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With so many types of RVs on the market, it can be hard to know which kind of vehicle is right for you. Truck campers and travel trailers are popular options for those who don’t want to splash out on a large RV that can be challenging to drive and store. Both truck campers and travel trailers are versatile RV setups, but they each have unique features that set them apart from one another.
So, what is the difference between a truck camper and a travel trailer?
Truck campers mount to the bed of a pickup and are adaptable as they can be used both on and off your truck. Travel trailers are campers towed by another vehicle and offer similar versatility with added space and comfort, but require a towing vehicle able to handle the load of the trailer.
Deciding which type of RV to purchase is a big decision, and as travel trailers and truck campers can be expensive, there’s often a lot of pressure to make the right choice the first time around!
If you’re looking to get started RVing, it can be useful to write down everything you want from an RV and try to find something that comes close to ticking all of your boxes.
To help you with that we’ve made an extensive list of pros and cons for both truck campers and travel trailers, so not only will you know what features set them apart, but also which one will suit your needs.
Truck Camper VS Travel Trailer: Which Is Better?
Both truck campers and travel trailers are unique types of RV, providing you with a comfortable space to escape the business of life and relax in the heart of nature. Truck campers attach to the bed of a pickup truck and although they are compact, they offer fantastic flexibility as you aren’t just limited to using them when they are mounted.
Choosing an RV requires a lot of thought, and each person and family will likely have a list of everything they want from an RV.
Truck campers may be better suited for couples or those traveling solo as they don’t offer much space. Travel trailers on the other hand come in a range of sizes and types, so you’ll likely be able to find one that meets your needs perfectly.
Adventures can be had no matter what RV you own, and if you have a limited budget, it may be useful to look at second-hand RVs. New RVs have a high price tag, but used campers are more affordable and often are still in great condition.
What Is The Difference Between A Travel Trailer and A Truck Camper?
Although they are similar and often assumed as the same type of RV, there are many key differences between a travel trailer and a truck camper. A travel trailer might be the ideal option for families or those who simply want a decent amount of space in their RV, but don’t want to drive around a huge Class C RV!
Truck campers may not be such a good option for families, but are perfect for avid adventurers wanting to get off-road and into the wilderness.
To get a better idea of where travel trailers differ from truck campers, it’s worth taking a look at the advantages and disadvantages of both RV types. You can then see if your requirements are being met, and make an exciting decision about which RV type will become your new exploring rig.
If you’re weighing up whether a truck camper or a travel trailer is the ultimate RV option for you, the video below is worth a watch. It details the transition of a full-time RVer who initially started her adventure in a truck camper, and over time has moved into a travel trailer.
There are many reasons why someone may choose a travel trailer instead of a truck camper, but it’s important to do what’s right for you and purchase an RV that you aren’t likely to outgrow in a short space of time.
The RV lifestyle is a changeable one and throughout your journey, you’ll likely learn things that you both like and don’t like about your RV. Renting or borrowing a truck camper or a travel trailer for a short while and seeing which rig suits you best can be useful, as you can identify which one you can see yourself driving in the future.
What Are The Advantages Of A Travel Trailer?
A travel trailer is an RV that is towed by a car through a hitch, so it’s important to check what load your current vehicle can handle and choose a trailer that’s a suitable size and weight.
Travel trailers are a popular choice for many due to their versatility as you can simply arrive at a destination, unhitch the trailer, and use your car as normal to explore or run errands.
This offers ultimate convenience as you won’t have to worry about loading or unloading a camper, instead, you can simply unhitch the trailer and carry on your way without any hassle.
This is also beneficial for storing your trailer as you can unhitch it and find a secure spot to store it when it’s not in use. It’s essential to protect your travel trailer during storage and taking measures such as using a protective cover can help prevent damage in the long run.
A far more affordable option than other types of RV, including truck campers, travel trailers can be purchased new and used at a good price. This makes them an accessible option, and you can match the load capabilities of your current vehicle to a travel trailer within the weight margin your vehicle can handle on the road.
3. Comfort And Space
RVing for many is about getting out into nature and slowing down the pace of life for a little while, but that doesn’t have to mean compromising on space and comfort. Most travel trailers have everything you could want for your RV vacation including spaces dedicated to a bathroom, kitchen, bedroom, and lounge.
4. Simple Maintenance
One of the biggest advantages of travel trailers is that there are no potential mechanical issues as it isn’t a motorized unit. This can help keep the time and money spent on travel trailer maintenance low and also means you’re more likely to find trailers in good condition even when used.
The maintenance for trailers isn’t too tedious and above all, as long as your trailer is watertight and stored correctly when not in use, you shouldn’t face many problems. As the travel trailer and towing vehicle are separate components, you also can maintain and upgrade both without an issue.
When choosing a truck camper for your pickup, you’ll need to find one that fits pretty much perfectly with the bed, to keep weight distributed evenly and the center of gravity. This can create a slim choice, whereas travel trailers come in such a vast array of models and styles, the sky is the limit when it comes to available options.
This variety means you can find the trailer that truly fits everything you want and need from an RV.
In general, if you’re looking for a towable RV that offers considerable space and amenities, a travel trailer might be the perfect option for you. It’s also possible to find travel trailers that perform well even in hot weather, so you won’t have to suffer and be sweltering during a vacation in the peak of summer.
What Are The Disadvantages Of A Travel Trailer?
Travel trailers have many advantages, and it can be easy to think they don’t have any downsides, but there are some additional things to consider when looking at buying a travel trailer.
Before purchasing a trailer, it’s important to find out the load rating of your car, to ensure you don’t purchase a trailer that’s too heavy for your car to tow.
1. Potential Towing Issues
Towing any vehicle can be nerve-wracking, especially if you don’t have much experience with towing. It’s wise to get some practice in before heading on a big journey, and before you leave, it’s useful to double-check that everything in the towing setup is correct and in place.
It takes a considerable amount of skill to tow a vehicle and there’s always the risk that something may go wrong along the way. For example, if something goes wrong and the trailer tips or detaches, it can become dangerous and suffer irreparable damage.
2. Regular Safety Checks
When you set off on vacation in search of paradise, you’ll need to remember to take regular safety and hitch checks when towing a travel trailer. This can be frustrating and add considerable time to a journey that’s likely already long, but taking safety measures regularly can help prevent any accidents in the future.
It’s also vital that the tires on your travel trailer are inflated to the correct pressure, as under or overinflated tires can be dangerous and cause potential accidents when you’re driving out on the road.
3. Travel Restrictions
There are regulations you need to follow when driving an RV, and you’ll also need to follow certain rules when towing a vehicle too. Travel restrictions may be different in certain areas for towing, and this can be a frustrating part of the preparation you’ll need to do before heading off on vacation.
Travel trailers can be huge rigs, and this can prove difficult when traveling through areas with narrow roads. It can be helpful to plan a route ahead of time and check there aren’t any areas that may prove difficult when maneuvering your car and trailer.
What Are The Advantages Of A Truck Camper?
Truck campers differ greatly from travel trailers as they become one complete unit once mounted onto the back of your pickup truck. They are the ideal vehicle for those who want to use a trailer both on and off the truck, and also have the ability to tackle rough terrain.
Arguably the biggest advantage of truck campers is their adaptability, but it’s essential to properly secure your truck camper if you’re using it on the ground as otherwise, it could tip over.
Truck campers tend to be on the smaller side, but nowadays many of them are available with additional side-outs to help create a bigger space.
2. Compact Size
Truck campers are relatively small RVs, but they still manage to pack a punch. The compact size of truck campers not only means they are far less daunting to drive around than larger RVs but also means they are easier to store away at home too.
As RVs are often long, they can be hard to maneuver and be a nightmare to turn around in tight areas. Truck campers aren’t usually much longer than your pickup truck so you won’t struggle to park in bays or turn around when needed.
3. Off-Road Ability
Most pickup trucks have good off-road ability meaning you can take your truck camper to remote spots in the wild. Tackling harsh terrain such as mud can be difficult, especially if the weather isn’t on your side either, but if you’ve got off-road tires on your truck, you shouldn’t have too much of a problem!
4. Fuel Economy
Gas has never been cheap, and in today’s climate, it’s arguably more expensive than ever to fill up at the gas station. Typical RVs can be very expensive to fill, and if you’re also towing a heavy travel trailer, your fuel economy may suffer.
Although the fuel economy with a truck camper isn’t optimal due to the additional weight on the bed, it will be substantially better than standard RVs or travel trailers. If you can keep the weight of your truck camper down, you may be able to improve your mpg even more and travel further for less.
Truck campers may be the answer for you if you’re looking for an adventure rig that can take you exactly where you want to go and even further! It’s important to consider, however, if truck campers offer everything you’re looking for as they do have some downsides too.
What Are The Disadvantages Of A Truck Camper?
Along with all the advantages of truck campers, there are also some disadvantages that are important to think about. As a truck camper needs to align correctly with your pickup truck, it can be hard to find suitable second-hand options.
If you are on a budget and are looking to buy a truck camper, it may be useful to look at used ones, but be sure that they are well-suited to your truck to maximize safety.
1. Need A Pickup Truck
If you don’t already own a pickup truck, you’ll need to purchase one to go along with your truck camper. Buying both a pickup and a truck camper in one hit can equate to a lot of money, and if you already own a car, a travel trailer might be a better-suited option to go for.
Using a truck camper on the back of your pickup truck regularly can also lead to more maintenance and repairs as your truck is under regular stress. As your pickup will likely wear quicker too, you may need to spend a considerable amount to keep it running in the best condition possible.
2. Height Limitations
Truck campers add significant height to your pickup truck and although this isn’t much of a problem when you’re exploring in the wilderness, it can cause issues in urban and built-up areas. It’s also worth taking extra precautions in narrow areas with trees, as low branches can cause damage to the camper if you accidentally collide with them.
3. Difficult To Load And Unload
As most types of RV are contained in one unit, you don’t need to worry about loading your camper or hitching it up to your car. There is a particular process to both load and unload your truck camper and this can be difficult, especially if you don’t have anyone available to help you.
The time and effort it takes to safely load and unload your vehicle can be a lot, but rushing the process isn’t an alternative as it could lead to an accident and your trailer becoming less secure.
Truck campers are expensive additions to your truck and although they offer a lot, they are still small and don’t often have all of the amenities available with a typical RV or travel trailer.
The design process, engineering, and manufacturing of a truck camper takes considerable time and has to be perfect in order to fit on the pickup correctly, and this is one of the reasons they have such a high price tag.
5. Small Space
For solo travelers, or those adventuring as a couple, truck campers are a great option and shouldn’t feel too cramped even with a couple of people inside. If you’re a family or group larger than two or three, a truck camper may feel small as the space is quite limited.
If you have your heart set on purchasing a truck camper to mount onto your pickup but want to travel as a family, it may be an idea to look into truck campers with slides and outdoor features like an awning to create more space.
Both truck campers and travel trailers have an array of advantages and are perfect options depending on the type of RV you desire. For those who want a true adventure in the great outdoors and don’t want to be limited by a large vehicle or trailer, truck campers are an option well worth considering.
If space and comfort are more appealing and you want to be able to relax with friends and family without feeling cramped, a travel trailer may be a better option. Regardless of the type of RV you choose, if you regularly maintain it and give it plenty of love, your RV will take you on some incredible adventures that will last a lifetime.