Do motorhome owners really need a “toad”?

22

By Russ and Tiña De Maris
Many fulltime RVers hit the road with a travel trailer or fifth wheel. At day’s end they unhitch and have an “around town” vehicle ready for use. But for fulltimers who live in a motorhome, the decision has to be faced: Do we need a “toad” car to get around, or can we do without a car?

Some immediately ask: Why would anyone want to do without a toad car? There are some advantages of being “toadless.” If you’re fulltiming on a tight budget, the extra cost of car insurance, gas and maintenance can make a big difference. Costs aside, taking a tow vehicle with you means additional complications: Can you tow “four wheels down,” or do you need to put your car on a dolly, or invest in a specialized driveline disconnect system?

If you see yourself leaning toward going toadless but are concerned with getting around, what alternatives are there? Many RVers have found a motorcycle or motor scooter is just the ticket. If light enough, an inexpensive platform plugged into the motorhome’s hitch receiver can accommodate a two-wheeler.

If age and health aren’t issues, others find bicycling – even walking – can be both practical and health-promoting at the same time. If you camp close to public transportation, “doing the bus” can be an inexpensive alternative to car ownership. If you don’t need a toad often, there’s always the car rental option. Call Enterprise – they’ll possibly pick you up, even at the national park campground.

This RVer brings along a car plus bicycles.

Your particular RV lifestyle can have a lot to do with the answer to the question: “To toad, or not to toad.” RVers who say they get along well without a toad vehicle are generally those who are on the road a lot, not spending much time in any one place. They find they can pick up groceries and do the laundry “between stops.” RVers who tend to spend days or weeks at a time in one spot are the ones who most often note the need of a toad car.

Some say not having a toad isn’t a problem for them, even when sitting put in one place for a while. They report they can often catch a ride with another RVer in the campground. But here’s the “beware” side of that idea: Other RVers say that while they’re happy to help a fellow RVer out, after a while it can become a real strain, and “needful” RVers can develop a reputation of being a kind of “Freeloading Franklin.”

OTHER DRAWBACKS of not having a toad include limiting sightseeing. One RVer mentioned watching a couple in the campground take their motorhome out every day to visit attractions. By the end of the third day of sightseeing – and the associated disconnect, drive out, drive back, reconnect – the couple was noticeably cranky. We love “spoke and wheel” sightseeing: We find a camp we like, then use that as the center of our attraction visiting wheel, driving out along the various directional “spokes” to take in the sights. For us, not having an “around town” vehicle would severely crimp our lifestyle.

Not having a toad car can also create hassles for those who have schedules to keep. Maintaining the fulltime lifestyle may mean keeping a “real” job where times and places are dictated. Health issues where seeing the doctor is important could also dictate the need for a toad.

Like a lot of things in the RV life, it’s a matter of weighing all the factors and coming to the decision that’s right for you.

##RVT901


22 COMMENTS

  1. To toad or not to toad, seems like most other decisions in RV’ing, it is a personal decision. Only you know your budget and whether or not it can accommodate the additional costs of a toad. For me there is no other more convenient or long term affordable way to go. I have found myself in areas where there is no nearby rental agency or Uber outlet. I own a 45′ DP and when I visit NP’s, I may stay in BLM/NFS lands or a private park. I hop in my toad drive to the NP entrance, use my NP card to enter and enjoy all the park has to offer and at the end of the day go “home” to my rig and enjoy a peaceful end of the day. This works for me although it may not work for some one else…

  2. We carry a SmartCar convertible inside our 2018 Thor 29H Outlaw Class C, and the garage becomes our bedroom once unloaded. Did the same in our previous 2009 38′ Outlaw Class A. Works great for just us two cuz we’re retired. This setup won’t work if you have kids or a large pet to drive around.

  3. This may be a bit off topic but: We RV in a class B . I generally only hook up to electricity (we use our own water). Hookup take less than five minutes, and when we want to go into town, I just unplug, put the shore cord into the van and we’re ready to go. No fuss, no muss, and I can usually park the van wherever you can park a car.

  4. We have often thought that if campgrounds offered Zip cars that would be the perfect solution. We flat tow our Ford Edge behind our 38 ft Class A and the biggest concern is getting gas as we are loooong. We travel with our 10 year old Great Dane, so having a car big enough to transport her in an emergency is a must.

  5. My class A is nicknamed “Miss Piggy” and my “toad” is nicknamed “Kermit”, and I don’t go anywhere on a trip w/o both of them. Kermit is a Jeep wrangler Rubicon. Great for exploring, NP’s, restaurants and all other attractions. I understand the numbers, but I would not be without it. It comes down to personal choice and freedom. There are times when there is no uber or lyft option available. The same goes for rentals. Sometimes when a rental is available you got there late and you must take what is left. I know, I tried both ways and decided on buying a toad. No regrets.

  6. Recent article about the differences in cost and time spent traveling to and from an urban location when renting a vehicle versus using Uber/Lyft in Orlando Florida with 2 different correspondents going to the same locations at the same time to the same meeting location. One correspondent rented a vehicle to drive and the other used Uber/Lyft exclusively.

    End result was Uber/Lyft was about1/3 the cost of renting a vehicle going to the same locations and in every case was much quicker time wise to the same location. The renting correspondent had to deal with gas cost, parking cost, parking issues, tolls and other expenses that did not effect the Uber/Lyft correspondent in such a significant fashion. The renter also spend much more time getting to the meeting locations due to parking lot locations and other time wasters that the correspondent using Uber/Lyft did not experience.

    While this might be a great solution in Urban areas such as Orlando somehow I don’t think that Uber/Lyft thing will work very well in suburban Quartzite Arizona!

    Something to consider when in a Metropolitan area!

  7. I’m pretty sure the majority of MHs are dragging toweds so the question has already been answered. We tow one for the convenience of leaving the campground for lots of reasons. Shopping and sightseeing be the two big ones.

  8. We have a MH and for 10 yrs we were toadless, we called Enterprise and had them pick us up., worked great didn’t have to hook up a toad, we could drive a bit faster for long trips. After retiring we started to tow. I can see both sides of this.

  9. Ok, I get it, the expense of it all. But think of this, many of Motorhome owners are older people. And with age comes medical issues, having a toad makes those “potential emergencies” at least manageable by the other party traveling with you. You never know when an issue will pop up. Another reason is emergency evacuation from the campground, there might not be time to get the RV ready and get out, so keep a “get out of town” bag packed for all folks in the RV and put it in the floor of the closet so it can be grabbed and head for the toad, chances are it will collect dust, except that one time, you have to run. This is especially true if you boon dock in the back woods, and fire breaks out. Also, keep the vehicles full of fuel before you stop for that extended stay, it would be a mess, if you needed to fuel up your 100 gallon fuel tank in the motorhome and everyone around you is also trying to fuel up there rig at the same time. If you know you are going to be away from it all, treat the fuel in the Motorhome with the appropriate fuel treatment, it keeps water and bad things from getting into it and preventing you leaving. This is especially true for diesel powered rigs in the extreme heat or cold. I suggest you read the story of one persons experience as related on IRV2.com, who did not have a toad, and their vehicle broke down.

  10. There are so many ‘what ifs’ in life. It appears RVing has progressed the point of never ending ‘must haves’ as this could possibly happen, or this, or this. What happened to accepting that you are separating yourself from everything? I’m going camping and will manage no matter the situation – even those perceived as dangerous. Campers today worry about their mattress as if it has to be more than perfect and endlessly discuss the type of this/the type of that (I have this but I know there is a better one/way out there). Dare you admit you came to this campground to enjoy everything it offered (hiking, exploring, quiet). It appears everyone wants to be entertained. You must take the toad to find interesting things to do elsewhere as they get bored easily or have no intention of ‘enjoying the moment’, or they need to go buy that one item they want right now. You want the toad in case the ‘other’ vehicle breaks down. I am not talking about the long-term camper (weeks) but the camper who stays 3-4 nights. It appears you can’t sit still, you can’t appreciate what is right in front of you, you always need to have the next ‘best thing’, you fear being ‘disconnected’, you can’t cope with ‘quiet’, you can’t cope being alone for any length of time. etc. It appears camping as we knew it really is a thing of the past. Constant fears, the need to ‘never sit still’ the need to always be connected has created a nightmare for the pastime we once knew as camping.

    • “Camping” is when you put a pack on your back with your tent and food/water and everything else you need. Then you hike to your destination, set up, and enjoy the great outdoors. I enjoyed all that when I was in the Boy Scouts 35 years ago. I don’t camp anymore, I RV now!

      • This old eagle scout calls that back packing, a lot of troops car camp these days, RVing is luxury camping, I also do some low impact camping using a hammock that includes a rain fly and special bands to not hurt the trees. What ever type of camping you do, please practice Leave No Trace and Tread Lightly.

  11. Excellent article! We travel with a pair of 150cc Vespa scooters on the back of our short gas class A and no toad. Had to upgrade the hitch to a class 4 and get a custom designed rack. For us…it is an ideal solution and with storage cases and baskets we can do a whole weeks food shopping in one trip together. No worries about needing to back up in tight places or gas stations either…and of course, riding the scooters in national parks and new places is simply a blast. Rainy days aren’t much fun… but that’s about the only downside for us.
    AND yes..we do use Enterprise when we need to take a longer trip or hit the Freeways for some reason but they have good rates and it sure beats dragging one along with all the attendant expenses. Not for everyone…but it works for us!

  12. We actually have two toads! We started with a Jeep, and when that broke down badly we had to get something to get us around at our wintering spot so we bought a used 2007 Toyota Corolla. Unfortunately the Corolla is an automatic and not flat towable, so we initially drove that separately and towed the repaired (engine replaced) Jeep. Then after a Semi cut me off and slammed on his brakes causing me to stand on my brakes, which made the 5100 pound Jeep bend the frame of my RV where the 8000 pound hitch attached, we had to get a dolly and tow the car with the Jeep. After that trip the wife made me get rid of the Jeep. We towed the car around for a while with the dolly, and it was a pain when we pulled into an overnight spot with no pull thru’s. Finally I decided to try to get into RV delivery to make a little extra money on the side, and one of the requirements is a light weight flat towable car. Then I bought a 2012 Mini Cooper S Clubman with a manual from a salvage auction and rebuilt it. It is a dream to flat tow, and the only way I even know it’s back there is by looking in the rear camera. We left the Corolla and the tow dolly at our wintering spot in storage, and just use the Mini for now.

  13. I have wondered, has anyone considered renting a car when visiting a campground far away? It seems it would be easier on the tow vehicle as well as the towed vehicle.

    • we had no toad for the first 17-yrs of motor homing. sometimes we rented cars but it was a huge hassle. that was a primary reason why we decided to start towing back in 2003.

    • We rent a car when we travel a distance from home. We use Costco to rent from Enterprise. We have also used public transportation (bus). This works for us.

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