Before we actually rented an RV for three months, we needed to understand whether or not we could tow our car behind it. This was important because we wanted to visit big cities and stay in locations for extended periods of time, so we needed an alternate way to get around.
You may think that you can tow any old car behind an RV, but that is SO not true. I know this because I have done a ton of research on the topic and this was close to a deal breaker for us. There are lots of resources on this, Edmunds is great, but I tried to detail our step-by-step decision making process.
We are renting a gas RV and the max it can tow is 5,000 lbs. Diesel RVs can tow around 10,000 lbs, but are much more expensive and it was difficult enough for us to find an RV with bunk beds. Bunk beds > towing capacity for us.
So we weighed both of our cars and they are both just barely over the 5,000 lb. limit. We cannot tow either of the cars we currently own. That was the first issue.
The other issue is that it is vastly ideal to flat tow the car behind, or tow on all fours. Other options are a trailer or towing on two wheels, but both a harder on the RV and require additional costs to pay for the towing mechanism. Very few cars are approved for flat towing and it can full on ruin the transmission if you tow incorrectly.
That left us with three options: rent a car, sell a car/buy a new car or drive behind in our car.
Option One: Rental Car
There are a few issues with the rental car route. The first is the cost. It was initially going to cost us $3,500 to rent a car for three months. We were able to whittle that down to $2,000 ($20/day + taxes), but that brings us to the second issue.
The second issue is that not all rental companies allow you to tow a car behind an RV. We were able to find one that had loose rules around this, which brings us to our third issue.
Generally, when you rent a car you are not guaranteed a make and model and only certain cars can be towed behind an RV. To understand which ones, you have to read through the owner’s manual. Out of the 15 cars classified under economy, compact, intermediate, and standard, only two were able to be towed four wheels down – the Ford Fiesta and the Ford Focus. If we got there and they presented us with a Hyundai Accent (untowable) I would have a full blown meltdown and that is not the way to start our journey.
So that didn’t seem like a very reliable option for us. The second option we considered was to sell one of our cars and buy an new car.
Option 2: Buy a New Car
We had multiple requirements for this option. Requirement #1: The car had to be four wheel drive since we were moving to Colorado. Requirement #2: The car had to be a v6. Requirement #3: The car must be under 5,000 lbs.
I could only find a handful of cars that fit these three requirements (I was looking at 2014 models). They are as follows: Jeep Cherokee, Honda CRV (not v6 though), Jeep Wrangler, Subaru (must be manual transmission to tow 4 wheels down) and the Chevy Equinox.
Option 3: Drive behind
Ultimately, we chose to drive behind. This was the right choice for us for various reasons. First, with our two boys we will not be driving more than a couple hours at a time. We will be traveling slowly. Second, we have never driven an RV before and it will be so much easier to navigate without towing a car behind. Third, and this is the most important, we did some research into the safety of car seats in an RV and it’s not very safe.
In a car we have the Latch system and there are regulations in place to ensure safety. In an RV, we would be strapping the car seats into lap belts on the RV furniture that isn’t securely connected to the base of the RV. The car seat lady knows way more about this than I do.
Once we made the decision to drive behind the RV, we felt a huge sense of relief and we seriously could not believe that it was such a major issue. It’s always the little things that turn into big things.