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Old 11-04-2013, 08:57 AM   #1
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To tow or not to tow...

To tow or not to tow, that is the question.

Hi all, on-and-off lurker, first-time poster.

We had a 21.5-foot Born Free class c motorhome for 7+ years while the kids were growing up and had lots of fun -- 72k miles and 243 overnights. Both my wife and I were comfortable driving and parking it and we split the driving pretty equally.

We're getting the traveling itch again now that we're empty nesters. We could do another small motorhome, but a tow vehicle and small trailer seems more reliable and economical. But the wife (a good driver) is hesitant about driving with the longer length of a trailer, and she doesn't know whether this is just unfamiliarity or a permanent preference.

Is there a way for both of us to try towing, perhaps paying for a half-day class? We don't have any friends with trailers and even if we did, it seems over-the-top to ask to use someone's pride and joy. Perhaps renting a U-haul trailer, except we don't currently have a good tow vehicle.

Is a rear camera on the trailer a useful supplement to rear-view mirrors for changing lanes? I test drove a class b with a rear camera, and judging distances wasn't great, but it was easy to see whether I had room to change lanes.

We used a spotter with a FRS radio for difficult parking with the motorhome, and that worked pretty well.

Suggestions welcome, either ways to try-before-buying or techniques/technology that make trailering easier.

FWIW, we're considering a 19' escape, perhaps pulled by a highlander. We like the size of the 15' and 17' escapes, but I'm too tall for them.

Bill
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Old 11-04-2013, 09:16 AM   #2
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While a trailer does require developing backing skills, almost everyone manages with practice. I don't think you will find much difference with the longer length. If you do rent a Uhaul to see what it is like, be sure to get one the same length of your planned trailer - the length will make a difference when backing.

As to a rear view camera, I find mine useful for backing in gas stations (rare) and checking tailgaters driving inside my rear view mirrors.
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Old 11-04-2013, 10:15 AM   #3
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There are two different skill sets to learn while towing. One is the driving forward part, which consists partly of allowing for the extra length when changing lanes, realizing the trailer cuts the corner more sharply, remembering to look for really long parking spaces, etc

The other skill set is driving in reverse. One way to think of that is...only one of you has to master that skill initially, if you typically travel together. It is a skill that different drivers pick up at varying rates. but most eventually acquire some degree of proficiency.
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Old 11-04-2013, 10:43 AM   #4
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Busyb - welcome to the Forum. We owned a Winnebago Rialta and really enjoyed driving it. But the necessity of maintaining one more motor vehicle pushed us toward small trailers. With our current setup - Tacoma, 17B and WDH (weight distributing hitch) I am constantly amazed at the ease of driving the setup. The tow and trailer move smoothly together and we have never experienced even a hint of sway. As Jon and Leonard mentioned above you do have to get used to allowing extra space for most everything mentioned plus stopping and accelerating into traffic.

Every time I back into a space for the first time after not doing it for awhile, I have to mentally remind myself of the tricks I've learned, but then it gets easier and easier with practice.
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Old 11-04-2013, 04:11 PM   #5
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A tug plus trailer is longer than a motorhome of the same interior space, but long vehicles are not really a problem to manage on the road, in my opinion. A Highlander plus Escape 19 would be 35 feet long... two feet shorter than my motorhome, eight feet shorter than many motorhomes, and much shorter than many tug/ trailer combinations handed without difficulty by ordinary drivers.

On the other hand, I wouldn't want anyone to be forced to exceed their limits, so the test-tow idea sounds great to me. Both a travel trailer and a tow vehicle for it can be rented together from a few (very few) businesses, but an ordinary van or pickup truck and a cargo trailer the size of an Escape 15' can be rented from U-Haul in any city.

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Is a rear camera on the trailer a useful supplement to rear-view mirrors for changing lanes? I test drove a class b with a rear camera, and judging distances wasn't great, but it was easy to see whether I had room to change lanes.
I have not towed with a backup camera, but I have on on our long motorhome. It looks down more than back, so it is limited in usefulness for lane changes, but I do find that in heavy traffic it is handy to confirm that I am safely past the vehicle which I can see in my mirrors - I would expect it to be similarly useful with a trailer.
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Old 11-04-2013, 04:15 PM   #6
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We have not used our trailer recently (we're currently using our motorhome) but I rented a U-Haul trailer to move some stuff recently, and the experience reminded me how well the van drives (rides, handles, performs) even with a trailer attached. The big motorhome is not as quiet, as smooth, or as easy to drive... although it is easier to back up.
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Old 11-04-2013, 05:50 PM   #7
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Welcome, busyb!

The towing is no big deal. The backing up is a pain in the you know what. If we have any degree of proficiency by now, it's one degree. The few classes available tend to be geared toward managing big motorhomes.

My answer is to look for pull-throughs. Short of that, you just have to put up with it. Try finding a space to your left so that you can look in the driver's side mirror while backing to see where the trailer is going. Get out and go to the back as much as need be to look. If you want the back of the trailer to go left, turn the wheel to the right. People tend to turn the wheel too much. That's my one degree.

You can do it, just takes time to get into a space. Look for any trees, posts or the like in the way when picking the space.
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Old 11-04-2013, 06:14 PM   #8
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The best advice I ever received on backing is to grasp the steering wheel at the bottom with your palm facing up.
When your assistant points to the left ( indicating the trailer needs to go to the left ), you move your hand to the left. Assistant points right, you move your hand to the right.
It eliminates all the confusion.
And, remember to keep an eye on your front fenders, not just on your mirrors. As the trailer moves left, your front fenders are moving right. You don't want to crunch a fender on a tree or rock.
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Old 11-04-2013, 07:09 PM   #9
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Thanks for all the replies and suggestions. More are welcome.

Perhaps living the Boston area has warped our thinking -- not a lot of long spaces between cars.

My wife took to driving a small motorhome like a duck to water, and having two drivers enabled us to cover long distances. If we switch to a trailer, I'm good with handling most of the backing, but I really don't want to become the primary driver.

Bill
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Old 11-04-2013, 08:38 PM   #10
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busyb: I'm also a first time poster but full time lurker. We'll be in the market for a used 17B in the spring. Hope some of you folks quit thinking about it, pull out your wallets and move up to a 19 or 21. You know you want it

With regards to backing up, I've never tried a front hitch but I think it would be an ideal fall back position if you find the backing up too much of pain. It might even be easier than backing up a motor home.
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Old 11-04-2013, 08:56 PM   #11
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I don't understand the front hitch concept. Seems to me that your view is blocked by the expanse of the front of the trailer. How do you see around it? At least the mirrors are off to the side and the trailer further back so you can see more than the rock guard while backing.
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Old 11-04-2013, 09:04 PM   #12
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Huh. Didn't think about that. I guess it would work for a low utility trailer---or if you had a camera installed on the back of the trailer.
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Old 11-04-2013, 09:06 PM   #13
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Probably works for launching a boat ( but not a houseboat ).
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Old 11-04-2013, 09:17 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by busyb View Post
] If we switch to a trailer, I'm good with handling most of the backing, but I really don't want to become the primary driver.
Until recently I did all the driving. In the last year I have had the wife drive a lot more. I have worked with her a bit backing up too, and she is sorta getting the hang of it, though it is MUCH easier for me to just jump in a get it done lickety split.
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I don't understand the front hitch concept. Seems to me that your view is blocked by the expanse of the front of the trailer. How do you see around it? At least the mirrors are off to the side and the trailer further back so you can see more than the rock guard while backing.
The advantage is better control, as you have the steering wheels closer to the trailer axle. But your sight lines would most definitely be worse, not being able to see around the trailer with your mirrors. Something I definitely would not want to do.

This trailer reversing has been discussed many times before. Once you have done it lots, it just becomes second nature. I am not a fan of some of these tricks people use, I would rather they just learn to do it naturally, without having to think about them.
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Old 11-04-2013, 09:56 PM   #15
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Bah... I'm single and totally responsible for the hitchin' and drivin' and the parkin'. No one is born with THAT gene. The absolute worst backing up and parking I've ever seen was NOT done by a female. Get over it. All of us need to learn and we learn at our own pace and with our own best ideas. The parking situation I have at home requires me to back in the trailer at an angle, slightly uphill and through a driveway gate. Haven't smacked anything yet. I go slow, slow, slow and if need be... get out and look. If it takes me 10 minutes or an hour... so what? I'll get it done and am proud when it's finally done. YMMV
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Old 11-04-2013, 10:15 PM   #16
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Bah... I'm single and totally responsible for the hitchin' and drivin' and the parkin'. No one is born with THAT gene.
I removed that offending part of my post. 'twas just me being a bit proud of my son was all, but wasn't on topic.
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Old 11-04-2013, 10:35 PM   #17
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Be loud and proud! Nothing wrong with what you posted Jim, honestly. I just take exception when someone posted about a female or spouse or "wife," that's having problems. It's NOT about gender... truly.
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Old 11-05-2013, 02:45 AM   #18
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I don't understand the front hitch concept. Seems to me that your view is blocked by the expanse of the front of the trailer. How do you see around it?
Good point, as usual.

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Probably works for launching a boat ( but not a houseboat ).
That makes sense, but I've never heard of anyone doing it. Boat launches don't seem like very challenging reversing scenarios compared to campsites and storage locations, and most people would rather dunk the rear than the front of their tug. Most times I've heard of front hitches being used to handle a trailer, it has been for tight manoeuvering into a parking location.
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Old 11-05-2013, 07:27 AM   #19
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A lot of boat ramps are very slippery down by the water, and if you have a rear-wheel drive vehicle, it can be tough getting even a very small the boat in and out. The front hitch lets you keep your drive wheels on an area with better traction.
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Old 11-05-2013, 05:30 PM   #20
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A lot of boat ramps are very slippery down by the water, and if you have a rear-wheel drive vehicle, it can be tough getting even a very small the boat in and out. The front hitch lets you keep your drive wheels on an area with better traction.
Good point... I supposed I'm accustomed to people having four wheel drive in tow vehicles (or front wheel drive) like our van. Pickup trucks are all over the place here, but it seems hard to find one that's only two wheel drive.
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