The under 5,000-pound travel trailer category has become a big industry. With fuel costs and other concerns, people want an RV they can pull with the family SUV. Yet they want to have a coach that feels like a second home.
If you are in the market to buy one of these travel trailers, here are some recommendations to get you started.
Before You Buy, Do You Have the Right Tow Vehicle?
Just because you have an SUV or a pickup truck, doesn’t mean you can tow 5,000 pounds. Many people buy these vehicles for various purposes that don’t include towing. That’s why many vehicles do not come with standard tow packages included.
A tow package is more than a hitch on the back of your vehicle. Much of it entails upgrading wiring and reinforcing various parts of the vehicle. A major upgrade is adding a radiator that cools the transmission. The transmission takes increased stress when towing. A stronger battery and heavier gauge wiring is a necessity. Your coach’s brakes and lighting rely on your tow vehicle for power.
Adding tow package parts to your vehicle is almost impossible. This is why you must buy a vehicle with a tow package pre-installed. Without these upgraded parts, your towing capacity is significantly reduced.
U.S. News and World Report publishes an article each year about towing capacities for SUVs and trucks. If you are in the market to buy a new vehicle, this is a great place to start. These articles talk about the towing limits of each make and model from a neutral standpoint.
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I See Many Different Weights. Which One Do I Look At?
How can a 4,500-pound travel trailer crack a cylinder head of a tow vehicle that has a rating to tow over 5,000 pounds? The answer is a miscalculation of total weight. The weight of the trailer does not include everything you add to it. Your belongings, water in the tanks, and other people bring the weight up.
The weight metric that is most important on your tow vehicle is the Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR). This is the factor that will tell you what you can tow. For your travel trailer, you want to look at the dry weight. This number tells you how much the coach weights when it is empty.
The formula you need to use is:
- The dry weight of your RV +
- The weight of all the passengers in your tow vehicle +
- Cargo weight of your belongings +
- The weight of stored liquids like your freshwater tank
All this equates to your total weight. Before you pull out your calculator, rough estimations work. What you do want to avoid is towing at your limit. The more margin of error, the better.
Car manufacturers can have many different versions of the same vehicle. For example, The 2020 Ford Explorer has four different versions. The Platinum and ST Series come with the tow package as a standard feature. They can tow up to 5,600 pounds. The Limited Hybrid Series offers the tow package as an option. This version can tow up to 5,000 pounds if it’s equipped.
There are many ways to find out what your vehicle can tow. You can look through your owner’s manual to locate the information. Your vehicle or RV dealer can also help you locate the GVWR. There are some websites out there that can help you look up your vehicle, but it always helps to verify that your exact vehicle lines up with what the site says.
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Best Travel Trailers
We used several factors to determine our top travel trailers. These factors include:
- Unique features that have a distinct advantage
- Quality manufacturing
- Appeals to most audiences
- Best use of space
- The ease of use
When you think of RVs, one name that always comes to mind is Winnebago. Their Micro Minnie line is the benchmark all other manufacturers measure themselves against. You can choose from three different exterior colors and 12 different floor plans. Eight of those floor plans put the dinette on a slide-out to increase interior space.
The Micro Minnie is small in name only. The various models come in lengths between 19.2- 25.5 feet. Dry weights are between 2,980 to 4,260 pounds. With its steel frame, this coach has one of the biggest cargo capacities. Another measurement feature is its seven-foot width. This allows you to tow your Micro Minnie without having to use side mirror extensions.
Winnebago loaded this RV up with all the electronic conveniences you will ever need. It comes prewired for solar, rear camera, satellite, and has an exterior cable hookup. To help with detaching and leveling, they included a power tongue jack instead of a manual crank. The heating system keeps the storage tanks from freezing during cold weather camping.
The entertainment package rivals the one you have at home. The RV has a big LED TV and stereo system with AM/FM/CD/DVD/USB/Bluetooth capabilities. To keep the party going, speakers are both inside and outside the coach.
The interior itself is designed to be stylish and withstand the elements. The flooring is wood laminate on top of plywood flooring. Countertops are a single surface with rounded edges. The cabinetry is sturdy enough to hold the weight of your personal belongings. Drawers extend out for full usage. Prices of the Micro Minnie range between $17,644- $40,746.
You would think by its name the KZ Sportsman would appeal to hunters and extreme sportspeople. Yet this rugged outer shell holds an interior that compares to most larger coaches. This RV has a seven cubic foot gas/electric refrigerator. The flooring is tongue in groove and single surface countertops. These types of features are normally seen in the bigger luxury coaches on the market.
The Sportsman Classic has nine-floor plans. Two of which are toy haulers. Two have hybrid canvas fold-out beds, and one has a slide-out. Whichever floorplan you choose, KZ will give you a maximized interior with sleeping accommodations for up to six people. Other space savers include exterior pass-through storage bays, big pantries, and large wardrobes.
This lineup measures between 18.10- 23.3 feet in length and dry weights of 2,696- 3,270 pounds. The price range of the Sportsman Classic sits between $13,995- $22,999.
Many generations know the Coleman name for their camping accessories. Their products are the gold standard for reliability in the great outdoors.
Their line of trailers holds to the quality manufacturing Coleman is known for. This brand comes in 15 floorplans that range in size from 21.2 to 30.7 feet in length. Dry weights range from 3,063 to 5,896 pounds. Only two of these coaches are over the 5,000-pound limit, and four are between 4,500- 4,900 pounds.
Coleman has designed a trailer brand that has a residential-style. The furniture, appliances, and features mimic home furnishings. They start with residential grade vinyl flooring. To store everything you need, you will find many deep drawers in this RV. One is even designed to hold pots and pans. For added workspace, the range is flush with the counter and has a glass cover.
Coleman places USB ports in the interior walls for your mobile devices. They even have a factory included option to include 4G LTE Wi-Fi, making the coach its own hotspot. Prices on this RV range from $11,495 to $30,258.
At first glance, the Starcraft Autumn Ridge does not have the many features and amenities. They only offer four different floor plans that vary between 21.8 and 22.9 feet in length. They do keep up with their flooring and furnishings. Yet those eye-catching extras are not there.
This is due to the different approach Starcraft takes with this line. Their focus is on the construction and practical solutions they offer. You will notice that they do not have any heating vents on the floor. This way, no one can stub their toe or pet claws while walking through the coach. They also made sure to keep carpet out of the coach for easy cleanup.
The cabinetry uses structurally sound lumber core material. The roof uses PVC material that is sturdy enough to walk on. The brakes have an electric self-adjusting system making the traveling experience more comfortable. The designers even installed rain gutters and spouts to control runoff. To protect the coach, the bottom front has a black diamond plate covering.
This RV line weighs between 3,385 to 3,515 pounds. Its price ranges from $12,900 to $13,900.
Since the 1930s, Airstream has continued to be one of the iconic brands in the RV industry. The retro styling of Airstream is identifiable by everyone. For 2020, the Caravel and the Bambi have taken the place of the discontinued Sport line.
The Caravel has four different floor plans that sleep up to four people. Their dry weight ranges between 3,500 and 4,300 pounds. They stretch between 16.2 to 21.11 feet in length. While it’s optional for others, Airstream provides a rearview monitor system
Inside, all the cabinetry is handcrafted Italian Lite-Ply laminated cabinetry. Vinyl flooring is used throughout the coach for easy sweeping. LED lights are used for all lighting, including the exterior tail lights. The queen-size bed also comes with a memory foam mattress that is standard.
Many of the features and amenities are from familiar brands. Moen provides the faucets. An LG LED TV is combined with a JBL Stereo and surround sound system that includes a subwoofer. To help power all this, the coach comes with a 1000-watt inverter. Pricing on this RV line is $59,360- $98,920.
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Keep Your Research Fun
Whichever RV you are considering, congratulations and welcome to the RV lifestyle. As you continue your research, there are many avenues to explore. Start by:
- Checking the local listings of your State Fairgrounds for the next RV Show
- Read reviews from fellow RVers online about the coaches you are interested in
- Try out some RVs by renting from websites like RVshare or Outdoorsy
- Stop by your local RV dealer to check out their inventory
Help yourself by making a list of what features you need and want to narrow down your search. Most importantly, keep the research fun.
Product data was last updated on 2020-07-30 at 12:59.