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Old 09-03-2013, 10:10 PM   #1
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Motorhome vs. Trailer

I'm sure this topic has been discussed around here somewhere, but I'm going to throw it out there for y'all to consider. Once I finish a project, and the initial excitement over that particular thing starts to fade, my mind tends to move on to other related things. So now I'm once again pondering why it is that I have a self-propelled RV/bus as opposed to an RV trailer type thing that can be pulled behind a truck or van. At one time I know I listed out the advantages and disadvantages of each, and made the decision to get a bus, but now that I've been down the bus route for a while, I'm reconsidering the decision. Not that I regret my choice, but I just like to look at things from all angles, and re-evaluate periodically. That's just how I roll. I've always liked cars and vans and worked on them and modified them to the extent of my abilities, and I've really not had much experience towing trailers. So I think that was a significant factor in my decision to get a bus. As I see it, the bus has several advantages: Self-contained, cool to drive around IN your house rather than pull your house behind you, people have more space to spread out while travelling, more people can be hauled, the vehicle itself is multi-functional. I can load a 4x8 sheet of plywood into my bus, or long items such as a pvc pipe, gutters, etc.). So there's all that... and I'm sure more on the positive side...

But then, a bus is more expensive to maintain than a pickup truck, and if it breaks down on the road, more expensive to deal with in that situation as well. There are certain repairs and breakdown situations that I could handle with a pickup/van, but not with the bus (a flat tire, for instance). An RV trailer would be far less expensive to maintain, even though I would have to maintain the vehicle I pull it with... but still that overall package would likely be cheaper to maintain than a bus. And of course an RV trailer has the advantage of being easily removable from the towing vehicle, so you can park it and then go exploring or take care of local business and whatnot in your towing vehicle. A pickup/van also is more useful day to day in terms of getting you around or being a backup vehicle in case your car breaks down and you have to get to work, etc.

For the time being, I'm not necessarily considering making any change, but I do like to shake things up, so now that my bus has reached a sort of state of equilibrium, and I have experienced what it is like to own a bus for a few years, I feel a need to push beyond to see if there is another direction I should consider.

I think the main disadvantages I've noticed after having been a bus conversion owner for a few years now are as follows:
1. I feel somewhat dis-empowered mechanically with the bus, as opposed to my pickup truck.
2. Repairs are much more costly, and items like tires will also be more costly, and are an impending need.
3. I'm having to pay extra insurance, registration, maintenance, etc., for a vehicle I don't use that often.
4. The bus is pretty cantankerous to drive. The transmission shifts abruptly, the steering feels loose and makes groaning noises sometimes (these may well be a problems with my particular bus), the ride is rough, I mean, its a friggin' big rig, ya know? I have no basis of comparison though, to what it would be like to pull an RV trailer behind a pickup truck as opposed to driving a bus.

So there you have it folks! Perhaps I toy with blasphemy on this forum, by introducing such a topic. Yeah well, I think everyone should do what is best for them, and so I put this thread forward for people to consider and comment upon. Perhaps one day someone will stumble across this thread and realize that really a trailer is a better option for them. Perhaps on the flip side, this thread may help someone decide that a bus conversion is definitely the right path for them.

Have at it folks, it's all in good fun!
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Old 09-04-2013, 01:51 AM   #2
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Re: Motorhome vs. Trailer

Dan, you make good points.

One thing is for sure, though. NO trailer will be as cool as the interior of the bus interior that you hand crafted. Nevertheless, you can do a lot with paint to spice up the usually drab interiors of trailers.

One thing to note is that trailers are better insulated than buses.

But then, they are cheaply made also. if they tip over, they are destroyed.
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Old 09-04-2013, 09:02 AM   #3
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Re: Motorhome vs. Trailer

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Originally Posted by Diesel Dan
3. I'm having to pay extra insurance, registration, maintenance, etc., for a vehicle I don't use that often.
4. The bus is pretty cantankerous to drive. The transmission shifts abruptly, the steering feels loose and makes groaning noises sometimes (these may well be a problems with my particular bus), the ride is rough, I mean, its a friggin' big rig, ya know? I have no basis of comparison though, to what it would be like to pull an RV trailer behind a pickup truck as opposed to driving a bus.

Have at it folks, it's all in good fun!
3) For me it will be different, it will be my home, so the cost will be less.

4) My bus is fun to drive. It shifts smoothly, with the rear engine has a nice ride. My steering is tight and driving something this big down the road makes me feel powerful.



Of course I will feel more powerful when my roof is back together.

For me the idea of having to hook up and un-hook a trailer as opposed to just pulling in and hooking up a bus, seemed harder. I will have my motorcycle on the back to go on short trips.

On trips it is nice to pull over and use the bathroom, take a nap and get back on the road again without leaving the camper in a snow storm. This happened to me last Christmas.
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Old 09-04-2013, 09:31 AM   #4
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Re: Motorhome vs. Trailer

if you notice most pictures of my bus have a 20' bumper pull in them...years ago the tow vehicle died and it has pretty much sat as an outdoor place for guest's

I was tired of being almost over wt when loaded and then having to bring two vehicles(one for camper and the other one pulled a trailer with a rig on it...so we went back to tent camping when wheeling

Now I have a bus(big camper/pickup combo and will be able to tow something for casual driving or playing the future

plus everything in my build can be picked up at any store coast to coast, even used if in a jam

it is def. built heavier duty, and has thicker heavier tires(sure they are $$ but having to replace every 7/10 years isn't too bad-due to date coding not wearing out)

and it's a Skoolie....so cool to be a Skoolie owner S&S are everywhere and all look the same tan with swirls
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Old 09-04-2013, 09:36 AM   #5
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Re: Motorhome vs. Trailer

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Originally Posted by bansil
S&S are everywhere and all look the same tan with swirls
Oh man, I forgot to paint the swirls on my bus.
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Old 09-04-2013, 09:40 AM   #6
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Re: Motorhome vs. Trailer

Yes, the interior of any pre-fab RV is going to be... well... not to my taste. And yes, of course they are flimsily made, which would pose a safety hazard during, say, a storm. I think if I were to go the trailer route, I would be inclined to find an old gutted Airstream and do a remodel in much the same way I built out my bus. Although I've not dealt much with trailers, I do have a growing fascination with the potential of what can be pulled on a trailer chassis. This morning I woke up brainstorming how cool it would be to have a mobile utility center built into a trailer, with solar panels, batteries, generator, waste veggie oil fuel processing, water storage & purification, a small shop, garage for bikes or storage, etc. I wonder if there is some sort of trailer building/remodeling forum I can go lurk on...
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Old 09-04-2013, 10:11 AM   #7
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Re: Motorhome vs. Trailer

there are several....now you do realize the next step is a class 8 HDT to tow it with right?
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Old 09-04-2013, 10:20 AM   #8
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Re: Motorhome vs. Trailer

I see this come up over on pirate 4x4 all over and over again.

Tires, breaks, and weight.



With a bus, you are running on real rubber, well within your load rating. Travel trailers are almost always running at their limit, or way over it. Tires wear out way to fast, and are expensive to replace. example, 6 tires at $150 each = $900 for just the trailer. The truck your towing with will also need rubber every 50 to 70,000km. So there is another $1320. Now we are at $2220 for tires every 50 to 70,000km.

Bus tires are tough, common, and last. You will get 150 to 200,000km out of a set of 22.5 in rubber. Good recaps can be found all day long for under $500 a tire. So $500 times 6 tires = $2500 Bus is cheaper in the long run on tires.

Now lets talk breaks for stopping. A school bus is a 3 or 5 ton truck chassis. They have BIG breaks. If you make the mistake of standing on the break peddle, you stop... fast. Try that with a one ton truck towing a trailer with pathetic electric breaks. The trailer will push your truck all over the place, Lock up tires, ect. On iced roads the trailer will kill you.

Now lets talk weight. Travel trailers are quite often heavier than the truck. That sets you up for vary poor handling, stopping, ect. The bus has all the weight in the right place, over the big 22.5 in tires that hide the big breaks. They also have a much better center of gravity. So if you decide to tow with your bus, you out weigh what your towing by 2, or 3 times. That equals safe towing.

Nat
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Old 09-04-2013, 10:26 AM   #9
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Re: Motorhome vs. Trailer

Nice write up Nat! I qouted you over on my web site.
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Old 09-04-2013, 10:50 AM   #10
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Re: Motorhome vs. Trailer

Your welcome. Glad I could help.

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Old 09-04-2013, 11:08 AM   #11
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Re: Motorhome vs. Trailer

Quote:
Originally Posted by bansil
there are several....now you do realize the next step is a class 8 HDT to tow it with right?
D'oh! My wife isn't gonna be happy about that!
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Old 09-04-2013, 11:44 AM   #12
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Re: Motorhome vs. Trailer

Been there, done that! I had a 6000#, 28', dual axle, electric braked Terry trailer. Thats 6000#s empty. My little Suburban 350 groaned everytime we started out and my eyes got BIG every time we tried to stop. No amount of extension on the rear view mirrors could cure the blind spots and the overhang behind the rear wheels made making tight turns giong through a city a nightmare. I had to store the thing at a local mobile home park as it could not be kept at a residence in the city. The storage was near the beach and within a year the thin-as-humming bird skin- aluminum roof began to leak where the salt ate it up.

I'd have to say that the only other toy I've had that was as much a PITA as that trailer would have to be my sail boat which is, as we all know, a hole in the water into which one must pour money

All that having been said, my bus is very small, has cost way more than the trailer and needs to have air let out of the tires to get it in and out of the garage each time I move it.

I think I'll start a thread on the advantages of staying in a hotel------
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Old 09-04-2013, 12:38 PM   #13
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Re: Motorhome vs. Trailer

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I think I'll start a thread on the advantages of staying in a hotel------
I don't know, I have been told it takes awhile to get them up to speed and you need two states to stop it.
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Old 09-04-2013, 01:49 PM   #14
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Re: Motorhome vs. Trailer

Ah shucks--I thought I had it figured out
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Old 09-04-2013, 05:27 PM   #15
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Re: Motorhome vs. Trailer

I thought long and hard about building a trailer vs building a bus (ie, buy an enclosed car hauler etc to convert vs buy a bus to convert). One of the biggest reasons we picked the bus route is the convenience and comfort of having the "facilities" (toilet, fridge, running water) available while driving, plus the ability to get up and stretch and move while going to use said facilities. That has already proven to make travel with my young family much more pleasant. If not for this factor, I'd probably have picked to build in a 20-30 ft enclosed trailer instead.
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Old 09-04-2013, 07:52 PM   #16
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Re: Motorhome vs. Trailer

My thought is a bus and toad are a better pair for unhooking and exploring the neighborhood than a TT with Dually/MDT/HDT propulsion.

But the best reason I have heard for being self-contained concerns those who Wallydock while enroute from Point A to Point B. If the location of one's evening rest stop isn't in the most genteel of neighborhoods, and a group of nearby inhabitants with questionable motives start to assemble in the area of your home for the night, you can hit the key and go without the requirement to exit and possibly exchange "pleasantries" with the locals while en route to your tow vehicle.
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Old 09-08-2013, 09:35 AM   #17
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Re: Motorhome vs. Trailer

DD

Over the time I have been on this site I have enjoyed your post/build/comment. Thank you for those and yes maybe Im a little bias but your also a fellow Texan.

Ill chip away at your questions but I cant say 100% as my bus is not finished and I have made some of the trips you have had. I am 43 years old and come from VERY modest means (kind way of saying we were poor) but remember some of the trips I took as a child. Yes they are engrained in my head forever some good some bad. I have always enjoyed working on cars all of my life. I am self taught so I have learned from the school of hard knocks. Expert fabber..... NO. But I enjoy a good challenge so to me my bus (be it long and VERY slow) is a perfect outlet to practice that craft.

On to your questions:

I think self contained device is the only way to do it. I first started with the thought of getting a TT and hauling it so when I got in to a job doing medium I over bought the truck (3500 dually) I needed
to pull such a unit. So after financing 35k there was a HUGE dollar investment. After not being able to find a half way decent TT to remodel and make it as I wanted and not being able to afford a new trailer I found a school bus and thought.... why not. So I bought it for 1300. I know you know about the construction of TT. I am glad I went the bus route. The notes you make about a bus are all right on in my opinion. The problem with truck/TT deal... your lucky to get people in there. Ever take a REALLY long road trip (visions of National Lampoons Vacation roll through my head) a smaller truck? Its a beating. More so with younger kids as I have. As stated above you start to do the math as I started (35k for truck and lets say 10k for trailer) I think for 45k you can go a long ways on a bus. Also that truck still needs just as much work to keep them up as a big bus? Only bad thing is if that is your daily driver and needs a major repair... well your really screwed unless your very well off and have a fleet of vehicles to choose from? So again I think its advantage bus here.

Mechanical things break. Its just a part of life. There is never a good time for a repair van/truck or bus. I do agree you and unhook and go about where ever you are and go get things and it will be tons easier than a bus. This is where I have no practical experience when it comes to the bus but I have thought about this and I feel if we take a longer trip somewhere to just call a car rental company and rent a car for the day to move around (if needed) than to tow one thousands of miles. I think 20-30 bucks a day would be way easier.

I am very much like you like to shake things up and look at them from different angles.

As for your disadvantages
1) you have to choose your battles wisely. Becoming a medium truck mechanic is not on my list. Yes it would be good to not have those repair bills but all the time you spend being the truck mechanic means less time with family/friends/etc.
2) the cost of those items are proportional to the smaller counter parts. Tires are a part of ownership be it large truck or smaller truck. Knowing what I know about truck tires I would go to a truck stop and see what they have used. I think what you pay for a new set of tires versus how we use the bus is not worth the investment.
3) Those same very cost (insurance, registration, maintenance, etc) are also for trailers. There is no easy way out
4) I personally have no experience in this area. I am not liking what you are saying here but it comes with the territory. As for the shift... sounds like early tranny trouble to me but not riding in your bus its hard to say. One of the things I am looking forward to (ruff ride and all) is having people being able to walk around while moving down the road. You cant do that in a suburban or dually? Not sure if your aware but I talked to a DPS trooper but it is illegal in Texas for people to ride in a bumper pull trailer. He said a 5th wheel is ok but I don't think I would feel safe with people being in my trailer in a truck trailer application.


Very good post. I will be following this.
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Old 09-11-2013, 01:52 PM   #18
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Re: Motorhome vs. Trailer

Thanks to everyone for your replies! This has been very interesting reading, and has given me more to think about than I had previously considered.
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Old 09-15-2013, 05:22 PM   #19
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Re: Motorhome vs. Trailer

Let us know how and what you do. I truly believe that you have some very good ideas and those work well when you share them
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Old 10-13-2013, 07:41 PM   #20
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Re: Motorhome vs. Trailer

I even looked into a semi truck and furniture trailer (low to the ground and more interior height) but one thing I couldn't get around.....how many people can you put in the cab of a truck? Bathroom stops? Meals? After hauling HD's on an open trailer I wasn't gonna do that again, even an enclosed trailer is an exercise in trust in what you will find when you open up the back. A bus is the only way to go. Sportyrick
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