A vehicle for cross-country travelers

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Jan 01, 1990

Dear Tom and Ray:

Your article on the travel trailer was almost a year too late for us, but I enjoyed the warning to others. We had purchased a 22 foot trailer last February, which my husband felt could be towed by our large 1986 Chevrolet. A number of minor calamities befell our June trip to the coast, and we turned around and headed back. On the way back, the trailer jack-knifed into a ditch, and later we hit an air gust and it went over. Now, we are looking for a nice compact van and I would appreciate knowing what models are best. Being seniors, we are budget conscious--but we make a yearly trek across country.

RAY: We're not quite sure what you mean when you say "compact van," Virginia. If you really mean a mini-van, we recommend the Mazda MPV and the Dodge Caravan/Plymouth Voyager. But neither one of these are vehicles you can live in--or even sleep in, really.

TOM: What you probably want is a small, self-contained recreational vehicle or a full size customized van. In either case, you want a vehicle in which the living compartment is part of the vehicle itself rather than a box towed behind your car.

RAY: A full sized van would be the most car-like option. It'll give you enough room to lie down or relax while your husband drives (or vice versa). You can have it equipped with every conceivable accessory; The kitchenette, the water bed with adjustable shocks, the big TV with VCR (so you can watch "The Long, Long Trailer" on video and laugh), the 3D shag carpet on the walls. Even so, it's not really big enough to live in comfortably for weeks at a time, so you'll still want to spend most nights at Motel 3.

TOM: If you're comfortable with a slightly larger vehicle, try driving a small Winnebago (or equivalent). These are vehicles you can actually live in if you so desire. They're not as big as your trailer, but they're self-contained, heavier, and easier to control. The smallest RVs aren't much bigger than full sized vans, so take a look before you decide.

RAY: If you're still nervous from last summer's trip, test drive the RV on a windy, rainy day. Don't buy it unless you feel comfortable driving it in bad weather. And just to be safe, bring along your Bronco Nagurski Football Helmet for the ride.

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