(Note Jeff’s comment and my response)
Fifth wheel trailers have really advanced over the years and for many full-time RVers, they are the RV of choice. Looking at the 10 criteria that we outlined in Choosing Your RV, much of what we posted for Trailers applies to Fifth wheel Trailers as well. As a result, the discussion below will only include the Assumptions/Questions that distinguish the Fifth wheel from the Bumper pull trailer.
When we discuss mobility, as we outlined before, we are speaking about how often you are moving from place to place.
A Fifth wheel Trailer differs from a bumper pull trailer in two main aspects related to how often you travel from place to place as a full timer:
- The first is the vehicle required for tow. Many new travel trailers are constructed to make them very light weight and as a result in some cases you can pull them with a good SUV or even a hefty car. This means that when you get to your destination, after you have unhitched, you have a car or suv to drive around in to see the sights.
Not so with a Fifth wheel which requires a truck to tow it. A special hitch is mounted into the center of the bed of a truck and usually bolted through the bed onto the frame of the truck so it is not easily removable. The hitch takes up a considerable amount of the bed so its usefulness is definitely changed.
The bottom line here is that when you arrive at your destination, after you have unhitched, you now will be driving a truck around to sight see. This would not be a huge inconvenience accept that in most cases most Fifth wheels that you would want to live in full time, will require a full size truck, either 1/4 or 1/2 ton, gas or diesel. If you move around a lot and want to explore your new destinations, this should be something you want to consider when choosing the Fifth wheel option.
An important feature of the towing set up of a fifth wheel is increased stability. A fifth wheel is far less likely to sway and the possibility of jack knifing is greatly reduced. A tow vehicle and trailer “jack knife” when the driver looses control and the two vehicles collide into one another.
- The second consideration in mobility with the fifth wheel is the hitching and unhitching of the Fifth wheel. In our opinion this process is easier with a fifth wheel than with a travel trailer. It also requires no physical strength or lifting capacity. You are carefully backing the vehicle to the correct location and engaging the pin on the trailer with the receptacle on the truck hitch. The jacks on the trailer are almost always motorized accept on the oldest of fifth wheels.
The time that it takes for the entire set up process of a fifth wheel is probably similar to that of a travel trailer.
2. Number of People
The size and layout of a fifth wheel trailer varies greatly like a travel trailer. The larger the fifth wheel the more people it can accommodate and with greater comfort. Almost all fifth wheels have a spacious “upstairs” area where the bedroom is located.
3. Physical Condition
As mentioned in “Mobility” it is our opinion that a fifth wheel requires less physical strength and agility to hitch and unhitch than a travel trailer.
4. Working While Roaming
A fifth wheel will have the same considerations as with a travel trailer.
A fifth wheel, we believe, is less suited to almost any kind of of-roading than a travel trailer. Given the nature of the hitch set up and the added weight of a fifth wheel, we would urge caution when purchasing a fifth wheel if you intend to take it off road into the boonies. Any roads with sharp inclines or declines can pose real issues for the tow vehicle and trailer relationship. Traveling up hills on normal roads require the same considerations in choosing the tow vehicle as does a travel trailer. Make sure you have enough power to do it safely.
6. Budget and Construction
The selection of a fifth wheel for full time living warrants the same considerations in this area as when purchasing a travel trailer.
7. Level of Comfort
A fifth wheel’s level of livability and comfort varies as that of a travel trailer. Layout is very important and all the accessories that come with it.
The maintenance and level of handiness in coping with things that need fixing is pretty much the same with a fifth wheel as with a travel trailer. The electrical system and plumbing are no different.
You will find as you look at RVs that fifth wheel trailers generally have considerably more space than a travel trailer. The biggest difference in determining the more spacious feeling in a fifth wheel is the enormous ceiling height. The main living areas the kitchen/dining room and living room area all share a very high ceiling. The upstairs level with the bedroom does not. The ceiling in this area is reduced by the height of the stairs traveling up to the bedroom.
As with travel trailers, all newer fifth wheels have multiple slide outs. I have seen as many as 6 slide outs on a fifth wheel. These all add to the roomy feeling.
One of the biggest differences between a travel trailer and a fifth wheel is storage space. Fifth wheels have an area under neath the stairs and forward bedroom, accessible from an outside bay door, that can really be enormous. This area is usually unencumbered by plumbing or other parts the supportive systems and invites you to bring more of the stuff you would have had to give away or store.
Hobbyists who want to take their crafts with them, will find that most fifth wheels excel at having more storage. In addition to the area under the stairs, most fifth wheels also have storage in the very back of the unit, under the flooring of the living room.
2 thoughts on “Fifth Wheels”
Really enjoy your blog. Reading your blog on the fact that a lot of rv’s are not constructed for full time living. How can I tell while searching rv’s which ones are built for full time living? I will soon be look primarily at 5th wheel rv’s for full time living. Thank you!
Thanks for your question. There are plenty of fifth wheels out there that advertise that they are for full time living but you will notice they talk a lot about floor plans, storage space, appliances etc and offer few specifics about the things that I believe are very important such as insulation, fixtures etc.
The one fifth wheel that I have had some personal experience with is the Mobile Suites line. I have seen their fifth wheels up close and know that they are well insulated and are a quality fifth wheel. I would recommend that you investigate this brand. A used one in good condition would also be a good possibility.
I would also recommend the Van Leigh Fifth Wheel. This is a relatively new division of Tiffin and like Tiffin they produce a high quality product and have amazing customer service. We currently own and live in a Tiffin Phaeton Motorhome.
Remember that the one caveat is that any fifth wheel that is suitable for full time living is going to be heavy and require a hefty truck to tow it.
Below are some links to these fifth wheel companies.
Let me know if I can help you further. Remember to refer back to the construction comments that I make in the trailers section of the blog.