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ekim

Comparing HDT+5th to Class A

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We have a 35' (bumper to tongue) TT now and pull with a Ford Excursion. We are considering a 40' class A and have widened the scope to similarly sized 5th wheels with an HDT as a tow rig.

 

 

1) Can anybody give me some insight on the maneuverability of a 5th wheel/HDT (~40') combination vs a 40' diesel pusher with a 50-60 degree wheel cut?

 

 

2) Is maneuverability/size the only issue with respect to finding campgrounds, or does the need to find HDT friendly campgrounds extend beyond that?

 

 

Thanks!

Edited by ekim

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The fifth wheel and HDT are going to add up to much more than 40 feet so maneuverability will always be more difficult with the truck and trailer versus the DP. My 40 ft DP has great wheel cut and is very maneuverable. My fifth wheel was much harder to back in than my MH is. I didnt use an HDT but a crewcab dually with less wheel cut than an HDT...it was a pita to turn that truck.

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It depends a lot on what you're trying to do, and where you mount the hitch on the HDT. Most here have the hitch mounted rear of the truck's rear axle(s), which causes the trailer wheels to more or less follow the truck. In that case, going forward, it maneuvers a lot more like a <30' HDT by itself than a 40'+ motorhome. If you're talking U-turns, the HDT and 5th wheel will easily turn around on a narrower road than the motorhome, and if you misjudge, the HDT and 5th can be backed pretty easily.

 

If you're talking about backing into campsites, the HDT will be more of a handful than just the motorhome. If flat/dolly towing, you'll have to disconnect first, and if you're backing a trailer into a campsite behind a motorhome, I'm making popcorn and finding a comfortable place to watch. But just the motorhome is pretty easy, especially solo--not that it can fit places the 5th and HDT won't, but it's a simpler beast to tame from the driver's seat.

 

Jim has already pointed out that most HDTs are, despite their imposing stature, more maneuverable than a big pickup. They also generally have better mirrors.

Edited by Nuke-E

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ekim 1) Can anybody give me some insight on the maneuverability of a 5th wheel/HDT (~40') combination vs a 40' diesel pusher with a 50-60 degree wheel cut?

2) Is maneuverability/size the only issue with respect to finding campgrounds, or does the need to find HDT friendly campgrounds extend beyond that?

 

I have never driven a class A of any size but I watch them in the parks. The big diesel pushers do not seem to ever run into problems unless they try to back with the toad. I drive a Volvo 730, the large footprint unit. I started out pulling a pop up camping trailer with an Explorer, moved to a 29' 5th wheel and now tow a 38' four season Lifestyle 5er. I am about 65' long (68.9' if you want to be picky) but I rarely have problems getting camp sites. I make sure they understand my size and, if possible, get a pull through site. When the park is the only option in the area and only backins are available I look at Google Earth on my iPad to see if there is sufficient room to maneuver.

 

I have only had one park in 10 years that was too tight for me. I got in to a small space with limited room in front for maneuver after much difficulty on a very dark night. I ended up hard against the left side of the site. Fine for setting up the trailer but so close to the big hedge on the left I could not get out of the space without unhitching two times to change the direction of the truck. I decided it was faster and less frustrating to ask one of the pickup drivers to get me out. I gave the driver a nice tip, though there was no charge, and was out and hitched in less than 10 minutes.

 

The advantage of parking a motor coach versus a HDT and trailer vanishes when the motor acts up in a coach and, while it gets repaired, you loose your home. The truck can be in the shop while you still have the use of the trailer. Additionally, repairs on a motor coach at an RV dealer can take time. The shops are often overloaded, especially during travel season. A Volvo, Freightliner, Peterbuilt or Kenworth shop needs to get commercial trucks in, get them fixed and back on the road making money. Repairs are done relatively quickly at a price per hour that would make a pirate happy. Trucks are normally taken in the order they arrive, no preferences. Commercial truck dealers usually have service facilities that are open till late at night in urban areas and they generally have the parts needed for most common issues.

 

Bottom line: Repairing a HDT is a matter of hours versus days for a motor coach at an RV center and parking my HDT and trailer is rarely a problem. Pulling a trailer and having extra towing capacity left makes for pleasant driving. Modern trucks have a number of amenities on them or available for driver comfort. My seat seems to have an adjustment button for each vertebrae, a height adjustment that would allow anyone to find a comfortable position and a strange massage feature that, when activated, continually pokes you in the lower back.

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I drive a school bus daily and its about the same size as a class 'A' ,a school bus has very sharp wheel cut similar to my volvo .

The truck tailer combo is about 22' longer then the bus but is a bit easier to maneuver then the schoolie. (it bends).The forward control buses are much easier then the conventional configuration ,its all about the wheel base.

In the bus I have to be very conscious of tail swing not so with truck/trailer and the centre of the body 'swing over' not a issue with a truck and trailer.

I always try and picture my bus in a tight campground after we get parked and more often then not end up thinking "my bus never would of got in here"

FWIW

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Bottom line, as you have probably figured from above.........

 

Comparing a 40 DP and a 40' 5er with a (lets say) 30' HDT (typical 780 with smart deck) with hitch set to the rear......

 

The DP (alone, without toad attached) will maneuver far easier in almost every circumstance. And a gas MH of the same size will be even better (assuming the same wheel cut) because the wheelbase is typically shorter (more tail overhang). But that is only one aspect of ownership. You need to consider the entire picture....which I'm sure you are.... :)

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The differences of living in 5th vs DP is a completely different subject as already pointed out.

 

As a rule of thumb I have personally found that if they can get a 40 DP in a spot then I can get our 40 5th wheel in. Now that does not mean that there will be space for the truck but again a different topic.

 

The biggest difference between the two is going to be the overall length. How the trailer tracks is going to have a lot to do with hitch placement. In my case I am still tandem (carrying a Jeep). So I added 6' of frame with the hitch at the end of the extended frame. In my case the trailer tracks basically in the same line as the truck going around corners and such. Now if I was a singled truck with the hitch as close to the axle as I could get it, my tracking would be different. My hitch placement also gives me a very responsive trailer so it does not take much of a wheel turn to get it in a tight spot vs my previous SuperDuty.

 

Personally I think the bigger question is which one, the DP or 5th, best fits your lifestyle, needs and desires. Either way they are both big vehicles with their own unique set of pros/cons.

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I have never driven a HDT with a 5th wheel, heck I never had any kind of 5th wheel but here are some of my observation.

Unless you have a long wheel base HDT equipped with a Smart Car the HDT is going to be your daily driver for sight seeing and grocery runs.

A MH is going to be much quieter and perhaps a smoother ride when traveling.

If you have a problem there are many more places that will work on an HDT than a MH.

If you stop for lunch and when you arrive at your destination the house is already at a comfortable temp with a MH.

Backing either one into a site is a matter of practice, it just takes more practice with a 5th wheel.

Set up and tear down is easier with a MH.

It appears, though I have no direct knowledge, that taking in the secenery is better in a MH. The cab forward design and large windshield is like watching an iMax movie in 3D.

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Ekim;

 

I have a large TT that we pull with an HDT, we have never had an issue parking or getting around campsites. In theory a 5th wheel setup would be easier to maneuver, so unless your trying to put 10lbs in a 5lb spot you should be fine. This is a poignant topic, as we all get older it seems the natural step is to a Motorhome or out of the lifestyle totally.

Just food for thought.....

 

Curt

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You will never have a situation that a long wheel base'd straight vehicle can out maneuver a tractor trailer if they are even close in length. Get in a 45' bus and I will do circles inside of your circles. BUT you have to know what you are doing. People get into this with no experience at all. One of the top reasons I am going tractor trailer vs a bus is that I know what I can do with something that bends and what I can't do with something that does not.

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I have never driven a HDT with a 5th wheel, heck I never had any kind of 5th wheel but here are some of my observation.

Unless you have a long wheel base HDT equipped with a Smart Car the HDT is going to be your daily driver for sight seeing and grocery runs.

Not a bad option, we do it often.

A MH is going to be much quieter and perhaps a smoother ride when traveling.

Not even close. The HDT will ride better on any road you choose. The MH MIGHT be quieter.

If you have a problem there are many more places that will work on an HDT than a MH.

Correct.

If you stop for lunch and when you arrive at your destination the house is already at a comfortable temp with a MH.

Same with the HDT if you have a fridge in the cab, and many, if not most, of us do.

Backing either one into a site is a matter of practice, it just takes more practice with a 5th wheel.

LOTS of practice.

Set up and tear down is easier with a MH.

Totally depends on what equipment you have.

It appears, though I have no direct knowledge, that taking in the secenery is better in a MH. The cab forward design and large windshield is like watching an iMax movie in 3D.

Absolutely correct.

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We made the 5th Wheel choice on the basis of what met our needs and budget the best. When we began looking around (11 years ago) it seemed that the class A coaches focused on how many people could sleep in the unit. There were usually two or three sleeper sofas. The better 5ers seemed more focused on two people living in it full time. They had a much homier feel. Plus, all of the space in a 5er is living or storage space. For the price of our 5er and the Volvo we could have bought a fairly nice class A gasser or a used diesel unit. Neither would have been as roomy and comfortable as our 5er and the gassers tend to die early.

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Interesting question, as well as comments.

I have owned both...and it basically is a flip of a coin.

However, I would personally take my ex Volvo 610 (singled) with 36' fifth wheel and a total length of ~63 feet over my motor home hands down.

Just my opinion...

Cheers,

Bob

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Thanks for all the helpful info. I'm aware of most of the other issues related to 5th vs Class A, some mentioned here and some not. I feel like I'm getting some conflicting opinions on which is more maneuverable. I should have added some context to my original request.

 

The comparison is for the Class A with no tow vehicle behind it vs the 5th wheel. It's really about which is easier to get into smaller older state/federal campgrounds.

 

Our initial game plan will be to visit as many state and federal parks as possible. This restricts our max length (Class A or 5th wheel) to 40'. From all our searching it seems like a 40' is the best tradeoff of size vs living/basement storage. From what we have found that will eliminate some places and require more advanced planning for others. We're not interested in the approach of targeting an area and then finding a campground to accommodate us. We really want to attempt to fit into as many of these older facilities as we can while still having a rig large enough to live in and work out of.

 

 

We looked at some New Horizon 5th Wheels recently and we think these compare well with higher end Class A DP offerings. It could even be argued that the interiors are more spacious and livable with higher quality construction and more internal storage. Given our initial plans to visit older/smaller campgrounds, we're trying to determine if a large 5th wheel is really practical and can compete with a similar sized class A solely on maneuverability. There are **many** other differences/tradeoffs between the two, but this maneuverability question is the hardest one for me to figure out right now. Given our game plan, it's an important one for us.

 

Some are saying the 5th will always be more maneuverable and others make it seem like the class A is easier when considering these older facilities.

 

What I'd REALLY like to see is some drone video of a 5th wheel and a class A getting parked into a few different types of tight spots :-).

 

 

Thanks again to all for your input.

 

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If you are directly comparing a 40' class A DP with no tow car and a 40' 5th wheel mounted to an HDT, I think you could make arguments for either and it would really come down to your preference of which one you preferred to live in. Essentially both will fit in a 40' spot and no issues as long as there is room to park the HDT also. In my view though, the HDT (singled short) would actually give you much more advantages for backing and u-turning along with more living space since part of that 40' isn't your driving vehicle. With the 5th wheel hitch mounted behind the axle, the HDT essentially becomes the limiting factor on how sharp you turn which compared directly to the class A will have a much shorter wheel base and thus turn sharper. (This is assuming a Volvo with a sharp wheel cut also). The HDT will have less off-tracking than the DP A when turning and the trailer will follow more in line with the HDT if the hitch is behind the axle vs the rear axle on the class A that will off track a lot at 40'.

 

As long as you are good at backing trailers, you can put that 5th wheel trailer anywhere you could put a Class A, and probably easier. One thing you can do with the HDT you can't do with the DP is cut the trailer in at 90 degrees where it's basically turning in place. This allows you to back the trailer into some very tight spots you could not fit the class A. With the hitch behind the axle, this also means when you turn, that 5th wheel would take a wider track with less off-tracking than an equivalent 40' class A rear wheels which will cut in a lot!

 

This video is based on an Class A with a tag axle, but it gives you an idea of how much off-tracking there is. It would be good to see a similar video with an HDT and a trailer. -

 

If there was something directly across from your campsite that limited how far you could swing your nose of your vehicle as you backed in and also a limit on early you could cut in (tree or other obstacle), I could get the HDT+5th wheel in there much easier. You have to have a lot of swing room to get a Class A DP into an equivalent spot. If it's angled, probably not a big deal, but if you are forced with a 90 degree entry, that HDT+Tralirer will always be easier as long as the HDT has a shorter wheel base and good wheel cut.

 

If you start talking about an HDT that is longer, the line starts getting a little more blurred, but I think you'd have to get to a very long HDT before it became less maneuverable than a 40' Class A

 

This really doesn't show an HDT backing in a trailer, but it gives you an example of how you can basically jack knife the rig and trailer if things got really tight. This is what I was referring to that you can always squeeze the trailer into a tighter spot than the similar size class A. This is the longest Volvo sleeper (730) with a smart car and singled mid so it's a fairly long truck too. If you had a smaller sleeper (630/670) or even the 420/430 and singled short, it would be a lot shorter which would mean even more maneuverable.

 

 

I don't have a lot of experience with Class A or HDT+5 wheel specifically, but I spent years as a UPS yard dog backing and driving anything you could imagine. I got really good at backing up anything we had on the yard. Even a 26' straight truck that is a lot shorter than a 40' class A is a pain to maneuver in tight quarters. I always preferred to back in a semi truck from 28' pup trailers to the 40'+ trailers. It was just so much easier to put these on a dock or in a building when things were tight. Even the largest 53' foot trailers weren't terrible and these were standard 5th wheel hitches where the 5th wheel was over the axle unlike 5th wheel RV trailers where most put it behind the axle giving you much better maneuverability.

Edited by BlueLghtning

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I just purchased a new New Horizons 35 foot. Lots a inside storage along with the basement. We like it way better than to two previous 40 foot DP. I think it fits into some tight places just the height is something to watch. NH will make you a smaller rig also. Would never go back to a DP

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Ok, here is the thing.....to directly answer your SPECIFIC question.....The MH (alone) will ALWAYS get into a spot easier/better than the same size 5th with an HDT (or even worse, a pickup). Always. So that answers your question.

 

As to the rest of it, it is up to you. A New Horizon, properly customized, is superior to a high end DP for livability. Always. Just study the issues and it makes sense. That does not make it the right answer, though. Personal preference plays a BIG part. My only advice is to make decisions PRIMARILY on the "norm" not the exception. So what do I mean by that? Figure out what your normal lifestyle is - not what the exceptional conditions are. Some will say, for example, that a MH is superior to a trailer (any trailer) because "if you stop in a rest area you don't have to walk outside and expose yourself to security issues"....whatever they may be. But this is an exception to the norm....we have been fulltimers for over 16 years and have NEVER had a "security issue" walking to the 5er. Never. So I would not make a buying decision based on "what if's". Make buying decisions based on everyday, "normal", life. That is just one example, but I hope you get my drift.

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