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Matt

Options for family of 6

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Newbie here.  Feeling a bit overwhelmed with decision on what to use for tow vehicle.  We are a family of 6 (four kids ages 5 to 12) planning to go full time traveling US and Canada for at least a couple of years once we sell our house.  Will be purchasing Jayco North Point fifth wheel weighing in up to 17k lbs loaded.  Is a 1 ton dually diesel enough to pull safely?  Down side would be having a kid in front row.  Considering HDT but not sure about practibility for driving around when unhitched.  Prefer to only have one engine to maintain but not completely opposed to small car on HDT bed although wouldn't be large enough for the whole family.  Wife doesn't want to drive separate car while I drive truck when we move from one spot to the next.   I know we aren't the only large family doing this.  Appreciate any insight, advice, pros/cons.  Thanks in advance!

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I have 6 kids. We traveled in a suburban for along time. Then the older 2 graduated so I was able to get a crew cab pickup and 5th wheel.

Having a kid in the front row sucks. I did it for many years. Now my 3rd oldest is gone so I only travel with 3 kids. Unfortunately there is not much you can do. I put the 2 kids with car seats and boosters in the back and the skinniest teenager in the front. She made a good cup holder.

You can go HDT and fit a 4 seat bench out of a sprinter van across the back.  It works but I didn't like the looks of it. Another option is the booth type seating in the sleeper. That will fit 4 kids. I prefer my kids face forward. I fit 3 bucket seats out of a 2000-2006 Chevy pickup with built in seat belts in the sleeper. Remember kids grow. You will continually have less and less room.

If you are converting a HDT yourself it will take you a while. It took me 5 months with 2 other guys and my nephew helping. I had access to a full shop and any tool I needed. If I were just doing it in my back yard it would have been a year or more to complete. If you can just write a check and have it converted for you that certainly speeds things up. Better yet purchase one already converted with right amount of seating. That might be hard to find. Plenty of families out there but more older couples traveling alone.

I was ready to go with a class A motor home. I found a few big enough with enough seat belts for everyone to ride safely. It was about that time my 3rd oldest graduated and moved out so the problem kind of solved its self. Now down to 3 kids.

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If, where you live, you can register and drive a 4 door “sport chassis” style truck as a private truck - that might be a place to start looking. Driver seat with “2 person” front seat, and three in the rear. MD an short HD trucks park wherever a big pickup will, easy to run around with an automatic trans and you can haul a pile o’stuff.

or

you could bob a school bus body at how ever many private seats you need, add a galley and a can for convenience when under way, car, bicycle, inflatable hot tub, and watercraft deck out back... 

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Legal to ride inside a fifth wheel trailer, I believe.

 

Passengers are permitted to ride in fifth wheel if passenger can communicate with driver and an exit can be opened from both interior and exterior. Safety glass in windows required. Passengers are not permitted to ride in travel trailers. Passengers are permitted to ride in pickup camper.

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Matt,

There are several families on here with large families that full time with four kids.  The Springfields come to mind (4girls&aman)  He drives a converted Freightliner with seating in the condo.  When on long trips they use the truck as their shopping vehicle.  From a safety standpoint that’s probably better than a dually p/u next in order for safety would be  a MDT as suggested like a Freightliner M102 or better yet a M112 .  Will park anywhere pretty much the p/u would.  Have you considered a Class A with toad? Personally I would never even consider a “rider” in the fifth wheel while towing  

 

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2 hours ago, Parrformance said:

Legal to ride inside a fifth wheel trailer, I believe.

 

Passengers are permitted to ride in fifth wheel if passenger can communicate with driver and an exit can be opened from both interior and exterior. Safety glass in windows required. Passengers are not permitted to ride in travel trailers. Passengers are permitted to ride in pickup camper.

It's not in most states. If you have ever seen a trailer accident you would not even travel with your dog in the trailer.

I just made the HDT leap so the thought process is still fresh. You will get most of the good ideas repeatedly. Just keep in mind children that can't see out get board fast. Kids have a lot of stuff and the more kid space you make the harder it will be to make a moter home out of a HDT. The more mods you make the more limited the resale market will be. 

As for the ton truck option, on paper it will work. I have seen worse. I have a ton truck and my trailer runs about 13-14 K I now have a HDT, that doesn't mean I won't use the ton truck sometimes but once you use the big truck it will be your go too.

personally if I was starting fresh I would go class A with a toad. Unless you are planing on being parked almost all the time.

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We are a family of 6. 

Our 4 kids and 4 dogs fit in our VNL660 just fine. I'm sure we would be happier in a 780 as its a bigger cab. But we do just fine with our smaller cab. 11yr 13 yr 15 yr and 17yr. I'm sure the almost 18-year-old won't be traveling with us for long as he has his own truck. he will still go camping with us just under his own transportation.

We definitely would not be happy trying to cram in a pickup. 3 in the back and 3 up front hell no, no thank you.

Our truck is singled short(soon to be changed to mid) This gives us great turning radius. I can jam this thing anywhere a dually pickup can go(aside from a parking garage).

We usually only travel with the HDT. but have plans to build a bed. still in the air on what vehicle we will haul with us. keep going back and forth between a smart, a Bolt or a Jeep. If we did a bed for a bolt or a jeep the SxS could go on the truck and the smart could go in the trailer. As the SxS barely fits in there and the smart is smaller.

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Thanks for replies.  Keep them coming. Not able to do conversion myself.  At weight we will pull, seems like I at least nees a 1 ton diesel dually.  Ive seen a few 3 row truck conversions but so far none with big enough to pull 17k lbs.  I understand some states allow passengers to ride in 5th wheel but not all.  Not sure I would be comfortable with that.  

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Passengers in the trailer is a BAD idea.

With the correct style truck, you can add side windows, or the sleeper section already has side windows.  Putting 4 seats across the back is very doable.  DOing a Class A motorhome and pulling a larger toad might be your best option.

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1 hour ago, Lance A Lott said:

If you have ever seen a trailer accident you would not even travel with your dog in the trailer.

True dat.   In the tow vehicle with the driver you have at least the split second warning of impending trouble or a crash.  Imagine lying on the couch watching tv with not even that split second warning and suddenly the trailer is whipping side to side or upside down with the furniture flying around.

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4 across seating in the back of a sleeper cab is very doable, the width of the truck makes a big difference.    I don't know how wide a Volvo is but, the Peterbilt 387 is about 10 inches wider than a Kenworth T2000.     The integrated sleepers like the Volvo and, fore mentioned trucks are open front to back, some classic style trucks have a passage that is narrower.     These classic trucks may limit visibility and interaction with the crowd  in the back.

To seat 4 comfortably in the back I would look at trucks with 90" wide sleepers inside, that gives you roughly 22" per seat.    The tall height sleepers offer more space and could easily have elevated seating for a better view out the windshield.     You could even do a drawer style refrigerator under the seats.      Even a short sleeper 50" or so would give your back seaters more room than any crew cab.    

Steve

 

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I would think seating for 4 in back would be easy if you are not going to title as a motor home. Getting all the requirements in for that and still have good front visibility might be hard. Perhaps putting some of the requirements behind the seats and the Seats  up on a platform with storage underneath would work. The larger sleeper would be good for that. The rear seat in my ford van seats four. OP indicated he would not be doing the work and my ideas tend to get expensive.  A TT and car for six on the deck is a option.

OP also mentioned Canada aren't they strict on length?

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There have been a number of clever solutions for larger families on here - firefighter from FLA had a cool custom seating arrangement.

Several others have novel solutions - my solution is a custom seat like the old conversion vans.

Take a look at this video shot at the ECR a year or so ago....

 

 

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Just a note on the use of the HDT as a daily driver - a number of folks on here have done it.

I think it has only stopped us from going through one area we wanted to visit.  If it was a stronger desire we would have rented a car and gone where we couldn't take the truck.  In the lower 48, you will have to work on planning your stops and such but you can successfully visit every state and see much of the state.  Our truck is 28 feet.  A shorter truck would have be easier to get around but I love my big drom box.  I carry 6 or 7 bikes, scooter, skates, pogo sticks and other toys, as well as potted plants.  We use our truck as a camper - it's tight and as the kids get bigger it gets tighter.  But in places like CA it is useful to be able to camp in say Kings Canyon NP and not have to commute in and out from a commercial campground that can accommodate a larger 5th wheel.

Everyone's situation is unique and what works for me may not for you, but an HDT has been a HUGE improvement in quality of life over a pickup for us.

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13 hours ago, Parrformance said:

Legal to ride inside a fifth wheel trailer, I believe.

 

That is state specific so some state will not allow it, but for what it's worth I wouldn't let my dogs ride in the 5er, much less someones children. 

EDIT: oops several others beat me to it...guess I should read all the way to the bottom before I post comments, eh?

Edited by Big5er

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We are also a family of 6. HDT is the only choice for me after my F350 quit on me. I removed both bunks on a Volvo 630 and installed a Sprinter van 4-person seat. I prefer the kids face forward should there be an accident.

For us, we drive a separate car because I don't want the rig any longer to fit it on the bed, plus my golf cart fits perfectly up there. And we personally prefer a smaller vehicle when exploring towns.

Good luck!

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17 hours ago, Big5er said:

That is state specific so some state will not allow it, but for what it's worth I wouldn't let my dogs ride in the 5er, much less someones children. 

EDIT: oops several others beat me to it...guess I should read all the way to the bottom before I post comments, eh?

No worries Big5er, I was just trolling the forum cause I was bored;)  The more bites the better the fishing trip.

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