Last Updated on July 10, 2023 by Christina
Not only are travel trailers the most popular type of RV, they are the most affordable. More families than ever are heading out to create their own Great American Road Trip and, for many, it starts with the perfect RV. Buying a travel trailer can seem intimidating, but with the right information, it can be an exciting and empowering decision.
Large families are going to have much different needs than solo travelers. Families who love kayaking and biking will need different travel trailers than those who want to travel light and park in major urban areas. Travel trailers are built with solid walls, hitch to a truck or SUV and come in all shapes and sizes. They are safe and typically have slide-outs to create wide-open living spaces.
One of the benefits of traveling with a trailer rather than a motorhome is that when you set up camp, you can unhook the trailer and leave it set up while you use the vehicle to explore the area. When you travel by motorhome, you either need to drive your whole RV for sightseeing days or tow a separate vehicle behind it.
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Table of Contents
- What is a travel trailer?
- What are the primary differences between travel trailers, fifth wheels and toy haulers?
- How big are travel trailers?
- Is a travel trailer hard to tow?
- Where can you go camping in a travel trailer?
- Who are typical travel trailer owners?
- What are the advantages and disadvantages of owning a travel trailer?
- How much do travel trailers cost?
- Financial options for purchasing a travel trailer
- What’s the best travel trailer for me?
- Before you buy: 10 Best Travel Trailers at General RV
- Coachmen RV Apex Nano travel trailer
- Forest River RV Salem travel trailer
- Forest River RV Wildwood travel trailer
- Grand Design RV Imagine travel trailer
- Grand Design RV Transcend Xplor travel trailer
- Jayco RV Jay Feather travel trailer
- Keystone RV Cougar travel trailer
- Keystone RV Passport travel trailer
- Keystone RV Springdale travel trailer
- Prime Time RV Avenger travel trailer
- Is a travel trailer worth it?
What is a travel trailer?
Unlike motorized RVs that have an engine and can be driven on their own, travel trailers are pulled behind another vehicle. Travel trailers come in all sizes, including everything from tiny jelly bean-shaped models with a small kitchen in the rear to a full blown house-on-wheels, with multiple slide-outs and residential-sized appliances. Their length can vary, starting at 12 feet long and going up to 35 feet long or more. Weight also varies with the size, from as low as 1,200 pounds up to nearly 10,000 pounds.
Sometimes called a bumper-pull (when they first became popular in the early 1950s, they were attached to the bumper of the tow car), the modern travel trailer employs a hitch secured to the frame of your tow vehicle. This truck or SUV will include specialized hardware to make towing safe and easy. Travel trailers are relatively easy to set up once you arrive at your destination. You can unhitch it, leave it and still have a vehicle to explore.
What are the primary differences between travel trailers, fifth wheels and toy haulers?
While travel trailers, fifth wheels and toy haulers are all towable RVs, this is where their similarities end. There are some pretty significant differences between the three. Below are brief descriptions of fifth wheels and toy haulers and what makes them different from travel trailers.
Fifth wheels are the largest towable trailers available and some rival motorhomes for the amount of space and the amenities they offer. In fact, they’re popular for full-time living as well as for traveling. They can have multiple slide-outs, outdoor kitchens, kitchens, bathrooms and an entertainment area. They often include an upstairs area, above the truck bed, for sleeping. Fifth wheels can sleep up to eight people.
Fifth wheels connect with a U-shaped coupling mounted in a truck bed, which, generally, make them easier to tow. This can be attributed to the design of the fifth wheel and the kingpin hitch, which moves the load forward into the bed of the truck. However, because fifth wheels are so large, you’ll need a large pickup truck to tow it. For many fifth wheels, a half-ton truck like a Ford F-150 or Toyota Tundra with maximum towing capacities from 9,740 to 13,200 pounds GVWR will do the job. But many fifth wheel owners prefer a heavy duty truck like a Ram 2500 or a Ford Super Duty F-250, which tow a maximum of 12,760 to 18,500 pounds GVWR.
Due to their higher roofline, fifth wheels generally have higher interior ceiling height than travel trailers. In fact, fifth wheels typically have the highest ceilings of all types of RVs. Fifth wheels are often equipped with high-end features making them more expensive than travel trailers on the whole. When it comes to living full-time in an RV, fifth wheels are the preferred choice. They tend to have a more residential feeling providing a true sense of being home-away-from-home. However, due to the towing requirements that comes with fifth wheels, many consumers in the towable RV market will steer toward travel trailers because most everyday trucks and SUVs are equipped to handle towing them.
The sizes, prices and maneuverability are about the same for both toy haulers and travel trailers. Toy haulers are built on a sturdier frame and, therefore, can be much heavier than travel trailers. The dry weight for the average toy hauler is around 10,000 pounds, but models can range from 4,000 pounds up to 15,000 pounds. They also have a garage area which can take away from the interior space of the trailer. The most common type of toy hauler is the fifth wheel, partly because it has a more secure connection to the towing vehicle. Certainly, if you have motorcycles, quads, sand toys or lots of recreational toys – like cross-country bikes, kayaks, inflatable boats, wind surfing equipment or other toys – then a toy hauler will meet your needs better than a travel trailer. However, toy haulers come in travel trailer floorplans with standard towing hitches, as well.
If you’re a traveling family, the extra space in the garage will provide extra sleeping spaces for the kids, as well as an indoor play area. The garage can also be converted to a space for homeschooling a young family. Pets are another reason you might choose a toy hauler. The garage area is also a great place to bring your wet, sandy or muddy pets inside, but still keep the dirt under control.
How big are travel trailers?
Travel trailers come in a wide range of sizes and styles. That said, most travel trailers typically range anywhere from 12 feet to 35 feet long. A simple, 12-foot travel trailer allows enough comfortable space for one or two people (most likely a couple). Meanwhile, a 35-foot trailer can allow enough space for up to 10 people to sleep comfortably. Every state has laws regarding the length, height and width restrictions of travel trailers. These all vary somewhat, but, generally, the consensus is that trailers must have widths no greater than between 8 feet and 8.5 feet.
Most states generally restrict RV travel trailer length to 40 feet, although some states allow for additional length, with a maximum of 43-feet-6-inches. This doesn’t include the tow vehicle. In most states, the maximum combined length is usually between 50 feet to 65 feet.
Travel trailers vary in weight from 1,200 to almost 9,000 pounds. They come in various lengths and builds, allowing for a diverse weight range. Smaller travel trailers have an average maximum weight of about 3,500 pounds (GVWR). Some larger travel trailers can reach more than 10,000 pounds when fully loaded.
Is a travel trailer hard to tow?
From Gen Zs to Boomers, RVing in a travel trailer, of any type, offers freedom and a sense of self-sufficiency. However, towing a travel trailer can bring some unexpected stress and safety concerns for first-time RVers. Trailers add weight and that added weight changes the handling dynamics and braking of the tow vehicle. That’s why you need to make sure your trailer and tow vehicle are properly matched.
The towing capacity of a vehicle is how much weight it can tow. The towing capacity is determined mainly by the type of axles the truck has and their ratings. Usually, towing capacity applies to SUVs and trucks, since most sedans or smaller cars don’t have large towing capabilities. Keeping your trailer’s weight in mind is integral as well. If your trailer weighs too much for your tow vehicle, it increases the stopping distance and likelihood of damage to your tow vehicle or RV.
There are two important weight-related factors when it comes to RV trailers: GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) and tongue weight (TW). GVWR is the safe maximum weight of the trailer when it’s loaded for camping with water, fuel, supplies, and cargo. The TW is how much downforce the loaded trailer places on the hitch. Both numbers are displayed on the metal Federal Certification/VIN ID tag located on the front left side of a travel trailer. You can also find the specifications listed on the trailer manufacturer’s website.
Those two numbers set the basis for choosing the vehicle best suited for towing a travel trailer. Tongue weight of RV trailers, sometimes referred to as “hitch weight,” will be typically between 10 and 15-percent of the trailer’s GVWR. RV trailer weights can vary widely by brand, type, and size. That’s why it’s important to narrow down these numbers to the specific trailer you plan to tow and then make sure those weights match your vehicle’s towing limitations. You can also find your vehicle’s towing capacity on General RV’s towing guide.
Where can you go camping in a travel trailer?
The options for where a travel trailer can go generally depend on the vehicle towing it. There are roughly 4,510 RV parks and campgrounds in the United States, including 113,000 federally-managed campsites at national parks, 166,000 campsites dispersed across state parks and untold numbers in private facilities.
The Bureau of Land Management, or BLM, is a federal agency under the U.S. Department of the Interior that oversees more than 247.3 million acres of land. Much of it is available free to the public for dry camping or boondocking, without hookups to electricity, water or sewage. In fact, there are many lightweight travel trailers specifically designed for off-grid RV excursions.
Who are typical travel trailer owners?
Recent surveys show more than 11.2 million households in the U.S. own an RV. 38 percent of those RVs are travel trailers. Most commonly used during the summer and fall months, travel trailers are especially popular among young families and first-time RV owners. The vast majority of owners hit the road with their spouse and more than a quarter travel with children under 18 or a pet.
Studies also show very few travel trailer owners prefer to travel alone. Meanwhile, more than half of owners are female. State parks are the most popular option for travel trailer owners, followed by private campgrounds and national park campgrounds.
What are the advantages and disadvantages of owning a travel trailer?
Advantages of a travel trailer
Travel trailers have a lot of advantages that make them a popular RV choice. First, even newer travel trailers come with a much lower price tag than other types of RVs, making them a more affordable option. They also come in a wide range of lengths and sizes. If you already have a truck or an SUV, you can likely find a travel trailer you’ll be able to tow. Additionally, travel trailers also allow you to utilize the full space of the truck or SUV for passengers, storage or even additional toys – like ATVs or motorcycles.
Travel trailers are all about variety and the floor plan variety is no different. There are lots of options to choose from. For example, a floor plan with a bunkhouse is excellent for families with kids. Finally, with any trailer, being able to unhitch the RV and take the tow vehicle elsewhere is always the biggest advantage to travel trailers.
Disadvantages of a travel trailer
One major downfall of the travel trailer is towing experience. An uncontrollable sway is possible if proper sway control and weight distribution hitches are not used or if they are hooked up incorrectly. Since many require a weight-distribution hitch, bumps in the road can be much more noticeable with a travel trailer.
Another disadvantage is that travel trailers have less storage space than most other RVs. While many RVs have an abundance of outdoor storage space underneath, a travel trailer typically does not. That means if you want to bring something on your trip, it needs to fit inside your RV or in your tow vehicle. Along with storage, most travel trailers have lower weight carrying capacities, meaning you cannot bring along as much stuff.
Travel trailers also have fewer amenities than larger RVs, mainly due to their lower cost and weight restrictions. Even though they have high sleeping capacities, you cannot legally have passengers riding in a travel trailer. This limits, and may complicate, the logistics of large family camping trips.
How much do travel trailers cost?
A travel trailer is the least expensive way to enjoy a recreational vehicle or RV lifestyle. Travel trailers are significantly cheaper than motorhomes for the fact they have no engine and must be towed. Travel trailer prices can range from $10,000 to $200,000 for a travel trailer. On average, most new travel trailers cost between $20,000 and $50,000. The size of the travel trailer is the first factor — the bigger you go, the more you will pay. Brand, quality, features and amenities will also play into the final purchase price. If you’re trying to stick to a strict RV budget, don’t skimp on quality. Instead, choose an RV manufacturer known to make high-quality trailers.
Financial options for purchasing a travel trailer
A number of financial options are available when it comes to purchasing your travel trailer. While some may pay in cash, most will finance their purchase over the course of several months. Monthly payments can be reduced by providing a large down payment at purchase. This could also help secure a lower interest rate, leading to even more savings in the long-term. Many RV dealers and banks offer great financing options.
Creating an RV budget will help you stay within your financial boundaries and help narrow your travel trailer RV search. Be sure to also include parts or accessory upgrades, regular preventative maintenance and RV insurance in your budget. You will also need to account for storage costs if you are unable to store your travel trailer on your property when not in use. RVing is growing in popularity at an exponential rate because it can be enjoyed on nearly any budget. Read about some ways to save money while RVing and stretch your dollars, so you can enjoy more adventures.
What’s the best travel trailer for me?
It is essential to determine the best travel trailer to suit your needs, aesthetics and dimensions on the outside and inside. You should select the right travel trailer your vehicle will be able to pull. Make sure the floor plan is suitable for your requirements. There should also be enough room to fit the things you’re looking for. Make a list of those things you’d like to take and make sure you have enough space. Additionally, you’ll want to ensure that the bathroom and shower are spacious.
The best travel trailer brands at General RV
Coachmen RV Travel Trailers
Coachmen RV has been manufacturing RVs since 1964, earning an excellent reputation for reliability. Considered one of the top RV manufacturers on the market, Coachmen has up to 15 travel trailer models available.
Forest River RV Travel Trailers
Since opening its doors in 1996, Forest River RV has become one of the most popular names in the RV world. Forest River manufacturers RVs in nearly every category, with almost four dozen models of travel trailers alone.
Grand Design RV Travel Trailers
Grand Design RV manufactures high-quality towable fifth wheels and travel trailers. From affordable, luxury extended-stay vehicles to amenity-packed toy haulers, Grand Design delivers variety and reliability.
Jayco Travel Trailers
Travel trailers are the most popular kind of RV and Jayco travel trailers are built using several exclusive methods, materials and technologies that make them popular and reliable. With a wide range of sizes and floorplan options to fit many family sizes, you will find a Jayco travel trailer to accommodate all your travel needs.
Keystone RV Travel Trailers
Keystone RV Company is the top manufacturer of towable RVs in North America — with more than one million owners, 5,000 team members and over one million square feet of manufacturing in Goshen, Indiana and Pendleton, Oregon. With more than 200 floorplans available, Keystone RV Company has the perfect travel trailer for every camper.
Prime Time RV Travel Trailers
Headquartered in Wakarusa, Indiana, Prime Time Manufacturing proudly builds a full line of towable RV products to meet the needs of experienced, casual and first-time RV customers. A division of Forest River, Inc., their unwavering commitment to quality and a customer-first service philosophy has made Prime Time one of North America’s favorite RV manufacturers.
10 Best Travel Trailers For Sale at General RV
Coachmen RV Apex Nano travel trailer
The Coachmen RV Apex Nano travel trailers were designed to be towed by today’s half-ton trucks, minivans and SUVs. These lightweight and durable travel trailers from Coachmen RV are perfect for families new to RVing or seasoned travelers. The mandatory Nano Package comes with a wide range of construction features that are sure to impress, as well as standard kitchen and bathroom amenities that promises a luxury living experience. These 7-foot 6-inch-wide lightweight trailers, consisting of four models in both slide and non-slide versions, weigh as little as 2,604 pounds.
Construction features include welded aluminum framing, vacuum-bond laminated fiberglass side walls and composites designed for less weight. Inside, the trailer has double-bowl sinks and crowned 6-foot 6-inch ceilings. The Nano sleeps four to six people, with generously-sized dinettes that fold down into beds. Three of the models also have queen beds. Spacious interior cabinets and large exterior compartments provide ample storage.
Coachmen claims the Nano has some of the largest payload capacities in the single-axle market, with cargo ratings up to 1,200 pounds in the slide models. All Nano models also have 30-gallon freshwater, gray- and black-water tanks.
Forest River RV Salem travel trailer
The Forest River Salem travel trailers may come in a tiny package, but they are fully featured, lightweight and easy to tow. They are perfect for either the first-time camper or seasoned travelers and have a modern residential living space to be a comfortable home away from home.
Each model includes residential features to maximize comfort. There are full bath and kitchen amenities, comfortable sleeping spaces and plenty of storage areas for your belongings. The durable construction means you can plan to camp for years to come and you will love how easy it will be to tow these trailers.
Forest River RV Wildwood travel trailer
Forest River made convenience and quality a priority in these Wildwood travel trailers. From a spacious kitchen to plush bedroom, everything about this RV was designed to take you on grand adventures in comfort and style.
The Wildwood gives you a spacious living room area thanks to two slide-outs. The Versa-Lounge seating system allows you to configure your space for maximum comfort, while theater seating gives you a great spot to watch the game. The island kitchen is well equipped with a stove top, oven, residential refrigerator and pantry. The bathroom features a walk-in shower, plus a skylight and linen cabinet, while the front bedroom includes a walk-in closet.
Grand Design RV Imagine travel trailer
Whether you’re leaving the world behind for the weekend or sticking around for a stay-cation, with the Grand Design RV Imagine travel trailer it’s as easy as tow and go. Down to every detail, the Imagine offers everything your family needs for adventure — and a good night’s sleep.
The Imagine is one of the best mid-profile travel trailers on the market today. It has an aluminum frame and fiberglass sides. The different floor plans are between 29 feet and 37 feet and weigh from 7,850 pounds to 10,200 pounds. Each model includes exceptional features like a 165W roof-mounted solar panel, high-capacity furnace, residential cabinetry, nitrogen-filled radial tires and a universal docking station. Additionally, you’ll enjoy upgraded residential furniture, residential countertops, exterior speakers and large panoramic windows.
Grand Design RV Transcend Xplor travel trailer
Featuring open floorplans, functional and towability for many of today’s half-ton trucks and SUVs, the Transcend Xplor travel trailer is built for adventure. Throw in unmatched quality, backed by an industry-leading warranty, and there’s no reason not to Xplor. The Transcend Xplor features a unique, industry exclusive StongWall aluminum exterior that is 25 percent thicker than the competition, giving it the strength and durability to hold up to years of use.
You will also appreciate oversized tank capacities, a power tongue jack, an all-in-one utility center, plus many other exterior conveniences. Step inside to find a deep-seated stainless steel sink, residential countertops, solid hardwood drawer fronts and upgraded residential furniture. These travel trailers include multiple packages, like the Power Package, featuring exterior speakers and back-up camera prep, along with the Solar Package featuring a 165-watt roof-mounted solar panel and a solar charge controller.
Jayco RV Jay Feather travel trailer
The Jayco RV Jay Feather travel trailer’s lightweight, rock-solid fiberglass construction features two distinct interior design concepts with new fixtures and flooring throughout. Whether you’re looking for a smaller camper with lots of sleeping space or luxurious amenities in an easy-to-tow trailer, there’s a Jay Feather for you.
Each Jay Feather is built on an American-made chassis with an integrated A-frame which runs through the main foundation preventing the hitch from buckling. These travel trailers include Stronghold VBL vacuum-bonded, laminated flooring and walls, plus the Magnum Truss Roof System, which is 50 percent stronger than other roofs in the industry. The interior equipment includes residential-style kitchen countertops, four-inch high-density dinette cushions with vinyl backing and residential vinyl flooring with cold crack resistance, for years of enjoyment.
There are many reasons to choose a Jayco Jay Feather travel trailer. It’s lightweight, easy to tow and includes a sport package with enhanced graphics, a front-molded fiberglass cap and an enclosed underbelly. Plus, may more great features!
Keystone RV Cougar travel trailer
Committed to cutting-edge innovation, quality, style and affordability, the Keystone RV Cougar travel trailer offers a wide selection of floorplans designed to be towed by both half-ton and full-sized trucks. The limited edition Cougar Sport offers two new, even lighter models. The Cougar line-up is designed to grow with your family, from your first RV to your last.
MaxTurn technology with Road Armor shock absorbing hitch pin and Hitch Vision, creates unparalleled towing control. The innovative iN-Command smart RV control system and Climate Guard all-season protection make the Cougar an obvious choice for full-time or extended-stay camping. The SolarFlex solar energy system comes standard as a SolarFlex 200, but you can upgrade this system to a SolarFlex 400i or SolarFlex 600i-L to suit your needs. Some new features of the Cougar include a 16-cubic-foot, 12-volt refrigerator, an on-demand water heater and the new exterior graphics package.
Keystone RV Passport travel trailer
The Keystone RV Passport travel trailer has developed a reputation as a lightweight travel trailer that truly delivers the total package. More functionality, more standard features and seemingly endless interior and exterior storage with every floorplan, keeps the Passport at the front of the pack. Now celebrating it’s 15-year anniversary, the Passport has been campers’ top choice for over a decade.
The Passport is known as the Swiss army knife of RVs for the multi-functional features and best-in-class storage, to help make your camping trip memorable. Even though they are smaller in size, they still offer all of the features campers love, like rear cargo doors and flip-up bunks. Another multi-functional feature is the Murphy bed on some models, which reveals a sofa when not in use. The Pivot furniture, exclusively from Keystone, features a levered dinette seat back that shifts to create an expansive L-shaped sofa to seat the whole family.
Keystone RV Springdale travel trailer
No matter how you define family, Keystone RV Springdale travel trailer’s affordable travel trailers have a model for you. Springdale travel trailer bunkhouses are available in every configuration imaginable. Owners will find extra storage in unexpected places and effortless camping, thanks to power stabilizers, tongue jacks and awnings, as well as unique features like a full solar power package and larger campsite windows.
Each Springdale is built using a floorplan-specific I-beam frame with full width outriggers, maximum 16-inch O.C. wood sidewall construction and Dexter E-Z Lube axles. The Keystone Exclusives provide color-coded unified wiring, Tuf-Lok thermoplastic duct joiners, in-floor heating ducts and 4G LTE and Wi-Fi prep. Models range from tiny to large for weekend warriors, bunkhouse models for families and friends, non-slide and slide floorplans, plus destination trailers giving you a glass patio door and a place to return to time and time again.
Prime Time RV Avenger travel trailer
The Avenger travel trailers by Prime Time RV were created to maximum customer satisfaction and enjoyment with innovative construction and best-in-class features and design elements. These double-axle trailers offer couples’ floorplans and family-friendly bunk models.
Each Avenger is built on a powder coated l-beam frame and includes an enclosed underbelly to protect against debris and control the inside climate. The Avenger also features safety chain hooks on the A-frame, a one-piece TPO roof membrane and an aluminum exterior skin making the travel trailer lightweight. The interior offers premium cabinetry, LED interior lighting, seamless Carefree Congoleum flooring for durability and more.
Is a travel trailer worth it?
There are many different types of trailers to suit a variety of needs — from tiny teardrops with galley kitchens in the rear to massive 39-foot trailers that can sleep up to 10 people. With a huge selection of floorplans and models, the travel trailer is a great option for your first RV; whether you’re a family of six or a solo traveler.
Owning an RV can lead to significant savings compared to the costs of a typical vacation with flights, rental cars, accommodations and meals. However, travel trailers, like any RV, also come with long-term maintenance costs, storage fees and other expenses to consider.
Finally, choosing the right RV comes down to meeting all of your needs, including price points. General RV’s towable experts can answer all your questions and provide recommendations based on your unique needs. Visit your local General RV dealer to explore our huge selection of travel trailers for yourself. We have thousands of travel trailers in stock, including all the best brands from top manufacturers. After you’ve found the perfect RV, we’ll provide a personalized orientation to get you on the road with confidence.