RV ponderance

Over the years as we've went on motorcycle trips and travels I've seen lots of RVs and thought about the benefits of having one. Specifically, some sort of toyhauler to tote the bike. I like reading the forums to keep up with the trends and technologies. A couple years ago Mike & Jerri bought a Class C RV. For Christmas I bought them a subscription to an RV magazine. I got one for myself, too.

Besides the normal function of an RV itself, there are lots of nerdy stuff that fascinate the engineer in me. Things mechanical and electrical. Converters, inverters, solar panels, switches, surge protectors, wifi, hotspots, LANs, generators, shore lines, TPM systems, GPSs, AC power, DC power. You get the picture.

There are a lot of different styles of RVs. For me, I think a 5th wheel toyhauler is the most versatile and cost effective. You can carry bicycles/scooters/motorcycles for running around and your tow vehicle can also be used for all-weather transportation. I like to keep up with the latest toyhauler offerings and I like to look for one with the following features:

- King-size bed.
- 1.5 baths.
- Decent sized refrigerator.
- Washer/dryer hookups.
- A garage length of at least 12 feet.
- Not too much wasted couch space and seating that faces the TV.
- Decent storage.
Here are some that I like:
- XLR Nitro 405 - front kitchen
- Raptor 413 or 429
- Luxe 48FB
- Fuzion 413
- DRV LX455
- Grand Designs 381M
All have similar floorplans and large garages.

Another aspect to consider is what would I use to tow this 44 foot, 20,000+ lb toyhauler? My current 3/4-ton Superduty isn't rated for it and I wouldn't even try. I guess I would have to get a one-ton, dually, diesel. Those are expensive, though...even used...and a lot of people say such a large trailer is out of their league realistically. Maybe some sort of F-550 built to be a hauler could be found used for a decent price?

One day I was surfing YouTube videos when I came upon one describing something I'd never heard of before...converting a Class 8 tractor (semi truck) to haul RVs. Such a great idea! Mechanically they are overkill for towing an RV, which is the point. The nice thing is some tractors are almost small RVs unto themselves. Some have beds, tables, refrigerators, sinks, microwaves, TVs, APUs for power. Since they are made for long haul they have comfort built into them. Air ride seats and cabs. A lot of semis now have some type of automated manual transmissions.

Besides being a great choice for a tow vehcile, every guy wants to drive a big truck. Used tractors in decent shape can be found for as low as $10-20K. They still have a lot of life left in them, especially in the relatively light use of RV hauling. So for less cost than a used light duty truck you can have something that pulls better, stops better, rides better, and gets better fuel mileage (when pulling).

Identical trailers. Which would do a better job towing?

Here is another view of the blue Volvo showing all the storage space. There is even room on the bed to carry things.

A nice step up is a tractor that has been professionally converted into a hauler such as this CrewChief. This one has a sofa, bathroom, a small kitchen, a big drom box, and lots of storage. It has an autoshift transmission and a big diesel. This one also has an auxiliary power unit (APU) that provides heating, air conditioning, battery charging, and AC power without requiring the truck to be running. Sometimes these types of trucks are called 'toters'. They are more expensive, though. Maybe when I hit the lottery...

Of course, if I hit the lottery I could get one of these:

A Class 8 truck conversion.

It's nice to dream but eventually reality sets in. I currently only get a few weeks off a year for vacation. Even if I was retired I can't see myself being a 'fulltimer'. I like my house and garages and where I live. So, for me, an RV would pretty much be an alternative to hotels while I travelled.

This brings up a question. Where would I want to travel to? Like I said I can't see myself being a fulltimer, so I made a list of all the places I'd like to visit:

- A big trip out west. All the usual sights plus the good motorcycle roads. This could take a few months.
- A big trip to the northeast which might include the eastern part of Canada. Donna would like to see New York. I'd like to visit Washington DC. This also could take a few months.
- A trip of Civil War battlefields.
- A trip to the South. Visit the Charleston coastal area. Ride the bike to Key West and across Alligator Alley. Visit New Orleans and parts of Louisiana.
- Visit Michigan and the Great Lakes.
- Take a trip up the Mississippi to its origin then back down the other side. Go to J&P Cycle. Stop at the American Picker's place again.
- Alaska?
After that I think I would have seen all the major things I've wanted to see.

Then there is another question. Would it really save me money? Let's say I could get a used toyhauler and a tow vehicle for the total of $73,000 (and that would be very optimistic). That would be two years of $100/night hotels. Would it take two years to accomplish my list? Probably not.

The $100/night example is pretty pessimistic. You can find decent hotels/motels/motor inns for $70/night or less. Plus, there is the cost of RV sites. I read the average cost nationally for a full hookup site is $40/night (in 2015). Taking that into account now that $73K will get you over six years of rooms. And that doesn't take into account the RV costs of:

- Maintenance.
- Property taxes.
- Licensing.
- Fuel.
- Insurance.
- Loan interest.
- Etc.
Many things to ponder...

Update: The plot thickens. One day I was looking at pictures of Class 8 haulers on the internet and my fiance, Donna, asked me what I was looking at. I told her about the concept of using a semi to haul a toyhauler. Surprisingly, she thought it was a cool idea as well. She is all for getting away for long periods of time, especially in winter. She hates the cold. It would also allow us to take our dog, Buford. That is something she really likes. It tugs at her heart to leave him home for more than a few days.

Now with Donna onboard I started researching the idea more seriously. As I did more and more research I started noticing something. Most of the time when someone would sell their HDT (heavy duty truck...semi) the reason they would give was "moving to a motorhome". It made me scratch my chin a little more when a couple of the big names in the HDT world started talking motorhomes. The waters were getting muddy.

In the RV world 'fifth wheel vs motorhome' is similar to 'Ford vs Chevy'. There are valid reasons to go either way. I like to watch the sale ads on rvnetwork.com to see if someone is selling an HDT. One day I noticed a motorhome for sale. Used diesel pusher, king bed, 1.5 baths, washer/dryer, etc...for $62K. That's in the same price range as a similarly equipped fifth wheel. I didn't realize they could be had so cheap. Maybe I should revisit motorhomes, too? Hmmmmmm...muddy water.

As I ponder extended traveling in the future I see four main ways:

1) Some sort of HDT/fifth wheel setup,
2) Some sort of motorhome setup,
3) Use my diesel Jeep Liberty to pull the motorcycle trailer and stay in hotels,
4) Motorcycle trips like we currently do.
Options 3 and 4 would mean leaving Buford at home which Donna wouldn't like. Realistically and sadly, by the time I retire Buford might not be with us anymore and we don't plan on getting another dog. However, for the sake of pondering, I'll assume he'll be with us so I mainly consider options 1 and 2.

As I ponder the fifth wheel vs motorhome debate here are some things I take into account:

- I think an HDT setup would be mechanically superior. More power. Better brakes. MUCH easier to work on and maintain. It makes me cringe at the thought of trying to get to a motorhome engine...front or rear mounted. The thought of popping the hood on an HDT and being able to easily access everything means a lot to me.

- A toyhauler is a compromise. Even on a 44-foot toyhauler like I have been looking at you have 30 feet of living space and 14 feet of garage. A 38 foot motorhome pulling a 20 foot enclosed trailer provides more of both. Conversely, once the toys are removed from the toyhauler and the ramp deployed as a patio you now have about ~52' of living space.

- An idea I consider is building a garage on the semi to allow for a fifth wheel solely dedicated to living space. However, my Goldwing wouldn't fit into a garage like this...it is too long. Whether a garage and/or toyhauler, I'd still be limited to motorcycles/scooter/bicycles. A dedicated trailer could haul a car.

- A fifth wheel generally has more living space and storage than a similar sized motorhome. They have higher ceilings and there is no drivetrain to take up space.

- You can get a loan for a fifth wheel or motorhome. You normally have to pay cash for the HDT, and they can be tricky to register and insure in some states.

- A motorhome can be easier to access, and I think this is why some HDT users migrate that way as they age. You literally have to climb into a semi.

- I think an HDT is safer. If you have a head-on crash in a motorhome you'd better be right with the Lord.

- Driving an HDT would be cool. One with a nice sleeper could be an extension of the fifth wheel in regards to living and storage space.

- I think the main factor in the 'fifth wheel vs motorhome' debate is the style of traveling you do. If you move around a lot a motorhome is a little more convenient.

I'm still debating my choices. The best solution would be a Class 8 truck conversion like I mentioned above. It would be the best of both worlds. Just too much $$$ for me.

- ShowHauler Conversions

- RV Haulers - they convert Class 8 tractors to RV haulers. Check out the videos on their site.

- Escapees HDT truck forum
- Jack Mayer's HDT/RV website
- Mark Bruss's HDT/RV website
- Heavy Haulers Resource Guide - Information for HDT conversions

- Truckconversions.net

- Weekend Warrior toy haulers
- Grand Design toy haulers

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