I had a conversation with some friends the other day about the benefits of towing a car behind their motorhome, and if they were to do so, what type of car to buy, as well as whether or not to use a tow dolly, as opposed to towing all four wheels down.
I don’t see how any fulltimer, or even an extended time RVer, can handle not having a tow car, sometimes called a dinghy, especially if they have a very large motorhome. I have known several that tried it, and all of them have eventually decided that the hassles of renting a car wherever they stop are just too much to deal with.
Several years ago, one of our students at Life on Wheels was convinced that he could save money by not towing a car, while his wife couldn’t understand why they should leave their perfectly good car behind and rely on rental companies. This man is a retired accountant, who by his own admission is “anal” when it comes to keeping track of every penny spent.
They are subscribers to the Gypsy Journal, and we have kept in touch over the years. They towed their Saturn during their first year on the road, and the second year the wife gave in, and they left their car with their son, so their granddaughter could use it to go to college. Bill told me that at the end of their second year, they had traveled 274 miles more than the first year, and they had saved $300 by not towing. This included fuel mileage, the difference in tolls between their two axle motorhome and the two extra axles on a tow car, insurance and registration on the car (which the son paid while his daughter used it), and two annual oil changes on the car. They decided that for less than $1 a day, it just made sense to tow their car.
We have known some fulltimers who used tow dollies, and again, after a year or so, most of them have switched to towing all four wheels on the ground, with a tow bar instead of the dolly. At a big RV park like Elkhart Campground, it’s no problem finding a place to stash a dolly during your stay. But at a lot of the smaller places we frequent, such as Tra-Tel RV Park in Tucson, it’s pretty tight, and most RV sites will not accommodate a tow dolly.
As to what kind of car to tow, the choices are wide, and a lot of personal preference comes into play. For years we towed a Toyota 4×4 extended cab pickup with a five speed manual transmission and a camper shell, and it was a great vehicle. A couple of years ago we switched to an extended length cargo van with an automatic transmission, to carry our toys, and to make loading the papers easier when we get a new issue printed.
We use a Remco driveshaft disconnect, which can be a real problem occasionally. You have to lubricate the linkage three or four times a year, and if you forget, it will lock up and you can’t get it to engage. This necessitates crawling under the van, disconnecting the locking pin on the driveshaft disconnect, manually rotating it into place, and then putting the locking pin back in. We’ve also had the driveshaft disconnect get fouled and lock up after towing the van down dirt or gravel roads. It was a lot easier to simply put the Toyota’s gearshift and transfer case in neutral and take off.
We know fulltimers who pull fifth wheel trailers with huge medium or heavy duty trucks, who also tow a car behind the trailer. They look like a freight train going down the road, and I would probably run over a mailbox or a fire hydrant the first time I tried to turn a corner in a rig that big. But the folks who have them seem to be able to handle them just fine.
We’ve also seen RVers who carry small cars, or Smart cars, on the bed of their trucks, between the cab and the front of their trailer. I just know I could do thousands of dollars worth of damage trying to load a combination like that up before I hit the road! But again, the people who have them seem to have it down to a science.
I’m curious, what do you tow, and how? Have you tried RVing without a tow car?
Thought For The Day – If you worry about what might be, and wonder what might have been, you will ignore what is.