Motor home or Trailer?

A lot of readers spin their wheels when it comes to deciding between a motor home and a travel trailer. Even previous RV owners have difficulty deciding, making it all the more difficult for first-time RV buyers to decide. With so many options (see “Types of Motor homes we Insure”), it can be difficult to understand the pros and cons involved with purchasing a motor home or travel trailer.

The most important thing to keep in mind is that, what's right for you today may not be right for you in five years. Whereas a young couple may enjoy the “rugged” feeling of a tent trailer, that same couple may opt to purchase a Class C motor home when the children arrive. Your usage may also differ - instead of spending a couple of weekends in the wilderness each year, you may find that you'd like to engage in a cross-country trip that requires something a little fancier while on the road for months on end.

Let's start at the top, with the Class A motor home. These units have comfortable twin captain chairs for driver and passenger, both of which will have a very high vantage point while on the road, offering a great view beyond the other traffic on the road.

Depending on where you're travelling, motor homes are wonderful to drive. On the straight paths of the Trans-Canada highway, nothing beats the ability to drive “above the crowd” on the open road. Navigating the routes of the Rocky Mountains, however, will require your utmost attention, as these large motor homes are not built to handle tight manoeuvring around corners.

Class A motor homes scream comfort. With a fridge and bed only a few feet away, passengers are able to sneak off to the coach section of the motor home as needed. And, of course, with a washroom on board, you'll never have to stop for bathroom breaks because the kids didn't use the facilities before you left.

The primary drawbacks to the large motor home centre around price. These units can be quite expensive to purchase new (starting at around $60,000) and depreciate rather quickly. Older models are not always equipped with an odometer, making it difficult to gauge how much wear-and-tear the unit has been through to this point. Maintenance can be expensive and, with so many optional appliances and fixtures on-board, there is an increased chance of repair in comparison to a more bare-bones type of trailer.

Usage of a motor home can vary greatly. If you're able to park your motor home in a single location and are not prone to frequent (read: every other day) travel, this may be a suitable option for you. However, if you're the type of person who likes to move around every few days, you'll need to be prepared to invest in some additional work with each move. Once your motor home has been parked, levelled and hooked up to utilities, you may not want to undo all of that hard work every few days. If you don't bring along an additional vehicle, you may find that simple trips into town will require you to do the same.

At the other end of the spectrum are travel trailers. Travel Trailers are units that are designed to be towed by a car, van or pickup by means of a bumper or frame hitch. The 18-foot and larger variety offers full bathroom facilities, including a separate shower and a fully equipped galley. If you already have a full-sized pickup truck, this option may be the easiest for you to pursue.

Anyone who has ever trailered a boat or a horse will understand the added complexities of purchasing a travel trailer. Parking is much more difficult with a trailer attached, and often counter-intuitive to what one would normally expect. Wind will play a major factor in driving either a motor home or travel trailer, as cross-winds can often make you feel less stable while driving. Fifth-wheel trailers are more stable than either of these options and, if driving in heavy winds makes you at all nervous, you may want to consider this option instead, as they are generally more stable in windy conditions.

If price is a major factor for you, the choice may be simple. Towing a travel trailer offers better fuel mileage than driving a class A and the lack of additional amenities means less chance of repair. However, if you're not currently the owner of a heavy-duty pickup truck, you may find that an additional investment is required in order to accommodate your needs. Fifth wheel trailers are a great alternative, but you will notice an increase in your fuel consumption with the larger models.

If you're still a little unsure after reading this article, rest assured that you won't be alone. Choosing between a travel trailer or a motor home is a complex decision and dependant more on your lifestyle than the options they offer. For low mileage travels or extended trips, a motor home may offer you more advantages. However, if you're an always-on-the-go type of person, you may want to consider the simplicity of a travel trailer or fifth wheel trailer instead. Either way, you'll be able to hit the open road and enjoy the freedom that an RV offers.