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Old 01-23-2008, 04:00 PM   #1
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Towing Concerns May Point Me Toward a Motorhome

I've been lurking on the board for a while and trying to do some background research before deciding which type of RV to purchase. I have a wife and two small children and am very concerned about safety issues.

I am a big fan of Airstreams, and I thought I had settled on buying an Airstream travel trailer (around 23') to tow with my 2005 Hemi Durango, but I need to admit that reading the towing threads on the forum has caused me to reconsider this. Because my tow vehicle is also my primary, i.e. family vehicle, I need an SUV. A pickup truck wouldn't work. I realize I could upgrade to a Suburban or something with an even longer wheel base, but I still get the sense from reading the boards that towing a travel trailer, which is commonly longer and heavier than the tow vehicle itself, is inherently dangerous, even if you take steps to reduce the risk, including getting a long wheelbase vehicle, purchasing an expensive hitch, etc.

Which leads me to question (dare I say it!) whether a motorhome might be a better (i.e. safer) option. In practice, I don't think a new but leftover motorhome would be much more expensive than a nice Airstream travel trailer. Of course, if I purchased a motorhome, I'd want to tow a dinghy. My guess is that towing a 3,000 pound car behind a 20,000 pound motorhome is safer than towing a 6,000 trailer behind a 5,000 pound SUV, but I'd like to get the thoughts from the group on this question of relative safety.

So what do you think...Is it safer to tow a 3,000 pound car behind a 20,000 pound motorhome or a 6,000 pound travel trailer behind a 5,000 pound SUV? I've chosen these weights based on my current situation and likely purchase scenarios.
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Old 01-23-2008, 04:14 PM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bonzai30b
I've been lurking on the board for a while and trying to do some background research before deciding which type of RV to purchase. I have a wife and two small children and am very concerned about safety issues.

I am a big fan of Airstreams, and I thought I had settled on buying an Airstream travel trailer (around 23') to tow with my 2005 Hemi Durango, but I need to admit that reading the towing threads on the forum has caused me to reconsider this. Because my tow vehicle is also my primary, i.e. family vehicle, I need an SUV. A pickup truck wouldn't work. I realize I could upgrade to a Suburban or something with an even longer wheel base, but I still get the sense from reading the boards that towing a travel trailer, which is commonly longer and heavier than the tow vehicle itself, is inherently dangerous, even if you take steps to reduce the risk, including getting a long wheelbase vehicle, purchasing an expensive hitch, etc.

Which leads me to question (dare I say it!) whether a motorhome might be a better (i.e. safer) option. In practice, I don't think a new but leftover motorhome would be much more expensive than a nice Airstream travel trailer. Of course, if I purchased a motorhome, I'd want to tow a dinghy. My guess is that towing a 3,000 pound car behind a 20,000 pound motorhome is safer than towing a 6,000 trailer behind a 5,000 pound SUV, but I'd like to get the thoughts from the group on this question of relative safety.

So what do you think...Is it safer to tow a 3,000 pound car behind a 20,000 pound motorhome or a 6,000 pound travel trailer behind a 5,000 pound SUV? I've chosen these weights based on my current situation and likely purchase scenarios.
People tow large Airstreams everyday, like 31 feet, with a 1/2 ton truck.

The key to successful towing, in large part, is "how you are rigged."

Just because a person may own a super heavy duty TV, doesn't mean they are safe.

The proper hitch, properly rated, properly installed, and, properly adjusted, does wonders towards successful towing.

To use a inadequate load equalizing hitch, because it's cheap, is a sure way to invite trouble, either to yourself, or the trailer, or both.

Full sway control hitches are the answer, such as a Reese dual cam.

Andy
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Old 01-23-2008, 04:21 PM   #3
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hi bonzai and welcome to the forums!

which is safer is a tough question, define safe.

one may seem easier driving or less complicated or more convenient or easier to park...

but that's not the same as safe.

i drove a moho for 25 years then switched to a truck/trailer combo...

moho's are pretty easy to drive and many rver's make the switch from trailers to mohos as they age...

for a variety of reasons.

moho's are easier for the family, because they can go potty or grab a snack.

mohos are easier in snow IF you have the proper chains and tires.

imo mohos have LONGER stopping distances than tv/trailer combos with disc brakes.

mohos seem to be more affected by cross winds (except for the vintage classics) than truck/trailers with a good hitch.

a tire failure on the front of moho is an issue, while a rear dually blowout is hardly noticed by most...

learning to drive a tv/trailer combo takes practice and a good setup is critical...

lots of folks start with shorter single axle units thinking it's easier or 'safer'....

i went directly to a 34 because i wanted 6 wheels and brakes!

imo longer multi axle trailers are easier to tow and back up, once u learn how.

IF you've never rv'd consider renting a class c or class a moho from cruise america or other vendors....

and you can test drive a moho, but test driving/towing a trailer is tricky...

good luck and go camping!

cheers
2air'

one more issue the nature of what is posted into these forums...

topics and reports are somewhat jaded....

i've towed 50,000+ miles in the last 2 years and 98% was uneventful (except for the fun)...

only the mishaps get much attention here.

a pleasant, relaxed, issue free trip is SO BORING to read about...
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Old 01-23-2008, 04:27 PM   #4
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Ditto on what Andy said. Those who says you need 3 tons TV for 2-tons trailer have never tried anything else.
I tow 5500 boat with 3900 lb SUV just fine.
Than your impression about safety of motorhome is false. Standard motorhomes are just boxes of wood and cardboard, that collapse flat at any rollover. The only roll-over rated are bus conversions, but those are quite expensive.
Getting new toad is not going to be cheap as well. Think towing bars and axillary brake system.
Motorhomes with children have big advantage. You don't have to make potty stops every couple of hours and wife can bring you cold beverage at 70 mph
Since you are starting your RV adventure and you already own TV, start with a much cheaper trailer and move to motorhome in few years if you really like it.
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Old 01-23-2008, 06:30 PM   #5
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I have towed a 25 foot Tradewind behind a 1/2 ton Suburban over about 25,000 miles over 2 years. I have also done the motorhome route with a 40' diesel pusher pulling just by coincidence, a Dodge Durango as the dingy. We traveled about 40,000 miles over 4 years in the motorhome/dingy.

We all might look at safety differently. Here are some of the metrics I use:

1. Is it safe enough for my wife to be willing to share the driving responsibilities? For the Suburban/Tradewind combo the answer was Yes. For the Motorhome the answer was No. My wife felt much more at ease sitting in the Suburban, which was also her daily vehicle. She felt more in contact with the road, not as subject to winds, and able to slow the combo down more easily. With the motorhome she was always concerned about the width of the vehicle and got tired constantly trying to stay in the middle of her lane. After a couple of motorhome stints, I was left with the driving responsibilities. Advantage - Airstream trailer

2. Does it feel safer when the big semis come rolling by? We had a Pullrite hitch on the Suburban and we never felt any sway. On this forum most owners with a properly set up Hensley, Reese, or Equalizer hitch don't worry about sway. On the motorhome, nothing was going to push it around because it weighed so much, but when the trucks were rolling you did think more about where you were in your lane. Advantage - neither

3. Does it feel safer when it's time to slow down coming down the mountain, or slow down quickly to avoid an accident? I actually worried alot more when I was in the motorhome coming down the big mountain grades. Even though we had a pack brake, when the grade was over 8% you weren't slowing down. With motorhomes weighing in over 40,000 there is simply a lot more mass to stop. Yes the brakes and engine braking are built for the job, but I never felt safer than my Suburban/Tradewind combo. And for accident avoidance, I certainly did not feel more nimble in the motorhome/dingy, probably mostly because I was about 60 feet in length. The Suburban/Tradewind was more around 45 feet in length. I was always working hard in the motorhome to slot into another lane on those lane changes, even with my rear camera turned on. Advantage - Airstream trailer.

4. Does it feel safer when we have to stop at night or during the day in less than desireable areas? Well we shouldn't have been in these places in the beginning, but it happens. We felt safer in the motorhome because we never had to go outside, but we also felt like we were attracting more attention. Advantage - Motorhome.

I could go on with more examples. You might want to think what "safer" really means for you and post some questions and we could give you better answers to your specific needs.
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Old 01-23-2008, 07:23 PM   #6
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Like Air19 I also have a 25 Tradewind. I have not had it out much the last year or so but when I do take it out of the shed, I tow it with a 1/2 ton GMC pic-up truck. Nothing spectacular a very average 5.3 L vortec engine and it does have a towing package. I have even towed with a conventional hitch and did not notice much sway and did not have a problem with the little sway there was. I now have an equalizer and recomend something that will distribute the weight & do the anti-sway work.

I can't remember a single towing problem a couple of years ago when I took it on a 300 mile round trip on a standard bar hitch. I was on the interstate, 2 lane highways, a lane and a half gravel road/drive and a couple miles of logging road. It has always seemed to me that a longer wheel base is better for towing but the Durango should have plenty of power. Rent any RV trailer that is cheap (and of a similar size) for a weekend and drive it on multiple roads on the way to a destination. See how the Durango handles it. If it is good then take Andy's advice...rig it well. Good hitching, good in trailer weight ditribution (as best you can) and distribute any truck bed cargo (usually -but not always-, forward)--you have to start measuring heights on the TV & RV when you first start. Actually I still do that simply because I do not have the many many hok ups that many of our members have. I like you listened (read) closely about TV's.

If you really look into it,things seem to me with my amatuer and non-expert opinion that the Durango should pull that size AS. My hunting partner used to have a Durango that had a 7500 lb tow cap. We used it to pull cargo trailers a couple of times and these have GW's around 6000 Lb. I do not recall any problems other than normal engine grunting on 9% grades, but Sierra grunts on that same grade with my AS or when pulling cargo.

Try a day of towing a rental of similar size and see how it feels, best wishes.
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Old 01-23-2008, 07:45 PM   #7
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We don't have a huge long history of either a moho or towing a TT, but we have a couple of years' worth of experience in a moho and about a year with the TT. Even after this short time witht the TT, I much prefer the TT situation...I feel more in control of the vehicle(s), we are more comfortable, we are less stressed, and the whole experience is just better. Even our dogs (who don't drive, mind you) seem more at ease with the towing situation. Perhaps they know something we can't understand. I'd recommend renting a moho for a short trip and see what you think for yourself...not sure it would be so easy to rent a TT for a try, but at least it would give you some sense of what a moho is like.

Just my thoughts...
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Old 01-23-2008, 08:21 PM   #8
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Welcome Bonzai!!!

Just an additional thought...

I am actually moving down from a F350SD to a new Tundra. Truth is, I love the pulling capacity of the F350, but let's get real... Unless you're full-timing, this is a lot of truck to be driving around 95% of the time for no real purpose. I love the power, but the cost isn't justified. I really enjoyed my 350, but the cost to operate is just not worth the added investment, let alone the driving this tub around during the week, or the high cost of diesel!!!

I would offer the following... The real issue relative to ease of pulling and safe travel is found in your willingness to be a little patient on hills and tough driving conditions... I would recommend that if you consider the majority of your driving, it is really worth thinking through how much you will be towing vs. regular driving...

I have a 19 foot Bambi and the Tundra is more than up to the task. The rest of my driving will just be a lot more comfortable and enjoyable (just plain fun) than with the super-truck! At least give that some thought! The simple truth, my new TV will require me to be a bit more patient with the hills and general driving under heavier load... But if you like your Durango... just figure on taking it a bit easy on the uphill grades and under heavier load conditions...

Just a thought worth considering...

All the best. You're gonna love the new rig! A great way to spend quality family time together. We have two girls and now they're in college and a senior in HS. The best purchase I ever made was camping gear! When they were ready to kill each other, it seemed to come at a time when we were scheduled to go camping, and they would get it together and create entire new bonds of significance... Today, they refer to each other as "Fave". Pretty neat!

Good investment!
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Old 01-23-2008, 08:34 PM   #9
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A few things to think about:
Motorhomes are taller than comparable trailers.
You have to get a motorhome at least 3-5 feet longer than a comparable trailer, to get the same usable space.
Trailers don't have engines to break down or require mantenance.
If your motorhome breaks down, the vacation is over, and requires a heavy duty tow truck.
Motorhomes are inherently more complicated because they have two separate systems, drivetrain and camper.
On the other hand, it is extremely hard to jacknife a motorhome.
When you get where you are going, the dinghy will use much less fuel than the tow vehicle for the trailer.
You can have the air conditioner or heat going so when you get to the campground, everything is already cooled off or heated up.
You don't have to stop for potty breaks.
Both have their own sets of safety concerns, as well as advantages/disadvantages. It really will be up to you which you feel more comfortable and safer in.
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Old 01-23-2008, 09:20 PM   #10
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I've towed coast to cost with far too little truck and way to much cabin cruiser. No trailer brakes. Fortunatly I did not know I was driving a bad combo. I of course took grades along with the big rigs...very slowly...and gave my vehicle as much space as possible. Now, twenty years later, I ='ve found that with good trailer brakes and a balanced rig towing can actualy be enjoyable. Be picky about the systems, tires, brakes, balance, and a trailer that size should tow nicely. You may not welcome the pull up, but then again you may not be wheeling all over the country either.
I confess, I bought a rig much heavier than my trailer...but that was just me.

Good luck!
Rob N Terry
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Old 01-23-2008, 09:32 PM   #11
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What about your kids??

Consider the safety factor of seatbelt issues.

Does the motorhome have seatbelts?
If so, are they either forward or rear facing?

Some folks don't worry about seatbelts.
In my job, sometimes the difference is whether we transport to the hospital or turn the body over to the coronor.

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Old 01-23-2008, 10:44 PM   #12
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Hi Bonzai;

There's lots of good advice here. I have no experience with MH's (except I've heard the total cost of ownership can be crazy expensive), so my comments are limited to TT's. I towed a 30+' long TT with the shorty Yukon in the SIG for three years with no problems. Only last Fall we traded to a 25 foot Safari. I do use a Hensley Arrow which was essential for the 30 footer, but just nice to have for the Safari. IMO you won't have any trouble at all towing a 23 footer (or a 25 for that matter) with your Durango IF you don't exceed the GVWR of the SUV, make sure the rig is set up properly and drive conservatively. You don't need a Hensley, either. Do your homework and you'll be fine.

And if I may say, while there's lots of experienced and knowledgable folks here, I do find this forum tends to be very conservative when it comes to towing and tow vehicles.

JMHO.
Gary
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Old 01-23-2008, 10:57 PM   #13
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Hi, we considered buying a class C motorhome before we decided to buy our trailer. Some of the reasons we bought a trailer instead of a motorhome were: It would fit in my driveway. [motorhome was too tall to fit under the eaves on our house] Motorhome cost the same or more than my tow vehicle and trailer combined. When not in use, with a trailer, only half of my investment sits while I can drive the other half. [with motorhome, my entire investment would be sitting waiting for vacation times Etc.]
My brother has a class A [SOB] motorhome [about the same size as my trailer]and he has as much to do with hitching up his dingy and brake system as I do hitching up my trailer. Advantages: Motorhome has a generator. Dingy can be unhooked to make a two vehicle U-turn. Easier to park. [without dingy attached] Disadvantages: Motorhome 8 mpg, trailer 11.5 mpg. when unhooked he drives a Saturn and I drive a Navigator. Driveing in the wind, trailer much better. Washing the motorhome is harder do to the height and the infamous black streaks. If motorhome breaks down, you go to motel. If tow vehicle breaks down, you go to RV park and stay in your trailer. If trailer breaks, I can drive tow vehicle. [and sleep in tow vehicle if necessary]
Is the motorhome safer? Many motorhomes don't have passenger air bags. On many motorhomes you have as much front protection as a VW microbus. My brother's motorhome's frame stops about two feet behind the fiberglass front [ornament] bumper. I can tow in winds that would have him parked.
These are my opinions and may, or may not, interest you.
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Old 01-23-2008, 11:51 PM   #14
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I jomped right in WITH BOTH feet....

Bonzai -

Great to see that your question created SO many responses....

Here is mine...! Use or discard at will.

Never camped as a kid with my family. Ever. Used tents in college - twice (under duress).

Wanted that "terrific AirStream look" and started looking. Oh, by the way, have 3 kids and a wife that is SERIOUSLY disinclined to 'roughing it'.....

Found a 34' AS Classic Limited. Lest you think this was an 'impulse' thing, I LOOKED for about 18 months.... Mind you, NEVER TOWED A 34 FOOT ANYTHING!!!!!!!! EVER!!!!!!!

But, still, that was "MY" trailer.... negotiations, blah blah.... mine!!!!!!!!

Picked up the 'SilverToy' (3 1/2 Year Old named her!), having NEVER towed anything that big, ever! TV is an '01 2500 4x4 Burb named Kelly - green, of course.

The PO got us fully equiped at the local dealership with a 10K Equal-I-zer hitch (raves!!!!) and haven't had a issue since. That includes the ride home near Moab (UT) when I had a center cub side tire (3 per side on the 34') explode and NO MOVEMENT in the TV!!!! 5 tires got me to town where the missing rubber was replaced.

Seriously, camping is a terrific family activity - but then you know that, otherwise why are you asking? Get a REALLY good TV for your family (durango, burb, other), and then get a terrific AS to fit that family - remember to allow for "upgrade" room on the TV. Then go about getting that combo properly hitched and set up..... and go CAMPING!!!!!!

4 folks can easily 'survive' in a smaller trailer, but be sure to be realistic about your needs, your uses, and your wants. The idea of renting is NOT a bad thought. Renting might help sort things in ways you had not considered....

Surely, the plethora of opinions that you have gotten so far, have raised more questions than they have likely answered.... post all you thoughts, ideas, questions, and the like here.... your likely to induce a LOT more discussion and help others in a similar situation.

Hope this and the other posts helped.

Axel
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