April 7, 2014

We Now Have A Toad...A What?

No, we didn't get a new pet for our household. No, we didn't put a pond in the backyard, complete with lily pads and a frog.

If you have an RV you know what I am referring to. A toad, also called a towed, or a dinghy, is a vehicle that is pulled behind the motorhome. The freedom of carrying your home and all you need with you is great. It opens up a whole new world of experiences. But, a 25, 30, or 40 foot RV is not designed to easily navigate shopping centers, park on city streets, or find a place to put your "home" while you hike nearby trails and parks. 

Since most RV parks are not within easy walking distance of most of the above, you find yourself stuck at your campground. Or, you are faced with the hassle of unhooking everything and storing it safely away before you can drive the RV to wherever you'd like to explore for the day. Traveling with a dog makes biking to places not very practical, either. 

The answer is to tow a car behind you. Then, when you need to go shopping, want to explore the area, find a hiking trail, visit a museum, or go out for a meal, the RV stays firmly (and safely) hooked up at your campsite. You unhook the car from behind your motorhome and drive to your destination.

Of course, having a vehicle does come with extra costs. A tow bar, brackets installed on the vehicle being towed, and a braking system that helps stop that extra 3-4,000 pounds behind the RV are required. Gas mileage, already poor for an RV, isn't helped any by towing something behind you.

A bigger limitation is what type of car or SUV you want to bring with you. Not many modern automatic transmission  cars can be towed behind you with all four wheels on the road. Most lubrication systems will self destruct if towed that way.

There is another option: use a car dolly where the entire car is off the ground. But, that adds hundreds of extra pounds to the process and is more difficult to store both at home and at the campground. Modification kits can be added to most cars to pump extra lubrication as needed, but if it fails you have just killed your car. A manual transmission is also an easier solution if you have one.

In our case, neither of our cars can be towed behind our RV. So, we did two months of research, shopped online for another few weeks, and finally found what we were looking for: a vehicle that can be towed, was within our budget after trading in one of our current cars, and should make a great second car when we are at home.

Next up will be buying and installing the tow bar, brackets, and auxiliary braking system before we leave in July for our summer-long jaunt. I want to give myself several weeks ahead of time to practice getting familiar with the feel of a car tagging along behind me, and how it affects my ability to turn corners safely.

Of course, if we owned a travel trailer or 5th wheel camper instead of a motorhome there would be no problem. The truck that tows the trailer becomes your drive-around-town vehicle after getting to your campsite. But, we own a self-contained motorhome, so a toad was essential.



Not all toads are green

23 comments:

  1. A toad on wheels! I learn something new every day! Congrats on your new addition. This will certainly give you more freedom on the road. I've owned CRV's for years and love them. Very dependable and functional for our needs. It's time to replace the one I have now, likely with the 2015 model. I'm hoping it will have the "lane assist" feature.

    Are you mechanically inclined? It almost seems to be a necessity with the RV lifestyle. So happy for you and Betty as you plan your long summer trip.

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    1. I did a lot of research and found the CRV is one of the most popular vehicles for this purpose. It also rates well for the things I care about in a car: dependability, safety, decent gas mileage, and space for storage.

      I am not mechanically inclined, but a fair amount of the basic RV maintenance can be done by anyone. Modifying the inside space is also something within our capabilities. Repairs are another matter and will be done at a qualified repair facility.

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  2. Why I personally would go with a trailer/5th wheel, one way or another something is getting towed.

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    1. If we ever decide to full time a 5th wheel would be our choice. You can get so much more for your money when the RV doesn't have to include an engine and associated equipment.

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  3. Your toad is very cute! I'm waiting for Betty (or you or both of you!) to come up with a cute name; I, of course, came up with Kermit, but your toad isn't green, so something else would be better, I'm sure. Maybe something that harmonizes with RT.

    This is one of my favorite parts of your blog; enjoying parts of your life, seeing how other retired folks live. The comments will also be fun to read. Enjoy your toad!

    pam

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    1. Betty just suggested R.T. - Road Toad. I like it. We don;t have to remember more than one set of initials.

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  4. Oh man! You've caught the RV syndrome bad, for sure. :) Good luck with all that. Following your bliss......

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    1. Next week I begin the process of buying the stuff to safely tow the toad. I am very itchy to get on the road.

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  5. Is it a manual transmission or are you doing the dolly?? Very nice looking vehicle and great for tooling around home too when you're not on the road!!

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    1. It is an automatic transmission, but one of the very few cars that can be towed "4 down" meaning all four wheels on the ground. We will use a tow bar and auxiliary braking system which is much lighter, easier to hook up and unhook, and easy to store. A dolly, on which the entire car sits, is heavy and creates a real storage problem at campgrounds and at home when not in use.

      We traded in my car for this one so it will be my primary car around town. Betty kept her 11 year old work horse car since it has virtually no trade-in value and she "abuses" it with all sorts of art and craft projects stored inside!

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  6. The more we RV, the more convinced we are that there is no 'perfect' setup. Every option comes with pros and cons.

    Case in point - we would love a Class C, but don't want to maintain two vehicles, plus pay storage for the Class C when at home. So, we went with our TrailManor folding trailer, avoiding maintenance and storage costs (Pro), but giving up considerable space in the process (Con).

    Towing it is a dream (Pro), backing up though, is slightly more complicated than a Class C (Con). No need to have a toad (Pro), but more work to break down and hook up each time we relocate (Con).

    Sigh.

    But still, we couldn't imagine our lives without SOME sort of RV. Being out on the road for extended periods of time, generally in beautiful, natural surroundings, can't readily be replicated without significant increases in costs.

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    1. I will have a post in a week or so about the costs of maintaining an RV and whether it is really worth it. Economically, an RV makes little sense. But, the same is true of most hobbies or serious activities. A model railroad fanatic might have $10,000 invested in toy trains. Someone seriously into cooking spends more than that on the top of the line stove and all the tools. Life isn't always about the bottom line, is it! You, Mike, Betty, and I agree on that: life is to be lived. If you can budget for it and make it work then go for it.

      The "right" RV for you is the one that meets your needs and your budget. I think most RVers end up having several different types of rigs over the years as their interests and needs evolve.

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  7. Sounds familiar! We went through the same process: had to ditch our two existing cars, ended up buying a CRV. We've been driving it around for a few months and love it. In three weeks we pick up our new motorhome, and deal with the whole tow bar, braking system, etc. Can't wait to start towing! Choosing Our Toad - Life Rebooted

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    1. I read your post and could have written it for me! We wanted to Fit to work also but the cargo space was too small for our needs when the car isn't being towed. Ours is a 2011 and so far, it has been great.

      I will be shopping for the tow stuff in a week, hoping it fits within the budget I have allocated for it all.

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  8. Sounds like you have the perfect solution for you. I'll be interested in hearing your overall cost comparison (that said, I'll probably never RV, I like to "drive" too much)!

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    1. An RV is a major commitment in economic resources, and also is a major commitment to a lifestyle adjustment. Someone has to feel comfortable with both aspects for it to work well.

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  9. That's why everyone needs to get into motorcycling. It is less weight to carry, you can always get a toy hauler for the RV portion of your ride the next time around, and you get better gas mileage. But the CRV can work in a pinch, too, and it is highly rated. Glad you got something that gives you the flexibility to get around.

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    1. Betty has few "rules" for me, but one involves a motorcycle. It is hard to teach a dog to sit properly on a bike, too!

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  10. Can't wait for the cost of RV-ing breakdown!!!! Still debating over the whole thing!! then,I see pictures of trailers parked right ON the Rogue river in Oregon and I can't imagine NOT getting one!!

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    1. Just as an upfront disclaimer, the post will discuss whether an RV makes economic sense, and if it doesn't why do it. Look for that post a week from Monday.

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  11. The world of RVing is foreign to me (we belong to the Hilton Honors program instead), but it certainly sounds like you're having fun. So ... keep on truckin'!

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