So the question is really: "Will a travel trailer or will a motorhome be better for you?"
The problem with that question is that you have your own wants and needs. And I'm not going to pretend to know them.
But you do, right? We all do.
So, right off the bat know that YOU are going to have to figure out if a trailer or motorhome is better for you for full-time RVing.
But first, you have to figure out if full-time RV life is right for you.
What you're getting here is the pros and cons of these different types of RVs from my experience on the road.
But I must say, they are pretty good tidbits, and I definitely have an opinion that one of these two options is a better idea than the other. (Call me opinionated, it's fine.)
What did I have? An RV travel trailer. Do I think it's the better option? Read on to find out if so and why.
What's The Difference Between A Trailer And A Motorhome?
Do you really need to ask? Come on. I mean, look at the meaning of the words themselves. But here you go:
- A MOTORHOME is an RV with its own motor to run it. It's a vehicle.
- A TRAVEL TRAILER is a TRAILER. There's no motor. So one needs another vehicle to pull it with.
You indeed COULD pull some trailers some of the motorhome sizes. But you can't pull a fifth wheel travel trailer with a motorhome. That's because a fifth wheel connects/hitches up inside the bed of a truck, something that isn't possible with a motorhome.
(You can read our Ultimate Guide To RV types if you are still confused about the different types of RVs.)
Ok, here we go. Let's start off with the pros of travel trailers.
Travel Trailer Pros
Here are the good things about having a trailer versus a motorhome. If you have something I left out, let us know. Put your suggestion in the comments below.
1. You Don't Have To Take It Everywhere
With a trailer, you get to camp, disconnect, set everything up, and you're done until you move again. Obviously you have a vehicle you pulled it there with, so that's how you get around. With a motorhome, unless you have a toad (separate vehicle towed behind the motorhome), you'll have to drive your RV as your daily driver. This means breaking then setting camp up again before and after EVERY trip into town.
2. They Come In Small Sizes
Motorhomes can only be so small. Trailers on the other hand can be super short. Only long enough for you to sleep in (a teardrop RV is a good example). Not so with a motorhome. They don't come in 10 foot versions. The shortest you'll find is likely an 18 footer such as a Class B van.
3. Cheaper Than Most Motorhomes
Trailers are MUCH less expensive than motorhomes. Why? Mostly because they don't have an engine. Most of the time they don't come with an on-board generator. They are simpler than most motorhomes. So, they are cheaper.
4. More Useable Interior Space
ALL of a trailer is useable space. The cab of a motorhome- typically not so useable. However, SOME motorhome front seats rotate fully around, allowing for more seating. In this case, they are equal. It all depends on the length of the RV and how many camper slides it has.
5. Less Likely To Be In The Shop For Long
Well, let's face it. Trailers don't have engines. So if something goes wrong with the tow vehicle's engine, you still have your trailer to live in.
If your motorhome has something wrong with the engine or the other parts that make it a vehicle, it's going to be tricky to still try to live in it while it's in the shop. You could be 'homeless' for a while! Or you're going to be living in a shop parking lot for a bit.
Ok, there maaaaay be a whole lot more pros listed for the motorhome (14!). I suppose this gives away my opinion on whether a trailer or motorhome is the best RV to live in, lol. Oh well!
Still, trailers have enough 'pros' that it may work better for you. Read on and figure it out...
1. You Don't Have To Get Out To Access The RV
Ok, I often hear how great it is that you can stop and access the interior without getting out of the vehicle. Women in particular talk about this being a safety benefit.
Even if that's not why you would like it, it is rather nice. What if it's raining when you arrive? You don't have to get wet. Just park, level if you have electric or hydraulic levelers, and do your thing. Nice.
2. More Choices For Your Daily Driver
You may want to tow a vehicle behind your motorhome so you can get around without it once you're at camp. Unlike if you have a trailer, you can choose a more fun/nimble toad to get around with or go off-roading with.
With MOST trailers, you need a fairly heavy-duty truck. Possibly even a dually if you have a fifth wheel. The larger sized trucks are MUCH harder to comfortably explore with. Trust me on this one.
3. You'll Have The Option To Pull A Toad
This is great because you don't have to take your big motorhome around anywhere and everywhere you want to explore. (And you will be limited in some places as there are strict length limits on certain roads.)
You can even pull a Jeep for great off-roading adventures. Keep in mind that now you'll have TWO engines to maintain. It's more expensive but could be very worth it.
Some motorhomes have automatic levelers. Push a button or some buttons and boom, you're done! It's SO much easier than having to manually level a trailer. (How to level a trailer)
5. You Don't Have To Connect And Disconnect
If there's one thing that is time-consuming and physically difficult about trailers, it's connecting and disconnecting to your tow vehicle.
With a motorhome, you don't have this at all. You WILL have to connect and disconnect your toad if you choose to have one, but it's much less intensive than hitching up a trailer.
6. Length Benefits
Connect a 20+ foot trailer to a truck and you have a pretty long setup. The longer you are, the harder everything is. Getting into gas stations. Merging in traffic. Finding a place to park. Everything.
My setup of pulling a 24' trailer behind a massive Ford Raptor put me at about 44' of length. Not many motorhomes are THAT long!
7. No Sway Risk
When you pull a trailer, there is always a chance of sway happening on the road. This is dangerous and at best, is disconcerting.
There are ways to minimize it, for sure (by using a load leveling hitch with sway control). But you won't have any issue of sway with a motorhome.
8. Easier To Move
Let's say you get set up then you realize you parked in the wrong spot. You have to move.
Well, it's much easier to move on the fly than it is to have to hitch your trailer back up to your truck to move it. If they apply, simply pull up your levels, slides in, awning in, and move!
9. No Fear Of Towing
There are MANY people who fear towing. If they don't fear towing, they fear backing up a trailer. It's much more difficult to back a trailer than a motorhome.
Sure, some people are scared to drive a huge motorhome, too. But I'd argue that towing a trailer is more challenging and scarier. Maybe this one is a stretch. You might beg to differ. (Comment below!)
10. Easier To Stealth Park
Yeah, try stealth parking with a huge trailer connected to your truck. It's just not possible. You can't fit into one parking spot.
You can't get into the trailer without people seeing you do it. With a motorhome, you can try to find a side street, park, and blend. And you probably need less room to do so.
11. Almost Zero Chance Of Getting Stranded If You Have A Toad
This one is pretty self-explanatory. If your motorhome breaks down, you have a toad vehicle to go get help. Or vice versa. If you break down with a trailer behind you, you don't have extra motorized wheels. (Unless you have a toy hauler RV with motorbikes or vehicles inside of it.)
If your motorhome breaks down AND your toad won't start, what in the world did you do to deserve that kind of karma????
12. More Comfortable For Passengers
If you have people with you, they will be MUCH more comfortable in a motorhome during the trip.
They can get up and move around, stretch, grab a snack, go to the bathroom, watch TV, play a game, whatever, while on the road. SHOULD they do those things during transit? I'm not judging. And I'm pretty sure I would.
13. Climate Controlled
I can almost guarantee your motorhome will be heated or air conditioned while you are driving. So you are keeping it comfortable inside.
With a trailer, it doesn't have heat or air going during transit. So if you want to pull over for lunch, it may be too hot or cold inside to do so or at least to be able to enjoy it. Just one more negative for trailers.
14. More Storage Space
This applies mostly to Class A RVs. The basement storage under most of them is HUGE. Ok, so fifth wheels usually have a lot as well.
But time and time again, I see excellent inside and outside storage in Class A's. Just had to mention it. Maybe this one is iffy. My 24' travel trailer only has a small pass-through basement in front. There is no other exterior storage. Lame for full-time living.
So Which One Wins? Travel Trailers or Motorhomes?
Didn't I tell you it was up to YOU to decide? Jeez.
Me? I'd go with a motorhome with a toad if I did it again full-time.
Ok well, if you want to pick motorhome with a toad, there is one major thing might affect your decision.
You may WANT a motorhome with a toad, but it might break your budget. I might have started with a small motorhome and toad, but I decided I wanted to NOT put a ton of $$ into full-time life in the event that it wasn't right for me. I also didn't want to have to maintain two engines.
You may decide the same.
Still, after living full-time in a travel trailer for 5.5 years, and visiting friends' motorhomes, hearing their opinions, comparing length of time it takes them to set up versus me to set up (etc...), I realize how much EASIER a motorhome is.
Also take into consideration that you will have two engines to maintain if you get a toad. You'll have twice the amount of upkeep and cost.
Don't forget to consider who manufactured the RV, no matter which type you decide on. The better the brand, the better your chances of NOT having a total lemon. (What is the most reliable RV brand?)
Kelly's Pick For A Winner: Motorhome With A Toad!
My dream rig now is a van.
But it will be used for part-time RVing, not full-time (Though there are people who full-time in vans, yes).
So if budget is of no concern, I would recommend going with a motorhome and a toad for full-time RVing.
This gives you the most freedom to RV the way you want to and to have the easiest time getting around once you are parked at camp.
It will cost more, but it will likely be worth it. That's my two cents for ya!
But remember- you must take into consideration what your needs are and decide which fits the best for YOU.
So, what did YOU decide? Trailer or motorhome?
Author: Kelly Beasley
I dedicated myself to living the full-time RV life for over 6.5 years, immersing myself in the unique quirks and joys of the boondocking lifestyle and gaining a wealth of knowledge and experience along the way. In December 2020, my business partner and I made the transition to part-time RVing, but in January 2023, we hit the road once again, this time in our trusty vans. My mission is to help others embrace the RVing lifestyle with confidence and excitement, armed with the knowledge and resources needed to make the most of their adventures. I believe that the more you know, the more you can truly appreciate and enjoy the freedom and flexibility of the open road.