A towable RV is perfect for people who have taken RV-ing more seriously than just a weekend or summer adventure. A bigger home on the wheels is definitely a better option when you plan to stay on the road for months. But buying a larger towable RV means you will need to make another decision – fifth wheel vs travel trailer.
Both fifth wheelers and travel trailers can accommodate multiple people and are great for backcountry traveling and camping. They are more powerful than motorized RVs and ideal for family travel or camping with friends.
Fifth Wheel vs Travel Trailer: The Differences
So, you get the idea that both vehicle types have some similarities with each other. But that does not help with making a decision. To choose between the 5th wheel vs travel trailer, you need to know how they are different from each other and which one matches your travel requirements.
If you already have a towing vehicle, you should choose the RV that this vehicle can tow actually. Each vehicle has a specific towing capacity so it should match the weight of the RV. A fifth wheel requires an open-bed pickup truck but a van, SUV, or mid-size truck is enough for a bumper pull.
Despite requiring a larger towing vehicle, a fifth wheel is easier to tow due to the hitch design. It hitch ensures a better turn radius and keeps the RV under control even in bad weather.
Size and Weight
These are common points of difference between the fifth wheel vs travel trailer. The latter RV type is lighter and more compact than the former type. With 12 to 35 feet of length, trailers are more suitable for people who have a vehicle with a lower towing capacity or have a small travel group. These are great for driving in urban areas and camp in small campsites. In fact, you can park them in all sites as they are unlikely to exceed the size and height restrictions.
Fifth wheels are larger and that extra space is useful when you travel with your family or live in the RV full time. With 25 to 45 feet of length, these rigs provide a proper living space complete with a master bedroom, living room, bathroom, and kitchen equipped with basic appliances.
As the fifth wheels are bigger, it’s no surprise that they are heavier too. So, you have to have a vehicle that can actually tow the fifth wheel along with supporting the bed weight. Popular options such as a Ram 2500 or an F-250 cannot handle a large fifth wheel.
A fifth wheeler has an upper-hand in this aspect. It’s safer to tow and despite having a larger body, quite easy to maneuver. You don’t get that kind of driveability from travel trailers except for the smaller units such as a teardrop camper.
Why is it easier to haul a 5th wheeler? It’s because of the placement of the hitch point. Compared to a travel trailer hitch, it’s attached at a higher point in the truck’s bed. For this reason, it performs better and stays stable at the time of turning. It also sways less in strong windy conditions.
The low hitch position of a travel trailer creates a larger turning radius, leading to more sway and less stability when you drive on the road. However, if you prefer trailers, there are hitching accessories that can increase stability and reduce sway.
Truck Bed Storage
Another aspect of comparison between the fifth wheel vs travel trailer is the storage in the truck bed and trailers are the winner in this regard. The hitch of a 5th wheeler takes up the whole truck bed, leaving no room for storing any stuff. You may fit a few small items but that’s it.
Many RVers like to bring their ATV, dirt bike, bicycle, canoe, or other items with them. In that case, you have to store it inside the RV or buy a toy hauler fifth wheel. Of course, there is no need to worry if you have a travel trailer as almost the entire truck bed will be open for storage.
Considering the features, fifth wheels definitely win with a taller ceiling, more private interior design, and a larger storage area under the living area. The multiple levels in a 5th wheel may feel a bit tough to get around, particularly when you have a physical condition, but such a design blocks sound and allows for more privacy.
Considering luxurious features, both types can have them, but you can splurge more money on a fifth wheel to transform it into literally a luxury apartment. And, nothing is better than a 5th wheel to enjoy the roominess as this type has 3, 4, or even 5 slide outs.
When you are practically living on the road, you need to drive a lot, and driving a lot means fuel costs make up a good share of the total monthly expenses. People who are living on a budget may prefer travel trailers because they are more fuel-efficient than the 5th wheels. A fifth wheel is larger and heavier and this bigger profile comes at the expense of the towing vehicle’s fuel economy. So, think twice before buying a fifth wheel if your towing vehicle is already getting poor mileage.
This is another good comparison point between the fifth wheel vs travel trailer as you must have a fixed budget for buying your dream RV. If your budget is low, you should go for a travel trailer. There are many low-end trailers that are perfect for budget travelers. Of course, high-end trailers are as expensive as 5th wheelers. So, when you are looking for saving some bucks, don’t compromise with the quality because you will be practically living in this vehicle.