Should I Buy an RV or a Camper Trailer?


illustrated rv and camper trailer sitting by a lake

Whether camping for the weekend, heading to a national park, or taking a month off to travel around the country—no matter what your summer adventure looks like, you’ll feel like you’re living in the lap of luxury with an RV or a trailer. Compared to roughing it with a tent and sleeping bag, traveling in an RV or with a camper trailer can make a big difference in your comfort and in how much you enjoy your summer travels. 

Looking to upgrade your adventure game and purchase an RV or a camper trailer? Without a doubt, buying an RV or a trailer is an investment. Before you whip out your checkbook or sign on the dotted line, it’s best to weigh the pros and cons of buying an RV versus purchasing a camper trailer.

The Difference Between an RV and a Trailer

illustrated rv and camper with mountains in the background

RVs cover a broad range of recreational vehicles (what RV stands for) but are typically thought of as motorhomes. These vehicles are self-propelled through their own engines and don’t require another vehicle to move them. They usually fall into classes (A, B, and C) depending on their size and usually have more living space than trailers do. 

Trailers, meanwhile, are towable, smaller living spaces and cannot move on their own without a vehicle to pull them along. Types of trailers include fifth-wheel trailers (that hook up to a truck’s bed rather than a hitch), pop-up or foldable campers, and truck campers—also called camper shells.

The Benefits of Owning an RV

illustrated rv sitting next to a lake

The biggest benefit of owning an RV is convenience. Thanks to its motor, RVs/motorhomes don’t need to be towed (but can certainly tow a vehicle for day trips into town). Setting up your RV and getting ready to move to the next destination takes much less time and effort than towing a trailer. RVs, thanks to their spacious living quarters, can fit more people, so you can bring your family along on your next adventure or even host an informal dinner party with other travelers at your campground easily.

Owning an RV could have potential tax benefits, as well. The majority, if not all, of motorhome RVs fulfill the IRS requirements of what constitutes a house, so if you own one of these, you can declare it a second house for the sake of taxes (which might result in a deduction).

The Downside to Owning an RV

Due to its large size, driving an RV can be incredibly intimidating for even the most experienced driver. It can take a few trips before owners feel completely comfortable not only driving down the highway but also maneuvering into your campsite safely. The larger your RV, the more fuel it’ll require. While some RVs can get better gas mileage than trucks and SUVs towing a trailer, you’ll still spend a decent chunk of change on gas during your travels.

The biggest downside to investing in an RV/motorhome is the overall cost. RVs are not inexpensive, with the cost of a class A motorhome anywhere between $50,000 and $200,000. Plenty of financing options exist, but an investment that size requires serious thought and consideration. Add the cost of insurance and maintenance (which is often much more than a trailer), and you’re likely committing to a hefty expense each year. Plus, some homeowners associations and neighborhoods don’t allow RVs to park on the street for extended periods of time, so you’ll need to find alternative storage for a very large vehicle (but we can help!).

The Benefits of Owning a Trailer

illustrated camper sitting outside with mountains and next to a lake

Trailers are much more budget-friendly than their RV/motorhome cousins, typically costing anywhere between $4,000 and $20,000, and the likelihood that you’ll find a pre-owned one in great condition at a lower price point is much better than the RV resale market. Trailers also require less maintenance and typically are more cost-effective when it comes to insurance, parking prices, and campsite fees. Thanks to their compact size or smaller nature, trailers are easier to store during the off-season (although fifth-wheel trailers can be as long as 40 feet).

The Downside to Owning a Trailer

Trailers, while providing a more comfortable environment than your average tent and sleeping bag, can require a learning curve when it comes to getting them set up, especially if you invest in a pop-up or foldable camper. You’ll find most of them aren’t quite as luxurious as their RV counterparts, both in the sense of square footage and amenities (such as air conditioning or a functioning bathroom) within the trailer itself.

You’ll also need to own or have access to a vehicle that’s capable of towing a trailer, whether you have a heavy-duty, powerful truck that’ll work with a fifth-wheel trailer or a vehicle equipped with a hitch.

Find RV or Trailer Storage Near You Today

Ultimately, the determining factors that will help you decide between purchasing an RV and a trailer are:

  • How frequently you think you’ll use it
  • How much space you need/how many people you plan on including in your trips
  • How much you can comfortably spend

If you plan on taking trips that last weeks at a time, an RV might be a better bet. If your adventures last no longer than a weekend, a trailer might be perfectly comfortable for your travels. 

Whether you decide to invest in a brand new RV or choose to purchase a pre-owned camper trailer, choose your nearest Compass Self Storage location to help you store your RV in a secure facility where you’ll be able to access it for your last-minute camping adventure or much-anticipated road trip vacation. Find your nearest Compass storage facility today to reserve your space to store your RV!

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