My motorhome versus 5th wheel story

2013-07-18 12.07.51.jpg The sure-fired, guaranteed, spirited discussion topic among fulltiming RVers is, well you know what it is: which is best for fulltiming, motorhome or 5th wheel.  The obvious thing is that both are quite suitable.  After all, there are thousands upon thousands of people happily and enthusiastically traveling and living in both.

Still, there are advantages and disadvantages to both.  Just for fun, here are my comparisons (note: I’ll update this list when I come across more “pros” either way):

Motorhome

  1. Easier to park and set up – important for people who move often or are challenged by such things. One thing that helps is that the driver is sitting right up front over the wheels – and the steering on a mothorhome lets the driver turn the rig very sharply
  2. Lends itself to the famous “in motion passenger pit stop” and it’s less famous cousin, the “honey grab me a soda from the fridge” in motion request
  3. Better for “bugging out” from a rest area or Walmart parking lot if things sound a bit strange outside
  4. If you tow a car you have a small, economical daily driver – also nice for scouting out the campground for sites upon arrival
  5. Most comfortable travel vehicle
  6. It provides the famous, “we don’t have to even go outside if it’s raining when we arrive” advantage
  7. While there are more steps to get inside, once inside it is all one level

5th Wheel

  1. More room inside – important for people who stay in one place longer
  2. The “house” and the vehicle are separate – really important when the vehicle has to go in the shop – you don’t have to get a motel room for, say, a transmission rebuild
  3. Cost of maintenance on tow vehicle is generally less – doesn’t require “big rig” service oil changes, and camper tires are less expensive
  4. Depending on your taste, startup costs are generally less
  5. Greater variety of floor plans
  6. More stable when driving in windy conditions (assuming a well matched tow vehicle and 5th wheel)
  7. Propane tanks can be removed and taken to a refill station
  8. When you want to upgrade you can upgrade the tow vehicle and 5th wheel separetly rather than having to greater expense of trading motorhomes
  9. A 5th wheel is easier to level on sites that are unlevel front to back – you don’t have to worry about putting the front tires up on blocks or having them dangling in the air if using an automatic leveling system
  10. Here’s a real biggie: a husband towing a 5th wheel is somewhat less likely to drive off without the wife aboard. 🙂

Here’s our story: when we began our search we set a budget for our fulltiming rig.  We started off looking mostly at diesel motorhomes but soon became discouraged that the nice ones were over our budget.  We began pricing bigger pickups and 5th wheels.  It became apparent to us that we had a better chance of staying under our budget while getting something we liked if we went the 5th wheel route – and we did.

A big influence on us was the living space available in the 5th wheels as well as the better floor plans.  We wanted a normal living room set up, including a more natural location of the television.  Most motorhomes we looked at didn’t offer such a floor plan.  A lot of 5th wheels didn’t either, but some did.

Now that we’re fulltiming, I admit that there have been times when I wished for a motorhome/towed vehicle.  The truck uses a lot of fuel, towing or not.  When we arrive at a campground, I really dislike driving around with the 5th wheel in tow while I cruise up and down narrow roads trying to pick out a campsite.

Most of the time, though, I’m convinced we made a good choice.  We like the living space the 5th wheel provides.  We think some of the advantages of the motorhome are minor at best.  After all, we would have to stop motorhome or 5th wheel for the driver to make a pit stop – not to mention that walking around in a motorhome in motion is somewhat dangerous and likely illegal.  We haven’t had to set up in any downpours, and if we did, we’d just get a little wet moving from the pickup to the camper where we’d wait it out.  Also, we don’t do camp Walmart or stay in rest areas so the possibility of needing to make a run for it from some undesirable situation really isn’t that great.

Then, we’ve had the pickup in the shop three times now, once overnight.  It was nice not having to take our whole house in to the shop and vacate it just for new radiator hoses!

Maybe, someday, we’ll join the motorhome crowd.  When we do, we’ll enjoy some of the advantages of living and traveling in a motorhome.  At the same time, though, I think we’ll miss some of the pluses of our 5th wheel.

4 responses to “My motorhome versus 5th wheel story

  1. Your choice though, was 100% based on money.
    I am of course glad you are happy with it.

    We went the other way, a 2 year old Diesel Pusher that cost us $158,000.
    This is a high quality Monaco DP, tho thier entry level machine. We tow a 2010 Jeep Liberty, which we all ready had. As I’m a DIYer, our towing setup was well less than $1000. Again tho, this rig was within our budget.

    IMHO, the difference between a DP motorhome and a trailer is a lot. a lot lot. Setup time is next to nothing. Ease of use is amazing. Ride… Quietness… being able to let our pets roam the bus anywhere they want to be. Quick “pauses” for bathroom breaks, lunch breaks, walk the dog breaks, priceless.

    You don’t even discuss the feature built into high end motorhomes that trailers just don’t have…
    Our bus has a 2000 watt whole house inverter powered by 4 6 volt batteries, factory, augemnted by our added 900 watt, 60 ampo solar charging system. This inverter powers virtually everything except the A/C’s (it does power the microwave, and we can run a crockpot while traveling so dinner is ready when we get there.)

    Once we get where we are going, setup is 100% from the drivers seat, and takes 5 minutes. Slides out, level, done. Raining? not a problem. We can go days without hooking up the electricity or water/waste.

    With a good fifth wheel running about $85k, and a pickup truck at $70k, I’d have to say we got a bargain in comparison.

    Jim

  2. Thanks to you both. We’re in the midst of the dilemma now. We’ve got time, four years before we pull the plug(s). Good insight and thoughts, and I appreciate them both…:)

    • Same here. Leaning toward RV but trying to determine if big class C gas is fine compared to the class A diesel. The C is cheaper up front but many folks described the diesels more reliable and capable over time. I have about 3 years to decide and all these blogs sure make for interesting reading.

  3. We have a Winnebago View 24M, class C. It is on the Mercedes Benz Sprinter chassis. It is motivated by a 3.0 liter V6 diesel, and gets 14 to 16 mpg. Although we haven’t started full timing yet, it has plenty of room for the first lady and me.

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