National park tour with kids. Tow or rent a car?!

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klutz121

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Jan 22, 2022
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Maine
Hi all -

We drove the 31 foot class C from Maine to Florida. It drove like a gem and we had some great stops on the way down. We made a point to plan grocery stops and such along the way and never had a problem not having a car as just Uber-ed occasionally when we didn’t want to completely unhook.

That said, I’ve been approved for my sabbatical, so we’re planning a three month RV national park tour with the kids! I love the idea of a tow vehicle (and I already happen to own a 2012 CRV), but it’s definitely a bit intimidating to think about towing it behind us all over the country.

Are we better off just planning our stops with the occasional rental car or Uber included? Or will a tow vehicle be crucial to our trip?

Thanks in advance for the advice!
 

JudyJB

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A lot of the National Parks have shuttles you can use once in the park. Examples are Grand Canyon, Yosemite, Zion, Bryce, and Glacier. In fact, Grand Canyon and Zion do not allow you to drive on the main scenic roads with a car, so you must use their shuttles. SHuttles reduce the need for large parking lots in scenic places, which is why they are becoming more popular. Yellowstone does not, but you can stay in West Yellowstone and rent a car there. I am a bit biased against towing because I have been on the road over 9 years and visited a lot of national parks without needing a tow vehicle. DOn't know the ages of your kids, but bikes are also rentable in many national parks.
 

Laura & Charles

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Could be anywhere. Originally from Ohio. Go Bucks!
Nothing to be intimidated of by pulling a toad. I really don’t know it’s back there. The coach would probably scoot up hills with a little more spring in her step without the toad, but I’ve always had it back there, so that’s not something I notice (and don’t care… I’m fine in the truck lanes).
We can hook the car up or cut it loose in under five minutes.
You ask if a toad is “crucial” and the answer is obviously ‘no’ as evidenced by JudyJB. But if you’re going to be in one location for very long, you’ll inevitably need a grocery run. A 31’ C doesn’t have a lot of storage and a family with kids will empty out the cupboards and fridge pretty darned quick. Once we’re set up in a place, I personally won’t pack up until time to move on to next place…breaking camp for a grocery run would be a hard ‘nope’ for me. And, if you have a mechanical issue, a toad lets you still explore and sightsee and find restaurants and such, while your rig is getting back to road-ready.
Sounds like you already know, 2012 CR-Vs are flat towable and, as toads go, are very light weight; so you’re already set for having a car that’ll work.
Whatever you decide, enjoy your sabbatical!
 

John From Detroit

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Davison Michigan
Installing base plate and tow lights on my Towed $500.
Rental of a car one weekend 300.
And that was one weekend (ok Memorial Day so long weekend, Includes insurance)

I would tow. .
 

HappyWanderer

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Installing base plate and tow lights on my Towed $500.
Rental of a car one weekend 300.
And that was one weekend (ok Memorial Day so long weekend, Includes insurance)

I would tow. .
Plus the cost of the base plate itself, tow bar and a braking system. That adds up to a whole lot more than 500 bucks.
 

Gary RV_Wizard

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West Palm Beach, FL
There is no reason to be intimidated by towing a car 4-down. Hook-up is a few simple steps and driving with it is a breeze - you literally won't know it's there. Whether you NEED to bring your own car is another matter. It surely is convenient to have your own vehicle available 24/7, and there are places where rentals or Ubers are simply not available. Most of the major NPs, though, have those services because there is a lot of tourist traffic to support those businesses. In between those NP stops, though, may be places that have none.
 

Kirk

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We towed a CR-V behind our 36' class A for nearly 12 years and towed a Ford Ranger behind the smaller class A before that. I understand the hesitance to start but I will assure you that you will very quickly adapt as the CR-V will actually be a bit narrower than your RV and it will always track inside of the tracks of the motorhome in turns as well as straight down the road. It rolls very easily and is an excellent towed vehicle. As others have suggested the main negative to this is the cost to set it up for towing. The needed towing equipment from Blue Ox will cost between $1200 and $1600. Roadmaster is another major supplier to the RV community and it will have similar prices. Adding a brake system to the CR-V will add nearly that much more. If you plan to buy the RV this time and then tow not only on the 3 month trip but on into the future, then I would strongly recommend it. We used the Blue Ox system and also had a Brake Buddy for the CR-V which is under $900 more and one of the less expensive brake systems. I do recommend that you use some type of braking on the CR-V or any vehicle that you may tow. One advantage to the Brake Buddy is the ease of moving it from one vehicle to another.

I would add that I really think that a family traveling for 3 continuous months will want a second vehicle to enable you to move about without the RV.
 

Isaac-1

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SW Louisiana
Do the math and see if it is worth it for where you are going. If you are a DIY'er and buy some components used it is possible to get a tow bar, base plate, braking system, and all the other bits (safety chains, tail light wiring, etc.) It is possible to setup a TOAD for around $2,000 - $2,500, if having the parts new and professionally installed expect $4,000 - $4,500. It is possible to find used fair to good condition tow bars out there for $200 vs $800+ new, just be aware for every good one out there on craigslist, facebook market, etc. there are probably 4-5 worn out ancient tow bars that should be on the way to the scrap yard.
 

DutchmenSport

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Anderson, Indiana
Just the pure economics of "it".... if you need to use it only once in a lifetime, renting is always the better way to go. However, if you use it over and over, you are loosing money over and over when you rent. Purchasing it right out will always be the cheaper way to go.

Set up the toad. It's yours that way, you can use it whenever you want it, and it's a one time investment that will pay for itself over and over and over again.
 

JudyJB

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Just for the record, I never "break camp" to run errands with my motorhome. The most I do is throw the hall rug in the shower, put kitchen stuff in the sink, put in both slides, unhook electric and water, and go. I leave the hoses and chairs and anything else right on my site--never had anything taken, but then again, i tend to be a minimalist with not a lot of stuff strewn around.

I do, however, have a sign that says the campsite is occupied and that I will be right back. This prevents the occasional camper from chasing me to the dump station, thinking I have forgotten my stuff. (I thought one young man was going to have a heart attack as he jogged after me carrying my hose and a chair!)
 

Skookum

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Dec 19, 2018
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I have a different perspective. You'll feel the CRV behind you, but it's just something to get used to, especially if you tow through mountain terrain. Ultimately it will make you a better RV driver ;) Your mirrors are important and since the passenger mirror on a class C provides a beautiful view of the awning, mostly, you'll want to get used to leaving extra room when you move back into the right lane. Also swinging just a little wider around curbs and the like.

I am in a similar boat (RV?) considering a toad. We've rented a car on longer trips and the economics of it are very dependent on the trip. For instance, we just traveled 1100 miles without a toad, and rented a car for the couple of days we wanted to get out, reload groceries, etc. I think rental was the better way to go. That's 2200 miles we didn't put on the toad (properly set up, the toad shouldn't accumulate miles on the odometer, but the bearings, tires, bushings, cv axles, etc all accumulate normal wear from rolling). And a lot of fuel saved in the RV.

Ultimately I do want a toad. Don't forget, if your RV doesn't have the proper hitch and brake controller, you'll need to spend some money getting that put in. Plus tow bar, brackets, and braking for the toad. If you think you'll use it a lot, go for it.
 
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