When you start preparing for your next adventure, ensuring you have the right gear can become overwhelming. That likely begins with the “roof” over your head or the travel trailer you haul with you.
Travel trailers come in all shapes, sizes, weights, designs, options, and of course, budgets. And we all want to get the best (though not necessarily the biggest) bang for our buck.
Yet choosing the best travel trailer for you is highly individual. Plus, it can change throughout your life depending on who you’re traveling with, the vehicle you use to tow, your preference for convenience versus comfort versus off-roading and more. So, before you can choose the best travel trailer for your budget, you first need to decide on what the best camper type is for your lifestyle.
For instance, do you want something lightweight and easy to pull, that provides nearly all the same comforts as home, can be called home for weeks, months, or even years, or just a place to lay your head at the end of an adventurous day on a quick weekend outing?
Want More From I Heart RVing? Subscribe Today!
What Is a Travel Trailer?
Travel trailers are by far the most popular type of non-motorized RV. They’re designed to be pulled behind (hitched to) a car, SUV, or pickup. You can find travel trailers in all sizes and shapes. Some tiny, often tear-dropped shaped versions can even be pulled behind smaller vehicles and provide little more than a warm bed with maybe an outdoor kitchen of sorts. Others are more like full homes on wheels and provide large windows, gourmet kitchens, comfy chairs for movie nights, and king-size beds. And, of course, everything in-between.
The best campers were popularized in the 1950s and were sometimes referred to as “bumper-pulls” as they were attached to a bumper. Now, they’re securely hitched to your vehicle’s frame using specialized hardware, which makes towing easier, safer, and more reliable.
Travel trailer advantages over other camping or RV options include:
- There are so many models to choose from, which can fit into a wide array of budgets
- There’s no need to purchase a special RV-hauling vehicle as many can be towed behind your daily driving car, SUV, truck, or even electric vehicle.
- Compared to a tent, you can rest more easily due to the improved safety with solid, locking doors and windows.
- You can find a wide variety of floor plans to suit your needs and preferences, including separate bedrooms, bathing options, and kitchen layouts.
- The best campers can be unhitched and left at a campsite, so you can continue your adventure without lugging everything with you.
- Many are super easy to set up.
Best Travel Trailers
Whether you’re looking for something more old-school, affordable, or luxurious, there’s a brand out there that has what you’re looking for. And many brands will have nearly identical trailers that just have minor differences, which may be a deal-maker or deal-breaker for you. But when you find one that meets around 90% or more of your wants, you’ve likely found the right one for you.
That said, no matter what your needs are or which brands you prefer, there are some common things to look for, such as:
- Pull-ability: can your vehicle of choice pull the trailer, or will you need to buy something new? Knowing your vehicle’s tow-rating before you buy is vital. To ensure you don’t strain your vehicle when towing, experts recommend looking at the maximum towing capacity and multiplying it by 80%. So, for example, if your vehicle can tow 13,500 pounds, you would want a trailer that’s 10,800 pounds or less. If the max is 7,700, then you’ll want to look for a travel trailer that’s 6,160 pounds or less. That way, you have room for other gear, such as an awning, food, water, clothing, games, extra propane, batteries, etc. If you plan to travel over steep mountain passes or on backroads, you’ll want to choose an even lighter-weight unit.
- Size: While you may want a larger, more spacious travel trailer when you’re on the road, if you only have so much space to fit in the driveway or your parking space, you’ll need to take that into consideration. Likewise, if your favorite campground has length limitations, consider that before you begin shopping. You may be able to expand the size of your trailer with slide-outs. Remember, though, that these can add weight, may not be as well insulated, and you may need to watch for leaks or mechanical issues.
- Preferences, such as floor plan, how many people it sleeps, décor, fancy gadgets, storage options for food, ice, hiking or hunting gear, outdoor seating, and more.
Other important things to watch for include:
- Quality—you can often tell the quality by how solidly the doors close.
- Reliability—look for consumer reviews and ratings as well as any third-party professional awards.
- Affordability—the best travel trailer for the money depends greatly on your budget. Some units are highly affordable, others can cost nearly the same as a house.
- Longevity—if you plan to trade up in a few years, this can matter less than if you want to use your travel trailer for years to come.
- Least Problematic—do customers complain about how difficult it is to set up, maneuver, or repair?
And, of course, one of the biggest considerations is how you plan to use your travel trailer. For example, do you want:
- The best travel trailer for boondocking away from the crowds, accommodations, and highways?
- A lightweight travel trailer that a smaller or even electric vehicle can easily pull?
- An elegant travel trailer that provides all the best luxury and looks and feels high-end?
- A well-insulated and durable trailer you can live in for months or even years to come?
- A travel trailer that will accommodate you alone or your family of six?
Popular Brands for the Best Travel Trailers
New brands of travel trailers pop up regularly, and others have been around for generations.
- Jayco Travel Trailers are some of the best-selling options due to their wide range of floor plans and options, including luxurious kitchens and spacious lounge areas. They also offer a range of elite packages, such as solar prep. And they’re well-known for their quality construction and craftsmanship.
- Forest River has a huge selection with several brands under their main company, such as Coachman, Prime Time Manufacturing, and East to West. The Alpha Wolf 26DBH-L is worth looking at as it’s one of the most popular and provides great bang for the buck, especially for families that want a convenient onboard bathroom and some privacy for mom and dad. The Forest River Flagstaff is another lightweight, compact unit that has a lot of extra storage and has been found to be well-built and sturdy. Another affordable, lightweight option is the Prime Time Avenger series, which also offers several travel trailers you may find appealing as they have different sizes and floor plans to choose from.
- No Boundaries is also under the umbrella of Forest River. These travel trailers are designed to be compact, lightweight, and built for rugged adventures for folks who don’t like a lot of fuss. They have high clearance, so you can head off the beaten path more easily. You can also easily add your favorite toy gear (e.g., bikes, kayaks) with the optional roof racks. The floorplan is minimal but offers plenty of storage space. One of the most attractive features of the No Boundaries is the lower price point (just around $20K).
- Airstream: there’s no more classic travel trailer than the Airstream, and they remain some of the most luxurious, roomy, and advanced travel trailers available. They’re perfect for long and short trips as they provide space, amenities, and top-of-the-line quality and technology. With several sizes and floorplans, you’re bound to find one you love. They do, however, come with a higher price point to match their luxury feel and iconic design.
- Winnebagos are another in the list of best travel trailers due to their long history and award-winning units. One of the newest in their lineup is also one of their most popular: the Winnebago Micro Mini. While very compact, it still features a spacious kitchen, great ventilation, and a low weight that can be towed even by electric vehicles. It offers packages that are also perfect for off-road adventures as it comes solar-ready and provides off-road tires yet also provides a host of fun accessories like LED lighting in the awning along with patio speakers, so you can enjoy entertaining yourself and others in the outdoors longer.
- Grand Design is another company with a wide range of designs and floorplans, including many that provide loads of luxury and a higher price point to match. For example, if you’re looking for a home on the road, the Reflection 312BHTS provides loads of room with three sliders, skylights, a fireplace, optional theater seating, and a high-end kitchen. It also allows for extra privacy with a master bedroom on one end and bunkbeds with windows on the other. This is a great place for the kids to sleep but can also be used as a home office or extra storage. The unit even provides an outdoor kitchen that’s perfect for larger gatherings.
Other popular brands include:
- Coachman, which has been building travel trailers for more than 50 years.
- NuCamp Teardrop Campers that are lightweight and take up little space but offer spacious sleeping and even include a wet bath, galley kitchen, and a surprising amount of storage.
- Happier Camper offers fully-equipped yet lightweight travel trailers with endless possibilities due to their Adaptiv® Components that allow you to design and redesign the living space to suit your changing needs.
- KZ RVs provide a wide range of options to allow you to choose your adventure.
- Casita, known for their ultra-durability and user-friendly designs and customizable features with more affordable options.
- Opus, which are made for off-road travelers but are still family and first-timer friendly.
- Polydrop, which are made for those who are looking for something that will turn heads and provide innovative tech.
Finding the best travel trailer for your budget starts with knowing yourself, what you like, what you need, and even how often you will be able to travel. After all, a travel trailer can be a moderate to very high expense. Your choices will differ greatly if you’re looking for a small getaway unit for the family than if you’re looking for a full-time adventure in your retirement and have a bit more extra cash to spend.
Being clear on your expectations can help you decide where to pull back and where to invest, such as extra storage space, good insulation, ease of use, drivability, sustainability, and more.
The good news is that no matter what your budget or preferences are, with so many options available, you’re bound to find the right travel trailer for you!