Why Don’t You Just Tow the Frikin’ Car?!?

The #1 most common question we get is “Why Don’t You Tow?” Most people are nice about it but weirdly, we get several comment/questions about this decision that are very ugly and it is hard for us to understand where the anger is coming from…

Regardless, we do want to try to answer the question for those out there who are genuinely curious or who may be considering their own options when it comes to an excursion vehicle.

First, let’s briefly talk about why we decided to have an extra vehicle:

  • Claiming a camp site

    • We liked the idea of leaving the bus behind when we run errands and claiming a spot so we don’t have to find a new spot each night.

  • Convenience/spreading out

    • We didn’t want to have to strap/secure everything down every time we wanted to go get groceries or run errands.

    • We also run into town pretty often for internet

  • We wanted to get a car with some off-road capabilities but also has decent fuel economy

    • the bus wouldn’t be capable of getting to every trail head or scenic road. Already, we have found a National Park road we wanted to drive down that we wouldn’t have been able to if we had only the bus.

    • great gas mileage in the Subaru and we aren’t using the bus diesel every time we want to take a drive

  • Safety net

    • If (probably when) the bus breaks down, we have a car to go get help/fuel

So we definitely wanted an additional vehicle.  The next question was HOW?

Originally, we wanted a car we could flat-tow. The makes/models that are capable of towing with all 4 wheels on the ground are limited.  They also tend to be more expensive and have not-so-great gas mileage. We played musical cars for a while.  We traded in for a Jeep Wrangler (a popular flat-tow option) but it was not a very comfortable ride for myself (tiff) or the pups. We then sold that and bought a Chevy Colorado (another flat-tow vehicle) at a government auction. This truck had poor fuel economy, a terrible turning radius, and little room for the dogs in the extended cab.  We thought this would be ok since we didn’t plan to have the dogs in the truck very often but ultimately decided that towing the truck was adding way more length than necessary to the bus.  The search continued.

Colorado then had a huge hail storm that damaged a lot of vehicles. We went to look at a 2015 Subaru Outback with a great price on it because there are little teeny dents all over it (which we care nothing about). This would be the newest, nicest, best fuel economy, safest vehicle we could afford and we decided it was too good a deal to pass up.  We were already on the fence about towing vs. driving separately and this helped us make the decision.

Driving the Subi behind the bus has actually worked really well for us so far and I’ll try my best to explain why.

Let me start by saying there was NO WAY I (tiff) was going to be the primary driver of the bus, so that wasn’t an option.

The big three:

  1. I get car sick

I sometimes get car sick even in the back of a car, riding sideways (we installed the passenger belt sideways so it would be attached the steel frame of the bus) doesn’t sound fun to me and it isn’t like I would be able to get any work or reading done without barfing.

2) The dogs’ comfort and safety

The dogs are high anxiety.  In the bus, the loud noises, slipping around on the hardwood floor, and the constant vibrations would have them on edge all of the time.  They might get used to it over time but putting them in the Subaru with me is also much safer.  Tuco is confined to his own space and Frankie has the back seat to herself with a secure harness on that attaches to the seat belt buckle. Instead of a loud, likely stressful experience every time we move the bus, the dogs snooze in the back of a mostly quiet, air conditioned, car.

In addition, we have had a few things fall in the bus during transit and the thought of something potentially falling near one of the pups and scaring them, or worse, falling on them is reason enough.  We try to secure everything as best as we can and we continue to make adjustments but sometimes we forget something on a counter or forget to lock a cabinet before leaving.

We chose to not build crates into the bus because we don’t crate the dogs when we leave typically so we felt it would be wasted space.  Yes, they would be safer in a crate in the bus than if free to roam in the bus but I still feel like it would be a stressful experience for them.

3) My comfort and safety

In the car, I get proper air bags and a seat belt that goes over my shoulder. In the bus, Zac also gets a proper seat belt. The subaru we chose gets great crash test ratings and I really think it is the safest place for me in the event of an accident.

Other reasons:

Cost:

     The upfront cost of a hitch install + a tow dolly would be substantial (likely $3-6k).  Yes, in the long run we would probably save money on gas adding the toad to the bus decreases its fuel economy and the Subaru gets great gas mileage (especially driving 55-6 MPH)

Ease:

     The idea of hitching and un-hitching all the time sounds like hassle.  I know we would get used to it but it does add another layer of complexity.  Sometimes the simplest solution is the best.

I get to help:

An added bonus of my driving behind the bus is I can help in traffic or when scouting camp spots. When people aren’t wanting to let him over in traffic, I can merge first and let him over.  When we get to a sketchy looking dirt road, I can easily drive ahead, check it out, and scout a camp spot that will fit the bus without having to drive the bus to a place where we can’t turn around or unhitch just to look ahead. I radio him and let him know that his signals are working properly and I can easily help him back out of tight spots.

Length:

By driving behind rather than towing, we aren’t adding unnecessary length to the bus.  Our bus is 32 ft which is a nice maneuverable length.  If we added a toad to that, it would be 40+ feet which makes merging, turning, and back up a little more challenging.

Alone Time:

The funniest comments we get about our decision are that we are somehow doing “bus life” wrong because we aren’t next to each other 100% of the time. That is laughable because we spend 3-4 hours driving separately (all the while, talking back and forth on the Walkies) and then spend 2-14 days literally within arm’s reach of each other.  Is a little alone time such a bad thing?

We have driven across 11 states in the bus (and in the car) and so far, this is working really well for us.  I don’t think we’ll be changing up our situation any time soon.

Zac HendersonComment