The RV purchase is the biggest acquisition new enthusiasts will make for full-time RV travel. Following closely behind that expense is a secondary vehicle to get around town.
The vast majority of people assume that traveling without a toad would be impossible, but a couple from California is proving otherwise.
No tow car? No problem, they say.
Toting two sets of wheels around the country isn’t cheap during full-time RV travel. Insurance, fuel, and maintenance costs make this a major expense. After reviewing the pros and cons of a toad, one California couple decided to try car-free full-time RV travel in their 35 foot, 1999 Fleetwood Bounder 34V. Nearly one year later, they’re still glad they did.
Maya, 39, and Ryan, 36, are from San Francisco. During their careers in the health care and retail grocery industries, they commuted with Pedego electric bicycles and shared one car. When they decided to work remotely and give life on the road a try, friends and family thought they were crazy to try car-free full-time RV travel. But this car-free RVing couple knew better.
“Having a car would make things more complicated for us,” Maya writes in their blog, Bike-Cook-Explore.com. Between their 35′ motorhome that could only tow 3,500 pounds and concerns about the towing a vehicle, the couple instinctively knew that only having electric bikes would be better than towing their Prius. “Thinking we want to have a car every once in awhile hasn’t outweighed the benefits of not bringing one with us,” says Maya.
Full-timers choose electric bicycles over a toad
Although many would question whether or not an electric bike would replace a RV toad, Maya and Ryan seem content with their car-less decision. For instance, the couple loves to see new towns by bicycle as it’s a totally different experience than touring from the confines of a car. “We love being outdoors and the fresh air,” says Maya. “There’s nothing like being out in the open on a bicycle. Having a car window rolled down is not the same experience.”
Electric bikes make it easy to get around no matter what kind of shape a person is in. “Our e-bikes have throttles on them, so you don’t have to pedal. Other than keeping your balance, there isn’t much effort involved,” she explains. Although there is a motor to assist on steep hills and in strong winds, users can also pedal and ride it like a normal bike, which is one of the top tips for staying fit on the road.
Even bad weather isn’t really a big deal. When Mother Nature doesn’t cooperate, or if they need to take their two dogs to the vet, this Northern California couple will rent a car or take a taxi. On a few occasions when the distance was too great for the 50-mile distance their e-bikes can go on a single charge, they just unhooked the RV and drove to their destination.
Car-free travel tips for newbies
Car-free full-time RV travel doesn’t have to be expensive, complicated, or exhausting. “There are many different ways to travel without a toad if you choose a motorhome as your RV,” says Maya.
Here’s how she advises people do it:
- Buy a motorhome that’s small enough that it will fit into most places you want to visit. Be willing to park nearby and walk a little if necessary.
- Rent a car when needed.
- Buy a motorcycle, scooter or a regular bicycle.
- You don’t need to buy $3,000 electric bikes. You can find an electric bike for a few hundred dollars or you can pay even more than we did. It depends on what type of terrain you are riding and how far you need to go.
- When you’re looking at places to visit, check out their public transportation options.
- RVers are wonderful, friendly, generous people. When we tell people we don’t have a car, we often receive offers for rides . . . even to borrow their car.
Even when RVers offer to give them a lift, Maya and Ryan prefer two-wheeled travel. “But it’s great to have so many nice people willing to help. If you can make friends and give someone a couple bucks for gas, you can get anywhere you need with the help of the RVing community,” she says.
Rene Agredano and her husband, Jim Nelson, became full-time RVers in 2007 and have been touring the country ever since. In her blog, Rene chronicles the ins and outs of the full-timing life and brings readers along to meet the fascinating people and amazing places they visit on the road. Her road trip adventures are chronicled in her blog at LiveWorkDream.com.
Mike Richling says
We’ve been full timing for four years all over the US. This winter we had our car with us in Florida and it was a wonderful treat. But we can’t tow anything due to weight. Even still, being 39′ we are able to drive the bus almost anywhere and back up easy, not something you could do with a toad or trailer. We make a point of shopping just before pulling into camp. We can usually find camps close to groceries and beer. Neighbours always offer to take us shopping when they hear we have no car, they will take us to golf or on trips around town. Some parks have shuttle services, like the one we’re planning on staying at in DC. We bike most places… slowly since we’re getting old and have been retired for a while now… only regret, we should have gotten a bike trailer to carry the heavy groceries and boxes of booze instead of the backpacks and saddle bags. And we’ve rented a car when needed. We don’t regret.
A toad setup can cost anywhere between $2000 and $5000 … and then add the cost of toad capable vehicle, you can rent a lot of cars for that price.
The one thing we notice with people who have toads, they tend to use the extra space in the car to load more in and while complaining on the cost of gas, they seem to take lots of extra day trips because they feel they need to justify the toad.
Mike Thomas says
Yes it maybe $2000 to $5000 depending on what you want it is still great for going UP in the mountains to the rivers and streams plus it is a great emergency vehicle. Better than waiting for help. Plus 2k to ? is not that much when you look at what you have invested in that rig!
Doug Schuler says
Some RV parks and states/counties require licenses or handicap registration since they are considered mopeds. Have you had any situations where their was a problem? I do know of one camp ground in NY that requires license, handicap sticker and insurance for all motorized bikes.
Lynne Johnson says
Sounds good but those of us with mobility issues would not be able to do this. How about a Vespa instead?
We have been RVing for 6 years now. Never had a toad. Rented cars where needed. We traveled with ebikes and loved it. As my wife has developed mobility issues we now have a two person mobility scooter. It looks like a mini golf cart. This worked great last year. We now have two ebikes for sale. We will miss the use of them, we had a BLAST with them.
Buddy Smallwood says
We are getting ready to do the same thing. We are leaving on a trip from the Niagara Falls area to the Keys on March 24th. We purchased a Winnebago Spirit 24′ in the fall followed by the purchase of two electric bikes in December. We haven’t spent a night in the motor home yet and only one 1/2 hours ride on the bikes. We can’t wait to try both the motor home and the bikes.It has been a long winter this year weather-wise and can’t wait for the Keys. We are probably on the older side of this adventure since i’m 76 and my wife is 61. But I think with the electric bikes we will get some exercise and also have a grand time.
Jesse Long says
If I lived in a travel trailer how could i manage my travel trailer since i am not able to drive?. How do i find a place to park it perminently?