Choosing Your RV: Towable vs. Motorized


Wade Thiel

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Wade divides his time among various outdoor activities in both urban and rural environments. An adventurer by nature, he is always up for a challenging hike, fun hunt, or day out on the water with friends and family. When he isn’t enjoying the outdoors, he’s writing, reading, or tinkering with motorcycles and cars.

If you’re just getting into the world of camping in an RV (let me be the first to welcome you – you’re going to love it here), and you’re not sure what type of RV to get, the list of possibilities, floorplans, and weight capacities can seem overwhelming. We’ve all been there.

We’ve learned that the best place to start is by deciding what type of RV you want to have, a towable one or a motorized one.

The distinction between the two might seem like an obvious one in name alone, but it can be hard to decide exactly what to get to best suit your needs (and that growing list of wants and add-ons). Here are a few factors to start considering:

  • Your current and desired travel lifestyle
  • Planned frequency and style of use
  • Your current and future possessions

The list goes on. Your lifestyle will impact your decision. To help you narrow down your search, I thought it’d be a good idea to take a look at both types of RVs and discuss the pros and cons of each one. Buckle up! Don’t be intimidated, finding your RV is a fun and rewarding process.

Motorized RVs

Class A motorhome
PIctured here is a Class A motorhome. These RVs can be fueled by diesel or conventional gasoline.

The motorized RV type—often called a motorhome—is divided up into three distinct classes of RVs. There are the Class A (the largest), the Class C (the second largest), and the Class B (the smallest). Class As are built on bus chassis (a chassis is the steel frame connecting axles and supporting the structure), Class Cs are built on truck chassis, and Class Bs are built on full-size van chassis.

Hitting the road is always exciting, but to do it in an RV that feels like it was made for you takes excitement to an entirely new level. Motorized RVs are popular for a reason, mainly because they tie everything RV-related into one nice package. Awesome for solo RV travelers, or family RVers who like a comfortable drive not crammed into a car, motorhomes have a lot of great perks. If you’ve decided on the motorized RV, it’s nice to know that each one offers unique pros and cons in its own right. It’s worth noting that all three motorhome classes offer similar design-based features. Consider their design when thinking about how you like to travel.

Pros to Motorized RVs

  • The RV is a single unit, meaning you don’t have two engines and two sets of tires to take care of.
  • It’s easy to access all of the RV at all times–a big perk for long travel days.
  • Motorhome RV’s are quick to move, and require minimal setup and takedown.
  • You have the ability to tow a small vehicle behind your motorhome, which is more fuel-efficient for errands, commuting, and regional exploration.
  • No towing experience needed or learning curve to overcome!
A Class C motorhome at a campground
A Class C motorhome at a campground on a sunny day.

Cons to Motorized RVs

  • Any repairs or issues with the vehicle mean you’re stuck without transportation. A Good Sam Roadside Assistance Plan
  • Poor fuel economy in the large versions.
  • More expensive than a towable RV.
  • Can be more expensive to fix than a towable.
  • Some roads will be out of reach to large motorhomes due to vehicle size.
RV Service Truck
If you do suffer a blowout, Good Sam Insurance can help you with a tow. Photo from Good Sam Roadside

Towable RVs

Towable RVs are the alternative to motorhomes, the opponent if you will, and there are plenty of different kinds of towables out there to choose from. More often than not, though, they fall into the following three categories: fifth-wheels, travel trailers, and pop ups. However, the variations don’t end there. There are numerous sub-types in existence that blend elements from those three main styles.

Each and every towable design on the market has its own merits, of course. You could easily choose one today and fall in love with another one tomorrow. It comes with the territory of owning a home away from home, the comforts are always shifting. While there isn’t one single towable that will be right for everyone, there’s likely an option that would work for you even if you think you’d prefer a motorhome. Still, as with any purchase or decision, towable RVs come with their own downsides.

Pros to Towable RVs

  • Travel Trailers tend to be cheaper than motorhomes because they do not have an engine onboard.
  • There’s a wider variety of towable options than motorized ones.
  • You’re not stuck driving your RV everywhere. Once you park and unhitch, you can drive off to explore or run errands.
  • You could get decent gas mileage depending on your tow vehicle and RV.
  • They’re affordable and there are a lot of them, which means more variations for floorplans and accessories.
  • Towables are easier to add to and customize.
  • Travel Trailers can be less expensive to repair.
  • When you need repairs, you still have access to your vehicle so you’re not stranded.
Heartland Pioneer travel trailer at campsite
Heartland Pioneer travel trailer at campsite

Cons to Towable RVs

  • Most tow vehicles are big and expensive. When not towing an RV, it’s unlikely they’ll have as good of gas mileage as a sedan or the like.
  • You have to buy a tow vehicle as well as an RV, unless you already own one.
  • Campsite setup and takedown times are usually longer than with a motorhome due to the hitch-up process.
  • Towing can be difficult for some drivers to master. Backing up takes practice and patience.
  • Your tow vehicle and towable RV length may be too long for some campgrounds.

The Verdict on Motorized versus Towable RVs

RV Large family Class C
Hit the road for a road trip the whole family will enjoy.

Motorized versus towable. Towable versus motorized. It’s an ongoing duel with an ever-changing winner. Depending upon the hour of the day and the circumstances surrounding the battle, either one could ultimately come out on top. Looking over the aforementioned pros and cons, we hope you can start to narrow down your decision or, at the very least, give you a few things to think over.

The fact of the matter is that there’s no single right answer. Waking up to a new RV is an adventure in and of itself. Some people love their motorhomes while others couldn’t be comfortable with one. The bottom line, as with everything, is that it comes down to what’s right for you and your family. There is no right or wrong answer here. Period. I personally tend to lean more towards a motorhome, but there have been plenty of times where a towable RV would have made more sense for that trip. I find myself looking at lightweight towable options often, so you’re not alone in the struggle of RV decision-making.

In summary, it’s wise to make a point to set aside time before the purchase to really think about how you’re going to use the RV, what you and your family are going to do with it, and generally how you want to live your life while out on the road. If you have the answers to those specific questions, then you should be able to start your RV search.

Which type of RV is right for you? Why is that the case? Leave a comment below!

Choosing your RV - towable vs. motorized
  • Comment (2)
  • Gilbert says:

    It’s just me and my wife these days. We would like to buy a motorhome, for outings with the family, and a little travel. What size/style would we what to be looking at ( gas, C lic)

  • Don J Murphy says:

    Thank You –we are in the Delima between Towing and Motorized and $ wise willl have to go with Used–this is scary for me with Motorized [trans /engine hidden problems]– Were Newbi’s so I am looking for a combination of a good used travel trailer and a used Tow vehicle with the right package and MPG –don’t want much do I ahahaa– your article is excellen ta ai Know now we gotta make that first decision — anjy opinions are appreciated

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