The more you know, the more you save. It’s that simple.
Travel trailers are an affordable way to travel or go camping with the family and are often the RV of choice for first time buyers. Since they vary considerably in style, size and price, our travel trailer consumer reports have helped thousands of buyers over the years find the best RV at the best price -while avoiding the “lemons” on the market.
First timers interested in dipping a toe in to the RV waters would be well served to consider the travel trailer segment. Easy to tow (often with your existing vehicle), simple to operate, affordable, and as roomy as necessary, a properly researched travel trailer can often be purchased at a considerable discount (if you follow the suggestions outlined in our guides). Buying right the first time can put you in a unit that meets your needs for many years to come -and when you’re ready to upgrade, the well-research travel trailer will have a higher resale value than a known problem-RV.
The ability to drop a travel trailer at a campsite and still use your tow vehicle for local trips is a significant perk for many owners. Also, a travel trailer is generally easier on the budget, largely in part to the simple trailer chassis it sits on. You can find them starting at $15,000 (or less if considering a used unit) or go as high as $80,000 for the more luxurious ones designed for Snow Bird or Full Time travel.
This disparity can create much confusion for the consumer, though, as we discuss in our travel trailer consumer reports and, in more detail, in our updated Travel Trailer & Fifth Wheel Comparison Guide. There are several $25,000 travel trailers that we prefer over some of the $50,000 trailers currently on the market. Why? Build quality, customer service, owner satisfaction, re-sale value, manufacturer reputation, and materials/ components used -to name just a few reasons.
As the old saying goes: All that glitters is not gold. And many times a shiny new travel trailer is more Fool’s Gold than substance. Always remember, any RV will look beautiful when brand new, but shiny Corian countertops and fashionable fabrics won’t mean much if they’re hiding leaky windows or roofs, a wonky air conditioner or a slide-out that doesn’t slide out. Learning how to identify a solidly built RV -for less money- will put you in a unit that will see more use and retain a higher resale value. On the other hand, buying the wrong RV for too much money will always lead to travels fraught with frustration and buyer remorse. Always.
There are light weight trailers that weigh between 3,500 lbs. and 6,500 lbs. and can often be pulled by the family car or SUV. A standard size trailer weighs between 6,500 and 12,000 lbs. and premium models for Full Time use can weigh upwards of 18,000 lbs. If you are a first time buyer, understanding the limits of your tow vehicle is crucial. If you end up having to purchase another vehicle just to tow your trailer, your cost of entry to RV camping just doubled. Most people would be better served to know the capabilities of an existing vehicle and then shop within those limits.
If you find that you’re driving the wheels off your family vehicle after a few years you can always upgrade and purchase a larger diesel powered tow vehicle. For first timers, though, we recommend working with as much existing equipment as possible. There’s a very good chance you’ll find a modest first choice more than meets your needs and you won’t have feel guilty seeing an oversized diesel pick up truck sitting unused in your driveway fifty weeks a year.
The majority of today’s camping trailers come with slide-outs for more living space and many now feature an outdoor galley for al fresco cooking. We know of many owners that rarely use their units’ interior kitchen. Entertainment centers have also improved in recent years, with multiple HDTVs and wi-fi systems for fast, reliable internet usage. You can purchase an RV trailer for 1-8 people, depending on your needs, but most people start off with a 1-4 occupant trailer.
RV trailers are typically used for short term use like weekend travel or week long vacations, but many RVers employ their travel trailer for Snow Bird or even Full Time duty.
There are also some that come with a garage (toy hauler), for more information about these types of trailers please, check out our article on Toy Haulers. For those interested in a 5th Wheel, please see our article on Fifth Wheels.
Before you spend tens of thousands of dollars on a travel trailer do your research and become an informed buyer. Our travel trailer consumer guide provides a cheap education on a major purchase and will guide you every step of the way.