Kurt Verlin
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Should You Buy a Travel Trailer or Motorhome?

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Travel trailers and motorhomes are two of the major types of recreational vehicles. The former must be towed by another vehicle, while the latter is self-powered. Choosing the right type of RV is one of the most important factors to consider when buying an RV, but there are pros and cons to both travel trailers and motorhomes — so which should you buy?

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The case for travel trailers

2016 Jayco White Hawk
Photo: Jayco

Generally, the cost of buying and owning a travel trailer is lower than the cost of a comparably-sized motorhome. After all, the motorhome’s powertrain doesn’t come for free. While the equation gets more complicated if you don’t already own a vehicle capable of towing the trailer, even in the long term the reduced complexity of the trailer will lead to lower maintenance costs. Travel trailers also depreciate slower than motorhomes and cost you less on insurance.

Furthermore, travel trailers are more spacious than motorhomes. Both come in all shapes and sizes, but motorhomes have to give up space for the powertrain and cockpit. For camping in luxury, especially with children in tow, it’s hard to beat a fifth wheel RV with multiple rooms and a separate bunkhouse.

Another benefit of travel trailers is that once you are set up at your camping site, you can easily drive around in your vehicle as needed. It’s a lot more convenient than having to haul the entire motorhome around when going on errands, and a lot better on gas mileage too.

The case for motorhomes

Motorhome on a German forest parking
Photo: Fabian via CC

The main advantage of motorhomes is that they make the travel days more enjoyable, especially for passengers. While travel trailers are very much about enhancing your experience at the destination, motorhomes are all about giving you a better journey. Smaller motorhomes are easier to maneuver and require less space for parking, but more importantly, being able to get up and do something inside the motorhome while someone else is driving is a major perk.

It’s both dangerous and illegal to be inside a towable RV while traveling, but you can legally sit inside a motorhome that has seat belts, and in some states you can even use facilities like the bathroom while on the go. Even if you need to pull over and park, it’s a lot more convenient to take a break in a motorhome than while towing a travel trailer.

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So what type of rig is best? There’s no hard answer, as ultimately it will depend on your budget, preferences, habits, and intended uses for the RV. If you don’t want to commit to an RV without being sure, you could always rent a few different types first and then decide.