Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
Wow! I always read your column and the comments each week. I can’t remember anything more controversial than last week’s “Tow or not to tow” question. Some of the comments made no sense, but a lively discussion for sure. We are also getting ready to travel with this same rig configuration. We appreciate the feedback. We are still a bit confused but leaning toward pulling a small vehicle behind our new Class C motorhome. My only concern is looking like a train going down the road and constantly worrying about the toad trailing behind me. Am I just being paranoid?
--Terrified of towing in Toledo
I was amazed at how strong people can feel about how things should be done. I say, “Different strokes, for different folks.” Here were some of the arguments:
Figuring the cost of toad, hookup, insurance, fuel.
Cheaper to rent a vehicle when needed.
Inconvenient to unhook.
Can’t fit into small campsites.
Extra fuel costs to tow
Terrified to tow (your concern)
Damage and theft
Let me try to address all of these questions. Remember, towing is optional. Towing is not a requirement when reading this column.
If you do not already have a second vehicle, there will be this added expense. But I believe it will be an investment that will pay for itself quickly. I personally buy used Saturn SLs. They weigh 2350 pounds, easily found on Craigslist, and dingy tow with no huge investment besides a tow bar.
If you like to travel to rural areas you will find it very hard to find a rental when you want one. You would be wise to play “What if,” make some calls, and discover what renting will cost you in various regions you plan to visit.
Every vehicle is different for tow setup. With the Saturn SL1 I can backup a few feet if I’m in a tight spot.
Unhooking for any reason takes approximately three minutes tops.
If unhooking takes you more than three minutes, you need more practice. It’s like being a fireman. Have your spouse time you until you get into the Three Minute Club. We unhook from the Mother Ship all the time to explore.
I have to go by personal experience. The past year on the road we have only once had to park our vehicle in a space other than our campsite. Our motorhome is a 29 foot Winnebago Sightseerer. We never stay in commercial parks. We fit comfortably into every Forest Service, National Park, COE park we visit. This year the Chiricahua National Monument was the only campground we found challenging. With or without a toad, it is a challenging campground. We were able to park just outside the park entrance.
It does cost approximately a mile per gallon to pull a toad behind. So again I have to go by personal experience. I get from 7.5 to as much as 9 mpg depending on terrain and speed. This year I have so far put 6,000 miles on our motorhome and twice that on the car (32 mpg). When I combine the mileage I am getting 16 mpg overall.
If I had to uproot everyday and drive this motorhome sightseeing, shopping and every other errand that pops up, I would need a Shrink, which means, of course, I would be talking to myself again.
Again everyone is different. I have known people who bought travel trailers, drove them off the dealer lot, turned around and wanted a refund. Not everyone has the same comfort level. You need to find your own. I will tell you that a toad will track directly behind a motorhome. If you miss the gas pump with your motorhome, you will miss it with your toad. You won’t feel it behind you, and unless you have a rearview camera, you won’t see it very often.
Being a long distance hiker I would be personally uncomfortable about leaving my motorhome at remote trailheads. I would also be nervous parking it into tight parking spaces at scenic overlooks etc...
A great advantage to traveling in the same vehicle you are living in would be the fact that you can drop anchor wherever you end up. That said, it doesn’t take much more planning to find a comfortable camping area and explore from base camp.
One comment was to purchase a trailer or 5th Wheel which gives you one motorized vehicle to maintain and transportation to boot. Not a bad idea. Again, different strokes for different folks. For years I pulled an Airstream with a Suburban. I would get approx. 11.5 mpg pulling and 15 mpg not pulling. Doing the math using this years mileage, I would be overall at about 13-14 mpg.
Another thing to consider would be a motorcycle, electric bike, thumb or just a really good pair of hiking boots. Whatever floats your boat. Again, take all this thought process into consideration and see how it fits into your personal lifestyle on the road. If you find yourself going out of your way to make friends with people who have a backseat you might want to consider a toad.
--Keep Smilin', Dr. R.V. Shrink