Towable RVs vs Motorhomes: What’s the Right Option for You?


Buying an RV is a big deal, and starting the process of picking one that is right for you is a difficult one. It all depends on your needs and wants, and there is not set rules because everyone is different.

Is a towable RV or a motorhome a better option for me? A towable RV is best for those who have a heavy duty vehicle and would like to detach from the trailer and drive around separately. Motorhomes are best for those who want little hassle while using an RV, especially when it comes to packing up camp.

All types of RV’s are great, but it really depends on individual needs. If you have no idea of which is best for you, make a list of needs, and let’s see what fits your needs.

Choosing Between a Towable RV or Motorhome

Towable RV’s and motorhomes differentiate in one main way – motorhomes are self-propelled, meaning you don’t need anything else to make it. With any towable, whether it is a fifth wheel or a pop-up trailer, it needs to be hitched to a vehicle.

When it comes to picking which one is going to be best for you, making a list is going to be the way to go. Here’s a list of some of the things you should ponder about:

  • If you have a truck/vehicle that can tow a trailer
  • Do you feel comfortable driving large vehicles?
  • What size do you want? What size can you manage?
  • Do you want to have a separate vehicle that can unhook at a campsite?
  • What is your budget?
  • How luxurious do you want your RV to be?
  • How many people are usually going to be with you?
  • How big of a concern is gas mileage?

Asking yourself these questions are the first steps into deciding what is really going to be best for you, as well as any family and friends who will be tagging along with your friends.

Motorhomes are usually more expensive and therefore more of an investment. They are large, most of the time, and are nice for coming and going from quickly. You don’t have to worry about much.

However, when a motorhome breaks down, it’s expensive and you don’t have a mode of transportation to rely on.

A towable RV is generally less expensive, and you can use your vehicle freely once you are in a location where you can unhitch the trailer. Towables come in sizes really big, to pretty small.

A really good way to decide if you even want a motorhome, or what kind of Rv you want, is to rent one for a weekend. There are tons of websites and businesses that let you rent.

This way you don’t waste money on something you don’t really like that much.

Websites like RVshare or Outdoorsy are great places to rent RVs for a short period of time to see what you like. If you want to read more about renting an RV before you buy, check out our article on the Best Options for Renting an RV.

It really depends on the individual to decide what is best for him or her. Brand new RVs of all kinds will be an investment so it’s important to get it right.

If you aren’t interested in renting an RV and just want to get down to it, these checklists will help you decide which kind of RV is best for you.

Towable is right for you if:

  • Budget is less than $50,000
  • Have truck with high towing capacity
  • Gas mileage matters to you
  • Want a separate vehicle to drive into town for errands or day trips
  • Want to be able to bring toys with you
  • Truck is spacious enough for all passengers
  • Comfortable towing large items/trailers especially while backing up

Motorhome is right for you if:

  • Willing to spend more than $50,000
  • Don’t want to buy a new truck that can tow large trailer
  • Plan on long-term living in it
  • Want to carry all passengers in the RV itself
  • Want luxury
  • Comfortable driving large vehicle
  • Fuel cost doesn’t matter to you

The first thing you should know is that the lines aren’t black and white. There are so many options of RV’s that fit into both categories. Many towable RVs are more spacious than motorhomes, just like some motorhomes are going to be less expensive than a really nice travel trailer.

As you start looking, you should really look into different types of RVs to find a true fit.

This is more general information, but it is really important to know when buying your own RV. There are several types of both drivable and towable RVs, each one has different benefits.

Towable VS Motorhomes

There are several categories for each towable and motorhome. We will look at 4 types of towable RV’s and the 3 classes of motorhomes.

You’ll find that some trailers are more spacious than others, while other motorhomes get decent mileage for its size. If you want to take a car with you, a trailer might not be the only way to go.

Heres the basic break down of each RV type, to help you figure out which one is going to fit with you the best.

RV TypeDrive or
Tow
MPG

Price
Range
Feels Like
Driving
Length
(ft)
Travel
Trailer
Tow10 – 20$11,000

$35,000
Heavy
Truck, SUV
21 – 28
Fifth WheelTow10 – 18$20,000

$50,000
Heavy Full-
Sized Pickup
22 – 44
Toy HaulerTow10 – 15$10,000

$80,000
Heavy Full-
Sized Pickup
8 – 20
Pop-Up
Camper
Tow10 – 20 $3,000

$7,000
Weighted
Truck, SUV
8 – 16
Class ADrive6 – 8$50,000

$200,000
Bus21 – 41+
Class BDrive8 – 13$40,000

$80,000
Full-size van17 – 23
Class CDrive8 – 13$50,000

$80,000
Truck20 – 38

Information gathered from rvshare.com

Let’s start with the towable trailers and figure out what are the benefits and downsides.

Towable RVs

Towables are great for those who don’t mind taking the time to hitch up the RV and to unhook it when you park. It can be a little bit intimidating if you are unfamiliar and tedious after you know what you are doing.

However, having the freedom to drive around, go to events, stop in town without the bulkiness of an RV is pretty hard to beat.

We’ll go into the benefits and setbacks of each trailer, but here are the signs that a towable is what is best for you.

  • Better gas mileage
  • You want to drive your truck/car separate from the RV
  • You want an affordable RV
  • You want something that it easier to customize
  • You want a wide range of options
  • You have a nice, heavy duty vehicle already

Some towable RVs can be pulled by SUV or good sized car, as long as there is a hitch and the car is up to it. Usually something like a pop-up or a smaller trailer.

If this list sounds good to you, check out the different types of trailers to see which one is going to be best for you and your needs.

Travel Trailers

Travel trailers vary a lot, they can be as short as 10 feet or bigger than some motorhomes. Because everything is so different, perks like storage, sleeping space, and bathrooms all vary.

An SUV can pull some of the smaller travel trailers. What puts the trailer into this category is if the trailer is attached by a standard hitch.

Here’s the breakdown!

Strengths:

  • Big range to choose from, models, floor plans
  • Gas mileage is pretty great compared to motorhomes
  • Not as pricey as motorhomes of the same size
  • Can be towed by more than just a large truck
  • Easier to find trailers meant for smaller parties and save money

Weaknesses:

  • Tricky to drive if unfamiliar, especially with big turns
  • Having to back-in to spots at campgrounds is difficult
  • Illegal almost everywhere to have passengers in the trailer while in motion

Fifth Wheel

Fifth Wheels are not towed on the standard hitch but instead are hooked on a hitching mechanism that sits in the truck bed. This hitch is u-shaped and allows for better turning.

Strengths:

  • Lots of spacious floorplans available
  • Easier to turn that some large travel trailers
  • Can be unhitched
  • Lots of amenities in most fifth wheels
  • More affordable than same sized motorhomes
  • Better gas mileage than motorhomes

Weaknesses:

  • Need a large, heavy-duty truck to tow
  • Learning how to tow something this big can be frightening
  • Illegal to have passengers inside the trailer while in motion

Toy Haulers

Toy Haulers are great trailers that are meant to carry all the fun “toys” to the campground with you, like dirt bikes, ATV’s, jet skies, and side-by-sides. They are also called Sport-Utility Trailers. They have garage for toys and a living area.

Strengths:

  • Can bring cargo with you, can be great for adventurous spirits
  • The living area is still nice but separate from garage
  • Built strong and can endure some wear
  • Can be towed like a fifth wheel or travel trailer
  • Can be unhitched

Weaknesses:

  • Usually heavy so need a heavy-duty truck
  • Less living space
  • Reversing into a spot is very difficult

Pop-Up Campers

Pop-up campers are going to be the least expensive towables that you can buy. They aren’t hard-sided the same way the other towables are, but they are very nice to have while camping. If you are looking to camp occasionally on the weekends, pop-ups are great.

Strengths:

  • Can be pulled by a variety of vehicles
  • Inexpensive
  • It’s not hard to drive with it hitched
  • Can be unhitched
  • Good for beginners – easy to maintain and fix

Weaknesses:

  • Not great for all kinds of weather, leaks and rips happen on canvas
  • Not much storage
  • Not luxurious

Motorhomes

Motorhomes are going to be the best option for those who just want one thing to worry about, and not a trailer and a car. With a motorhome, you don’t have to worry about hooking anything up or having to remember if you double checked everything. Plus, motorhomes are a classic.

Big motorhomes can even tow smaller vehicles, only if you’d like. This might hurt the gas mileage a little but then you can still venture off in your car a little.

Here are the signs that a motorhome is best for you:

  • You don’t want to purchase a truck
  • You are willing to invest
  • You plan on spending a lot of time traveling and using it
  • You want an easy and fast setup and takedown at campsites
  • Gas isn’t a big concern to you

There are 3 types of motorhomes. When people think of motorhomes, they typically think of class A, or the ones that are like buses. Class C’s are also great options and are popular. You don’t see Class B motorhomes as often but they still might be what is right for you.

Class A

Class A’s are usually the go-to motorhome for most people. They are the big vehicles, basically like a huge bus. There are a lot of very nice and luxurious motorhomes. Class A’s are probably the easiest to live in for an extended period of time since there are kitchens and full bathrooms.

Strengths:

  • Amenities galore
  • Storage
  • Lots of floorplans
  • Easy to live in for a long time
  • Can have passengers travel inside

Weaknesses:

  • Initimidating to drive
  • Expensive
  • Gas mileage is usually under 10 mpg

Class B

If you are wondering what exactly a Class B motorhome is, it’s a campervan. That means they aren’t difficult to drive and get better gas mileage than other motorhomes. It’s meant for only a couple of people since it’s not as large as the Class A RVs.

Strengths:

  • Gas mileage is higher than other motorhomes
  • Great for couples who want to travel
  • Not intimidating to drive
  • Easy to drive into the city and for short trips

Weaknesses:

  • Not a family vehicle
  • Not a lot of storage space
  • Don’t get full amenities like in Class A

Class C

A Class C motorhome is basically an RV that is permanently built onto a truck. You have seen RV that have that overhang over the truck cabin? That’s a Class C.

They are bigger than Class B’s and offer a bit more space, but are not as huge as Class A. This motorhome is less pricey than a full Class A as well. You can tow a smaller car behind Class C’s. It’s basically a really good medium motorhome for those who do want a motorized RV.

Strengths:

  • Not too hard to drive, basically like a heavy truck
  • Good size sleeping area
  • Can be a cheaper option for motorized RV
  • All basic amenities are included
  • Some can tow a small car

Weaknesses:

  • Expensive when compared to towable RVs
  • Gas mileage is not great
  • Not as open as some Class A motorhomes.

Related Questions:

What is the difference between a motorhome and an RV? An RV is a general term for all recreational vehicles, including trailers and motorhomes. The term motorhome applies to self-propelled RVs or ones that have engines in them. The words are not interchangeable, but a motorhome can be called an RV.

Is a motorhome or trailer better for living in an RV full time? A motorhome is usually more equipped to live in for extended periods of time because of all the amenities and space. However, living in a big travel trailer or fifth wheel is possible and done often. It depends on the wants and needs of an individual.

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