Why we Chose a Toyota Motorhome

Why we Chose a Toyota Motorhome

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This post was updated in September 2019.

One of our most frequently asked questions is why we chose a Toyota Dolphin for our camper lifestyle. Choosing an RV is a big decision, so let us give you the lowdown on how we chose our 1989 Toyota Dolphin.

Toyota motorhomes are small

We first started noticing Toyota motorhomes at Burning Man. In fact, I got a ride to my first ever Burning Man in a Toyota Sunrader. What repeatedly caught our eye about these mini motorhomes was their manageable size.

At 21 feet long and just under 7 feet wide our Toyota Dolphin is one of the smallest motorhomes out there. We are about the same size as a Sprinter van, but with far more usable space thanks to the over cab bed!

Micro motorhomes are very hard to come by, and in the United States Toyota motorhomes are just about the only micro mini RVs available. There are plenty of towable micro trailers, but we wanted something self-contained so we would not have to worry about purchasing a tow vehicle. We have been SO pleased with the decision to go with a small motorhome.

Why go small?

While a larger RV provides more living space, the advantages of choosing a compact motorhome far outweighed the benefits of extra space for us.

One huge advantage of driving one of the smallest motorhomes on the market is fuel efficiency. We consistently get about 15-16 mpg in our Toyota Dolphin. This is similar to the gas milage of a small campervan, and a HUGE savings compared to the 5-6 mpg many larger RVs get. Our Toyota motorhome’s mpg regularly surprises the RV travelers we meet on the road!

Another reason we chose a very small RV was drivability, as well as flexibility in where we take it. Our Dolphin drives just like a large truck, making it easy and comfortable to drive on a variety of terrains, and we have definitely tested that on everything from asphalt to sand to gravel roads.

This is also where flexibility comes in- a very small RV is shorter and weighs less than a standard RV, which means you can drive it on steep dirt roads, and over soft sand, both of which would be impossible in a larger RV. Since we like to boondock  as much as possible, the Toyota Dolphin RV made the most sense for us.

If you are considering your own camper life adventure, check out our ebook Nomads in Campers: A Step by Step Guide to Living your Nomadic Adventure. This is a great resource for anyone planning to travel by camper!

 Our Toyota Dolphin camper is a mini motorhome Our Toyota Dolphin camper is a mini motorhome

Why choose a Toyota Dolphin over a campervan?

Great question! The truth is, we had a short list of vehicles that we were interested in, and a campervan was number two on the list, right below a Toyota motorhome.

Campervans are awesome for many of the reasons we listed above- after all, they are small and fuel efficient! However, there are some big advantages to the Toyota campers, the first being the USE of the space.

Thanks to the over cab bed design of the Toyota RV we get about 25% more living space than we would in a camper van. Also, our Dolphin RV has a tiny bathroom that is actually a separate room at the back of the camper, which is not a feature we would get in a campervan.

The separate bathroom was not important to us when we made the purchase, but after a year of full time RV living we realize that the separate bathroom has made our life SO much more comfortable than it would be without it.

(Pro tip: For even more living space create an RV patio using a large weatherproof outdoor mat like this one.)

Essentially, our Toyota Dolphin motorhome is about the same length and width of a large campervan, but with a much more efficient use of the living space thanks to the unique floor plan. That extra living space was a huge factor in choosing a Toyota motorhome over a campervan.

Interested in how we utilize the space in our Toyota motorhome? Check out our top 10 essential motorhome accessories!

Toyota Motorhome Video Tour

Check out this video to see the awesome layout of our Toyota Dolphin! You can see for yourself why we chose a Toyota motorhome over a campervan.

We chose a Toyota Dolphin for its mechanical reliability

It’s pretty widely known that Toyota builds an extremely reliable vehicle. They stopped manufacturing motorhomes (at least in the United States) back in 1993, yet you still see Toyota motorhomes ALL OVER. This is a testament to the quality of these RVs.

It is not uncommon for a Toyota mini motorhome to run well over 200,000 miles on its original engine. In fact, most Toyota motorhomes feature the Toyota 22R-E engine, which is famous in the auto industry as one of the longest running engines ever manufactured.

At this time our 1989 Toyota Dolphin motorhome has just 41,000 miles on it, and it absolutely runs like a new truck. There’s peace of mind knowing that we can count on our vehicle mechanically when we are venturing into the wilderness to find a boondocking spot, or driving hundreds of miles through the Mexican desert.

(Interested in your own Mexican camping adventure? Be sure to snag this essential guidebook!)

Honestly, even if we only camped in urban areas, we would still save loads of cash by driving a reliable vehicle. Mechanical work is expensive!

We have been so happy with our Toyota motorhome, we certainly would recommend it to anyone as the best compact motorhome on the road. Toyota motorhomes come in a few different models- Toyota Chinook, Toyota Sunrader, Toyota Winnebago, and Toyota Itasca.

All of the Toyota RV’s are mini motorhomes similar to our Dolphin. If you would like to search for Toyota RVs that are for sale, the easiest way to find them is to google “Toyota Dolphin RV for sale” or “Toyota mini motorhome for sale”. These will pull up LOTS of options. Checking your local craigslist is also a good way to find a Toyota motorhome locally.

Would you like to get a closer look at our Toyota Dolphin? Click here to go to our Toyota Dolphin video tour!

Planning your own Toyota motorhome adventure? Be sure you have everything you need!

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26 thoughts on “Why we Chose a Toyota Motorhome”

      1. Hi. Quick question. I came across a 1990 toyota odyssey. Loaded with 78k miles. But needs tires, need battery for the camper, all amenities have not worked in years. And 1owner for 3500. I am always looking for ways to make money on cars and never really thought about rvs . what is your opinion? I do everything from changing whole motors to floors and AC units. So labor is not an issue. Would I be able to sell it once fixed up? Thanx

        1. Hi John! Thanks for the comment, and I apologize for the delay in getting back to you. I can tell you from our personal experience that a fully working (mechanically and all appliances) Toyota Motorhome without water damage at that milage will sell fast and for around $10k. So whether it’s worth it really depends on how much time/money you would need to put into it. An excellent resource for more information about renovating and reselling Toymos is the Facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/ToyotaMotorhomeClub/about/

  1. Hello…thank you so much for this right-down-my-alley blog and website!

    I like many things about the ToyotaRV’s but have two reservations:
    1. engine size…how does it do going uphill with 4 cylinders?
    2. age…do you find that these oldies but goodies hold up well over time?

    Thank you…I’m so glad my friend turned me on to your site,
    Ruth

    1. Hi Ruth! These are two excellent questions!

      1. In the 4 cylinder Toyota Motorhomes hills are slow and low speed. I have a friend with a 4 cylinder Sunrader and when he hits a steep climb he gets in the farthest right lane with the 18 wheelers and takes it at 35-40 mph.

      However, many of the late 80s/early 90s models have a 6 cylinder engine. That’s actually what we have in ours, and it definitely makes hills easier. We still only take steep climbs at about 50mph, but the V6 definitely provides more power. The V6 engines are not as famous as the 22RE engines that many Toyota motorhomes have, BUT the 6 cylinder engines are still VERY solid. If you do get a 6 cylinder the one big thing you want to check is whether it was a year that required the head gasket replacement (this was a recall), and whether that replacement was done. You can check this with a Toyota dealer using the vehicle’s VIN number.

      1. Yes! One of the things that makes Toyota Motorhomes so special is how well they hold up over time. We see these on the road a LOT, and they stopped making them in 1993! We’ve been living in ours full time for nearly two years now, and we haven’t had to do any major repairs, just a few small things in the living area, no mechanical issues whatsoever.

      With that said, leaks/water damage are the biggest thing you want to be watching out for when you look at a Toymo. When we purchased ours we found that the plastic roof vents had small leaks because they were the original vents from 1989 and had cracked. Luckily there was no serious water damage, and these cost about $25 each to replace so it was a pretty minor issue, but be sure you push on the walls and ceiling ALL OVER the camper before you purchase it because if the wall feels spongey that means there’s serious water damage (this is true for all campers, not just Toymos).

      Additionally, once every 6 months we completely re-caulk all of our seams with sealant, and that is pretty standard maintenance that needs to be done on all of these (once a year should be okay if you don’t live in it full time).

      I hope this answers your questions, and feel free to check in with us in the future with any questions you have 🙂

    1. Hi Vicky! Our Dolphin is an automatic, but there are lots of Toyota motorhomes out there with manual transmissions.

  2. Hey y’all! Im Vinn. I just liked you on Facebook and love the content! Posted too. I cannot wait to get "Nav" out on the road! Barbers Road y’all! Thanks for this. You rock!

  3. Yes I need this site. I being a senior lady setting out on a adventure with a 1989 Toyota with 37,000 miles. A couple of questions. What size and what kind of topper is above the cab bed..any ideas where I can find a spare wheel. I live in Az and need to make sure I have a comfortable bed at nite and a spare tire. Please and thanks

    1. Hi Chris! I’m sorry it took so long to respond to your comment, we’ve been at Burning Man for the past two weeks without reception 🙂

      Full size sheets, blankets, and mattress topper fit the overcab bed well. As far as a spare wheel I’m not sure but you may want to join the Toyota Motorhome Facebook group and ask there. The folks in that group are awesome for questions like this!

  4. We have the Dolphin with a v6 and love our trips in it
    We recently drove to nyc then across Canada from our home in New Orleans
    Now planning our trip out west in the fall
    Maybe Le & I and your paths may cross on the road

    1. Hi Phil! The V6 is pretty awesome on those steep climbs. There have been many occasions when we’re super happy to have it.

      Thanks for your comment, and we’ll keep an eye out for you on the road! 🙂

  5. I found a 1989 Toyota Mini Cruiser. I don’t know if it is fiber glass or wooden frame yet. Is one better than the other and is a dolphin better than a mini cruiser?

    1. Hi Margaret! It’s hard to say which is "better"- a Mini Cruiser or a Dolphin. The truth is I think both models can be excellent depending on the condition of the individual vehicle you’re looking at. I recommend having the engine checked over by a mechanic (or someone with enough basic mechanical know-how to know what to check for). I’d also recommend checking VERY carefully for any water damage to the coach body or roof. Water damage is a MESS to deal with, and was a deal breaker for us when we were looking for our Dolphin.

  6. Hi, my name is Dave, we are from Vancouver, Canada.
    My wife and I really liked your webpage and all the info that you have provided, and we are happy to say that we have just bought a 1993 toyota dolphin a few months ago, I have redone the inside, and we are so happy with it, we got the v6 and made sure the head gasket was done before we got it. wish I could show the before and after pictures to you, but i can’t see how to upload pictures to you. thanks for all your advice on this site.

    dave

    1. Hi Anand! In general the parts and maintenance costs for a Toyota Motorhome are lower than bigger, modern motorhomes. This was one of the major appeals for us.

      With that said you should CAREFULLY inspect any motorhome you are planning to buy. While Toyota Motorhomes run much longer than most other motorhome brands, it is still very possible to find ones that are in BAD shape. So do your homework before you go look at Toymos, and know what you should be looking for!

    1. Congratulations on your new Toymo Davo! I’ve never driven a Sea Breeze, but I’ve met several Sea Breeze owners on the road, and they seem to be VERY similar to a V6 Dolphin.

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