To Tow Or Not To Tow

 Posted by at 12:02 am  Nick's Blog
Oct 022015

Between the Gypsy Journal, teaching at Life on Wheels, the seminars I do at RV rallies, and social media sites like Facebook, I have received many of the same questions over and over from new and wannabe fulltimers and snowbirds. How do I get my mail? Which is best, a motorhome or fifth wheel trailer? Which is best, a diesel or gas motorhome? Should I join a membership camping club?

Another frequent question I get from people with a motorhome is whether or not it is necessary to tow a car. There are two schools of thought on this. Some (those who have not done it) argue that you can save a lot of money and hassle by not towing a car. They say they can stop at a shopping center to stock up on groceries before they get to a campground, and then ride bicycles to get around, or even rent a car if necessary. I’ve even had them say that if necessary, they can always get a friendly RVing neighbor to give them a ride if they need it.

It usually doesn’t take those who have tried it very long to realize that while that may work for weekend warriors, it’s not a good choice for fulltimers and snowbirds. The convenience factor alone more than offsets the expense involved in towing a small car a pickup behind their motorhome.

Yes, you can stop at a grocery store and purchase what you need before you go to the campground, but what happens when you’re parked and all hooked up and then realize that you forgot milk or sugar? Yes, you can rent a car if there is a rental company near your location and if they will deliver a car to your campsite, and if they will then come and pick it up when you’re done using it. That’s a lot of if’s.

Back when we were teaching at Life on Wheels, I had a student who was a self-described anal accountant. He loved crunching numbers and kept a record of every penny he had ever earned or spent in his life. He was convinced that it was much cheaper to rent a car when he needed than to pay for the upkeep on an automobile, a tow bar, auxiliary braking system, and the expense of insuring two vehicles.

After a full year on the road, he and his wife left their car with a daughter and spent the next year traveling without it. He told me that he tracked every expense, all the way down to the difference in the cost of going through a toll booth with a car in tow, or just in their motorhome itself. He also kept track of the cost of car rentals, taxi fare, and tips to the guys from the rental company that delivered cars to their campgrounds. At the end of the second year he was surprised to discover that they had saved roughly $100. He said that the convenience of having a car whenever they needed it was worth more than a hundred bucks a year.

I guess if you are a hermit that doesn’t like to go anywhere and are content to just pull into a campground and sit there until it’s time to move to the next one without doing any exploring or getting to know the area, it can be done. But realistically, if you drive a motorhome you need to tow something behind you. I’ve known a couple of fulltimers who accomplished it with a pair of motorcycles, but they both agreed that it was far from convenient and that getting caught in the rain with saddlebags full of groceries was less than fun.

How about you? Have any of you tried fulltiming in a motorhome without a tow vehicle? If so, how did it work out?

Have you entered our latest Free Drawing yet? This week’s prize is an audiobook of my friend Ken Rossignol’s Pirate Trials: Famous Murderous Pirates Book Series: THE LIVES AND ADVENTURES of FAMOUS and SUNDRY PIRATES. To enter, all you have to do is click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn Sunday evening.

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Thought For The Day – Beware of false knowledge, it is more dangerous than ignorance.

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Nick Russell

World-Famous, New York Times Best Selling Author, and All-Around Nice Guy!

  7 Responses to “To Tow Or Not To Tow”

  1. my first few years as an RVer I towed an camper so mobility was not an issue. Then when I got my first motor home it was a mico-minnie 17 footer shorter than most full sized pickups so it was easy to take it on any local travels but having to take my bedroom to get groceries or see a show was a hassle. When I got my present home there was no question of getting a vehicle to tow – it was a must and is now just life.

  2. Would always tow 4 down.
    Have you ever tried to get a 37 ft motor home down a windy hilly dirt/gravel road to visit a cemetery? Not happening in our world.
    We park the RV in the campsite and then travel to all the wonderful sites in our 4 wheel drive Jeep. Very convenient.
    Remember there are no pockets in the coffin for your money.

  3. We have always towed a Jeep, but we have encountered two part time/fulltimers who were traveling without a towed. Both of them became pests with one becoming a royal pain. I finally had to tell them I was going to charge them for trips and I would take them when I was ready to go. The one became miffed and didn’t bother us again. Which was perfect! But in fairness we have encountered several others who did not ask us for a ride even once.

  4. We have always towed a car, being 35 ft MH you just can’t take most places shopping or most places out to eat. We have encountered only one totall idiot no tow on a caravan trip, they made pest of themselves and then wanted to call the shot on when to leave or they would get upset, we took them a couple of times and then started to say no, by the end of the trip no one would even speak to them.

  5. For about the first two years of our full-time travels and my last three years of snow-birding we lived in Sprinter-based motorhomes. Being only 24′ long they could park in a single spot if we could back into one that overhung a grassy area. Otherwise we needed two spots front to back. We were out to see the country and started by driving the entire length of Historic Route 66. By not towing a car we were able to stop at museums and diners along the route. We also drove most of the Great River Road and all of Skyline Drive, the Blue Ridge Parkway, and the Natchez Trace. All of that was easy with no toad because we really could stop nearly anyplace en route. When buying groceries we could do that whenever it fit the day’s outing because we could easily refrigerate anything needing it. When stopping at a laundromat, we could promptly hang clothes before they had time to wrinkle. Yes, when camping with others we sometimes accepted offers of rides for group outings but we drove our Sprinter to Silly Al’s because we knew we could park there by going early and we didn’t want to become a nuisance begging rides when we didn’t need them. We never asked for a ride to get groceries or do laundry. In fact, I’ve been known to offer rides to others who wanted to go where I was going. When it comes to not towing, don’t knock it if you haven’t tried it. It can be just one more type of freedom.

  6. First I’m not a full timer. Second we’ve had 3 TT’s, 2 Class-As & 2 Class-Cs and have visited all 50 states (no RV in HI or AK–but multiple trips). Averaging 6-7 months a yr on the road with never a tow (yes cars/stwgns for TTs). Those that know me/see me in Q, AZ (J-F+), Mtn View, AR (O-N) or Branson (O-N) and Cloudcroft, NM (?M-S) recognize me by my cloth bag & walking stick.
    I may have been offered 10-20 “rides” in 47 RV yrs, but have declined 90% of them. People in Branson & Q (as they catch up w/my walking) yell out their vehicle window, “We saw you come out of 3Xs or Silly Al’s……..or Sadies or Moon River Theatre and you walked 1/2-1 mile and arrived before we did.” [You that have been to these towns in the indicated months know about the traffic situations].
    In Q (10Xs) I usually stay at Stuffed Camel RV Pk (1 mi E to MM-19/I-10, 1 mi W to MM-17/I-10, <1 mi N to JRs RV Pk & <.5 mi S to Kuehn St); in Branson (16-17Xs) I stay at Pea Patch RV Pk[behind Ripley's Believe It or Not] and <1 mi to 75% of theaters: granted "I drive rv to SDC or old Mel Tillis T" and I stay in Mtn View at Whitewater RV Pk, E Webb St which is <1 mi to 90% of town including WalMart & Ozark Folk Cen.
    Retired in 1995. Discharged US Army in 1960 at 165# and weigh 165# today with walking and declining rides and don't recall ever asking for a single ride.
    To Tow or Not to Tow is an option.

  7. We have 36 footer and tow dolly our aveo. Works great, gives freedom to explore more. On some short trips to see friends were we won’t use the car its nice to leave it home.

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