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Why I Chose an RV Travel Trailer Over a Motorhome

August 13, 2019
RV Travel Trailer Setup KOA

When it comes to choosing a Travel Trailer or a Motorhome, there are a lot of factors to consider. There are countless posts like this on the web, so I am going to do my best to explain why I chose a travel trailer over a motorhome. Keep in mind that this is an opinion piece and some of my justifications may not make sense to you. I read a lot of posts arguing for one side or the other and came to the conclusion that it is best to hear what others have to say even if their situations are different. So with that out of the way, lets get into Why I Chose an RV Travel Trailer Over a Motorhome.

Travel Trailers are Cheaper

I’ll be totally honest here, cost was the number one factor in deciding to go with a travel trailer over a motorhome. Being that this was our first time owning a recreational vehicle such as this, we didn’t want to jump in over our heads. I grew up spending time in motorhomes, driving them, and towing other vehicles behind them, so I was not a total newbie. We just didn’t want our first experience doing this on our own to cost us a small fortune.

At the time we made the purchase, we were not sure how often we would be able to take it out. The idea of traveling full-time for two months was not even on the radar yet. Knowing myself and my family well enough, there was a chance that we would make this large purchase and not use it often enough to warrant owning it. I didn’t want to regret my purchase.

I didn’t want to finance anything. If we had decided on a larger trailer such as a fifth wheel or went with a motorhome, financing would have been required to afford it. Interest rates on trailers are not the lowest and qualifying for a large purchase such as a motorhome is more difficult when you are self-employed like I am.

The reason I am telling you all of this is to help you get in the right mindset for making a large purchase like this. Besides the purchase itself, there are other costs associated with RV ownership. Depending on your income you could end up overextending yourself to the point where you can’t afford to take enough time off to really enjoy your RV. That would be a tragedy and it’s a trap that is all to easy to fall into.

Trailer Tires & Wheels
Largest maintenance costs of an RV Travel Trailer are your tires and wheel bearings.

Maintenance Costs

There are a lot of maintenance costs associated with keeping a house on wheels safely rolling down the road. There is a pretty simple rule to follow here. The more moving parts, the more costly maintenance will be. An RV Travel Trailer doesn’t have a motor, drivetrain, or much electronics on board.

Your main maintenance on a travel trailer will be your tires and wheel bearings. Wheel bearings should be replaced every 10,000 miles and tires replaced every 3-5 years or when they have reached their rated lifespan in mileage. Other maintenance costs are relatively inexpensive such as treatments for your onboard storage tanks and refilling your propane tanks.

Many will argue that you still have maintenance costs associated with using a tow vehicle and this is true. You will have to also properly maintain your tow vehicle. If we had chosen a motorhome, we would have to maintain that and a smaller vehicle that we would tow behind our motorhome. If you don’t bring a secondary vehicle, you will have to take your motorhome everywhere which means packing up each time you want to go into town to buy groceries or explore a nearby area. Even towing a vehicle behind a motorhome puts wear and tear on that vehicle resulting in a decreased lifespan of your secondary vehicle.

Large Bunk Beds
Large Bunk Beds make it possible to fit more family!

More Living Space, Less Parking Space

We like camping in State and National Parks. Most of these facilities have smaller campsites that will not accommodate large motorhomes. Our Forest River Salem Cruise Lite 28′ travel trailer fits just about anywhere. We have not yet had a situation where we wanted to stay somewhere but could not fit due to the size of our rig. A motorhome with as much living space would require a larger site than our travel trailer and that would limit where we would be able to stay.

As a family of six, we need space. Though a fifth wheel trailer would have provided a lot more space, we went with a tow behind travel trailer because we did not have a truck with the pulling capacity to tow a fifth wheel. Purchasing a fifth wheel meant also purchasing a new truck.

Our travel trailer can comfortably sleep six and even more if the kids were to pair up. The bunk beds provide our kids a lot of sleeping space that they wouldn’t get in a motorhome of comparable size.

Flexibility When Traveling

When we camp, we spend the majority of our time exploring the area. Often that means driving somewhere outside of our camp area. If we had a motorhome, we would have to tow a secondary vehicle behind it. Since we are a family of six, that would have to be a decent sized vehicle as well. You can’t pull a medium/large sport utility vehicle behind a small motorhome.

While we were on our trip this summer we were camped next to a family who’s motorhome was their only method of transportation. Each day they would pack up their motorhome and head out exploring. That seems like quite an inconvenience to me. It wouldn’t be the end of the world, but it would be annoying to have to pack up just to leave for a few hours.

I am envious of motorhome owners when it comes to traveling to and from campsites. The law still allows people to move about the motorhome while on the road whereas, in a truck or SUV, you have to be in your seat with the seatbelt fastened. This is rough on kids which also makes it rough on parents. This would be my main consideration for owning a motorhome over a travel trailer.

We don’t really have any plans to travel long distance, so we prefer the flexibility of using our tow vehicle disconnected from our trailer when camped.

It’s Easier to Store a Travel Trailer

You can easily park a travel trailer and just leave it be. Simply make sure you have prepared it for whatever kind of climate it will have to endure, and that’s it. I will share my RV Travel Trailer storage checklist in a later post. A motorhome will need to be started from time to time and even driven. It is a motor vehicle. If it sits for too long, it simply won’t work when you need it next.

RV Travel Trailer & Ford Excursion V10 Tow Vehicle
RV Travel Trailer & Ford Excursion V10 Tow Vehicle

Other Deciding Factors on Choosing a Travel Trailer

I could spend a lot of time rationalizing each reason, but I think you get the point of my article. An RV Travel Trailer is much better for shorter distance travel where you prefer the flexibility of being able to use your tow vehicle while leaving your camp completely set up.

While upfront and maintenance costs were a major consideration for us, so was fuel economy. We currently use a 2000 Ford Excursion V10 as our tow vehicle, which pulls our trailer really well but is not very fuel-efficient. It does however become much more fuel-efficient when it is not pulling the trailer. Most larger gas-powered motorhomes are going to be powered by the same or equivalent engine and will also get poor gas mileage. Tow a vehicle behind that motorhome, and it will just get worse.

I will probably write more on this topic later, but I am interested in hearing your opinion on choosing an RV Travel Trailer over a Motorhome, or the other way around. Share your thoughts and opinion with me in the comment section below.