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RV Recommendations for Newcomer


no_decaf

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My girlfriend and I are going full-time in an RV this year. We like the Airstream and are considering buying a 2016 Flying Cloud 30'. But I've read some forum posts about how Airstream quality has declined in recent years.



The hard thing about this process is figuring out which tow vehicle and RV model to buy, and we feel a bit lost. We do like the travel trailer and 5th wheel designs best.



Has anyone owned a recent-model Airstream and had problems with it? Any other brands you would recommend? I'm no longer sure about spending the extra $$ on a new Airstream when I could get a nice 5th wheel from Winnebago or Arctic Fox for a lot less.



Our plan is to load it with solar and boondock as often as possible around the western US.



Thanks in advance for any advice.


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We don't own an Airstream, but we've just gone through the process of choosing our RV for going fulltime. We went into the discussion thinking we would like an Airstream, they were on our short list. DH was really in love. But when we spent time in them we quickly realized that they weren't the right choice for us. My biggest concern turned out to be storage. His was just general space to move in easily.

 

My best suggestion to you is to go in, sit at the kitchen table and walk through your day mentally. What do you need for each part of your day? Where will you put those things? How well will they work in the space? Think about this in terms of living, not just traveling for short periods. How do you spend your evenings? How do you spend your days? Then stand in the spaces where you would cook, wash up, fold clothes, eat, relax and see how those spaces work for each task. If there's a thing you like to do (I like to knit and can), how does that work? If you like to relax in the evening with TV, where will that be? Will you be comfortable there? If you like to hike, do you have specific gear you need? Does that have a home? You see where I'm going.

 

DH and I made a detailed list of the things we like and expect to do both through a day, but also through the year and worked from that.

 

I still love Airstreams, but in the end we went with a fifth wheel.

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There will probably be other thoughts on this subject. But if you're set on a trailer, then I would definitely look at a 5th wheeler. Depending on size of course, they're very livable. I would also give some strong thought to used, since the original owner hopefully worked out all the bugs, and you won't take the big depreciation hit. If you need something new, then make the tow vehicle new. Take a look at www.pplmotorhomes.com and see what they have in used 5th wheelers. It'll give you good info on what they're going for.

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First let me say, welcome to the Escapee forums! We are happy that you have come and we will do all that we are able to assist as you move forward in your adventure.

 

Airstream has an interesting history and has been through many changes over it's many years of existence and both quality and reputation have gone both up and down. In recent years it has been a part of the Thor Industries, the largest company in the RV industry and one with a very checkered history of quality and product support. The Airstream of today does not have the stellar reputation of their early days with their original owner, Wally Bynum, but they seem to have regained their quality levels at least to some extent in recent years. In my opinion, a part of the question should be what RV will give you the most for the amount of money that you will need to spend and the highest quality with the longest lifespan? Since I am not an authority on the Airstreams that are being manufactured today, I'll try to give you somethings to consider in making your choice.

 

Keep in mind that the Airstream is one of the most expensive of RVs in it's size, with an Airstream Classic of 30' length showing a retail price (MSRP) of $132,000, which is compared to a 32' Arctic Fox with an MSRP of $60,000 by comparison. This means that the Airstream should be worth twice as much money as the larger Arctic Fox and the Fox has a slide-out, while the Classic does not. In addition, when you live in an RV, one of the biggest challenges is finding enough storage space and if you walk through each you will quickly see that the Airstream like, with the curved in shape is very lacking in storage space when compared to other brands due to the lack of overhead storage space.

 

These comments have been only based upon the two brand names that you have mentioned, and in travel trailers of comparable size but I am sure that you will find that many others here will offer far more advice on your choices. There is little doubt that in larger tow-able RVs the fifth wheel is the most popular and for many very valid reasons. Based upon your brief introduction, I suspect that you have very little RV experience or knowledge so my first advice would be that you go together to the largest RV show that you can find and spend at least a full day there and two days would be better, looking at all of the RVs of various sizes and types to learn as much as you can about what all is available. The two RVs in the comparison have a very wide price range and since you have not said what your budget is, that must be a factor in what you choose to buy. In addition, vehicles that you can use to tow an RV with range just as much in price and capability. Remember that the largest RV you can buy will still be no more than 400 square feet of living space so this lifestyle is all about making good use of all of the space available. In addition, all RVs have a maximum weight capacity which can be safely carried so the amount of weight you add to your chosen RV is also of critical importance and to that you also must consider total weight in the type and size of truck that you buy to tow your RV with.

 

This is a pretty deep subject to deal with but you have chosen a good place to get help and advice so my suggestion is that you not waver but do take some time to learn as much as you are able before you make these choices. Come back as often as you like with as many questions as you think of and we are here to help as much as we are able. If you do not have previous RV experience, there are many of us here who will be happy to help in any area and someone here has probably had experience in most issues. I'd also invite you to take a look at the signature lines of those who post here and use the links found in many of them to visit the websites and blogs of those who post as you can find a great deal of valuable information and experience in those.

 

We are pleased that you have chosen to come here and we are anxiously waiting to assist and advise in any issue you are willing to share with us. Welcome!

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As someone that started out set on a Flying Cloud and ended up with an Arctic Fox I just want to second Kirk's comments. I still love the looks of the flying cloud but after we sat in one and the practicalities started settling in we began looking at other brands. Air Streams in my opinion are great but they are not well suited for fulltimers, especially boondocking fullltimers.

 

They are just long tubes and you really lose both the feel for, and actual, open living space by not having the slideouts. Putting solar on an airstream also sounds very challenging with the curved roof. I know they now make some panels that will curve but those cost more and do not yet have the efficiency. You really want the flat roof to place the panels. Also, unlike the Arctic Fox and some other brands, you are not going to find the level of insulation and other cold weather features with the airstream. Again, I love them but they come with tradeoffs we were not willing to make for full time use.

 

Storage space is also a premium when full timing and a fifth wheel may be your best choice.

 

One of the things Kirk advised me when I was looking was to check out the http://www.rv.org/. It costs money but gives you input not only on quality but also what the expected street price will be for a unit.

 

Finally, calculating tow ratings and such is complicated and we can help with that. Don't make the common mistake of getting the vehicle first and then looking at units. Many find they end up with an unusable mismatch. Look at the trailer/fifth wheels, decide what you need for living, and then ask us what vehicles you should be looking at. Do not trust dealers for this type of information. Make your decisions and then run them by this group before pulling the trigger. Dave

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I suggest that unless you have a lot of experience RVing, that you rent an RV for at least a week (Class Cs are most common type for rent) and spend a week learning how things work and learning the basic systems.

 

Then do the RV shows (more than one) and spend time in each of the different types of RVs (Class As, Class C, Class B, 5th Wheels, travel trailers) WITHOUT SALES REPRESENTATIVES GIVING YOU A TOUR. Stretch out on the bed, take your shoes off and get the in the shower and go through the motions of washing your hair, etc., sit on the toilet and close the door and see where your knees are. Notice where the slides stop and see if you can still get to the bathroom and bed, open the refrigerator, etc. Look at how you would cook and then clean up. Where would pans and dishes go. Where would canned foods, etc. go. Where is the storage and how much would you have? IOW, go through the motions of living in the unit. After you determine what general type of RV you want, then start comparing different manufacturers. Notice how the cabinets are built, what materials are used - look at the FIT and FINISH, especially the FIT. Then start making list of MUST HAVE versus NICE TO HAVE. Keep notes, discuss, go back and forth, and at some point you will walk into a unit and "this is it" will hit you.

 

This isn't just a weekend project, especially if you are new to the RVing lifestyle. It will take some time. But that is 1/2 the fun.

 

Barb

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Hi everyone,

 

Thanks very much for the warm welcome and good advice.

 

The one thing I don't need much of is storage. When I moved to California, all of my possessions fit into 4 cardboard boxes. Even the Airstream would leave my girlfriend and I with room to spare. Since boondocking is our goal, we're looking for something flexible. Can I take a 5th wheel off-roading easily? Nothing too crazy, just enough to access typical boondocking sites.

 

We're going to head to a few RV dealers this week and try visualizing how we would go about our day in different types of RV. I'm also signing up for www.rv.org to download their guides. We won't buy a tow vehicle until we figure out what we're towing.

 

When you factor in the cost of a tow vehicle, a used Class A no longer looks as pricey. I'm a bit worried about getting stuck in mud or sand though.

 

Thanks again for everyone's input. I'll post more questions as we get further in our search. Sadly there aren't many reputable RV dealers in the San Francisco area. Most have bad reviews on Yelp, so if possible I'll buy used from a private party.

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Hi,

 

Just posting a followup. We spent the day doing research, and we like the Arctic Fox 27-5L quite a bit. I have a few followup questions if that's okay.

 

1) What type of tow vehicle would I need for this? An F-350 or an F-450?

 

2) Does it matter which state I buy it in? I'm asking for tax purposes. Ideally, I'd like to buy from an Oregon dealer right near the factory, so if there's anything wrong I can take it straight to the manufacturer for a repair.

 

3) Should I begin re-domiciling now? I'm going to domicile in Texas by following the guide on the Escapees website.

 

Thanks again everyone.

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Figure out your eventual domicile plans before you buy the RV. Most states collect sales or use tax when you register the RV in their state, but most will give you credit for sales tax already paid to another state.

 

I bought an RV in Arizona and paid the full sales tax there. Washington imposes sales tax on the market value of used RVs brought into their state, when I moved there and went to register the RV Washington gave me credit against their tax for the sales tax I had already paid to Arizona. If I had purchased the motorhome in a state like Oregon that didn't collect a sales tax, Washington would have collected the full amount of their tax when I registered the RV there.

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Once you decide on type of Rv floor plan becomes the most critical. If you are not happy with the floor plan you will not be happy with the RV. We always made sure we had access to the bathroom and refrigerator when all the slides are in. This was the first cut on deciding, next factor was on newer RVs there are 1 1/2 baths, we have no interest in this. Rather have the storage. There is no such a thing as too much storage. You are only looking at what you own and feel it isn't much. With an RV you have to have additional "stuff". Hoses, tools, electric wires, surge protector, barbeque, bikes etc. etc. It is your house on wheels. Houses require maintenance. You will be carrying a lot more than you think at this point.

 

Also, once you decide on what Rv and length. Buy the next length up if they have a similar floor plan. You will be happier if you do this.

 

FYI-a 5th wheel tows easier than a trailer.

 

I would also recommend you go to several campgrounds(especially those that are for travelers) and talk to the people there.

 

Read as much as you can. Reading isn't a substitute for real life but can give you a heads up.

 

Ask questions, lots of them.

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Howdy,

 

First off al, welcome. This Forum ia a great place, if you stick around asking questions or even just reading, you are going to learn a lot (we sure did).

 

Now, to answer one of your questions which I know a little bit about:

 

Hi,

 

Just posting a followup. We spent the day doing research, and we like the Arctic Fox 27-5L quite a bit.

Good pick, Arctic Fox is a great brand and one we've shortlisted for our own purchase. Two others you might want to consider are Jayco and Heartland.

 

 

1) What type of tow vehicle would I need for this? An F-350 or an F-450?

 

At 13400lb GVWR for that trailer, a DRW F350 (or any other one-ton DRW pickup truck) will surely be more than enough, no need for the F-450. If you are buying a new truck (from 2014 on) perhaps you will even be able to pull it with a SRW one-ton, but I recommend you check the numbers throughly yourself (never trust any salesman) before committing to a particular trailer-truck combo.

 

Cheers,

--

Vall.

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Hi, We spent the day doing research, and we like the Arctic Fox 27-5L quite a bit. I have a few followup questions if that's okay.

I believe that you will find the Fox 27-5L to be a much more livable choice than would an Airstream or other trailer of that type. You may want to look around a bit at some of the other choices but fifth wheels and class A motorhomes are by far the most common choice of fulltimers and for many reasons. Each group has very good reasons for their preferences and it becomes more personal choice than hard data. You have not given us any feel for the budget that you have so are we correct in assuming that you plan to buy new? Are you also considering a new truck to tow with?

 

1) What type of tow vehicle would I need for this? An F-350 or an F-450?

In looking at the Ford truck specs, the F350 has a towing weight of 19000# and a cargo capacity of 7050# so it is heavy enough to tow the trailer's 13400# gross and to carry the 1868# pin weight, so I'd not go up to the larger trucks. I would suggest that you get a long box truck and I believe that you will find it well worth the extra cost to get a diesel.

 

2) Does it matter which state I buy it in? I'm asking for tax purposes. Ideally, I'd like to buy from an Oregon dealer right near the factory, so if there's anything wrong I can take it straight to the manufacturer for a repair.

The state of purchase does matter to some degree as different states handle out of state registrations in different ways but you do not have to buy in the state of registration. It is quite possible to buy in a different state and TX happens to be one that will allow you to register by mail so I suggest that you contact the Polk County vehicle registration folks(936-327-6801) and discuss with them what you need to do before you actually make the purchase. One advantage to Oregon is that they do not have a sales tax but you will need to have the cash to pay the TX sales tax when you register the RV & truck there.

 

3) Should I begin re-domiciling now? I'm going to domicile in Texas by following the guide on the Escapees website.

Most of us find that it works best to get your new domicile address set up at least 3 months before you actually move since that allows ample time to get your business mail moved there and you have an address for all of the activities involved in moving to Texas or whatever state you have chosen. If you do not have a copy yet, download a copy of the booklet How to Become A Real Texan from the Escapee website. We set up our Escapee address several months before we went on the road and had all mail going to it well ahead of our actual departure date. We stayed out on the road traveling for nearly 12 years before we once more took up a home-base and we continue to keep our Escapee address so that we can now have our mail forwarded to them when we travel as we sometimes go out for as long as 5 months without returning home. I believe that you will find that the membership benefits of Escapees are one of the best returns on the cost that there are and the mail service is as good as it gets.

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We use the 2015 f 350 dually diesel to pull the Arctic Fox 35-57. An f350 single rear wheel (preferably diesel) would be great. We purchased last year from Thunder RV just a few miles from the factory (salesman was Mike). We bought there but registered and paid tax in our home state of Michigan. If you have questions about our experience please feel free to email directly. We were very satisfied with them.

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Four cardboard boxes is indeed minimal, and I am guessing they contained mostly clothing and maybe some books and tapes. But what about what about the things you need for living, like a vacuum cleaner?

 

Did those four boxes include pots and pans, dishes, storage containers, and other cooking stuff? Cleaning supplies? What about towels and rugs? Extra clothing in case you go somewhere cold? All these things have to be stored, so you should start making lists of the stuff you need for living and then when you are looking at RVs you can imagine where you will put stuff.

 

The reason people keep mentioning small 5th wheels to you is that they have more storage than a trailer, particularly underneath bins where you can store that vacuum cleaner!

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Hi everyone,


Thanks very much for the additional info.


Kirk, yes I'm most likely going to buy both truck and 5th wheel new. I also joined Escapees the other night, and I'll set up my mail forwarding as soon as I settle on a domicile. I'm did some more research and I'm now considering FL and SD as well.


Daveh, it's really nice to hear that you purchased from a dealer right near Northwood Manufacturing. That's exactly my plan, and if you had a great experience I'll buy from Thunder RV as well. I'll email you directly for more details.


Several people have mentioned renting. I'll either borrow or rent for a week and learn how RV living works.


Solo18, my boxes did include some of what you mentioned, like cold weather clothing, my towel, and cooking stuff. Since moving I've acquired some pots, dishes, a broom, and I use vinegar for cleaning. I see your point though, and I'm going to leave room for more than what I currently have. Better to have extra space than not enough. My girlfriend will certainly appreciate more storage.

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I know someone who has an Airstream and they love it. They bought it used and it was still a lot of money IMO... particularly as compared to what I sure think are equivalent units in all but the unique look of Airstream. If that is a key want however, only you can decide its worth.

 

My advice to you, regardless of what you buy, is to buy used. Unless money is no object, I simply find the used RV market a much better bang for the buck. That way, if you end up wanting to change to something else, it won't hurt the wallet near as much. I know many favor the 5th wheel, but there is some strong pros with TT's... namely that they can be towed by a Suburban or truck with a canopy shell -- leaving lots of extra storage room. Or, if you want to leave the TT in the campsite and use the truck canopy for an overnight trip in the hills, that's a nice option.

 

As someone far down the RV search road, research lots and be patient... but most important, have fun.

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...In looking at the Ford truck specs, the F350 has a towing weight of 19000# and a cargo capacity of 7050# so it is heavy enough to tow the trailer's 13400# gross and to carry the 1868# pin weight, so I'd not go up to the larger trucks...

7050# is the payload capacity for a dual rear wheel regular cab 4x2 F350. Other models may have considerably less payload capacity. For example, a DRW 4x4 crewcab may be as low as 5310#. You also need to keep in mind that the pin weight of a loaded fifth wheel may be considerably more than the dry pin weight. A fifth wheel will generally put 25% of its weight on the pin. So, a fifth wheel loaded to its GVWR of 13400# may be putting 3350# on the pin not the 1868# dry pin weight. You need to look at the specifications/capacities for the actual model/style of truck and use either the real trailer weights loaded for travel or the GVWR of the trailer and an estimate of the pin weight of a trailer loaded to its GVWR.
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7050# is the payload capacity for a dual rear wheel regular cab 4x2 F350. Other models may have considerably less payload capacity. For example, a DRW 4x4 crewcab may be as low as 5310#. You also need to keep in mind that the pin weight of a loaded fifth wheel may be considerably more than the dry pin weight. A fifth wheel will generally put 25% of its weight on the pin. So, a fifth wheel loaded to its GVWR of 13400# may be putting 3350# on the pin not the 1868# dry pin weight. You need to look at the specifications/capacities for the actual model/style of truck and use either the real trailer weights loaded for travel or the GVWR of the trailer and an estimate of the pin weight of a trailer loaded to its GVWR.

 

This is interesting, since I'm most likely going with a 4x4. Boondocking requires some off-road travel, and the last thing I want is to be stuck the mud miles from anyone. The extra weight of the transfer case will eat into my towing capability.

 

The Arctic Fox 27-5L has a GVWR of 13,400. I take it this is the "fully-loaded" weight I should use to determine a safe tow vehicle? So using the 25% rule of thumb, this puts the pin weight at 3,350lbs?

 

My current choice of truck is a 2016 diesel F-250/350 Lariat Super Cab with 4 wheel drive. On this spec sheet they have the max weight ratings for towing a 5th wheel gooseneck.

 

The single rear-wheel F-350 with a 3.55 axle ratio has a max trailer weight of 15,900 and a max combined weight of 23,500. The F-250 with the same axle ratio actually has the same weight capacity. Am I missing something, or is there no need to upgrade to the 350 for this axle ratio?

 

Once I move to a dual rear-wheel and a 3.73 axle ratio, the max trailer weight jumps to 23,800 and the combined weight jumps to 32,100. I can't buy an F-250 at this axle ratio. I also don't think I would need to go any higher than this.

 

It looks like if I stick with the single rear wheel, the F-250 or F-350 should be enough for my Arctic Fox? Any veteran 5th wheelers think I should buy up to the dual rear-wheel F-350?

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...he Arctic Fox 27-5L has a GVWR of 13,400. I take it this is the "fully-loaded" weight I should use to determine a safe tow vehicle? So using the 25% rule of thumb, this puts the pin weight at 3,350lbs?

 

My current choice of truck is a 2016 diesel F-250/350 Lariat Super Cab with 4 wheel drive. On this spec sheet they have the max weight ratings for towing a 5th wheel gooseneck.

 

The single rear-wheel F-350 with a 3.55 axle ratio has a max trailer weight of 15,900 and a max combined weight of 23,500. The F-250 with the same axle ratio actually has the same weight capacity. Am I missing something, or is there no need to upgrade to the 350 for this axle ratio?

 

Once I move to a dual rear-wheel and a 3.73 axle ratio, the max trailer weight jumps to 23,800 and the combined weight jumps to 32,100. I can't buy an F-250 at this axle ratio. I also don't think I would need to go any higher than this.

 

It looks like if I stick with the single rear wheel, the F-250 or F-350 should be enough for my Arctic Fox? Any veteran 5th wheelers think I should buy up to the dual rear-wheel F-350?

Unless you know the exact weight of the trailer and pin weight as fully loaded and ready to travel, in my opinion it would be best to use the GVWR and 25% of the GVWR in your calculations. In addition to the maximum trailer weight and Gross Combined Weight Ratings, you need to consider the GVWR and the Rear Axle Weight Ratings of the truck. The payload ratings given are usually based on the GVWR minus the curb weight of the truck which includes a 150# drive and maybe a full tank of fuel. F-250 and sometimes even F-350 single rear wheel trucks can exceed their GVWR and/or Rear Axle Weight Ratings while being within the Max towing and Gross Combined Weight Ratings. Looking at the Payload chart on the site you linked to, the highest for an F-250 4x4 super cab is a maximum payload of 3300#. Some of the F-350 SRW may work depending on how much cargo you will be carrying in the truck. You really need to do all the numbers for each combination of truck and trailer. Here is a link to a calculator that may help.

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This is interesting, since I'm most likely going with a 4x4. Boondocking requires some off-road travel, and the last thing I want is to be stuck the mud miles from anyone. The extra weight of the transfer case will eat into my towing capability.

Be aware that the 4WD trucks sit significantly higher than 2WD and very often that means an issue of clearance between the trailer and the sidewalls of the bed when turning. Also, having owned a number of 4WD vehicles over the years they also use more fuel and they cost more to maintain.

 

The Arctic Fox 27-5L has a GVWR of 13,400. I take it this is the "fully-loaded" weight I should use to determine a safe tow vehicle? So using the 25% rule of thumb, this puts the pin weight at 3,350lbs?

You are correct for the planning stages. Once you get the truck and trailer you need to weigh them both and if at all possible, get individual wheel weights to make sure that you don't exceed the design ratings and it allows you to redistribute weight if needed for best balance and handling. You also use the weights to determine from the tire inflation tables what air pressure you need to have in your tires and you need to be sure that you don't overload one wheel or axle with others under their limits. Even if you are lightly loaded, the actual weights allow better weight distribution and tire inflation.

 

The dual wheel option is mostly for improved stability on the road, particularly in a crosswind. There are those who prefer single wheel, particularly with the smaller fifth wheel trailers. You are looking to one that is moderately sized so you might do fine, but I have minimal experience towing in recent years and none with a fiver so will suggest that you listen to the fiver folks on this. I can tell you from experience that the single wheel truck does not spin on slippery surfaces as easily as the dual, probably because of the higher weight per square inch of tread contact. The other issue for a dual wheel truck is that parking is often very tight when using it as a transportation around town and attractions.

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...The dual wheel option is mostly for improved stability on the road, particularly in a crosswind...

Dual rear wheels do provide extra stability. They also provide significantly more payload capacity. According to the specifications chart linked to, the payload capacity of the F-350 SRW 4x4 super cab ranges from 3160-4250#. The payload capacity of the DRW 4x4 super cab ranges from 5530-6880#. The Arctic Fox fifth wheel you are looking at may have a pin weight of 3350# if loaded to its GVWR. You really need to figure out how much payload capacity you will need based on the pin weight of the fifth wheel and all the other cargo that you may want to carry in the truck.

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Dual rear wheels do provide extra stability. They also provide significantly more payload capacity. According to the specifications chart linked to, the payload capacity of the F-350 SRW 4x4 super cab ranges from 3160-4250#. The payload capacity of the DRW 4x4 super cab ranges from 5530-6880#. The Arctic Fox fifth wheel you are looking at may have a pin weight of 3350# if loaded to its GVWR. You really need to figure out how much payload capacity you will need based on the pin weight of the fifth wheel and all the other cargo that you may want to carry in the truck.

 

Is it possible for the truck to be underloaded? For example, if I got an F-450 DRW and wasn't loading my travel trailer to its full GVWR. Is there a safety issue there?

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