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Travel Trailer vs Toy Hauler RV: Which One Is Right For You?

Published on June 4th, 2021 by Peggy Dent

truck and travel trailer at campsite

Travel Trailer vs Toy Hauler RV: Which One Is Right For You?

Maybe you’re shopping for a new RV, but you don’t know if a travel trailer or a toy hauler RV is right for you. Here are some considerations to help you decide which type of rig is your best choice. 

Toy hauler features can be found in trailers, fifth wheels, and motorhomes. Regardless of the type of RV, the addition of a garage will increase the length and weight of the RV.

The most common type of toy hauler is the fifth wheel, partly because it has a more secure connection to the towing vehicle, but you can purchase a travel trailer or motorhome with a garage. For the purpose of this article, we won’t consider motorhome toy haulers because they are not in the same price range.

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Similarities of travel trailers and toy haulers

First of all, let’s look at the similarities.  The sizes, prices, maneuverability, and backing are about the same for both toy haulers and travel trailers. But they are very different when it comes to towing.  

Practically speaking, smaller travel trailers can be towed by any kind of car or truck, because the coupling device is a standard ball hitch. A small travel trailer can be towed by a sedan, SUV, or van. However, travel trailers that truly compete with the toy hauler class of RVs are longer and heavier than what most sedans and SUVs can safely tow.  

In the case of the larger heavier travel trailers or toy haulers, you are going to need a truck to handle that kind of weight. So the type of towing vehicle will be defined by the size of the trailer, not whether it is a toy hauler or a travel trailer without a garage.

Why buy a toy hauler?

The first consideration is whether you have toys to haul. Certainly, if you have motorcycles, quads, sand toys, or lots of recreational toys, like cross-country bikes, kayaks, inflatable boats, wind surfing equipment, or other toys, then clearly a toy hauler will meet your needs better than a travel trailer.  But there are other reasons to choose a toy hauler over a travel trailer. 

If you’re a traveling family, the extra space in the garage will provide extra sleeping spaces for the kids and an indoor play area.  The garage can also be converted to a space for homeschooling a young family.

Pets are another reason you might choose a toy hauler. The garage area is a great place to bring your wet, sandy or muddy pets inside, but still keep the dirt under control.  

Since the floor and walls in the garage are designed for vehicle storage, cleaning up after your pets will be easier than having those same dirty dogs in your travel trailer.   

Dogs are not the only pets that go camping with their owners. We’ve seen many campers with birds and cats, and even a 50-year-old tortoise, and an occasional rabbit.  Some folks may not be able to leave their potbellied pig behind, and a toy hauler garage might be the perfect solution for that type of traveling companion. 

travel trailer at campsite
Travel trailers have more livable space without a garage. Photo by P. Dent

Other uses for the RV garage

But families and pets are not the only ways the garage space can be used.  We have friends that have converted their garage into a hobby area.  It’s perfect for lapidary or wood-working tools. It’s big enough for a quilting frame and sewing machine, or you could take all your workout gear with you so you have a fully functional gym wherever you go.  

The garage area can be used as the laundry room and for all kinds of extra storage.  If you need a dedicated office away from noise and other distractions, the garage could be converted to a very spacious and comfortable office or music studio.

Additionally, the garage could be converted to a man cave with a big screen TV, surround sound, lounge furniture, and even a wet bar. Finally, some folks use the ramp as an outdoor patio and then convert the garage into a shaded semi-outdoor living space.  All that empty floor space makes the toy hauler an attractive alternative for many campers, but it comes with a downside. 

Learn more about how to build out an RV garage in this Do It Yourself RV article.

Living space

Since the garage area is quite large, it may mean that some of the living space in the fifth wheel or travel trailer are smaller. You might have to give up some creature comforts in the living room, galley, and bedroom when so much of the RV is dedicated to the garage.  Many folks compensate for this by purchasing a bigger fifth wheel which can be up to 45 feet in length.  But a bigger fifth wheel will be more expensive, will need a bigger truck to haul it, and will be more difficult to drive, park, and maneuver. 

That is where the travel trailer has the advantage.  Without the large space that is dedicated to the garage, and with equal size living spaces, the travel trailer will be smaller. It will be lighter, easier to tow, easier to park, and less expensive. If you don’t have tons of toys, kids, pets, hobbies, or a need for a man cave or office, then the only advantage in buying a toy hauler would be for all the extra storage. That might be a significant consideration if you’re a full-time RVer and planning on a lot of remote camping but for the everyday RVer, that much extra space is probably not necessary. 

Toy hauler weight

Additionally, if you load up the garage with considerable extra weight like two fully equipped touring motorcycles (weighing a thousand pounds each) then you’ve added over a ton of cargo weight behind the axles of the toy hauler. That extra weight will impact the pin weight and may require a larger, heavier truck to tow your toy hauler.  We know several people who use semi-truck cabs to tow their 45’ toy haulers.

Finally, all the extra weight and larger truck will impact fuel efficiency, drivability, and maneuverability.  It’s a trade-off. Toy haulers meet some people’s needs perfectly. But the extra length and weight needs to be considered when deciding between a travel trailer and toy hauler.

Which RV is right for me?

Only you can tell what floor plan will or will not work for you in your new RV. If all the extra space in a toy hauler makes your heart beat faster as you consider all the possibilities, then that is probably the right choice for you. On the other hand, if you look at that space with mild curiosity, but can’t really think of how you would use it, then I suggest you think less about a toy hauler and more about a travel trailer. 

After all, it would be disappointing to spend extra money on a larger rig with a garage that you never use, and equally disappointing to think you saved money by not buying a toy hauler, but now you wished you had that extra space.  Take your time, listen to your subconscious voice and follow your heart.  Only you will know which type of RV is right for you.

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8 thoughts on “Travel Trailer vs Toy Hauler RV: Which One Is Right For You?”

  1. Another good use for a toy hauler is for handicap people. We have 2 wheelchair special needs cerebal palsey boys. They enjoy camping and getting out. The ramp works great for the chairs and the bunks come down from the sides making it easy to get them in bed. No other RV I know of could get the job done!

  2. Peggy, you missed one of the most important and major differences between the two types of trailers. ONBOARD GENERATORS!!!!! Wow how could not mention onboard generators in toy haulers? An on Board generator in a trailer allows you to “Turtle” as you travel right out of the box. IRC only one travel trailer line is available with the option to add an onboard generator. North Woods. Most Toy Hauler lines offer the Generator with an optional FUEL Station too. This is one of the major reasons people choose a Toy Hauler over a conventional Travel Trailer. No mention of all the HYBRID Trailers that are different combinations of toy hauler and conventional trailers. Have you ever even traveled in a Toy Hauler? Oh And… How about the picture on the top of the article? While a great picture of a excellent setup (Supreme Classic and Holden Colorado), it features a trailer and truck not available here in North America! Love the Aussie Setups. How about representing the NA market by posting a picture you took of an attention getter?

  3. Hi Peggy,
    I enjoyed your article concerning toy haulers very much. My wife & I have been RV’ing for close to 30 years starting with a short 20′ travel trailer & progressing to a 30′ 5th-wheel, 40′ & 42′ toy-haulers. Each & every one made camping a little bit sweeter. We are now members of a local RV travel club and enjoy several trips each year with our friends. Originally, the garage was originally used for hauling the Harley-Davidson but that was sold last year. Now our group uses it to play games at night or when the weather isn’t suitable for outdoor activities. We decided to keep it mainly for that purpose and enjoy having all the company several times on each camping trip!!!

  4. We enjoy our 19 foot (interior) toy hauler. We have had small travel trailer and found them claustrophobic. Ours has a double bed in front, next to the bathroom, so I (at 65) don’t have to climb a ladder to sleep! We take our 11 and 13 year old grandkids. They sleep in the queen bed that is raised and lowered. Our “garage” shares space with the dinette and table (over which is the queen bed). We take only one bench seat along. We usually eat outside. We love the width and height of the toy hauler. We don’t like the complications of a slide out. Our toy hauler feels spacious even when there are 4 of us. The ramp also doubles as a deck snd we have a zipper screen in the rear of the trailer. We have a small dog., too. It’s a smaller toy hauler. It’s around 5,000 lbs dry, so we can tow it with a Ram 1500. We do get pathetic gas mileage!

  5. We never even considered a toy hauler garage for pets … brilliant ! (We have three small dogs and three small parrots)

    Thanks for the idea 🙂

  6. Neither one is for me. I do not want anything that I cannot leave the driver’s seat, go to the back for toilet, sandwich, whatever, without going outside – in the rain, snow, whatever. If I have a toy, I would want just a small trailer to hold it. we had an outdoor toilet until I was in the 7th grade. Believe me, no matter how bad you have to go, to go in the dark, in the rain, is not fun. I have had two campers before, both did not have to go outside to go, and that is great. Right now I have a high top van, that will be custom converted to a camper by me, with a indoor toilet, among other amenities.


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