What Is a Travel Trailer?

Are you confused about what’s what when it comes to all of the different kinds of RVs? One of the most common questions we hear is, ‘what is a travel trailer, exactly?’

Maybe you think you know the answer but aren’t 100% sure. Let’s clear things up for you.

What Is a Travel Trailer?

If you see a truck or SUV towing a camper, chances are it’s a travel trailer. These popular kinds of towable RVs don’t have a motor.

You can think of a travel trailer as a home on wheels — simply, a box on top of a frame that rolls. Unlike pop-up campers, travel trailers have hard, permanent sides and a roof you can walk on.

Configurations vary, but travel trailers can usually sleep up to six people. The larger ones have a master bedroom in addition to one or more seating areas that convert to sleeping quarters. You’ll often find a fully functioning kitchen and bathroom.

Teardrops, the smallest type of travel trailer, have room for one or two people.

A group of friends enjoying their Travel Trailer.

What Is the Difference Between a Travel Trailer and a Fifth Wheel?

Some people also call travel trailers a “bumper pull.” In the early days, they attached to a truck’s bumper. Today they connect to a tow vehicle with a standard ball hitch, which mounts to the vehicle’s frame.

This differentiates them from another type of camping trailer known as the fifth wheel. This name comes from the special type of coupling device it uses. Tractor-trailer rigs use the same type of horseshoe-shaped hitch coupler as the fifth wheel, which mounts in the bed of a truck.

How Much Do Travel Trailers Cost? 

Some come with a big price tag, but you can find fairly affordable ones. A general price range is $10,000 to $150,000 for a new rig. You can find a used one for less, but you may need to make some repairs or renovations.

How Big Are Travel Trailers?

Many people enjoy travel trailers because of their size. Ranging from 13 to 39 feet, they work great for many RVers because they don’t require a massive tow vehicle.

Advantages of Travel Trailers

All RVs have their pros and cons, but travel trailers have lots of things going for them. Here are a few of the things we love about them.

A family enjoying their time camping in a travel trailer.

Least Expensive

Generally speaking, a travel trailer is the cheapest way to join the RV lifestyle. At some point, many decide to upgrade for something bigger. For this reason, you can find an abundance of second-hand travel trailers and some great deals if you shop wisely.

Variety of Sizes and Floorplans

Yes, they’re basically a big box, but you can outfit them in some pretty creative ways. Some travel trailers have one or more slide-outs, greatly expanding your living space. The master bedroom is usually in the front, but not always. You can also get bunkhouse models that can accommodate more people.

In the kitchen, you can expect a stovetop and refrigerator. Some have ovens and counter space for meal prep. The bathrooms can have a toilet and a shower. Many smaller travel trailers have a more compact European-style “wet bath” where the toilet and shower occupy the same space to save room.

Can Be Towed with Truck or SUV

Travel trailers become more affordable because you don’t have to buy a second vehicle to tow them. Their average weight of 5,000 lbs puts them safely within the towing capacity of many cars. As long as you don’t mind a truck or SUV as your daily driver, you’re good to go.

Disadvantages of Travel Trailers

Besides all of these positive traits, travel trailers have some negative ones, too. With any kind of RV, you’ll have disadvantages to balance out the advantages.

Family playing outside of their travel trailer.

Can Be Less Stable Towing Experience

If you’re not careful, you can experience trailer sway going down the road, which can be dangerous. Lots of travel trailer owners install a weight-distribution hitch to try and alleviate this problem. Many consider fifth wheels a stabler option and easier to tow, even though they are larger and heavier.

Less Storage Than Larger RVs

Finding space to put all your stuff may pose a challenge with a travel trailer. Many have storage areas in the front and overhead compartments, but they can’t hold much. Without enough dedicated storage space, you may end up spending a lot of time moving things from one place to another.

Can Passengers Ride in a Travel Trailer?

We’ve seen people do it, but you shouldn’t. You have to bolt down furniture inside a travel trailer for a reason. Though it is legal in some states to ride inside a moving travel trailer, we don’t recommend it. You’ll have too much bouncing and shaking while you drive. Some RVers prefer a motorhome for this reason, where passengers can stretch out a bit instead of being cramped inside a tow vehicle.

You can choose from many different sizes and shapes, but all travel trailers have something in common. To answer the question ‘what is a travel trailer?’, they are campers that you tow behind a vehicle with a conventional-style hitch that attaches near the bumper.

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