Sharbysyd

5th Wheel vs Travel Trailer

17 posts in this topic

My husband and I are planning on buying an RV and going full time, hopefully within a few months.  We are new to this lifestyle. 

We've done lots of research reading in forums and watching lots and lots of Youtube videos.  We were pretty sure about getting a Travel Trailer and then we saw a video which said that it's hard to get into a lot of state parks if you have more than 40 feet.   It said that the length is the combination of the truck and the trailer.  So if we were to get a 30 something foot TT then that would put us well over 40 feet.  So we've also started to consider a 5th wheel and possibly even a class C.  Although we aren't even sure we will be going into National Parks very much.  We are leaning towards mostly boondocking on BLM land eventually.  

We are also concerned about how a travel trailer handles vs how a 5th wheel handles.  We saw a youtube video that showed a guy driving a 5th wheel and a Tractor Trailer passed him and he showed how there was no movement and he said with a travel trailer there would be a lot of fishtailing and I believe he also said the truck would swerve towards the Tractor Trailer.  The video made it seem quite scary to drive a travel trailer.  

Some questions I have:

Which is easier to drive, a TT or a 5th Wheel?   

Which is better for full-timing?  

Is there a lot of sway when driving a Travel Trailer?

Any other info or other advantages/disadvantages are greatly appreciated.

Thanks

Edited by Sharbysyd

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22 minutes ago, Sharbysyd said:

Some questions I have:

Which is easier to drive, a TT or a 5th Wheel?   

Neither. Or, both. If you've never pulled anything behind a vehicle, there is a learning curve to the process. Both types of trailers can be pulled, assuming the correct set-up. Both can be a handful, if the set-up is wrong. Both can be learned.

Which is better for full-timing?  

A 5th wheel can offer better weight capacity, and more room, but a travel trailer can be pulled by a full size van or pickup with a canopy. This returns a lot of capacity.

Is there a lot of sway when driving a Travel Trailer?

Not with the correct set-up, including a good anti-sway system.

Any other info or other advantages/disadvantages are greatly appreciated.

I'd advise some form of driver training, even as simple as a ride-along with friends who own each. Get some perspective from them as well.

Thanks

 

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We have pulled both trailers and fivers most of our RVing life. When we full-timed we bought a fiver. Would I do it again? Yes, no question. A fiver has far more storage, the truck rides much smoother, and the space inside is much better. The high ceiling makes it feel much more like a home. I don't get the 40' total length at all. It makes no sense. Forget it. Many full-timers pull 34-40' fivers so they are all way over that 40'. You will be able to get into  almost any park but maybe some old forest or national parks that were made for 25' pull trailers. 

We now have a smaller pull trailer because we are off the road and the larger fiver was just too hard to put into storage all the time. I also relax a lot more pulling it because it is so much lower. But full-timing...I would go back to the fiver in a moment. For poking around a week here or there...give me the small pull trailer.

As far as sway goes...our pull trailer does just fine. No problems at all. If properly set up a trailer does fine.

Edited by theeyres

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1st trailer we owned (never having owned one before that) was a 30 ft 5th wheel.  Towed that around the US and Canada and Mexico about 100k miles and pretty much fit in everything except the smallest of campgrounds (NP, NF, BLM)  It was very stable even weighing in at 14k lb.  Fast forward to our next rig, which is a 27 ft (30 ft with the hitch) Travel Trailer Toyhauler weighing in at 10k lb.  I have the WD hitch set up perfectly and sway bars, and it will never approach the stability of the 5th wheel.  Mind you, it is still fine (have towed coast to coast and back within the past 4 months), but it just takes more micro corrections and focus than the 5th wheel did.  We are looking to get back into a 5th wheel since we are full-timing again (the TT was for weekends, so it is just too small for us now that we are back to full-timing)

As for length, I'd try to stay around 30 ft with 1 or 2 slides if you want to do alot of moving and staying in different campgrounds.  If you plan to stay more stationary, get a longer rig.  Heck, if we could do it over again, we'd probably have gone with a small motorhome like the Thor Vegas with the amount we moved the first time we full-timed.  Just hitching and unhitching every other day grew tiresome, even with the 5th wheel.

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We just went through this a few months ago and settled on a 5er and I am glad we did.  Prior to this we had a couple of pop-ups, a boat, and a utility trailer but never anything as tall as a travel trailer.  My dad has a 26'ish Lance travel trailer with WDH and anti-sway bars.  He and I went about 300 miles away to pick up my 5er and the whole way back we had a fairly strong side wind to quartering head wind he was surprised that I could take my hands off the wheel and the truck still tracked straight.  He kept trying to explain how to deal with passing semi's until I showed him they have no effect on my rig.  I can hook my 5er up in less time than a TT with WDH and with a family of 5 full-timing in it with two dogs the extra space made a lot of sense.

 

I wish I had as much adjustment to get my 5er level when towing as I would with a TT but I've got to worry about clearance between the bed rails in addition to leveling the trailer.  I ended up compromising.  I tow slightly (very slightly) nose up with about 6 inches of clearance between my trailer and bed rails.

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Having had both the 5th is a lot easier to drive, more stable, no sway and easier to hitch up. Also with a 5th if you plan to boondock there is space for a generator. Overall we felt the 5th had so much more space than the tt we had of the same length.

You haven't mentioned a truck. Do you have one? Is it configured for towing? If you still need to buy a truck come back and ask the forum before you sign on the dotted line.

Once you have all your equipment sign up for Boot Camp, it will save you a lot of the learning curve.

Welcome to the fold

 

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There is no absolute answer to this question as either type of trailer handling is very much dependent upon the proper hitch equipment and the right match of tow vehicle. Either one can be a good experience if properly matched to the tow vehicle and the best equipment is used and properly set up. I happen to consider a class A to be the best choice for fulltime living, but such choices are more a matter of personal preferences than they are of any list of facts. If you have the wrong equipment the handling will be terrible no matter what choice you make. 

In general, a fifth wheel does have more living space, but it also has stairs that much be dealt with constantly while the travel trailer of motorthome both have flat floors, which can be important for some people. I find that manuvering is easiest with a motorhome, next a fifth wheel, and last a travel trailer, but that is me and I have known others who disagree. We can each tell you what we think is best based on our own preferences, but there is no guarantee that you will agree once you live in what you pick. You could go out and rent a trailer from one of the moving equipment rentals and try driving with it and backing and such to get some feel, but you probably won't find a fifth wheel that you can rent, but a gooseneck cargo trailer would give some idea. There are far more fulltimes in fifth wheel rigs than in travel trailers, but there is no design of RV that nobody has ever lived in fulltime and most of us believe that our choice is the best one. Be very careful making such a choice on the opinions of others. 

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There are far more fulltimes in fifth wheel rigs than in travel trailers

Based on our travels and experience across the country from North to South and East to West over the past 12 years, I do not believe this is true.  Based on membership surveys and polls; it is true for retired, traveling RVers like most of the members of the Escapees RV Club and this forum. As we travel, we encounter many folks living in what were designed and sold as RVs. Many of these folks do not consider themselves RVers and do not belong to groups like Escapees, Good Sam or Family Motor Coach Association (FMCA) so polls of Rvers and RV websites do not count them. These are working folks, often with families. You will not encounter them in state, national or Corps of Engineers parks or find them volunteering or workcamping. For example, we are currently at a fairgrounds in Western Mississippi that allows long term stays. There are a considerable number of fulltimers who are working in the local area. There are 21 travel trailers, 5 fifth wheels and 4 motorhomes in the long term sites. We have seen similar numbers from Florida to the mid-Atlantic to the plains states and into the mountain states. To give another perspective, at times after major disasters, there are more folks living for extended periods of time in FEMA provided travel trailers than the total number of Escapees Memberships ever sold.

All this is not to say that a travel trailer is the best choice for fulltiming.  It is just to make the point that there are a lot more people living in travel trailers than is reflected on RV forums and RV club memberships. In my opinion, the best choice is what one is comfortable living in and can afford to live in in the lifestyle that they choose.

Most travel trailers are built for the weekend/vacation market, so higher quality models are fewer. Most travel trailers have a box (the living space) of less than 32'. There are relatively few 5th wheels under 30'. 

Edited by trailertraveler

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Personally, I'd be more concerned with the "livability" of your choice rather than the "towability".

As for which is better for full-timing, that is totally dependent on YOU and the layout YOU want.

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On ‎4‎/‎19‎/‎2017 at 4:22 PM, Sharbysyd said:

We were pretty sure about getting a Travel Trailer and then we saw a video which said that it's hard to get into a lot of state parks if you have more than 40 feet.   It said that the length is the combination of the truck and the trailer.  So if we were to get a 30 something foot TT then that would put us well over 40 feet.

I forget where I read it, as I'm all over the net, but I also read the claim that at a lot of the older national parks the spaces were made before the mega-trailers of today became common and so any trailer over 28ft probably won't fit.  I cannot, however, vouch for the accuracy of that claim.

 

Cheers,
Ken

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1 hour ago, SecondWind said:

I forget where I read it, as I'm all over the net, but I also read the claim that at a lot of the older national parks the spaces were made before the mega-trailers of today became common and so any trailer over 28ft probably won't fit.  I cannot, however, vouch for the accuracy of that claim.

 

It is hard to say where you read that, but it is mostly true. The vast majority of public parks were built long ago and well before RV sizes were as large as they are today, but most have done at least some modifications to accommodate the larger RVs that are common today. If you get over 35' or so in RV length, the number of sites begins to decline but most public parks do have at least some sites that work and many have some that will accommodate an RV that is over 40' in length. When you look to the total length of the combination, even my little 20' travel trailer is more than 40' in length when attached to our tow truck. With most modern RVs today the key is first what fits into the sites since the majority of public park sites are back-in, and next is the driving skill of the owner. I'm not so sure where the number 28 comes from but if you are looking at a place such as Reserve America , the lengths listed are not limits that some ranger checks but only the length of RV that even the most amateur driver should be able to put into the site. The same is true for the listings by park contractors who operate some campgrounds in Yellowstone and other heavily visited national parks. Nobody comes out to measure you when you arrive, but your skills will determine what you can get into the sites. 

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One issue at the SP/Fedparks etc. is  proximity of trees and hook up that may limit your ability to use slides and awnings.  One SP I have used a good bit is heavily wooded has only a few spots you could uses all your slides expecially if you have them on each side. Just one more thing to think about.

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4 minutes ago, bigjim said:

One issue at the SP/Fedparks etc. is  proximity of trees and hook up that may limit your ability to use slides and awnings.  One SP I have used a good bit is heavily wooded has only a few spots you could uses all your slides expecially if you have them on each side. Just one more thing to think about.

As mentioned pad width can be as important as pad length. Many parks require that all equipment fit on the pad. The pad dimensions are generally the unobstructed portion of a site (gravel or concrete) designed for parking the RV and vehicles . Sometimes sites with relatively short pads will be wide enough to park a vehicle next to the RV or on a slant across the site in front of/behind the RV. If there are no obstructions (which can sometimes be determined from satellite images) it may be possible to let the rear over hang of the RV extend beyond the pad. In my experience, the pad dimensions listed for state park sites on Reserve America and those for federal campground sites on Recreation.gov have been pretty accurate. However, they do not tell you the proximity of trees, etc. to the edge of the pad or the height to which any over arching trees may be trimmed. It has been my experience that park managers are not overly pleased with folks who take it upon themselves to do major trimming to fit in a site. 

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A fifth wheel is easier to handle then a travel trailer. Even if you have the proper hitch, anti sway, etc. As stated above regarding a class A as the better choice for full timing, I would only agree with that if you moved around a lot. If you will be parked for extended periods of time then the fifth wheel is a better choice. For the most part they are cheaper overall, new or used, and you only have to maintain one vehicle, the pickup and not the MH and an auto. I have also been told that if you want an older MH there are some good deals with low miles, they may not to have the latest features. Good Luck

 

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Public parks were always our first choice and we rarely used a typical private RV park.  We had a 40' motorhome and towed a car and honestly, we never had an issue about fitting into the parks we wanted to stay - national parks, state, Corp of Engineers, national forest campground, county and city.  This includes some of the major national parks such as Glacier, Yellowstone, Grand Teton, Zion, Bryce, Grand Canyon, etc.  No, you won't fit in every single campground but neither will a 30'.  You will learn to do your research before going.

Get the RV that you will be comfortable living in and don't worry about the size.  There are always other options near a place you may want to stay.  Storage, inside and out, is very important for full-timers so keep that in mind.  Good luck!

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That reminds me why we bring a 4person and 2 person tent.  We use that plus the truck, motos, or even our own legs if we want to get into places that the trailer cant go!  Most recently, to Toroweap Overlook at the Grand Canyon.  200 miles of dirt road that we would have never wanted to even consider taking the trailer down.  Spent the most glorious night camped by the Grand Canyon with very few other people around, which is not normal for most National Parks.....  

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We bought our mpg travel trailer (19') in December, 2010. When I towed it home it was, by far, the largest trailer I had ever towed. I was rather nervous, to say the least. When we sold it two years later I was quite comfortable towing it. The test drive we took with this 40' MH was the first time I had ever driven anything this large and the first time I had ever driven anything where I was not sitting behind the steer axle.

At this point I'm quite comfortable with whatever we have IF it is properly set up. That means a truck that isn't at any weight limits and a proper hitch for a towable. You will likely be a bit nervous the first time you drive your new-to-you rig, but after a few hours behind the wheel you will be quite comfortable with it.

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