Towables: Should you go cheap and cheerful when buying an RV?

We have owned three motorhomes; two class A motorhomes and 2 Super C diesels.  However, now we are actually contemplating a towable.  Here are some of the reasons:

PROS

  • No complex motor vehicle collecting dust and rust in an RV storage facility
  • Relatively simple to operate
  • Not a psychological killer when it stays in a repair shop for a month
  • Significantly lower cost of ownership, including insurance, maintenance and depreciation (they still depreciate, but on a smaller % of cost)
  • You can easily drop and go.
  • A relatively good brand new towable like the Cherokee Arctic Wolf 28 footer can be had for a little over $20,000. (This is not a recommendation that you buy this towable, it is just an illustration.)

In general, towables are “Cheap and Cheerful”.  What’s not to like?  Actually, there are some significant trade offs in owning a towable.

Cons

  • Cheap and cheerful means it doesn’t cost much and it’s not worth much on resale.  They are a dime a dozen.
  • Backing up for many can be a nightmare. Even though some people get very good at it, it’s counter intuitive as to which way you have to turn your tow vehicle’s steering wheel in order to get the back end of the trailer to go where you want it to go.  The longer the trailer, the more unwieldy they become. Thank God, new tow vehicles like the Ford Expedition are coming out with a dashboard dial that allows you to back the trailer exactly where you want while never touching the steering wheel. Great invention! It can save you time and embarrassment. Hopefully. this back up steering mechanism will show up in other less expensive tow vehicles. A new expedition is on the up side of $65,000.
  • Significant blind spots when passing others or backing up.  Never buy a towable without adding a relatively inexpensive back up camera to the back of the towable.  This allows backups to be much less embarrassing and lets you know when you can pull back into your lane after passing another vehicle.
  • No pee pee platz. (German for place)  When we lived in Germany for several years we used to joke about where the nearest restroom was. Our German was poor at best, but when we asked “Wo ist der pee platz?” most Germans knew what we meant.  Many women and men as they get into their later years (a majority of RVers are over 50) often need to go frequently and on a road trip you don’t want to wait to long to find a pee pee platz. In Class A and C motorhomes and some B motorhomes, the passenger can just get up, wind their way to the back and go.  In a trailer or a 5th Wheel, you have to pull over on the side of the road and stop,  let the passenger walk back to the trailer, open the door and then wind their way to the trailer’s bathroom if they can.  Getting to the privy in some trailers with their slides retracted would be a challenge even for Mary Lou Retton.
  • Outside set up in bad weather. When we had our motorhomes we would often pull into our site in the rain, have martinis in hand and smugly watch the towable owner outside their camper unhooking, leveling jacks using a drill (hopefully charged) to spin them down, and hooking up to the external power source before they could even contemplate relaxing with their favorite beverage. We were already on our second.
  • Anti sway hitch.  Many towables need to have an equalizer or anti sway hitch attached to the front of the trailer so that the trailer doesn’t wag the dog.  Without this type of contraption, a towable can be dangerous to you and others and you can easily lose control on the road. The down side of the anti sway hitch is that in a violent storm or a road accident, if the trailers goes upside down, it can twist you and your tow vehicle upside down as well. I have never heard of someone having this kind of accident with a trailer, but it could happen.
  • Relatively stable on the road if so equipped.
  • Limited space and cheap build.  Towables need to be light weight to be towed and are generally quite flimsy with very cheap and light weight build materials.
  • External generator required for boondocking in some cases

All in all, towables are a great choice for people who aren’t full timers, are cost conscious and don’t want to worry about taking care of something with an engine and chassis that will just sit there when not being used.

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