Toy Hauler Buying Guide By Country Roads RV Center
How to choose and buy the best toy hauler for YOUR RV lifestyle
At Country Roads RV, we get a lot of questions and requests for advice about toy haulers, how they fit into the camping world and which one is “the best.” Like everything else to do with RVs and camping, there is no “one size fits all” solution for toy haulers, there’s just the right solution for your family and your needs. In this article, we’ll evaluate the pros and cons of choosing which popular toy haulers best fit your lifestyle and how to determine the ideal toy hauler based on amenities, layout, configuration and other factors. But before we get into that, we need to address one simple but important question.
What is a toy hauler?
Toy haulers have come a long way since their inception. Originally conceived as a mobile garage space/”mancave” on wheels for bringing motorized toys such as ATVs, snowmobiles, kayaks and dirt bikes on day-use and camping excursions, toy haulers have evolved until some of them are as luxurious and comfortable as travel trailers, fifth wheels and even full-size RVs with comparable features.
One of the key differences, and the defining characteristic which makes a toy hauler what it is, is the garage door access in the rear of the hauler. Many even have ramp door access, allowing you to load in, store and deploy your toys easily and securely. From there, toy haulers vary widely in size, shape and creature comforts, combining features from beds to bathroom to open-floor plan living and entertaining spaces. They also range in towing capacity from light duty for a couple of dirt bikes to heavy lifting for dune buggies and full-sized cars.
Your guide to buying toy haulers
Because the toy hauler which is right for you is very subjective, choosing the perfect one to buy can be very research-intensive. There are a number of things to check, examine and consider, from the ceiling construction and type of flooring to the vapor wall which separates the enclosed garage area from the living area, reducing infiltration of exhaust fumes. The towing capacity of your vehicle also needs to be carefully considered, because attempting to haul more than your vehicle’s engine, transmission, suspension and towing hitch can accommodate may lead to expensive car repairs, affect toy hauler stability and possibly lead to serious injury or death.
Some important points to evaluate when choosing the ideal toy hauler for your needs include:
- What are you using the garage space for? While many people buy toy haulers with the explicit intent of, well, hauling toys, some people repurpose this foot space as a mobile office, additional storage and for other reasons.
- What amenities do you need/want? Bear in mind that every “creature comfort” or modern convenience included in the interior, including sofas, queen beds, washers and dryers all add weight and reduce available toy hauling space by inches to several feet.
- Can I take this to my favorite campground? Some campgrounds, especially those which are privately owned or heavily booked, may limit or prohibit total vehicle or trailer length over a certain threshold, or may prohibit toy haulers for other reasons ranging from safety to “peaceful enjoyment” for everyone.
- Will you have kids, teens or adults with you? The toy hauler floorplans which will best suit your needs may vary depending on the number and age of the people you’re planning to have in the space.
- What kind of tow vehicle will you be using? Using a heavy-duty pickup truck designed for heavy-haul towing will give you a wider range of options than a light-duty pickup or a car. However, some RVs and motor homes have toy hauler space built into them, but to operate these in some states, you may need a special endorsement or even a commercial driver’s license depending upon weight, length and other factors.
The best toy hauler for you will depend on how you answer these questions and what priority you assign to, for example, garage and hauling space versus living space. Remember, when it comes to travel trailers and toy haulers, everything you include or exclude constitutes a compromise between living and hauling space, and one or the other will be affected by every choice you make.
Frequently Asked Questions About the Toy Hauler Buying Guide
Question: How long do toy haulers last? –Derek, Indian Trail, NC
Answer: Depending on the make, model and year of your trailer, you can reasonably expect to get at least ten years out of your toy hauler with proper maintenance and moderate usage. Using it more, not following manufacturer guidelines for care and maintenance or attempting to tow your toy hauler with the incorrect type of vehicle can all negatively impact the potential service life of your toy hauler.
Question: The obvious reason for buying a toy hauler is to haul your toys but, what kind of toys? –AJ, Sherrills Ford, NC
Answer: Depending on the size, garage space, overall length and towing requirements, a toy hauler can be used for:
- Golf Carts
- Dirt bikes
- Dune buggies
- Full-size cars
- And more
However, the configuration of your toy hauler’s living space (if applicable) will impact the size, weight and overall hauling capacity of the garage area, so be sure to factor this into your calculations when determining what you can and cannot haul in the toy hauler you’re considering.
Question: Does insurance cost more on a toy hauler? –Amanda, Charlotte, NC
Answer: Toy hauler insurance could cost anywhere from around $50-$500+ per year, depending on the size, configuration, year, make, model, amenities and other factors. You should ask your insurance agent to run the numbers based on your driving record and the type of toy hauler you’re considering to determine how your insurance premiums may be affected.
Question: Do toy haulers retain their value over time better than a camper trailer? –Harvey, Mint Hill
Answer: Overall, below ten years, the depreciation curve for toy haulers and camper trailers are roughly the same. Factors which will impact value retention versus depreciation include how well the toy hauler is maintained, the year, make, model popularity, amenities and degree of customization. If you are looking for models which retain value over time, you will need to crunch some numbers and dig into historical data on MSRPs, private sale numbers, reported condition and more.
Question: How much weight can a light toy hauler carry? –TinaLynn, Gastonia, NC
Answer: A “lightweight” toy hauler may be able to carry as little as 400lbs or as much as a ton and a quarter/2,500lbs. Most ATVs including full fuel tanks weigh less than 1,000lbs. By contrast, even most compact cars weigh around a ton and a half. Of course, weight is only a portion of the equation. You also have to account for living space, the amenities in your toy hauler and total garage floor area, because all of these factors will reduce the amount of weight you can safely haul.
Question: Can you fit a car in a toy hauler? –Justin, Tryon Hills, NC
Answer: The short answer is, “Yes—BUT.” A medium to heavy toy hauler may have the space and towing capacity to accommodate a car. However, the weight, length, rear axle weight rating and type of towing assembly you’re using will all make a difference. Here are some things to consider when choosing a toy hauler with the intent of taking a car, Jeep or light pickup in it:
- How long is the vehicle? A longer vehicle will eat into your available living space. If you’re looking at a model which is ONLY intended as garage space, this may be less of a factor than if you intend to use your toy hauler as living quarters while camping. However, vehicle length will certainly become a factor when navigating narrow roads, getting into a campsite and when making turns, because your tow vehicle will perform differently and you’ll need to allow a significantly wider turn radius than usual.
- How much does the vehicle weigh? This will markedly increase your stopping distance.
- How will you get the vehicle into the toy hauler? You will certainly need a model with a ramp for this. It’s never a good idea to use homemade, DIY or makeshift ramps to load a vehicle onto a toy hauler, as this can lead to damaging both the vehicle and the hauler.
- How will you secure the vehicle in the toy hauler? You can’t just set the parking brake on the vehicle and call it a day. If you’re forced to make a panic stop or are in an accident, the vehicle may continue to keep moving because of inertia, with or without the parking brake engaged. This can lead to significant damage to the hauler including the vapor wall and living areas and possibly your tow and hauled vehicles, injury or death, and will certainly void the manufacturer’s warranty. Some toy haulers may include vehicle restraint and security straps, chains and anchor points, either as a standard feature or an optional upgrade.
Question: Should I consider a 5th wheel toy hauler too? –Edna, Chantilly, NC
Answer: A fifth wheeler may be a good compromise between an RV with a built-in toy hauler and a travel trailer. However, you will need a vehicle with the right towing hitch and sufficient towing capacity to handle the total loaded weight of the toy hauler. Your vehicle manufacturer’s website or your owner’s manual can give you the numbers you need to determine whether your vehicle can handle the type of toy hauler you’re considering.