So we went with the tow dolly!

The decision was pretty made much for us by the fact that my Fiat 500e lease, which only has another seven months left, is non-transferable by Chrysler Capital. The other option was to buy out the lease and then sell it, but the original lease deal was so good years ago that the residual now to buy out is going to be laughably high. Get this: the early termination option was essentially the same cost as the buy out offer $ wise, except you gave them the car at the end and still took a credit ding. Huh? Not sure why anybody would do that.

So anyway, all this time we had been going on the assumption that I would just do a swapalease or something to get rid of the that car, Jeri would sell her car (RWD BMW so definitely not tow-able), and once we hit the road we’d just ride bikes or use Uber, or taxis, walk, etc. So within weeks of heading on the road, we now have decided to ditch our bikes and bring a tow car after all. It’s probably for the best as it’s February and some of our first stops are going to be somewhat cold (i.e. 40s during the day - hey! we are from San Diego). That said, other motorhome people we talked to said we were crazy to try this without a tow car and in a way I’m relieved that we have the car now since I know it’s going to save us some headaches. We’ll just return the car in August and then decide what we want to do after that once we have some experience.

The next complication: My Fiat 500e is needs to be towed via a dolly. We had really hoped to flat/four wheel tow since everybody says this is so much more convenient, but this car being an front wheel drive automatic will destroy the transmission if we try to do that. A tow dolly is essentially a half trailer you tow behind the motorhome that you drive up the front wheels of your vehicle being towed. Accomplishes the same effect of a tow truck. Depending on the car, you can leave it in park, no parking brake with the steering lock enabled and strap down the front wheels to the dolly.

New tow dollies with no accessories are about $1200, and if you want some extras like electric or surge brakes, that costs about 50% more. In the end, we found a used Master Tow dolly with electric brakes on OfferUp that I negotiated down to $700. It’s going to need a little work like a new seven blade connector that powers the lights and brakes off the motorhome, as well as possibly a wheel bearing adjustment and new grease just to be on the safe side since I don’t exactly know how well maintained it was. The tires look pretty decent although maybe the tread is a little more worn down on the inside, but I’m not exactly sure since this is not really my forte. I went ahead and bought tire pressure sensors for the tow dolly tires in case something happens we’ll at least notice a blowout quickly. There is also one of the support bars on the neck that looks like it was damaged in some way since it is wrapped in tons of black electrical tape with a thick screw or bolt acting as a splint of sorts. The good news is the Master Tow website sells all the parts online, enough that you could probably assemble one on your own if you just bought one of everything off the site, hah! I know this maybe sounds like more hassle than it’s worth to buy used and save some money, but I think about $100 in new parts, watching a few YouTube videos, and some spare time I could replace everything that looks questionable on it. I’ll have learned some new skills too, and major brownie points with Jeri!

Update: Well, it turned out to be more like another $700 in repairs since I opted to get the entire axle serviced including new wheel bearings, removing the old grease and adding new, checking the brakes, replacing a couple broken lights, and even new tires since the originals were close to 14 years old according to the date codes and probably had tire rot. They also did all the electrical work to put on a new connector. In the end, we still saved about $600+ vs buying new! I’m sure after we get rid of the Fiat I can probably recoup most of the cost as these hold their value well, especially when serviced well.

This is the video I watched to learn how to use the Master Tow dolly. Super helpful!