Toy Haulers come in different sizes and types. The right model for you depends on a number of variables that will have a significant impact on your ultimate decision, so begin with the critical factors and put your priorities on paper. As you evaluate your choices, consider which kind of vehicle you'll use to pull your toy hauler and how you will use it.
Check Your Tow Vehicle's Hauling Capacity
Your vehicle's towing capacity is the first piece of critical information that will limit all of your considerations. The towing capacity of a vehicle is usually listed on a data plate attached on the inside of the driver's side door, as well as in the owner's manual. If you've lost your manual and can't find the data plate, there are also online towing guides that list vehicles by year of manufacture.
There's an old country song that opines, "Don't worry about the mule, load the wagon." That may work out in the world of lyrics, but not with trailers. You will need to ensure that the weight of the trailer you select, combined with everything that you need to haul in it, does not exceed the towing capacity for your vehicle.
Factors to consider include:
- Which specific capabilities will your toy hauler be required to meet?
- What is the combined weight of all items you need to haul?
- What is the width and length of the toys you intend to haul?
- How much supporting equipment do you need to bring along?
- Do you plan to camp in a remote area where you'll need a generator?
- Will you need additional support like a fueling station and water storage?
For any toy hauler, one of the most critical issues to evaluate is the frame and overall construction. With a good deal of weight on the trailer deck, the sides and top will flex significantly. Models with an all-aluminum framework will fare much better over the long haul than models with wooden struts.
The Need for Electric Brakes
Keep in mind that when you want to come to a stop, your loaded trailer will start pushing you since the weight and inertia tend to maintain their forward motion. Electric brakes are a must for any trailer with a combined payload of 3,000 pounds or more.
Cargo Trailer Toy Haulers
Cargo trailers are the simplest and most basic toy haulers. These trailers are wide open and have the capacity to haul vehicles in a protected environment. They can be used to haul toys behind motor homes or trucks, but they don't provide sleeping compartments, a kitchen, or bathroom facilities.
Cargo trailers generally have a side entry door and a drop-down ramp for rear loading and unloading of a vehicle or other sporting gear, such as snow mobiles, kayaks, canoes, etc. Some models have a rear and front ramp, which is very handy for multiple vehicles.
Prices range from around $1,200 for very small units up to $75,000 or more for larger, custom-built units. Customization always results in additional costs.
Some manufacturers offer a total customization process that allows every aspect of the toy hauler to be tailored to your individual needs. For example, you can add an additional six inches of height, beef up the trailer's structural strength, specify where you want D-Rings and doors, as well as the number of and capacity of axles, and so much more.
Example Cargo Trailer
Every trailer manufacturer makes a toy hauler in this class; it's the bread and butter of the industry. Some of the bigger names in the business include Wells Cargo, Featherlite, Triton, and Haulmark. These manufacturers use dealer networks, so you can have the advantage of a local connection for support and warranty work.
The 8.5-foot wide Haulmark Adventure Trailer is an example that will give you a baseline for size, capacity, features, and ballpark price. This trailer is available in lengths from 18 to 30 feet. It is sold based on the buyer's needs and pricing depends upon the options chosen. Prices begin around $3,000 for a plain, 18-feet model, and they go up based on size and features.
Toy Hauler Travel Trailers
If you don't have a motor home and want to enjoy RV camping, consider a travel trailer that serves double duty as a toy hauler. When looking for an RV toy hauler, George Miller, a 17 year veteran of RV sales at Camping World states, "The first issue you need to address is how many beds you'll need."
Toy hauler travel trailers range in price from around $35,000 to $65,000, depending on the length, bedroom configuration, amenities and options.
With optional slide-outs, these campers can be very comfortable and spacious. Quality models utilize every aspect of the space available with options, such as drop-down beds in the toy-hauler section, so you get maximum utilization once you're on site and unload your toys.
Other add-on features are also available, such as fueling stations, generators, and large-capacity fresh water and black water storage units for remote camping.
Travel trailers are a popular RV toy hauler option because they can be pulled by most SUVs and pickups. They provide sleeping space and other comforts of home in one package.
Example Toy Hauler Travel Trailer
Like cargo trailers, many manufacturers make toy hauler travel trailers. Keystone, currently the largest manufacturer, and others companies like Forest River, Jayco, Rubicon and Palomino will all help you begin your search.
The 36-foot Keystone Carbon Travel Trailer Toy Hauler is a luxurious option priced in the upper $40K range, depending on the options selected. It holds 30 gallons of onboard fuel and sleeps four people. The smaller 19-foot version lists for around $35K. View the manufacturer's photo gallery to get a sense of how it is configured.
5th Wheel Toy Haulers
The next big step up in the RV market is a giant one for the novice, so consider this option carefully. The 5th wheel toy hauler tends to be much larger and requires more of everything in a tow vehicle. The advantages to this type of trailer are greater height inside, more spacious living areas, a more stable ride and, if you want, more luxury.
This type of trailer tends to be the choice of more experienced campers, including those classified as 'live aboard' enthusiasts in the perpetual travel mode. These beefy toy haulers are available in lengths that range up to 45 feet with prices of a luxury 5th wheel RV, which can reach the $250K mark easily. Basic 5th wheel units start out in the upper $30Ks to the lower $40Ks, depending on the manufacturer.
A significant advantage to this type of trailer is the reduction in overall length created by the living space that extends up and over the tow vehicle by as much as five feet. This, in effect, shortens the overall length compared to a bumper tow model with similar living and toy-hauling capacity. The additional height also makes it possible to have ceiling fans for added comfort. Another advantage is that 5th wheel haulers sway less than traditional campers.
Example 5th Wheel Toy Hauler
The Keystone Carbon 297 is an example of a high-end 5th wheel toy hauler. With a cargo capacity of over 4,200 pounds, this RV sleeps up to seven people and has two slides. Depending on the options you choose, this model can run around $70K.
Shopping for Your Toy Hauler
You can shop for your toy hauler at a large RV superstore like Camping World or with any other dealers within a reasonable driving distance of your home. A good starting point is to review the websites of specific manufacturers you are interested in, and use their online databases to locate dealers that carry the brand.
Of course, if you want to save some money, there are a lot of used options and Internet bargains. Keep in mind that most of the major manufacturers have a dealer network, and you'll have to work through a local retail store to price and order a unit. Delivery times can run several weeks, depending on the time of year you order.
One important issue to consider is the distance from your home to the dealer you select. If you have a problem and need dealer support, do you really want to drive 300 miles to the place where you got this "amazing deal" that was shipped to your home?
Making Your Decision
Regardless of the type of toy hauler you choose, there's a significant advantage to being able to load all of your toys into one vehicle or trailer and enjoy a weekend of kayaking, snowmobiling, or hitting the ATV trails. The easier it is to enjoy your favorite pastime, the more you'll do it, and that's worth every penny for some people.
Take your time and make sure you have carefully considered all of the important things on your list of what you really want in a trailer. When you settle on a particular brand or model, compare warranties and the stability of the company you'll be doing business with. A few more days of evaluation can pay dividends months down the road if you take your time and are truly happy with your choice.