What is the best 5th wheel RV for you? Pam and I get asked that question a lot as we travel about. People see ours and wonder why we chose the one we did, and what would work best for them?
There are so many 5th wheel makes models and price points! It is a huge task to decide on one that will work best for you! Perhaps we can share some information that will help.
First, What Is a 5th Wheel RV?
There are several classes of RV’s out there: Class A Motorhomes (bus style) Class B’s (converted vans) Class C’s (Class C motorhomes are generally constructed on cutaway chassis depending on the model. The cab is similar to a truck, with a bunk above, plus a rear bedroom) Travel trailers (a trailer pulled behind an appropriate tow vehicle) And . . . 5th Wheels
What Makes a 5th Wheel RV a 5th Wheel?
Actually, there is no 5th wheel at all. It is a hitch that ties the RV, which normally has four tires, to the tow vehicle. That is typically a pickup truck designed to handle the weight of the pin that will be placed on the tow vehicles hitch. The hitch allows the 5th wheel RV to stay attached to the truck and follow along as both vehicles maneuver from point to point. So, the RV needs the truck as its 5th wheel to be moved.
Why Would You Want a 5th Wheel Over Another Type of RV?
The Fifth Wheel RV offers maximum living space for any given trailer length. Usually, the master bedroom is located over the truck bed. These units are sometimes called Fivers. Many full time RVers have chosen them over other types because of maximum bang for the buck. They are like a one bedroom condo on wheels.
Fifth Wheels are constructed with a raised forward section for the master bedroom, allowing a bi-level floor plan. This style provides more room in the lower level area of the RV. Add in a couple of slide-outs in the living/dining area, and a slide-out for the bedroom area, and it’s easy to see why they are more spacious, and the choice of many.
Because of the hitch design, all 5th Wheels will require a pickup truck for towing. Larger models will require super-duty pickups, and the largest Fifth Wheels will require a medium-duty RV hauler. Unless you already have an adequate tow vehicle, this requirement is one drawback to purchasing a fiver.
Adding the cost of a one-ton pickup to the cost of the trailer, and the dollars start to increase. A New one ton production truck (Ford, Chevy, Dodge) can set you back as much as $65,000. A NEW medium-duty RV hauler for towing a large Fiver can run from $50,000 to $150,000. Just make sure you match the weight of the trailer adequately to your tow vehicle. A good RV dealer can help you to decide what works best for your 5th wheel of choice.
The good thing about the new 5th wheels coming from RV manufacturers is that they are building them lighter, yet stronger. This allows even a 45′ toy hauler to be pulled by a one-ton production truck.
What About Driving With It?
Towing a Fifth Wheel is much easier and much more stable than towing another type of RV. The hitch being placed in the pickup bed, and directly over the rear tires of your tow vehicle, contributes to improved traction and handling. If you can afford it, be sure to have a truck with an eight-foot bed.
Try not to go with short box trucks and slider hitches! Now this is just my opinion gained from my experience as well as that of others. They are not adequate to handle the demands of hauling larger 5th wheels on the road, and especially when maneuvering in RV parks!
If you forget to activate the slider hitch, you can create issues with the cab of the truck hitting the nose of the fifth wheel. Any tight maneuvers while traveling can create a problem. Watch this Youtube video!
What Are they Like Inside?
Fifth Wheels are available with a wide range of features and appliances. Some of these are normally found only in higher-end motorhomes: a washer and dryer, an onboard generator, residential refrigerators, and inverters. They have all of the standard amenities and some not so standard such as ceiling fans and fireplaces. We are also starting to see pop up big screen TV’s.
Would you like a larger bedroom with more ceiling height? Some manufacturers are now putting the living room up front. This makes lots of sense as it makes that area cozier. It also allows the back bedroom to offer more livability features.
So, now that you know what it is . . .
What is the Best 5th Wheel RV for You?
This question is easier to answer than what the 5th wheel is. The one that is best for you is the one that fits your budget, whether new or used and will suit the way in which you plan to use it.
Do You Want it For Full Time RV Living?
If so then you need one that is not cheaply built. You can tell when you walk into an RV if it is well built or not. Fit and finish always give it away. Are the showers flimsy and the toilet all plastic? Is the woodwork fake? Are the floors spongy under foot? How about the outside: painted fiberglass panels or just white gel-coat with decals that will eventually peel away.
This is just my feeling, but most well-built rigs are heavy. There is a reason for that! They build them to handle the full time RV use by using residential features: sturdy floor construction, one piece fiberglass shower or shower/tub combos, china toilets, high-end appliances, Moen faucets, Whirlpool fridges, heavy duty axles, larger G-rated tires, etc.
Again, just my opinion, and realizing that you get what you pay for, for full time living buy one in the 16,000 lb GVWR. You will be happier in the long run! If it is going to be your full time home, it is better to go overboard than not.
Also, consider this:
It is Better to Buy Quality in a Used RV than it is in a New One at the Same Cost?
It may be another option to consider! We did! We got a great deal on a two-year-old 5th wheel that was like new, but it was half the cost of what it was when it rolled off the assembly line.
What should you be looking for?
Does paint quality matter to you? What floorplan will work best? What about features and technology? Will you have enough storage space? Can you carry everything you want with you? What is cargo carrying capacity? Should I buy a new or used RV?
I want to address some of these issues by telling our story and the process of how we were able to buy and keep our first 5th Wheel RV for almost seven years!
The best thing Pam and I did was to rent RV’s for many years before deciding to get into the full-time RV lifestyle! We were at the point that a vacation in an RV was far better than other options we had done previously! And once we were out RVing, we learned so much about what we wanted in an RV of our own and what we would not.
Once we finally decided to start looking for the class of RV we had decided on, I researched my choice vigorously! I set a budget and decided a used RV that was two to three-years-old would suit us best. My determination was mostly based on an RV manufacturer that I thought had great quality. We also based that choice on one that we had rented from this particular RV manufacturer and the feedback of other owners.
I found the one I wanted, and it was only a couple of hundred miles away. So, with our budget in mind, we took a drive to look at the RV. It was just what we were looking for but about twenty-five thousand dollars more than I wanted to spend for it. So we decided to continue our search.
As chance would have it, a few weeks later the dealership was having a close-out sale, and the price dropped twenty-five thousand dollars. The RV was now right where we wanted it: priced right, two years old, it had hardly been used, and it looked like new, but it had a bad odor inside.
It was not a mold issue, but a black tank odor. It turned out they had never dumped the tanks after receiving it as a trade-in. Once the tanks were emptied and the unit cleaned, the odor was no more!
We closed the deal and purchased our “new to us” 2006 Newmar Kountry Aire 5th wheel! We now had our full-time RV living home, and we were delighted! It was in our budget, it had all the space we required in the kitchen, it had plenty of storage below, it could carry the weight of the items we planned to put in it, the full body paint was stunning, and it appeared it had been well cared for. As it turns out, we should have had a certified RV inspection done on the RV as I missed a few things that cost me money later on!
The point here is that because we spent a lot of time researching the RV lifestyle. We traveled thirty-five thousand miles in all classes of rented RV’s before buying one, we spent the time deciding what would work best for us, we talked to other RVers about their experiences, and we did not rush into purchasing an RV! Thus, we were able to enjoy our 5th wheel RV for almost seven years. It worked out perfectly for us!
How About One For Traveling Two – Eight Weeks Out of the Year, with the Family?
This can be a much different story! Most of the units in the forty to sixty thousand dollar realm will work because they are not being put through the demands of 24/7 and year-round living. Therefore, a lighter weight rig will make getting out on the road in your own RV much more affordable. Plus, a lot of these kinds of 5th wheel RV’s have toy hauler features that make traveling with the family very comfortable!
So, the best 5th wheel for you is the one that fits the way you plan to use it, your budget and the floor plan that will accommodate you and your family!
Best wishes on your search for the right RV for your needs. Before you go, please leave a comment if we can be of assistance in your search. We would like to hear what you are discovering as you search for the best 5th wheel RV for you!
And by all means, if you buy used, get it inspected just like you would for a home. Do so and you will have worry-free journeys!
Howard and Pam
Again, please feel free to leave comments if I can answer any questions you may have!