Young couple and their dog standing in front of a Class A motorhome

Full-Time RVers Explain: Why We Chose a Motorhome Over a Trailer

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We are Cody and Emily of @lettuce.drive, a married couple who decided to embark on the journey of a lifetime: life on the road. We dreamed of full-time travel together for 10 years. When the world fell apart and the ability to work remotely became a reality, we figured “Now’s our chance!” even if it was only going to last for a few months. Here is some insight into why we chose a motorhome over a trailer.

When someone decides to live on the road the first thought is usually, what type of vehicle should we choose? A van? A schoolie? A motorhome? A trailer? The answer depends on the individual’s needs.

In our situation, we knew we had a limited time to work remotely and wanted to spend as much of that time traveling as possible. This meant that converting a van or a bus was off the table. But deciding between a trailer and a motorhome was a bit more complicated. Now that we have been on the road for 10 months, we have answers to the questions we didn’t even know to ask when we started our RV search. So we wanted to share some things to take into consideration when choosing between a motorhome and a travel trailer.

Young couple standing in front of their motorhome
Emily and Cody from @lettuce.drive share why they chose a motorhome over a travel trailer. Photo from @lettuce.drive

Cost and Tow Vehicle

One of the first considerations to be made is the cost and your tow vehicle.

Travel trailers are typically less expensive than motorhomes at face value. A new, modern trailer can be less expensive than a 10-year-old motorhome of the same size. However, if you do not have the proper vehicle to tow the trailer then you also need to take into consideration the cost of purchasing a heavy-duty truck. In this case, a motorhome may end up being less expensive.

Alternatively, if you want to tow a vehicle behind your motorhome (commonly called a “toad”), there are few vehicles (such as a Jeep Wrangler) that can have the clutch unlocked which allows them to be towed behind the motorhome without adding miles to the odometer.

We have lived in our motorhome full time with and without a tow behind vehicle. While it’s definitely possible both ways, the car makes things like getting groceries, going out to dinner, and off-roading to hikes significantly easier.

Another consideration is that if you’re not equipped for boondocking then some campsites have a fee for an extra vehicle ($5-$15/night). This fee often applies to toads but your towing vehicle. The rules and fees vary from campsite to campsite but can add up over time.

Young couple, Emily and Cody, sitting through the top of a Jeep
Cody and Emily with their Jeep “toad” – Photo from @lettuce.drive

Parking

Depending on the size of the rig, parking a motorhome is pretty similar to parking a large car. For example, we have a 28 ft motorhome that can fit in a standard parking lot pulled across two spots. Trailers tend to require a bit more finesse to park because they usually have to be backed into a spot. While some skilled drivers do this on their own, it’s usually a two-person job. This may be something to take into consideration if you are a solo traveler.

Medium to large trailers may also be more difficult to park in a standard parking lot because the length of the trailer plus the towing vehicle may extend past the parking spaces. Some lots do not allow trailers to be unhooked from the tow vehicles.

Setting up at Your Campsite

Motorhome and white Jeep parked in a desert with a cotton candy sky in the background.
Photo from @lettuce.drive

The time it takes to park, level, and set-up also varies between the two types of RVs.

This may seem like a silly consideration but if you’re only staying in each camp spot a couple of days at a time, the set-up and tear-down process can become cumbersome. As an example, in our motorhome, parking and set-up on level ground takes about 5-10 minutes. We have learned from our fellow travelers that the parking and set-up for a trailer usually takes closer to 20-30 minutes. But again, this will depend on the driver and the parking or camping spot.

If you’re staying in one place for a long time or using your motorhome just for vacations, the parking and set-up time may not be much of a concern. But if you’re planning on moving your rig frequently then it’s definitely something to take into consideration.

Size Restrictions

One of the things that I really recommend doing before purchasing a motorhome is figuring out exactly how you want to use it. Are you planning on doing a lot of boondocking? Planning on visiting a lot of National Parks? Are you planning on staying in KOAs?

All of these things will make a difference in the size and type of rig you choose. Many National Parks have size restrictions that don’t allow rigs larger than 30 ft. If you’re planning on spending a lot of time on public land then you may want something smaller and with a higher clearance so you can feel comfortable on dirt roads.

Do some research and look at the regulations on the specific campsites you hope to stay at. If you are planning on boondocking, I recommend visiting camping apps to look at reviews of places you may want to stay so you can get an idea of what kind of vehicles can fit in each kind of place.

Read more: 10 Best State Park Campgrounds For Big Rigs

Space

The storage space and functional living space can vary greatly with each class of motorhome and type of trailer!

The living space of the RV is determined by a few main components:

  • How many sliders it has (if any)
  • Layout
  • Under storage (often called “the basement”)
  • Length

In general, trailers (with the same slide-out setup) will have more space on the inside than motorhomes of the same length. This is because no space is taken up by the driving cabin. However, travel trailers typically have less storage space underneath in the basement or garage.

My recommendation would be to choose the length of the rig you want first. Then look within those size specifications to find a space that is functional for your needs. I think most people would be surprised as to how much can fit into a small space and how little they actually need on the road. Anecdotally, we have met far more nomads that have chosen to downsize their rig than upsize because of the limitations a larger vehicle can impose on where you can go.

Utilization of Space While Traveling

One perk of the motorhome is that you can be inside of it while driving. If you are traveling with a large group or family then this can be beneficial because it allows more space to spread out on long drives.

Longevity

If you plan on keeping your RV for a long time then consider the wear and tear of each vehicle type. If there is a transmission or technical problem in your motorhome, you have to replace the whole motorhome or transmission. This can make for a tough situation if you’re a full-timer and your whole living space has to be in the shop for an extended period of time. Suddenly you may be left without a home or a car!

You should also take into consideration routine maintenance such as oil changes and tire rotations. Not all mechanics can accommodate RVs so basic services often take longer than they would for a typical car.

On the other hand, if you have a trailer and the truck dies, you get to keep the trailer and just replace the truck. These things do matter for resale value as well because you aren’t adding miles to the odometer on a trailer and you are on a motorhome. This means that motorhomes tend to have a lower percentage resale value if you plan on buying new.


As you can see there is a lot to deliberate when choosing between a trailer and an RV. The decision should take into consideration:

  • Your budget
  • Where you plan on staying (campsites vs. boondocking)
  • How long you plan on staying in each place
  • How much space you need
  • Your comfort level while driving
  • How long you plan on keeping your RV

There is no right or wrong answer when it comes to choosing an RV, but hopefully this helps you know what factors to evaluate when picking your home on wheels.

14 thoughts on “Full-Time RVers Explain: Why We Chose a Motorhome Over a Trailer”

  1. George Weckbacher

    Thank you for taking the time to put this good info out for others to read and see that there is many things to consider with the choice of vehicle(s) used to RV with. As a long time RV’er when asked my opinion on which is better, an RV or Trailer, I suggest many options but also suggest that people rent one of each for a week or 2 before making their actual purchase. I suggest this because each traveler has different needs and they can test drive each to see how they meet their requirements.
    We appreciate the off the grid sites for quality time with nature and have our own needs that do not relate to many others, so I will advise on our situation but explain we are not the norm and that each person needs to define their needs and situation.

  2. Another consideration:
    We have had pull behind trailers, a 5th wheel, a 30 foot class c, and now a 29 foot class a.
    We choose a motor home for various reason, but one not mentioned in your article relates to boondocking. Even though we pull a Jeep, we are less hesitant to venture down that unknown road looking for a campsite. With a non motorized unit there is the concern of trying to get turned around, whereas with a motorized unit of our size there is less concern.

  3. allen cunningham

    i started out at 16 , just sleeping in the back seat of my car , a bit crowded , yes but better than sleeping with the bugs on the ground , i progressed to a tent , but tedious to set up and carry , we went to a truck and camper , and was feeling better about travel and sleeping , then to several B van , then to a class A motorhome , now on the 3rd motorhome , all getting larger as we went , now 40 ft diesel pusher .
    i had considered a trailer but shunned away from fifth wheel because the hookup took most of the room in the back of the truck , so when unhooked was ok for travel but not much good for shopping , and i have traveled with several people with trailers and fifth wheels and the setup time is a lot more work . one major drawback is traveling and having to go to the bathroom , find a place to pull over , get out , run back to the trailer , get steps down , unlock door , run in , hoping slides and stowed equipment is not in the way , and finally …..relief , then put everything back as before and get back in the truck an carry on , and this goes for everyone in the party , as opposed to a motorhome , where i get to find a spot to pull over , go back , do the deed and back on the road in 2-3 minutes , if someone in the party needs to go , they can , and snacks and lunches do not hold up drive time , as they can be made on the run , some people dont go far , so this may not be a problem , but we travel quite far , last trip we went to the gulf of mexico , from Alberta , canada over 4 months and 13,800 miles round trip , ……i have been eyeing some 45 ft tag axle motorhome lately , my daughter calls the 40ft the “GLAMPER” , she and her husband have a Teardrop trailer with very little amenities

  4. I’ve had the pleasure of owning both a motorhome (31W 31′ Fleetwood class C Tioga SL) and four trailers (Coleman Niagara popup, 25′ Coleman camping trailer, 30′ travel trailer X 2, both Grand Designs).
    One thing to consider with motorhomes, and this really depends on what state they’re registered in, is registration and license fees for two vehicles. In CA, it was about $1100 for motorhome and toad plus maintenance for both. It is nice having a moving bathroom and kitchen but that’s where it ended for us.
    Comparing 30′ trailers vs 30′ motor homes, truck & trailer has a tighter turning radius believe it or not. Trailers have more internal storage than motorhomes foot for foot with external about the same. Both were within length restrictions for state, federal and private parks.
    We chose to go back to travel trailers mostly due to general expense considerations. Motorhomes are more expensive to operate and maintain and you must tow a vehicle, I’ve tried it both ways and if you can afford it, it’s a no brainer. Depreciation is a big factor with motorhomes as well. Trailers make better financial sense from both capital outlay and value retention. That’s why you see so many more trailers than motorhomes.

  5. This was great information for people who are considering RVing full-time. We are full-timers for about 3 yrs now . We started with a Jayco Grayhawk now have a Tiffin Motorhome. We have a large dog and just needed more space to be comfortable.

  6. Our first RV experience ever was a rented Class C. We quickly learned that having to have it tethered for shore power and water, then having to untether it every time we needed to shop or explore our destination, was highly undesirable. While pulling a toad was an option, the doubled probability of mechanical problems on the road with two engines in the mix concerned us. We decided a trailer was the optimal division of labor, and never looked back. After 25 years, DW and I are a Finely Tuned Machine™ when it comes to hitching and unhitching. Really, hitching and unhitching a toad is about the same level of effort.

  7. As a an RVer for 13 years and a full timer for 10, having stayed in many hundreds of different campgrounds and RV Parks across the US, including commercial, federal, state, county, private, club, etc., we have never EVER run into a situation where our tow vehicle incured an extra charge. In fact, we have found just the opposite at some state parks,
    where if you arrive with the towed attached, the entrance fee for it is waived. While obviously you may have encountered someplace that does charge extra, we have never found it, and if we ever did we wouldn’t go there. It is at worst a rarity and no where near as common as you make it sound.

  8. Both have there pluses and minuses Insurance and maintenance cost would be higher on A motor home compared to a TT . Especially if your operating a Toad behind the motor home . With a trailer you would have the TV to tour around with once you unhook

  9. We did as you suggested–picked a maximum length that couls then be separated into halves. A combined RV length of 40 feet allowed us to fit into shorter Federal campgrounds and onto ferries (eg., the Alaska Marine Highways ferries) witout incurring additional fees. Our combined travel trailer-mid-size pickup length as 40′. Our fifth wheel was 5′ longer rhan out TT, but combined with our 3/4-ton, crew cab, 4×4 truck, it was only 40′ long and still fit into two back-to-back parking spaces at Walmart. Our current motorhome + toad are still only 40′ long, but can fit side-by-side in a 25′ long campsite. Using a combined 40′ as our guide, we have never found a campsite that we couldn’t fit.

  10. Commander and his Mistress

    Thought provoking and insightful.
    With gas and diesel prices rising, the size of your motor home and weight of your tow will be a part of the budget

  11. I live half the year in a 35’ travel trailer and feel basically the opposite! I’ll tell you why.

    1. Trucks are reliable, easy to get worked on/serviced, and much cheaper to replace than an RV. If your RV engine dies mid-trip it’s a whole lot worse than if your pickup engine dies.

    2. The total cost is much cheaper. I have a loaded Ram 2500 that can tow 20,000 lbs and that plus my camper plus my pro-pride hitch (highly recommend) are still in the five digits, albeit just barely.

    The guy in an RV towing along a vehicle to drive around at their destination has twice that cost in it for a comparable amount of living space. His maintenance costs more (he’s got two engines to deal with instead of one). Etc.

    Also pickups depreciate very slowly, even in normal times. That new $60k diesel 3/4 ton in normal years is still going to be worth $50k after a few years driving and 50,000 miles. (In the current wacky environment it actually went up in value but that’s an aberration that will likely not last so let’s ignore it. )

    So my camper and pickup that cost $100k after a few years will probably be sellable for a combined $70k. What’s that $200k you spent on a low end motorhome and the car that it tows going to sell for? If you’re lucky you’ll get half that back.

    3. Storage. I’ve got a pickup bed with a truck cap which is basically a 6.5’ x 4’ x 4, storage locker. It’s huge. I leave for six months at a time and between what I have in the camper and that I’m only even using maybe half of all of my available storage!

    4. Hitching and unhitching is basically a wash. It’s about the same amount of time to hitch up your camper to a pickup at it is to hitch your car to the RV, and you’re doing it pretty much in the same exact situations. I mostly don’t unhitch when I’m just doing a quick overnight, nor would an RV. And that’s assuming the RV guy Is not towing a vehicle that does not require manually disconnecting the transfer case.

    5. Driveability. Yes, backing up trailers takes practice. (If you already do this for work or pleasure then you’re ready.) But once you get it the camper/pickup is more maneuverable than a large RV because it pivots in the middle. I can take a tighter turn our back into a tighter spot with my 35’ trailer and pickup than the guy in a large RV (albeit just barely). With the 6 figures you saved on purchasing/maintenance you can get a pretty baller camera system and still have 5.9 figures left!

  12. Thank you for your article, however it is not true that there are not many cars that can be towed. There are many cars that can be toads. For example; most Fords and Lincolns can be towed by just starting in Park, shifting to neutral and turning off the car. I have towed my hybrid Ford C-Max for more than 20,000 miles with no issues.

  13. You balanced trailers against motor homes without realizing those are only 2/3 of the choices, with trailers being the least practical of the 3. Your missing category is 5th wheels. A 5th wheel provides most benefits of trailers & motorhomes, with fewer downsides.

  14. In 23 years of rving I have never been charged extra for my toad.
    We started out with a 30 foot travel trailer, and while it was actually more comfortable in some ways when it was parked at a campsite, it’s all unavailable to you while you’re driving. We switched over halfway through a trip to Colorado and traded it in on a 36 ft Class A. Where you have your refrigerator, microwave, Etc available while you’re driving.

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