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Top 9 reasons to buy a fifth wheel for full-time RV living
Top 9 reasons to buy a fifth wheel for full-time RV living

Are you thinking of buying a 5th Wheel? Are you debating between a fifth wheel and a travel trailer, or maybe even a motorhome? One of our members and blog contributors, Jack Huber, went through the process of deciding what to buy and details the top 9 reasons why he chose a fifth wheel for his rig.

1. Superior towing
2. Living space
3. More camping stability
4. Basement storage
5. No toad
6. Purchase Price
7. Cost of Operation
8. Access to smaller campgrounds
9. Major vehicle issues cause less living consequences

By Jack Huber

We planned our escape from the working world to the full-time RV lifestyle for almost ten years. During that time, we had to decide on many things, the foremost of which was what type of RV to live in. There were a lot of choices – Class A, Class B, and Class C motorhomes, fifth wheel trailers, tow-behind trailers, hybrid trailers, tent campers, and others – and there are travelers that are happy with each of these options.

Our first purchase was a used 32’ tow-behind trailer and we quickly discovered that we were going to feel cramped if we moved into it full-time. We revisited our priorities and the choices and decided on a 31’ fifth wheel.  Here are some of the deciding factors, in no particular order:

1. Superior towing

Compared to tow-behind trailers the overall vehicle length of the same length fifth wheel is about 8’ shorter.  The stability of the fifth wheel is far better than other trailers, with the king-pin and hitch in the center of the truck bed causing much less sway from speed, wind, or passing semis than traditional pull-behind trailers.

5th wheels have superior towing capabilities compared to motorhomes.

2. Living space

After comparing fifth wheels to all three classes of motorhomes, the amount of living space is quite impressive compared to motorhomes and tow-behinds.  Having 4’-wide opposing slides gives us almost 16’ of floor space in the rear of the rig, quite a bit more essential space than most motorhomes and almost all pull-behind trailers.  Also, fifth wheels have much more headroom inside than pull-behinds.

3. More camping stability

The additional weight and bulk of Class A and Class C motorhomes, fifth wheels, and the largest tow-behind trailers makes for more stability while sitting in a camping site.  Storms and heavy wind can pick up quickly and smaller rigs can be far more affected.  We have weathered 50-60 mph windstorms more than a few times in our fifth wheel.

The exterior storage in a 5th wheel is much greater than in an Airstream.

4. Basement storage

Although we often have basement envy when we see the storage capacity of nearby Class A motorhomes, other classes of motorhomes and most trailers can’t hold a candle to the basement storage of most fifth wheel models.  Let’s not even mention “Airstream” and “storage” in the same breath.

5. No toad

Motorhome owners need toads, or “towed-s” – small vehicles towed behind a motorhome to use as a local or touring cars when entrenched in a campground site.  Without a toad, these travelers would be stuck at their RV, dependent upon other campers or driving a separate car when moving from park to park.  Fifth wheels have a touring vehicle available at all times – their towing truck.

The purchase price of a Class A can be much more expensive than a 5th wheel.

6. Purchase Price

Although one can find new Class A or B motorhomes as low as $50,000, the average price of a Class A set up for full-time living is closer to $150,000-$250,000, plus the cost of a toad and towing system.  Class B’s come in just slightly less, ranging from $125K to $165K, on average, plus the toad.  Fifth wheel pricing is much lower, at $35K to $75K, but you have to also price a pickup truck, easily another $50K to $80K.  Still, with the necessity of a toad, the fifth wheel is more reasonable. 

7. Cost of Operation

Assuming that the towing pickup is appropriately sized and fueled for its fifth wheel, gas (or diesel) mileage is typically much higher than a Class A or Class C motorhome for the same driving conditions, but lower than a Class B or van conversion.  Also, maintaining a pickup is much more economical than a motorhome, including oil changes and other typical maintenance services.  Similarly, drive train repairs are also more costly in a motorhome.

Tow behinds and 5th wheels can be a little easier to maneuver in tight campgrounds.

8. Access to smaller campgrounds

Tow-behind and fifth wheel trailer owners will tell you one of the big advantages they have over larger motorhomes is access to state and federal parks and campgrounds, and ease of parking in many tightly-spaced RV resorts.

5th wheels tend to have less major repair expenses.

9. Major vehicle issues cause less living consequences

Even if you have a toad, the cost and duration of a major repair in a Class A or Class C motorhome is usually significantly greater than other RV types.  Without a motor, a fifth wheel or tow-behind trailer has much less to go wrong, and when things do break, the repairs aren’t as serious and are more preventable.

As an honorary mention, motorhomes typically don’t have toy-hauler options.  Like I mentioned, each RV type has its fans and detractors. These are the reasons we purchased a fifth wheel and after a year of living in it full-time, we don’t regret our choice.

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Comments

  • R and R Travellers

    R and R Travellers   

    We too have been RVing since 2001 when we bought our first 5er. We are now retired and our "condo on wheels" as my wife calls our 2011 HitchHiker 36'- 3 slide coach has probably been hauled 100,000 km, from Newfoundland to Mexico's west coast near Manzanillo. We spent about 7 of the last 12 months in our coach and love the lifestyle. We are leaving in 4 weeks for our first trip to Alaska from our home in Ontario, Canada. Yes, there are maintenance costs but they are certainly less costly than our friends' with Class A motorhomes and our new Chev 2500 crew-cab truck is very comfortable as a daily driver or when hauling.
  • OnTheRoad2Day

    OnTheRoad2Day   

    Full-Timers as well. We selected a 5th Wheel for many of the same reasons you did but there are numerous other reasons as well. Anyone considering either should do homework for at least a month or two before deciding. And they also should review blog sites for the specific brand they like. Also check other websites as well for helpful tips and advice before plunking down that money that they will never get back. The argument for a sticks-and-bricks is that they appreciate unlike the RV that depreciates. But I would beg to differ when one factors in all the costs of home ownership. So although the RV DOES depreciate, the S-N-B does not appreciate nearly as much as one may think. We recently looked at a home we owned years ago. At the time of our sale, we got $280,000 for it. 20 years later, it sold again for $480,000. It sounds like a great appreciation. But over that 20 years, one had to pay taxes, insurance, electric, water, sewer, cable, realtor fees, title fees, other closing costs (buying and selling), replaced the carpet, appliances, replaced the A/C and heat, replaced a roof, replaced a water heater, painted the house, mowed/weed eat the yard at least 520 times over that period, trim the shrubs and trees, clean the gutters, etc. I'm sure there were other costs. The point is that the costs ate up the potential profits for sure. So don't be afraid to buy an RV for full-timing if its in you future. Just buy right!
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