Monday, May 6, 2013

Tow II

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

Dear Terrified: 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.

Can’t backup. 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



Anonymous said...

I've owned two motor homes, a class C and a class A, traveled almost 60,000 miles, and always had a toad. For the convenience alone I wouldn't do it any other way. It's not a problem if you have the right equipment and plan ahead.

Unknown said...

My wife and I will be new full timers. My personal greatest concern is expense. And so I am looking into boondocking at some of these places where there is no fee but, also no organized structure. I know "stuff" happens but, what's the word on the safety of doing this type camping and any tips. For example, we have Ocala Natl Forest here in FL and sometimes the "stuff" hits the fan: it attracts some bad elements sometimes.

Anonymous said...

After a trip of two months to Alaska we dedided on a toad. I purchased a Honda CRV which we pull most of the time now. We have found that we can set up for a few days with the RV and use the toad. I also figure on average MPG and pulling the toad always put us ahead. Only time we were crammed for space was in Yellowstone for ten days but we worked it out.
We average about 10,000 miles a yearon our RV and love it.

lindie01 said...

We tow our jeep behind our 38 Motorhome....
and have the easiest tow bar available blue Ox , my husband unhooks and I put the car into gear simple....or hook up we check each others hook up to ensure its done right . we travel to pull thru camps sites and if we need to unhook we do it at the gate. register and we are set.... couldn't think of an easier way to do things. having the car enables us to sight see shop or go visiting. Love traveling this way.

Bryan said...

Agree with the floats your boat advice, to each his own.

It also makes sense to look at what you want to do with an RV or trailer/5er before you buy. Like a second vehicle and overall costs.

Rather than realizing you don't want to tow a toad after the fact.

Unknown said...

Something seldom mentioned is the advantage of a toad as a bail-out vehicle. Which is to say, you always have an "escape pod" if your big house on wheels breaks down. For us, this is just one more peace-of-mind consideration while traveling, especially in the remote areas that we love.

Anonymous said...

There is a middle way: Haul a motorscooter or cycle. We haul an electric cycle on a single wheel trailer. ( This attaches by two points to the RV, and the wheel swivels like a grocery cart, so the trailer is more like a rack with self-supporting wheel. You can back up without it jack knifing. (Smaller scooters under 200 pounds may be hauled on just a bumper rack, but be sure and check your rear axle weights). The scooter gives most good-weather transportation for errands, eating out etc. In wet weather, onl;y then drive the RV on errands.

Anonymous said...

I've been pulling a 2002 CRV behind my motorhome for over 10 years. 1st with a '98 Bounder and now with an '09 Bounder. Hook up with the same Blue Ox towbar in a couple of minutes. If I didn't have a tow vehicle, I wouldn't go out RVing, it means that much to both my wife and I. Great Motorhome to use as a base, CRV to visit all the great places. Can't beat it.

Anonymous said...

Being a Canadian, "small is beautifull". I am single but could easily be in with relation in a 24 feet class B motorhome (2010 Sprinter Four Wind Ventura), unless the necessity to make bed apart(?) My last trip brought me in downtown of Dallas, Austin, Houston, Corpus Christi, Lafayette, Nashville, Memphis and even on Bourbon street in N. Orleans without the need of a toad. A total of 6200 miles in 31 days with a cost of 1050$ of diesel...and 0 $ of campground. Average of 20,9 M/USG. Just an another way to see the economics vs the need to have separated bedrooms!

Frank D said...

We planned on towing our daily driver when we got our Class A. Unfortunately it weighs 4800 pounds, putting over the hitch limit on a dolly. It's too old to warrant spending the $3000 + that 4-down mods would cost. Still thinking!

Before we bought our Class A, we looked at a few 31' Class C's. They all had very long rear overhangs (close to 50% of the overall length). What effect on towing would the large tail-swing sideways movement have on the toad and on the rather flimsy rear add-on chassis structure?