Sunday, December 20, 2015

12/20 To Tow, or Not to Tow

AZDonna asked how I manage without towing a vehicle, and here is my answer!

I made a decision when planning my travels not to tow a vehicle behind my motorhome.  I had been told by some very opinionated male members of a popular forum that it was “impossible” to full-time without a towed vehicle.

However, I had never driven a motorhome before and knew my 32’ Class C was going to be enough of a challenge.  In addition, traveling solo would make it harder to hook and unhook another vehicle.  I knew that my goal was travel, so I would not be staying long at any one place, and figured towing a vehicle would make it even harder to stop places and park, let alone get into and out of gas stations! 

A big consideration is that when you tow a vehicle, you cannot back up!  Since my biggest fear is getting into somewhere I cannot get out of, that was a major negative to towing.

The other consideration was cost.  The tow apparatus for towing “four wheels down” would cost at least $3,000.  Then there would be the cost of the towed vehicle itself and insurance.  A bike rack and my old bike on the back would be a lot cheaper.

So, how do I manage without a towed vehicle? 

Really, it is not very hard. First, I tend to drive for one or two days, and then stay in one place for a few days.  I do all my grocery and other shopping and running errands while on driving days.  There is almost always room to park my big vehicle at chain grocery stores and places like Home Depot that are located in shopping centers.  I just park way out at the ends of rows and take up several spaces.  Doing my shopping like this breaks up a long day of driving and lets me stretch my legs a bit. 

I keep a running grocery list and also make sure I have all of the basics, like spices and baking supplies.  I carry a lot of paper things in an underneath storage bin so I don’t run out of those. In general, I tend to carry a lot of groceries anyway so that if I get someplace a long way from stores, I have at least a week worth of food, usually even more.  Taking my RV to the grocery store also means I can put things in the refrigerator, freezer, or cupboard as soon as I buy them—no lugging bags of stuff from one vehicle to another!

Shopping centers usually also have fast food restaurants along the edges, so that means I can pick up something after doing the shipping. I like malls, especially, because they have department stores, food courts, hair salons, and all sorts of things in one handy spot with tons of parking.  A benefit of malls with big stores is that they also tend to have a lot of free internet I can get from the parking lot with my WiFi booster!  (Instead of going inside a McDonalds to use their internet, I sit in my recliner in my vehicle to eat my food and go online!)

Virtually every state and national park visitor center has parking for big vehicles.  Ditto for bigger museums.  I often will look on Google maps or call a museum ahead of time to ask about parking.  The only times I have had problems are in big cities and where cars are illegally parked in RV parking spots. Sometimes in small towns, there will be street parking around the corner or even an overflow lot somewhere not too far away. Towns along rivers or lakes often have parking for people towing boats, so I have parked at a lot of marinas. 

Very occasionally when I am near a big city I will rent a car for a day or so.  Enterprise really does come to get you, even driving 10-15 miles to do so, especially if you call before making the reservation.  I figure I can rent a car for a couple days a month for the cost of just the insurance cost of towing a vehicle. 

Yes, it is a pain sometimes to have forgotten something at the store and having to unhook electric and water, put my slides in, and drive to a store, but that is balanced by the problem of having that vehicle behind me  when getting into and out of gas stations and parking lots.        


  1. Good to know. I don't plan to tow . Found
    It very informative . Widow and dog .

  2. I should add that there is a kind of continuum where towing becomes more logical. I am in a travel mode--wanting to see as much of the country as I can. If I decided to do less traveling and more staying in one place for a month or so, then towing a car would make more sense. There are lots of other people who drive to a place and set up camp for a month or more. They use a towed vehicle to explore the area thoroughly, then drive on to another site and do the same thing. And actually, if you are staying more than traveling, you might want a truck and a 5th wheel trailer so you can leave your trailer and use the truck to drive around an area. Someday, I might do that, but not right now.

  3. Thanks for your very well thought out answer on towing a vehicles. I always enjoy reading your blog. Merry Christmas.
    Nana in TX

  4. Thanks so much for all your good information. Have a wonderful Christmas, and a very happy New Year... Looking forward to more travels without Charlie. (Have ordered the book, BTW)

    Anne P

  5. You have an electric bike. What brand do you have and how well do you like it? I have been looking at electric bikes and not around any stores that sell them. Will have to be an online order. Thanks, Patsy in NC

    1. Mine is an EG Athens 250. I like it because it a low step-through which makes it easy to get my bad knees over. An electric bike means that I can ride a lot farther than I could on my old bike. One disadvantage is the weight, but it is a lot lighter than a motor scooter would be. I can lift it up on the rack OK, which is all that counts.

      Have you seen Miss Mermaid's bike? Hers was more expensive but looks much more comfortable. Check it out at

      You can also buy a motor kit to attach to a regular bike. Make sure you get a lithium ion battery, as they last much longer.

  6. Thanks for the great update. My initial reasons for not having a toad are the same as yours. I expect I will do more traveling than sitting, so I think your style will suit me. Sounds like it's mostly about doing good planning and preparation about where you expect to be, and researching the parking options for sightseeing stops.

    1. P.S. I think it's a brilliant idea to rent a car for the few times you really need one!

    2. I figure for just what I would pay for insurance each month, plus the cost of the tow mechanism, I can rent a car for at least a couple of days each months. I only do this when I am near big cities where it is hard to drive and park a big motorhome. You would be surprised at how easy parking can be in big cities, however. Halifax, in Nova Scotia, has some great riverfront parking lots that were nearly empty the day I was there, so found it easy to take up several spots.

  7. You are absolutely right about planning. For example, I am headed to San Juan Capistrano in southern California in a couple of weeks. Looking on Google Maps, it looks like there is a big parking lot just southeast of the mission, and there might even be some street parking, but rather than driving around looking for parking, I will call a couple of days ahead of time and ask for suggestions. (I am very protective of my home on wheels, so I want my parking to be safe and protected.)