The Pros and Cons of Buying a Travel Trailer

A travel trailer offers the amenities of a home with the portability of a trailer

If the coronavirus has you going stir-crazy, there’s a good chance you’ve thought about buying an RV and taking a road trip. After all, an RV allows you to travel without exposing yourself to germy airports and hotels.

Scamp travel trailer at Lost Dutchman State Park, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

You wouldn’t be the only person to come up with that idea. But if you’re a first-time RV buyer, there can be a steep learning curve to overcome. First, you need to figure out which type of recreational vehicle is right for you.

Solaire travel trailer at Picacho Peak State Park, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Travel trailers are the most popular—and most varied—type of towable RV. They have solid walls and often feature a slide—a section of wall that pulls out to provide more interior space when camping.

In an earlier article we discussed advantages of a travel trailer and factors currently fueling an increasing demand for this type of recreational vehicle.

Travel trailer at White Tanks Regional Park, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A recent study revealed that demand for travel trailers is expected to rise 5.2 percent per year through 2022 to $12.6 billion with volume reaching 475,000 units on 3.9 percent annual growth.

Jayco travel trailer at Golden Village Palms RV Park, Hemet, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Travel trailers are favored for their variety of options, from luxury to low-cost entry-level versions, and from those that require a truck to tow them to those that can be managed by most small automobiles.

Travel trailer at Lost Dutchman State Park, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In this article we’ll outline the different types of travel trailers available for purchase and the pros and cons of this type of recreational vehicle.

Travel trailers come in a wide variety of sizes and designs:

Airstream travel trailer at River Run RV Park, Bakersfield, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
  • Small retro-inspired teardrop trailers are essentially a tent and bed on wheels
  • Small molded fiberglass trailers like the Casita and Scamp have passionate fan bases for their low-maintenance designs
  • Mid-priced trailers offer a lot of space and features for the money
Travel trailer on display at RV/MH Hall of Fame Museum, Elkhart, Indiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The iconic Airstream has a distinctive aluminum body. Aerodynamic and low to the ground, these are easy to tow but are expensive for their size.

Travel trailer at Whispering Hills RV Park, Georgetown, Kentucky © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Smaller trailers have a single axle; larger trailers can have two (or even three). More axles increase towing stability and increase your living space, but they also add to tire replacement costs.

  • How long are travel trailers: 8 to 40 feet
  • How much do they weigh: 1,000 to 10,000 pounds
  • How many can they sleep: From two to eight
  • How much do they cost: $10,000 to $150,000
Travel trailer at Hacienda RV Resort, Las Cruces, New Mexico © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Pros:

  • Spacious, open floor plans suitable for a variety of uses
  • Rigid walls provide some insulation from cold and noise, compared with a pop-up trailer or tent
  • Lower profile allows roof storage of items such as canoes
  • Very little setup time
  • Come in a wide variety of lengths and weights
  • Provides more interior space per length foot than motorhomes because it does not contain driving and engine compartment
  • Can be towed with a variety of vehicles fitted with a standard ball hitch and rated for the trailer weight
  • Tow vehicle doubles as local transportation
  • Lower profile allows easier entry than a fifth wheel trailer
  • Available in a wide range of amenities
Travel trailer at Sea Breeze RV Park, Portland, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Cons:

  • Less storage than fifth wheel trailers because it lacks a raised section
  • Driving and living compartments are separate; living area inaccessible while moving
  • Require a suitable tow vehicle
  • Least stable on the road of all RV types
  • Requires the most skill to tow and back up
  • Towing requires learning (and practicing) some different driving skills
  • Larger models can be difficult to maneuver in tight spaces
  • Larger models require large storage area when not in use
  • Large trailers require large trucks to tow
  • Larger trailers won’t fit into small campsites
Travel trailer at Padre Island National Seashore, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Worth Pondering…

Sometimes you find yourself in the middle of nowhere, and sometimes in the middle of nowhere you find yourself.

—Anon