Travel trailer, fifth wheel, pop-up, hybrid, toy hauler, truck camper, class A RV, class C RV. Dozens of brands and dozens of configurations. Choosing a set-up can be confusing!
Getting the right trailer was one of our main concerns. We spent quite a bit of time researching and visiting dealers and RV trade shows. Here are a few thoughts when deciding on a trailer:
1. Consider how you want to travel
This is an important factor. Do you want to set up a base camp and roam/drive around to explore? Do you want to drive to an area and move to a new spot everyday? This will influence whether you get a drivable RV or a travel trailer. If you plan to stay in one location like us as a base camp for a few days to several weeks, you’ll need a vehicle to explore. This means either using a truck to pull a trailer or towing a car with a good sized RV. On the other hand, if you are comfortable moving the entire setup everytime you need to go somewhere, then a standalone RV may be okay for you. But think about parking it wherever you go.
We chose a travel trailer since we plan to stay in one area exploring and wanted to drive around with a truck (our tow vehicle).
2. How much do you want to spend?
Set ups range from a few thousand dollars to hundreds of thousands of dollars. Somewhere in that range is a price point that’s best for you. The most important thing is that there is something for you, don’t save up for that fancy $200k rig, if a $15k travel trailer is doable right now. Make the travel happen! Generally anything with a engine tends to be much more expensive than a trailer/truck combo of similar size. For towables, fifth wheels tend to be the most expensive. Hard sided travel trailers are less expensive, followed by hybrids which have fold out sides, then pop ups.
We chose a hard sided travel trailer, which had some nice features we’ll describe below.
3. What size is right for you?
There are some obvious trade offs with regard to trailer size. A larger trailer will give you more room to move about, and literally give you more rooms. More room is better for rainy days inside and for larger families. However larger trailers are also more difficult to maneuver and park. Access to many parks (think National Parks) may be limited for larger trailers. Additionally larger trailers require a larger tow vehicle, not only because of the increased weight, but because of the larger profile which is affected by wind when towing to a greater degree.
We chose a trailer with a 28 foot box and a family room slide. This was the smallest size that had separate bedrooms for us and the kids. There is also plenty of room to cook dinner while having the kids play inside and plenty of seating.
4. Don’t forget about weight
As with size, weight is a critical factor to consider when purchasing a trailer. Fifth wheels tend to be much heavier than bumper pull trailers and therefore require a beefier truck for towing. On the other hand hybrids and popups are very light and designed to be towed by smaller vehicles. It’s also worth noting that many brands have ultra light models. These are significantly lighter than standard trailers but may not be as durable due to the weight requirements of the materials used. (Think cabinet doors that easily break and plastic toilets versus porcelain toilets.) Don’t fall into the trap that larger ultra light trailers can be pulled by an SUV, but this will be a topic for another post.
We chose an ultralight trailer that weighs 6500 pounds dry to keep our overall weight down and that we could tow comfortably with the truck we owned, a Nissan Titan XD.
5. Think about comfort
Generally larger, heavier, more expensive trailers offer more creature comforts. These include more space, nicer furnishing, and even things like a washer/dryer for the largest of setups.
Key features of our travel trailer were sleep and space. We selected a trailer with a bunk house for the kids (a real “room” with a door) that included three bunks and a table. We also got a king bed (RV king so same length but 4″ shorter side to side). Our slide helps give a spacious feeling to the kitchen/dining/family room space. We chose to give up nicer finishings to keep the weight down.
6. Test it out
It’s a great idea to test out an RV or trailer similar to the one you’re interested in before you buy. Borrow a friends’ trailer or rent one for a few days. The money you spend could save you from making an expensive mistake. You might find the pop up is not big enough for your family of six or the fifth wheel is far more space than you need.
We rented a travel trailer for a few days getaway to test it out. This was helpful since it changed the trailer we were going to buy as we explored firsthand what would/would not work for our family.
We bought a Cruiser MPG 2800QB, which seems like a great fit for our family of five on an extended trip. There is likely no trailer that will meet all of your needs, but most importantly don’t wait forever, get a rig that will get you on the road.