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Towable RV Vs. Motorhome (Pros and Cons)

When choosing the right RV for you and your family, one of the first things you need to decide is whether you want to get a towable RV or a motorhome. Both types of RVs can provide substantial living space while being a fantastic addition to your camping adventures. The main difference between the two is that a motorhome is a single vehicle with the living space connected to the driver’s cabin, while a towable RV’s living space is separate. Furthermore, a towable RV requires you to have a separate vehicle to haul your RV around. But which one is better: a towable RV or motorhome?

Trying to decide which one is better for you will mainly come down to one or two things. When deciding between the two types of RVs, the most crucial factor is cost. Motorhomes will usually cost more than a towable RV with the same amount of living space. However, some motorhomes like class A or C are huge and may require you to have a separate vehicle that you tow around to get around easier once you’ve set up camp. On the other hand, a towable RV requires an additional vehicle depending on the size of the towable RV you want. You might need a powerful towing vehicle like a pick-up truck to move them around. 

With that said, we have come up with a list of pros and cons for both towable RVs and motorhomes. Our pros and cons list will provide you with the answers you need in order to choose the right RV for you and your family. Furthermore, we will thoroughly describe both types of RVs to give you a clear picture of what you can expect.

Motorhomes Vs. Towable RVs

There are two main RVs classifications: motorhomes and towable RVs. Both types of RVs have a few different types that you can choose from. Each type will vary in size, style, weight, and living space. 

Motorhomes

First, we are going to talk about motorhomes. Motorhomes are all-in-one vehicles where the engine and driver’s cabin is connected to the rest of the RV. There are three types of motorhomes split into three different classes, class A, B, and C. 

  • Class A Motorhomes: This type of RV is the most expensive. However, class A motorhomes provide the most space for amenities. Depending on the size of a class A motorhome and its amenities, you can comfortably fit up to eight people with enough beds for everyone to sleep. Class A motorhomes have powerful engines that can easily tow an additional vehicle behind them to get around easier once you’ve set up camp.
  • Class B Motorhomes: This type of RV is the smallest of the motorhome category and looks similar to a modified van. Class B motorhomes are usually the cheapest out of the three motorhome classes. Their small size limits the space available for amenities and living space. However, class B motorhomes do not require an additional vehicle and can be driven and parked like a regular van.
  • Class C Motorhomes: This type of RV is the second largest out of the three motorhome classes and looks like a modified truck. Class C motorhomes combine the best of both class A and B into one vehicle. Class C motorhomes have a good amount of space for amenities while also strong enough to tow a small vehicle to get around easier. 

Towable RVs

The main difference between a towable RV and a motorhome is that a towable RV requires an additional vehicle to move it around. There are four distinct types within the towable RV category: travel trailers, pop-up campers, expandable trailers, and fifth-wheelers.

  • Travel Trailers: This type of RV is the largest of the four towable RVs and has an extensive range of size options from 12 to 45 feet in length. 
  • Expandable Trailers: While there are a lot of RVs that have expandable parts, they are nearly always hard-shelled. However, “true” expandable trailers are mostly hard-shelled, but their expandable compartments are always canvas and look like tent material. This makes expandable trailers look deceivingly small, but there is a ton of living space once they are set up. 
  • Pop-Up Campers: This type of RV is unique and lightweight. Pop-up campers are the smaller and more compact versions of expandable trailers. Pop-up campers look like small hard-shelled rectangles when packed up, which allows for very easy towing. However, once you set up camp, a pop-up camper will expand, and most of its exterior will be made of the same canvas material as an expandable trailer. This type of RV is the smallest and is best suited for one or two people.
  • Fifth Wheelers: Fifth wheelers are the heaviest towable trailer and can easily be the most expensive. They are packed with amenities made of luxury material and can often have expandable parts for more living space. What’s unique about fifth wheelers is that they require a heavy-duty pick-up truck to tow them around because they come with a gooseneck hitch that connects to the bed of a pick-up truck rather than the truck’s towing hitch. The gooseneck provides more stability while also providing more control and maneuverability.

Advantages of a Towable RV over a Motorhome

Maintenance Costs

With a towable RV, you only have to worry about maintaining one engine as opposed to the two engines of a motorhome and its towed vehicle. Furthermore, the maintenance costs of a class A or class C motorhome engine are way more expensive than the engine of your typical towing vehicle.

Moreover, there is often a significant stretch of time in between camping trips, and your motorhome may sit in one spot and go unused for that whole time. If this happens, you will need to service your motorhome’s engine and have it get a check-up to make sure everything is in working order. On the other hand, there is a good chance that you are using your towing vehicle every day, which helps keep its engine in working order.

Price

Towable RVs are much less expensive than a motorhome with equal living space. This is because a towable RV does not have the additional cost of an engine. However, if you add the cost of a separate towing vehicle like a pick-up truck or an SUV, then the total cost of a towable RV will be close to the cost of a motorhome.

Travel Options After Setting Up Camp

After setting up camp with your towable RV, it is very easy to unhitch your RV and use your towing vehicle to travel around and explore. If you have a motorhome, you will need to bring an additional vehicle to explore without moving your entire rig and leaving the campgrounds. Having an additional vehicle with your motorhome will artificially increase the overall cost of the motorhome. Furthermore, if your motorhome is damaged, you may be stranded without an additional vehicle to get around.

Insurance Costs

Purchasing insurance for a towable RV is a lot easier and cheaper than for a motorhome. Motorhome insurance costs more because of the engine. As we previously stated, the most expensive part of a motorhome is the engine, and repairing it is not cheap. 

Safer Family Transport

Motorhomes often advertise that they can sleep anywhere from two to eight people comfortably, but they are hardly ever built to transport more than two safely. Other than the two in the driver’s cabin, all of the seating inside a motorhome is built for comfort rather than safety. Motorhomes will rarely ever have seat belts to protect the passengers in case of an accident. Furthermore, car seats for young children and babies have nowhere to latch on safely. However, in the case of towable RVs, it is advised that you do not travel with passengers in the RV. Instead, all passengers should be in the towing vehicle, which will have seat belts and places to latch on a car seat.

Easier to Purchase and Sell

Because towable RVs do not have to worry about servicing an engine, they are easier to sell than a motorhome. Furthermore, if you go to an RV show, you will see a plethora of towable RVs and only a few motorhomes. The same can be seen at RV dealerships, except for dealerships specializing in selling motorhomes. When buying a used RV, you will see nearly five times as many towable RVs than motorhomes on Craigslist, eBay, RVTrader, and other websites where you can buy RVs. This makes it much easier to look for specific floor plans and amenities when shopping for a used towable RV.

Advantages of a Motorhome Over a Towable RV

No Towing Required

Oftentimes knowing that you have to tow a travel trailer or a fifth wheeler will put off a ton of people. Towing can be very intimidating for people who have not towed anything before, and reversing with a towable RV can be extremely difficult. Furthermore, there is a significant learning curve when it comes to matching towing vehicles to large rigs, and opting to purchase a motorhome can put a lot of minds at ease. Moreover, you are not limited in what you can purchase based on how much your vehicle can tow. 

However, if you plan to bring a smaller vehicle for traveling once you have set up camp, then towing may still be an issue for some people. But towing a small car or SUV behind a large motorhome (class A or C) is a lot easier than towing a large trailer. Furthermore, you will likely unhitch your towed vehicle and move it aside before backing into the campground, making this task much more manageable.

Faster Setup and Teardown

One of the most significant advantages of owning a motorhome is the ease of setting up camp. Most towable RVs will need to have their jack stands extended before you unhitch them from the towing vehicle. Then you will need to expand the extra compartments to make more walking space inside the RV. For a motorhome, pretty much all you need to do is park it, turn off the engine, and hit a few buttons to expand the RV. Furthermore, the same process needs to be done when breaking camp.

It is Easier to Tell if Something Happens Inside the RV when Traveling

Those who choose to have a towable RV instead of a motorhome can be in for a nasty surprise once they park and start setting up camp. When traveling with any RV, cabinets can open, things can get knocked over, the fridge can even come unlatched and start flooding the place. With a towable RV, most of these will go unnoticed by the owner because they are in their towing vehicle driving down the road.

However, for motorhome owners, you can easily hear if anything opens, falls, or breaks because the driver’s cabin is connected to the rest of the RV and will have an open door in order to see inside. Therefore, it is easy to pull over and rectify the issue if something happens before matters get worse. Moreover, if you have a partner sitting with you in the front of your motorhome, they can go into the RV and fix the more minor issues without having to stop.

Discrete Camping

If you own a smaller motorhome, you can easily pull off the side of the road or in a parking lot and then go into the rear of your RV for a night’s rest. However, even with the smallest towable RVs, you need to at least get out of your vehicle then walk to your RV. Furthermore, the smaller motorhomes are able to get to places with amazing views much easier than any towable RV, which lets you be picky about where you want to set up camp.

Living Off-Grid for Extended Periods

Most motorhomes come with a house battery that will charge off of the engine’s alternator while driving. These batteries will continue to charge even if the engine’s battery is full. Towable RV house batteries will continue to charge if the towing vehicle’s battery is fully charged as well but at a significantly slower rate. This means motorhomes can dry-camp or boondock more efficiently than towable RVs. 

With that said, because motorhome house batteries can charge more efficiently, you can set up camp in rural areas where the likelihood of running into other campers is rare. This allows you to handpick your camping spots with the most beautiful views. Furthermore, you can travel to areas where there is no electricity, water, or sewer connections like you would find in RV parks and developed campgrounds. It will be just you, your family, and your RV with nature. 

Final Thoughts

There are plenty of RVs for you to choose from. Whether you pick a motorhome or a towable RV, there will be an RV that will be perfect for your needs. As this article ends, we hope that our list of pros and cons has helped you decide whether you want a towable RV or a motorhome.