to carry 2 motorcycles, bicycles and a 2 person kayak for additional fun. Not sure of many drivable RV”s that can do this

Scott

Monday 3rd of January 2022

None of these are exclusive to towables. Unless you're getting in to million dollar or better class A RVs, you're going to have build quality concerns with them as well. Fuel economy is a moot point as most Class A RVs get worse or similar economy to a comparable towable and diesel pickup. Let's not get in to class C, because economy there compared to a towable and diesel pickup of similar caliber will almost always be worse.

Access to the coach while traveling is about the only benefit to a motor coach, and it's a redundant one for most since most people make multiple stops per day.

Let's not forget the downside to getting a motor coach serviced mechanically. The coach end will have to be done by an RV service facility while most RV service facilities won't touch the drivetrain end, and most automotive shops don't have the capacity to do it either.

There's also the additional initial investment for a motor coach, which will generally outweigh any small benefit you do gain... With one exception. If you're a full timer and prefer to have a small vehicle that your motor coach will pull, while also having expendable funds to go high end, a motor coach could be the correct choice for you.

My experience: RVIA Certified Technician 10+ years. Additionally three years as a top performing Winnebago salesman, and the last two years as a service advisor.

Joseph Donnaway

Wednesday 1st of December 2021

Somewhat overly dramatic. None of those are good reasons to avoid a towable, in fact several (like fuel economy) apply to any RV. They are simply factors to consider. After> 90K miles in 10 years towing our 23’ Airstream, much of that boondocking, we wanted a larger space, considered all varieties of RV, and bought a 28’ Airstream. First boondocking trip, after 2400 miles from FL, was into Valley of The Gods in Utah. To each his own. Safe travels.

Loved your North series!

Mortons on the Move

Sunday 12th of December 2021

Thanks for the feedback. Glad to hear you loved Go North! :)

Michael Carstensen

Friday 14th of May 2021

There are also a lot of benefits to a towable RV. In our case, we have had a travel trailer (30.ft), a motor home (26 ft), and a fifth wheel (42 ft). We no live and travel full time in our fifth wheel and pull it with a dually diesel pickup.

The key to getting the right RV is doing enough research on the front end before you buy. Another factor is being able to limit what you take with you. For full timers, that means serious downsizing and having the self discipline to not fill up your RV with too much that you overload your vehicles legal weight limits.

sue

Tuesday 30th of November 2021

We have a 5th wheel (42') and are considering a Class A. What are the pros and cons of an A vs a 5th wheel? Thanks.

Lee Hansen

Saturday 30th of October 2021

When backing up ANY trailer you turn the BOTTOM of the steering wheel into the direction you want the trailer to turn.

Mortons on the Move

Friday 14th of May 2021

You are so right! Weight limitations are such a huge factor too. I don't think many people know how much stuff weighs.

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