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Truck Camper Vs Travel Trailer: Pros and Cons

RVs come in a wide range of shapes, sizes, and designs. If you’re an avid camper, you might be wondering which type of recreational vehicle best fits your needs. Two of the most popular include truck campers and travel trailers. Each design has its benefits and drawbacks. The best type of RV for you depends on where you camp, how often you camp, who you camp with, your budget, and your personal preferences. In this guide, we’ll outline the pros and cons of camping in a truck camper vs travel trailer. We’ll cover living space, weight, ease of driving, amenities, parking, cost, maintenance, and much more. Hopefully, this guide helps you choose the best RV for your style of camping.

A travel trailer

What is a Truck Camper?

A truck camper is a compact RV that is designed to sit in the bed of a pickup truck. Truck campers are equipped with essential amenities, such as a bed, a compact kitchenette, a dining area, cabinets for storage, heating and air conditioning, and a small bathroom. Usually, the bed sits over the truck cab. This is called a cab over bed.

Truck campers come in a range of sizes to fit different-sized trucks. There are lightweight campers for compact trucks, medium-sized campers for mid-size trucks, and large campers for heavy-duty trucks. A small camper might only include a sleeping space. A large camper might include slide-outs for extra space.

A truck with a pop up camper driving down the highway

In order to haul a truck camper, you will need a pickup truck. For lighter campers, a half ton truck like the Ford F-150, Ram 1500, or Chevrolet Silverado 1500 will do. Heavier campers require heavier duty truck like a 3/4 ton or 1 ton pickup to support the extra weight. The largest campers often require a dually truck (a truck with two rear tires on each side).

A truck camper is lifted onto the truck bed with a series of jacks. It is locked in place with tie-downs that mount directly to the truck’s frame. When you reach camp or when you’re not using the camper, you can use the jacks to remove it from your pickup truck. This allows you to use the truck for other purposes.

In most states, truck campers don’t need to be registered and licensed separately from the truck. They are not considered RVs. Instead, they are simply considered a truck accessory or cargo. This isn’t the case everywhere. Check your local regulations before you buy.

With their compact size, easy setup, and ability to travel off-grid, truck campers are an excellent option for those looking to explore the great outdoors. Truck campers are sometimes called slide-in campers, pickup campers, or truck bed campers.

What is a Travel Trailer?

A travel trailer is a type of non-motorized towable RV. The trailer is towed by a tow vehicle. Travel trailers attach to a tow vehicle using a ball hitch mounted on the bumper of the tow vehicle. They can be towed by various vehicles, including SUVs, pickup trucks, vans, and even some sedans, depending on the size and weight of the trailer. When you arrive at the campground, you can unhook your camper trailer and go use your vehicle normally.

Travel trailers come in a variety of sizes, shapes, designs, and layouts to suit the needs of different campers. They can range in length from anywhere from 10 feet to 40 feet. They can weigh anywhere from 1,200-12,000+ pounds. A range of features and amenities are available. Travel trailers range from compact teardrop trailers and pop-up campers to large, fully-equipped luxury models and toy haulers.

A small travel trailer

This makes travel trailers suited to many different types of campers with different preferences and budgets. This broad range of sizes allows travel trailers to accommodate solo travelers, couples, families, and larger groups. They are versatile RVs.

Travel trailers can offer a range of amenities. Small models might only offer a sleeping space and kitchenette. There may or may not be a wet bath. Larger models offer luxurious interiors with a full-size kitchen, a full bathroom, a private bedroom, living spaces, slide-outs to extend the living space, and entertainment systems. Most models come equipped with fresh, gray, and black water tanks. Larger models may have a generator built in.

With their diverse sizes, styles, and floor plans, travel trailers provide an appealing option for campers seeking a balance between comfort and mobility. Travel trailers are often referred to as caravans, camper trailers, or towable RVs.

What’s the Difference Between a Truck Camper and Travel Trailer?

The main difference between truck campers and travel trailers is the way the RV is hauled. Truck campers are carried in the bed of a pickup truck. Travel trailers are towed behind a vehicle with a ball hitch. The trailer has its own set of wheels.

Size is another significant difference between truck campers and travel trailers. Truck campers are generally smaller, providing a more limited living area, but offering increased mobility and ease of driving. Travel trailers come in a wide range of sizes, from less than 10 feet to over 40 feet in length.

Another difference to consider is maneuverability. Truck campers are often easier to maneuver in tight spaces and off-road situations. Travel trailers may require more skill and experience to handle, especially when backing up or navigating narrow roads.

A travel trailer near the beach

Truck campers and travel trailers also share some similarities. They offer many of the same amenities. Both feature a sleeping space, dining space, kitchen, bathroom, and storage. They’re both made for camping.

Both are also non-motorized types of RVs. They require another vehicle to use them. Truck campers require a pickup truck and travel trailers require a vehicle with a trailer hitch for towing.

Both of these RVs are also separate from the cab. To move between the cab and the RV, you have to exit the vehicle, walk outside, and enter the RV directly. This is different from motorhomes, which allow you to pass between the cab and living space.

Pros and Cons of Truck Campers

Pros and Cons of Travel Trailers

Truck Campers Vs Travel Trailers

A campground on a lake

Truck campers and travel trailers both have their own benefits and drawbacks. In the following sections, we’ll compare these two types of RVs to help you decide which is best for your needs.

Ease of Driving

A pickup with a camper is easier to drive than a vehicle towing a travel trailer. There are a couple of reasons for this.

First, a truck with a camper is smaller. A truck and camper might measure 20 feet in length while a small trailer and tow vehicle might measure 30 feet in length. It’s far easier to maneuver a shorter vehicle. The turning radius is smaller. You can navigate tight places, such as campgrounds and parking lots much more easily with a truck camper.

A truck camper also offers a more familiar driving experience. Driving a truck with a camper is similar to driving a large truck. The camper will affect the vehicle’s performance somewhat but the vehicle will steer more or less the same.

Backing up is also far easier with a camper. The truck backs up just like any other vehicle. Backing up with a camper trailer is a bit less intuitive.

This simplicity of driving a truck and camper can be appealing to those who don’t have experience with larger vehicles or towing. Pretty much anyone can drive a truck with a camper.

Travel trailers require towing. There is a bit of a learning curve to towing. The larger size and additional weight of a towed trailer can alter the handling of your vehicle. You have to take wider turns than you’re used to so you don’t cut a corner and drive over a curb or hit another vehicle. Sway can also be an issue when towing. You have to properly balance the trailer. A sway bar can also help reduce sway. Backing up with a travel trailer can be challenging as well. Backing requires careful coordination and practice to master.

Winner: It’s easier to drive a truck with a camper than a travel trailer.


Truck campers are usually smaller than travel trailers. Most models typically measure between 8 to 20 feet in length, with a width of 7 to 8 feet, and a height of 10 to 13 feet when mounted to the truck. The average weight of a truck camper ranges from 1,000 to 5,000 pounds, depending on the size, materials, and amenities included.

Travel trailers, unlike truck campers, offer a more diverse range of sizes. Small travel trailers, such as teardrop trailers and pop-up campers, can range from 8 to 20 feet in length, 4 to 8 feet in width, and 4 to 10 feet in height and weigh between 1,000 to 4,000 pounds. These compact options provide a more lightweight and easily towable solution. They can be towed with an average sedan.

A large airstream trailer

Large travel trailers measure between 20 to 40 feet in length, around 8 feet in width, 10 to 12 feet in height, and weigh between 4,000 to 10,000 pounds or more. The additional size and weight of these larger trailers provide increased living space and amenities but require more towing capacity. You’ll need a full-sized truck or SUV to tow these larger trailers.

Winner: There isn’t really a winner here. It really depends on how much space you need. Truck campers are smaller. Travel trailers come in a wide range of sizes. Trailers are generally more spacious than truck campers.

Campsite Options

With a truck and camper, you have more campsite options to choose from. There are a couple of reasons for this. First, the smaller footprint of truck campers allows you to access campgrounds with length restrictions. A truck and camper can fit in pretty much every campsite that is accessible by road. As long as the rig is less than 20 feet long, you can camp in pretty much any campground.

Truck campers paired with 4×4 trucks also provide increased off-road capabilities. The extra traction and higher clearance of a truck allow you to access more remote campsites that may be unreachable with a travel trailer. For example, there are lots of free campsites on public lands that can only be accessed with a 4×4 vehicle. You can also go winter camping more easily. A 4×4 truck can handle snow and ice. This off-road advantage opens up a world of unique and scenic camping opportunities.

In addition, it is easier to stealth camp in urban areas with a truck camper. The small size allows you to more easily find parking in cities. It’s nice being able to camp in cities and explore more urban areas once in a while.

A campground on a lake during the morning

Travel trailers can limit your campsite options due to their size. Many campgrounds have length restrictions due to the size of the campsites, the layout of the campground, or road conditions. They can’t accommodate long trailers.

Length restrictions vary from one campground to the next. Often national parks are unable to accommodate vehicles over 28 feet. This may exclude larger travel trailers. Sometimes the length restriction is as low as 20 feet. This limits where you can camp with a large trailer.

This length also limits where you can drive. Some roads have length restrictions. For example, to drive the Going-to-the-Sun road in Glacier National Park, there is a length limit of 21 feet.

Furthermore, the terrain can be a limiting factor. Most travel trailers are not designed for off-road use. This can further limit your campsite options. There will be some places that you won’t be able to go.

There are some exceptions to this. You can buy trailers that are designed to be used off-road. I’ll talk more in-depth about these later on.

Before you buy an RV, check the restrictions where you plan to camp to make sure that you can fit. Also, consider the road conditions to get there.

Winner: You have more campsite options when you use a truck camper instead of a travel trailer.

Height Restrictions

Travel trailers are much shorter than truck campers. Most have a maximum height of around 10 feet. You don’t have to worry too much about height restrictions while driving a travel trailer.

Truck campers are much taller. Many are 12-13 feet tall when mounted to the truck. This is almost as tall as a semi truck. Truck campers are tall because the bed of the truck sits so far off the ground and the camper needs to be tall enough to stand up in.

While driving with a truck camper, you need to keep an eye out for height restrictions. You’ll have to look out for low bridges, overhanging tree branches, and other obstacles. You also can’t drive through a drive-thru or into a parking garage. This limits where you can drive.

Not all models are tall. There are pop-up truck campers that only add a foot or so to the height of the truck.

Winner: Travel trailers have a lower height than truck campers.

Living Space

Truck campers almost always have less living space than travel trailers. This is the case due to their design. A truck camper must be small enough to fit in the bed of a pickup truck. This limits the maximum size of the camper. Travel trailers don’t have this limitation.

Despite their smaller size, truck campers typically feature a kitchenette, wet bath, dinette, and a cab-over bed. They are usually tall enough to stand up inside and move around. Some large truck campers also feature slide outs to increase the living space. Some models have a pop-up roof. This also makes the interior feel larger.

Most truck campers are designed to accommodate 2-4 people. The smaller size makes truck campers better for solo travelers, couples, and small families.

A dog looking out the window of a travel trailer

Travel trailers, on the other hand, often boast a much larger living space. A large travel trailer can include a full bathroom, a full kitchen, a living area, a dining area, and a private bedroom. There are often additional sleeping arrangements, such as convertible beds or bunk beds. Larger models have slide outs.

Most travel trailers can accommodate 4-8 people. The larger living space makes travel trailers the better choice for families or large groups.

It’s worth noting that there are small travel trailers that are similar in size to truck campers. Micro travel trailers, teardrop trailers, and pop up trailers cater to minimalist campers. These trailers often provide a sleeping space with limited amenities. Some models may include a kitchenette. Most don’t have a bathroom.

It is possible to make a small RV feel more spacious by building an outdoor living space. Add an awning to your RV and some outdoor seating to create more space.

Winner: Travel trailers offer more living space than truck campers.

Storage Space

Travel trailers, with their larger size, typically offer more storage space than truck campers. They often feature ample indoor cabinetry, closets, and under-bed storage. In addition, they feature external locking storage compartments. They can accommodate everything from kitchen supplies to food to large outdoor gear such as tables and chairs.

When towing a travel trailer, the bed of your pickup truck or the rear of your SUV of your vehicle also remains free for additional storage. This can be particularly useful for hauling larger items such as dirt bikes, ATVs, a golf cart, kayaks, etc. The roof is also an available for storage if you mount a roof rack. This makes travel trailers a better choice for those who like to bring lots of camping gear and toys.

Truck campers offer less storage due to their smaller size. Storage is often limited to a few cabinets, under-seat compartments, and maybe a small closet. Additionally, you can’t use the bed of the pickup for storage as it is occupied by the camper. If you wanted to bring large items with you, would have to pull a cargo trailer.

Winner: Travel trailers offer more storage than truck campers.

Parking Your RV

A truck with a camper is far easier to park than a tow vehicle and travel trailer. A pickup truck with a camper can typically fit within the dimensions of a standard parking space. An average parking space measures 8.5 feet wide by 18 feet long. It will be tight but it will fit in most cases.

With a truck camper, you can drive into pretty much any parking lot and park normally. You can also parallel park on city streets or in a residential area. Not having to worry about parking brings peace of mind.

A pop up travel trailer in a camping space
Parking a travel trailer is harder than parking a truck with a camper

Travel trailers are more challenging to park due to their length. They always occupy multiple parking spaces. A small travel trailer and tow vehicle might occupy two spaces. A large trailer might need a 50-60 foot long space to park.

When towing a travel trailer, more planning and attention are required to find suitable parking areas. This can be stressful. Particularly while driving through crowded areas. Sometimes you can’t find a parking space. This means you can’t be as spontaneous when you use a travel trailer.

It’s also important to note that there are limitations to both RV types. Due to their height, neither truck campers nor travel trailers can access parking garages or drive-thrus. This can limit some of your options when on the road.

Winner: Truck campers are easier to park than travel trailers due to their smaller size.

Making Unplanned Stops

Because truck campers are easier to park, it’s much easier to make unplanned stops. For example, maybe you want to pull over and grab a coffee or pop into a restaurant for a bite to eat. You can do that without having to worry about whether or not you’ll be able to find a place to park. You just need to find a regular parking space. This gives you a greater level of flexibility. You can pull over whenever you want. You can be spontaneous.

With a travel trailer, it’s a bit more difficult to make impromptu stops. You need to think about where you’ll park your rig. There won’t be space in a small parking lot or in a busy parking lot.

You’ll have to plan your stops more carefully when you use a trailer. You’ll only be able to stop at large shopping centers with large parking lots, rest stops, campgrounds, and gas stations. You can’t just pull into any parking lot.

Winner: It’s easier to make unplanned stops with a truck camper.

Weight and Vehicle Requirements

When comparing truck campers and travel trailers, it’s essential to consider the vehicle requirements for each type of RV. These are not standalone RVs. They don’t have their own motors. Both truck campers and travel trailers need a compatible vehicle to transport them with.

Truck campers require a pickup truck. A pickup is the only type of vehicle that can haul a truck camper due to the camper’s design. It is designed specifically to fit in the bed of a pickup. If you already own a pickup or if you have the need for a pickup, a truck camper can be a great choice. On the other hand, if you have no use for a pickup, a truck camper might not be for you.

It’s also important that you choose the right truck. The pickup must have adequate payload capacity to accommodate the weight of the camper. Payload capacity is the amount of weight that a vehicle can safely transport. Ideally, your truck camper shouldn’t weigh more than 80% of the payload capacity. The truck also needs to have the appropriate bed size and shape to fit the camper.

The type of truck you need to haul your camper depends on the size and weight of the truck camper. Smaller campers can be hauled with a compact truck. Mid-size campers can be hauled with a half ton trucks or 3/4 ton trucks. Larger campers require a heavy duty 1 ton truck. Some heavy campers also require dual rear tires (dually).

A white Ford pickup
You’ll need a large pickup truck to haul a truck camper

Popular trucks used for hauling truck campers include the Ford F-Series, Chevrolet Silverado, GMC Sierra, and Ram. Each of these brands come in 1/2 ton, 3/4 ton, and 1 ton options. Dually options are available.

Travel trailers can be towed with a wider range of vehicles. You can tow a camper trailer with a truck, SUV, or a van. Small travel trailers, like teardrop trailers, can be towed with a sedan. This gives you more vehicle options to choose from. If you and your family have no use for a pickup and you’d prefer to drive an SUV, a travel trailer may be the better option. Chances are, you can tow a trailer with the vehicle you already own.

Travel trailers require a tow vehicle with sufficient towing capacity based on the trailer’s weight. Large travel trailers need a larger tow vehicle such as a 3/4 ton or 1 ton pickup or SUV. Mid-size trailers can be pulled with a full-sized truck, van, or SUV.

Smaller trailers can often be towed by compact SUVs. Some models can even be towed by sedans. These are great for those who don’t want to invest in a dedicated tow vehicle.

Choosing the right vehicle is important. You need to choose a vehicle that is compatible with your RV to ensure that you can tow safely. If your vehicle is underpowered, it could have trouble towing the RV. This can lead to problems when driving on highways or on mountainous terrain.

Winner: Travel trailers can be towed with a wider range of vehicle types including trucks, vans, SUVs, and even sedans. Truck campers can only be hauled with pickup trucks.


For most campers, cost is a significant factor when choosing between truck campers and travel trailers. On average, truck campers are more expensive than travel trailers. On average, truck campers cost around $30,000-$50,000. Entry-level models start at around $10,000. Premium models start at around $80,000.

To compare, travel trailers typically start at lower price points. Small, basic models, start at around $6000 for a teardrop or pop-up. Mid-range travel trailers cost around $25,000-$40,000. Higher-end models can cost $50,000-$80,000. Luxury models can cost $250,000-$1 million plus.

On average, truck campers cost around $5000 more than a comparable travel trailer. A truck camper costs around $150 per square foot of space. A travel trailer cost around $100 per square foot of space.

Truck campers are more expensive due to their more complex design. They have to be specially designed to fit perfectly in the bed of a pickup truck. This requires quite a bit of engineering. Travel trailers are much simpler. They are just fiberglass boxes built on a simple frame with wheels.

An airstream trailer in the showroom
Travel trailers come in a wide range of prices

Travel trailers come in a wider variety of price points. They are cheaper thanks to their simpler design. Due to their larger size, they tend to have a lower cost per square foot. If you’re looking for a roomy RV, travel trailers offer the best value for your money. Luxury trailers can also be extremely expensive. For example, fifth wheels are some of the most expensive RVs on the market.

It’s also important to factor in the cost of the vehicle you use to tow your camper trailer. A heavy duty truck that is capable of hauling a camper is an expensive vehicle. You could easily spend $50,000-$80,000 for a suitable truck.

It’s much more affordable to buy a vehicle to tow a travel trailer. You can buy a small pickup, SUV, or van for less than $30,000. Of course, you can buy used for less.

It is worth noting that building a DIY truck camper can be a cost-effective option for those on a tight budget. With a bit of skill and some effort, you can build your own camper. This allows for customization and control over the cost, depending on the materials and amenities chosen.

Another great way to save money is to buy used. You can find some great older truck campers and travel trailers in the $15,000-$20,000 price range. RVs depreciate quickly. You can save 30% off the original price when you buy an RV that’s just 5 years old. After 10 years, an RV will be worth about half of what it was when it was new. You can save a good chunk of money by buying an RV that has already depreciated.

When choosing between a truck camper and a travel trailer, it’s important to consider not only the initial purchase price but also the ongoing costs. For example, you’ll have to factor in maintenance, insurance, gas, and the required towing or carrying vehicle. I’ll talk more in-depth about this later on.

Winner: Travel trailers are generally cheaper than truck campers. They can also be towed with a less expensive vehicle.


Both truck campers and travel trailers require some maintenance. Truck campers tend to be easier and cheaper to maintain. There are a couple of reasons for this. First, they are smaller. They also have fewer moving parts that can wear out.

Maintenance tasks often involve checking the camper’s seals and roof condition, maintaining the slide-out mechanism if applicable, and ensuring the proper functioning of the camper’s internal systems like plumbing and electrical.

There are no additional tires or axles to worry about on a truck camper. This makes overall upkeep simpler compared to travel trailers. It also reduces the cost of ownership. You never have to buy expensive tires.

Travel trailers require more extensive maintenance. This is because there are more moving parts. You need to maintain the tires, axles, brakes, lights, and more. Regular checks and maintenance of these parts are important to ensure that the trailer can be towed safely. This adds to the cost of ownership over time.

Leaks are a common issue in both truck campers and travel trailers as they age. Regular inspection of the seals and roof is essential. Preventative care can help prolong the lifespan of your RV and prevent costly repairs in the future.

Winner: Truck campers are easier and cheaper to maintain because they don’t have wheels or tires.

Fuel Economy

Fuel economy is an important consideration when comparing truck campers and travel trailers. It can impact both the cost and environmental footprint of your travels. Gas is one of the biggest expenses of RV camping.

The mileage you get with your RV depends on a number of factors including the truck’s engine the weight of the RV, the size of the RV, aerodynamics, and the driving conditions. You’ll get better gas mileage when you tow with a diesel vehicle instead of a gas vehicle. A lower-profile RV with better aerodynamics will also achieve better fuel efficiency because it creates less drag. Lighter RVs are also more fuel efficient to tow.

Truck campers, given their compact design and direct placement on the truck, tend to be more fuel-efficient compared to towing a travel trailer. On average, a truck with a camper may get around 10-12 miles per gallon (mpg).

A teardrop travel trailer
Small, aerodynamic trailers, like teardrop trailers, can get good fuel economy

Conversely, trailers, due to their additional weight and increased drag and rolling resistance, can significantly reduce the fuel efficiency of the towing vehicle. On average, your vehicle loses around 7 MPG while towing. Depending on the size and weight of the trailer, as well as the tow vehicle’s engine, you might expect to get around 8-10 mpg when towing a travel trailer.

Driving a less fuel-efficient vehicle is more expensive. Let’s take an example of a 2000 mile road trip. With a truck camper achieving around 12 mpg, you would need approximately 167 gallons of fuel. If gas costs $3.50 per gallon, this trip would cost around $585 in fuel.

On the other hand, if you’re towing a travel trailer and achieving 10 mpg, you would need 200 gallons of fuel for the same trip, costing about $700.

In this example, you could save $115 by traveling with a truck camper instead of a travel trailer. This is just one trip. Over the lifetime of the RV, this fuel savings could add up. Camping with a truck camper could save you thousands of dollars worth of gas over its lifetime.

There are exceptions. A truck and camper isn’t always the most fuel efficient option. Towing a small, aerodynamic trailer, with a small vehicle will be more fuel efficient. For example, it is possible to tow a small teardrop trailer or pop-up trailer with a small SUV or a sedan. This will be much more fuel efficient than driving a large truck with a camper. You could get 25-30 mpg with a fuel efficient vehicle and small trailer. You could achieve even greater efficiency if you use a hybrid vehicle or even an electric vehicle to tow your trailer.

There are also some small truck campers available that don’t affect your MPG as much. For example, some pop up camper models offer good aerodynamics. They don’t create much drag.

Winner: A truck and camper will get better fuel economy than a travel trailer and tow vehicle.


The cost of insurance can vary significantly based on the type of RV you drive, its value, how often you use it, your deductible, and the type of coverage you choose.

Truck campers are typically cheaper to insure than travel trailers. They can often be added to your homeowner’s policy or your regular truck insurance policy. This is possible because are commonly considered cargo rather than RVs. This makes insurance for truck campers less costly. In most cases, it’s possible to insure a truck camper for $200-$300 per year.

Travel trailers require their own standalone policy due to their separate structure and potential liability in the event of an accident. Even though they are more expensive to insure than truck campers, travel trailer insurance is generally affordable. Most policies fall within the range of $300-$600 per year, depending on the trailer’s value and the chosen coverage.

An airstream trailer next to a lake
Travel trailers require their own standalone insurance policy

When choosing between a truck camper and a travel trailer, it’s important to factor in insurance costs. Understanding these costs can help ensure you’re fully prepared for the financial commitments associated with your chosen RV.

Winner: Truck campers are usually cheaper to insure than travel trailers.

Storing a Truck Camper or Travel Trailer

When buying an RV, storage is an important consideration. Particularly for those with limited space at home. You have to have a place to put your RV when you’re not camping.

Truck campers are easier to store than travel trailers due to their compact size. A truck camper can fit into most standard garages or driveways. It takes up one parking space. This makes truck campers cheaper and more convenient to store. Not having to worry about additional storage space or costs is a significant benefit. Particularly for those who live in urban areas where storage is limited.

Travel trailers can present more of a challenge when it comes to storage due to their larger size. Larger models won’t fit into a standard garage or driveway. To store your trailer, you’ll need a large space on your property.

A 5th wheel trailer
Travel trailers are more difficult to store due to their larger size.

If you don’t have space you may have to pay for storage. This could potentially add a significant cost to owning a travel trailer. RV storage can cost anywhere from $40-$200 per month depending on where you live and the size of your trailer.

Not all travel trailers require a large space for storage. Trailers that measure less than 20 feet long can usually fit in a garage or driveway. Teardrop trailers and pop-up trailers take up one parking space. If you plan to store your RV in your garage, it’s a good idea to measure before you buy to make sure it will fit.

If you plan to park your RV on the street, you should check your local regulations. In some jurisdictions, it’s against the law to park in one space for more than a few days. Some HOAs also have regulations against parking RVs on your property. In this case, you’ll have to pay for storage.

Winner: Truck campers are easier and cheaper to store due to their smaller size.

Mounting and Unmounting The Camper or Trailer

The process of mounting and unmounting truck campers or hooking and unhooking travel trailers is an essential part of the journey. The process varies significantly between these two types of RVs. Generally, mounting and unmounting a truck camper is more difficult and time-consuming than hooking and unhooking a travel trailer.

Mounting a truck camper onto the bed of a truck involves the use of a jack system. The jacks are attached to the sides of the camper. They lift the camper high enough for you to back the truck under it. You then lower the jacks and the camper settles into the truck bed. Both manual and electric jacks are available.

Once the camper is in place in the truck bed, it secures to the truck with a mounting system. The mounting system usually involves turnbuckles or tie-downs. This system ensures the camper stays firmly in place while traveling.

This process can be time-consuming. It also requires some physical effort. It takes anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour to both mount and unmount the camper. This job will go a bit quicker after you do it a few times or if you have a helper. It is a bit of a hassle. You won’t want to do it every day.

Attaching and detaching a travel trailer is much simpler. The process involves attaching the trailer’s hitch to the ball receiver on the tow vehicle. To do this, you lift the hitch with a crank and then back the vehicle up so the ball is under the hitch. You then drop the hitch and lock it onto the ball. Finally, you connect the trailer’s electrical system for brake lights and turn signals. You’ll also have to attach some safety chains. This procedure is generally quicker and less labor-intensive than mounting a truck camper, typically taking about 15-30 minutes. It will go even quicker if you have a helper.

A major benefit of the simpler attachment system is that you can detach your trailer at camp and use your vehicle to go sightseeing or run errands. You can also do that with a truck and camper but you’re less likely to.

Winner: It’s faster and easier to hook and unhook a travel trailer than it is to mount and unmount a truck camper.

Licensing and Registration

How these recreational vehicles are classified can significantly impact their registration requirements, and subsequently, the cost and paperwork involved.

Truck campers are often considered cargo rather than separate vehicles. In 42 out of 50 states truck campers do not require their own license or registration. They don’t need their own license plate. This is a significant advantage. It reduces the cost of ownership and eliminates the need for additional paperwork every year. This is a headache you don’t have to deal with.

Travel trailers are classified as separate vehicles. This means they require their own license and registration. This involves an annual registration fee, which adds to the overall cost of owning a travel trailer. Furthermore, owners have to handle additional paperwork, making the ownership process slightly more complex. You have to remember to pay the registration fee and put new tabs on your trailer.

Winner: In most cases, truck campers do not need to be licensed or registered. Travel trailers always need a license and registration.

Riding in the RV

In most states, it is legal for passengers to ride in a truck camper while the vehicle is in motion. Sometimes there is a minimum age requirement to ride in the camper. In some states, there needs to be a piece of safety glass between the camper and the truck cab. For more info, check out this great guide.

In most states, it is illegal for passengers to ride in a travel trailer while the vehicle is moving. In some cases, it is legal for passengers to ride in a 5th wheel style trailer.

A travel trailer rolling down the highway
It’s illegal for passengers to ride in the trailer in most jurisdictions

Generally, it’s not a good idea for passengers to ride in a truck camper or travel trailer, even when it is legal. These RVs don’t have safety equipment such as seat belts or airbags. In the event of an accident, passengers could be seriously injured or killed. It’s safest for everyone to ride in the cab of the pickup or in the vehicle towing the camper trailer.

Winner: Passengers can usually ride in a truck camper legally but not in a travel trailer.


With a truck camper, the rear hitch remains free. This allows you to tow a boat, a cargo trailer full of toys, a horse trailer, or even a car. This dual-functionality makes truck campers an excellent choice for those who want to engage in watersports or need extra cargo space for their toys during their travels.

Travel trailers are always being towed by a vehicle. This means that you’re usually unable to tow an additional item behind your travel trailer due to restrictions on ‘triple towing’ in many jurisdictions. There are exceptions. Triple towing is permitted in some places.

Also, when you use a travel trailer, you’re always towing. Towing itself brings along its own set of challenges and preparations. For example, you need to balance the load correctly to prevent sway and ensure stability on the road. Ideally, 60% of the load should be toward the front of the trailer.

Towing a trailer also changes the way the vehicle handles. It can make maneuvers like reversing more complex. You also need to make sure the tires, lights, and brakes in the trailer are in good working condition so you can tow safely. There may also be restrictions on where you can drive when you’re towing. With a truck camper, there are fewer restrictions to deal with.

Winner: With a truck camper, you can tow a boat or trailer behind your truck. This usually isn’t possible with a travel trailer.

Off-Road Capability

Truck campers have more off-road capabilities than travel trailers. Many pickup trucks come equipped with 4-wheel drive. This gives you more traction in muddy, snowy, icy, sandy, or rocky conditions. The ground clearance offered by trucks, combined with their sturdy build and longer travel suspension makes them perfect for navigating uneven terrain. With a truck and camper, you can enjoy overlanding.

Off-roading with a truck camper allows you to reach remote and isolated spots that would be inaccessible with other types of RVs. You can drive on public lands on forestry roads and fire roads and access disperse campsites. As an added bonus, these types of campsites are usually free.

An off-road travel trailer for overlanding
This trailer was designed for off-road use. Notice the knobby tires, long suspension travel, and low profile.

It’s important to note that a truck camper isn’t quite as off-road capable as the truck it’s attached to. The height and width make it a bit more difficult to navigate dense forests. you have to keep an eye out for overhanging tree branches. The weight of the trailer also makes the vehicle a bit top-heavy. You have to be careful when driving on uneven surfaces so you don’t tip over. With a good driver, a truck and camper can handle some pretty gnarly terrain.

Traditional travel trailers are not designed for off-road use. Their lower ground clearance and often larger size can make maneuvering difficult on uneven surfaces. The trailer’s weight distribution and center of gravity can also be affected by off-road conditions, potentially causing stability issues. Turning around can also be an issue due to the length of the vehicle. You can drive a travel trailer on dirt and gravel roads. That’s about as extreme as you’ll want to go.

There is an exception. These days, there is a niche market of off-road or ‘ruggedized’ travel trailers. These trailers are designed with reinforced frames, knobby tires, higher ground clearance, and heavy-duty suspensions to handle off-road conditions. They can be towed by off-road capable vehicles, such as jeeps 4Runnrers, and other overlanding vehicles, They are an excellent option for those craving off-road adventures with a bit more living space. For some examples of off-road trailers, check out this cool list. These trailers are sometimes referred to as overlanding trailers.

When driving off-road, you’ll need to be prepared with the proper recovery equipment. It’s a good idea to carry a shovel and traction boards. You should also consider mounting a winch. If you get stuck, you need to be able to recover your vehicle.

Winner: Trucks with campers are more off-road capable than travel trailers. There are specially designed off-road travel trailers available.


In terms of versatility, truck campers stand out. You can detach the camper when not in use and use the truck normally.

Once detached, the pickup truck can be used for everyday commuting, running errands, hauling cargo, or towing other items such as boats or utility trailers. Pickup trucks are very versatile vehicles.

You can also pull a trailer while the camper is attached. This allows you to bring a fishing boat or some toys on your camping trips.

The small size of truck campers also adds versatility. You can camp in more places. In addition, you can also take your truck and camper off-road, as outlined above. This is one of the most versatile camping setups.

Travel trailers are also versatile. A travel trailer needs to be towed by a separate vehicle, usually a truck, SUV, or van. You can use the vehicle separately. One drawback is that you usually can’t pull a boat and a travel trailer together. There are some places you can’t take a travel trailer due to length restrictions. Additionally, the vehicle’s off-road capabilities might be restricted by the travel trailer. This makes travel trailers a bit less versatile.

Winner: Truck campers are a bit more versatile than travel trailers.


When considering the purchase of an RV, it’s a good idea to factor in depreciation, as it can impact your investment in the long run.

Truck campers generally hold their value better than travel trailers. They don’t depreciate as quickly. This slower depreciation rate is an attractive feature for those who plan to resell their RV in the future. You can get more out of a used truck camper.

Travel trailers, on the other hand, tend to depreciate more rapidly. This can be a concern if you plan to sell your RV down the line. You won’t get nearly as much as you paid for it. In fact, after just one year, your trailer will be worth around 20% less than what you paid for it. After around 10 years, it will be worth less than half of what it cost new. The larger the trailer, the faster it will depreciate.

Depreciation can be advantageous if you’re in the market for a used RV. Buying a pre-owned truck camper or travel trailer can result in significant savings. If you shop around, you can find an RV that’s less than 10 years old for half of the original purchase price. This is a great way to save money. You can find a gently used truck camper or trailer for thousands less than MSRP. You can get more bang for your buck when you buy used. Of course, there are risks of buying used. You could get a lemon.

Winner: Truck campers don’t depreciate as quickly as travel trailers.


Both types of RVs are safe to use. Travel trailers require regular safety checks. One of the most crucial aspects is to verify that the hitch is secure and correctly attached to your vehicle. You need to use safety chains.

You also need to check the weight distribution of the trailer to reduce sway. Sway can be incredibly dangerous when towing. Ideally, around 60% of the weight of the cargo should be toward the front of the trailer.

Checking the functionality of the lights is also essential. Your brake lights, turn signals, and running lights should all be in good working order to communicate with other drivers on the road.

Regularly assessing the tire pressure is another key safety measure. Underinflated or overinflated tires can lead to poor handling, increased tire wear, or even a blowout.

For truck campers, one of the top safety precautions is ensuring that the camper is securely fastened to the truck bed. This includes tightening down the tie-downs and making sure that the camper is evenly distributed to prevent any tipping or swaying while on the move.

Additionally, given the added height and weight from the camper, drivers should be aware of overhead clearance and adjust their driving to accommodate the shifted center of gravity.

For more general info on safety, check out my guide: Is Camping Safe?

Winner: Both truck campers and travel trailers are safe if they’re used properly.

A pickup towing a trailer down the freeway

Who Should Choose a Truck Camper?

  • Minimalist travelers: Those who value simplicity in their travels will appreciate the smaller size of truck campers. Everything is contained in one simple unit that mounts to your truck bed.

  • Off-road explorers: Those who enjoy traveling off-road to remote or off-grid campsites will enjoy the superior off-road capability of truck campers. You can explore 4×4 trails and camp in remote areas.

  • Those who aren’t comfortable driving a large vehicle or trailer: A truck with a camper is easier to drive due to its smaller size. You don’t have to deal with the hassles of towing.

  • Those who value versatility: If you need your vehicle for multiple purposes such as commuting, hauling, or towing, a truck camper offers great versatility. You can remove the camper and you have a regular pickup to use. You also have more campsite options due to the smaller size. You can also tow a trailer while carrying the camper. You can bring a boat or toys with you.

  • Those with limited storage space: If you have limited space to store your RV at home you will find it easier to store a truck camper. You can store it in your driveway or in your garage. If you have to pay for storage, it will cost less to store a smaller RV.

  • Spontaneous adventurers: For those who enjoy impromptu stops during their journey, the easy parking and maneuverability of truck campers are huge pluses. You can stop for a coffee or pull over at a viewpoint whenever you feel like it.

  • Those who value ease of ownership: Truck campers are easier to maintain because they don’t have tires, axles, or brakes. They also don’t need to be licensed or registered in many states.

Who Should Choose a Travel Trailer?

  • Those who need more space: If you value more living and storage space, travel trailers typically offer more room than truck campers. You can get up and walk around. There are separate dining, sleeping, and living areas.

  • Large families or groups: Travel trailers generally have more sleeping spaces, making them a good choice for larger families or groups. Most can accommodate 4-8 people.

  • Those who value comfort or luxury: If you’re seeking home-like comforts such as a full kitchen, a full bathroom, a separate bedroom, and a spacious living area you may prefer the layout of travel trailers. A large travel trailer can offer all of the comforts of home. You can also get some privacy. It’s like having an apartment on wheels.

  • Long-term travelers: If you’re planning an extended trip or if you’re planning on living in your RV full-time, the additional space and amenities in a travel trailer can make life on the road more comfortable.

  • Sedan, SUV, or van owners: If you don’t own a pickup truck but you already have a vehicle with decent towing capacity, a camper trailer could be a better fit. You won’t have to buy another vehicle.

  • Budget-conscious buyers: While travel trailers do depreciate faster, they also often have a lower initial purchase cost. Especially when looking at used options.

A small camper parked in the woods

FAQ About Truck Campers and Travel Trailers

In this section, I’ll answer some frequently asked questions about truck campers and travel trailers.

Why Aren’t Truck Campers More Popular?

Truck campers aren’t as popular as travel trailers for several reasons. The truck requirement plays a significant role. To safely carry a truck camper, you need a heavy-duty pickup truck with a large payload capacity. Oftentimes, you’ll need a truck with dual rear wheels as well.

These trucks are not only expensive, but they also consume more fuel than smaller, lighter vehicles. Not everyone needs a huge truck. It’s not practical.

Additionally, the interior space of truck campers is quite limited. They don’t offer nearly as much living and storage space as travel trailers. They can feel cramped. This makes truck campers less suitable for families or those planning long-term trips.

Another factor is the cost. While travel trailers come in a range of prices, truck campers can be surprisingly expensive. Particularly when you factor in the cost of a suitable truck.

On the other hand, travel trailers offer more flexibility and affordability. They come in a variety of sizes, meaning they can be towed by different types of vehicles. You can pull a travel trailer with a pickup, SUV, van, or even a sedan. The variety also means a wider price range, making travel trailers more accessible for a larger portion of the market. Travel trailers also offer more living space. Even a small travel trailer can feel roomy with clever design features.

Are Truck Campers Hard to Drive?

Truck campers are pretty easy to drive. Driving with a truck camper isn’t substantially different from driving the truck alone. Maneuverability with a truck camper is typically good. The compact nature of a truck bed camper means you can navigate tight corners, narrow roads, and small parking lots. This also makes it less daunting for those new to RVing.

There are some things to keep in mind when driving with a camper. The camper’s additional height may restrict access to some areas with low clearance. Truck campers are tall. You need to always be aware of your vehicle’s total height and check clearance limits before passing under bridges, overpasses, etc.

The weight of the camper is also an important factor. It’s crucial to ensure your truck’s payload capacity isn’t exceeded when the camper is fully loaded with water and camping gear. Overloading your truck can affect its performance. It can also be unsafe. You could bend your truck’s frame if you overload it.

The camper’s weight also affects the vehicle’s center of gravity. A high center of gravity can increase the risk of tipping over, especially when driving around corners, off-road, or in extremely windy conditions.

What’s Better? A Truck Bed Camper or Travel Trailer?

When it comes to choosing between a truck camper and a travel trailer, there isn’t a definitive answer as to which is better. Both come with their unique advantages and disadvantages. The right choice for you really depends on your needs, lifestyle, and personal preferences.

A truck camper is a compact, versatile option that offers the freedom of going off-road and accessing places that a larger RV might not be able to navigate. A truck bed camper is easier to store and has fewer maintenance issues. You also offer the benefit of being able to tow a boat or other trailer while using the camper.

However, their smaller size means limited living and very limited storage space. The combined cost of a capable truck and the camper itself can also be quite high.

Travel trailers come in a wide range of sizes, offering more living and storage space. They can comfortably accommodate more people. Travel trailers also tend to be less expensive. They can also be towed by a variety of vehicles, depending on their size.

On the other hand, trailers can be more challenging to maneuver and park. They may also restrict access to certain campgrounds due to their size. Additionally, they may require a dedicated storage space when not in use.

A toy hauler trailer

My Choice: Travel Trailer Vs Truck Camper

For my style of camping, I prefer using a truck camper. The main reason is the off-road capability. I love being able to camp in free disperse campsites on public land. Many of these sites would not be accessible with a standard travel trailer.

I also enjoy owning a pickup truck. A pickup is one of the most useful and versatile vehicles. I can use it for camping, hauling, towing, off-roading, and commuting.

Another reason I prefer a truck camper is their maneuverability. Being able to pull over and easily find parking is really convenient. It’s also nice being able to easily drive through cities. I’m a bit of a city person so it’s nice to be able to explore cities once in a while. Not having to deal with the hassles of towing is nice.

There are some situations where I would prefer to have a travel trailer. If I were to stay in one place for weeks or months at a time, a travel trailer would make more sense. The extra space would be nice. Truck campers get cramped. Also, if I were to start a family, I would also probably upgrade to a larger RV. A travel trailer would make sense. I would also consider a motorhome. At this time, a truck camper is the best choice for me.

Final Thoughts About Travel Trailers Vs Truck Campers

The choice between a truck camper and a travel trailer is ultimately a matter of personal preference, lifestyle, and specific needs. Both present distinct benefits and drawbacks, from the compact versatility and off-road prowess of truck campers to the spacious comforts and affordability of travel trailers.

When deciding, consider factors such as your budget, storage, maneuverability, the number of people you camp with, the gear you need to carry, and your intended use. Do you like to go on off-grid wilderness adventures or stay in family-friendly campgrounds? Do you want to bring a fishing boat?

By understanding these key differences, you can make an informed decision. Whether you choose a truck camper or a travel trailer, I hope this guide helps you in making your decision.

Do you camp in a truck camper or travel trailer? Share your experience in the comments below!

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