Are you considering buying a lightweight travel trailer in hopes that you’ll save on fuel? Or maybe you want to reduce the strain on your tow vehicle.
Whatever the reason, we’re here to tell you why you might want to think twice about getting one.
In reality, “lightweight” trailers may weigh less (or, maybe not), but it usually means sacrificing something important. Let’s take a closer look at what constitutes a “lightweight travel trailer” and why you might want to steer clear from them.
What Are Light Weight Travel Trailers?
Lightweight travel trailers are campers designed to weigh less. They’re marketed towards RVers who don’t necessarily have a heavy-duty tow vehicle and/or those who want to save money in fuel costs. And it’s no wonder – three-quarter and one-ton pickups are not cheap, and fuel is typically one of the main travel expenses.
“Lightweight” doesn’t automatically mean small, either. In fact, lightweight travel trailers can be as long as 30 feet and sleep up to eight people. So, where does the weight go? And how much do these campers typically weigh? Let’s take a look.
How Much Do Light Weight Travel Trailers Weigh?
Lightweight travel trailers typically weigh between 1,500 lbs and 6,000 lbs UVW (dry weight). This depends on the length, width, and construction, but you may find a travel trailer weighing over 6,000 lbs labeled “lightweight.”
The marketing may have you believe that you could tow almost any lightweight travel trailer with a half-ton pick-up or a Jeep Grand Cherokee, making them appealing for many. However, you must verify that your tow vehicle can handle the weight.
The dealer likely won’t give you ideal advice for safety (only advice for sales).
What Makes Light Weight Travel Trailers So Appealing?
What else makes lightweight travel trailers so appealing? They generally cost less upfront. For example, the 2022 Jay Feather starts at $41,055, while the heavier 2022 Eagle HT starts at $55,691.
Moreover, you’ll have many more options for tow vehicles (the tow vehicle itself will probably cost less), and you’ll save at the fuel pump. With all these reasons to get a lightweight camper, it’s not hard to understand why manufacturers are pumping them out and why consumers are snatching them up left and right.
Pro Tip: Ready to invest in a travel trailer? We found The Best Travel Trailers for Holding Value.
The Real Problems With Light Weight Travel Trailers
While lightweight travel trailers are wildly popular, they’re not perfect. Below are some of the most common problems RV owners experience with their lightweight campers.
Materials Are Not as Durable
While this doesn’t go for every lightweight trailer on the market, it’s a firm warning to beware of cheaply-made travel trailers. Before buying, make sure the camper of your dreams wasn’t made with cheap materials in the name of weightlessness. After all, there’s a reason why heavier travel trailers cost more.
If there’s one thing that most lightweight travel trailers have in common, it’s their thin walls and lack of insulation. Truthfully, these campers are only meant to chase 70 degrees.
Meaning, they’re not the best for very hot or cold weather. Because of their lightweight build, you won’t have as much protection from the outside elements, and the cold will be able to seep into your home on wheels that much easier.
Another common problem with lightweight travel trailers is that they’re noisy – noisy when towing and even noisy when parked. Because they’re flimsier than heavier duty campers, they’re much more affected by the sway, bumps, and any kind of road disturbance.
Furthermore, the thinner walls let in sounds much easier than walls with robust insulation, which may make sleeping a challenge if you’re in an area with road noise or rowdy neighbors.
More Susceptible to Windy Conditions
As we already mentioned, a lighter camper is more susceptible to sway and wobble while being towed. This is simply because there isn’t much weight to anchor it down.
Therefore, make sure to practice caution while you’re towing a lightweight trailer in very windy conditions. When in doubt, pull off to the side until the wind subsides.
Not Good for Full-Time Living
If you’re looking for a lightweight travel trailer to live in full-time, we definitely recommend thinking twice. For one, can’t handle all four seasons (and even if you chase 70 degrees, you’ll run into very hot or freezing temps at some point). The holding tanks are usually exposed, making them much more susceptible to freezing, and your home won’t have the insulation it needs to keep you comfortable in extreme weather.
Moreover, manufacturers tend to save on weight by keeping the holding tanks small. Thus, you won’t be able to carry as much freshwater with you or go as long in between dumps.
Pro Tip: Still unsure if a lightweight travel trailer is right for you? These are 5 Reasons to Avoid RV Travel Trailers in 2022.
Is a Light Weight Travel Trailer Worth It?
So, is it an all-around bad idea to buy a lightweight travel trailer? Not necessarily.
If you’re looking for a low-cost RV to take camping on the weekends or an occasional vacation when the weather is nice, a lightweight travel trailer might be your best option. You’ll likely be able to tow it with a vehicle you already own, and you won’t have to worry about inclement weather or freezing pipes.
Nevertheless, if you’re looking for a robust camper to RV full-time or even use for months on end, you’re better off spending the money to buy a durable RV that will better suit your needs.
Ultimately, every person will have their individual style of travel. What works for one person may not work for another!
And, to beat a dead horse, always verify your tow vehicle capacity yourself! Don’t count on a dealer to verify it properly for you.
So tell us, would you buy a lightweight travel trailer? Let us know in the comments below!
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For several years I had a Coachmen Apex 28 foot “ultralight” trailer. Not one of the five potential problems listed in this article applied to it (it had a very good weight distributing/antisway hitch). I was able to safely tow it with a Dodge Dakota pickup, it being within the rated tow weight of the pickup. So I would suggest not automatically rejecting a light weight trailer if there are reasons one would be useful.