Jump to content

Motorhome vs. 5th wheel


MarkB
 Share

Recommended Posts

I'm considering my first RV and I'd like to hear advice and experiences from others.  From a comfort perspective I'd love to have a 38 foot quality 5th wheel and it seems like I'd need a fairly large truck to pull that kind of RV.  The primary pluses are the great floor plans one can get with a 5th wheel and the comfort, the down side is needing to drive the large truck around as your only transportation, especially in national parks where I like to pull off and see the sights.  The plus for a motorhome is that I can tow a smaller vehicle for my transportation but the downside is that the motorhomes have additional drive train components to maintain and the floor plans do not seem as good as those of the fifth wheels.  

With both options I'm concerned about the length, I'd love to use national park camp grounds but I've read that many of them are limited from a length perspective to 30 feet, which these days is on the smaller side for a comfortable RV.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

We fulltimed in a 5th wheel for 6 years before trading for a diesel pusher.  Honestly, 
the jury is still out for us on which is best.  Here's a longer article I wrote about 
our experience to date: 

http://www.pastorscott.com/travel/2019/08/25/comparing-a-5th-wheel-and-a-diesel-pusher-motorhome/

Edited by GR "Scott" Cundiff
Link to comment
Share on other sites

While I know what we felt served us best, that is a very subjective question with as many answers as there are people responding. I would need to know much more about you, your family that will travel with you, how you plan to use the RV and the length of trips that you have in mind before I even venture any suggestions. We have owned 6 very different RVs over the many years since we began to travel by RV and each one served us very well for the time and purpose which we owned it. The reason for the changes of RV and RV type came because of changes in our family and in our lifestyle. What type of RV will best serve you will be much influenced by those factors in your life. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

We full-timed for 8 yr. in a 33' 5th wheel.  Friends got us hooked on Jeeping & we switched to a 40' motorhome towing the Jeep.  We absolutely loved driving the motorhome - both of us and the Jeep gave us endless fun opportunities.  We absolutely hated driving the big truck around.   95% of our 16 yr. of constant travel, including to Alaska a couple times, we boondocked on public lands or stayed in public parks.  We frequented the national parks and had no issues getting a site in the parks themselves - without reservations.  Our 40' fit in the same parks as our 33'.  Among many others we stayed in Yellowstone, Grand Teton, Glacier, Bryce, Zion, Grand Canyon, Big Bend, etc.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

3 hours ago, 2gypsies said:

95% of our 16 yr. of constant travel, including to Alaska a couple times, we boondocked on public lands or stayed in public parks.  We frequented the national parks and had no issues getting a site in the parks themselves - without reservations.

Unfortunately that has changed as RVing becomes more and more popular. We rarely made reservations either but we stopped traveling in 2014 just as the current boom was starting. What a difference a few years can make!

Linda Sand

Link to comment
Share on other sites

MarkB, will you be fulltime, weekend/vacation traveler or a snowbird? How long/often you plan to travel may be important factors in what type of RV you choose and how big an RV you decide you need to be comfortable as well as do the things you what to do.

14 hours ago, MarkB said:

With both options I'm concerned about the length, I'd love to use national park camp grounds but I've read that many of them are limited from a length perspective to 30 feet, which these days is on the smaller side for a comfortable RV.

 

13 hours ago, 2gypsies said:

We frequented the national parks and had no issues getting a site in the parks themselves - without reservations. 

9 hours ago, sandsys said:

Unfortunately that has changed as RVing becomes more and more popular. We rarely made reservations either but we stopped traveling in 2014 just as the current boom was starting. What a difference a few years can make!

The topic of reservations has been discussed a number of times on this and other forums. I am one who believes that it has become more difficult to get an RV site in or near the popular parks and sometimes even at the end of a travel day. Especially in the peak season for the particular park(s) or area. If you are fulltime or retired, you can schedule visits to avoid the peak crowds. Some National Parks have entire campgrounds that are first come first serve. Others have some sites that are first come first serve only and can not be reserved. Many public park campgrounds have not been updated in years. There may be a few sites that can accommodate the newer larger RVs in most campgrounds, but there seem to be more and more large RVs competing for those sites.

If you are going to be fulltime,  I suggest getting an RV that you will be comfortable living in and learn to deal with any size limitations that you may encounter in your travels.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

When it cones to locating an RV site, I have owned RVs for a lot of years and I don't find it more difficult to find a place to stop, but it is different. With the advent of  cellphones and online camping guides we have changed how we locate a place to stay but we still only make advance reservations if going into an area of high RV use of a major tourist spot during the busy season. We don't just drive around and look for a place to stay, we we did back in the 70's & 80's, but we also seldom make reservations before starting to travel. Most of the time we start our day not knowing how far we will travel and then about noon we choose a few possible stops and then call ahead to save us a spot. Very seldom does it require more than 1 or 2 calls to find a site. It has always been less difficult to find a spot when you stop early than if you start to look for a site in late afternoon or evening.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

There is no right or wrong answer.  Regardless of which type of RV you choose, there will be times it is too big or too small.  There will be times the layout doesn't work.  There will be times you wished you had gone the other way.

RVing is about accepting the limitations of your RV and living within them.  If you do that, you will be happy with whatever you choose.

I am on my 3rd 5th wheel in 9 yrs.  First was 38', then 44', now 42'.  Have had the same 1 ton dually for 9 yrs.  Never an issue driving it anywhere when out sight seeing.

As the wife and I age, our interests and physical abilities are changing.  I expect this 5er to be replaced by a DP in the next 10 yrs.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks for all of the thoughts, still a tough decision.

I'm probably not going to be a full timer, but I can see myself out in the RV for weeks or even months at a time.  I want something comfortable, the 5th wheel looks more comfortable to me, but I just don't want to drive the massive truck as the daily driver.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Just now, MarkB said:

Thanks for all of the thoughts, still a tough decision.

I'm probably not going to be a full timer, but I can see myself out in the RV for weeks or even months at a time.  I want something comfortable, the 5th wheel looks more comfortable to me, but I just don't want to drive the massive truck as the daily driver.

I think that pretty much sums up the decision.  Either way it's a compromise, you just have to pick the one that seems most reasonable for you.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

1 minute ago, MarkB said:

I'm probably not going to be a full timer, but I can see myself out in the RV for weeks or even months at a time.  I want something comfortable, the 5th wheel looks more comfortable to me, but I just don't want to drive the massive truck as the daily driver.

I would consider the class A motorhome to be the most comfortable to travel in, but it is also somewhat less flexible. The fifth wheel probably has the most living space while sitting still and a travel trailer has the lowest cost. The class C is somewhere in the middle an truck campers have their advantages too. Ultimately none of us can tell you what you will like best. I suggest that you spend a lot of time at a large RV show where you can test all of the various choices. Take everyone who will travel in the RV with you and do a pantomime of the things that you will perform when living in the preferred RV to see how it will work.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

4 minutes ago, MarkB said:

Thanks for all of the thoughts, still a tough decision.

I'm probably not going to be a full timer, but I can see myself out in the RV for weeks or even months at a time.  I want something comfortable, the 5th wheel looks more comfortable to me, but I just don't want to drive the massive truck as the daily driver.

The decision wasn't tough for us , at all . We're full time and have been nicely comfortable in our Monaco motor home for the last ten years . 

 

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

If you want to move a lot then the MH could make sense. But if you park it for long periods of time, like four months in the UP each summer, then a fiver is better. My 42 foot fiver is towed with an 2019 F350, SRW, crew cab, long bed, diesel with ease. My fiver is fulltime rated and very nice to live in. Good Luck

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Both have disadvantages/advantages.  I have no problem with either but have a 5th wheel.  We are going to buy a new one in the next year or so, it will be another 5th wheel.  I'm comfortable driving a won ton dually around town/tight roads so it's an easy decision for us.  My wife on the other hand, scares me when she drives but it does not matter the vehicle so that does not come into play when deciding on camper.  You don't need an HDT to pull most 5th wheels but I could drive one of those just as easily, I'm a semi-retired driver.  I could not tell from your post, will you be traveling alone or with companion?  How do they feel about driving a larger vehicle?  A thought, if I only planned on moving it a couple times a year, I would consider a travel trailer, some of of those can be pretty roomy too.

Try to get more truck than you think you will need.  That way, when you get your camper, or down the road decide to upgrade to a heavier camper, you will have the truck you need, not have to purchase a new one.  Take my set-up for instance, I went overkill on truck compared to my camper, but the campers we are looking at will put our truck to it's max.  Nice thing is, I won't have to find another truck allowing me to put more $$ towards a nicer camper.

Edited by NDBirdman
Link to comment
Share on other sites

17 hours ago, sandsys said:

Unfortunately that has changed as RVing becomes more and more popular. We rarely made reservations either but we stopped traveling in 2014 just as the current boom was starting. What a difference a few years can make!

Linda Sand

Folks need to keep in mind that for some campgrounds reservations aren't even accepted.  Those are what we aimed for.  Someone will get those unreservable sites.  We tried  for them and we got them.  Others we pulled up and easily secured a cancellation.  It can be done.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

43 minutes ago, 2gypsies said:

Folks need to keep in mind that for some campgrounds reservations aren't even accepted.  Those are what we aimed for.  Someone will get those unreservable sites.  We tried  for them and we got them.  Others we pulled up and easily secured a cancellation.  It can be done.

We did a fair amount of those, too. Still, I'm hearing even that is not as easy as it used to be. Some parks that did not take reservations now do so. Some places that would let out sites of no shows at 6:00 now hold them in case of late arrival. Life changes and what worked for us when we were on the road may not work for others now. So, while I keep making suggestions of things for newbies to try I try hard not to imply it will still work for others.

Linda Sand

Link to comment
Share on other sites

We are entering our tenth year of full timing and it has gotten much tougher to "wing it" in many areas.  Many state parks are now on reservation systems and it is quite common for weekends (Friday/Saturday) and summer nights to be locked out months in advance.  And even if campers don't show those sites generally remain locked out as the park has received payment is isn't likely to release the site and risk the purchaser showing up a day late. 

Even private parks in popular areas can be challenging to get in to on weekends or even summer weeks.  We've traveled from Texas to Maine the past two years (up in Spring, back in Fall) and have been shocked by how tricky it was to get sites in some areas. 

Bottom line is that ten years ago we generally traveled without reservations, and had little issue getting sites (including Texas to Maine in 2011).  Starting several years back we noticed the "full" status of public parks becoming and more common.  Even day use at popular Texas state parks is now reservable with the most popular parks booking weeks in advance.  We visited a Texas State Natural Area today and saw easily 3 times as many people as we'd ever seen there in the past 8 years. The reason given?  The two closest state parks were unavailable for day use due to be completely reserved out.

Things change, and experience gained ten, or even five years ago may not be a relevant as you might think!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

mptjelgin, we have seen the same change you have and pretty much given up using state and corp parks unless we can book months out.  It has taken the fun out of the RV life style.  

But when we had long term lived in a 34 ft motorhome and another time in a 36 ft 5th wheel when moving and building a house.  When we decided to go full time, the 5th wheel mad more sense to use.  It offered better storage and a more residential feel, plus you did not have the giant windshield as a heat gain or loss source.  Another thing is only one drive line to maintain since we were towing a dingy behind a motorhome.  We get along fine with our only vehicle as a 1 ton dually.

Ken

Link to comment
Share on other sites

We gave great thought to the 5th wheel/MH decision and finally went with the 5th wheel.  We tend to stay in an area for anywhere from a week to a couple of months depending on what we find to do in the area and felt the 5th wheel provided more usable space.  That being said, we would have made a MH home work and probably would have been perfectly content with it.  Much of this depends on your mindset.

In the last 6 years, it has become increasingly difficult to find places to stay on the spur of the moment on weekends.  Our trip from Cheboygan, MI to Waco, TX was a real challenge while passing through Michigan and Ohio.  Even calling ahead, we frequently found the weekends reserved in the campgrounds.  The problem is especially bad in late spring, summer, and early fall.  We are also seeing many, many more long term/permanent campground residents than we did 10 years ago.  While this gives the park owners guaranteed revenue, it substantially reduces the number of sites available to traveling/short term RV'ers.  We now call ahead and confirm site availability whenever we are traveling in the more populated states.....Washington, California, and most states east of the Mississippi.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

This is one of those areas that each person has to figure out for themselves. Base YOUR decision on what YOU want to do. Generally, a MH is better if you will be moving fairly regularly (at least monthly), while a towable is better if you are staying in one place for longer periods of time. That includes when you are at home.

The other side of that is that the towable usually requires a fairly large truck (F350 or similar) while a MH can tow a small, fuel-efficient vehicle. A fifth-wheel hitch takes up a large part of the truck's bed, but there is room around it for other things. A travel trailer (aka bumper pull) gives you the full truck bed for stuff. If you have other reasons for a truck, then a towable makes sense no matter what your travel plans are. If you don't, then maybe a MH is the better choice. Your current vehicle may be towable. Check your vehicle at http://www.remcotowing.com/Towing/Store.php.

One thing to consider is that it will cost $3-5000 to set up your vehicle for towing. You will need the proper baseplate and a brake system. A fifth wheel hitch will be somewhat less IF you have to buy one.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

We will be retiring and going full-time in a year. Been planning it for several years and had planned on DP MH. Spent two years researching and planning. However in the last month plans changed. We are now planning on going with a 5th wheel for two main reasons.

1. In the same length a 5th wheel has more living space and we will spend a lot more time camped in the 5th wheel than driving down the road.

2. For the same budget and similar quality the big diesel dually TV will be brand new vs a 6 to 8 year old DP. So much more peace of mind with a warranty, more places to get it worked on and safer in the event of a bad accident.

The MH would be nicer for driving down the road, the small efficient toad would be great for a daily driver. The big diesel generator would be great for overnight and extended boondocking.

Oh and in general a nice quality 38ft 5th wheel will require a 1-ton dually, if top quality maybe even a bigger TV.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

50 minutes ago, filthy-beast said:

The MH would be nicer for driving down the road, the small efficient toad would be great for a daily driver. The big diesel generator would be great for overnight and extended boondocking.

Oh and in general a nice quality 38ft 5th wheel will require a 1-ton dually, if top quality maybe even a bigger TV.

And those are 2 of the reasons we went with a motorhome.  Third reason was never having to move the cats from home as we went down the road.  And the first few years we moved at least every two weeks.   Plus the big storage area in the basement of the DP we purchased.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...
 Share

×
×
  • Create New...