Author Topic: Road trip Vehicle and Small Camping Trailer  (Read 4709 times)

mchap

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Road trip Vehicle and Small Camping Trailer
« on: September 27, 2013, 10:49:25 AM »
I'm hoping to get advice on buying another vehicle for summer road trips and to tow a small camping trailer, like a Scamp. My husband is a teacher and I stay home with my 2 year old son. We want to be able to travel around for the entire summer, and bring out bikes along. We've done so for the last couple years with our Subaru Legacy and a rooftop box. It's definitely a cost effective strategy, because we get 32 mpg etc. We're so tired of packing the vehicle though and we end up stay in hotels more out of laziness. I'm usually really frugal about buying cars, and this would definitely be a luxury purchase and hoping to get advice on whether this is a bad idea. Here's specifically what we were thinking. A $5k-ish used Astro van with 65k miles and a $6k Scamp trailer used off of craigslist. We share a house with my parents and plan to do so indefinitely, so we definitely have the cash on hand. Thanks!

unpolloloco

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Re: Road trip Vehicle and Small Camping Trailer
« Reply #1 on: September 27, 2013, 11:34:44 AM »
According to this: http://auto.howstuffworks.com/auto-parts/towing/towing-capacity/vehicle/towing-capacity-chart34.htm, the legacy has pretty decent towing capacity.  Verify this, but you might be able to tow the scamp trailer with it?

lackofstache

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Re: Road trip Vehicle and Small Camping Trailer
« Reply #2 on: September 27, 2013, 12:35:31 PM »
I'd pull the trailer w/ the Legacy and keep the $5K.

Mr.Macinstache

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Re: Road trip Vehicle and Small Camping Trailer
« Reply #3 on: September 27, 2013, 12:59:52 PM »
We share a house with my parents and plan to do so indefinitely, so we definitely have the cash on hand. Thanks!

I think that if the purchase relies on this statement, I wouldn't make it. Things can change..not saying they will, but....

mchap

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Re: Road trip Vehicle and Small Camping Trailer
« Reply #4 on: September 27, 2013, 04:26:53 PM »
My Legacy is a 2011 and Subaru says it doesn't recommend towing. I know the old ones could tow quite a bit, something like 2,500 lbs. Even 2,500 isn't that much though. Once the car is loaded down with bikes and other stuff and the trailer weighs 2,000 lbs, even the old ones are borderline.

mchap

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Re: Road trip Vehicle and Small Camping Trailer
« Reply #5 on: September 27, 2013, 04:32:47 PM »
Mr.Macinstache, I get what you're saying. I realize that the whole lives with parents thing sounds weird. We actually all really like it. I know, hard to believe. It's good for all of us financially, because we share expenses. It allows my mom to save a ton of her income for retirement, which will be soon and me to stay home with my son.

brewer12345

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Re: Road trip Vehicle and Small Camping Trailer
« Reply #6 on: September 27, 2013, 04:36:27 PM »
It depends on where you will be towing.  5 years ago we bought a small travel trailer with a max gross weight rating of 3500 pounds loaded, which I think is pretty similar to a Scamp.  In NJ where we were rarely much above sea level and things were pretty flat, our 2005 Honda Odyssey was able to do the job with a weight distributing hitch.  The max weight was right at the towing limit of the van, and we were careful to load lightly.  Once we moved to CO, it became clear immediately that the van was wholly inadequate for towing the trailer.  We ended up buying an F150 and its amazing how much easier it is to tow the trailer even without climbing hills.

If you are going to do this, I would be looking for a vehicle with at least 5,000 pounds of towing capacity and preferably rear wheel drive.  A used pickup or something with a truck frame would be real helpful.

The other way to skin this cat would be to change your choice of camper.  How about a pop-up or (what I would do) an A-liner?

mchap

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Re: Road trip Vehicle and Small Camping Trailer
« Reply #7 on: September 27, 2013, 04:48:56 PM »
Thanks for the responses so far. Brewer12345, I've been looking on craigslist for Aliners and Chalet trailers too. They weigh just as much as the Scamp but they are more aerodynamic. Do you think it would make that big of a difference? Still, I can't tow either with my Subaru. We were all over Colorado this summer and I just don't think it will be up to the job. That's why I was thinking Astro van. Truck frame and 5,500 lb towing capacity. King Country transit in Seattle has many for sale at the moment that were used for vanpools. I'm not sure if that's a good idea or not? They were on a regular maintenance program, but who knows how they were driven.

brewer12345

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Re: Road trip Vehicle and Small Camping Trailer
« Reply #8 on: September 27, 2013, 05:00:05 PM »
I don't know much about Astros, so no idea about their reliability track record.  A truck frame is definitely a plus.  Pay attention to wheelbase as well.  The longer the wheelbase, all else equal, the better the vehicle is for towing.  I kind of thought the Astros had a shortish wheelbase, but if they are at least equal to a modern minivan you should be OK.  Unfortunately weight of the tow vehicle matters as well (heavier is better).

I have not towed low profile stuff myself, so I cannot comment based on experience.  That said, I can tell you for sure that the wind resistance of the trailer is a major source of drag and required towing power for us.  When we come out of the rockies, I hardly need to hit the brakes on the way down because of the giant wind brake I am towing behind me.

feelingroovy

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Re: Road trip Vehicle and Small Camping Trailer
« Reply #9 on: September 27, 2013, 05:59:27 PM »
Hi Mchap,

I don't have any advice, just that we've been considering something similar.

I'm self-employed with a flexible business--I can work anywhere--and my husband just joined me at the business, so we can now take it on the road for 6-8 weeks next summer.

We have two kids, 9 and 12, and were considering a camper van that sleeps 4.  There is one for sale at a dealer nearby for 15k.  We have the cash, but we're sitting on the decision for a while to research options. We thought about a van/scamp combo as well.  The thing I like about the van option is the ability to do weekends in cities, as we live within 4-6 hours of a handful of great northeast cities, and we don't go as much as I'd like. 

It occurred to me that a major road trip would be much cheaper in our Prius (our current only car) and do a combination of tents, state park cabins, and Airbnb.  For the past 5-6 years, we've done 1-2 weeks in  state park cabins in various states, which generally costs around $300/week for a one-room rustic cabin.  We love it. But then we lose the easy weekend trip option.

I just wonder though if all the packing/unpacking would get old fast, especially b/c I will have to do *some* work along the way.  It may also limit where we could go.  But the idea of getting under 20 mpg just makes me ill.

I'd love to do this while the kids are still at home. We never did anything like it when I was a kid, and I've always dreamed of it since a college friend mentioned his family did.  But then the practical/frugal part of me says the whole thing is impractical and we should put the $ in the college fund. 

I realize travel with a toddler is very different, but I'd love to hear your experience with the car option.

mchap

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Re: Road trip Vehicle and Small Camping Trailer
« Reply #10 on: September 27, 2013, 06:39:45 PM »
Hey feelinggroovy,

I've considered the camper van idea too, for just that reason. It's way easier to park it in the city. I'm leaning towards the trailer idea because then we don't have to pack up our camp every time we go somewhere. It seems like it would be nice to just jump in the van and take it to a trailhead to go hiking or run to a grocery store, without having to pack everything up.

We've done tons of long road trips with either the Legacy or an old VW Jetta. I didn't used to mind packing so much, but it has gotten harder with my son. It seems like putting a puzzle together every time you pack up. When we were in Colorado a lot of very rainy days. The tent and everything else was wet. It's no big deal when you are just on a weekend camping trip, you just go home and dry everything out. It's not as easy when you're on the road. By the end of the seven week trip, we were exhausted and came home two week earlier than we needed to. There was more we would have like to have done, but we were just tired.

We've done the airbnb thing too, but that has it's own headaches and it hasn't really caught on everywhere yet.

I feel the same way as you sometimes. This money could go into my son's college fund. At the same time, it doesn't seem healthy for all of us to sit around the house all summer, which we are more likely to do without a new vehicle. During the school year we fall into a happy routine, but the summer doesn't work out that way.