Fifth Wheel Pros and Cons
We dedicate now to the fifth wheel pros and cons, so which are the advantages and disadvantages of having a fifth wheel RV.
In this article, we analyze all the pros and cons and you will discover that they are like two sides of the same coin and are very related to each other. This is from my own experience and also because I ask in the campgrounds to the other owners of fifth wheel vehicles which are the advantages or disadvantages that they notice in comparison with other recreation vehicles that they have owned.
At a glance, the main advantage that I see is the superior space availability, so it is quite suitable for large families.
For those who love to travel on the open road, the RV is the vehicle of choice for long-distance traveling. There are several different types of RVs and one of the most popular is known as fifth wheel, a type of RV that is towed by another vehicle and not driven directly. For many, the fifth wheel is the right choice because it offers a great balance between self-motorized RVs and travel trailers.
As we said, the fifth wheel is a recreation vehicle that must be towed instead of driven as a motorhome or a class C RV to put an example, but it does have all the required features found in RVs depending on the model that you choose. A fifth wheel can range in size from small, two-person units up to larger four-person or more depending on the model that you select. This means that lighter versions of a fifth wheel can be towed by an SUV or light pickup whereas larger versions will require a mid-size to large pickup truck. This is related to the camper weight and the towing capacity.
At first glance, for a newbie, it may seem that a fifth wheel and a travel trailer are virtually identical. Whereas they can be the same relative size and offer similar features, the most noticeable difference is that the fifth wheel is towed by a hitch located in the bed of the truck. A travel trailer, instead, is towed by a hitch on the back bumper of the vehicle. This seemingly small difference is quite profound as the fifth wheel is more secure and easier to tow.
First, you need to consider the kind of use that you are planning to give you to fifth wheel to know if this RV is the best for you. If you are traveling with your family or friend and you want to be able to sleep in your vehicle, the fifth wheel is an RV that is always an excellent choice due to all of the advantages that it offers mainly in terms of space. The most important advantage of a fifth wheel can be defined as space availability.
The most important advantage of a fifth wheel can be defined as the space availability.
Do remember that there is a vast variety of sizes, colors, shapes and interior designs for these RVs, so doing some research before you make your decision is going to be very useful.
We are going to be talking about the pros and the cons of this particular RV and this will allow you to make an informed decision.
Fifth Wheel Pros
Reduction of sway and improved stability
There are considerable advantages that are offered by fifth wheel, starting with how they attach to the pickup truck. By using the hitch in the center of the bed, it greatly reduces the sway that can occur in windy conditions to travel trailers that are being towed by the hitch on the rear bumper. This means that you can turn with greater confidence while towing a fifth wheel because the center of gravity is over the bed of the truck. Plus, it handles better in windy conditions when driving on the highway. If you have not towed trailers before, then a fifth wheel provides greater confidence when you are out on the road due to its superior structure and alignment with the towing vehicle. In addition to being safer than travel trailers, there are other strong advantages as well.
Lower maintenance costs for the fifth wheel
The fifth wheel is an RV that has no engine of its own. This means that you are going to be able to find them for a much lower cost without having to worry about any expenses that might get out of hand. The fifth wheel recreational vehicles are large, they look good and they have a lower cost due to the lack of engine and simple towing structure. This has also been a very important factor that has given a large number of people the perfect reason to purchase these particular RVs because they are affordable and also very practical.
No need to look into the engine and keep things running smoothly and also no need to be worried about dashboards or any kind of pedals or mechanisms that are found in regular motorhomes. For the most part, you only have to worry about the wheels operating properly, the generator, and the interior of your fifth wheel is clean. This kind of cheaper maintenance level is one of the things that has made the purchase of the fifth wheel so appealing to a large number of individuals. We will see later that this benefit has an also a related disadvantage with the wear and tear of the towing vehicle.
Whereas a fifth wheel may be seemingly the same size as some other RVs, that can be self-driven, there is more space inside thanks to the lack of an engine and a driver cabin and cockpit. The size of the fifth wheel compared to standard, drivable RVs when similar means that there are several feet more of space that can be used for storage, extra gear, and other items, and amenities that would be more difficult to fit in traditional RVs or even travel trailers.
Furthermore, the additional storage space overhead means that you can reduce the clutter inside the fifth wheel RV. The buildup of clutter is a common issue that fifth wheel helps to solve. The 5th wheel RV is usually a very spacious solution that is going to allow you to store all kinds of things for your needs. This is the main reason why a large number of people choose to use this as their RV of choice because it’s very spacious and it can hold plenty of weight without issues.
This is ideal if you want to have beds, tables, chairs and all kinds of furniture inside the RV. You can think of this as a very large room that you can decorate it any way you want and that is a very appealing aspect of owning one of these recreational vehicles, but remember that this is not really a vehicle since it cannot operate on its own. With that said, it is the kind of investment that can be useful for all kinds of purposes even if you leave the fifth wheel parked somewhere.
Some people even make their fifth wheel their residence for a while if they are in need of a place to stay while moving to a new home and waiting for the new home to be ready. Having no engine means that the fifth wheel does not need to have a dashboard or a steering wheel. This means that the room used by the driver is not taking up any space and is giving you more space for a motorhome that is just as big as an RV with an engine. This means that you can squeeze in more things in general and that is always a great thing for anyone who is looking to travel with all sorts of items and even furniture.
More Water Storage Capacity
In addition to the interior space, this type of RV, the fifth wheel usually carries several more gallons of freshwater, so you can stay longer at campsites that do not have water hookups and also more space for wastewater tanks. This means that you can travel further and stay out longer in remote places and enjoy the hidden treasures of being outdoors. Plus, many fifth-wheel RVs have additional features that standard, drivable RVs may be limited due to the lack of space, so this is related to the previous point about having more space available in an RV of this type.
Because of the additional interior space, you will usually find more countertop area and cabinets that can be customized for the items that you want to bring. This means that it is easier to retrofit the fifth wheel and that you can introduce more appliances that fit your needs which is why so many fifth wheel owners customize the kitchen areas and like to practice retrofitting. The additional space in the kitchen means that you can bring in full-size appliances to enjoy preparing and serving meals. This means more space for the following;
- Slide Out Pantries
- Larger Snack Bars
- Full-Size Entertainment Systems
- Large TV Screens
- King-Size Beds & More
Because of the additional room, it turns easy to customize the interior space to satisfy your preferences. Therefore, whether you love to cook, watch TV, or have more room to work, you can create the interior space you want inside a fifth wheel trailer.
Another advantage is that detaching and re-attaching the post is easy. This means that you can use your vehicle to get around once you park the fifth wheel RV and not have to tow another vehicle for transportation when in the city. This type of convenience means that you save money over a motorized RV which is difficult to maneuver when driving in the city, going to retail or fast food places, and so forth.
Likewise, your four-wheel drive will come in handy when you detach from the RV and explore the backcountry or a nearby town. A fifth wheel is much easier and safer to tow because of the way that they are attached to your vehicle. They use a simple but effective gooseneck hitch system that is going to make the stability of the vehicle and the RV much better. This is a rather powerful feature that has convinced many users that they should pick this particular style of RV for their needs. It will also make the disconnection a lot easier when you need to leave the RV in any location to use your vehicle without towing the RV.
There is also the fact that towing a fifth wheel is much easier than having to haul a trailer. The reason for this is that backing up, doing lane changes and turning is much easier to do with a fifth wheel behind you instead of a trailer. You also avoid the sway that takes place with trailers due to a bad tow connection. When you own a regular RV with an incorporated engine, you are basically forced to drive around with the entire RV at all times. This can prove to be very inconvenient if you want to park in small areas or underground parking lots.
With the fifth wheel RV, you are able to leave the RV in any specific location you want and then you can just use your vehicle without any load or extra size. Being able to visit any area that requires small vehicles is much easier due to how fast you can detach your vehicle and check out the area in a place such as a camping resort or club that allows RVs to be parked in certain areas only.
This is the main reason why the 5th wheel is an excellent choice for people who like to travel with a portable home but also want to have the practical aspect of a small vehicle for certain situations. Off-road locations will be a lot easier to access when you start using this kind of vehicle. This is due to how much easier it is to maneuver them in any areas that would be very difficult for a regular RV to handle. You can also do a bit of hacking by flipping the axles on the fifth wheeler for an extra level of clearance when you are dealing with bumps on the road.
Enhanced driving experience
I am thinking of the situation where you require to drive the fifth wheel in muddy conditions. If you have a four-wheel drive on your tow rig, you will be able to maneuver better with a fifth wheel RV compared to a travel trailer. While it is advisable to avoid all muddy or wet conditions, that is not always possible. So, having four-wheel drive means that you can get through many situations where the ground is not cooperating because of mud or water.
Fifth Wheel Cons
Despite all the advantages, there are certain things that you should know about fifth wheel RVs
Driving in the road with a large heavy towed vehicle
A fifth wheel still must be towed. While towing from the hitch in the bed of the truck is more secure and stable than when you are towing a trailer, there is still a little wavering, despite the gooseneck hitch, that you must compensate for when driving, especially in windy conditions along the highway.
The fifth wheel vehicle is quite spacious and this means that it occupies a lot of space on the road and in any location that you decide to take it. This aspect is found quite annoying at times, but this is the kind of thing that you need to consider when you have any large vehicle, be it a fifth wheel or a regular camper. Nevertheless, parking the fifth wheel is always a hassle if you are in a very small location. Even when they are easier to maneuver than trailers, they are still going to require that you learn how to handle curves and turns and this knowledge requires training. This extra learning curve in a fifth wheel can be nerve-wracking for anyone who has never driven any large vehicle before.
Keep in mind that your car is towing a larger structure, so you cannot drive your vehicle without considering the large structure you are towing behind it at all times. This is often the cause of accidents when people are not able to calculate very narrow turns or spaces in a fifth wheel. All the fifth wheel owners I talk to in camping resorts tell me they had a related incident at some point in time. It is not very practical if you want to reach certain areas and it can require a higher level of driving skills to drive around with this kind of RV attached to your vehicle. This is especially important in narrow turns and curves. It is important to learn how to drive with one of these fifth wheel RV’s being towed by your vehicle. It completely changes certain aspects of your driving.
Lack Of Clearance
This is something that many drivers do not think about until faced with a situation where the clearance is not sufficient. Ensure to measure adequately the height of your fifth wheel and have that in mind when mapping out your adventures. The last thing you want is to be stuck in traffic in front of an underpass that you are not sure if your fifth wheel RV can go under. Here is an advantage for a pop up camper, that is only unfolded after reaching the camping location.
Poor Gas Mileage Efficiency
With the additional weight being pulled by the truck, you can expect your gas mileage to plunge. This means that you will need to pay more at the pump which is an expense that many people do not consider when first purchasing a fifth wheel. Therefore your budget should allow for plenty of room in terms of expenditures such as filling up the tank of your towing vehicle more frequently.
Wear and tear in your towing vehicle
While the fifth wheel is quite sturdy and apart from the occasional flat tire, they are robust, it is the transmission of your towing vehicle that will be subject to considerable wear and tear. To avoid too much pull on the transmission, consider utilizing a towing vehicle that more than compensates for the pull. In other words, use a medium-size pickup for a small fifth wheel and a large, heavy-duty version for the bigger units. While this approach may affect your gas mileage, even more, you will have peace of mind knowing that your vehicle is more than able to tow the fifth wheel RV without tearing up your transmission. This is related to the camper weight and the towing capacity, also.
No mobility inside while driving
We do not recommend that you stay inside the fifth wheel RV when on the road. Likewise, we encourage our readers to remain seated during the journey and fasten their seat belts. That convenience of walking around is not available in a fifth wheel where you are sitting for hours on end inside a pickup truck or any towing vehicle. It is important that you space out your trip so there is plenty of time to stop, walk around, and generally get on your feet so you do not suffer from the effects of sitting down for too long.
This may be a minor inconvenience for some, but it does have its costs if you are not careful. This is a very serious disadvantage for some people. Sure, you could let your family stay in the fifth wheel while you do the driving, but the point is that those in the trailer cannot access the vehicle while in motion and those in the towing vehicle cannot access the fifth wheel.
This is not a big issue to some people when they don’t travel for long periods of time, but it could be an issue for those who want to be able to move around and keep an eye on the person driving in case they are tired or need some food or need some water while driving. Again we want to encourage our readers that they should not remain inside the fifth wheel while on the road: all your family has to be seated in the towing vehicle.
A fifth wheel can be expensive and the vehicle that must tow is also pricey as well. You can expect to spend $30,000 to $50,000 for the fifth wheel RV and upwards of $28,000 for the right truck or vehicle to tow it. However, if you can fit it into your budget, then this type of RV offers definite advantages over pop up campers and even drivable RV units.
You will need to look over your budget first and decide if it is worth the additional expense, but for many who are on the open road, a fifth wheel makes the perfect travel vehicle. The fifth wheel comes without any kind of engine that allows it to move, so the additional expense is regarding the separate towing vehicle in order to get this kind of RV on the road and you might need a high powered vehicle with a good engine if you are planning to purchase a large-sized fifth wheel as the majority of fifth wheels I see. Most people who purchase a fifth wheel have small trucks and 4-wheel drive to ensure proper towing power and stability.
No onboard generators in smaller models
The smaller fifth wheel vehicles are not going to have enough space for onboard generators and this is an inconvenience. The power generator is needed to run an air conditioner device or use any kind of electrical device and the only real solution is to have a solar panel system, but that is quite expensive. It is the best solution if you can afford to get one.
The final decision will be yours, but all things considered, the fifth wheel RV is generally superior to travel trailers. They fit a family with children that are already grown up, and that is what I see in the RV resorts and campgrounds. If the children are smaller, a class C RV is a good idea and they can sleep in the cab-over bed also called alcove.
A fifth wheel offers better safety, easier towing, and more room which makes them ideal for couples or families that love to travel on the road. You will be impressed by the interior space that a fifth wheel provides, and you can customize it by bringing in the items you want. Plus, many fifth wheel RVs have ample storage space, so you can keep your gear tucked away and out of sight.
In the end, choosing a fifth wheel means getting the best of both worlds. A superior, safer version of a travel trailer with more room than a drivable RV.
These have been one of the most important reasons why people have chosen the regular RV to the fifth wheel and it is considered a major flaw to some, but the flexibility that is gained by driving the fifth wheel is what seems to make up for this problem. You can also consider the fact that a quick stop can allow anyone to enter or leave the fifth wheel. This is a disadvantage without a doubt, but the pros seem to outweigh the cons in most cases.
The purchase of a fifth wheel recreational vehicle is definitely worth considering if you like to travel and if you enjoy being on the road. You will find this to be an ideal way for you to travel comfortably and safely and this is the main reason why these RVs have become so popular in modern times. They are perfect for people who like to travel on land and enjoy the process of experiencing the many locations that are available.
If you are interested in purchasing a fifth wheel RV, you can find out much more by going to a dealership and looking for the models and the styles that you find most appealing. You will find that these types of trailers really make it easier for you to enjoy your drives because you have a small mobile home with you everywhere you travel.
You can see all kinds of options in terms of RV designs and sizes online. This is going to make it easier for you to get the right vehicle. Just remember that you should consider certain factors before you make a decision about purchasing a fifth wheel or another Rv, and you should do a checklist to see if you are making the right decision based on your needs.
There are also many experts that can offer guidance when you look for the right kind of model and the best price based on the kind of budget you have. Just be sure to take your time so you won’t end up with a model that is not the one that you expected or wanted to get in the first place. The guide about the fifth wheel vehicles we just gave you should be a great starting point for you to make your decision.
I am Tony, an RV designer and RV developer. I create bill of materials for RV manufacturers for travel trailers and fifth wheels. I worked as a freelance transportation consultant for Lyft. As an RV development consultant, I create customization trees for RV manufacturers who want to offer a solution to prospective customers to design their custom RV with variant configuration. Apart from this, I sell in Indiana trailer hitches, hitch balls, goosenecks and weight distribution systems where I provide advice to customers who want to know which is their towing capacity, which hitch ball should they utilize and how to deploy a weight distribution system. I do my best to explain all these processes and their installation, here in RV Favorites.