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Old 01-17-2014, 09:58 PM   #1
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Motorhome vs. fifth wheel

Greetings RVing experts!

There is no longer any question, it is time for me to get a new RV. When my girls were younger, we owned a popup. When they got too old to go camping with dad, I sold the thing and immediately regretted it. So, I started saving up for a replacement. Then the recession hit, and two girls got married, so I've been distracted -- and broke.

But, now I need an RV for some extended travel this year. Last year, I put 30,000 miles on my car crisscrossing 27 states. Much of it was business related and I will have to work on the road again this year.

As much as I am familiar with the industry side of the RV business, I have an embarrassing lack of knowledge regarding the use of RVs.

I have rented and borrowed motorhomes in the past. I am comfortable using them and, because I am traveling by myself, I sense it might be easier to own one of those, and tow a smaller 4WD car behind it.

However, several people have suggested that I get a fifth wheel. I have been told they are roomier with more storage, less expensive to buy, insure and repair. But, they require $35,000 tow vehicles. And I have flashbacks about trying to back up the popup and the nightmare experience that was upon occasion. Yes, I'm a pansy when it comes to towing, but I don't know if that same concern really applies to fifth wheels.

So, I'd like some expert advice from the people who best understand the ins and outs of RV ownership. What's the best option for a solo traveler who needs to use the RV for work and pleasure? Motorhome or fifth wheel?

Your advice is greatly appreciated!

GREG GERBER
Editor, RV Daily Report
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Old 01-17-2014, 10:42 PM   #2
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If you are going to be mostly traveling, I would go with a moter home due to the ease of setup. Fifth wheels are roomier, but require more setup time and, as you said, big buck tow vehicles. For a single person on the go, a motor home would be more practical.
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Old 01-17-2014, 10:44 PM   #3
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I think your $35k estimate for a tow vehicle is low . . . likely could add about $15-20k.
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Old 01-17-2014, 10:52 PM   #4
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Noob with minimal motorhome experience and childhood popup experience.

I would say for travelling lots of miles a motorhome makes more sense. Will you be alone most of the time? Do you need storage space for your toys? How will you be using this unit? If it's mostly pre-prepared meals and a bed to sleep maybe a Class B will be practical? No tow vehicle. If it's a motorhome generally the type you get will determine your mileage. As those in the know say find that sweet spot which if you're on a strict schedule may be higher than a larger home would like. For 1 person who needs lots of desk room a 30-36 A might be the bill. You would probably want either the dining table/computer desk option for work space or get rid of the sofa and have a full-sized desk installed. Maybe something like the RUV from Thor?

These units I'll just put out and you can use them as a jumping point for what suits your use. (I researched motorhomes for several months, zero research on the towable side)

Road Trek / Airstream Interestate type B
Leisure Travel Vans Unity type B+
Thor Axis "RUV" (cheaper then the first two options a bit bigger, less fuel efficient)
Conventional Class A gas 30 to 36 feet
Diesel Pusher

The first couple you may even get away without a toad. If you get a toad and put that many miles consider something like a CRV if you need awd (flat tow for ease). Can't speak since I haven't set up my toad yet.
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Old 01-17-2014, 10:52 PM   #5
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If you are going to motor more than home a motorhome is best. If you are going to home more than motor a 5th wheel works better.

BUT and this is very important. Which type of setup do you like better? Do you want to drive and a truck and then use that truck to get around in once you park? Or do you want to drive a motorhome and then use you tow car to drive around in?

I really like driving our class A motorhome. I would never switch to a 5 wheel because of that. But there are many more towable sold than motorhomes.
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Old 01-18-2014, 04:53 AM   #6
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i was thinking of asking a question, similar to this, when i searched to see if a thread was already out there. i have a class a. an have seen on this site, many going route of 5th wheel. yrs ago i almost got one,but price of truck turned me off, since driving a class a. love it, an like stated above, would never go back to anything else. comfort, ability to eat/bathroom/sleep just makes it like being in a house with a motor. but i suppose if i lived in a area full of mountians, i probablly do something else, have yet to tackle driving up./down one.
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Old 01-18-2014, 05:14 AM   #7
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I consider a MH safer when traveling, especially if you are alone. The reason is you don't have to leave the unit to make a meal, bathroom, snack, sleep or nap. If you stop in a rest area to take a nap, the inside temp is already comfortable.
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Old 01-18-2014, 08:26 AM   #8
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You have a nice problem to resolve. Everyone now gets to chime in regarding their favorite type of RV, so here are my thoughts:

5th WHEEL TRAILER allows you to use the tow vehicle and leave the trailer, and you probably get the most room for the purchase dollar. This means you are driving a large pickup truck for touring around. If you need to take additional people / clients at a location, you need a crew cab which is even larger. Some people love driving pickups but, my opinion only, they are more cumbersome and ungainly compared to driving a car. Setup takes more effort, and some 5th wheels are pretty large & tall compared to other RV's. Again, some people love hauling these giants around.

BUMPER TOW TRAILER if smaller, can be towed by an SUV. The same issues as above, but in smaller scale.

CLASS B MOTORHOME can be very efficient, easy to set up, and you don't necessarily need to tow another vehicle. Drawbacks are limited space, storage, and tank capacity.

CLASS C or A MOTORHOME Since you are traveling more than camping, this seems the logical choice; especially for ease of setup. My impression is that you may be in a different location each night. Drawbacks may be size and cost of the RV and you still need a vehicle to tow, but I get the impression your use will be a business deduction.

In addition to a logical decision, maybe the choice is whatever image you want to present (whatever that is...) Regardless of which you get, you will be free from sleeping in motels / hotels, and lugging luggage in and out. As all of we RV'ers know "camping" is great whatever type unit you have.

Quote:
Originally Posted by gjgerber View Post
Greetings RVing experts!

There is no longer any question, it is time for me to get a new RV. When my girls were younger, we owned a popup. When they got too old to go camping with dad, I sold the thing and immediately regretted it. So, I started saving up for a replacement. Then the recession hit, and two girls got married, so I've been distracted -- and broke.

But, now I need an RV for some extended travel this year. Last year, I put 30,000 miles on my car crisscrossing 27 states. Much of it was business related and I will have to work on the road again this year.

As much as I am familiar with the industry side of the RV business, I have an embarrassing lack of knowledge regarding the use of RVs.

I have rented and borrowed motorhomes in the past. I am comfortable using them and, because I am traveling by myself, I sense it might be easier to own one of those, and tow a smaller 4WD car behind it.

However, several people have suggested that I get a fifth wheel. I have been told they are roomier with more storage, less expensive to buy, insure and repair. But, they require $35,000 tow vehicles. And I have flashbacks about trying to back up the popup and the nightmare experience that was upon occasion. Yes, I'm a pansy when it comes to towing, but I don't know if that same concern really applies to fifth wheels.

So, I'd like some expert advice from the people who best understand the ins and outs of RV ownership. What's the best option for a solo traveler who needs to use the RV for work and pleasure? Motorhome or fifth wheel?

Your advice is greatly appreciated!

GREG GERBER
Editor, RV Daily Report
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Old 01-18-2014, 09:04 AM   #9
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One item not mentioned but I feel is more important than some other considerations. We did the usual tents, pop-ups years ago. In 1978 we got our first MH a 23' Tioga. We progressed up to a Dutch Star in 1999. We made the mistake of trying some TT's in 2010 and we are now back to a 2014 WBGO 30T MH and we will never go back to a TT. I have also worked on a few 5th wheels.

IMHO !!!! The 5th wheels and TT's are built on the edge of destruction. Why would I say that ????? I don't believe you will find and trailer unit that has a suspension that allows you to carry more than 10% of the maximum weight. In other words if a manufacturer says you can load a unit down to 14,000 lbs then the suspension or axles should be able to carry 15,400 lbs or 10% more weight. The same will be true for the tires. Most often they will tell you that the tongue weight or pin weight in the case of a 5th wheel should be subtracted from the towing weight because your tow vehicle is bearing that weight. That is true now just check the tires weight carrying capacity. You will find that they are also on the edge of destruction with very little margin for error.

A MH chassis is built by a truck building company. The frames and suspensions as well as the tires will have plenty of margin for the weight that they are expected to carry.

Our safety while traveling is important to me. I won't take chances.

You might also check other TT forums where the owners will discuss all the upgrades they did and about spending 3,4,5, or $6,000 dollars for heavier axles, tires and rims because of previous problems they had with bent and sagging axles. You won't generally find those discussions in the MH section of forums.

Yes, some of these issues arise when a unit is used for full timing and not from casual users. Using a unit all the time may make these short falls more of an issue than it would for the casual weekend user.

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Old 01-18-2014, 09:16 AM   #10
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In addition to the good comments already received there is the question of how do you want to live and, as another post alluded to, what impression do you want to make if that is important? The only thing I want to echo is the issue of what do you want to drive around in when you are not traveling with your RV? If you are an editor then researching subjects should come second nature so be prepared to drive yourself crazy. LOL

BTW, I am not a fan of travel trailers. Can't tell you a hard core reason why but they just never tripped my trigger. I don't mean to snub them nor suggest they are not a suitable option. You might consider that when I say 5-ver you could substitute TT.

So...some other thoughts...

Budget rules...I mean RULES! Your budget will determine what you can afford and thus what is doable. 'Nuff said on that.

If you want lots of elbow room and room to spread out, a Class B and pop up may not do well. If you will be working from your RV I would tend to think you need room to do this also. It could simply be a lap top or maybe you want a nice table and chairs to spread out. Keep that in mind. If you are solo and no big dogs or long term guests, you may find shorter versions of Class A, C and 5-vers will do very well.

Also there are the issues of climate. Will you always be in nice 70-80* weather during the day and 50-60* in the evening? Class A, C and 5-vers tend to be better at handling weather extremes. Not all are created equal so do your homework on that too.

If you think you will be encountering wide variations of weather but avoiding the worst for the most part, the Class A and 5-vers might be the area to concentrate on. Spend time on researching insulation values and "winter packages".

RV systems will also be a factor. Where is the generator, where is the AC? Our previous Winnebago Class A gasser had both the basement AC and the generator at the back of the bedroom. Not a great combo at night. LOL

How important is ride quality? Buy that I mean several things. the first is handling. Class A DPs tend to ride better than gassers. Independent from suspension tends to improve handling on rough roads. Longer, heavier DPs do the best in drivability on highways but are not as agile as shorter ones. I can not comment on 5-ver handling since I have never owned or towed one. Gassers and front end diesels tend to be noisier up front while driving.

Gassers have mid entry doors which many like. Almost all DPs have front "bus" doors. Not my favorite but it is what it is. 5-vers are more a mid point entry kind of environment and have some great floor plan options. I really love some of their floor plans but we decided to be more on the mobile side and didn't want a truck to tool around in so that is why we opted for the MH.

Floor plans are important...akin to elbow room. Class A, C and 5-vers all have slide out options. You may not need 4 slides but a well places slide or 2 may just do the trick. Then again, you may not even want a slide out because of maintenance. That is cool too.

GVWR, GCWR & Axle weights. Particularly ins Class A, and C platforms be very aware of weight limitations in how much you can load onto an axle and hitch ratings. Questions to ask and verify are whether you can load the RV to the max without exceeding axle weights/GVWR and still have enough GCWR left to tow something. 5-vers do have weight rating also but again, I am not as versed in those. In the case of 5-vers, I *THINK* the issue is to concentrate on GVWR and having a tow vehicle suited for that task.

You mention family and that might mean visitors. Do not over think that one. We intentionally only have room for a couple grand kids for a couple nights. Before too long we will replace couches with Euro chairs and have air mattresses for them. Don't get too hung up on the overnight comfort of guests, especially adults.

OK...have a ball researching this all. It is a challenge and there are many more options between pup-ups and mammoth Class-As to be seen but it can be fun if you take your time, don't get all whacked out in the process.
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Old 01-18-2014, 09:36 AM   #11
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Hi Greg!

That decision involves several things. If you're gonna do a lot of cross-country traveling then I would definitely go with a MH and toad. I would NOT use a tow dolly, but rather get a toad that can be towed 4-down. There are LOTS of vehicles out there for much less than $35,000 that you can tow 4-down!

I strongly recommend that you go with a diesel-pusher rather than a gasser, even if you have to buy one a few years older. If you are careful to find one that has been well-maintained and doesn't have any known problems that haven't been fixed, you can drive it a LONG time without having to replace it unless you decide to upgrade.

If you get a MH that's about 4' longer than a 5th wheel, you will have more storage area in the MH than the 5er! We pulled a 5er for 10 years before getting a MH last year. We had a 36' 5er and bought a 40' MH.

Maintenance can be more expensive on a MH for sure. Most of the odds and ends I have been able to do myself, and I'm just hoping nothing goes wrong with the engine or transmission!

Hope this helps some! Good luck, happy trails, and God bless!
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Old 01-18-2014, 10:26 AM   #12
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How old are you and how agile are you. I am 63 and my wife is 59. We bought a new fifth wheel and tow vehicle in 2005 and put around 25,000 miles on the trailer. I guess you can say we tried to wear it out. Over the years, my health, and ability to set up and tear down in the heat made our travels a bit more difficult. My bride also started to experience hip problems making it somewhat painful to climb the 2, 11" rise steps to the bedroom area. I changed out the steps both at the entry door and also the 2 heading to the bedroom and things seemed to improve. We loved that ole trailer and our times in it.

Last year, we purchased a good looking Used MH. We soon found it was a much easier to set up and tear down, my wife has no difficulties entering or exiting, the insulation is so much better, only 1 a/c unit is needed most outings and we now have what seems to be a huge kitchen, bath and bedroom. Arrive at our campsite, hit the HWH level panel twice and head outside. While the air drops and the jacks extend, I have pulled the water hose and shore power connections on their reels and connections are done. Wife hits the 2 slide buttons and it's wine time.

If we were still young, I wouldn't hesitate and get a fifth wheel.
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Old 01-18-2014, 10:31 AM   #13
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Hi Greg,
A lot of good advice has been posted. If the unit you decide on is going to be your home, the total 5th wheel cost will be similar to the motor coach and towed vehicle cost. A 5th wheel at the upper end of the industry is going to be over 25K lbs. in weight. That requires a tow vehicle with a Freightliner type chassis. Basically it looks like the tractor of an 18 wheeler. One could get a tow vehicle custom made to haul a smart car behind the cab and then the 5ver behind the smart car. I don't think you want to tool around in the tractor.

A motor coach + towed vehicle provides an environment where you travel and live in comfort part of the package. All the amenities are right there. If you think I am biased to the motor coach choice, you are correct.

Consider going to the RV shows and find the floor plan that works for you. No matter what you purchase, floor plan sells the unit. And that choice is unique to you.
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Old 01-18-2014, 10:08 PM   #14
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Thanks for the advice!

Wow! I can't believe how many responses I got in just 24 hours. That is incredible. Someone once suggested if I ever need an answer to anything about RVing, post a question to a forum and take a nap. The answer will be there when you get up.

To answer some of the questions, I am 53 and I can work from anywhere I have electricity and an Internet connection. My plan for using the RV is to travel three to five hours and then spend three to four days in an area before moving on. I'll be interviewing dealers, campground owners, suppliers and RV owners -- and hopefully having a little fun on the journey.

Like I said, I have a familiarity and comfort with a motorhome and the founder of Fulltime Families told me I don't want to mess with anything other than a motorhome when by myself.

But, looking at some RVs today, I really liked the Jayco 351MKTS fifth wheel. It felt like a home, had a residential refrigerator, lots of storage and plenty of room to work, live and sleep. Thanks, OrngTrillium, for the suggestion about taking out a couch and replacing it with a desk -- I was just wondering today what I would use a couch for, unless people were traveling with me.

Thanks again for the advice. It is greatly appreciated. I am already sensing that this whole experience will expose me to an entirely new part of the RV industry -- ownership. After writing about RVs for 15 years, living in one for several months at a time will undoubtedly change my perspective on a lot of things.

GREG GERBER
Editor, RV Daily Report
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