You might be wondering if you should pull a camper or drive an RV when considering a recreational vehicle purchase.
Typically, you should pull a camper rather than drive an RV. The decision involves personal considerations of practicality, costs, and driving experience. Exploring these topics and determining your comfort level will lead you to an appropriate personal decision.
Let’s explore these topics of consideration so you can decide what’s right for you.
Three considerations to deciding whether to pull a camper or drive an RV:
- Costs or Expenses
- Driving Experience
Picture this: You’re exhausted! You’ve gotten up early, made the long drive in stop-and-go traffic, arrived at the campground, dealt with the overbearing check-in clerk, and set up your RV. You leveled it, hooked up the water hose (pinched your finger in the process), connected the electricity, and have the A/C running.
You unrolled the outdoor carpet, extended the awning, and set up Coleman lawn chairs in the shade. After taking off your shoes and relaxing for a bit, you feel a little pang in your stomach. What’s for dinner?
Who feels like cooking after a long trip? Not you. It’d be great to go to the buffet you passed by or pick up a rotisserie chicken at the local Publix. YEAH!
Wait, what vehicle are you going to drive? Ugh! The RV is your car. Are you going to pack up, or are you stuck waiting on delivery? How long will that take? You’re hungry NOW!
If you’ve pulled your camper (aka travel trailer), then you can hop in your truck and go find food or run errands. If you drove an RV (aka motorhome), then venturing away from the campground becomes more complicated. Do you really want to pack everything up each time you need to go someplace? What a hassle!
Practically speaking, you’ll more than likely need a vehicle at your destination to get around. One major drawback of driving an RV is not having a vehicle at your destination for groceries, supplies, or sightseeing.
If you tow a car behind the RV, at your destination you’ll have to unhook the tow dolly, which has your car’s front tires on it with rear wheels on the road. This is similar to unhooking the camper from your truck.
Unhooking a tow dolly involves more time on the ground and possibly getting dirty under the car. Depending on your age and mobility, this may be challenging. Maneuverability with the car and tow dolly is also a consideration.
The internal and external setup times for a camper and RV are about the same. You’ll have to extend slides for added living space, if applicable. You’ll also need to hook up electricity, water, and waste.
Are there any advantages of driving an RV? Yes, absolutely! Traveling to and from your destination is more enjoyable in an RV. If traveling with kids, they can play around the RV and are not stuck in car seats. There’s also an accessible bathroom inside the RV, which reduces the need for coordinated public restroom stops.
Another consideration is safety. It is safer to be buckled in a truck seatbelt vs unbuckled in an RV in the event of an accident.
Generally, it is more practical to pull a camper than drive an RV.
Practicality Winner: Pull a Camper
Let’s now consider the costs of pulling a camper or driving an RV.
Costs or Expenses
On average, an RV will have higher general maintenance costs than that of pulling a camper. Why? An RV has all the maintenance costs of a camper plus costs of engine maintenance, transmission, and systems that are unique to RVs because of their combined camper and vehicle function.
In general, the purchase price for an RV will be much higher than a camper of comparable space.
– Camper: ~ $32,000 (2022 Forest River RV Cherokee Grey Wolf 29TE) RVtrader
– RV: ~$100,000 (2022 Coachmen RV Freelander 31MB) RVtrader
How often do you plan to use your camper or RV? Once, twice, four times per year, or live in it full-time? It’s an expensive toy if it just sits in the driveway or is stored due to lack of use.
Another cost is insurance. The average premium for a 12-month RV insurance policy at Progressive in 2020 was $502 for a travel trailer and $848 for a motorhome: https://www.progressive.com/answers/rv-insurance-cost/ The RV insurance is $346, or 69%, more expensive in this example.
On average, pulling a camper is more affordable than driving an RV.
Costs or Expenses Winner: Pull a Camper
Two considerations down, one to go. Let’s consider driving experience.
How much experience do you have driving a vehicle while towing another? Have you ever driven a U-Haul? Was it stressful? How about a U-Haul towing a car? Your level of experience in driving, parking, and backing up while towing another vehicle is a big consideration for confidence and competence during your travels.
Driving an RV would be less of an issue if you did not also pull a car with it.
If you want a vehicle to drive while at your destination, let’s make this comparison as straightforward as possible. Let’s consider the two main scenarios (A and B):
A) Truck pulling a camper
– 2022 Ford F-250 crew cab truck, length – 20.83 ft Ford website
– 2022 Forest River RV Cherokee Grey Wolf 29TE is 36.75 ft 8 Forest River website
Total = 58 ft long, Height – 10 ft 8 in
B) Motorhome (RV) pulling a car
– 2022 Coachmen RV Freelander 31MB, 32.92 ft long Coachmen website
– 2022 Nissan Versa, 14.75 ft Nissan website
– rear bumper of RV to the front of tow dolly ~ 6 ft
Total = 53.67 ft, Height – 10 ft 11 in
C) Motorhome (RV) alone
– 2022 Coachmen RV Freelander 31MB, 32.92 ft long
Total = 32.92 ft, Height – 10 ft 11 in
From the comparisons above, Scenario A has a greater length than scenario B.
Think about your comfort level in the following scenarios:
- Trying to merge in traffic when no one’s letting you in.
- Low visibility in pouring rain or driving at night.
- High winds blowing the camper, RV, or towed vehicle.
- Possibility of an accident.
- Stressful bumper-to-bumper traffic
Do the extra 4 feet from option A to B make you feel less comfortable?
Scenario C has the shortest length but provides no detachable vehicle. Is that acceptable?
With either option, say goodbye to 9-foot fast food windows and ATM drive-thrus, and some gas stations. Next time you’re at a drive-thru, look at the vehicle clearance sign for scratches and gouges caused by an RV or camper.
Both may present an issue when getting gas. The turning radius and greater heights may require you to map out gas fill-ups so you can visit pull-through stations like Flying J, which do not require you to back up.
The last item to keep in mind is when your vacation begins. In an RV, it starts as soon as you begin driving. Why? Because the whole adventure experience in a portable home starts when you leave your driveway.
Conversely, when pulling a camper, your vacation starts at your destination. Why? Because everyone is confined to their seats and buckled up during a long drive. The vacation begins hours and miles away upon arrival at the campground.
The RV driving experience is generally better than pulling a camper.
Driving Experience Winner: Drive an RV
Three considerations to use when deciding to pull a camper or drive an RV:
- Practicality (Pull a Camper)
- Costs Involved (Pull a Camper)
- Driving Experience (Drive an RV)
It’s a nuanced decision. Only by a thorough evaluation of personal preferences and potential drawbacks can you determine if it’s better to pull a camper or drive an RV. We chose the camper route.