If you’re new to 5th wheel campers, there’s a lot you need to know before hitting the open road.
They are easy to set up and take down, and offer a comfortable place to sleep and store your belongings.
Here is a beginner’s guide to fifth wheel campers, so you can start planning your next camping trip!
What is a Fifth Wheel?
A fifth wheel is a towable recreational vehicle that is towed using a fifth wheel or gooseneck hitch located in the bed of a truck. This allows for better stability and maneuverability than if the RV was being towed by another vehicle type.
Alternate Types of Fifth Wheels
Fifth Wheel RVs with Toy Haulers
Pros: A fifth wheel RV with a toy hauler has a larger area in the back for storing and transporting your toys. A toy hauler is a great option for those who enjoy bringing their ATVs, motorcycles, and other toys along on their camping trips.
Cons: Fifth wheel RVs with a toy hauler are often more expensive than standard 5th wheels of the same size. Additionally, these toy hauler RVs can be difficult to maneuver due to their larger size.
Lite Models and Half Ton Fifth Wheels
Pros: A lite model or 1/2 ton fifth wheel are designed to be towed by a half ton truck. They also tend to be more affordable than full size fifth wheels. Though, it’s still important to make sure that if you are using a 1/2 ton truck that it’s towing capacity is rated to tow the lite trailer you are hoping to pull.
Cons: Lite model 5th wheels are typically lighter in weight and have fewer features than their full weight counterparts. However, they still provide a comfortable camping experience for couples or small families.
How 5th Wheels Differ from Other Towable Trailers
Fifth wheels typically have more living space and storage than other types of RVs due to their design. A 5th wheel camper’s central living area has higher ceilings than other towable campers making their interior feel larger than most other types of towable RVs.
Fifth wheels are typically larger and heavier than travel trailers, so they require a more powerful tow vehicle. They also require more skill to tow, as the hitch must be properly aligned in order for the fifth wheel to track behind the truck correctly. For these reasons, fifth wheels are sometimes not recommended for first-time RVers.
How Much Do Fifth Wheel RVs Cost?
In general, fifth wheels cost more than travel trailers but less than motorhomes. The initial purchase price will vary depending on the size and features of the unit. Expect to pay at least a few thousand for an older used 5th wheel to well over $100,000 for a larger fifth wheel with lots of features. Maintenance costs will also be higher for a 5th wheel than for a travel trailer, due to the need to regularly inspect and service the hitch and tires.
Benefits and Features of Fifth Wheel Trailers
Widest Variety of RV Floor Plans
There are a variety of fifth wheel available on the market, each with its own unique floor plan. Some of the most popular fifth wheel floor plans include the rear kitchen, rear living room, and front bedroom. There are also a variety of smaller floor plans that are perfect for couples or families who want to downsize their RV. No matter what your needs are, there is sure to be a fifth wheel that is perfect for you.
Fifth Wheels Have Separate Bedrooms
One of the great features of fifth wheel is that they often have separate bedrooms. This means that you can have a bit more privacy on your camping trips, which can be great if you are traveling with young children or other family members. Fifth wheels also tend to have more storage space than other types of campers, so you can bring along all of your gear without having to worry about running out of space.
Fifth Wheels Have Separate Kitchen and Living areas
One of the great things about fifth wheel is that they have a separate kitchen and living area. This means that you can cook and eat in the kitchen without having to worry about disturbing your sleeping partner in the living area. It also means that you can relax in the living area without having to worry about making too much noise in the kitchen.
Pulled by a Separate Tow Vehicle
When camping with a fifth wheel, you do not need a separate vehicle to drive around or break down your whole RV to go into town for groceries, as you do with a motorhome. Once unhitched at the campsite, you can drive your vehicle around when camping with a fifth wheel.
Lots of Storage and Living Space
Many fifth wheels have a “pass-thru” area in the basement or underbelly providing a lot of cargo storage that’s easy to access. Additionally, due to their higher ceilings, fifth wheels often have more interior storage inside as well.
Fifth Wheels Have More Stable Towing
Fifth wheels have reduced tailer sway when compared to other types of towable RVs. A fifth wheels hitch weight is over the rear axle (the drive axle) of the tow vehicle rather than attached at the bumper. As such, fifth wheel hitches provide a more secure connection than a typical ball hitch. This was a major factor in our decision to choose a fifth wheel camper to RV fulltime.
Tow Vehicle Can Be Used as Primary Vehicle
When camping with a fifth wheel, the tow vehicle can be used as the primary form of transportation. This also means, you may choose to only have one vehicle to maintain for camping and running errands before and after a trip.
When using a fifth wheel for RVing, the tow vehicle can also be used as the primary form of transportation while the trailer is stored between camping trips.
Disadvantages of Using a Fifth Wheel for Camping
There’s a Learning Curve to Parking and Backing Up
Backing up can be tricky when first RVing with a fifth wheel trailer. Practicing driving and parking in empty parking lots is a great way to get practice in before your first camping trip. Hitching the trailer will also take some practice.
No Interior Access While Driving
In order to gain access to the interior on travel days, you will have to find somewhere safe to pull over. You also won’t be able to cook meals, watch TV, or take a nap in your bed while on the road as you would with a motorhome.
Requires an Expensive Tow Hitch
A fifth wheel requires an expensive tow hitch to be installed in the bed of a heavy duty truck. This hitch can be difficult to install for new RVers and may require professional installation. Additionally, the fifth wheel kingpin requires maintenance.
Need a Truck Capable of Towing
The majority of fifth wheel trailers need heavy duty trucks to tow them as they are larger and heavier than most other towable campers. Before you can buy or rent a fifth wheel trailer, a heavy duty truck must already be owned, purchased, or rented in order to go camping.
5th Wheels are More Costly Than a Travel Trailer
Fifth wheels are on average $10,000 to $20,000 or more than their comparable travel trailer models by the same RV manufacturers. Expect to pay more for a fifth wheel than other types of campers due to their size, weight, kingpin hitch, and additional amenities.
Is a Fifth Wheel Camper Right for Me?
Fifth wheels are large and heavy and not for everyone and there are many reasons to avoid buying 5th wheels. You’ll need a full-size or heavy-duty pickup truck to tow the trailer – this also translates to a higher-priced truck. Some even recommend that new RVers do not start RVing with a fifth wheel.
Choosing the perfect camper can be a daunting task. You can always rent a 5th wheel if you only plan to RV a couple of weekends a year or aren’t sure if buying a 5th wheel is right for you. Read articles, visit RV dealers, and watch YouTube videos to learn more about fifth wheels to help you determine if they are good fit for you and how you plan to camp.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can My Truck Pull a Fifth Wheel Trailer?
A fifth wheel trailer needs a heavy duty truck to tow it. You will need to check the towing capacity of your tow vehicle to determine if it is capable of pulling the fifth wheel you are looking to rent or buy.
Can You Live Full-Time in a Fifth Wheel?
You can absolutely live in a fifth wheel full time. In fact, fifth wheels are often reported to be the best RVs to live in full-time. However, it really depends on what you are looking for and your RV lifestyle.