Once the decision to purchase a fiberglass trailer was made, I started to consider the ideal tow vehicle. I gravitated toward fiberglass trailers to decrease the likelihood of dealing with water problems. That they are lightweight is a nice bonus because it open up a wide range of tow vehicle options.
Close your eyes and conjure up a picture in your mind of a travel trailer being pulled down the highway. What do you see? If you’re like me, you see a hefty pickup truck pulling a big white box, much like the feature image on this post. We see a lot of that during Alaska summers.
But with lightweight and small trailers, the reality is they don’t necessarily have to be pulled by a hefty he-man of a truck. It’s not uncommon to see or read about a trailer being pulled by a vehicle with a V6 motor, or even a V4. I’ve seen pretty much every kind of tow vehicle except maybe those mini cars that get fantastic gas mileage or sports cars that are just way too cool to be seen pulling a trailer. SUVs of every size. Minivans and station wagons. Jeeps and Jeep-type vehicles. Motorcycles even. And, obviously, pickup trucks.
I’ve presented my process as if it were a step-by-step but the truth is much of my research happened simultaneous. I jumped from RV research to tow vehicle research, from making money on the road research to RV maintenance research. Researching health insurance led me to wonder whether a fulltime RVer would need different insurance from a weekend RVer. (In case you are wondering, the answer is yes.) My decision to go with a fiberglass trailer was almost immediate. Everything else took time.
Deciding not to purchase a 5th wheel was one of the decisions that took the longest. So much about 5th wheels appealed to me. Because of this and the picture in my head, I assumed my tow vehicle would be a pickup truck. I hardly gave any other tow vehicle consideration.
The one requirement of the pickup truck in my head was it had to be a double-cab truck. When we are on the move, the pets will be in the car with me for safety. Also for temperature control. Note to self: do not cook the pets. A double cab has space in the back seat for my large dog and the foot well on the passenger’s side is big enough for a cat carrier, still leaving pockets of space for storage.
Early on, I planned on purchasing the RV new and purchasing the tow vehicle used. My first Finance post shared my estimated startup costs. I was fairly open to the make but secretly I hoped to find a used Toyota Tacoma or Toyota Tundra.
Once I firmly crossed 5th wheels off the list of RV possibilities, I started to ask myself if a pickup was still the best tow vehicle. The answer? Yes. And no.
Maybe the image is so strong in my mind it’s hard to think other options are viable. But when I try to conjure what it would feel like to live with a pickup truck, to drive it, I come up with two reasons it is less than ideal.
First, pickup trucks are tall. And I’m short and my dog’s old. Even with the relatively low SUV I currently own, I lift my dog in and have for years. She really was never able to to get in on her own. But now, it won’t be long before she needs help getting out as well. She is heavy to pick up and the idea of lifting her even higher than I do now is daunting. Additionally, I would require a step ladder every time I wanted to get into the bed of the truck.
Second, I would not be comfortable with having a large percentage of my possessions unsecured in the bed of the pickup truck. That’s theft waiting to happen, if you ask me. The alternative is to use a locked cover over the bed but how inconvenient to have to deal with that each and every time I need something out of “storage.”
But if not a pickup truck, what? I considered a large SUV but had similar concerns. Then I stumbled on the idea of a cargo van. It’s not an obvious choice. And you sure don’t see many driving down the road pulling the big white box.
But the more I thought about it and the more research I did, the more the idea felt right. Here’s why.
It’s lower to the ground than a pickup truck. Win for me. Win for my dog.
A van has easier access with a driver’s door, passenger door, double-wide back door and a side door. I think I could get to every part of the interior without actually having to crawl inside. A cargo van, unlike a passenger van, doesn’t have side windows. This helps keep the contents inside private.
Ideally, I will find one previously owned by a contractor, electrician, plumber or the like. Those have shelving, drawers, cabinets built along one or both walls. Built-in storage. It would be so perfect. If I end up with a van without any of this or not enough, I could have it customized for me and my needs.
I noticed cargo vans don’t have as much “fancy” stuff as, say, SUVs or pickup trucks. They don’t have tons of buttons run by computer chips and other features you’d find in a personal vehicle. In my mind, a bunch of fun features are just more things that will break somewhere down the road.
I want simple. Functional. My only must-have feature is air conditioning.
Finally, with a flat roof, a van would be a fantastic option for a solar set up. Solar is on my must-have upgrades in order to increase the amount of time I can live off the grid.
So there you have it. My decision on a tow vehicle. I’ve enjoyed looking at the Chevy Express and the Nissan NV cargo vans. If you have any leads on one that is a couple years old, please let me know. As always, I welcome your comments on the post.