Camping opportunities are available all across the United States. Once you cross the Mississippi River, the western states sometimes offer hundreds of miles of wilderness to explore. When supplies are limited and a tent won’t protect you from the wildlife that’s out there, a travel trailer becomes an investment that makes sense.
Most travel trailers qualify as an RV. These recreational vehicles are in a broad category of towable vehicles that include fifth-wheel designs and tent trailers. It isn’t going to be a motorhome, but there are some that come pretty close to that concept. You can then stock the trailer with as many supplies as you need to have a wonderful holiday adventure.
If you love to travel, manage a regional sports schedule for your family, or you just want to have a grand adventure, then several pros and cons of owning a travel trailer are worth reviewing. You will need to ensure that the eventual product you select falls within the towing guidelines for your vehicle.
List of the Pros of Owning a Travel Trailer
1. A travel trailer is more affordable than a motorhome.
If you love to travel, the expenses can pile up quickly when you are on the road. When you own a travel trailer, then you can avoid the initial expense of purchasing a motorhome. RVs are notoriously expensive, and the larger ones will sell for more than $100,000 when they are new. If you want to purchase a travel trailer in a similar condition, then you can expect to pay between 15% to 30% of that initial MSRP. This advantage means that you can enjoy the RV lifestyle without draining your savings account.
2. Travel trailers come in many different shapes and sizes.
You can find a wide range of travel trailer designs available today so that something can work with your current vehicle. You will find basic options, like pop-up campers, that work for cars and SUVs that can only tow up to 1,000 pounds. Large fifth-wheel options are the most expensive selection in this category, but it is a choice that also comes with the most amenities.
Entry-level products might not provide the right kind of insulation you need for some adventures, but you can save money on your overall expenses. There is always a way to find an equitable compromise if you pursue this product.
3. You have more flexibility with your travel arrangements.
Since you need a vehicle to tow a travel trailer, this option gives you more flexibility with your travel arrangements. Driving an RV allows you to bring a vehicle if you tow it, but the trailer puts your car or SUV as the primary component of your rig. It’s a lot easier to drive into a campsite to unhook a fifth wheel than it is to detach a towing rig for a car so that you can explore the area.
If you were to own a bigger RV, then it might not be feasible to tow that vehicle to the various places you want to travel. A trailer makes parking easier, allowing your investment to serve a dual purpose. It can also help some families avoid the expense of a rental car.
4. Insurance costs are minimal for travel trailers.
When you own a bigger, more expensive vehicle, then the cost to ensure it will increase. Travel trailers are relatively affordable, with policies ranging from $150-$500 per year. That figure is significantly less than what it would take to protect a Class A RV. If you drive your motorhome or trailer full-time, then finding the best rate is an essential component of limiting your annual expenses.
It is not unusual for an entry-level RV to cost $1,500 or more to insure. Since a small travel trailer might cost only 10% of that figure, it is a wise investment for those who want to get on the road without spending a lot of money.
5. Maintaining a travel trailer is much easier than it is for an RV.
You don’t need to worry about an engine when you are pulling a travel trailer. You are left with the parts that require maintenance because of the usual wear-and-tear process. An RV has an engine attached that can require a significant amount of care. The larger the value of your vehicle, the higher the level of maintenance that will be necessary to keep it operational. All you need to do with this advantage is to ensure your generator or battery is functional to make full use of the investment.
The average owner of a travel trailer can also do most of the maintenance work at home by themselves. If you were to take an RV to a professional mechanic, the need to keep the vehicle tuned up might cost you $100 per hour in labor.
6. Travel trailers have wide availability across the United States.
Because of the affordability and ease-of-use that travel trailers provide, they are one of the most popular vehicles sold in the United States each year. If you have a car or SUV that can pull this product, then you can go almost anywhere. That’s why it is an affordable way to enjoy the RV lifestyle. Manufacturers create a diverse array of styles and designs so that you can purchase an item that meets your exact needs.
If you are in the market for a travel trailer today, then you will want to ensure that the layout of the vehicle fits your requirements. Review the included amenities so that you know your car or SUV can support the arrangement. If something doesn’t fit your fancy today, you’ll find several new models being launched each year.
7. There is a healthy used market available for travel trailers.
If you are looking for a travel trailer and want to save the most money possible, then consider purchasing a used item. Most private sellers are offering this asset for $3,000 to $5,000, although some fifth wheels can be much more expensive. There can be high levels of depreciation with this item, so you can take it vantage of this fact as a new owner by purchasing a used product.
A used travel trailer can be the perfect first RV. If you’re not sure that you like this option, then you haven’t invested a significant amount of money in this experiment.
8. It is an economical option for most families.
You can stock a travel trailer with food, water, and all of the supplies that you need for a trip. That means you can save money each day because you’re not purchasing food at restaurants. Campgrounds will charge a fee for access, but it is significantly less than what you would pay for a hotel. Most of the places where you would take a travel trailer have similar amenities to hotels, including swimming pools and on inside restaurants if you still want those things for your trip.
Even when you compare fuel costs, the travel trailer comes out ahead. An RV can guzzle a lot of fuel when you’re at highway speeds. Your car or SUV won’t have the same miles per gallon when towing the extra weight, but the expense will still be much lower than if you were in a Class A or Class C motorhome.
9. You can take your pets with you in many travel trailers.
Although this advantage doesn’t apply to the travel trailers that fold down for driving, you can transport your pets in a fifth wheel without much difficulty. That means you can avoid the headache of trying to find a sitter for your furry friends when it is time to take a vacation. Even if you want to do some sightseeing, the security of the trailer allows you to have unsupervised moments as conditions warrant.
This advantage doesn’t only apply to dogs. You can bring your kitty and many other pets on vacation with you when you have a travel trailer.
10. Owning a travel trailer is a lot of fun.
Most first-time owners of a travel trailer get nervous about this investment because they’re not sure how other people will react to their presence. There are some RVs and drivers out there that take up the road, leave their waste behind, and make life difficult for everyone around them. Don’t be those people, and you will find that the community is positive and supportive of your goals.
You get the experience of the RV lifestyle without a significant investment. Some people really enjoy it, so that becomes their priority for each vacation – or even retirement.
List of the Cons of Owning a Travel Trailer
1. Cost can still be a significant factor for travel trailer ownership.
Even though you can find affordable travel trailers on the market today, a desire to have a premium experience will result in a significant expense. Fifth-wheel trailers that are top-of-the-line products easily sell for more than $50,000. You can often secure financing to make a manageable monthly payment, but there are families who cannot afford this expense. If you only have a few thousand dollars in the bank, then the condition and quality of used trailers may not be up to your desired experience.
2. Some vehicles have towing difficulties with travel trailers.
Before you purchase a travel trailer, you must know the exact towing capacity of your car or SUV. Many four-cylinder vehicles will only allow you to tow 1,000 pounds or less behind the vehicle. Even some large vehicles, such as the Dodge Journey, have this minimum level listed in their base model owner’s manual. If you exceed the maximum weight limit, then there is a higher risk of causing damage to your car and the trailer.
You can also find that some trailers do not work well with certain hitches. If your car or SUV requires a specific setup for towing, then you will want to know if the trailer you prefer will work with the mandated options.
3. You need to check your hitch every time you stop.
A hitch can be an easy way to tow a travel trailer to virtually any destination. It is also something that you need to check every time you stop. If you hit a bump in the road or find that your vehicle’s engine is straining to climb a hill, then you might need to reset how you are towing the trailer. If you are not familiar with how to do this work, it can be costly to find someone capable of performing the inspection on your behalf.
4. People cannot travel inside of a travel trailer.
Most states will not allow you to carry passengers when towing a travel trailer. That means there are clear restrictions to the number of people who can come along in a single-vehicle for the trip you are planning. Cars and SUVs have limited seating, RVs can encounter this issue when there aren’t enough seatbelts installed for the interior seating, but there are fewer restrictions in place for passenger travel.
The biggest travel trailers on the market today often need a significant truck with a lot of power to create the needed towing structures. That means you’re often limited to five passengers for your trip. If you have a family of six, then you are going to be out of luck in most states.
5. Travel trailers have fewer amenities than larger RVs.
If you want to compare the amenities that are available in a motorhome to what you can find in a travel trailer, then the latter will always come up a little short. This option is not always the correct choice if your preference is to enjoy luxury while driving down the road. You can still have a refrigerator, living area, sleeping space, and a bathroom when you choose a travel trailer, but not all of them come with these features.
The most affordable travel trailers in today’s marketplace typically give you sleeping space for 2-4 people and limited food preparation options. More amenities will always equate to a heavier towing requirement.
6. There can be travel restrictions in place for some trailers.
A travel trailer can restrict where you are able to explore because you are bringing something along that’s only attached to your vehicle via the hitch. That means your options are somewhat restricted for a trip or a vacation when you compare this option with an RV. You will also need to think about the roads and their conditions ahead of time to ensure that you can arrive at your destination safely.
A travel trailer gives you more convenience than what you would receive when sleeping in the back of a truck or SUV. It is less convenient than what you would experience in an RV. You have to be willing to embrace that compromise and the challenges that this disadvantage can bring to have a successful experience.
7. A travel trailer may not provide you with enough space.
Travel trailers provide less space than what you will find in entry-level RVs. One of the ways to maximize the space for a sleeping area is to create flexibility within the interior of the unit, sort of like how a small apartment utilizes Murphy furniture. You will take the pressure off of your vehicle by going with something lightweight and small, but it might not be large enough to accommodate everyone. If you really need a lot of space for your family, then a motorhome is going to be the better choice to pursue.
8. Travel trailers tend to be less comfortable than other RVs.
A travel trailer is like staying in a Holiday Inn Express. An RV is like staying at a 5-star resort. You will find people who are happy with either choice, so it is up to you to determine what your comfort levels are for traveling. Some of the products in this category can be over 30 feet in length to give you plenty of elbow room, but then you come back to the fact that you cannot be in one while someone is driving it down the road.
There are layouts that include a full kitchen or a king bed, but then that means you can accommodate fewer people since the spaces are being dedicated to 1-2 travelers. That is why it is imperative to find a layout that matches your expectations.
Travel trailers are a fun way to embrace a nomadic lifestyle. If you have always thought about experiencing the RV lifestyle, then this is an affordable way to see if you enjoy this kind of journey. You won’t receive as much insulation or comfort as you would with a motorhome, but the monetary savings is significant if you have a vehicle that is capable of towing your preferred set up.
Most first-time owners of a travel trailer find that their biggest disadvantage is learning how to drive and park after connecting the unit to their hitch. It takes a specific skill to push a trailer in reverse, so plan to practice that need after purchase.
The pros and cons of owning a travel trailer generally fall on the side of it being a positive experience. There can be length limitations and spatial concerns for some families, but it can also be a lot of fun to see the world using this method.
Blog Post Author Credentials
Natalie Regoli, Esq. is the author of this post and the editor-in-chief of our blog. She received her B.A. in Economics from the University of Washington and her Masters in Law from The University of Texas School of Law. In addition to being a seasoned writer, Natalie has almost two decades of experience as a lawyer and banker. If you would like to contact Natalie, then go here to send her a message.