So many confusing choices for newbies - Fiberglass RV
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Old 03-13-2007, 01:33 PM   #1
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Folks like you and the RV consumer guide are very helpful when you've had no previous experience with RVs an look forward to getting into it.

Based on what I've read to datebut lacking the insights that only first-hand experience can offer, here are things we're mulling over now and some of the thinking behind it.

RVs: Sprinter-based Class B (new)? Small fiberglass model (new) OR small, conventional trailer (used)? Trailer OR 5th wheel.

TOW VEHICLE: How much? What kind? New or used??


CLASS B: I'd never have considered any motorhome until I read what the RV consumer sites had to say about these vehicles being ideal for retired folks. The photos I viewed online looked small and cramped though until I came accross Mercedes diesel-powered models spaced on the Sprinter chassis.

Advantages: They offer good milage (25 to 27 mpg), a highly durable engine, decent power, nice to luxurious amenities, easy set up and in-town parking and they are far less cramped than most class B's. The space looks good to folks like us moving up from car/tent/motel travel. I've also noticed some folks who moved down from big class A's seem highly pleased with them.

Disadvantages: 1. Expensive: They list around 95K new but I'd imagine they' run about 80K's new. However, a diesel pickup and moderate size quality 5th wheel would run about that. 2. You better like it or else!: Used B class RVs are hard to find and that goes double for diesels so selling would be easy if we change our minds. Even so, I'd guess depreciation losses would be substantial.

SMALL FIBERGLASS TRAILERS: Since depreciation seems minimal, buying new seems best under this option no matter what RV needs we discover as a result of later experience. The 16 to 17 foot ones seem to offer so much more for so much less than compared to regular class Bs (I can only see the latter if used and low-mileage). On the other hand, there's no question these trailers, despite high quality, involves some loss of luxury, convenience and space compared to the Sprinter diesel-based Class B's. So what it comes down to in that choice is mostly money or is the difference worth the cost?

REGULAR TRAILERS AND RV's (Buy used?): If purchased used (under 20K) and small enough, this offers much the same advantages as the small fiberglass trailers. Main advantage: a bit more room but not so much to tow as to intimidate older newbies.

TOW VEHICLE: If we could guarantee we'd be happy with "small," either a 150/1500-level pickup or mid-size SUV might do, though I'd find that option more attractive if the new smaller diesels were available (Expect one in some of the Dodge vehicles in a year or so) Right now I lean toward buying a big, used 350 with diesel engiine. In two years, if small satisfies we can keep it or switch to a smaller pickup or SUV, especially if some diesel hybrids are available.
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Old 03-13-2007, 02:46 PM   #2
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I always thought that the Chevy Astro/GMC Safari was the ideal Tow.
lots of room, sit nice and high, felt the same as my Suburban in comfort and handling.
22 mpg on highway 17 towing 13' Burro 5000 lbs max ability.
Not much change since 1979, able to last 300,000 miles or more.
(A guy at work has had 2 that went over 300,000 and is working on his third one now.
My 2002 cost about 19,000 bucks with a discount.
I would buy another one in a heartbeat.

BUT GM in its wisdom stopped making them in 2005 and didn't replace them with anything!!

Really nuts!
Colorado? 3500 lbs towing, 5 cyl inline with the same mileage as the Astro????

I'm leaning toward Toyota something for my next tow.
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Old 03-13-2007, 02:53 PM   #3
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A couple of other considerations -

With the separate trailer, there is a learning curve for maneuvering - backing up and parking. This is not insurmountable - but definitely humbling and takes practice. Also, you have a bit less flexibility in finding parking lots with extended parking to accomodate your 'rig'.

One of my considerations was having pets - and not wanting to leave them in a hot car (or conversion van) while I go touristing. The fiberglass Escape (even in a sunny RV park) keeps my dogs cool with the fan on. Perhaps you can do something similar with a parked RV, I don't know - I couldn't with my Van.

Also, with the trailer, you not only have less cost to purchase, but you don't have the extra maintenance of another driving vehicle (engine, drive train, transmission, etc). Exclude the camping amenities that you'd be maintaining in either case and basically you're maintaining tires and an axle!

Good luck in deciding!
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Old 03-13-2007, 03:01 PM   #4
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The photos I viewed online looked small and cramped though until I came accross Mercedes diesel-powered models spaced on the Sprinter chassis.
I have looked at, and been in several of the Class B motorhomes based on the Sprinter. They are spacious, well built, and have everything you need. They are very nice, and vey expensive, but what it came down to when we chose our fiberglass trailer is "how" we travel/camp.

We like to travel to a spot, stay a night or two and explore the area, with a trailer we can leave it at the camp site and go where we need to. We didn't want to have to take our RV along everytime we headed into town, or go exploring. Even though the gas mileage was good with the Mercedes diesel, it is better without hauling the trailer everywhere.
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Old 03-13-2007, 05:11 PM   #5
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re: We didn't want to have to take our RV along everytime we headed into town.

If your tow vehicle were a big pick up--like a 350 or 3500-- would it make that big a difference which one you drove into town?

The ads say the Sprinter Class B's can tow 5,000 pounds, so perhaps it could tow my MX-5 Miata (2500 pounds)--not that I'd do that. No matter what we end up with, unless we sell it to finance the purchase one of us would probably drive the Miata along on any trip lasting for several weeks and not too distant. It loves curvy, two-lane roads.

Re: the other alternatives, the idea of possibly making a change every few years (three years is average I'm told) is both attractive and unattractive. Anne's point about pets is one I hadn't thought of in favor of these choices. Thanks.
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Old 03-13-2007, 05:34 PM   #6
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Re: the Astro Van

Yes, GM stopped making these... because too few people want them now. Not much change since 1979? I didn't think it was that early, but this is a significant thing to say about a vehicle - the rest of the world has advanced since then.

I'm not criticizing those who have chosen the Astro (or Safari) and I'm sure it does well when properly equipped. I even like the way the updated body style looks. I just doubt anyone seriously considering US$80K Class B's would be happy with one.

I do think that the Astro is a good size of tug for the typical 16' to 17' moulded fiberglass travel trailer, and I think the van format works well. Although the front-wheel-drive layout is not ideal for heavy towing, I find my similarly sized Sienna works well with my 17' Boler.
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Old 03-13-2007, 05:45 PM   #7
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re: We didn't want to have to take our RV along everytime we headed into town.

If your tow vehicle were a big pick up--like a 350 or 3500-- would it make that big a difference which one you drove into town?
Yes, because the RV needs to be disconnected from services to leave, and re-connected and re-leveled upon return... and then there's awnings, etc.

I do agree that a "one-ton" is not a good runaround vehicle, which is why I think for a large enough RV rig, a motorhome pulling a "toad" (car) makes sense; however, for the more reasonable rigs which seem to be the focus of this discussion, the tug (one to pull a 3000 lb trailer) makes a great local transport vehicle. Many people tow their "egg" with the same vehicle they drive to work daily.
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Old 03-13-2007, 05:52 PM   #8
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Okay, one last comment...

I like the Sprinter design. I can't afford a premium new Class B, and the Sprinter doesn't fit the role of just a tug very well, so we're not about to get one. There are a few things I would want to consider about this option:
  • there is a new generation Sprinter about to appear, with more power and more body options - if waiting a year is okay, that might be beneficial
  • if the Sprinter's appeal is largely the engine, then note that the same engine to be used in the coming Sprinter (3.0 CRD) will be in several Daimler-Chrylser vehicles, and is already in the Grand Cherokee (which could tow an egg)
  • while the Sprinter is a capable tow vehicle, I don't think you could load one up as a Class B RV and still have capacity to tow a car well
  • 25 to 27 mpg sounds pretty optimistic even for a Sprinter - maybe that's at constant moderate-speed highway cruise, and that's not the real world
In looking at the buyer's guides, keep in mind that they are far from complete. Often, only one or two models of a range are represented, so good options are easily missed. Whole manufacturers are missing if they didn't pay to get in.
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Old 03-13-2007, 06:49 PM   #9
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Frank G,

Don't buy an RV! It doesn't make sense economically. Fuel costs are going up all the time. No way an RV will be a cheaper alternative for your travels.
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Old 03-13-2007, 06:50 PM   #10
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Taking a look at the Sprinter kind of takes me back to my custom panel van days in college, only the Sprinter is much more luxurious than my custom Dodge Van was. I think the bottom line is you have to know what makes you happy.

Being new to the "eggs" myself with an 81 13' Scamp I'm redoing, I know I wouldn't be a Sprinter type person. I think having an "egg" now myself, and reading all these wonderful posts for months up here, I can safely say we are "tinkerers." Much of the fun comes in modifying and restoring these wonderful, easy to work on, little trailers. It seems many of us, myself as well, come from backpacking-tent camping and these FG trailers are kind of a move up, but not terribly far away from our camping roots. The Sprinter seems to fit more into the luxury RV camp to me which the price would confirm as well.

Since the fiberglass trailers and the Sprinter appear to appeal to two different groups it would seem to me you just have to decide which you personally would be happier with.
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Old 03-13-2007, 07:58 PM   #11
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I'm recycling a posting I made over on a completely different forum...not one for molded lightweight fiberglass rvs:

A brand-new Scamp 5th wheel runs less than $20,000 and weighs less than 2800 lbs. Easily pulled by a V6 too. The difference between small trailers and the larger ones, is how one "camps." Typically a small trailer owner spends significant time outdoors, because that's where we want to be. But sleeps in comfort, perhaps has a fully functioning bathroom (not a dance hall!), propane stove (perhaps NOT an "oven" tho). The Scamp 5th wheel has an option for a 6 cuft refrigerator with top door freezer, the same as much larger RVs. And probably the biggest advantage is a lightweight molded fiberglass trailer doesn't suffer seam leaks and wood dry rot problems. They are a maintenance breeze in comparison. They use the same windows and appliances as all trailer manufacturers... names like Dometic, Suburban, etc. The thing we hear the most is "you have everything you need, and nothing you don't." and "it's so much bigger inside than it looks outside." However, if there's a need for a reclining chair in the livingroom and you need a 32" TV to go spend time in the woods and these things are what you absolutely must have, then these small trailers are not for you.

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Old 03-13-2007, 08:40 PM   #12
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SMALL FIBERGLASS TRAILERS: On the other hand, there's no question these trailers, despite high quality, involves some loss of luxury, convenience and space compared to the Sprinter diesel-based Class B's.
I'd beg to differ. There are lots of choices out there in FGRVs from stock strippers to full dressers. Having had Airstreams for years, and one Airstream 325 Class A Moho for three years, I'll take my fiberglass trailer now, thank you very much. Honestly, I just sold an Airstream 34' tri-axle and replaced it with a Bigfoot 25' trailer.

Motorhomes in general are not a sound way to spend your money. You will lose 20% of your investment annually for the first three years you own it. As it approaches 100k miles, it will have essentially no value, and the maintenance on them becomes overwhelming.

With a trailer and tow vehicle at least if the tow vehicle breaks, you can trade it off, hook up your new one and you're back on the road. If your moho breaks, you're stuck living in some garage somewhere until the parts arrive. Been there done that, thanks...

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Old 03-13-2007, 08:54 PM   #13
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I "downsized" from a Safari van to a mid sized Dakota. With the 4 wheel drive, small 8, and extended cab I can pull almost all the trailers from this site. My mileage is as good or even better than with the van and I can cary almost as much gear albeit it's out under the tonneau. It's sportier and parks easier, and doesn't act like a sail in a cross wind. My 13 ft Boler actually tracks better now. I guess it's truck axle to hitch ratio.Also better all round vision when parking or backing.
I've found that the bigger the tow vehicle then the more gear you try to stuff into it. Used to even had made blackout curtians for the van so could have the porta-potti in there at night and not inside the trailer.
If you're considering a moter home remember that if you need one loaf of bread from the store, you have to pack everything and take it ALL with you.While the trailer sits comfortably waiting in the shade.
In the end you'll get what you want for your personal needs or wishes and for you it will be the best thing out there.
Go for it and give us the pictures.
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Old 03-14-2007, 04:41 AM   #14
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Hi: FrankG. We started with a Luxury packaged Ford Taurus Wgn.$28,000. C.D. and a '77 Boler 13' Trailer $3,000. Visitors comments "Its all you really need" My dream package is an Escape fifth wheel trailer $25.000. and a Toyota V6 pickup to tow with$29.000. My neighbour has over$60,000. tied up in his diesel dually G.M.C. pickup and a stickie built fifth wheel of unknown value and for various reasons his fifth is confined to his drive shed most of the time It all boils down to needs and perspective!!!
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Old 03-14-2007, 08:33 PM   #15
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Lots of good points made above.

Re: A Sprinter motor home

Given the amount of money required going this way is kind of an all-or-nothing shot so I have some reservations about that route. Having read the posts on "Van Conversion RVs" on another forum, I learned that most owners were pretty satisfied except in one area--storage. Since those things are rated to tow 5,000 pounds, I think they could easiy resolve that problem by buying and pulling along one of those small storage boxes of the kind you see at U-hall.

One posts mentioned hooking up and unhooking as the main problem with this route once at a campground. Does that take long?

Some RV lots seem to require a motorhome and something like a Sprinter would qualify whereas trailers wouldn't (maybe that goes for Park homes as well?). I think I understand why they have such restrictions.

Re: Donna's post on 5th wheel Scamp

You mention that the average owner of such trailers spends lots of time outdoors. You know, I was forgetting about that. Basically, with a decent awning and outdoor table (I suppose most campgrounds have them), you've got the biggest living room in the world when you think about it. And when you are reading or sleeping inside, how much space do you need?

It's helpful to know about the 6 cubic foot refrigerator option too. Since we like to cook, that's a concern. My main concern with a small 5th wheel, as opposed to a trailer towed by a SUV or by a pickup with tonneau cover is that some of the things I'd like to take along for cooking are a bit bulky (food processor, pressure cooker) so I don't know if they fit in a small 5th.

By the way, how do the 15 to 17 foot trailers compare to the 19ft Scamp for amenities?

re: $25 K Escape trailer (Alf S)

Is that the Escape 5.0 which is the only 5th I could find at the site? If so, basically it's the same length as the Scamp but a bit more expensive. Why then do you prefer it over the Scamp?

I gather from other things I've read that the Bigfoots are nice but very expensive and heavier (meaning they'd probably require a 2500 diesel). I don't know if we'd spend that much on an RV until we've had some experience but it's something to keep in mind for later.
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Old 03-15-2007, 05:24 AM   #16
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Hi: Looking at close up photos of the construction quality thanks to Brian BP and the more modern aero. shape and my buy Canadian passion Escape seems to offer more bang for their/MY buck...not to mention they use a plate hitch as do most 5er's... Scamp doesn't When I wake up from this nightmare called work and can retire to the road I only hope that both these units are avail. so I can snag one or tuther I think a small fifth of anything is a good thing...and a replacable V6 pickup a good Tug...What else can I say " I am hooked" Alf S. North shore of lake Erie
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Old 03-15-2007, 05:37 AM   #17
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Lots of good points made above.


One posts mentioned hooking up and unhooking as the main problem with this route once at a campground. Does that take long?

It's helpful to know about the 6 cubic foot refrigerator option too.

By the way, how do the 15 to 17 foot trailers compare to the 19ft Scamp for amenities?

I gather from other things I've read that the Bigfoots are nice but very expensive and heavier (meaning they'd probably require a 2500 diesel). I don't know if we'd spend that much on an RV until we've had some experience but it's something to keep in mind for later.
Frank, a couple of points... you seem to be all over the map with your thoughts about your wants/needs. Spend a little time roaming around RV lots. Look at the mohos and stick-built trailers and figure out what appeals to you and what doesn't. All trailers and mohos have basically the same appliances and amenities. Some have more room and storage, some layouts appeal to some folks more than others.
Spend some time in them and think about where you'd put 'stuff'. Figure out what 'stuff' you'll really want to take along and what 'stuff' is really insignificant. If your main pleasure in life is cooking, you probably don't want an RV unless creative cooking in a cramped space on a two or three burner stove and a campfire is really what you're into. The Scamp 5th wheel and Bigfoot trailers all have the large fridge as an option. It's one of the things I enjoy about ours. I don't know if Escape plans on using the larger fridge in their 5th wheel, but I can't imagine that they won't.

Then, watch for a fiberglass gathering and go tour all of the units that attend. You'll quickly have an idea what will suit you and what won't.

You also have some misconceptions, apparently, about the relative weights and how much vehicle you really need to tow some of these trailers. Although I have an Excursion that I usually tow my 25' Bigfoot with, it is a holdover from the 34' Airstream. I have and will tow my 25' Bigfoot occasionally around here locally with my 3.4l 6cyl Tundra pickup. It's competent to pull the trailer with an empty, as-equipped curb weight of 5300 lbs., although it's rated for just slightly less because of the engine. The same truck in a V8 is rated at 6500 lbs. It's the largest (and heaviest) molded fiberglass trailer made today that I know of. Pretty much any half-ton chassis vehicle with a V8 has more than enough tow capacity to tow it. A V8 Tundra, Ford F150, or 1500 Chevy or any 1/2 ton van would be a nearly ideal tow vehicle for the 25' Bigfoot and pretty much anything smaller.

If you go the moho route and need groceries or go sight-seeing after you're set up somewhere, you either need to tow a car along or break camp with the moho to go to the store. That means disconnecting all utilities, rolling up electrical cords and hoses, putting the awning up, securing everything in the moho and then setting up again on your return. Breaking camp gets tedious, and towing a car means that you have to hitch up and unhitch something anyway. THEN you have two drive trains to maintain as well.

Over the past twenty-five years and having had all manner and size of travel trailers, tent trailers, a fifth wheel Scamp, and a moho, I have found that for MY needs and wants a travel trailer is just about perfect.

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Old 03-15-2007, 05:55 AM   #18
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Lots of thoughts in the above posts , But I see no mention of the GREATLY reduced cost of licence and insurance. And refering to Donna's post we have 2 recliners in our 5er. We had a Winnibago LaShario and the licence and insurance was around $800 a year We now get by at $10.
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Old 03-15-2007, 01:29 PM   #19
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Re: You seem to be all over the map with your thoughts about your wants/needs.

You're right except in the area of staying "small" at first in any RV choice. I've ruled out anything on the big side for now. That could change with experience

COOKING ON THE ROAD: I gotta admit that I've spoiled myself and my wife. I don't want to given the impresson that I'm into fancy, multi-course, time-consuming meals, however. I'm amazed at how much "Gourmet light"stuff you can make quickly and easily--some tastier than things I've had in wel-regarded Philly restaruants. The trick lies in wilingness to do a little research and knowing how to spot such recipes when you encounter them. So far as "big" take alongs go, two things I'd like to bring are our pressure cooker (can double as a Dutch oven anyway) and our food processor--mainly because both save time and effort which seems a good idea on the road. They'll should fit easily in a large SUV, or the rear seat of a pickup so I don't see a problem.

re: Spend a little time roaming around RV lots.

Yes. We hope to this summer, though it's hard to find small fiberglass types locally except the Bigfoot I think. However, I think Scamp and others have been represented at the Hershey show in early September, supposedly one of the biggest in the country.
I'll also try to keep an eye out for a fibergass gathering.

I think I also need to look at some potential tow vehicles. If I go with a small fiberlass trailer, one I'd consider buying used certain-low used, low-mileage low depreciation vehicles that I could trade in on a bigger diesel later if we wanted bigger later. Among well-reviewed ones I'd consider are that Toyata and the Honda Ridgeline which tows 5,000 pounds (I don't know how its 5-foot bed would work with a Scamp 5th wheel). So far as 16-foot light fiberglass trailers go, a six-cylinder Toyata 4-Runner might do with its truck-based SUVs.

I recently read two articles concening tow vehicles that should interest most folks here. One concerns a decision by Japanese firms to halt planned production of heavy-duty pickups. The second concerns a small diesel engine from Chrysler. I'll post links shortly in the general chat forum.
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Old 03-15-2007, 02:13 PM   #20
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re: Spend a little time roaming around RV lots.

Yes. We hope to this summer, though it's hard to find small fiberglass types locally except the Bigfoot I think.

I think I also need to look at some potential tow vehicles. Among well-reviewed ones I'd consider are that Toyata and the Honda Ridgeline which tows 5,000 pounds (I don't know how its 5-foot bed would work with a Scamp 5th wheel).
Don't worry about finding a fiberglass rv on a dealer's lot. The odds are overwhelmingly against you. What you will find there is inspiration among smaller stick-built trailers and they can give you an idea of what features you really want and don't want. If you can find one on a lot, it'll probably be a good deal because dealers price at NADA book. NADA book pricing is almost always way below market value on these trailers.

Once you have had the opportunity to look at lots and lots of stick-builts, then touring the fiberglass egg gatherings will have a lot more meaning as you'll really have a good idea of what you're comparing them to.

When you finally DO find a fiberglass RV you like, be it new or used, you'll have the education to decide on the spot whether or not that trailer is for you. You almost have to be ready to do that, because you typically don't get a second chance to go back and look at one again. Many sell here in hours of being listed, and most sell in less than a week. You have to be ready with cash in hand when you find "THE" trailer that's just what you're looking for. Many of us here have lost out on one or more trailers by hesitating; sometimes by minutes.

I'd also suggest that you really do your homework on tow vehicles as well; the Honda Ridgeline is reputed to be an excellent tow vehicle; but, it will not accept a fifth wheel hitch because of it's bed construction. There is also some question about one of the small pickups that uses a composite material for the bed as well; but I can't remember if it's the Tacoma or one of the other small trucks now...

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