RVs come in a wide range of designs. Two of the most popular types of RV are the motorhome and travel trailer. Both have their own benefits and drawbacks. The best type of RV for you depends on a number of factors including where you camp, how often you camp, your budget, whether or not you’ll be towing, and your needs and personal preferences. In this guide, I will explain the differences between motorhomes and travel trailers. I will also list the pros and cons of camping in a motorhome vs travel trailer. I’ll cover comfort, space, amenities, ease of driving, price, maintenance, fuel efficiency, and much more.
Motorhomes are self-contained RVs that include a motor and living space in the same vehicle. Travel trailers only include a living space. They require a tow vehicle. Over the past 10 years, I have used both types of RVs. In this guide, I’ll share my experience.
- Easier to drive
- Travel days are more comfortable because the amenities are accessible
- Motorhomes are often more luxurious
- More storage space
- Setting up and breaking down camp is faster and easier with a motorhome
- You can tow a trailer
- Passengers can ride in the living space
- Motorhomes are better for camping with kids and pets
- More comfortable in poor weather because you don’t have to go outside
- Motorhomes are more expensive
- Motorhomes require more maintenance
- Can be less spacious
- It’s harder to drive around for sightseeing or running errands with a large motorhome
- Less fuel efficient
- Motorhomes depreciate faster
- Not ideal for day trips due to the size
Travel Trailer Pros
- Trailers are cheaper to buy, insure, and maintain
- Less maintenance is required because trailers lack motors
- Can be more spacious
- It’s easier to get around camp because you can unhook it and have a separate vehicle
- More fuel efficient
- Trailers don’t depreciate as fast
- More versatile. You have a camper and a vehicle
- Day tripping is easier because you can leave the trailer at camp
Travel Trailer Cons
- Harder to drive
- Less comfortable during travel days
- Less luxurious. The fittings and fixtures are often lower-quality
- Trailers have less storage space
- Setting up and breaking down camp is more difficult and takes more time
- Better for off-road use
- Harder to park
- Passengers can’t ride in the trailer
- Not less convenient for traveling with kids
- You have to go outside to pass between the cab and living space
Generally, motorhomes are the better choice for luxury travelers, full-time RV living, those who need to tow a trailer, and frequent campers.
Travel trailers are the better choice for those on a tight budget, those who already own a tow vehicle, off-road campers, and those who only camp occasionally.
A motorhome is a self-propelled recreational vehicle (RV) that offers both transportation and accommodation built into the same vehicle. Motorhomes come in three classes: Class A, Class B, and Class C.
Class A motorhomes: Class As are the largest and most luxurious type of motorhome. They measure anywhere from 25 to 45 feet in length. They are built on heavy-duty commercial truck chassis.
Class B motorhomes: Class B RVs are the smallest of the three motorhome classes. They typically measure between 18 to 24 feet in length. These motorhomes are built on a standard full-sized cutaway van chassis.
Class C motorhomes: Class C RVs strike a balance between class A and B. They range from 20 to 35 feet in length. These RVs are built on a cutaway van chassis with a box built on the back. Class C RVs are easily recognizable by their distinctive cab-over bed.
Motorhomes can offer an extensive range of amenities. Most motorhomes come with multiple sleeping spaces, often including a primary bedroom and an additional convertible dinette or sofa. In addition, most models feature a fully functional kitchen as well as a full bathroom with a shower. Motorhomes also come equipped with an entertainment system, outdoor amenities, and storage space.
Some popular motorhome manufacturers include Winnebago, Thor, Fleetwood, Tiffin, Newmar, Coachmen, and Four Winds. Most motorhomes can accommodate 4-8 people depending on the size.
What is a Travel Trailer?
A travel trailer is a non-motorized type of towable RV. Travel trailers come in a wide range of shapes, sizes, and layouts. Different models offer different amenities and features.
Some common types of trailers available include teardrop trailers, pop-up trailers, fifth-wheel trailers, toy haulers, and off-road trailers. Travel trailers are also known as caravans, campers, or towable RVs.
Travel trailers can measure anywhere from 10-40 feet in length. They have widths of around 8 feet and heights of approximately 8-12 feet. Their weight can vary between 1,000 and 12,000 pounds, depending on the size.
Unlike motorhomes, travel trailers need to be pulled by a tow vehicle. Travel trailers attach to a vehicle using a ball hitch.
Travel trailers can be attached to a variety of vehicles. Larger trailers may require a full-sized pickup truck, van, or SUV. Smaller trailers can be pulled with a compact truck, SUV, or even a sedan in some cases. Fifth wheel trailers use a special fifth wheel hitch that mounts in the bed of a pickup truck.
When you reach the campground or RV park, you can unhitch the trailer. This frees up the towing vehicle for local trips and errands.
Travel trailers come with a range of amenities. Smaller models may only come with a sleeping space, a kitchenette, and a wet bath. Larger models come with full-size beds, a fully equipped kitchen, a full bathroom, a living space, a dining space, an entertainment system, outdoor amenities, storage space, and more. A small trailer may only accommodate 2-4 people while a larger trailer may accommodate 6-10 people.
What is the Difference Between a Motorhome and a Travel Trailer?
The main difference between a motorhome and a travel trailer is the motor or lack of motor. A motorhome is a motorized vehicle. The cab is in the front and the living space is in the back. A travel trailer is a non-motorized RV that requires a separate vehicle to tow it, such as a truck or SUV.
Another major difference is access. A motorhome allows you to pass between the cab and the living area while on the move. This is not possible with a travel trailer because the trailer and tow vehicle are separate.
The cost is another major difference. Motorhomes are significantly more expensive than travel trailers because they are more complex. They are motor vehicles, after all. Trailers are cheaper but they do require a tow vehicle, which is an extra expense.
Despite these differences, motorhomes and travel trailers share many similarities. Both offer a range of amenities that typically include sleeping spaces, kitchens, bathroom facilities, living space, and storage space. Additionally, both motorhomes and travel trailers come in various sizes and floor plans, providing options to accommodate solo travelers, couples, families, or larger groups.
Motorhome Vs Travel Trailer
Ease of Driving
Motorhomes are often considered easier to drive than travel trailers. The driving experience is similar to operating a large truck or van. If you’ve driven a moving van, you can drive a motorhome.
Motorhomes also don’t require the additional task of towing a trailer (unless you bring a boat or vehicle). This makes them easier to back up. Backing up is more intuitive. This can make pulling into a tight camping space a bit easier. If you don’t have experience with driving with a trailer, a motorhome is easier to drive.
The lack of a towed vehicle often leads to a smoother ride as well. You don’t have to worry about trailer sway.
Motorhomes are also shorter than comparable travel trailers and tow vehicles. This also makes them easier to drive.
On the other hand, travel trailers can be a bit harder to drive. Due to the additional weight and length added by the trailer, maneuvering can be trickier. Particularly when navigating tight corners or backing up. There is a learning curve to driving with a trailer.
Travel trailers can also be subject to sway caused by poor load balance, wind, or passing vehicles. This requires careful attention and additional equipment like sway control hitches. Sway can be dangerous.
Some people find driving with a travel trailer easier in certain respects. Those accustomed to towing, whether boats, horse trailers, or other towable units, may feel more comfortable with a travel trailer.
The driving experience is also a bit more familiar. You’re driving a regular pickup or SUV. The driving experience is familiar. Motorhomes can have different control placements. Particularly class A motorhomes.
Plus, unlike with a motorhome, your vehicle can easily be unhitched for short trips or errands. This gives you greater flexibility. With a motorhome, you would need to bring a vehicle if you want this option.
Of course, the size of the motorhome or travel trailer also plays a big role in how difficult it is to drive. A class B camper van is no more difficult to drive than a standard van. Towing a small teardrop trailer is much easier than towing a 40 foot fifth wheel.
Winner: Motorhomes are often easier to drive than travel trailers.
Travel Days With a Motorhome Vs Travel Trailer
The travel experience can differ between motorhomes and travel trailers. Understanding these differences can help you choose the right type of RV for your needs.
Travel days in a motorhome offer a higher level of convenience and comfort. Especially during long trips. As all-in-one vehicles, motorhomes allow passengers to move freely and access various amenities while on the move. The bathroom, kitchen, beds, living areas, dining areas, and entertainment systems are all accessible while the driver is driving.
This makes the journey more enjoyable for everyone. If someone has to use the bathroom, they don’t have to wait until the driver pulls over. They can just get up and go. If someone wants a drink or a snack, they can go to the fridge and grab one. This level of convenience can make motorhomes a preferred choice for those planning to drive for extended periods or cover long distances. It’s really convenient for those traveling with kids.
Travel days with a travel trailer are a bit less convenient. Everyone has to ride in the vehicle. Most jurisdictions do not permit passengers to ride in a trailer while it is being towed, for safety reasons. Even if it is allowed, it’s best not to have passengers in the trailer while driving.
This means all the amenities of the travel trailer are not accessible during travel. If someone needs snacks, wants to rest, or needs to use the bathroom, you would have to pull over and find a suitable place to park the trailer. This might lead to more frequent stops and potentially longer travel times, especially on long journeys. It’s also a bit of a hassle to find parking for a large trailer.
Winner: Travel days are more comfortable and convenient with a motorhome.
Interior Living Space of a Motorhome Vs Travel Trailer
Both motorhomes and travel trailers come in a wide range of sizes. There are compact teardrop trailers and Class B motorhomes that can only fit 1-2 people. There are also expansive 40 foot fifth-wheel trailers and Class A motorhomes that can accommodate 6-10 people. The best RV for you depends on how much space you need.
Travel trailers are generally more spacious than comparably sized motorhomes. This is because their design is unconstrained by the need for a cab and motor. This allows for maximum utilization of the interior. The entire interior space can be used as a living space.
Large travel trailers, particularly fifth wheels, often boast the most spacious interiors among all RV types. They often come with expansive living areas, full-size kitchens, full bathrooms, and separate bedrooms.
These trailers feel like an apartment on wheels. Fifth-wheel trailers, in particular, are known for their high ceilings and multi-level floor plans, contributing to a spacious and comfortable living environment. Large trailers also offer slide-outs to increase the interior space.
Motorhomes bring together the driving and living spaces in a single unit. The cab and motor take up a good amount of room. Depending on the class and design, the cab could take up around 5-6 feet of space. This space isn’t really useable as a living space. Motorhomes often feel a bit less spacious than travel trailers for this reason. They offer the same amenities but feel a bit more cramped.
That said, large motorhomes, specifically Class A motorhomes, can be incredibly roomy. Their design often includes multiple slide-outs which significantly increase the interior space. Class A motorhomes often feature separate living, kitchen, and sleeping areas, and some even include additional amenities like a washer and dryer or a full-size refrigerator. These are big, spacious motorhomes.
Winner: A large travel trailer is more spacious than a large motorhome. Both are available in a range of sizes.
When it comes to amenities, both motorhomes and travel trailers can offer a surprising range of comforts that make life on the road feel just like home. Despite their differences in design, both types of RVs typically provide similar amenities. The scale and luxury of these features can vary depending on the size and class of the RV.
Motorhomes and travel trailers alike are designed to provide living spaces that include areas for sleeping, cooking, dining, and living. They generally come equipped with kitchens that include a refrigerator, stove, oven, countertop space, and sink. Larger models may include a microwave and dishwasher.
In terms of sleeping space, RVs may offer everything from compact fold-out beds to full-size master suites, depending on their size and layout. Smaller RVs typically have a convertible dinette or sofa. Larger RVs have a large permanent sleeping space in addition to convertible spaces.
Bathrooms are another common feature. Most RV bathrooms come equipped with a toilet, sink, and shower. However, it’s worth noting that smaller models like Class B motorhomes or teardrop trailers may not always include a full bathroom due to space constraints. Some just have a wet bath. Others don’t have a bathroom at all. Large travel trailers and class A motorhomes may have a bathtub.
Outdoor amenities are another aspect where both motorhomes and travel trailers shine. Many models come with features like retractable awnings, outdoor kitchens or grills, and external storage compartments, enhancing the outdoor living experience.
For those seeking a touch of luxury, high-end motorhomes and travel trailers offer upgrades such as leather seating, hardwood cabinets, large flat-screen TVs, surround sound systems, washer/dryer units, and even fireplaces. Some Class A motorhomes and large trailers also feature slide-outs that increase interior space when parked. High-end models may also include a built-in generator for powering appliances, lighting, and charging devices.
In conclusion, while the size and design of motorhomes and travel trailers may differ, both offer a similar range of amenities designed to provide comfort and convenience on the road. Whether you opt for a compact teardrop trailer, a maneuverable Class B motorhome, or a spacious Class A or fifth-wheel model, you can find an RV that matches your needs and lifestyle.
Winner: Both a motorhome and a travel trailer offer the same amenities. The amenities offered will vary depending on the size of the RV. Larger RVs come with more amenities than smaller RVs.
Luxury and Comfort
Motorhomes are usually more luxurious than travel trailers. Motorhomes, particularly Class A motorhomes, are often built with a focus on luxury and high-end comfort. They typically feature a superior fit and finish, using premium materials like granite or quartz countertops, hardwood cabinetry, tile flooring, and leather upholstery. You’ll often find motorhomes equipped with top-of-the-line appliances, plush mattresses, and high-quality entertainment systems. In addition, features like multiple slide-outs for extra space, heated floors, jetted bathtubs, and even on-board washer and dryers are common in high-end motorhomes.
Travel trailers, on the other hand, while offering a range of amenities and comforts, often utilize more budget-friendly materials in their construction. The fit and finish may not feel as luxurious. The appliances and furnishings may be more basic. Cheaper materials may be used for the flooring, countertops, and upholstery. The light fixtures and faucets may be lower-end.
It’s important to note that there are exceptions to this generalization. Fifth-wheel trailers can rival motorhomes in terms of luxury. High-end fifth wheels often feature residential-quality interiors, spacious layouts, and upscale amenities, just like class A motorhomes.
Similarly, it’s worth noting that not all motorhomes are built to luxury standards. There are more budget-friendly options in the motorhome category as well, particularly in the smaller Class B and Class C segments. They are similar in terms of build quality to standard travel trailers.
Winner: In general, motorhomes are more luxurious than travel trailers. 5th wheels are the most luxurious type of trailer.
RV Storage Space
Motorhomes, particularly Class A motorhomes, come with ample storage space. One of the key features of many class A motorhomes is the ‘basement’ storage area. This is a large compartment underneath the living area that provides a significant amount of outdoor storage. This space is perfect for stowing large items like outdoor furniture, bicycles, or even a portable generator. Inside a motorhome, you’ll find numerous cabinets, closets, and hidden storage compartments, making efficient use of the living space.
In addition to the built-in storage, motorhomes also have the capacity to tow a trailer, adding even more storage capacity if required. For example, you could tow a large cargo trailer and carry whatever you need. This flexibility allows motorhome owners to adapt to different travel and storage needs.
Travel trailers often have less built-in storage space both inside and outside compared to motorhomes. However, trailers offer the advantage of using the storage space of the vehicle. For example, if you’re towing with a pickup truck, the truck bed offers a significant amount of additional storage space. Inside the travel trailer, you’ll find cabinets and storage spaces designed to maximize the use of the smaller interior.
Smaller RVs, such as Class B motorhomes or teardrop trailers, tend to offer less storage due to their compact size. However, their design often incorporates clever storage solutions to make the most of the available space.
Some motorhomes and trailers are compatible with roof racks. A rooftop box is a great way to expand the storage space.
Winner: Motorhomes usually offer more storage space than travel trailers.
Getting Around While Camping
One of the biggest advantages of camping with a travel trailer is that you have a separate vehicle to drive around. Once you’ve set up camp, you can unhitch your travel trailer from your vehicle.
This leaves you with a regular pickup truck, SUV, or other vehicle type to drive around for sightseeing, running errands, or other activities. This can be particularly useful in areas with limited parking or tight roads that may be challenging for larger vehicles, like motorhomes, to navigate.
Motorhomes, due to their size, can present more challenges when it comes to getting around the surrounding area. Parking a motorhome, particularly a large Class A or Class C model, can be a challenge due to their size and maneuverability. Parking spots suitable for these larger vehicles can sometimes be limited, especially in popular tourist areas or smaller towns.
A common solution for motorhome owners is to tow a smaller vehicle behind the motorhome. This vehicle is often referred to as a “toad”. You can leave the motorhome parked at the campsite and use the smaller, more maneuverable toad for sightseeing or errands.
It’s important to note that towing a vehicle behind a motorhome requires additional equipment and considerations. Not all vehicles can be towed due to the design of their transmission. Towing can damage some vehicles.
Winner: It’s easier to get around camp with a travel trailer because you have a separate vehicle to drive around.
Motorhome Vs Travel Trailer Price
Motorhomes are usually more expensive than travel trailers. The cost can vary greatly depending on the size and class of the motorhome. A small Class B or C motorhome may start at around $60,000. Mid-range models go for $80,000-$150,000. Larger and more luxurious Class A motorhomes can range from $250,000 to well over $1 million for high-end models.
The increased cost of motorhomes is largely due to their complexity. They include not only the living amenities but also the engine and drivetrain components. They are motor vehicles.
Travel trailers, on the other hand, are often more affordable due to their simpler construction. Without an engine or drivetrain, the manufacturing costs are significantly lower. Small travel trailers are available for as little as $10,000. Mid-range models go for $40,000-$80,000. Larger, more luxurious models such as fifth wheels can cost $100,000-$150,000 or more.
It’s also important to factor in the cost of a tow vehicle when considering a travel trailer or fifth wheel. A suitable vehicle for towing, such as a heavy-duty pickup truck or large SUV, can range from $40,000 to $80,000 or more, depending on its capabilities and features. There are smaller and more affordable vehicles that can tow smaller trailers. Of course, you can always buy used to save some money. If you already own a capable towing vehicle, this expense may not be applicable.
If you’re on a tight budget, a great way to save money on an RV is to buy used. Depreciation can significantly lower the price of used RVs, providing a more affordable entry point into the RV lifestyle. More on that later.
Winner: Travel trailers are cheaper than motorhomes.
Maintenance Costs of a Motorhome Vs Travel Trailer
Both motorhomes and travel trailers require regular maintenance to ensure safety, longevity, and optimal performance.
Motorhomes require more maintenance than travel trailers. This is because motorhomes are more complex. They have a motor and drivetrain components that require regular maintenance. Trailers don’t have these parts.
Maintenance tasks on a motorhome include regular engine and drivetrain upkeep such as oil and other fluid changes, air filter changes, belt changes, brake checks, and tire rotations. On top of that, you have to maintain the onboard systems including the HVAC, plumbing, and electrical systems. It’s also important to consider the upkeep of the generator, which is a common feature in many large motorhomes. Regular inspections of the roof and seals are crucial as well to prevent water damage and leaks. All these tasks add to the overall maintenance costs and effort of owning a motorhome.
Travel trailers tend to require less maintenance due to their simpler construction. Since they lack an engine or drivetrain, the maintenance costs associated with these components is not a factor.
Regular checks and upkeep are still necessary. This includes checking and maintaining the wheel bearings, brakes, and tires, as well as ensuring the hitch and lighting connections are in good working order. Like motorhomes, travel trailers also require routine checks of the roof and seals to prevent leaks. Maintenance of the interior systems, such as the appliances, plumbing, and electrical systems, is also necessary.
Regular maintenance is a part of owning any type of RV. It’s important to consider these responsibilities when deciding which type of RV is the best fit for your lifestyle and budget. If you don’t have
Winner: Travel trailers require less maintenance than motorhomes.
Motorhome Vs Travel Trailer Fuel Efficiency
When choosing an RV, fuel efficiency is an important consideration. The type, size, and weight of your motorhome or travel trailer can significantly impact your gas mileage and, consequently, your travel costs.
Motorhomes tend to have lower fuel efficiency compared to travel trailers. On average, Class A motorhomes, the largest and heaviest, may get 6 to 10 miles per gallon (mpg). Class C motorhomes, being somewhat smaller and lighter, can average around 8 to 12 mpg. The smallest, Class B motorhomes, can achieve between 15 to 20 mpg. Diesel motorhomes can get better gas mileage than gas models.
Travel trailers don’t have engines, but their weight and size can significantly affect the gas mileage of the towing vehicle. A lightweight travel trailer may allow a fuel efficient towing vehicle to maintain a fuel economy of around 12 to 18 mpg. Heavier trailers like fifth wheels can reduce that figure to 6 to 8 mpg. You may get a bit better gas mileage if you’re pulling your trailer with a diesel truck or SUV.
These numbers can vary greatly. The weight of your RV, the terrain you’re driving on, the condition of your vehicle, aerodynamics, and your driving style can all affect your fuel efficiency.
If you want to maximize fuel efficiency, you’re best bet is to use a small, lightweight, and aerodynamic trailer such as a teardrop trailer. Pull the trailer with a fuel-efficient vehicle, such as a small hybrid SUV. You could achieve over 25 mpg this way. It is also possible to pull a trailer with an electric vehicle.
Fuel efficiency plays a major role in the cost of ownership of your RV. Consider a hypothetical journey of 1,000 miles. If your motorhome gets 10 mpg, you’d need 100 gallons of fuel. At $3.50 per gallon, that’s $350. However, if you get 15 mpg with a travel trailer, you’d only need 67 gallons of fuel. This would cost you $235 at $3.50 per gallon. That’s a saving of $115 on a single 1,000-mile trip. Over the life of the RV, you could save thousands of dollars in fuel.
If you only take short trips near home, fuel efficiency doesn’t matter too much. If you plan to travel thousands of miles cross-country, the savings can add up quickly if you drive a more fuel efficient RV.
Winner: It’s hard to pick a winner in this category because fuel efficiency varies so much. In most cases, you can get better fuel efficiency with a travel trailer. This isn’t always the case. Sometimes a motorhome is more efficient.
Campsite Set-up and Breakdown With an RV or Travel Trailer
The campsite setup and breakdown process is another important aspect to consider when choosing between a motorhome and a travel trailer. Particularly if you like to camp often or move around frequently while traveling. These procedures vary slightly between the two types of RVs.
Setting up a motorhome at a campsite is generally simpler and quicker than setting up a travel trailer. Many modern large motorhomes come equipped with an automatic leveling system, eliminating the need for manual adjustment. If your motorhome doesn’t have automatic leveling, you’ll have to do it manually.
Once the RV is leveled, the process typically involves hooking up to utilities, including water, sewer, and electric connections if the site has them. Next, you’ll also have to open any slide-outs. If you’re traveling with a towed vehicle, often called a “toad,” you’ll also need to unhitch and park it.
The breakdown process is pretty much the same in reverse. While breaking down your campsite, you’ll also have to clean and secure the interior for travel.
On the other hand, setting up a travel trailer is often a bit more involved. This process starts with parking the trailer. This can be a challenging task. Especially for larger models or less experienced drivers. Backing a large trailer into a campsite is difficult.
Once parked, the trailer needs to be unhitched from the tow vehicle and stabilized with jacks. While some travel trailers do have automatic leveling systems, many require manual leveling. Like motorhomes, hooking up to utilities and extending slide-outs is also part of the setup process.
Breaking down the campsite involves similar steps in reverse order, plus securing the trailer to the vehicle for travel. You’ll also have to hook the trailer back up to your tow vehicle. Unhooking and hooking the trailer is a step you don’t need to deal with when you drive a motorhome.
Winner: Motorhomes make setting up and breaking down camp a bit easier.
Parking RVs and Travel Trailers
Motorhomes are usually easier to park than travel trailers. This is mostly due to their overall shorter length. Because they combine the driving and living area into a single unit, motorhomes are shorter than a combined tow vehicle and travel trailer. A motorhome will be significantly shorter than a comparably sized travel trailer and vehicle.
This compactness simplifies parking and makes backing up much easier. For instance, a Class B or a small class C motorhome can fit in a standard parking space. This convenience can be a big advantage when exploring areas with limited RV parking. Class As and larger class Cs take up multiple parking spaces.
Travel trailers, on the other hand, can present more parking challenges. The combined length of the trailer and tow vehicle makes it harder to find a spot that is large enough. The trailer also makes backing up more complex. Backing with a trailer requires practice and skill.
There are some major drawbacks to driving an RV that is hard to park. First, you’ll waste more time. Finding RV parking can be time-consuming. Particularly in busy campgrounds, RV parks, or public parking lots.
Driving an RV that is difficult to park can also reduce your spontaneity while traveling. You need to plan stops more carefully and avoid parking lots that can’t accommodate the trailer’s size. Having to find parking for a large RV can be anxiety-inducing. You can’t just pull over and grab a coffee. You have to consider where you’re going to park.
Winner: Motorhomes are often easier to park than travel trailers.
Off-Road Driving With a Travel Trailer Vs Motorhome
If you’re an adventurer and plan to explore off-the-beaten-path destinations with your RV, it’s important to consider the off-road capabilities of motorhomes and travel trailers.
Travel trailers often perform better off-road than motorhomes. There are models that are specifically designed for off-road use. These are usually called off-road or overlanding travel trailers.
These off-road trailers feature sturdy construction, a reinforced chassis, higher ground clearance, heavy-duty off-road tires, and sometimes even independent suspension. These features make off-road trailers capable of negotiating surprisingly rough terrain.
There are also a variety of 4×4 off-road capable tow vehicles available including pickup trucks, SUVs, and Jeeps. These vehicles offer the power and traction necessary for towing these trailers over uneven ground. A capable off-road vehicle paired with an overlanding trailer can handle surprisingly rugged terrain.
Of course, not all travel trailers are suitable for off-road travel. A 40 foot fifth wheel or travel trailer won’t perform any better than a large motorhome off-road. These vehicles aren’t designed for off-road use. They can handle some dirt and gravel roads.
Motorhomes are generally less suited for off-road use. Their size and design make navigating tight, uneven areas challenging. They can handle some smooth dirt and gravel roads but that’s about it.
There are some exceptions. Especially in the Class B category. You can find 4×4 class B motorhomes that are designed for off-road travel. These motorhomes might come with knobby tires, off-road suspension, and a lift. Their compact size, combined with 4×4 capabilities, makes them a viable option for those wanting a motorhome off-road experience.
There are also larger off road RVs such as the EarthRoamer. These are extremely capable overlanding vehicles but they are expensive.
There are some features to look out for when choosing an RV for off-road travel. Look for RVs with features such as larger freshwater, grey, and black water tanks. These allow for extended stays away from amenities. A powerful generator is also advantageous for off-grid camping. Solar is a great alternative.
Safety should be your top priority while traveling off-road. You should always carry essential safety equipment like a spare tire, a jack, a tire repair kit, recovery straps, and a portable air compressor for tire inflation. It’s also a good idea to bring a shovel and traction boards to recover your vehicle if you get stuck. You might also consider installing a winch on your vehicle.
Winner: An off-road travel trailer is the better choice if you plan to travel off-road frequently. There are 4×4 motorhomes available.
Riding in the RV
When you drive a motorhome, everyone rides in the RV. This is extremely convenient. Everyone has access to the bathroom, kitchen, living area, and sleeping areas. If a passenger needs to use the restroom, they can. If someone wants to grab a drink from the fridge, they can.
When you camp with a travel trailer, everyone has to ride in the towing vehicle. In most jurisdictions, it is illegal for passengers to ride in the trailer while it’s in motion. These laws are in place for safety reasons. This means you have to pull over anytime someone needs to use the restroom.
There are some exceptions. In some states, it is legal for passengers to ride in a fifth-wheel trailer. Even when it’s legal for passengers to ride in the trailer, it’s best not to let them. It is extremely dangerous in the event of an accident.
Winner: With a motorhome, passengers can ride in the RV. This generally isn’t allowed with a travel trailer.
Motorhomes allow you to tow a variety of vehicles. For example, you could tow a car for getting around without your motorhome. You could tow a boat for fishing, sailing, or watersports. You could also tow a cargo trailers packed with outdoor adventure gear like kayaks, surfboards, dirt bikes, ATVs, or a golf cart.
Motorhomes also tend to have a heavy towing capacity. Smaller motorhomes might have a towing capacity of 5,000-8,000 lbs. Large diesel engine class A and super C motorhomes can tow 10,000-20,000 lbs. There are heavy-duty super C class motorhomes that can tow up to 40,000 pounds. These are like semis. You can tow whatever you want.
When you use a travel trailer, you usually can’t tow anything else. You’re already towing the trailer. Additional towing (known as “triple towing”) is both challenging and, in many places, not permitted due to safety concerns. Triple towing requires substantial skill, the right equipment, and considerable experience, making it a less viable option for many RV enthusiasts. It’s also illegal in many states. This makes it difficult to bring a boat or other toys with you when you camp in a travel trailer.
When towing a travel trailer, you can utilize the truck bed or the back of your SUV for hauling recreational equipment like dirt bikes, smaller ATVs, kayaks, and more. You can also use a roof rack on your vehicle to haul large items.
Another option is to use a toy hauler trailer. These trailers have a garage space inside in addition to the living space. The rear of the trailer folds down into a ramp, allowing you to easily load your toys into the trailer. Toy hauler class A motorhomes are also available.
Winner: Motorhomes allow you to tow a trailer. You usually can’t tow a second trailer behind a travel trailer.
Camping With Kids in a Motorhome Vs Travel Trailer
Choosing between a motorhome and a travel trailer when traveling with kids is a question of convenience and safety.
Motorhomes offer unparalleled convenience for families. Kids can easily use the bathroom, get up and stretch their legs, play games, or grab a snack from the onboard kitchen during the journey, without needing to pull over or find a rest stop. This can turn long drives into more pleasant experiences for both parents and children. Kids don’t get as tired and restless while riding in an RV because they’re not all stowed up for the entire journey.
The downside is safety. Riding in a motorhome is not as safe as riding in a regular vehicle. Many motorhomes lack adequate seat belts or secure seating arrangements. Sometimes there are seatbelts built into a dinette or a couch. These aren’t as secure as the seatbelts you’d find in a car.
You may be able to use car seats to improve safety. If you’re planning to travel with small kids, make sure the motorhome is compatible with car seats.
The seats may also be facing sideways or backward. This is common with the dinette. In the event of an accident, anyone seated there could be whipped sideways. This could cause serious injury.
There also aren’t airbags in the living space of most motorhomes. Most class A motorhomes don’t even have airbags in the cab. Motorhomes also aren’t crash tested.
Furthermore, in a moving motorhome, there’s an inherent risk of injury from falls or loose items. Especially during unexpected stops or in case of an accident.
On the other hand, travel trailers provide a safer option when on the road. Everyone must ride in the truck or SUV that is towing the trailer. In a tow vehicle, everyone can utilize seatbelts and sit in crash-tested seats. This significantly reduces risk in the event of an accident.
However, the drawback is that all the amenities of the travel trailer are inaccessible while driving. If your kids need to use the bathroom or grab a snack, you’ll need to pull over and pause your journey. This is a major inconvenience.
Winner: Motorhomes are more convenient for families with kids. Travel trailers are safer.
Camping With Pets
Traveling with pets can be a joy, but it requires some consideration. Motorhomes can provide a more comfortable environment for pets during travel. Pets can either roam freely or stay in a crate inside the motorhome, depending on their size and temperament. This can make the trip less stressful for both you and your pets.
You can also easily care for your pets while you’re traveling. If your pets need food or water during the journey, you can bring them some or just leave food and water out for them.
Additionally, maintaining a consistent temperature is easier in a motorhome, so your furry companions can stay cool or warm as needed. Motorhomes also have more space for pets and pet supplies. You can store large bags of dog food or dog crates in the basement storage area of a class A motorhome. It’s easy to carry enough supplies for your whole trip. You’ll also have space for your pet’s favorite bed, toys, and treats.
On the flip side, traveling with pets in a travel trailer requires a different approach. Pets typically ride inside the vehicle with the rest of the family. Some pet owners choose to keep their pets in a crate. Others simply let them ride in the vehicle and roam about.
You can carry your pets in a crate or allow them to roam freely in the trailer if you choose. This can be convenient. It is legal in most states for pets to ride in a travel trailer.
This generally isn’t recommended for a couple of reasons. First, travel trailers can become very hot or very cold depending on the weather, which can be hazardous for pets. It’s hard to regulate the temperature in the trailer during a long travel day. Second, in the event of an accident or abrupt stop, pets in the trailer could be injured due to a lack of proper restraint. They can also cause damage to the trailer. If your dog gets stressed, it could start chewing on the upholstery.
Winner: Motorhomes are more convenient for pet owners because it’s easier to care for your pet while on the road.
Depreciation can be an important factor to consider when choosing between a motorhome and a travel trailer. Depreciation is the rate at which your RV loses its value over time. This could have an impact on your buying decision.
Motorhomes depreciate faster than travel trailers. This is because motorhomes have a motor and associated mechanical parts. These parts wear out over time and mileage. The general rule of thumb is that a new motorhome can depreciate anywhere from 20% to 30% the moment it’s driven off the lot, with an additional depreciation of about 6% to 10% each subsequent year.
Travel trailers tend to depreciate at a slower rate than motorhomes. Without an engine or mechanical parts, a travel trailer’s depreciation is less tied to mileage and more to its overall condition and age. Of course, travel trailers do depreciate. When purchased new, the depreciation rate of a travel trailer typically ranges from 15% to 20% initially when you drive it off the lot. After this, the trailer will depreciate by approximately 5% per year thereafter.
The exact rate of depreciation will depend on the type of RV, how well you treat it, and where you live. Generally, larger and more expensive RVs depreciate faster than smaller RVs. This is because there is less demand for large luxury motorhomes. A class A motorhome will depreciate more quickly than a teardrop trailer. After around 5-8 years, depreciation slows down.
Depreciation matters because it affects the resale value of your RV. A faster depreciation rate means that if you decide to sell your motorhome or travel trailer, you may not recoup as much of the initial purchase price. If you don’t plan to keep your RV very long, you’ll want to consider depreciation.
Depreciation can be a good thing for those interested in buying used RVs. The rapid depreciation of motorhomes and travel trailers means you can often find great deals on used models that still offer many years of service. Buying a used RV that has already experienced its steepest depreciation can offer significant cost savings. You can save a good amount of money by buying an RV that’s around 5 years old. The previous owner will have eaten most of the depreciation expense.
For more info, check out this great guide to RV depreciation.
Winner: Travel trailers depreciate faster than motorhomes.
Both motorhomes and travel trailers require insurance. The cost of RV insurance can vary significantly between them due to their inherent differences.
Motorhomes are generally more expensive to insure than travel trailers. There are a couple of reasons for this. First, motorhomes are often more expensive to purchase than travel trailers. This leads to higher insured values and higher premiums. Second, motorhomes are more complex machines. They have their own motor. This complexity, combined with the potential for more expensive repairs or replacements, can drive up insurance costs. If your motorhome gets totaled, it will cost more for the insurance company to replace it. Premiums are higher.
The average annual insurance cost for motorhomes can range from around $1,000 to $2,000, though this can vary widely based on factors such as the size of the motorhome, its age, how often it’s used, and its value. A million dollar class A motorhome will be more expensive to insure than a $100,000 class C RV.
In contrast, travel trailers are usually less expensive to insure. This is because they are typically simpler and less valuable than motorhomes. They also lack the mechanical components of a drivable vehicle as they are towed by a separate vehicle. In addition, they do not require their own motor vehicle liability insurance. They do still require coverage for potential damage or loss.
The average insurance cost for a travel trailer is often significantly less than for a motorhome. On average, a travel trailer insurance policy costs $200 to $1000 per year. This can vary based on factors such as the trailer’s size, age, value, and use.
Winner: Travel trailers are cheaper to insure than motorhomes because they are usually simpler and less valuable.
At some point, your RV will break down and need some repairs. You’ll also need to get some routine maintenance done from time to time. When it comes to the maintenance and repairs of motorhomes and travel trailers, the experience can differ significantly.
With travel trailers, one of the key advantages is their detachability. In the event of a breakdown, you can simply leave your trailer at the repair center and continue your journey or move to temporary accommodation with your vehicle. For example, you could stay in hotels while your travel trailer is being repaired. If your tow vehicle needs repairs, you can park your travel trailer at a campsite, effectively ensuring you are not left without accommodation while your vehicle is in the shop. This flexibility reduces the inconvenience of waiting for repairs.
Motorhome repairs can present more of a challenge. As motorhomes are all-in-one vehicles, any maintenance or repair issues affect your entire living arrangement. If your motorhome needs to be repaired, you may have to find alternative accommodation and transportation. This could lead to unplanned expenses and disruptions to your travel plans. Motorhomes can also be expensive to repair. You may need to go to a specialty shop that can accommodate large vehicles.
Winner: Repairs are a bit less of a hassle when you use a travel trailer.
Versatility and Flexibility
Travel trailers shine in their adaptability. By disconnecting the travel trailer at your campsite, the tow vehicle becomes free for local excursions, sightseeing, errand-running, or even more adventurous off-road journeys. This means you can set up your campsite and still have the freedom to explore without hauling your entire living quarters with you.
The tow vehicle, especially if it’s a pickup, can be utilized for multiple purposes outside of camping, such as hauling cargo, commuting, towing other items, or engaging in off-road activities. You can use the tow vehicle as your daily driver while you’re not camping. Simply put, a travel trailer gives you an RV when you need it and a separate vehicle for everyday use.
On the other hand, motorhomes might not provide the same level of versatility. As standalone vehicles primarily designed for living and traveling, motorhomes are perfect for camping but not as flexible for other uses. If you wish to explore the local area away from your campsite, you’ll likely need to tow a separate vehicle behind your motorhome, increasing complexity and setup time.
One area where a motorhome offers more flexibility is towing. With a motorhome, you can tow a trailer. This allows you to bring a boat or other recreational equipment with you on your camping trips. You could also live out of your motorhome if you choose.
Winner: A travel trailer and tow vehicle is the more versatile option.
Motorhomes are more comfortable for camping in poor weather conditions. This is because you can pass between the cab and the the living area. You don’t have to go outside. For example, maybe you arrive at a campsite and it’s rainy and windy and cold. You can walk from the cab to the living space, cook yourself a meal, bathe, and go to bed. You never have to set foot outside.
When you use a trailer, you have to go outside to move between the truck and the trailer. This is annoying if it’s cold and rainy. You’ll get cold and wet when you go outside.
Winner: Motorhomes are more comfortable for camping in poor weather conditions.
Trailers are better for day-tripping because you always have a regular vehicle with you. Once you park the travel trailer at the campsite, you have a normal vehicle to drive around to run errands, go sightseeing, or just explore.
Day tripping in a motorhome is a hassle. It’s a big vehicle to drive around and park. You would have to hook up and unhook every day.
If you want to day trip with a motorhome, you’ll want to tow a vehicle. Buying a tow vehicle is an additional expense. It’s also another vehicle that you have to maintain.
Winner: Day tripping is easier with a travel trailer.
Who Should Choose a Motorhome?
Those who value comfort and luxury: Motorhomes, especially Class A motorhomes, offer luxurious amenities. Many models come with premium fixtures and fittings including high-end mattresses and appliances. The materials used are premium. This greatly improves comfort.
Those who value convenience: Motorhomes allow passengers to access living space, bathroom, kitchen, and bedroom while on the road. You can pass between the cab and the back. This makes life on the road a lot more convenient for everyone.
Frequent travelers: If you are planning to travel often or over long distances, a motorhome might be ideal due to its ease of setup at campsites, driving comfort, and ability to provide creature comforts on the move.
Those who need lots of storage space: Motorhomes, particularly Class A, often provide abundant storage space both inside and in external compartments. If there isn’t enough space in the motorhome, you could tow a trailer for more storage.
Living full-time: For those planning to live in their RV full-time, a motorhome can offer a home-like feel with ample living space and full-sized amenities.
Those who don’t already own a vehicle capable of towing: If you do not own a vehicle with significant towing capacity and don’t want to purchase one, a motorhome might be a better choice. You don’t need a tow vehicle.
Those who value ease of driving: Despite their size, motorhomes are often easier to drive and park than a tow vehicle with a large trailer.
Who Should Choose a Travel Trailer?
Those who are on a tight budget: If you’re looking for an affordable RV option, travel trailers are typically less expensive than motorhomes, both in terms of initial purchase and ongoing maintenance and insurance costs. You can buy a used travel trailer in good condition for around $10,000. Many young families start with a pop-up trailer because they’re so affordable.
Those who already own a vehicle capable of towing: If you already own a vehicle with a significant towing capacity, such as a pickup or large SUV, a travel trailer can be a practical choice. You won’t need a second vehicle. You won’t have another motor to maintain.
Off-Road Travel: Some travel trailers are specifically designed for off-road use, making them a good choice for overlanders who like to explore less traveled paths.
Those who value versatility: Travel trailers can be unhitched at the campsite, freeing up your vehicle for excursions or errands. The tow vehicle can also be used for hauling, commuting, running errands, etc.
Those with specific needs: Travel trailers come in a wide range of sizes and layouts, from compact teardrop trailers to large fifth wheels. This variety allows you to choose a trailer that suits your space needs and the towing capacity of your vehicle.
Those who plan to sell their RV in the future: Compared to motorhomes, travel trailers depreciate at a slower rate, so they can hold their value better over time. This is important if you only plan to keep your RV for a few years.
Those who only take the occasional camping trip: Travel trailers are better for those who don’t camp often because they are cheaper and easier to maintain.
What’s Better a Motorhome or a Travel Trailer?
There really isn’t a better option. The best RV for you depends on a number of factors including where you camp, how often you camp, how many people you camp with, and your personal preference.
Motorhomes provide a “home-on-wheels” experience, combining transportation and living quarters in one unit. The key benefits of motorhomes include the convenience of having everything within reach and the ability to easily move from one location to another. However, motorhomes tend to be pricier than travel trailers, both in terms of initial cost and maintenance.
On the other hand, travel trailers offer flexibility and affordability. They’re separate from your vehicle, which means you can set up your trailer at a campground or RV park and use your car for local travel. This separation also results in easier and cheaper maintenance. Travel trailers are also more affordable than motorhomes. However, they require a capable towing vehicle, which adds to the cost. Maneuvering them can also be challenging if you’re not used to driving a vehicle with a trailer.
Personally, I prefer the experience of motorhomes. Having the ability to pass between the driving and living areas and have passengers in the living area while traveling greatly increases comfort and convenience for everyone.
I have experienced being both the passenger and driver. As a passenger, it’s so nice being able to get up and stretch my legs or use the bathroom while traveling. This makes travel days much less tiring.
As a driver, I find motorhomes a little easier to drive and park. It’s also nice to have the ability to tow a boat with a motorhome.
There are cases where I would prefer to use a travel trailer. For example, I would like to start doing more off-road travel. Towing a small off-road travel trailer with a 4×4 vehicle, such as a Jeep, would be a great way to explore more remote areas.
The choice between a motorhome and a travel trailer depends on your needs and preferences. Both RV options offer a number of benefits and a few drawbacks.
Motorhomes offer a luxurious, all-in-one solution, promising convenience and comfort. They are expensive vehicles that require additional maintenance.
In contrast, travel trailers provide flexibility and can often be a more cost-effective choice. Trailers can make driving and maneuvering a bit more difficult. You also can’t tow a boat.
As you plan your next RV adventure, carefully weigh the pros and cons. Whichever type of RV you choose, I hope this guide has helped you in making your decision.
Do you camp in a motorhome or travel trailer? Share your experience in the comments below!
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Zachary Friedman is an accomplished travel writer and professional blogger. Since 2011, he has traveled to 66 countries and 6 continents. He founded ‘Where The Road Forks’ in 2017 to provide readers with information and insights based on his travel and outdoor recreation experience and expertise. Zachary is also an avid cyclist and hiker. Living as a digital nomad, Zachary balances his professional life with his passions for hiking, camping, cycling, and worldwide exploration. For a deeper dive into his journey and background, visit the About page. For inquiries and collaborations, please reach out through the Contact page. You can also follow him on Facebook.