A toad is an expression that RVers use for cars they tow behind their RV. Many Class A and Class C RVers use toads while fulltiming to get around without having to drive their RV.
It is one of the biggest questions new rvers have about travel with an RV (After which RV to get,). Many don’t use toads.
There are several alternatives to getting around:
Rely on your RV
Renting a car
There is no right answer about having a toad. It’s a personal decision for what works best in your situation. I’ll cover the differences between traveling with and without a toad based. This should help you explore the answer that’s right for you.
Traveling without a toad.
When we started fulltiming, we weren’t experienced RV drivers. We had a 27 ft Class C Lazydaze. I was uneasy driving the RV at first. The idea of adding another 13-15 ft car was too much. At first towing car behind rv was not an option.
Not to mention the extra costs of owning a separate car with an engine to upkeep and insurance. We knew that we would have to plan our travels. We’d choose places that we could get to by foot, bike or public transportation once we parked the RV.
Because of that, it limited where we could go or the places we could explore off the beaten track. A couple of examples of where it would have been nice to had a toad was Big Bend National Park. They didn’t have shuttle buses and everything was so spread out since it’s a large park.
We also wanted to go to Bryce Canyon after visiting Zion, but the shuttle buses weren’t running at the time. We experienced so many places that were easy to navigate without a car or we learned to adapt to the situation.
We got in better shape having to walk or bike somewhere rather than jumping the in the car to drive 2-5 miles. Yes, it takes longer to get somewhere without a car. And it takes far more planning to pick a safe route on foot or bike. You have to plan ahead to get to the bus or train station, but if you’re not on a schedule then it’s another part of the adventure.
It was a little tricky to rent a car as a fulltimer because the agency wants to know your permanent address. We didn’t think about renting a car until halfway through our trip. It wasn’t on our radar, but we found out about Enterprise’s 9.99 weekend rates that run from Friday through Monday. It was always less than $40 to have a car for the weekend to explore further than a couple of miles. The rate only included 100 miles per day and they don’t offer the weekend rate during the summer. But it’s a great alternative to a toad.
Biking is another great way to get around. You can go farther than when walking. We had our bikes attached to a 2 bike rack hitch, which was very easy to load and unload the bikes when we were ready to pack up. I wish we would have gotten a double bike cover since our bikes got rusty from all the rain and road dust. They were more pleasure bikes than road bikes so we never got anywhere quick.
They were great for going a few miles to the grocery store or nearby restaurant or scenic interest. I had weatherproof bike bags on each side of my rear tire. Christina had a bike basket on the back of her bike so we could carry quite a few groceries that way. Funny how you start to check how much you want something by how heavy it will on a long bike ride. I second guessed carrying home a bottle of wine for dinner one time.
Public transportation is great if you’re camping in more populated areas. Many cities have bus or rail transportation that is usually only a small walk to bike ride away from an RV park. It takes more time to go on public transportation since you are now on someone else’s schedule. But many times it’s easier than trying to drive and park in a heavy populated area. We often would take the bus to Key West. The return bus stops in front of the state park, even though we had a car, because parking was a nightmare. It would take 30 minutes to an hour to find a parking spot that didn’t have a time limit.
Rely on Your RV
The other option is actually unhooking your RV to drive it around the area you want to explore. If you have a very big/long rig, then this is not possible. but if your rig is less than 30 ft, you will be surprised at the places you can drive through and park.
We once were on a trip with friends to see Dave Matthews Band in Chicago. We were in a 27 ft Class C. Our camp was about 20 miles outside of Chicago and the three day festival was in Chicago. I drove that rig all over Chicago and we even parked in Chinatown to go sight seeing. We went to a regular parking lot in Chinatown and asked if we could park. The lot attendant helped us park and we had to pay for the two spots we using.
Same thing in El Paso TX. I needed to renew my passport, but since we were on the road I couldn’t mail it off. So we decided to get an expedited passport and the nearest regional passport office was El Paso. El Paso didn’t have very good public transportation so we drove the RV downtown and parked in one of the downtown lots. As long as you’re comfortable driving in tight spaces and doing a few turns to get in a parking space, it’s not that bad.
I know some of you are saying that’s great, but I don’t want to be in a populated place so then what? If you’re camping in the more natural settings, then make sure you stock up on groceries and necessities. We also camped in some very remote places. We loved it, but also realized that we wouldn’t be able to explore some parts due to not having a car. I’d say we camped 50/50 cities to out of the way places and loved not having to worry about a car. We met a lot of full-timers that also didn’t have cars and they never regretted towing a car either.
Traveling with a toad
After we got off our big trip out west, I started volunteering at state parks. This helped to supplement our living while still being in the RV full-time. I knew that we would need a toad based on the parks that we were going to be at as a volunteer.
We researched cars that we could have as a toad with our 3500 lb weight limit. I knew that we would be towing via a tow bar since the added weight of a two wheel dolly wouldn’t work in our situation. the FMCA website that showcases the advantages and disadvantages of the three ways to tow a car behind a RV.
Knowing which cars can be towed on all four wheels safely behind a RV is a lot of research. Good Sam has a list for cars that can be towed via a dingy. One of the most common towable cars you’ll see is a Jeep. Due to their 4 wheel drive and being able to put the transfer case in neutral (not the normal neutral you find on cars) while having an automatic transmission and being fairly lightweight, they make great toads. We bought an older Cherokee that had an automatic transmission with the 4 wheel drive system. It worked great as a toad for our situation.
Our first venture with it was just up the road from Gainesville at Paynes Prairie State Park. The park was 15 miles from Gainesville and there was no public transportation so having the Cherokee to get back and forth to get groceries and go where we want was really nice.
Our next adventure with the toad was traveling to the Florida Keys. Bahia Honda is in the lower keys but was 5 miles from Big Pine to the South or 10 miles from Marathon to the north and right after the 7 mile bridge. If you ever traveled to the Keys, the bridge is not something you want to travel over via bike or walking. So again the Cherokee came in handy to be able to get groceries and supplies as we needed them. There was a bus that stopped at the campground but it only stopped every 2-3 hours which wasn’t workable for grocery runs.
The third venture with having a toad was to Austin where we have a lot of family. I volunteered at McKinney Falls State Park located 5 miles from downtown Austin. Our family lived north of Austin in the Round Rock area about 30 miles away. You’d think that Austin being so big would have great public transportation, but sadly it was very limited. We would have to change buses 3-4 times to see our family and it would take over 2 hours just to get there. Luckily, the Cherokee made getting around Austin, which is very spread out, like LA. People actually compare traffic in Austin to LA which is crazy.
If you asked me today which I prefer, toad or no toad, it depends:
What type of traveling you are doing
how long will you be on the road
What type of RV you have
I liked the simplicity of not towing but I also liked the convenience of having a car. We have been pretty stationary for a bit after my partner’s cancer diagnosis but plan on traveling more after her 3 year free check up.
We are still debating whether we want to keep our Class C with no tow vehicle or sell to get a travel trailer and pull with our Ford Expedition (my work vehicle). There’s no right or wrong answer to the question to tow or not to tow and like us, you may end up doing both.
Over to You
Have you made a decision about towing your car behind your RV? Share with us in the comments.