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Old 08-17-2015, 10:49 AM   #1
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Towing versus rental

Has anyone done a comparison cost between towing a toad versus renting a car.
Talked to one rver who said he found it cheaper and easier to travel with his class A WITHOUT towing. He rented a car whenever he needed one and if he needed something larger he would rent a pickup.
He said they did their grocery shopping once a week while travelling and only rented when they wanted to see something.

Other than the convenience of having your vehicle with you, he claimed they saved money in many ways......tires, better MPG on the MH, less shopping, less going out for dinner, etc.

Just wondered if anyone kept records around this???
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Old 08-17-2015, 10:59 AM   #2
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In answer to your inquiry, a lot depends on how you use your RV. If you are using it full time then towing makes more sense. If you are only using it for a few vacation trips then renting may be more economical.

Rigging a car for towing will cost somewhere in the $2000 + neighborhood. That assumes new equipment and a braking system. Depending on the vehicle you may also need a transmission pump or drive shaft disconnect. You can rent a lot of cars for that cost.

We travel with no towed. We have been successful in finding Enterprise in most of the areas we travel. Enterprise is convenient as they will pick you up and drop you off. As my wife will not drive the motorhome that service is very valuable to us.

We are not full time, so renting during our 4 or 5 trips a year works. Depending on where you are traveling you should probably call ahead to make sure a rental car is available. We have even stumbled across a few campgrounds that have car rental on site.

There are some areas where rental cars are scarce or non existent. Again, much depends on how you use your RV.
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Old 08-17-2015, 11:06 AM   #3
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'SWMBO' and the wives of our camping buddies are CERTAIN ALL of us will break down on the way to meet up !
so even though there are 3 of us - all three must tow a toad

I would actually consider it if we knew every time where we would be and could be assured of getting a car... but having the 4x4 personalized wrangler in tow has it's benefits too !
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Old 08-17-2015, 11:13 AM   #4
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A lot depends on where you are going. If you are hitting the tourist traps rentals are probably obtainable. OTOH if you are trying to get away from the crowds you are also getting away from the rental places.

It also depends on what kind of trip one does. Without a towed it is seldom convenient to spend more than a few days somewhere so one is constantly moving. With a towed one can park for a week or so and visit an area then move a bit and repeat.

FWIW anyone who tows only occasionally can easily manage with a dolly. Decent used one's are often $1000 or less, can be resold for about the same amount. Most front drive cars can be dolly towed.
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Old 08-17-2015, 01:16 PM   #5
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We started out renting cars, and it was ok, but we found there were places that had no rental places around for 100+ miles. When that happened we would rent, pick it up along the way, and caravan to our destination. Did that for about a year and setup a vehicle as a towed. We will always have a towed, while renting worked for the most part, if there no [place nearby to rent from, you will end up renting for the entire time, and if you have to back track to drop it off, it is even more of a hassle.
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Old 08-17-2015, 01:42 PM   #6
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We started our RV adventures towing a Jeep Wrangler (4door) that we already owned, so the "start-up" costs did not have to include buying a 4 wheel down towable car.

We did have to invest in a braking system, wiring harness for lights, and a tow bar. I have since upgraded the braking system. I think it would cost closer to $3-$4k if you buy a top notch tow bar, and a top notch braking system, and basic wiring kit for your lights. (closer to $3k if you can handle some of the install yourself... closer to $4k if not)

I would not advise going with cheaper braking or tow bar systems... the safety and ease of use far outweigh the slight savings in cost. I recommend a BlueOx towbar and either Delta Force AF1 or the M&G braking system if you have a diesel pusher. Both of these systems tap into your RV air brakes and offer true proportional braking and SUPER EASY hookup and disconnect. I started off with a Blue Ox Patriot braking box, similar to the Brake Buddy, and I don't recommend those systems. They are too difficult to set up perfectly, sometimes they slip out of position while driving, they do not offer truly proportional braking, and since they operate with a gravity based internal switch, they are affected by mountains/hills in undesirable ways. They also use your towed vehicles battery power, but this can be rectified by running a charging wire from your RV to the tow vehicle.

As for ongoing cost of towing a car versus renting one... for our current Diesel, the difference that I see in miles per gallon with versus without towing is less than 1/2 of a mile per gallon (8.9 versus 8.5 mpg). When we had a gas Class A, the difference in MPG was more like 2 miles per gallon less when towing. I do think that I have additional wear and tear on my Jeep's front tires as a result of being towed. I don't think it's significant, but I suspect that those tires get a little extra "rubbing" action when they are being pulled into a turning position, rather than being turned directly from a driver as they were designed to be. I don't have any evidence of this, but it just seems to make sense to me.

Convenience is important to us, so I much prefer towing my own vehicle over renting one. We had to rent one once and I found that really cumbersome. Contrary to their popular TV commercials, Enterprise does not always deliver to where you need them, and trying to drop off a driver at a rental place is no cup of tea when driving these big rigs! Another problem we faced was that we wanted to RETURN the rental car before their office was open. That meant leaving the car on their lot and hoping that they didn't assess us for damages that we didn't do. We never had an issue like this (only had to rent once) but I feared that it could happen, and we would have no recourse.

We do mostly long weekend camping where we NEED a car once we arrive. We also use the RV for 1-2 week-long trips about once or twice per year, when we also use the Jeep at our destination(s). Since we always need a car, I think it's less hassle and probably less expensive overall to tow my own than to rent one.

IF you do decide to rent cars instead of towing your own, I recommend you consult with your auto insurance agency and determine whether or not you should pay extra insurance costs when you rent an auto. Most of the auto rental businesses push additional insurance, which I have never needed (my normal insurance covers rental cars too). I think that most people have adequate coverage, but you should be certain so that you make the right decision when renting.
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Old 08-17-2015, 02:02 PM   #7
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We didn't have a toad when we had a Class C. If we were going to take an extended trip not too far from home my wife would usually follow in the car. We got by not have a vehicle but probably sacrificed not seeing everything we could have.

Never did rent a vehicle, just seemed like a lot of money for the short term convenience & very inconvenient to arrange to get it and drop back off.

We then bought a Class A in 2008 and did not initially get a toad. We then took a ~15K trip to Alaska without a toad and realized it was a big mistake not having one. We would see signs or read tourism info on places we would have liked to visited but without a toad essentially impossible with the RV. Although we never did have any problems it would have been nice to have a toad in case of an emergency.

We got back from the trip in mid Sept and by November I had a toad bought and outfitted.

We take the toad every trip no matter how far. It is easy to hookup and drop. We do loose ~1/2-1 mpg gallon pulling but the convenience far out ways the cost.
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Old 08-17-2015, 02:24 PM   #8
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Like others have said it depends on where you are going. We rent from Enterprise. They pick us up and/or bring us back to the RV if we arrive when they are closed or they are not on our route to the camp ground. Our destinations are planned in advance so this works for us. I considered a toad but would have to purchase the necessary towing equipment, buy the vehicle, pay for tag, taxes and insurance, as I would not want to use my car as a toad. If I were heading cross country with no set destination I would invest in towing.
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Old 08-17-2015, 02:33 PM   #9
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We had a bit of a different approach. This is our first year driving the RV. I figure no toad for the first year to keep the learning process simpler. Went to Bar Harbor, ME where you don't need a toad with the Island Explorer free shuttle. Also went to Manitou Springs, CO where we rented a car. Little trips around the home we've driven our car behind the home. Trying out different modes.

This fall/winter we'll trade in a non-towable car for a CR-V or Jeep or something like that. Looking forward to the toad next year and learning more.
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Old 08-17-2015, 02:40 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by nothermark View Post
A lot depends on where you are going. If you are hitting the tourist traps rentals are probably obtainable. OTOH if you are trying to get away from the crowds you are also getting away from the rental places. ....
That's the key!

I frequently travel to the Eastern High Sierras, and there are NO convenient car rental locations for hundreds of miles.

I also noticed that when I did rely on renting a car when we were staying at Fort Wilderness in Orlando, we wasted over five hours of precious vacation time. If you count the time it took to find the rental location, find the appropriate shuttle bus, wait for the bus, ride the bus to the closest stop to the location, walk to location, get in line with other tourists to pickup the rental, and then repeat the process for the return, it was a big waste of time.

If a car rental agency that delivers the car to you isn't available, then tow your own vehicle, or you will waste your day.
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Old 08-17-2015, 06:15 PM   #11
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Reading the original post, luckyd noted: Other than the convenience of having your vehicle with you, the person he talked to claimed they saved money in many ways......tires, better MPG on the MH, less shopping, less going out for dinner, etc. In other words pretty much less of everything. And that's the key, having your toad with you allows you to do more. We're still working and can only go RVing on weekends and vacations. I wouldn't enjoy it as much without a toad, it enables us to do more- more dining, shopping, golfing, exploring, etc. We're better entertained by having a toad to free us from being stuck at the campsite.
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Old 08-17-2015, 06:30 PM   #12
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It sounds like less is more for the case of not having a toad.

If you are willing to drive your MH to the store weekly to get groceries or maybe walk to town for that quart of milk a toad may not be required.

I do not like taking everything down to be able to drive the MH to town. I like to set it up and leave it. Also a bit big to take to the driving range or golf course.
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Old 08-17-2015, 06:30 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by Easyrider View Post
Reading the original post, luckyd noted: Other than the convenience of having your vehicle with you, the person he talked to claimed they saved money in many ways......tires, better MPG on the MH, less shopping, less going out for dinner, etc. In other words pretty much less of everything. And that's the key, having your toad with you allows you to do more. We're still working and can only go RVing on weekends and vacations. I wouldn't enjoy it as much without a toad, it enables us to do more- more dining, shopping, golfing, exploring, etc. We're better entertained by having a toad to free us from being stuck at the campsite.
Discipline saved money as well as inconvenience does. OTOH a lot of things are relatively inexpensive to do and the fuel to get to them and the rest is a lot cheaper in the towed than in the MH. When one is in the 7 mpg range for the MH I am not sure how much difference the towed really makes. ;-)
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Old 08-17-2015, 07:38 PM   #14
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Discipline saved money as well as inconvenience does. OTOH a lot of things are relatively inexpensive to do and the fuel to get to them and the rest is a lot cheaper in the towed than in the MH. When one is in the 7 mpg range for the MH I am not sure how much difference the towed really makes. ;-)
Totally agree! In many cases 1 trip with a toad from the campsite to anything vs a trip with a motorhome instead will probably save you more money than what it cost you to tow a vehicle behind your motorhome to get to the campsite in the first place!
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