One of the first questions you have to answer when buying an RV is which is better for me: towable vs. motorized RV? Here’s a guide to help you answer that question for yourself.
When it comes to deciding between towable vs. motorized RVs, there are two main determining factors. The first is how far and how often you plan to travel. The second is your budget.
I’m going to discuss those two main factors plus other considerations that may tip the scale for you one way or the other. So, let’s quickly clarify the difference between towable and motorized RVs, and then jump into the pros and cons.
What is a Towable vs. Motorized RV?
A towable RV, as the name suggests, is towed behind a vehicle, and is also commonly known as a travel trailer. There are 3 main types of towable RVs: pop-up camper (a.k.a. folding travel trailer), RV travel trailer, and 5th wheel trailer.
Pop-up campers are usually the smallest and most affordable. RV travel trailers are the most similar to motorized RVs but without the cab and engine, and prices range widely. 5th wheel trailers are typically the largest and most expensive, especially if you don’t already own a heavy-duty truck required to pull it.
A motorized RV is a vehicle in it of itself, with an engine and driver’s cab. I’m sure you’ve heard them referred to as motorhomes, as well. There are also 3 main types of motorized RVs: Class A, Class B, and Class C. Class B motorhomes are often referred to as campervans.
Class A motorhomes are the Mack Daddies of RVs. They’re the biggest and typically the most luxurious (and can be the most expensive, but not always). Then there are Class B RVs, which are the smallest but not the cheapest. These are van-style RVs that are easiest to drive around. Last are Class C RVs, which are a happy compromise between Class A and C, including the price.
If you want to learn more about the different classes, you can check out my article on Class A vs. Class B vs. Class C. But let’s go ahead and move on to the pros and cons between towables and motorhomes.
Towable vs. Motorized RV Pros & Cons
The two main differences come down to travel style and budget, so let’s start there. Then we’ll discuss some other pros and cons.
Long stays, short stays and Full-time RVing
Which RV type is better for you depends heavily on what kind of traveling you plan to do. Do you plan to take weekend trips? Cross-country trips? Live in your RV full-time? Move around a lot?
If you plan to stay put in one location for a long period of time, a towable RV may be the choice. Having it all set up and leaving it that way, using the tow vehicle for exploring and errands, is just more convenient.
When it's just a motorhome, it's a pain to have to break camp every time you need to go somewhere. To get around that inconvenience, some motorhome owners opt to tow a vehicle with their motorhome (a “Toad,” get it?), so they don't have to unplug and break camp to visit attractions, go shopping and explore.
On long trips, with lots of driving, there's no doubt that a motorhome is the easiest choice. In a motorhome, you can keep driving while your travel mates make lunch, grab snacks from the fridge, use the restroom, take a nap, or while away the long hours on the road in the back by watching TV.
You can't do that when you are hauling a fifth wheel or a trailer.
Towable RVs tend to be more popular with weekenders and those making short hauls. The longer the travel distances and the more time spent traveling, the more people tend to prefer motorized RVs.
Mike and Jennifer's Summer T-Shirts for your next adventure
Which is More Affordable?
Towable RVs on their own are generally more affordable than motorized RVs, though RV prices right now are the highest we've ever seen for all types of them.
But generally, a Fifth Wheel or trailer will be more affordable than a motorhome. That makes sense since you’re not paying for a big engine. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean they are more affordable as a whole.
While some towable RVs can be pulled by a van, SUV, or even a car (think small pop-up), most require a truck. And the larger ones require a heavy-duty truck. So, when you’re considering buying a towable trailer, you also have to factor in whether or not you have to buy a vehicle to tow it. As you can imagine, that can bring the price right up to and past the motorhome range.
But, if you already own a proper vehicle to tow it, then you’d definitely save money by buying a towable vs. motorized RV. After all, you already own a big engine, so do you really need to buy another one? (Well, the answer could still be yes depending on the other pros and cons…)
Oh, and towables are also more affordable to maintain and repair. But again, you still need to consider maintenance and repair costs for whatever vehicle you choose.
Which is Easier to Drive?
The simplest answer is a motorized RV is the easiest to drive. You can jump in and drive a motorized RV without special training or experience since they’re much more similar to driving a car. Of course, the longer a motorhome is, the more difficult it is to drive and park but the driving basics are the same.
And if you are towing a vehicle with your RV, that you can use after you park the motorhome at a campground, well…. there goes that advantage,
A travel trailer, however, requires some practice or experience. First, you need to hook it up, a process that can take more than just a few minutes. Then, at the campground, you have to unhook.
But the biggest challenge for most is pulling a trailer or fifth wheel and more so, backing up.
Don’t expect to just jump in and pull one around for the first time without some guidance and practice and lots of patience.
That being said, pulling a travel trailer or Fifth Wheel is like anything else. Once you get the hang of it, you’ve got the hang of it! You’ll be a pro after your first few trips.
Which is Easier to Set Up & Tear Down?
Motorized RVs have this one in the bag. You can literally pull up in your site and start making dinner or roll out of bed and drive away in your pajamas.
Towables, on the other hand, have to be unhitched and leveled out. So, there’s a bit more work involved. The benefit, though, is when you need to go somewhere, you can just hop in your truck to drive to the store or explore the area rather than moving a whole motorhome.
On that same note, if maintenance needs to be done on your towable, at least you still have a vehicle. Motorized RVers (especially full-timers) risk being stranded if they have to drop their motorhome off at a mechanic who needs to keep it a few days.
Towable vs. Motorized RV: Which Is Your Choice?
Which did you choose or are you still deciding? To talk it over with experienced RVers, I suggest you join our RV Lifestyle Facebook group. Feel free to comment below, too!
What About the Florida Keys?
Do you want to hit Key West, the Everglades National Park, and all the other great things the Keys have to offer? Well, we have just the thing for you. Jennifer and I love traveling to the Keys, so we've created a complete 7-Day RV Adventure Guide: Florida Keys. This downloadable guide includes a suggested itinerary and a list of the best RV parks along the way.
We also have a 7-Day RV Adventure Guide to Florida's Atlantic Coast and Florida's Gulf Coast. If you're interested in all three, you should check out our Florida RV Travel Guide Bundle.