The age-old question when shopping for your first (or next) RV: fifth wheel vs travel trailer: which is better? Whether you need a toy hauler, something to just take out on weekends, or want a full-time rig, there are many things to take into consideration. There are pros and cons to both types of towable RVs though! After reading this article you will know just what type is right for you.
Price: Fifth Wheel vs Travel Trailer
New and used fifth wheels usually cost significantly more than travel trailers for a variety of reasons.
They are bigger, for one, and most fifth wheels have more tech and electronics than travel trailers. For example, slideouts, complex leveling systems, blue tooth connectivity, etc.
You can find used fifth wheels for $20,000 or less or you can find new ones over $100,000.
However, the average price for a new fifth wheel is between $30,000 and $50,000.
The average prices for new travel trailers run between $11,000 and $30,000.
Although, you can certainly find used travel trailers for much less. Travel trailers are a great budget option, and they come with many bells and whistles of their own.
Don’t get me wrong though, travel trailers can come with large price tags too.
Especially if it is a desirable manufacturer like Airstream, or decked out for extreme offroading.
Size Difference: Fifth Wheel vs Travel Trailer
As far as size goes, fifth wheels are bigger than travel trailers in almost every capacity.
From length and height to living and storage space, fifth wheels take the cake.
Not everyone needs a ton of space, and the larger size of a 5th wheel can make it harder to find campgrounds, especially in older state and national parks.
Length-wise, the shortest fifth wheel on the market comes in at about 19’. However, it’s very hard to find a fifth wheel that is 30’ or under.
The majority of fifth wheels that you will see are between 34 and 40’, and it’s not uncommon to find them even longer!
Since fifth wheels are mounted in the bed of your truck, they are taller, too!
The shortest fifth wheels measure around 12’ 3”, and are most commonly found in the 13’ tall range or higher.
Travel trailers come in a wide range of lengths! You can find them as short at 13’ to as long as 40’.
Since travel trailers are pulled from the bumper, you will have to factor in the total length of your vehicle plus the length of your trailer when towing.
As far as height goes, travel trailers come in a range of heights but are almost always shorter than fifth wheels.
The average exterior height of a travel trailer is between 10 and 11 feet.
Living Spaces: Fifth Wheel vs Travel Trailer
The living space in a 5th wheel is usually very different to the living space in a travel trailer because of the way the units are constructed.
Travel trailers and 5th wheels both come in a variety of floor plans, but 5th wheels generally have a more residential feeling – like that of a house or apartment.
This is preferable for some people for full time living, but travel trailers can feel very homey, too.
Depending on the floor plan of your 5th wheel, the living area, kitchen, and sleeping area will be clearly defined and separate from one another.
Fifth wheels are larger, which allows for more creativity in floor plan design.
Another feature that 5th wheels have that travel trailers do not is a totally separate and full-size master bedroom – with many master bedrooms in the cab that goes over your truck bed.
Some 5th wheel master bedrooms come complete with a huge closet, dresser, walkaround bed, and even 2 nightstands!
Travel trailers have many different types of floor plans because they come in so many different lengths. In a small travel trailer, like a Scamp, you will have the bed, dinette, kitchen, and living area all be the same, multi-functional space.
In larger travel trailers, you will have a separate bedroom, a living/dining/kitchen area, and even a separate bedroom or bunkhouse.
The living space in travel trailers is not as divided as in a fifth wheel, but still totally comfortable and fully-functional.
Storage Capacity Compared
As far as storage capacity between fifth wheels vs travel trailers goes, fifth wheels take the cake – with more interior and exterior storage.
Fifth wheels typically have more room inside – which means more cabinets and places to store things, but they also have more storage in the exterior compartments.
From storage bins to pass-through basement storage, you’ll be able to fit a lot in your fifth wheel!
Travel trailers are designed very efficiently in order to make use of every inch possible.
Aside from cabinets, you’ll find storage in other places on your travel trailers interior, too – like under the bed or other furniture.
On the exterior of a travel trailer are typically small compartments for additional storage, and some travel trailers have a small pass-through storage compartment as well.
Ease of Towing: Fifth Wheel vs Travel Trailer
One of the biggest questions when trying to choose between a fifth wheel or travel trailer is: which one is easier to tow?
Well, the short answer is towing experiences vary. Both options allow you the freedom of setting up camp, unhooking, and heading out to explore the local city or dirt roads.
Fifth wheels are generally considered easier and safer to tow for one reason.
The weight is placed in the bed of your truck instead of on the bumper. Unless you’re going with a small travel trailer, fifth wheels are generally more comfortable to tow.
Smaller travel trailers are easier to tow and back into your campsite versus almost any 5th wheel. But, a 32’ travel trailer can be more difficult to tow than a 32’ fifth wheel.
Travel trailer hitches are lower and further back on your tow vehicle than 5th wheel hitches are, which can contribute to more swaying as you travel down the road.
Both travel trailers and 5th wheels can come with slideouts, although it’s more common on 5th wheels.
Slideouts are very desirable for full-time living and giving you more space inside your rig.
While many travel trailers will have one slideout, larger fifth wheels will have several. They add a certain level of comfort and can make an RV feel more like home.
Many newer travel trailers today have small slideouts in the living area.
Generally, slideouts make the RV weigh more and will also add to the price. Because of this, you will only find one or two slide outs on travel trailers but can find up to six on fifth wheels.
Depending on your travel style, having no slideouts might be right for you.
Tow Vehicle Requirements: Fifth Wheel vs Travel Trailer
Tow vehicle requirements between 5th wheels and travel trailers are vastly different!
In addition to being the more expensive towable RV option, 5th wheels also require a much larger (and more expensive) tow vehicle because they are very heavy.
You won’t be able to safely tow any fifth wheel RVs with any less than a half-ton truck… and even a half-ton is on the lower end.
While many half-ton trucks have the tow capacity available to tow smaller fifth wheels, doing so is pushing them to their maximum capabilities and can cause quicker wear and tear on the vehicle.
You’ll be better off with a 3/4 ton or 1-ton pickup truck for towing a 5th wheel.
Travel trailers allow for much more freedom in choosing a tow vehicle. For one, you don’t have to have a truck bed since they are hitched at the bumper.
Many small and mid-size SUVs (and even some cars) can tow smaller, lightweight travel trailers.
More and more companies are making lightweight travel trailers these days, and that makes these towable RVs a much more attractive option for new RVers! Especially if you don’t want to get a new vehicle just to pull your RV.
Truck Bed Storage
It’s important to consider how much storage comes with you towable and if you will need to utilize your truck bed storage as well.
Each towable option comes with pros and cons for this consideration.
Since a 5th wheel mounts in the bed of your truck, there isn’t much room left for, well, anything.
However, if you have a fifth wheel, you will most likely have all the storage space you need in that. With a fifth wheel, you are still able to add a toolbox or auxiliary fuel tank to the front of your truck bed.
This can be helpful if you do need a little bit more storage space.
Since a travel trailer is pulled via a bumper hitch, you have your entire truck bed free for storing or transporting whatever you need. This is a big plus considering many travel trailers don’t come with much storage space in the RV.
Hopefully, you now know what towable is right for you. If you’re ready to buy, don’t miss out on these helpful articles:
- What is the Cheapest State to Buy an RV?
- Before You Buy: Follow These 6 Tips for Negotiating the Best RV Price
- 5 Absolutely Best Times to Buy an RV
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