Small House Big World

Cases For and Against Towing

Kelly Reid • November 18, 2014

Even so early into our adventure, before we’ve even started looking at vehicles, we have to make a decision.  Do we tow our Honda Accord behind our (currently theoretical) Class A motorhome?  We hashed out plenty of cases for, and against, doing so.  We reviewed loads of posts from other bloggers who have also struggled with this decision and here’s what we came up with.

 

Not To Tow

Opportunity Cost:  Unless the tow car is paid in full, there are still financing payments that need to be made.  Selling (or not buying) the vehicle means more cash to spend on campsites, fuel and wine.  We could get about $6000 for our Accord, which would eliminate the monthly payments and put some cash back into our pockets (thus increasing the initial budget while lowering our monthly expenses significantly).

Upfront Cost:  The towing equipment costs money.  We have a fixed budget for our rig, so any extra gear comes out of that budget.

Buyback Risk:  Our first 12 months on the road will surely reveal many struggles.  If we choose not to tow, we may quickly find that we wish we had.  If we sell the car, then we have to re-buy one.  Budgeting for that, when it’s not even a certainty, means less money to put towards the initial Class A purchase.  Also, it’s a pain in the butt to sell a car, only to rebuy one a year later.

Fuel Efficiency:  More weight on the rig means a drop in MPGs, and that means money is burning.  Every mile we tow the car is a mile we pay for a privilege that we’re not actively using.

Bottom Line: Added Complexity = Added Costs.  Towing a vehicle means buying more equipment.  It means more potential points of failure.  It means an additional vehicle to maintain.

To Tow

Emergency:  Sometimes you just need to get in the car and get the hell out of dodge.  Maybe the RV breaks down in the middle of the desert and the water tanks are empty.  Maybe someone gets sick or injured and needs to get to a hospital now, not in 20 minutes when the RV is ready to drive again.    Even in non-critical situations, it’s faster to hop in the car (which will be unhitched upon arriving at campsites anyway).

Personal Space:  I want to visit a Magic shop in down.  She wants to sit at home and read.  Without an ancillary vehicle, this is impossible.  There’s just no way that two people will be able to agree to do the same thing every single day for 365 days (or a lifetime…).  A second vehicle turns a potential lover’s quarrel into a non-issue.

Fuel Efficiency:  Wait, didn’t this go in the “against” section?  Yes, but it was a red herring. The extra fuel burned towing the car on long haul trips is more than offset by the fuel saved when you drive the car instead of the rig.  The math depends on your MPGs and your travel habits, but for every mile that you drive a car instead of the RV, you save about 66% on your fuel.  With gas hovering around $4 per gallon in most parts of the continental United States, having a car can be worth $2 or $3 per mile.  That may not sound like much, but if you want to drive around a National Park in the Western USA, that adds up real quick.

 

Bottom Line:  It all comes down to versatility.  In the finance world, it is common to spend a small sum of money to enable or preserve multiple choices.  This is no different.  Although towing presents new risks, it also enables a wide variety of alternatives, the lack of which pose their own risks.

Our Choice

After reading opinions of other RVers, most seemed to say that the versatility of a towed vehicle was extremely valuable.  The most critical case against towing came from Technomadia, whom we consider to be among the foremost experts in this kind lifestyle.  Even though they presented what seemed, prima facie, a negative case against towing, they ultimately decided that it was a necessity and bought a brand new MINI Cooper for this express purpose.  As far as I’m concerned, case closed.

It’s nowhere near time to “lock in” our decision, but all signs currently point towards bringing the Honda Accord with us.

For another perspective on towing, check out what the Snowmads had to say about it.  This was a very valuable article in my research.

Kelly Reid • November 18, 2014


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