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Take Your Car With You As You RV

Updated on February 15, 2012

Take Your Car With You When You Hit The Open Road In Your RV

The car has become the mainstay of transportation in North America. Most people would be lost without their cars. They have parts of their home dedicated to their cars in the form of a garage.

It is true there are other forms of transportation such as buses and taxis which can get you to most of the places you want to go, but for the ultimate freedom of traveling where, when, and how the personal automobile is still the favorite.

In North America approximately one million people have embraced a new lifestyle, and that is living in an RV Full Time. The RV becomes their home on wheels. Now the problem is the fact that once the RV reaches a destination and is parked for a period of time it becomes a problem to get around for such things as grocery shopping and sightseeing. But as in all things there is always a solution. The solution is something you may already have seen on the highways, and that is to take your car with you by towing it or carrying it in some fashion. Then there are some that like to take it all with them as the photo shows.

Tow Bar To Tow A Car Behind An RV
Tow Bar To Tow A Car Behind An RV

Towing Your Car Flat or Four Wheels Down Behind Your RV

The Easiest Way Once Everything Is Set Up

One of the easiest and most used methods of taking a car with you when you are living the Full Time RV Lifestyle is to tow it flat down behind the RV. This works if your RV is Self Powered such as an A Class, C Class, B Class or even a camper on a pickup truck. If your RV is a 5th Wheel or Trailer, you do not need to tow since in most cases you will have a vehicle available when you disconnect the 5th Wheel or Trailer.

To tow a vehicle flat or four wheels down means first of all that the car you are intending to tow must be capable of this. Almost all vehicles with a standard transmission can be towed four wheels down. Usually all that has to be done to tow it is to place the transmission in neutral, and turn the ignition to the position that frees the steering wheel but does not turn on the accessories.

Some automatic vehicles can also be towed four wheels down, just by putting them in neutral and unlocking the ignition. For some others a lube pump has to be installed on the transmission that is powered by the towing vehicle. The best way to find out if the vehicle you want to tow is capable of it is to search on the internet for flat tow capable vehicles.

To set up a vehicle for flat towing about all that usually has to be done is to install a base plate on the front. This base plate is where the hitch system connects to the vehicle. In most cases these base plates are almost invisible when the hitch is removed.

An electrical cable also has to be run from the RV to the towed vehicle. Usually a jack is installed somewhere below the bumper that the cable from the tow vehicle plugs into. This cable allows the lights on the towed vehicle to work in conjunction with the towing vehicle.

The last thing that the car being towed needs is a braking system. This is usually just something that sits on the floor of the car on the drivers side to press on the brake pedal when it gets a braking signal from the RV or an inertia switch.

The only other requirement at this point would be the hitch assembly itself. These are usually a triangular affair that goes from the hitch receiver on the RV to the two brackets or pins on the base plate that was installed on the car. When these hitch assemblies are not in use they usually fold up neatly on the back of the RV and can be left there even when the RV is moved.

It takes a bit to get all this equipment installed at first, but after it is installed it usually takes less than five minutes to hook the Car to the RV and check to make sure all the lights and brakes are working. Then it if off to the next destination.

Car Behind Rv On A Tow Dolly
Car Behind Rv On A Tow Dolly

Towing A Car Behind An RV On A Dolly

Not All Cars Can Be Towed Four Wheels Down

So you have purchased your new motor home and you are ready to set out on the road. But you have just found out that your car cannot be towed four wheels down. What is the solution?

Actually there are a few, but for this segment I will only touch on two.

The first method is to tow the car on a Car Dolly. A car dolly is a small trailer with only two wheels. It has a very low deck, and two ramps that come of the back so that the front wheels of a car can be driven up onto it. The procedure is to first connect the car dolly to the RV and then move to a position where there is enough room to drive the car up behind the car dolly and up onto it. Once the car is on the dolly, a couple of heavy duty straps are placed over the front tires to secure the car to the dolly. Car dollies are usually used for front wheel drive vehicles since it is the driving wheels that have to be lifted off the road. If you happen to have a rear wheel drive vehicle, it can be towed on a car dolly, but will have to be backed onto it.

The braking system and lights for this setup are in the car dolly so usually no modifications have to be made to the car itself. About the only thing that some people do is wire the taillights of the tow dolly to the taillights of the car via a jack on the car. This is to make the back of the car more visible at night. But in most cases you are allowed something like fifteen feet from the taillights to the end of the vehicle, so the distance from the lights on the tow dolly to the end of the vehicle would be less than that.

Another method for towing a car is to use a car trailer. This is used for vehicles like four wheel drives where towing them four wheels down or on a dolly would still be a problem. The problem is that the trailers are usually quite large and become a problem to store at an RV park or other destination.

In the photo of the car being pulled on the dolly notice the other light solution of a couple of magnetic lights placed on the back of the vehicle.

Smart Car In Travel Supreme A Class Motor Home
Smart Car In Travel Supreme A Class Motor Home

Carrying Your Car Inside An RV

This Gives Garage A Whole New Meaning

RV manufacturers have come to realize that many people who live in their RV's full time do want to take a car with them. So to meet this demand they have come up with a number of options.

The first common option that came onto the scene was the Toy Hauler. This was usually a 5th Wheel or standard Trailer with a garage in the back end. There was usually a fold down door that acted as a ramp to be able to drive your car into and out of the garage. The problem with most of these units was the fact that only very small cars would fit into them. This was a function of both weight and not wanting to intrude on the living space inside the RV to a great extent. In many cases the garages were better suited to things like snowmobiles and quads.

But along came a new car that worked great for this type of setup and that was the Smart Car by Mercedes Benz. These short eight foot cars were the perfect solution for the amount of space available in the garage in many of these RVs. Many of the garage units that first came out where trailers which meant that the owners already would have a pickup truck or other tow vehicle available to them when they parked the trailer, but some still wanted a small vehicle to get around in instead.

Now there are getting to be A Class and C Class RVs with garages. There are some people that just do not want to tow anything behind them. Many of these RVs are already forty plus feet long and adding a towed vehicle can push the setup to over sixty feet. So for these people the A or C Class garage unit is the way to go. In the attached photo you can see a Smart Car parked in the garage of a Travel Supreme A Class RV.

Smart Car On RV Tractor Unit
Smart Car On RV Tractor Unit

Carrying A Car On The RV Tow Vehicle

Looks Like You Are Carrying A Spare

Something that has also been happening in the Full Time RV scene is the advent of specialized tow vehicles for 5th Wheel and regular Trailers. These tow vehicles are usually smaller versions of the Kenworth style fifth wheel tractors that we see on the road. People are going to these since some of the 5th Wheels and Trailers are getting to the point where they are too heavy for a standard one ton pickup truck to pull.

Now the problem with these vehicles is the fact that they are too large to be used for things like grocery shopping and sight seeing. So another solution to the bringing a car problem was figured out.

In most states and provinces it is illegal to double tow. In other words a car could not be towed behind a trailer which was being pulled by a motorized vehicle.

What these owners started to do was to purchase a tow vehicle with a long deck and then park the car on the deck ahead of the 5th wheel hitch set up for the 5th wheel trailer. It was a bit of a problem since one of the advantages of having a 5th wheel trailer in the first place was to shorten the overall length of the combination on the road. Getting a longer truck defeated that purpose.

Again the Smart Car came to the rescue. The Smart Car was short enough to be parked crosswise on the towing vehicle, and thereby not adding a great deal of length to the total combination. About the only real problem in this setup is setting up the ramps to get the car on and off the bed of the towing vehicle. But as with anything since people want to have their car bad enough this is a small price to pay.

Towing A Car Behind A Vehicle
Towing A Car Behind A Vehicle

The Car Is Not Going Away Soon

People Will Find A Way To Take Their Car With Them

As we have shown in this article, people are attached to their cars. They are not going to let something like a lifestyle change hamper them from being able to take their car with them. So as you travel through the parking lots of North America pay attention to the front end of the cars that you see. Check to see if there are a couple of brackets or pins sticking out below the front bumper of any of these cars. If there is chances are it is part of a hitch assembly that allows the owners to pull their cars behind their RVs. It is amazing that once you start to notice these brackets on cars you will see them everywhere. There being an estimated one million Full Time RVers means that a very large number of cars are going to be equipped in this way. So the next time you see an owner get into a car equipped in this way, you can walk up to him and ask him how he is enjoying his RV Lifestyle.

In my Book Full Time in an RV, I go into vehicle towing and other aspects of Living The Full Time RV Lifestyle in much more detail. You can see the details about my book on the link in the module above.

Do you have experiences with taking or not taking another vehicle with you on your RV adventures? Tell us about it. Maybe you have some tips we could pass along.

Do you take your vehicle with you? - Or do you have other means of transportation when you get to your destination?

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