Towing a Car Behind a Motorhome Questions
Among the towing a car behind a motorhome questions, the top one has to be is it worthwhile. If you’re already driving a massive rig, you might find the thought of adding extra feet behind you intimidating. But doing so is a game changer in both a good and bad way.
Nearly 25 percent of campers use an RV for their preferred accommodations. It’s easy to see why. You have privacy. If you have a kitchen, you can save some money and have meals at the campsite. However, sometimes, it’s nice to go out and explore. Driving a motorhome can feel like traveling with a ball and chain. But is towing a car worth considering?
Why Should You Tow a Car?
The obvious answer is mobility. Once you’ve set up basecamp, the last thing you want to do is break it down every time you need to run to the store. And you have a large RV, that’s asking a lot. After all, the primary reason that nearly 40 percent of Americans give for camping in the first place is to get away from it all. Disconnecting, backing into your site, and reconnecting is stressful and a major pain.
There’s also the gas mileage. Driving a car around is definitely less expensive than your rig. If you’re planning on doing a lot of sightseeing, it could easily pay for itself in no time. It’s also worth considering if town and supplies are far from the campsite. Then, there’s space. You can use your dinghy to store extra gear or to free up some room in your RV.
If you’re planning an extensive trip, having a vehicle is a definite advantage. Sooner or later, you’ll need to go out for supplies.
Why Should You Leave the Car at Home?
If you have a fifth-wheel rig or a pop-up camper, you already have a vehicle, so it’s a non-issue. But you may think it’s overkill if you stay put at your site. And if you’ve brought bikes, you could easily get to the campground store for the necessities. It also depends on where you’re at and the road situation.
If you’re camping in a smaller campground, you may not have enough room for two vehicles. The site might not even allow it. If you’re up in the mountains, you may not feel comfortable towing a car. Then, there’s parking. If you have a Class A motorhome, you’re well-acquainted with this issue. Adding an extra 14-plus feet isn’t going to make it any easier, especially if you’re new to RVing.
You’ll also save money by not renting or buying a trailer. You probably can find some better uses for that cash. You might find that not having a toad is more freeing than bringing it along. You can just pick up and go without bothering with getting the car hooked up and ready to go. And if you’re planning on driving through urban areas, having a trailer will make it even more stressful.
Many campgrounds also have bicycles or scooters you rent for a few hours or the entire length of your stay. And there’s always Lyft or Uber if you need a ride into town. It comes down to weighing the pros and cons to decide if towing a car is worth it. Remember, there are no rules. In a worst-case scenario, you could rent one locally and save yourself the trouble.
How Do You Set Up a Motorhome for Towing?
You have three options for hooking up your dinghy. The simplest is a tow bar. The advantage is that it’s the least expensive choice, and you can store it when it’s not in use if space is an issue. However, that doesn’t mean you can put your manual transmission vehicle in neutral and drive into the sunset. First, it’s not legal in all states.
Second, you must check with the automaker to see if they permit it. If not, you may jeopardize your warranty. And flat towing on all four wheels isn’t an option for all makes and models either. The reason is that it may damage the transmission since there’s no lubrication going through the system. Some makes and models can handle it, such as some Ford vehicles.
If your car is out of warranty, then it’s something to think about since you can get set it up for towing with aftermarket parts. You will also have to modify your dinghy to secure it to the frame with a reinforced baseplate. All of these things add and drive up your costs.
But the deal breaker is that you can’t back up with a car.
You could opt to use a tow dolly. That takes care of the legal business. You won’t rack up miles on your car. You can also use it with a front-wheel-drive vehicle. But, it has the same problems as the two bar in that you can’t back up with it attached. It’s more involved with getting it hooked up too. It may add to your unease of traveling if you’re constantly worrying about it.
You may have to get a license for the dolly which adds to your costs. It’ll also need routine maintenance, which may not tip the scale one way or another. It is heavy and can add some significant weight to your setup. It also makes them harder to move after you’ve taken off your car. On the positive side, you won’t have to make any changes to your dinghy like you would with a tow bar.
The final option—and the most expensive—is to ante up for a flatbed. It’s a safer choice for your dinghy. You can back up with it. On the downside, it’s big and heavy. Motorhomes aren’t known for their excellent gas mileage. This one certainly won’t help the situation. It goes back to how comfortable you’d feel with something that large behind you. It’ll also take up a lot of real estate in your campsite.
What Is the Best Way to Tow a Car?
If safety is your primary concern, the flatbed is the way to go. The vehicle will sit higher above the ground so that you can see it. You can even pop for a covered one to keep your car out of the elements. If you’re worried about costs, then the tow bar with a vehicle that you can flat tow is a smart choice. It helps if the car is lightweight. That way, your gas mileage will take less of a hit.
You don’t have to take your daily driver. You can get a used vehicle that you can modify just for camping trips. It won’t hurt as much to alter its appearance.
What Else Do You Need to Be Legal and Safe While Towing?
When you bring a car along, you’re putting extra stress on your RV. And considering that they are a hefty investment, it makes sense to take whatever measures you need to make sure everything gets to the campsite and home again in one piece.
Wiring and lighting are absolute requirements. The extra feet on the end of your rig are a hazard for other vehicles on the road. Everyone needs to know when you plan to turn or stop with signals on the back of your dinghy. A brake-away kit is also a smart purchase and required in most areas.
Many newer motorhomes have a rearview camera that comes in handy when you’re backing up the RV. However, you can also set them up to stay on as you drive so that you can keep an eye on your toad. If your rig doesn’t have one, it’s worth considering the investment if just for your peace of mind.
Another sound purchase is a tire pressure monitoring system for your flatbed or car if you’re not using a one. The stress of towing can cause your tires to heat up, risking a flat. You might also want to get one for your rig if it doesn’t have one. Many newer models include it with the RV’s infotainment setup.
But wait. There’s more. You might also have to invest in a supplemental braking system. After all, you’re towing an extra 3,000 pounds or more behind you. And some states may require it too. Do yourself a favor and check with the DOT of the state where you’re traveling before packing up the motorhome. A transmission oil cooler will keep your motorhome from getting too hot.
Can You Use Any Motorhome?
RV manufacturers rate their rigs for its tongue load, gross vehicle weight rating, and towing capacity. That’s where you’ll need to start. You’ll also need to know the gross vehicle weight of your car. That is what it weighs with gear and passengers. Don’t forget to include the towing device. Class B or C camping trailers might not cut it.
Will Towing a Car Shorten the Life of Your Motorhome?
The extra weight is a factor on the impact of towing on your rig. That’s one reason why you’ll see all the optional accessories that offer a proactive approach to minimizing the wear and tear. That’s part of the reason that going with a tow bar is so attractive. Stay within your rig’s towing capacity will lessen the impact. Be sure to follow recommendations of the manufacturer of your RV, auto, and trailer to the tee.
What Are Some Tips for Staying Safe?
The main rule of thumb is to check and double check your setup before you leave the driveway. Test your lights to make sure they’re working correctly. You might even consider keeping some extra bulbs and fuses in your glove compartment to have on hand. Inspect the trailer to make sure that it’s secure. Also, check the tire pressure on both the trailer and your motorhome.
Remember that backing up isn’t an option with some setups. Plan ahead for when choosing campsites and picking the route that you’ll take. You should also check with the campground to see if they allow a dolly or trailer at your site.
And the wise traveler will also check the state’s DOT website for the latest information on construction. Driving a motorhome is tough enough without a trailer in tow. Look for an alternative route to steer clear of the traffic, especially if it’s your first time towing your dinghy.
The towing a car behind a motorhome questions touched on several of the concerns that you may have about whether this option is right for you. Make it easy on yourself. Do your homework. Figure out the costs of the trailer and modifications to your toad and rig to see if it’s the right choice for you. Remember, RVing is all about having fun. If having a vehicle makes it better, it’s the way to go.