Travel Trailer vs. Fifth Wheel

If you’ve been following along with us for the last few months, you know we are having a nightmare of a time with our brand new fifth wheel.  It has shed light on a ton of less than ethical practices in the RV industry.  To read more about that, check out my plea to the industry in a previous post here. I’m not going to go over every detail of our issues, but we’ve had some major problems that one should not be dealing with in a brand new unit. But I’m going to do my best to set all that aside, to go over the differences of traveling and living in a fifth wheel vs. a travel trailer.

We started our adventure in a 33ft Jayco Whitehawk Travel Trailer that we bought used.  It was the exact layout we wanted and came with everything we needed to start traveling and camping.  A little over a year into our travels, we went to a nearby RV dealer to walk around and just “look”, well we ended up doing more than looking and bought a 39ft Alpine 3901RE Toy Hauler (doing my best to not insert many angry thoughts I have looking back on that day).  So we’ve lived in and traveled with both types and we often get asked which we prefer and the pros and cons.  After literally making a list, and current issues aside, we prefer our 5th wheel and here’s why.

fifth-wheel-vs-travel-trailer

*disclaimer, this is our opinion and realize it may defer from yours and that’s okay.  different strokes for different folks.

Towing

  1. There’s a lot of setup to properly and safely tow a travel trailer (TT). You have to attach the weight distribution hitch and anti-sway bars each time (which is a MUST, I would not recommend towing a TT without both).  Once you get the hang of it, it doesn’t take that long, but it is definitely not as a quick as simply backing in and hooking up to fifth wheel.
  2. Even with the anti-sway setup there is a lot more movement when towing than with the 5th wheel.  The 5th wheel makes less movement when semis and other big rigs pass by.

Setup

  1. The auto-leveling system makes setup a breeze.  Press a button and the system does it all.  We used to have to back onto wood planks and stack blocks to make sure we were level and sometimes it would take multiple tries.  There maybe some TTs that offer auto-leveling, either way, the auto-level is one luxury we’ll never go without ever again.
  2. It took some getting used to, since BJ grew up pulling boat trailers, but once he got the hang of it, the 5th wheel is so much easier to back into sites.

Living

  1. The high ceilings are probably our favorite added space we gained from switching from the TT. When you work, live and entertain in a small space the head room makes a huge difference.  And can we talk about the ceiling fan!!!!!
  2. The ‘basement’, which is the under storage is HUGE (we joke that we now have a house with a garage and basement, which our sticks and bricks didn’t even have..LOL) The extra space makes staying organized easier and leaves less clutter inside.
  3. Less bounce and movement when coming in and out and when just moving throughout the rig.  I tend to stay in bed a little later than BJ and in the TT I felt every movement he made once he got out of bed, but now when he’s working and cooking in the kitchen or taking the dogs out, I can still sleep like a rock.
  4. And just overall bigger EVERYTHING…hot water tank, holding tanks, shower, closet, bed, etc.

To each their own and everyone has different reasons they prefer a travel trailer over a fifth wheel and vice versa.  And the aspects we value may not be important to you and your situation.  The most important thing is to double check what your truck can haul and tow.  One more reason the fifth wheel gets a tally in the pro column for towing is that your weight capacity tends to be a little higher when towing from the bed versus the bumper.  For example, our F250’s conventional towing (bumper pull or TT) limit is 12,500 pounds while our 5th wheel limit is 15,400.  Note: we do not ever recommend maxing out your weight limit and you need to double and triple check your vehicles towing capacity.  Do not let a RV salesman tell or convince you of what you can haul.  It didn’t happen to us, but we have seen some real sketchy towing setups rolling down  the road and have over heard the sales pitches at the RV shows.  Also remember the weight listed on the units are dry weight, meaning without anything in them.  I’d say average at least an additional 2000 pounds for just the items you’ll put in the rig (obviously more if you’ll be towing a ‘toy’ in your toy hauler), not including any water weight.  And if you want to know the exact weight of your rig including all your stuff, go to your nearby CAT scale (locator here) and do an actual weigh-in, you may want to weigh just your truck at some point so when you take your RV you now how much to deduct for your truck weight.

As always do your research, make a list of what’s important to you and your family,  know what your vehicle can tow and ask around to others that have traveled with each kind.  We were told a million times, “oh you’ll want to upgrade to a 5th wheel” and we never thought we would, we loved our TT.  But once we saw this 5th wheel side-load toy hauler, and the thought of no longer having to load the bike into the bed of truck, we were sold. But would I recommend buying brand new or a Keystone Alpine or any brand new Keystone product (and most other manufacturers)…..NO!!!, but that’s another story for another day!