Not long ago, I wrote Ten Things You Must Know Before Buying A Used RV. Consider this post the sequel.
To Tow or Not to Tow, that is the question.
Two dear friends of mine, J & V, are embarking on the same journey I’m on. They’ve just bought an RV, are selling their house, and hitting the road as full-time RVers.
Yippee!! You can not imagine how excited I am for them! I truly love this lifestyle and highly recommend it.
Naturally, they have questions. Curiously, they’ve asked for *my* advice.
Huh. Perplexing, isn’t it? Well, with displays of such bravery so early on, I know they will surely succeed in their grand adventure.
J wrote to me…
…we are getting ready slowly but surely. Tell me your experience if any with a tow car?
It occurred to me (belatedly, as most things do) that future RV owners and readers may be equally curious about dinghy towing, as it’s formally known, or getting a “toad” as it’s colloquially known. (The following obviously doesn’t pertain to those who’ve opted for a fifth-wheel trailer, or Class B vans/RVs. Or those of you who don’t plan to ever RV. Feel free to go to the next post now.)
How and why I decided to get a tow vehicle.
Well-meaning people, most of whom have never RVed let alone full-timed, will tell you to get a moped, or bicycles, or just rent cars everywhere you go. Don’t listen to them unless you’re just a weekender or short-term RVer.
Ok, let’s play that one out: Imagine being in 110 degree weather, or snow, or dust storms, and/or 15 miles from the nearest store. (All situations in which I’ve been – and believe me when I tell you I seriously try to avoid any weather that isn’t 80 degrees and calm.) Let’s say you need a week’s groceries, bottled water, to do laundry, or to get RV parts.
Can you really see yourself trying to haul all those groceries or heavy items back on a bike or two – even ten miles from the store in 90 degree weather, or snow – up and down a big hill? Not me.
If you said, “yes” to the question above, you can skip the rest of this post and go get yourself a bicycle. I recommend big baskets and a comfy seat.
Since I had a Toyota Camry that required an expensive, heavy, and cumbersome dolly if I was to tow it, I decided to go without a tow vehicle for the first couple months of my RV travels. I rented cars a several times in those first two months, and quickly realized how costly that can be. But the final straw was when I came to a town, Slab City, where the nearest car rental place was an hour away. An hour by car – a car I didn’t have. You can see the “Catch 22”, can’t you? They would meet me 30 minutes out, but I still had to get to the halfway point. It didn’t happen.
Long story short? (Too late, huh?) I ended up trading my lovely Toyota Camry for a Chevy Cobalt which can be towed all four down.
If you plan to full-time, I recommend you get a vehicle you can tow all four down, and get a folding tow bar setup rather than any kind of trailer/dollie. They are a tad more expensive, and modifications will need to be made to your car, but it’s so worth it. They’re easy to handle and lightweight, not unlike myself.
Why not a tow dolly? They’re heavy – several hundred pounds. Like 750 of them. Remember you will have to take that off to camp in a lot of spots, or pull into your space. And many of those places will make you store it at another location entirely as they don’t want it crowding their pretty campground.
I used these free dinghy towing guides to help me find a good, light-weight tow vehicle. Check your RV specs for weight limits.
And you’ll need something called a “Brake Buddy” (~$1,000) to go inside your new dinghy tow vehicle. Here’s why: Towing Laws | BrakeBuddy. Check the states that you are traveling through to find the minimum towing weight requirement.
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