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Martin

right size 5th wheel

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So my wife and I are starting on this journey of selling everything in California and migrating very slowly back east. We are going to make long term plans as we go. I am a lifelong boater, but I have not owned an RV. We decided to go the 5th wheel route instead of a motorhome. Now I have to buy a 5th wheel. I have a fairly new F-250 SD with a 6.7 diesel.

Questions:

Is there a limit to a practical size? I am going to travel the country, so I do not think I want to get too big of 5th wheel. I am thinking OAL of around 34 feet or less. Does this make sense? I may be limited anyway with a 3/4 ton truck, but I have heard of larger 5th wheels restricting access to campgrounds. So I am thinking this size may be the best choice. So this would be a floor plan length of 28 - 30 feet generally speaking. Is this reasonable?

I was thinking about a higher end brand like Arctic Fox or Grand Design. The higher quality units seem to be heavier though - and I guess this makes sense. What other brands should I consider?

BTW, do any states require a special license to pull a 5th wheel this size?

Any advice is appreciated.

 

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Welcome to the forum!

If I may, I would suggest looking into your manufacturer weight suggestions closely.  There are some 5th wheels/tts that are built for lightweight trucks but what you mentioned, I don't think would work as most I've looked at are pretty heavy.   I currently have a 3500 dually and pull a 32 ft RV.  I have not had problems finding a place for my length, many I can even stay connected.  As for a license, check your state's requirements.  Other states will honor that and not hassle you unless your doing doubles, then they get iffy.  Get around/over a GCVW of 26,000 pounds, your in a different ballpark/license requirement, again dependent on your home state of CA.  Your truck with a lighter camper might be alright if staying flat land, any hilly/mountain driving just might make you pucker up past your and your trucks safety level.

Asking for brands, all I will say is research, research, research.  That is the million dollar question, everyone has their favorite.  We look at as many as we can looking for a layout that we like.  Then we look at the brands that have that layout or close.  Also, if you can afford it, look for an RV, if buying new, that is rated for full time use if warranties will be a concern.

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Welcome to a great group of people.

Only you can determine how much space you need. What we can do is give you some ideas to help determine your needs. For instance, start by going to this Arctic Fox website: http://northwoodmfg.com/arctic-fox-2/arctic-fox-27-5l/. Look at the floor plan so you get an idea of what is where. Then look at the photos. Look at kitchen photos to see what cabinets are like to determine if they will hold all your kitchen stuff. Look at bedroom photos to see if the wardrobe and night stands will hold all your clothing, etc. Look at the remaining cabinets to see if they will hold any overflow that you use on a regular basis. Yes, you can store stuff in the basement but is that really where you want to go to get your rain coat or swim wear?

When we go see a rig we are considering buying I like to sit and look at cupboards and mentally arrange our stuff in them.(Writing them down helps even more.) When I find myself trying to put a third set of things into the same cupboard I know we either need to get more cupboards or reduce the amount of things we own.

Back to the floor plan think about your daily activities. The model above has a great kitchen for cooking. Dave and I can sit across from one another at a table with our laptop computers, each doing our own thing, and we are fine with that. We can also sit on the couch together watching movies in the evenings. Would that work for you or do you need more space for hobbies or whatever?

All you can do is research as much as you can then make the best decision for YOUR needs. Which might mean getting a bigger truck.

Linda Sand

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First, do not trust what any salesperson tells you. Do your own research!!!

The first step is to determine what you can tow safely. This would be a weight number.  Try to have 3000-4000 pounds between the dry weight and the gross weight for your stuff(water, belongings etc). Once you have these numbers and understand them then you can start looking at what length and floor plan 5th you can tow. 

Is your truck equipped to tow is another question. You might need to add some items. Everything starts with the truck and its specs.

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9 hours ago, Martin said:

Any advice is appreciated.

With a 5er, 20% to 25% of the trailer's weight will be in the bed of the truck (is it a long bed?) so use the cargo capacity of your truck when you research RVs (a travel trailer will have 10% to 15% of the trailer's weight on the hitch). The GVWR and the GCWR are what the state will use to determine license class with 26,000 pounds being a common number, (http://www.dps.texas.gov/driverlicense/dlclasses.htm is one example), not the actual weight of the rig, and the GVWR of the trailer is the number that you should use in your research for your new home. Ford has an informative Tow Capacity Chart if you would like a specific number relative to your model, but cargo capacity is very vehicle specific as this depends on how the vehicle is optioned, hence the sticker at the driver's door. We have found that a maximum length of 34' in a 5er and 32' in a travel trailer are ideal for us, and that floorplan and indoor storage are important considerations for comfort.

Edited by rm.w/aview

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Welcome!  Many of us started our full time adventure about where you are.  We were actually boaters also and decided to switch to RV traveling after full retirement.

There is one fiver brand/model that I started with and I am still partial to it today.  I found their owner's forum to be helpful and about the best around (Montana Owners).  Keystone Montana has numerous models which I haven't kept up on in recent years but since you are in the "research" phase it wouldn't hurt to visit their group and get some information.  

Good luck.

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Welcome to the Escapee forums! We are here to help and assist you so feel free to ask as many questions as you wish and to start or join in any of the forums and discussions. You are wise to start by looking at the weight limits of the truck that you own so check what Ford has for GVWR and GCWR (gross combined) as well as the max towing weight of the specific truck that you now own. There are fifth wheel trailers in the lengths that you are looking at which could be safely towed by the truck that you now have. You are correct that as the quality improves in a trailer the weight of it typically increases but the more recent trucks also have a much higher weight limit than do some of the older ones so you are probably OK but need to make sure. I suggest that you take a look at this towing weight calculator from Changing Gears website. As far as quality ratings of RVs, I suggest that you at least consider the information from the RV Consumer Group as I found it very helpful in my early years of RV research. I can tell you that the Arctic Fox line do have very good ratings but I would also shop several other brands just to be sure. 

Minimum size is one of those things that is a mostly personal decision. We lived fulltime in a 36' motorhome for nearly 12 years and had a great experience but we have known people who felt that a 40' fifth wheel with 5 slides was too small and we also have known others who lived for years in a 22' long class B van conversion and were happy. Such a choice is very dependant on the people who live in the RV and your own circumstances. Since you have boating experience, I suspect that you are probably better prepared than most prospective RV buyers in determining what is the best size for you and yours. As to what type of RV is best for you, that too is a very personal choice and while we preferred a class A for our home on the road, that was us and there is really no hard rule to determine such but it is more what fits you and your lifestyle than anything else. We all have our own priorities and what matters is that things fit you and your family.

If you could share just a little bit more about yourself and your family, we likely could make better suggestions as you move forward in this. Our group has members who range for younger families to we older retired people and with RVs of pretty much every description. We are happy to have you as a member of Escapees and of the internet forums. 

 

Edited by Kirk W

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Welcome to the forum! I am a fairly new member myself but have frequented the site for some time and can tell you there is a great group here with a lot of useful information.

If you have the time I would suggest renting and found that there are 5th wheel rentals out there. A quick search revealed a pretty good variety of makes , models styles, lengths etc. Here's what I came up with for California in general;

https://rvshare.com/rv-rental?location=California%2C USA&lat=36.778261&lng=-119.4179324&rv_class=Fifth Wheel

*edit*  After using the website a little more, you can type your city in the search bar to get more localized results for your area. You will also get different results from the link above.

This is actually an exciting part in making your decision what will work for you, enjoy!

Edited by TravellingCircus

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Thanks to all for the information. I read all of the posts multiple times to be sure. Very good information.

I believe I have a tendency to overthink these things sometimes. I have gone to 3 RV shows and I have read 3 books on the RV lifestyle in the past few months that I bought off Amazon.

We are sure that we will be living in this RV for a minimum of 9 months. When we get back east next spring, we may buy a house or we may buy a more substantial RV and keep going. We just do not know yet.

At this point with the truck I have, and after reading these posts, I am convinced that I need to stay at 14,000 lbs GVWR or less - so around 10,000 dry. I may be better off to buy a good mid range unit with a suitable floor plan as the higher end units would be too heavy for the length that we are looking for.

BTW - why do the manufacturers make it so confusing. I mean, some 30 foot models have an overall length of close to 36 feet. So do you talk OAL or model length?

So I just need to make sure I select a manufacturer that will take care of me when and if there is a problem.

I still have to work out the whole legal domicile and mail thing yet and I'll need to start working on this right away. 

I have 2 weeks left at my job and I'm officially retired. So many things to do...

Thank you all so much. I am going to make a couple more posts on these other topics.

 

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10 hours ago, Martin said:

BTW - why do the manufacturers make it so confusing. I mean, some 30 foot models have an overall length of close to 36 feet. So do you talk OAL or model length?

1

There are probably several reasons for the phony length listings but at least part of it is that they tend to change models without changing the model designators. As to what length people mean when posting, it probably depends on who is making the post. Speaking for myself, if talking specifications I do mean from tongue to bumper, but in general conversation, I usually refer to our current trailer as 20' which is the cabin of our travel trailer, but in specifications, I would say 23' which is total length, rounded to the nearest foot. 

10 hours ago, Martin said:

I still have to work out the whole legal domicile and mail thing yet and I'll need to start working on this right away.

May I suggest that you start this process by reading this article about how to choose a domicile?

 

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Martin, let me address just one of your concerns.  I am basing the following opinion just on our experiences of owning two Keystone Montana 5th wheels, a Thor Challenger 37GT Class A gas motorhome, and now our current RV.

First of all, if purchasing a new fiver I would search online and get the general MSRP for the unit you would be dealing on.  The dealer may have added some stuff but you will have to sift through all of that.  You should NEVER pay close to MSRP for a new RV.  Depending on the dealer stock, time of year, and some other factors, you can purchase new for up to 30% off MSRP.  

Secondly, there are some very large RV manufacturers out there.  Thor probably owns most of the brands today.  Most are manufactured in northern Indiana.  It is hard for some folks to make the switch in thinking, but quality control and dealer support is nothing like the auto industry.

You could very well purchase a new fiver from dealer A and be very happy.  Two months later while out west you could have something break while under factory warranty and take it into dealer B who either refuses to work on it or puts his local customers on the schedule first and tells you he can get you in several weeks down the road.  This is obviously a worse case example but you have to be prepared for these types of issues because it does happen.

Hope none of this scares you off.  Just remember many of those RV salesman aren't your best friend and usually if their mouths are moving they are lying.

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I couldn't agree more on using care on what salespeople say.  The last salesperson that I spoke to about a 5th wheel told me that there wasn't a 5th wheel on the lot that I couldn't pull with my single wheel F-250, and they had 40 footers. I also understand the difference with RV support after sales compared to autos.

I have had some people tell me that a slightly used 5th wheel is better than a new one as far as problems. There is probably some truth to this...

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13 minutes ago, Martin said:

I have had some people tell me that a slightly used 5th wheel is better than a new one as far as problems. There is probably some truth to this...

Unless it was a lemon the owners gave up on.

Linda

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Sales persons come in all kinds.   Both wife and I were RV salespersons. The customer we liked best were the ones who did their homework and knew their product.

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22 hours ago, Martin said:

BTW - why do the manufacturers make it so confusing. I mean, some 30 foot models have an overall length of close to 36 feet. So do you talk OAL or model length?

I can tell you that our manufacturer (Nuwa - Hitchiker) measured their trailer length based on inside living space. So our was measured from the back window to the closet doors in the front of the bedroom.  Our model designation is 33', but overall length is closer to 35.5'.  Others have different protocols, but I've found that fifth wheel are generally longer by several feet than their model numbers indicate.

Travel trailers, on the other hand, often include the length of the A-frame hitch in the length, so may be a couple of feet shorter (in terms of living areas) than the model designation. 

I agree that it is really confusing. We used to have a  "30 foot" long fifth wheel that was really around 32' long. Worked fine in a couple of National Parks that imposed a "30' max trailer length".

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12 hours ago, Martin said:

I have had some people tell me that a slightly used 5th wheel is better than a new one as far as problems. There is probably some truth to this...

There can be, but you want to be very careful either way. Used RV salespeople compare quite well to used car salespeople. Most used RVs will have no warranty at all and getting a good price can be just as difficult as with new. (the same is true for any type of RV) I have purchased both new and used RVs and have not had the grief that many here report on any of them. The last two were new and each of them had 1 warranty repair and both dealers stood by the work quite well. One of the reasons so many RV buyers have problems after the sale is too many of us buy based mostly on emotions and price and do to little examination of the quality side of things. The old saying that beauty is only skin deep applies to RVs. 

In general, better quality RVs will weigh more as well as costing more. You will never get the same standards of RV from the lowest price group as you do with the same size & type that cost far more. 

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We own a 2019 Keystone Cougar 30 RLS 5th wheel with a loaded weight under 12K, I tow with a 2012 Dodge Ram 3500 diesel single rear wheels.  Averages 9.5 to 10.5 mpg.

Wife wanted a 38 foot 5th wheel (333MKS), what we gave up by staying at 34 feet was a larger closet and a dresser in bedroom.

I like what we own, stayed in our price range and I am happy with how it tows.

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