Towing Options

 Posted by at 2:40 am  Nick's Blog
Dec 152013

If you’re a fulltime RVer, you’re probably going to tow something. You’ll either drive a truck and tow a travel trailer or fifth wheel, or else you’ll drive a motorhome and tow a car, SUV, or pickup, which RVers commonly call a toad or dingy.

When it comes to towing a car, there are four basic options; towing on a flatbed trailer, towing in an enclosed trailer, towing with a tow dolly that raises the car’s front wheels off the ground, and towing with all four wheels on the ground.

Towing on a flatbed trailer is probably the least popular option, and only makes sense if you have a rear wheel drive car or truck that cannot be towed four wheels down or on a dolly. Besides the added cost of purchasing the trailer itself and its associated maintenance costs, the main problem with a flatbed trailer is that once you get to your destination you have to find someplace to store it. Some campgrounds have a storage area you can use, which there may be an extra charge for. Smaller campgrounds may not have room for storing a trailer and may require you to pay for a second site to park the trailer on.

We have known several fulltimers who used a large enclosed cargo trailer, and we have even considered that option ourselves. Depending on its size, besides your car, a cargo trailer can also carry a motorcycle, ATVs, bicycles, or be used as a shop. However, all of the problems associated with cost and storage of a flatbed trailer are compounded by the size of a cargo trailer. We realized that while having such a trailer had some benefits, the negatives far outweighed them for us and would prevent us from going to many of our favorite campgrounds.

I am not a fan of tow dollies for many reasons, this being one of them. The people who owned this dolly were unaware that a wheel bearing had locked up until somebody passed them blowing his horn and pointing. The dolly’s tire was shredded, the fender was destroyed, and it if you look carefully you can see how deep the rut it carved into the road’s shoulder was. They were mere moments away from a fire or major accident. And as with trailers, once you arrive at your destination, you then have to find a place to store the dolly.


In our 15 years of fulltiming, everybody we have known who started out with a trailer or tow dolly has switched to flat towing before too long. It just makes life much easier. We started out using a Roadmaster Falcon 5250 tow bar and cussed it every time we needed to unhook our dinghy. It was heavy, the release buttons were hard to use, and it tended to bind up and require a lot of effort to get it off the toad. We switched to a Blue Ox Aventa tow bar and the difference was like night and day. The Aventa is lighter, much easier to hook up, and the release levers are a cinch to use. It is a far superior product.

Here’s a tip we learned from the nice folks at Blue Ox – if you tow four wheels down, you will occasionally find yourself stopped not quite straight and the connection between the tow bar and dinghy will be misaligned enough that the connection pins are too tight to pull out. When this happens, start the toad and crank the steering wheel all the way in one direction or the other and it will usually shift things around enough to easily pull the pins free.

As I mentioned in Friday’s blog, if you tow four wheels down, you must have an auxiliary braking system. Many states require them, and to tow without one is foolish at best. If you get into a serious accident and don’t have an auxiliary braking system, you can bet the other guy’s lawyer or insurance company will make a case for the fact that your negligence in not doing so was a contributing factor, no matter who’s at fault.

We used a Brake Buddy for a while and were not happy with it, and switched to an SMI Air Force One. This is a fine unit, reliable, easy to hook up and unhook, and trouble free. SMI makes auxiliary brake units for both gas and diesel power motorhomes.

As you can see, there are a lot of options available. How about you? What’s your choice for towing your dinghy?

Today is your last chance to enter this week’s Free Drawing, courtesy of John and Kathy Huggins of the Living the RV Dream podcast, who have donated one of their current Christmas Specials, which includes all of their current podcasts of Living the RV Dream as well as the Radio Days podcasts (257 in all) as well as PDF copies of their books So, You Want to be an RVer, So, You Want to be a Workamper, and their guide How to Survive an RV Show…and Make it a Great Experience, all on an 8GB flash drive. John and Kathy usually sell just the podcasts, without the books, for $65. All you have to do to enter is click this Free Drawing link and enter your name in the comments section below. Only one entry per person per drawing please! The winner will be chosen this evening.

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  12 Responses to “Towing Options”

  1. When we were on the road it was Blue Ox Aventa and SMI Air Force One. It took us a long time to learn the trick of turning the wheels on the dingly to realign those locking pins and until we did we would use a hammer and a hardened steel rod to work them loose. That was not fun.

  2. I tow with an old style rigid A frame type tow bar and have learned to hook-up fairly easily alone by learning what the back of my motorhome looks like from the car when properly hooked. I use a Brake Buddy pendulum aux brake and am quite satisfied with its performance. I had to learn to carry an auxiliary battery to power my buddy since my power port is dead without the ignition turned on and the car battery went dead in about 4 hours. with a medium sized marine deep cycle battery on the passenger side floor I can go 3-4 days without recharging my power supply and the battery helps power my fishing boat when not in the car.

  3. Several years ago Roadmaster upgraded their towbar to the Falcon All Terrain. This one does not bind and can be hooked up and unhooked on uneven ground and when the toad is not straight behind the motorhome. I have never had ours bind and there is no need for a hammer or pry bar. It is an excellent product that compares well with the Blue Ox. In fact you don’t need to worry about broken “fingers” with the Roadmaster like I have seen on the Blue Ox.

  4. Great timely blog for us. Just chose the blueOx & AirForceOne for our new to us motor home. Thanks for the tip about turning the steering wheel. We wouldn’t have known that.

  5. We are with you Nick we also chose the Blue Ox Aventa and SMI Air Force One. I installed the Air Force One and the base plate on our 2011 Honda CR-V. No problems and its easy to use.

  6. We have the Blue Ox and went with the SMI Stay N Play…love it!!!

  7. I use a Demco tow dolly because it can be folded up. Hence easier to store. A tow dolly also opens up to many, other options for a toad. Also lets be honest here if the IDIOT’s had a tire pressure system that included there towing option than this would not have been a problem. I’m sure your dingy let’s you know when something is wrong with your tires.

  8. We use the Blue Ox Aventa II tow bar system with the SMI AF1 braking system. We love the setup (especially the braking system) because it’s reliable and easy to engage. Agree with the above poster, the TPMS is a must have item.

  9. Not necessarily true, Gary. We have similar damage many times when a tire blows. It happens very quickly. When we blew a front tire on our bus conversion there was no advance warning from the Pressure Pro. We now use a TireTraker, which gives us both pressure and temperature warnings. The PressurePro did not.

  10. We use a Blue Ox tow system with a Brake Buddy. We have tire pressure monitors on the toad which tells pressure and temperature. Plan to get them on the coach if we keep our current one, or have them on a newer model we might choose. We have a 40 foot Discovery and tow a 2011 HHR.

  11. Recently installed a SMI Air Force One braking system to replace an EvenBrake we had previously. Very happy with the new system. Wife could not install/remove the EvenBrake and we like to be prepared for the unexpected. With the SMI unit she will be able to connect/disconnect if the need should arise.

  12. We have used a Ready Brute Towbar by Night Shift Auto (NSA) out of Iola KS for 10 years on 2 motorhomes. It has an inertia brake (cable) integrated into it. That solves the need for brakes. It is very durable, reasonably priced and has a lifetime warranty. I just returned it to the factory for a free rehab. All it cost was my shipping to them. The bar is heavier than some others, but very strong – especially useful if one of your pins accidently comes loose on the road..that is a story for another day.

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