23 key things to know before buying a fifth wheel

23 key things to know before buying a fifth wheel

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Fifth wheels are an exciting type of RV’s. They look modern and stylish. When you compare them with travel trailers, amenities are more in fifth wheels. They also cost more. Have you been thinking of buying a fifth wheel? Then be sure you know their every aspect especially if you have been Rving in smaller trailer or camper.

Below are some of the things one should know about fifth wheels.

  • Differ from travel trailer in length, weight and how they are towed.
  • You need truck to tow them.
  • Can have Cooling and heating issue
  • They are costly compared to travel trailers
  • Restriction due to height
  • Depreciate a lot
  • Maintenance is higher

A lot of time people are confused between fifth wheel vs travel trailer. In this post, lets explore fifth wheels in detail right from their price, weight, length, their comparison to motorhomes, travel trailers.

1. They differs from travel trailer in the way it is towed

A 5th wheel is different as compared to a normal or traditional travel trailer. A lot of people are confused and do not understand the basic difference between the two.

Fifth wheel hitch is different and it uses coupling that is more stable. Travel trailer will have a traditional horizontal ball coupling which is little bit unstable. This coupling, in the way they are connected makes all the difference.

A 5th wheel tends to perform well and its design is also well equipped for towing. A part of the fifth wheel hangs over the bed of the towing vehicle where as travel trailer is hitched at the rear end of the towing car.

2. You will need a truck to tow 5th Wheel

If you have been thinking of buying a fifth wheel then beware that it will also need special arrangement for the towing vehicle. They need a truck to tow it. Unlike a traditional travel trailer they cant be towed using a car or SUV.

Their initial part hangs over the bed of the truck and the truck bed should be free to accommodate it. This turns out to be bigger disadvantage if you don’t have such a truck already.

A lot of people shy away from them because of this special requirement. With travel trailer you can use any kind of car that is well equipped to tow the weight. The truck seating capacity is also slashed because of this.

3. They can be lengthy

Understanding their length is important. On an average 5th wheels have lengths of around 25 feet. But, it will obviously depend on your choice. They can come at lengths ranging from 25 feet to 45 feet or even longer.

They tend to be longer in length as compared to similarly equipped travel trailers. But, one advantage with them is that since they will be hanging over truck, the overall length reduces which is not the case with trailer.

Read : Average RV length

Not knowing the length of your fifth wheel can result in you being not allowed in some national parks. National parks have their own length limitations for fifth wheels and travel trailers.

4. On an average they weigh around 15,000 lbs

Weight in case towing campers is more critical then anything else. A car or truck tows the camper and if there is overweight then that can be a serious problem. They, on an average can weigh between 3000 lbs to 18,000 lbs.

There are lots of weight terminologies that you need to know before towing the them.
GAWR : Gross Axle Weight Rating
UVW :Unloaded Vehicle Weight
GVWR : Gross Vehicle Weight Rating
CCCC : Cargo carrying capacity
GCWR : Gross combination Weight rating
SCWR : Sleeping Capacity weight rating

travel trailer vs fifth wheel

While purchasing them you should know most of these things and have a sufficient idea of what your truck will be able to pull. You should know how much weight you expect to put on the fifth wheel. Such weight calculations are critical with towable RV’s and you should be well versed so that you don’t overload the it.

5. Insurance for the fifth wheel costs more than $800

RV’s, may it be fifth wheel or motorhome like class A or class C need good insurance. Full timers need to take insurance more seriously. A lot of insurance companies provide for fifth wheel insurance.

On an average a fifth wheel insurance can cost you anything between $800 to $1000. Obviously, it depends on what all clauses are covered. The more coverage you include, the more will be the cost.

A lot of factors go into how much the insurance will cost. Its obviously is more in cases of fifth wheel if you compare it with travel trailers. The more luxury you have more is the insurance. So, before you buy that luxurious fifth wheel equipped with number of appliances be sure you have this calculation in your budget.

6. There can be Cooling and heating issue inside them

Having good heating and cooling in RV is as important has having other amenities. Most of them will include air conditioning and heating except those that are old or are very small. Unlike travel trailers most fifth wheels will be equipped with AC and heat.

You can also get the them with multiple AC’s, and that’s very normal with them. Having said this, there is one issue that some people face with them. There can be uneven cooling and heating in them due to multiple level design.

Read : Helpful guide before you buy air conditioner for your RV

The floor may not be at same level, the living area and bedroom can be at different levels. The bedroom will be little bit higher making it cool fast as compared to other areas that are at low level taking more time to cool. This multi level design can also be an issue for walking. This multi-level issue however may not be with all models.

7. They can have upto 75 gallons of fresh water tanks

Fresh water storage in RV’s is critical and most RV’s include fresh water tanks. A fifth wheel on an average can be equipped with a fresh water tank of size between 60 to 75 gallons.

Having bigger fresh water tank may not be an advantage always as it puts weight on you RV. Understanding the tank size in them is important as you need to plan as per number of people who will camp.

If you compare this tank size its good enough in comparison to class C RV or class A RV. Other tanks present inside are holding tanks. Fifth wheels on an average have grey tanks of size 55 to 85 gallons and black tanks of capacity of around 40 to 55 gallons.

Overall their tank capacity is pretty good in comparison to travel trailer.

8. They are costly

This in fact can be your first point to consider. A fifth wheel costs way much more as compared to travel trailer. On an average a fifth wheel can cost around $45,000 to $75,000. This could be their starting range and as you go for better equipped ones, the price will go much beyond that.

Travel trailers on the other hand cost way less and no match to fifth wheels. The reason why they cost so much is because of their design, and ability include amenities that may not be present inside trailers. They also come with on-board generators which needs special arrangement and hence the cost goes up.

9. Lots of good brands make them

RV is a big market and there are hundred of brands that manufacture them. A lot of people RV around the united states and that’s what makes the market bigger. Fifth wheels are also manufactured by quite a lot manufactures and you get abundance of options to choose from. There are a lot of best brands that you can choose from. Some of the top brands that make 5th wheels include below :

  • RedwoodDRV luxury suites mobile
  • Coachmen chapperral
  • Forest river
  • Keystone
  • Dutchmen
  • Heartland Bighorn

10. Towing may not be easy

If you have been Rving using a truck camper or a class b motorhome and now thinking to go big with a fifth wheel then think twice. Towing a 12000 lbs fifth wheel behind a truck may not be that easy.

towing a fifth wheel
towing a fifth wheel

There are lot of things involved and you need to be careful about those. As a driver you should be able to maneuver the them calmly. Having talked about the difficult of towing, it only gets easier as you start rving in them.

Initially, it will be a learning curve but with practice you should be okay though. With towing you also need to pay specially attention to the hitch every-time you are starting the travel. Getting the hitch connected and removed will also need practice.

tips for towing fifth wheel

11. Backing up , turning needs good judgment

A 35 feet fifth whee behind your truck will obviously mean you need to be careful while making turns and backing up. Turns will need larger radius depending on how much the overall length is.

Making U turns is also going to be tough and you should avoid it as far as possible. Having good mirror and backing up camera is essential. The fifth wheel lights, brakes need to function well. A new RVer will find these things to be intimidating but with time and practice it should become easy job to do.

12. More Maintenance needed

We all know that Rvs do need good maintenance and fifth wheels are no exception. Be prepared to take good care of them and also spend money to get it repaired and maintained. A fifth wheel taken to a RV professional will cost you $100 per hour or even more. Having good insurance is a smart thing to do as these things will then be covered under insurance.

13. They need bigger storage

If you have been Rving in a tent trailer or a smaller travel trailer then be sure you know this. They are much bigger, they would need bigger storage. And you cannot afford to neglect this. RVs in general need bigger garage, the door need to be big enough.

fifth wheel storage
fifth wheel storage

Not storing the them well will be a big mistake. They are luxurious and need best storage possible. They can loose their value quickly if not stored properly. If you don’t have your own storage then be ready to rent storage at higher costs. Specially, during winter times the they need to be well winterized and protected.

Read : Tips for using travel trailer winter

14. You will get more slide outs

fifth wheel slide outs
fifth wheel slide outs

Sure you will get more slide outs with them but that also comes with number of problems. More slide outs not only add to the overall weight but also need more maintenance.

More moving parts mean more issues and problems. Some of the common problem that can occur with slide out includes below,
– Wear and tear due to lack of lubrication and more use
– Hydraulic line failures
– Damage to drive pins
– Motor overloading
– Fault in gearbox

15. Not great in fuel economy

They may not be great in terms of fuel economy for your towing truck. The obvious reason here is the weight. They are bulky and thus put pressure on truck fuel economy. Other towing RV’s like tent trailer or travel trailers can be light weight and thus are better in terms of fuel consumption for your towing car.

16. Cant travel inside them

Traveling in them is not allowed in most states and that will limit how many people can travel along. Unlike motorhomes the tow-able RV’s are not meant for traveling inside them. Travel trailers too cannot be used for traveling inside them.

17. Lesser travelers possible

Another problem with them is that your truck will not be in full capacity to make the traveler seat inside. The towing truck seating capacity is slashed half. The truck bed has to be empty to accommodate their starting part where the hitch is connected. And thus, only few people can travel inside the truck, this is a bigger disadvantage.

18. Cant boondock easily


If you like boondocking then they may not be for you. They are not really suited for dry camping. Obviously, the length comes into play when you want to go boondocking. Travel trailers which are smaller sized can still be used for boondocking but fifth wheels are little difficult to boondock with. If you want to boondock heavily then either go for smaller travel traielr or a pop up camper.

19. Parking issue

Parking a fifth wheel or even travel trailer in normal car parking space is always a tough job. You would need more than one slot for sure and with that too you need to be skillful to get it parked properly.

Maneuvering such mammoth towing RV’s is not everybody’s job. You surely need to have skills and experience to get them moving. A 35 feet vehicle in all is surely a challenge. At times getting that car behind your fifth wheel can come good using which you can go places while the RV stays back at the campsite.

Now, can they tow that car or not is also another questions. Not all fifth wheels can do that, it actually depends on your towing truck as well.

20. Restrictions due to Height

They have little bit more height as compared to travel trailers. More height therefore puts restriction as to where you can go. There will be places or roads where height restriction are in place and thus you are restricted. Higher roof will also lead to brushing of roof to tree leaves or branches at times.

21. Hitching takes time

The hitch connection coupler provides more stability but it also needs more time to connect. With experience you sure can make it happen fast but at least during starting days you may find it more complicated.

This is the case with all towable RV’s. You would need to do the setup every time you are starting the travel. You need to check the connection twice before you start as you cannot take any chance with it.

22. High depreciation

Yes, you have to face this. The depreciation is very high. This is the case with all types of RV’s though and not only them. Once it comes on road starts to loose it value.

In an year or so it would lose its 10-15% value easily and that can go as high as 40-50% in 5 to 6 years of time. With this kind of depreciation one definitely has to think whether to go for a brand new or used one.

23. Costly amenities

Their overall cost is high because of the design and also due to the costly amenities that come inside it. The more appliances you pack in, the more is the cost. The amenities packed inside are not only costly but will also need higher maintenance.

G. Yoganand

A RV enthusiast who spends countless hours researching and learning various things related to RV camping. He believes in spending time doing Outdoor activities.
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