Future RV owners often ask more experienced campers, “What’s the best type of RV?” They quickly learn that it’s an impossible question to answer.
For instance, I can come up with a list of fifth wheel trailer pros, cons, and other considerations, but ultimately the “best type of RV” really depends on a person’s lifestyle and RV budget.
For us, the answer came in the form of a towable RV. Over 100,000 miles later, we have a pretty good idea of what makes fifth wheels great (and sometimes not so great) for RVing.
The pros of fifth wheel trailers
- More living space.
Even a small fifth wheel feels larger inside than a motorhome of the same length. That’s because a fifth wheel interior isn’t cluttered up with a cockpit (steering wheel, dashboard, et cetera). In addition, ceilings are generally taller in fifth wheels, giving even the shortest rig a spacious feeling.
- Great for going off the beaten path.
A small to moderately-sized fifth wheel trailer and truck combo bends in the middle. When the tow truck has a good hitch like the PullRite Superglide, this combo can also pivot at the attachment point.
The extra maneuverability allows a fifth wheel to safely travel to off-road places that other RVs cannot venture into. Another cool mod you can make to fifth wheel RVs (and something I don’t think you can do to motorhomes) is flipping the axles. This hack gives you better clearance on bumpy mountain roads.
- Towing a fifth wheel is easier than hauling a trailer.
Placing a fifth wheel hitch inside the center of a pickup truck bed allows for easier driving maneuvers. Backing up, turning, and lane changes are also easier than attempting these things with a trailer behind you. Finally, the dreaded “trailer sway” that happens when side-forces and a poor tow connection overtake a trailer is a non-issue for fifth wheel owners.
- Ample storage space.
A fifth wheel’s storage space is comparable to a motorhome and exceeds towable trailers. This is a big bonus especially when you’re adding a rooftop solar electric system, because you’ll have more battery storage options.
- Low cost of ownership.
Even the most luxurious fifth wheels generally have a lower cost of ownership when compared to their closest competitor, a Class A motorhome. The biggest reason fifth wheels are cheaper to own is that you don’t have a secondary on-board engine and drive train to maintain. Fifth wheel tires are also cheaper than motorhome rubber.
The cons of fifth wheel trailers
- You must have the right tow vehicle.
Fifth wheel trailers require medium to heavy duty pickup trucks to pull them. This is a significant cost to overcome if you need to buy one. The good news is that while it’s expensive to maintain these hefty trucks, they’re not nearly as costly as maintaining a motorhome and towed vehicle.
- Hitching up and driving takes practice.
Motorhomes are pretty easy to set in motion when compared to a fifth wheel. Hitching and unhitching is an elusive art to newbies, and although hauling a fifth wheel is easier than towing a trailer, it still has challenges that can only be overcome with regular practice.
- You can’t make sandwiches when you’re in motion.
The biggest downside of a fifth wheel trailer is that you can’t access living quarters when the RV is in motion. But if you’re that hungry when you’re driving, it’s probably time for a break anyways. Pulling over for a few minutes solves the problem.
- Lack of on-board generator in smaller models.
Smaller fifth wheels (and also trailers) generally lack enough space for an on-board generator. This makes some dry camping situations unbearable because unless you have a really great solar electric power system, you can’t easily run the air conditioner or heater without pulling out your generator from the truck bed.
All RVs have good points, but these are the fifth wheel trailer pros and cons that we discovered over the last nine years. We chose our first Northwood Arctic Fox fifth wheel mainly because we wanted to own a heavy-duty truck and didn’t want to maintain two vehicles.
We also liked that it could go off-roading to more places than a motorhome. Now that we’re on our second fifth wheel we are certain it was a good choice for us but it may not be for others.
In the end, everyone needs to take careful stock of their lifestyle, camping preferences, and of course their budget, to find the RV type that works best for them.