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Toad, Trailer, or Tow Dolly?

Motorhome with trailer at an ultralight show in New Hampshire.
Motorhome with trailer at an ultralight show in New Hampshire.

I have traveled quite a bit on my bus and prior to that, in a motorhome over the past few years without a Toad i.e. Tow Vehicle. Before I bought a real bus, I owned a 1996 36’ Fleetwood Discovery Stick-N-Staple unit which I lived and traveled in for about seven years.

Behind that, I first towed an open car hauler trailer and carried my 4-Runner. I was happy as a clam. That was until I got back home in New Hampshire one winter with my car covered in snow, sand, and salt as a result of the highway department using salt shakers on the road in New England. Oh, what a mess!

Open car hauler trailer.

Later that year, I ran into a friend of mine in St. Louis with a covered race car trailer for sale. I sold my open trailer and proceeded to haul my 4-Runner in that covered trailer for the next several years. Not only that, but there was also room for my Harley and my kayak hanging from the ceiling too so my car, my Harley, and my kayak were out of all weather conditions.

That not only kept my car and motorcycle much cleaner but also allowed me to carry my bicycle and other toys inside my covered trailer which I could lock up when parked. I did not have to worry about anything missing when I awoke each morning if I was parked in a bad neighborhood or in the “Bad Lands” as I like to call them.

Covered car hauler trailer.

That worked out great while I had a home with a large driveway to store my trailer. It was also good when I was at a campground or other place where there were big pull-through spaces to park a trailer attached to my motorhome, or where I could unhitch and store the trailer in a safe place in the campground or nearby. For the most part, that worked out well for me as it does for a lot of folks. A trailer also has the advantage of being able to back up if necessary, which is much more difficult with a tow dolly and almost impossible towing 4-down.

Then I ended up living in California where real estate cost a bit more and parking the trailer became more of a burden. In the first RV park I stayed in San Jose, they had a storage lot in the back of the campground and I kept my trailer and my toys locked inside for an additional $50/month. If I wanted to ride the Harley, I could go to my trailer, lower the tailgate, and ride off into the sunset. When I returned home, I could ride back up into my “garage”. I could also use the trailer to store other stuff which was handy since I like to collect things, all safe and secure.

When I moved to Southern California, I was fortunate enough to find an RV park that would allow me to park my covered trailer in the space next to my motorhome for only $100/month extra which was very convenient. I decided to build shelves in the trailer, use it for storage, and then an office for BCM. That worked out well until the park closed down in preparation to transform the RV park into a three-story condo complex. At that point we all had to leave, trailers and all.

BCM Office in the beginning.

Fortunately, the new owner of the property also owned a mobile home park less than a half-mile away that had some run-down mobile homes in it and he decided to move those old mobile homes out and gravel the area and put in power, water, and sew-
er and turn them into RV spaces. There were a six months waiting list to get into any other RV park in Southern California so some of us were fortunate enough to be able to move to that property when it came time to move off the property that was going to be developed.

The only problem was that the new RV park did not allow us to have any utility type trailers on the property and that was when my life changed for good. I then had to pay $220/month to store my covered wagon of the property across town in a separate RV storage facility which was not only costly but very inconvenient. I stored it there for a couple of months until I found a less expensive option for $150/month in a small fenced-in private lot. By then, I had already sold my Harley and decided now that I was a full-timer, owning a trailer was going to be an expensive and inconvenient proposition.

I read a lot of articles as well as posts on the Bus Conversion Magazine Forum regarding towing a trailer vs. using a tow dolly, vs. towing a toad wheels-down. I also talked to a lot of friends about their opinions and even posted the question myself as to the best option. I thought long and hard about the best option for me. First, do I really need a toad?

Tow Dolly.

I have traveled a lot without a vehicle and never had any issues. I have traveled a lot with a vehicle on an open and in an enclosed trailer as well. I decided, because I am now a full-time, I really need a vehicle of some kind. While some folks use motorcycles or bicycles, I sometimes use my bus for ski trips. Two-wheel vehicles do not do well on snow and ice.

A friend of mine has a tow-dolly. She likes it and it stores more easily than a trailer, but like a trailer, it has to be stored when she parks her RV for an extended period of time. Some upscale RV parks will not allow you to keep a tow dolly by your rig so like a trailer, you have to deal with storing it either on-site or off-site, sometimes in an unsecured location where it could be vandalized or stolen. It also had to be moved around every time the lawn was mowed.

With an open trailer, you can store your “stuff” on it when you are parked, but as noted before, it may or may not be there when you come back and many parks will not let you keep it in the same space as your bus where you can keep a close eye on it. A covered trailer has the advantage of being able to put your “stuff” inside to protect it from the elements and to keep it hidden away from sight, either at your site or in a separate location. A trailer can still be stolen, but there are steps you can take to prevent that too such as buy a ball hitch lock and run a chain and padlock through the wheels or chain it to a big tree.

I talked to a lot of folks about the best option for taking my car on the road and my final conclusion was that in my situation, which will not be the same for every-one, is that I would be better off towing my vehicle wheels-down. This option does not require storing a trailer or tow dolly either on your site or elsewhere and is one of the easiest ways to hitch up.

Roadmaster Tow Bar System.

 

For those of you who have towed a car wheels-down years ago, you may remember what a chore it was to hook up a tow-bar. Nowadays, tow bars have come a long way and are much more sophisticated and a LOT easier to connect to both the tow vehicle and the bus. The new tow bars can be connected to the bus, attach the safety chains, hook up the wiring, the safety brake cable and supplemental braking system in less than five minutes. They can be disconnected in even less time.

The new tow bars can also be either left on the car or on the bus where they are safely stored so it does not require extra room in your storage bay or on the ground and does not look like an eyesore attached to your toad like the old A-frame hitches. Most also come with a cover to protect your system from the weather. Also, stowage is not as much as an issue with the new fold-up bars as the old rigid tow bars from a few years ago, as they can tuck nicely in a bag on the back of your bus.

So that is the way I decided to go. This may not be the best solution for everyone but based on my needs this works well for me. Your mileage may vary. I did a lot of research on the best tow system out there, next month there will be an article about the Roadmaster system I went with and why I chose that system.

By Gary Hatt

Since July 2012, Gary Hatt has been the Publisher of Bus Conversion Magazine. Gary does most of his own work on his bus with the help of mechanic friends. He has owned tents, truck campers, travel trailers, and stick-n-staple motor-homes until he bought his first bus in 1997 which was a 1972 MCI MC-7 Combo. When he had a chance to buy a 1983 MCI MC-9 Log Cabin bus with larger windows he jumped at the chance. On Thanksgiving of 2014, Gary bought a 1967 Model 08 Eagle and has since been living and traveling fulltime in that.

 

You may reach Gary Hatt at Gary@BusConversionMagazine.com

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