A Travel Trailer is Better Than an RV....

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Post by FrugalZen » Mon Sep 26, 2011 5:12 pm

and here are my reasons why based on much experience with them.
I used to own a Towing Service...sold off my shares and retired for all of 4 months before I went stir crazy...another story. Among our clients were 6 RV dealers.
In dealing with RV's, Fifth Wheels, and Hitch Ball type trailers I firmly came to the conclusion I would ONLY buy a Hitch Ball type with either a round roof (think Airstream or Avion) or one whose roof lapped over the edge of the top...meaning the roof and wall did NOT meet at a 90 degree angle but in a seam several inches below the top where the roof curved over.
I'll explain the "round roof" first...in much older trailers you will notice two things...the metal sheeting is corrugated and the edge of the roof and the side wall meet at a 90 degree angle. The edge is sealed with massive amounts of silicone sealant in order to keep water out....however water puddles in the hollows of the corrugated roof sheet. Most trailers use a wood sub-skeleton (except Airstream and Avion they use aluminum). It is a given that over time the silicone breaks down or vibrations from being towed will crack it and you find out you have a roof leak about the time one of the kitchen cabinets falls to the ground.
Therefore you want something that has a round or flat smooth roof so water runs off...if the roof sheet folds over the edge and is sealed in a seam along the side water cannot puddle and leaks are much rarer.
The major problems with large motor powered RV's

1/ Not being driven much. It is quite common to find 15 and 20 year old RV's with less than 50K miles on them. Also vehicles of any kind that are not driven much have problems with belts, hoses, gaskets, bearings and seals drying out, and brake shoes and calipers rusting in place. Frequent driving circulates the fluids...especially oils and grease which lubricate and protect those components.
Another problem if they aren't moved for any reasonable length of time is engine compartments and the insides of bumpers and frame rails are very attractive places for mice and squirrels to make nests and they are great wire chewers. Starting an RV after a number of months without checking out the engine compartment especially is inviting the possibility of a fire if they have build a nest on top the the exhaust manifolds...lots of dried grass in them.
Trailers only have tires, wheel bearings, and brakes to check out before going on your way...and better ones have full belly pans so that there is no where for the mice and squirrels to get in and at the wireing and other tasty edibles.
2/ Cost of Towing...Now if you happen to be traveling...it doesn't matter where you are in the US... towing a large motor home is expensive...and even more so west between the Mississippi and California. It requires specialized heavy equipment and there are a lot fewer wrecker services that have the eqiupment than those that only tow cars...and probably 40% of towing services that have the trucks capable of towing an RV will refuse to do so...they are VERY easy to damage and costly to fix.
Conversely because there aren't many services that will do it...especially out west...the cost of towing a large Class A (like Jacobs) can start at only a couple of hundred for a mile or two to $3000.00 plus in the direction of Texas, Arizona, Nevada and New Mexico...mainly because the nearest services with the proper equipment may be 200 or 300 miles away....as might be the only truck/rv garage.
Also when you get towed in to the repair shop the first question will be "What Hotel Do You Want To Stay In?"..because you can't stay in the RV while its in the shop...especially if the repairs will take several days.
At Least with a trailer (Fifth Wheel or Hitch Ball) the towing service can pull you through a site at the local campground, disconnect the trailer, and take your tow vehicle to the shop...at least you have your trailer to stay in.
Now the next problem...say the motors blown up an the shop says $20,000 to fix it...what are you going to do??? Abandon your home?..You're stuck paying it.
However if you have a Hitch Ball type trailer you sell the vehicle you used to tow it for scrap and get a U-Haul and tow your trailer home and worry about replacing the tow vehicle another day.
More problematical with a Fifth Wheel though... you can't rent trucks with fifth wheel couplings unless its a big road tractor...and you can't do that unless you have the proper CDL (commercial drivers license). Or you might get lucky and be able to pay someone at the campground to pull your trailer home...not as expensive as a tow truck but probably still a good chunk of change.

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Post by Freedom_2018 » Mon Sep 26, 2011 6:53 pm

Some valid points there though since I have not lived in an RV, am in not much of a position to refute etc.
However, I have looked into various forms of travel trailers/RVs etc since I do want to extensively explore the Country, especially the Southwest. I am leaning more towards a truck camper (was impressed as to how much room was in there, especially if they have slide outs..like one I saw from Arctic Fox). My reasons are:
- Can go anywhere truck can go

- Nothing to tow, hence easier maneuvering on and off the roads

- No licence and registration fees separately (considered cargo)

- Cheaper in general

- Better resale value (which conversely means that I might not get as great a deal on buying a used one)
What do you think?

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Post by FrugalZen » Tue Sep 27, 2011 2:26 am

Slide in Campers are one of those odd birds. They are great for the reasons mentioned and of course should your truck poop you can slide it onto another...even a cheap used one only good enough to get you home.
Still have the problem though with having to stay in a hotel if you end up at a garage away from home.
Main drawback is you need to go the store you have to unplug everything (water, electric, phone, ect.) in order to drive there...unless of course you carry a bicycle with you or a small scooter but then again hitch extensions are available so you could tow a small storage trailer or boat with you.
Actually most truck campers are bought by people for use on weekend fishing trips where they do tow the boat behind the truck. They almost always come with a set of stands so you can remove them from the truck very easily..jack it up the inch or two and drive out from under it. NOT sturdy enough to do the same at a campground and live in it with the movement of climbing in and out of it.
I think if I was going to go that sort of small though I'd go get an empty 6x10 or 8x12 (most full size fleetside pickup beds are 6x8) tandem axle concession trailer...they have a regular house type door, windows where you want, usually basic electric and interior lights, sometimes AC/Heat and you can stand up in them....and spend some time doing up the inside to make my own travel trailer.
Probably the most difficult/expensive thing to construct would be a fully functioning bathroom but truck campers don't have them to begin with so thats a moot point.
Hooking and unhooking the umbilicals is a problem shared with big RV owners...why do you think they usually have a car dragging along behind??
Really though at that small you might consider Scamp Trailers or MiCasita trailers..they are just as small as a slide in but bigger than a pop-up and are designed to be towed by small cars or mini pickups...very light weight....bathroom is a Port-a-Potty slid under the bed and the stove is usually a small thing you attach outside or put on a picnic table to use.

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Post by HSpencer » Tue Sep 27, 2011 3:32 am

I agree most whole-heartedly with the OP. I have never had the "motor home" for the express reason of high cost and high cost maintenance and high cost of operation and devastating depreciation from (new at least). I have had three travel trailers, having lost money on all three. My standard now is to "Never buy anything you have to hook to a hitch and move to mow under". That idea will save you copious amounts of money.

*RVs of all stripes and boats go in this area". If you gotta move it to mow, your not using it and you don't need it. At least that fits me. I still have a TT, but keep it at a resort and all the maintenance and moving is done for me by the resort owner. For a nice fee on his part. We used the TT ONCE this year, in fact last week.

Go figure!!

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Post by Freedom_2018 » Tue Sep 27, 2011 4:08 am

No bathrooms?
Check this out: www.youtube.com/watch?v=nG881cRr_L0

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Post by FrugalZen » Tue Sep 27, 2011 11:54 am

Most of the slide ins I have ever seen don't have more than a porta-potty...they just lack the room.
IMO no shower=no bathroom. Bathing from a plastic tub is fine for short periods but not a lifestyle choice I would chose.

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Post by elai » Sat Oct 15, 2011 5:12 am

Are you forced to get a gas guzzling diesel truck to move it around? Will anything approaching gas efficiency ( like 20/30 mpg ) work for the majority of the time that your not towing it around and travelling to see friends and family?
I do not want to add a motorbike to the back due to the 4x high chances of death and the 6x higher chances of injury.

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Post by jacob » Sat Oct 15, 2011 5:50 am

You need a 3/4 ton truck. That's the reason we went with the motorhome and kept the compact car. (Gas at the time was $5/gal). We (by which I mean DW) "needed" a commuter vehicle.
Other than that, I'd say it depends.
If you plan to travel around constantly, a motorhome is easier to deal with. It's more maneuverable and you don't need to sit in the truck cabin when on the road. If it does break down, well, you get a motel room for a few nights.
If you plan to park it long term, get the 5th or the TT, otherwise you're essentially paying for a rather large truck (450 size or bigger) engine system that does nothing. In particular, you could pay someone (uship?) to relocate it for it, so you don't even need a truck in principle.

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Post by jennypenny » Sat Oct 15, 2011 11:30 am

You don't need a huge vehicle to tow a pop up. And ours has a king bed, queen bed, convertable twin bed, cassette toilet, shower, hook up for an outdoor shower, and indoor/outdoor cooking. For an extra 30 minutes of set up and break down, you get a camper that's much cheaper than anything mentioned, with a lower profile so it doesn't dent your gas mileage as much, and it can be towed by mid-sized cars. They are also very inexpensive to buy used, and easy to work on.
If we retired to an RV (my goal, but NOT my DH's) I would probably compromise and get a class C. For part-time use, I think the popup is great (and it feels like camping more than the others). If we were going to buy something to just park at an RV park (where did that thread go anyway?!) I think restoring an airstream would be great fun.

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Post by Bakari » Tue Oct 25, 2011 8:16 am

Having lived full-time in both a motorhome and a travel trailer for many years (each) I agree that - unless you are traveling in it - the TT is better.
However, one thing has been bothering me: A travel trailer IS an RV!! RV doesn't just mean "motorhome" or "housecar", it also means travel trailers, fifth wheels, camper vans, pop-ups, and truck campers.
Anyway - if you are actually planning to drive it around, the ease of driving a single vehicle is by far worth the compromises.

If you live in one place, then the engine and cab just waste space, and you can't practically use it.

You can get a lot more trailer for the same amount of money, and have more flexibility in actually using the tow vehicle if you want.
@Elai - I get 25-30 MPG in the truck I use to tow my 7500lb 35ft travel trailer.
And a 6x higher injury rate does not translate to a 6x higher "chance" of injury for a person using a motorbike, because the statistics don't get corrected for reckless behavior. It is partially self-fulfilling prophesy: most people believe motorcycles are dangerous, therefor only risk-takers buy bikes. They are the sort of people who drive recklessly - in fact the rates of DUI, speeding, driving w/o a license, etc are all much higher for motorcycles than for cars. Then, of course, the accident rate for motorcycles is high, which then confirms the original perception.

In the one study that compared accident rates within a controlled population (police in cars vs on motorcycles) it was found that the motorbike riders actually had a LOWER accident rate. I suspect this may be related to the superior braking distance, maneuverability, lack of blind spots, lack of distraction, and lack of false sense of security provided by the "cage"

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Post by FrugalZen » Wed Oct 26, 2011 12:45 am

Interesting...but on a Miles Driven basis the only form of transport safer than a Motorcycle is as an Airplane.
The average motorcyclist drives less than 3000 miles a year...any many much less...few of us are diehard all year riders...I've put 70,000 miles on two bikes in 6 years while my younger brother has not yet broken 10,000 on his 10 year old one.

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Post by chilly » Wed Oct 26, 2011 1:16 am

".but on a Miles Driven basis the only form of transport safer than a Motorcycle is as an Airplane"
I'm a big fan of motorcycles, but really wonder where you get those statistics? Do mean incidents per miles driven, or deaths per miles driven? I could believe the former, but would be skeptical of the latter.
I've driven a car or ridden a motorcycle for 27 years and have never been in an accident. That's not statistically pertinent over the population, although as @Bakari points out I may be less likely than average to die in an accident because I'(think I a)m a decent driver.
@Bakari - if you were to stay a month or a couple months at a time... would you still favor a TT? How about seasonally. Not traveling day to day though. Just curious.

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Post by FrugalZen » Wed Oct 26, 2011 1:52 am

@ chilly
It would be incidents per miles driven. There are more fatalities on bikes on an per incident basis though.
A lot of stats can be got from the AMA (American Motoryclist Association).
Though from my own business perspective we worked a crash inolving a motorcycle maybe once every 2 months while in the same time period we would handle close to 200 crashes (3 to 4 per day) involving vehicles other than motorcycles for a rate of about 0.5 (one half of one) percent....while in Florida motorycles make up about 4% of all vehicles registered.
From personal experience cleaning up the wreckages a good 60% of the fatalities are NON Helmet wearers and of those a good 40% have been drinking but do not necessarily meet the legal definition of drunk...even a few drinks can impare your judgement and thats not a good idea when riding a bike.

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Post by Bakari » Wed Oct 26, 2011 4:37 am

@Chilly - seasonally I'd definitely go with the travel trailer.

Every couple months is a hard one.

When I was with the traveling carnival, we would move once a week, and I was definitely happy to have the motorhome. For inter-week travel I mainly used my bicycle, and I'd do shopping runs during the weekly move to a new town and just park the RV in the parking lot of the store.

My personal opinion is that the time period of one or two months get right about the boarder between the significance of how easy it is to drive and the space/cost/ability to use tow vehicle factors of a trailer, so I can't answer that one for you.

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Post by graynomad » Sat Nov 05, 2011 4:41 pm

In 10 years living in a motorhome we've broken down a few times, in all but one case we lived in the truck while it was being fixed. Often actually inside the workshop and we used their ablutions over night.
The case where we couldn't do that we drove out to a nice dam and I pulled the gearbox out. While they fixed it we enjoyed a good campsite.
That said the OP does have a lot of valid points and we've never been broken to the extent of not being able to move.
At 27 feet our RV is shorter than a car/caravan combo which I consider a benefit. But one HUGE benefit is the load carrying ability of a truck, we used to carry 1000 litres of water, that's the weight of a small car. We also have maybe 400Kgs of batteries, 10 solar panels, quite complete set of tools including oxy etc etc.
All this allows us to free camp in the boonies for weeks, in fact we can stay out of towns for at least 2 months and not need to get any supplies.
I don't think that's even possible in a TT or lighter camper.
For me that's a real benefit of a heavy vehicle.

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Post by Nick50 » Sun Jan 01, 2012 6:14 pm

I never owned an RV but considering owning one in the near future. We recently relocated to Indy and had some movers greenville area to help us. It would be so much easier to relocate in an RV along with a trailer.

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Post by riparian » Mon Jan 02, 2012 3:02 am

I lived in a bus for a year and found that most repair shops let you stay in it. We never had to unplug from a campground to go somewhere because we were self contained and didn't pay for campgrounds anyways.
But bus living had disadvantages and I much preferred van dwelling.

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Post by bigato » Mon Jan 02, 2012 10:50 am

What disadvantages? Isn't it better because of having more space?

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Post by riparian » Mon Jan 02, 2012 12:02 pm

That space came at a big price. The gas mileage was so bad it cost $500-1000 to go anywhere, and it would inevitably break down on the way. It was simple to work on but impossible to do break/wheel bearing/etc stuff with tools we could carry. We couldn't get to a lot of places in it (either off road, back road, or downtown areas with no parking for big vehicles).
When I split with my ex I moves into a minivan which I lived in happily for four blissful, inexpensive years.

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Post by bigato » Mon Jan 02, 2012 3:45 pm

Thank you! I will remember that if I ever split with mine.

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