Toyota Dolphin vs. Fiberglass Trailer? - Fiberglass RV


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Old 04-04-2014, 08:39 PM   #1
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Toyota Dolphin vs. Fiberglass Trailer?

We are considering changing our on the road setup from a 1990 Toyota Dolphin (22ft Class C motorhome) to a small fiberglass trailer (13ft - 17ft range) pulled by a cross-over vehicle like the Infiniti QX60 and would be very grateful to you if you could help us generate some points we should be considering.

***Our goal:***
My friend and I would like to travel around America two or three times a year at about one month each trip. We are looking forward to exploring more of the mountain areas out west and getting to Alaska. We are not attached to the idea of campgrounds and camping, although we enjoy it. We like to see and try new things - sometimes that's in big cities, sometimes small towns, sometimes off-road. I guess you could say we enjoy a mobile lifestyle and want to do it as most efficiently and economically as possible.

Our current travel pattern (and our desired future pattern) with the Dolphin is to stay at full hook-up RV parks four nights a week (2 nights consecutively X 2 locations), a couple nights renting room's in people's homes in the city using AirBnB.com, and maybe once a week a Walmart out of convenience and to save a few bucks for some fun activity in the town. We both are able to earn incomes using our laptops if we have a good Internet connection and some table space. We are dependent on that income.

***Our current setup:***
We currently live outside of the United States but have an RV back in Missouri. We get back two or three times a year and use our RV about a month each time. We do not have any other vehicles and keep our RV stored for about $1,000/year inside. We also have insurance and property tax which I believe comes to about another $1,000 a year. Throw in some maintenance of about $1,500 a year and we're at about $3,500 a year in fixed costs.

We like the Toyota Dolphin other than it doesn't have enough power which I'm afraid is going to be an issue travelling around the mountains out west and up to Alaska. We have no problems driving the Dolphin but it does get a bit more challenging in downtown cities, very narrow roads, some residential parking driveways, etc. Finally, even though the Dolphin is in wonderful condition, it is 25 years old and is not the level of "eye candy" we need when meeting some important customers for when we are on the road.

We both live in small studio apartments so small size for two or three months a year doesn't concern us.

***Our questions:***
1. We have never pulled a trailer before and chose the Class C Dolphin so we wouldn't have to. The Infiniti X60 we are thinking about plus a 16ft trailer puts us at 32ft versus only 22 for the Dolphin. How is that going to effect us when we are in downtown or residential areas before we get the chance to unload the trailer and just use the car?

2. Is there a noticeable difference between pulling and living out of a 13ft trailer vs. 16ft trailer vs 17ft trailer? Would one length be better for us for some reason? 13ft - 16ft I believe would allow us to tuck it away in a family member's garage where the HOA rules don't allow RV and trailers and visit them a little longer possibly?

3. If we got into trouble with the trailer, could a single person in reasonable shape (not great shape manipulate a 13ft - 17ft fiberglass trailer like a Scamp by hand? I'm thinking about the last 15ft getting into a private residential driveway or turning it around if we get down the wrong backwoods gravel road.

4. Any other variables we should be considering in deciding what setup would be best for our particular lifestyle as we described?

Thank you very much in advance for your help.
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Old 04-05-2014, 12:26 AM   #2
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My partner and I live in an urban neighborhood near the geographic center of the city of San Diego, California, often referred to as “Mid-City”. It is a not-quite-gentrified area with most homes built between 1907 and 1935. We have a half-lot on a corner, and keep our trailer in the back yard. (no HOA)

1. I can “parallel” park my Honda Odyssey / 16’ Fiber Stream at the curb if there are 3 contiguous spaces (60-65 ft) at the end of the block. The 3rd space is only for maneuvering and left empty by me when I have parked the rig. With the tow vehicle at the 1st space next to the corner and the trailer in the 2nd, I only have to pull ahead to get out. The 1st time I tried that, I found a block where all of the spaces in that block were vacant. Getting the trailer close to the curb is tricky. I have practiced it enough that now I only need 3 spaces.

2. How much of a minimalist are you? How much “stuff” do you keep in the motorhome, and could you live with less of it? How necessary is an onboard head? (Sailor term) I have yet to see anything larger than a 13’ trailer successfully tucked under a standard 7’ garage door, and sometimes even that takes a lot of effort. Most 16’ & 17’ trailers are too tall.

3. I can maneuver our 13’ Compact Jr. by hand on a level surface relatively easily. Pushing it up even a 3” incline is a medium strain. The 16’ Fiber Stream weighs 3000+ pounds (fully loaded). Using a trailer tongue dolly, both of us straining hard managed to push it about 2 feet on level concrete and swore to never do that again.

4. The trailer will track wider around corners than you’re used to with the motorhome. Keep an eye on the space (or lack of it) to your sides. Take your time and be “chill” but alert when backing up!
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Old 04-05-2014, 01:24 AM   #3
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Good Things To Think About

Thanks Frederick for your feedback and things to think about.

1. "3 contiguous spaces (60-65 ft) at the end of the block"

That gives us a better understanding of what is possible in regards to parking. I guess in these situations it comes down to patience in finding those continuous open three car positions.

2. "How much of a minimalist are you? How much “stuff” do you keep in the motorhome, and could you live with less of it? How necessary is an onboard head? (Sailor term) I have yet to see anything larger than a 13’ trailer successfully tucked under a standard 7’ garage door, and sometimes even that takes a lot of effort. Most 16’ & 17’ trailers are too tall."

We can get by with not much. I'm guessing the available space in the combination Infiniti QX60 and 13ft or 16ft trailer is the same as the Dolphin we have and we have no issues at all with what we have now. The toilet would be nice to have for those Walmart nights + my friend often uses the toilet at night. The small wet shower is not as important but possibly appreciated. Thanks for the information on the trailers likely not fitting into standard garages. We just checked the specs on the Scamp Deluxe trailers we were considering (13ft and 16ft). The 13ft is 7'6" and the 16ft is 7'10" so if a standard US garage door is 7' feet that means we will still be parking the trailer outside like our Dolphin.

3. "I can maneuver our 13’ Compact Jr. by hand on a level surface relatively easily. Pushing it up even a 3” incline is a medium strain. The 16’ Fiber Stream weighs 3000+ pounds (fully loaded). Using a trailer tongue dolly, both of us straining hard managed to push it about 2 feet on level concrete and swore to never do that again."

This is also good information - thanks. The 13ft Scamp has a dry weight of 1,300 to 1,600 pounds. The 16ft Scamp has a dry weight of 2,200 to 2,600. That extra three feet adds a LOT of weight - almost double. I wonder why?Even on the standard versions of the 13ft and 16ft Scamp there is an addition of 500+ pounds.

My friend is a small female and I'm of medium build so it sounds like we are better suited to the 13ft model even though our layout preference is with the 16ft.

We are concerned because we will be staying at people's homes a fair portion of the time and parking in their driveways + having an interest in the backroads occasionally that we will get "stuck" and that the ability in a worst case scenario to move the trailer by hand could be a lifesaver. Maybe our concern is not valid? What do you think?

4. "The trailer will track wider around corners than you’re used to with the motorhome. Keep an eye on the space (or lack of it) to your sides. Take your time and be “chill” but alert when backing up!"

Will a 13ft trailer be noticeably easier to pull versus a 16ft trailer in city and backroad environments? Can you envision real world situations where it would be a major difference or is it the case where once we have a little experience under our belts will we not even notice between pulling a 13ft Scamp versus a 16ft Scamp?

Thanks again for your help Frederick.

We really appreciate your input.

We would love to hear other people's opinions and experiences as well.
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Old 04-05-2014, 07:02 AM   #4
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Hey there Jim. My dad had two Toyota motorhomes. 1st a 4cyl and then the V6 version. They were reliable but compared to riding/driving in a QX60 there will be no comparison.

We tow our 23' with an Infiniti G35 sedan. Has worked great for 7 years now partly due to the pro C. A. set up. Towing a glass egg with a QX60 you will not even know the trailer is back there. Plus if you ever decide to go with a larger fiberglass trailer you will already have the TV to handle the size and weight.

Go with the idea. You will luv it.

Also. Dropping the trailer at the campsite and having the QX60 to tour around with is another huge benefit.

If you are interested in checking it out, here is peek at our Infiniti/Air rig...

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v2...pse60da4f4.jpg
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Old 04-05-2014, 07:04 AM   #5
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Jim.......

As a background for my comments I list the following:
==>Currently towing a 17' Casita SD with a 2010 Tundra left over from towing
a previous larger stickbuilt. (The Tundra resulted from a brief period of
insanity when we considered a 26+' trailer).
==>Sharon & I've been RVing & towing for 42 very enjoyable years. (That
includes coast-to-coast with a 13' upgraded U-Haul trailer).

Personally, I think the 13' will leave you feeling a bit cramped after a few uses, A little more elbow room becomes precious when spending continuous time together. For about similar coin for the tow vehicle and Casita model you're considering, I suggest you investigate the 17' Casita options (really not much more demanding to tow and park than the 13'), and tow with a Toyota Tundra Prerunner V6 Doublecab with the tow package (10,000 lb. tow capacity) and a hard surface tonneau cover for the truck bed. More living space in the trailer, plenty of power in the TV, and oodles of spare waterproof storage space in the bed of the truck. We used that setup for years. And still do!

Frank
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Old 04-05-2014, 08:51 AM   #6
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13' Limitations

A 13'er with a bathroom is going to be really tight for long-term use for two. For one thing there is no place for a second person to sit when one is sleeping. At developed campgrounds in mild climates, that's no problem - the whole outdoors is your living room. But if, as you say, you will be staying part of the time in friends' driveways and Walmart parking lots, it could be an issue.

If you decide you can forego the bathroom, a 13'er could work. Some have a 2-person dinette at the front that makes a work space for the second person. Many that don't can often be modified to create such a space.

We have a (no bath) 13'er, so I can comment on the mobility. It won't fit into a standard 7' garage, but some people replace the wheels with tiny, tire-less rims and it just might fit. Empty, I can move the trailer around a level area by myself and up a small grade with my wife helping; loaded, only on fairly level surfaces. Your concern may be exaggerated, though - with practice, you'll get used to pulling and backing a trailer, and thinking about your exit strategy before you enter a space. If you spend much time in urban core areas, though, parking will be a problem. The nice thing about a trailer is you can find a campground outside the city and just drive the car in.

I also previously owned a Toyota motorhome, and I'd choose a FG egg hands-down. If the bathroom is essential I'd go 16' or 17', but if not, the 13'ers are great!

I ran across an interesting blog by a young couple traveling in a renovated 13' Burro called "8 Legs and a Trailer." I believe they inhabit this forum as well. Sounds like what you are planning, sort-of… Ah, to be young and foot-loose!
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Old 04-05-2014, 09:01 AM   #7
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Welcome to the group....
As a long time Toyota motorhome owner (4 Sunraders from 17" to 21') I made the switch to molded fiberglass trailers simply because the Toyota drivelines were becoming more and more problematic as they aged and the 3VZ-E engine, that yours has, is nothing less than a ticking time bomb as it ages.

That said we have has 3 different 13'ers and found each of them useful in their own ways. Some comments
1. 13'ers with bathrooms proved to be too small for us for more than weekend trips. With the dinette/bed made there was no room left to be in. (Scamp 13')
2. A 13' without bath proved more comfortable and useful and we used the front bench seat as your eating area. (Lil' Bigfoot 13')
3. I then finished restoration of a 13' Hunter Compact-II and, although a bit snug we find it to be our life style FGRV of choice. But, we are strictly campers and avoid urban areas except for day trips and leave the trailer behind at a campground when doing so.

There are pics of the latter two as well as of two of my Sunraders here:
Hunter Compact II Photos by advocateone | Photobucket

To add to a few of your questions.

The biggest reasons for our changeover was that you leave the camper behind when you don't need it and you get to have a modern mode of transportation.

While the 13' Hunter can be moved by itself, don't ever plan on doing so with other 13' or larger FGRV's. If you have a flat, smooth, surface and a trailer dolly, yes, but otherwise, don't even think about it except in the most dire emergency and peeps have ben hurt attempting to do so.

If you want/need anywhere the space of the inside of your dolphin, you will have to be looking at 16' and larger trailers. As trailers are measured from hitch to bumper you need to subtract about 3' from the length to get the coach size and there isn't the overhead bed space in any except the 5th wheel versions.

Good Luck with your plans
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Old 04-05-2014, 11:46 AM   #8
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I went from a motorhome to a small trailer and found the fact I could just disconnect the trailer and head off exploring without having to disconnect and pack everything back up as I did with the motorhome a big plus!

Not much noticeable difference in towing a 13' from a 16' or 17'. Have pulled in the past a larger trailer but it wasn't fiberglass so I can't really say one way or another if the jump to a 19' would be much different from pulling a 16' fiberglass. Have a hunch there probable isn't a great deal difference other than you need to be mindful of your total length when parking or backing into campgrounds. As far as backing up goes many will say its actually easier to back up a longer trailer than it is a short one. I find pulling the 16' to be pretty easy - even in city traffic. Actually took my set up into Downtown Portland the last friday night before Christmas to do some shopping once :-)

Coming from a motorhome you may find as I did when sitting in a 13' that it feels pretty darn small thus the reason I went with a 16' with a bathroom. I love my trailer & have put lots of trips on it of various lengths but the longer the trips I take the more I am wishing I had a 17' or possible a 19' to give me a bit more room with a slightly larger permeant bed and dinning area.

I travel on my own often with the 16' and have had to move it a few feet using the tongue wheel but its not my first choose. Have had to ask for help in moving it when disconnected only a couple of times in 6 years of travel when trying to get into a real tight strangely set up camping spot not actually meant to take a trailer of any size - set up for tents. Its pretty hard to move it when its on gravel. As its easy to tow/turn into tight spots so its a pretty rare situation where I am not able to get the trailer into a fairly tight spot using the tow vehicle. I have what some might call a fairly scary driveway to back a trailer down into and after having done it once or twice its no longer scary to me.

I have on occasion found myself in the dead end situation and although the total length of the tug and trailer is 33' I have been able to back up and find wide enough section of the road that with a few back and forth movements have been able to turn it all around. Worse case was having to back it up on a dark rainy night down a gravel road about 1/4 of a mile before finding a spot wide enough to turn it around. If you have someone with you to get out and keep an eye on your backing up its not really a big issue. If traveling on your own best advise is to keep your GPS up to date - not a perfect solution but it can help. ;-)

Take a look at the thread Trailer Weights In the Real World before deciding on your final choose of a tow vehicle and the trailer you want. There can be a very big difference between fiberglass trailer weights when looking at 16' or 17' models/makes as well as 19'. For example a 17' Escape will weigh less than a newish 17' Bigfoot. Pay attention not only to the total tow capacity of the vehicle you are considering but its tongue weight limits as well. Thats a big one that can have a not so nice impact on how you stow the trailer in a fashion that makes it a stress free enjoyable tow. I learned that lesson the hard way. Had a vehicle with enough towing capacity for the total load of the trailer but a tongue weight capacity that was very marginal in regards to being able to put enough weight (10% to 15% of the trailers axle weight) on the tongue to provide a solid tow under all travel conditions.

Have fun shopping!
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Old 04-05-2014, 01:25 PM   #9
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In the mid 80's I spent a year traveling from maine to key west to so. CA., up the coast to alaska, down thru the northern plains to new mexico where I finally settled for several years. I traveled in a sunraider and enjoyed its comforts except for having to use it for sightseeing in cities, or to go get supplies...had to unplug, leave something in camp site, try to find place to park, and on and on.

currently travel with a tundra and a 17' casita. Now I can unhitch in CG or stay in a drive way and go tour to my hearts content. Backing gets easier. And, as someone said, when you start to pull in to some place consider your exit strategy. My previous fb was a 13 footer but I found that to be too cozy for 2 people, especially on rainy days. Just my thoughts.
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Old 04-05-2014, 07:04 PM   #10
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Campsite Access for 17'?

Thanks everyone for your valuable feedback.

Please keep those opinions coming

Our feeling after the feedback so far is:

1. A new fiberglass trailer of any size (13ft or a 16ft) will likely require special indoor storage just like we are paying now for the 22ft Toyota Dolphin. We were hoping we could eliminate that expense put sticking it in a family member's spare garage for longer term storage or avoid having the HOA complain when we visit some other people for more than a few days.

2. Other than an empty 13ft trailer on a level surface, it sounds like we are not going to be able to move around these trailers by hand in case we got stuck.

3. It doesn't seem to be that different of a driving experience between pulling a 13ft versus a 16 or 17ft.

With the above three points taken into consideration, we are thinking something like a Scamp 16ft/layout #4 is what might work best for our likely usage scenario for the next few years. We are thinking we might be able to use a folding table in front of the front sofa to eat a quick meal for two if the dinette is covering with our computer equipment or down for a bed. We also have the toilet for those Walmart nights.

**Three followup questions**
1. With a proper tow vehicle, would a trailer like a Scamp 16ft (or some other similar small fiberglass trailer) pull pretty well off the regular roads? Are there any issues like bottom clearance, width, or something else we are not taking into consideration?

2. Are there more areas (national parks? state parks? etc.) where having just the shorter 22ft Toyota Dolphin would allow more me access over a 32ft' combination (Infiniti QX60 and 16ft trailer)? Thinking a little more though, I've seen signs that say "No RVs" in many of those areas. In that case, it seems I'd be better off with the trailer and the ability to drop it off at the campsite versus the Dolphin.

3. We often contact campsites without too much advance notice. For the most part, because of our short 22ft Dolphin, they can usually squeeze us in somewhere. Is that likely to stay the same with the Infiniti QX60 + 16ft trailer or are we going to gain or lose some last minute campsite flexibility?

Thank you all very very much for your help in deciding what is best for us.
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Old 04-05-2014, 08:10 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by jimontheroad View Post
3. We often contact campsites without too much advance notice. For the most part, because of our short 22ft Dolphin, they can usually squeeze us in somewhere. Is that likely to stay the same with the Infiniti QX60 + 16ft trailer or are we going to gain or lose some last minute campsite flexibility?

Thank you all very very much for your help in deciding what is best for us.
Trailers range in length from about 8' to 34'. A 16 is really a small trailer. Don't believe you need to be concerned about being too long.
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Old 04-05-2014, 08:29 PM   #12
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1) I have pulled on a lot of gravel/logging roads on Vancouver Island, also gone off the beaten path in Arizona and Southern Cal without issues while pulling with a Subaru Outback. Have never bottomed either out.

2) I would think if it says no RV's that would include trailers of any size and a motorhome such as your Dolphin.

3) I also travel mainly without reservations and have on a number of occasions been squeezed in someplace or allowed due to the small size of the trailer a spot normally used by tenters only.
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Old 04-05-2014, 09:19 PM   #13
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For the most part FGRV's have 13" wheels & tires which may slightly restrict the quality of road you can travel on. BUT... You can unhitch and go a lot of places you couldn't go with the Dolphin. In many cases there are places set aside for trailer drops at the head of such roads. The Geology Road loop in Joshua Tree NP is such as example.

You will actually increase the camping space availability because your trailer is smaller than the Dolphin and you can park your TV elsewhere than in the site. They don't usually count total combined length of TV and trailer as they do for a motorhome, just the trailer.
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