by Jody Halsted
01 Jan 2016
Before we purchased our motorhome we had a small expandable travel trailer. Like all camping vehicles, it had its own drawbacks and benefits. For us, the drawback was towing it with our truck, which wasn’t the most comfortable vehicle for long distance drives. The benefit was that, by default, we always had a vehicle available for off-site explorations.
Within days of purchasing our motorhome my husband had made a significant add-on purchase: a Car Tow Dolly. Our tow vehicle is nothing fancy; it’s my husband’s commuter car, a vehicle chosen more for its low cost and fuel efficiency than anything else. Because it is small and light (much more so than my family transporter) it makes a perfect vehicle to tow.
But even with the tow dolly and the small, light car we don’t always tow a vehicle when we head out on trips.
TO TOW OR NOT TO TOW – HOW WE ANSWER THE QUESTION
When you’re driving a vehicle that gets 10 miles to the gallon, you begin to pay attention to the decreased gas mileage when you tow another vehicle behind you. So before we hook up the tow dolly we consider a few factors including: distance, location, activities, and our companions.
The example below is the ‘formula’ we use:
Determine Distance: We see about a 2 MPG decrease in fuel efficiency when we tow our car, so for long trips we really look at rental costs. Our first big RV trip was to Palo Duro Canyon near Amarillo, 818 miles, or a 12 hour drive from our Iowa home. Towing our car would ‘cost’ appx 23 miles of gas, or nearly $70.
Rental Resources: Sometimes it is just more cost effective to rent. For the trip to Amarillo we found a small car for $14/ day. The 4 day rental, with tax and minus the prepay discount, came in under the $70 cost of towing. That was an easy decision.
Be sure to check your location! We always tow to Eureka Springs, Arkansas as the nearest car rental locations are Branson, MO or Bentonville, AR. Neither of which are terribly handy.
Analyze Activities: Do we plan to leave our campsite? Is everything we plan to do within walking distance? Can we bike to nearby sites? Is there transportation available? For our Texas trip we knew we wanted to explore a bit in Amarillo, so a car was necessary. But for most of our state park visits (like Iowa’s 9 Eagles) we leave the car at home as those weekends are just about relaxing and enjoying family time.
Companion Carpooling: We do a lot of RVing with family and friends and we take that into account before heading out. How many vehicles will we need at the campground? Will there be enough transportation for everyone if we don’t bring our car?
Each trip we take is different – distance, location, activities, and accompaniment- so we do our car necessity overview every time we plan an RV getaway.
Do you have a formula to decide to tow or no?