Right now I’m looking into changing out my RV. I keep going back and forth between buying a fifth wheel and going for a Class A motorhome.
It’s a difficult decision so I’ve spent months researching, looking at lots of different models, and getting opinions from other RV owners. Here are many of the factors I’m considering.
[x_alert heading=”NOTE:” type=”success”]Please don’t “keep score” as you read this article. The purpose of the article isn’t to show that either the 5th Wheel or the Motorhome is superior, but only to point out differences. The number of benefits for one or the other are not as important as the few significant factors that are most important TO YOU AND YOUR FAMILY.[/x_alert]
Residential-Style Furniture – Winner: 5th Wheel
One benefit of the fifth wheel is the style of the furniture. Don’t get me wrong, I definitely recognize that many Class A’s have extremely comfy furniture, but fifth wheels often use regular off-the-shelf residential furniture for use in their models.
In my experience, I find that–on average–the fifth wheels have comfier furniture that feels more like home; however, residential furniture has drawbacks: it’s heavier, uses up more floor space, and usually only serves one function without underneath storage or other “RV features.”
Cost of Maintenance – Winner: Fifth Wheel
Ever wondered what a standard oil change costs on a diesel Class A? It’s between $200 and $300. Ouch. Cost for an oil change on an F-350 or other truck for towing a fifth wheel? About $30.
Kitchen Island – Winner: 5th Wheel
Many, if not most new fifth wheel layouts have kitchen islands; however, I’ve never seen one in a Class A before. If cooking an elaborate meal in a huge kitchen is on your radar, then a 5W may be your best option.
However, that kitchen island is a blessing and a curse. It’s nice because of the space it provides for preparing food, but it also makes the room extremely squished when the slide-outs are in, which ruins picnics at the truck stop. Here, you can find an article I wrote where I list 5 fifth wheel floorplans that have rear kitchens.
Onboard Generator – Winner: Tie
All Class A motorhomes (at least anything made in this decade) will have an on-board generator for boondocking. Most fifth wheel trailers do not have an on-board generator, but some definitely do.
You can put add a generator to any fifth wheel, but often it isn’t quite as nice when installed as an afterthought because they aren’t always well-prepped. A 5,500 watt Onan generator costs about $4,000 installed.
You can always go the route of the portable generator, but for me, this is a deal breaker. On our travel trailer, this is something that is a bit of a nuisance to pack up the generator and get it in the truck each time, etc.
In this article, I list the best generators for campers, along with what the best generator is for a mini camper.
“Take Off” Time – Winner: Class A
If you’ll be traveling frequently in your RV, then the Class A has major benefits for “take off time”, or the time it takes to go from “Hey, let’s take off today to a new place” to actually hitting the road.
The major time savings here are the stabilizers and hooking up the truck; however, many newer fifth wheels are starting to include auto stabilizing jacks, so this is becoming a moot point.
Turning Radius – Winner: Fifth Wheel
Turning both a Class A and a fifth wheel have their own advantages. The benefit of a Class A for turning is that you can drive forward until the flat front of your windshield almost touches an obstruction, and then just turn the wheel. The view and form factor of a Class A makes the act of turning easier.
However, in terms of pure turning radius, the fifth wheel is the clear winner. With a pivot point put at the rear axle of the tow vehicle, the turn comes much sharper.
So for driving around on tight city streets, the fifth wheel wins, but for the view and ease of doing so, the Class A wins (in my opinion).
Maneuverability to Small Spaces – Winner: Class A
If you’ve ever seen other campers trying to fit into a tight spot in an RV park or campground, you know that there’s always someone in a travel trailer or fifth wheel that struggles for 10 solid minutes to find its home in the spot.
A Class A is MUCH simpler to dock in a camping spot. It’s very much like driving a long car.
Depreciation – Winner: Fifth Wheel
This one is probably unfair. I’ll admit that right off the bat. I did a full week study to see which type of RV held its value the best and wrote my results in this article on RV depreciation.
In that article, I found that the PERCENTAGE depreciation between a motorhome and a fifth wheel really was almost identical. Both will lose about 20% of their value in the first two years, and then follow a similar PERCENTAGE decline over time.
However, Class A motorhomes simply cost far more. There’s no getting around it. An extremely nice, well-appointed fifth wheel costs well under $80,000; an extremely nice well-appointed Class A can cost $150,000 or $200,000 or more. So 20% depreciation to a motorhome represents a far greater financial loss.
This is especially compounded when the tow vehicle is included in the equation. A nice F350 truck depreciates more slowly than the RV it tows, which also helps to hold up the value of the rig over time when compared to a motorhome.
But most RV buyers frankly aren’t concerned too much with depreciation. It’s a lifestyle, and as long as it doesn’t put us in the poor house, we’ll do what we have to do to live the lifestyle.
View – Winner: Class A
Nothing quite beats the view out of the gigantic windshield of a Class A motorhome when you’re traveling on the road. It’s beautiful and makes the act of traveling much more appealing to many RVers.
However, that huge view has drawbacks as well. The huge windshield is a FURNACE for the entire house on a hot day as bright sunlight pours through it.
While the view is not available while driving, many fifth wheels have very large bay windows in slideouts or in the rear of the coach which may lessen this advantage for the Class A.
Ceiling Height – Winner: Fifth Wheel
For those who are tall, or who are sensitive about being cramped in a small space, a fifth wheel has a major advantage in its ceiling height. Over the last 5 or 6 years, motorhomes have made significant strides in removing this advantage from fifth wheels, but on average, fifth wheels still take the prize here.
However, the problem with the ceiling height on a fifth wheel is the front of the fifth wheel, which is most often the master bedroom. This area usually has much lower ceilings–similar to what you’d see in a travel trailer. But you lay down in the bedroom, right? 🙂
Storage – Tie
Both Class A and Fifth Wheel RVs have excellent storage, but the storage on both units is different. Fifth wheels have more pass-through storage bays and have at least two HUGE storage bays near the front of the coach. This is an advantage of the fifth wheel since it has no engine or other driving parts under the front area of the coach.
However, the Class A also has fantastic storage, because all of the middle compartments are typically larger on the Class A.
So really, the storage argument is a wash. The storage bays are different, but there isn’t one clearly better than the other on average.
Here, you can find an article I wrote where I list 9 awesome hacks for smarter storage in a motorhome, making it easier to store the things you need without it feeling tight and cluttered.
Steps – Winner: Motorhome
If you are older and have a difficult time going up and down steps, then a Class A holds a distinct advantage. Just getting in a fifth wheel often involves four steps with no railing. Then once you’re in the coach, you have to go up and down a few steps to get into the bedroom in front.
A Class A motorhome is a flat, single level floor plan which is nice for those who have a tougher time getting around.
However, those steps may be a benefit for some fifth wheel owners who have kids. The steps in a fifth wheel really help to define the spaces, reduce noise, and create visual barriers between rooms. This is great for giving mom and dad a little privacy, as well as letting the kids feel like they have their own private bedroom.
Riding vs. Driving – Winner: Class A
This is, perhaps, the single greatest advantage of the motorhome over the fifth wheel. This is the reason that many people will never trade their Class A–the experience of driving from within the coach.
I’m torn on this one. I’m trying to decide right now between a Class A and a fifth wheel and this is the the factor that I keep going back to. After trying out a class A with the family, we found that–to us–it just wasn’t much different than sitting in the truck. We wouldn’t let the kids walk around without a seat belt anyway, so what does it matter if we’re buckled in the truck or the camper?
But then again… there’s just something about driving around in the vehicle that has a real allure and adds a special feeling to the roadtrip. It’s a really tough decision. Even if all of the other factors weighed in favor of a fifth wheel, and I’d still be wondering about this one.
Towing vs. Toad – Tie
I think this factor is important to consider. It’s one I wasn’t really thinking about until I spent some time talking to the Class A community. Since I’m a bit tired of towing my travel trailer, I thought I wanted a Class A so I wouldn’t have to tow anymore.
That’s not realistic.
Even if you take your class A, you’ll probably still want to tow a car behind so you can get around town (a “toad”). Almost all Class A RVers also tow a little car behind. So you’re still towing, and in some ways, towing a toad is WORSE, because it prohibits you from being able to back up.
A toad is much lighter and follows behind the Class A, so it’s not really something you have to think about when driving forward, but for navigating in tight spots it can be a pain not to be able to back up, and hooking up/unhooking a toad takes only a minute less than hooking up a fifth wheel to a truck.
Toys – Winner: Fifth Wheel
If you want to haul jet skis, four wheelers, dirt bikes, or an ATV, the fifth wheel is the clear winner. There are a select few Class A toy haulers, but they are few and far between. If you want to bring toys, you probably want a fifth wheel.
It’s true that you could tow a trailer of toys behind a Class A, but then you lose your toad and can’t get around town any longer.
I wrote an article where I provide a list of the most popular fifth wheel toy haulers. Read the article here.
One benefit of a motorhome is security. When danger comes knocking, you can simply drive off! The entire vehicle is enclosed.
Also, it’s much more difficult to steal a parked motorhome than it is a fifth wheel. Someone could always just hook up a truck and drive off with a fifth wheel unless you take the extra time to put a lock on it.
Another security factor is that most fifth wheels don’t have built-in generators. Portable generators are a very common item to be stolen from unwatched campsites.
Thinking about possibly adding a security system to your motorhome? In this article, I listed 5 great security systems for motorhomes, and specifically, which one I would choose.
Pop-outs/Living Space – Winner: Fifth Wheel
Fifth wheels generally have more spacious living areas than motorhomes. This is because fifth wheels are not designed to be used with the slides in, whereas motorhomes are. Consequently, the slides in a motorhome are shallower which create less space.
Not only is the actual square footage of a fifth wheel generally larger, but the room also feels larger because fifth wheels generally have higher ceilings.
Backing Up – Tie
Obviously, backing up a fifth wheel–or any trailer–is not fun. However, the reason I put this category at a “tie” is because most motorhome RVers also tow a toad car behind. With a toad attached, you can’t back up AT ALL or else it can damage the steering in the car.
Type of “Get Around” Vehicle – Tie
Some RVers don’t like driving a big F350 around to get groceries and explore a city, so for them, it’s nice to have a tiny compact car behind the Class A. For our family, we like driving our truck as our normal family car, so it’s much more comfortable than a little car.
This really only depends on personal preference.
Family Riding Space – Winner: Class A
The issue with riding space for our family and any other large family is seating space. Right now we have three children. If we had a fourth, we couldn’t all fit in a truck since younger kids can’t ride in the front. Even if one of the kids could ride in the front seat, we’d then have three in the front seat, which is squishy. Although the layouts of fifth wheels are ideal for many large families, be sure you actually can all fit in the tow vehicle!
If you have a crew cab or mega cab in your truck to tow a fifth wheel, you’ll be plenty comfortable as you drive down the road. If you have a small cab and kids in the back, it won’t be as fun for them.
Floor Plans! – Winner: Fifth Wheel
To me, this is the #1 reason to pick a fifth wheel. The variety of creative uses of floor plans to maximize the space are amazing! Since the front of a motorhome has the driving area and a large window, there are simply fewer options for creative floorplans in a Class A.
I’m not saying that Class A’s all have the same floor plan, but in general, there are many more options with the fifth wheel. Here, you can find an article I wrote where I list favorite fifth wheel floor plans for families. I also discuss how to pick a fifth wheel that’s perfect for you and your family.
Openness With Slides In – Winner: Class A
We’ve mentioned this one a couple times already. When driving down the road with the slides in, the Class A is actually usable. When pulled over for a bathroom break or a quick stop, a fifth wheel is difficult to use at all.
Heating and Cooling – Winner: Fifth Wheel
If size, number of air conditioners, etc is all equal, the fifth wheel has an advantage in keeping a consistent temperature because it doesn’t have the gigantic sauna of a front windshield to deal with. Also, it doesn’t have the engine heat coming into the cabin.
Fuel Economy – Tie
Both are terrible. Some say the 5th wheel does better, others say the motorhome is the winner. It really just depends on your setup, but before you get sucked in by comments from motorhome owners promising 11-14 mpg, ask them if that’s while they are towing a car behind. Not good.
However, remember that only some of your driving will be roadtripping. A lot of the driving will be with just the tow vehicle or toad–going to the grocery store or sightseeing. You can get much better gas mileage with a small toad.
This one is a wash as far as I’m concerned. I wrote a giant guide to motorhome gas mileage, where I give 21 examples of specific motorhomes. Find the article here.
Insurance Costs – Winner: Fifth Wheel
Insuring a fifth wheel is significantly less expensive than a motorhome. This is for a few reasons: (1) They generally cost a little less than a motorhome, they don’t drive so you don’t have to worry about collision with another vehicle, and (3) there is less mechanically that can go wrong in the driving of the RV.
If you’re wondering what RV insurance costs on a travel trailer, read this article.
Workspace – Winner: Fifth Wheel
There are a few motorhomes that provide a table space for working on a laptop while in the RV; however, most motorhomes make the RVer sit at an uncomfortable flat-back dinette to work. More fifth wheels have work areas.
Bad Weather – Winner: Class A
When inclement weather hits, there is certainly an advantage to being in a Class A. You don’t have to walk from the tow vehicle to the RV and then start to warm it up and get yourself dry.
Price: – Winner: Fifth Wheel
A very nice fifth wheel usually costs under $70,000. A high-end Class A can cost $300,000 or more. A new low-end fifth wheel costs about $30,000 and a low-end Class A costs about $85,000.
Obviously, the cost is a significant factor for most buyers. In this article, I talk about the average fifth wheel cost, along with things to think about before buying a fifth wheel.
Separation from the Kids – Tie
Fifth wheels have the advantage of layouts that often place the kids on one side of the RV, and the parents’ sleeping area on the other side of the RV. That separation at night is really nice.
However, Class A motorhomes offer better separation during the drive. The kids can be 15′ back on the couch drawing or playing on their iPods while the parents are driving and navigating up at the front.
Safety – Winner: Fifth Wheel
Safety when driving, I believe, goes to the fifth wheel. Class A motorhomes have no airbags, are not crash tested, and do not have a “crumple zone” (the area where the engine goes down and the vehicle crumples to soak up front-end impact).
In a class A or a fifth wheel, there will be little risk to the driver because there is so much behind the driver in an RV. It’s the front-end impact that is the real danger.
Also, in a motorhome when there is a car accident, knives, cabinets, appliances, and everything else in the RV becomes a projectile flying at 75 miles per hour at the driver. The same is not true in a fifth wheel since the passengers and driver are in a separate vehicle.
Rent Before Buying
If you’re considering buying an RV or Camper, I strongly suggest you rent one first to make sure it’s one you’ll really love. Campers can be very large investments, and buying the wrong one can be a costly mistake. RVshare is a great place for finding RVs and Campers to rent in your local area. Here, you can find an article we wrote where we list the 7 most popular RV rental services. Be sure to check it out before renting.
59 thoughts on “Fifth Wheel vs Class A Motorhome: 31 pros and cons”
This list was fantastic. I still had a little trouble deciding right up until the end where you talked about air bags and flying cabinetry. I am an ex fire fighter/ paramedic, so safety is the beginning and the end for me. I really thought that with the size and price, the Class A would be built with safety first and foremost in mind. Very disappointed to see that isn’t the case. I won’t cry long… I already have a truck and fifth wheel picked out. 😉
We have a Solitude 310GK, nice 5th wheel. And we go out 3-4 times a year. If I get a Class A DP with generator, I’m thinking we’ll have to be using a lot more. I like a lot of ideas on a Class A, mainly going poddy without moving the slides out or having to hope out and into the 5th wheel. With a 5th wheel, it can sit for 6-8 months. No leaks-engine/radiator/generator/hydronic antifreeze.
Great article. Thank kabyou for sharing. Didn’t help me much…LOL I am just can’t decide.
A great article thanks for the information
Great article. Lots to think about. I’m UK based, retired and planning on going full time travelling! The biggest issue I will have is “size” due to our narrow roads. At the moment I’m leaning towards a 5th Wheel mainly due to price/running costs of a Class “A”, but who knows what I’ll end up with, still looking! Best wishes everyone.
If you will be driving between campsites often so recommend the class A. The extra height will let you see over hedgerows better and improve the views. I love the panoramic views I get from my motorhome. Bought mine used so it hadn’t depreciated much. I’m sure whichever you pick it will be a life-changing experience
For me and my wife a class A works great. No kids but 2 big dogs. They love traveling with us so stopping for shopping or restaurants is easy. Fire up the generator, turn on the AC and tv and we can get out for a bit. I couldn’t imagine them piling up in the cab of a truck with us for 400 miles! We put our Harley on the trailer and head for the mountains, set up in a nice campground. We can take off for a few hours while the dogs are happy and safe. Plenty of room for friends if they want to come along. Just pull the big trailer with more Harleys. Backing the trailer is no problem with a rear view camera either. We go to NASCAR races too,so I always feel sorry for the guy trying to jackknife a 30 foot fifth wheel into a 15′ wide infield parking spot. Then where do you park the tow truck? But if you are taking kids then a fifth wheel is better. You are probably not stopping till you get to the campsite then staying on site with the family. The tow truck would also service as the family bus too if you wanted to venture off the campground. Just my opinion. Either way it’s a great way to enjoy the best country in the world.
N ot sure how long it’s been since you done a $30 oil change in an F350. But you can get a car oil changed for that. It’s closer to $100
You can DIY the oil change on a truck.
But not for $30!! Clearly you haven’t.
Cost me about $50 to do my own oil change with a quality filter ($12+tax), and a 5 quart bottle of conventional oil ($35+tax) (which is getting harder to find), on my 4 cyl Accord! It’s been like this a couple years. For a quality oil and filter alone.
We’re new to this. We bought a used motorhome from a dealer 1 year ago. We knew little about this and it’s been a nightmare and as we learn more it seems our problems are status quo, new or used, class A, C, 5th wheel or trailer.
We really don’t like our motorhome and we are seriously looking at 5th wheels.
One thing about your security, I’ve heard many talk about Class A is better because you pull in boondock and leave; not so if you own pets! All that security is out the window.
So we are deciding also between a C, Mini A or fifth wheel. Of course the fifth wheel has awesome floor plans especially in the Grand Design. But my husband works full time so if I could drive while he’s working would be really helpful but I am afraid to pull a fifth wheel. Is it easier to drive a mini class A or C as opposed to a fifth wheel. Also we have to upgrade our truck from a 150 to a 250/350 so the price is the same. We are fine with one car when home . Any suggestions?
One thing you don’t mention for families is the HUGE safety difference to passengers in the event of a collision while traveling. In an RV, there are only two decent seatbelts. Your kids are on the couch? IF there are even seatbelts on it, they are more for show than actual protection. If you’re towing a 5th wheel, everyone is in the tow vehicle with their own seatbelt that offers superior protection. And for families traveling with a child in a carseat? There is nowhere safe to put a carseat in an RV.
I trust my own driving, but do not trust the other folks on the road. For this reason, a motorhome simply wasn’t an option for our family. Once my children are grown and out of the house, I will consider a motorhome for myself, but until then we will use a 5th wheel so that everyone can have a good seatbelt!
Already having a 2012 Ram 2500 crew cab 4×4 powered by Cummins it makes the 5th wheel to me a much easier idea to own.
With a Class A you need another car. Both are probably bad on mpg gas or diesel. Also depends on lifestyle and budget. The Class A will cost more to maintain. So many pros and cons to both, but I’m sure it is based on the individual. The portable generator would be my biggest drawback. But, I also rarely run my generator in my motorhome.
We will be full-timing in about 4-5 years. Our “plan” is to full-time for approx 2years. We plan to do a cross-country trip West Coast to East Coast and back the first summer. Then spend a couple Years staying in various Western US states (Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Nevada and Arizona) to decide where we want to retire permanently. We will be living at various campgrounds (full-hookup) for anywhere from 1 month to several months at a time. We have owned 5th wheels in the past and I wasn’t a fan of the setup/takedown or the backing in. For that reason we are leaning Class A. It will only be the two of us with the occasional guest. Our RV budget will be somewhere around the $50k or less range (maybe a bit more if we went 5th/truck). That puts us in a used Class A or most likely a New 5th. Lots to think about, I appreciate the article.
Did you do it? WhTs it like?
Thank you for the article and to all of the commentators. I think I’ll go with a 5th wheel as we want to do the full time live/work in open spaces. One major disadvantage I can think of is safety, but I’m pretty sure there are workarounds. Has anyone driven a larger rv down to Puerto Vallarta or further South? What was your experience with roads, safety and boondocking? What is the largest size 5th wheel we can get away with on long windy roads and crossing borders?
I drove my 45′ Diesel Pusher to Puerto Penasca Mexico. Roads were fine, however, very scary getting there. Did not feel safe at all.
I’m leaning towards 5W, for a few reasons. First, I won’t be on the road non-stop. My traveling will be seasonal. Second is price, third is comfort (I’m 6’5″ and need that high ceiling). But Fourth is the fact of owning a truck. There will be other things besides the 5W that I’ll want to hook up to it, or throw in the bed. I don’t envision using a Class A to haul a boat, or get a load of compost from the nursery.
Thanks for this amazing post and for the amazing people who commented with their experience. I appreciate all the comments. I?m starting to do my research both the class A and the fifth wheel are beautiful . The new fifth wheels have generators built right into them which is a Huge plus. The class A are much more expensive.
We started with a travel trailer, moved up to a 5th wheel, had a Winnebago Sightseer Class A for 2 years and a Tiffin Allegro Open Road for the past 2 years. We are considering going back to the 5th wheel for the long haul. We love, love, love the Class A, however, loading the car on a car dolly is a royal pain (neither vehicle is flat towable). My Husband has always had a pickup truck. We are figuring we can get the 5th wheel and truck paid off (hopefully before retiring), then just go. My problem is we are sometimes 3 adults with 3 dogs. It’s real nice to pull over, use your own bathroom and get something to eat, either in house or at a restaurant. Generator runs AC, dogs are comfortable, and so are we. Hubby has no problem backing things in and has said the 5th wheel was the easiest RV we have had (pulling or driving). Our Class A is very spacious, but so are 5th wheels. I don’t think you can go wrong with either choice — it’s just a hard choice to make!!!
We did our research and bought a new class c with an extended warranty a year ago. We sold our second car and bought a Vw bug to tow. All is working great until my wife has RV envy and wants to trade for a new 5th wheel. So much for our 5 year plan. We will take a beating on a trade and the bug will be a throw in to sweeten the deal. Anyone interested in a 2017 Thor Quantum?
thanks now I am even more confused , kidding , I am just starting my search wife thinks 5th wheeler is better I open to this but the class a is all in 1 wish me luck ,
Agree with Carlos. The girl and I are class A’ers, with toad, Honda crv with awd, retired, no kids/pets. Couple years ago in central tx . On big highway then transition to small country road. Bumper to bumper traffic with dead stops. I turn to her and say, “Baby, I GOTS to go.” We get to another dead stop, I’m out of the driver seat, she’s in. 15 seconds. I do my bidness. Next dead stop, switch back. An hour later, we arrive at destination smiling and relaxed. We also do beach towns CA, TX, FL. Have sat behind many trucks looking for parking when I zip in right behind them. Also, travel to shopping/sites at 25 mpg. A with toad works for us. Figure out what works for you!
if you can’t back-up with a toad behind the class a, how do you get out of tight gas stations and such while on the road? I have even seen semis with trailers have to back up at some.
Not the same, you have to unhook the toad, do the maneuver, then re-attach toad. The toad’s front wheels are designed to point ahead when pulling forward, but can pivot completely to one side or the other when backing, damaging steering or vehicle.
Cant a Class A tow a full vehicle Trailer, so the car is not on the pavement at all?
most auto trailers could put you over weight/length limits.
then just having to pay tax and insurance, to own another item.
but yes a class A can back up with a full trailer behind.
if your good even backing such with a 5er is possible.
I appreciate all the comments. I?m starting to do my research both the class A and the fifth wheel are beautiful . The new fifth wheels have generators built right into them which is a Huge plus. The class A are much more expensive. I?ve had a pick up truck all my adult life and enjoy driving them. Towing a fifth wheel won?t be a big deal for me. However you can?t beat being inside of a class A RV where you can simply get up walk to the back and handle your business if you need to. Big factor for me is price I tell my wife why pay 300,000 when can we can have the same amenities for $75-$80,000. She starting to come around. Once again thanks.
If you log a lot of miles the Class A is more comfortable. If you dislike getting out of tow vehicle to go eat or pee the Class A is the choice. My Class A heats the hot water using the engine. I have a central vacuum. Residential furniture? I have a two 8-way lounge chairs that recline, a lazy boy, a Villa leather sofa eighty inches long, queen bed, kitchen table and chairs that swivel, desk, two TVs, two night stands, dresser, two big cedar lined closets, plus so many overhead, and under cabinet storage drawers, I forget where things are. I have a very quiet economical 10k Kubota genset, washer/dryer, 110 gallon fresh water, 100 gallon grey, 60 gallon black. The generator, the hydronic heat, the water heater use diesel fuel. I have 190 gallon tank. I can and do boondock longer than the competition. There is 17 gallons of propane. The 3000 watt inverter and three 8-D coach batteries provide 80% of our electrical needs. I can still tow a 6500 lb trailer if need be. The basement storage is spacious and heated. A big Fifth and truck will use 8-10 tires. I have six. For the record we have had the large 5th, we had largest slide in camper, and Class A. The 5th lacked the carrying capacity of the Class A. When towing the pickup went from Schedule A to Schedule B service requirements. In other words oil changes in half the miles. Put four kids a dog and a couple cats, and two horses in a Fifth Wheel truck combination. Ok forget the horses for now. Drive all day with all them in the truck and do that for six weeks. Now try a Class A. Each situation is going to be unique in different families. A screw driver won?t perform the same task as a crow bar or vice versa. Right took for the job. Before anyone says it, we have made it into all the state, national and city parks except three. We do a little forward planning. We don?t do jumping jacks in the living room but probably could. High ceilings mean more route restrictions, branches and other problems. No winner no loser. We enjoyed all our RVs and changed into what we needed in that part of our lives. Depreciation? Give me a break. RVs and trucks are not investments. The only way you will save dough is buy preowned equipment. The bugs are out of them already addressed by previous owner. We have half million dollar unit we paid $45K. It was twenty years old and had 60,000 miles. No lot rot, no abuse. Good units that need to be re-homed are out there if you educate yourself and shop wisely. Your RV experience can be a lot less costly. Happy Trails.
Great comments! Having quality mechanicals and electricals means greater reliability and performance, as well as less maintenance. Curious…if you’re still on the site, what Class A do you have, and did you need to do upgrades or mods?
What class A do you currently have now?
Thank you very informative
Great blog here …. I?m a 5th wheeler and not full timers so for me the use of the f250 tow vehicle while we are not camping is a huge bonus. In my mind I gained a truck for everyday use and a 5th wheel for camping for less than the cost of a class a. If I went the class a route I?d have nothing for Home Depot/ dump runs etc .
Great article, especially since I’m still deciding. I’ve been a full timer before, so know what’s important. In my shopping, 5th wheel is the less expensive option, if you also look at a used truck to pull it. Better bang for the buck, in my opinion, if you can deal with hooking up and backing in. Both options are enjoyable and I don’t think anyone who chooses one or the other will be disappointed! It’s just a matter of what conveniences are most important. One comment about generators. They are a must for extended stays in places you won’t have 110V, but don’t think that a portable generator from Harbor Freight is equivalent to a built in Onan 5k in a class A. That first night you are running your HF generator to keep your AC on, your neighbors will be letting you know it’s got to be shut down. The built in Onan will be far less noisy and annoying.
if your pickup is a diesel, you are not getting a $30 oil change.
More like $100
Thank you for this article! It has really helped without a bias 🙂
Great article, we just pulled the trigger on a fifth wheel. We did the same comparison. We looked at used class A?s, but it seemed everyone had an issue that seemed price. We bought a new Grand Design Solitude 375RES and a new Ram Limited 3500 diesel to tow it. Both together we came in just over our used class A budget. We liked it because it has the living room in the rear ant it is raised. Our kitchen is the low part of the camper. With the living room raised we have a 15×8 heated storage compartment under the living room. Like a class A it has an 8 ft long tray that slides out the back (like the basement storage on a class A). I?m 6?5? and the head room in the living room and bed room are 6?7?. Its close but most of the time we are sitting or sleeping. Our friends love it, we have had people over and it seems the guy?s head to the living room and the girls are down in the kitchen with their wine. We can?t wait to take the full time plunge. As you say mileage is about the same, but if you want mileage get a hybrid and stay in motels. Thank You for the article
So its been over a year since this post, how do you like your solitude?
What happens if the Class A breaks down. Your home has to be hauled to the closest dealer or garage who is able to handle a engine or transmission problem. You now have to find a hotel or someplace you can stay. If you have pets, good luck. If a truck breaks down, still not great, but hopefully you can get the 5th wheel to a campground while the truck is being worked on and use a rental to get around. Plus more garages can probably work on a diesel truck around the country.
Not so sure the fiver is a clear choice regarding price. You didn’t consider the cost of the tow vehicle. That can make the price about equal, in some cases favor the class a.
yes i owned a class a motorhome the drive is great if you get stuck in traffic or the road is closed you can watch other people be uncomfortable wild you sit there watching a movie having lunch and aa drink use the bath room you can in a fifth wheel but you have to get out of your truck.
Still deciding. We have owned a class C and a small trailer or two, but not retired at the time, so they sat a lot. We’re favoring a class A for its comfort on the road and smooth driving (like an over the road bus). This comes at the cost of ownership, as maintenance of the chassis and running gear will be higher, even making sticker shock at the shop.
That says something for the 5th wheel’s tow truck. Less expensive to own. If I had any other use for a pickup, I may lean more toward a draw between the two. The nice travel in the class A has us looking on line and around town, learning all we can. Some engines’ reviews are worth reading, with a grain of salt for the negative bias. I’m favoring a Cummins L series as the smaller series is discontinued. The 2004 environmental experiments are making me doubtful for a couple of years… We’re probably economizing by looking at 2000 to 2003 models with arctic packages and extras. She is in charge of floor plan & color, then I can get a word in… Let’s all hope for the best. Pickups are cheaper. Class A will be more like an airplane…less predictable cost but great to own.
Strongly disagree on the heating and cooling! With the motorhome, the inside is already at a comfortable temperature via the generator. In a fifth wheel, you’d need one with an onboard generator and a pit stop to get it started cooling/heating before reaching your destination. It can take HOURS for that interior to cool down in the summer in a fifth wheel after a long trip!
You really can’t beat the view going down the road in a class a.. and enjoying the journey…fixing a meal and going on down the road…yes if your parked for a few days a fifth wheel with slides is roomy and like having your home with you…what kind of traveling scenario fits…
Campground setup is another consideration. Utility setup is the same for both, but leveling is not. If you stick to modern private campgrounds and have auto leveling, once again a tie. If you like public campgrounds or boondocking the fifth wheel is the clear winner. Auto leveling systems have a fairly small range, and when it comes to blocking under wheels and jacks to get level the fifth wheel is much easier.
Good article. A lot of info to absorb and think about. Thank you.
Thank you for writing this! Our family also has 3 kids. We have been debating the exact same issues. This was really very helpful to me for choosing which side of the fence to be on (at least for now!)
Except you probably backed in and your toad is now parked in front of you…
The primary disagreement I have is regarding safety. If you encounter a problem in a Class A, such as someone shooting nearby, or a bear trying to break in for food, you can raise your jacks and immediately move your family out of harms way. In a 5th Wheel, you have to enter that dangerous environment before you can do anything. If the environment around you becomes dangerous for any reason, you can’t beat the convenience of a Class A to depart.
If your dry camping i could understand, but if your at a campground you still need to disconnect sewer water lines and power
if i am in fear for my life, im not disconnecting anything.
If there is gun fire, I am either staying inside or jumping it the truck and just plain leaving. Will come back and get the 5th wheel later.
I ALWAYS travel with weapons. Better to have it and not need it……
People forget the cost of the tow vehicle which is just a ploy to sell more 5ers. A 3/4 or 1 ton truck with a diesel engine is going to set you back $40k used and $75k new. This will depreciate also and is a horrible idea to use as your drive around when you get to your destination vehicle.
A tow behind vehicle for the Class A can cost from $8k to $12k for a nice used import SUV.
So in my opinion this one item, the tow vehicle, offsets any issues regarding a Class A being a motor vehicle.
The Class A is for someone that wants a better ride, more access to the inside of the RV during rain/snow/hail and etc while driving or pulling over to go to the bathroom. Nothing like getting pelted by hail while trying to open the 5er’s door. Not to mention the mud and yuk that you’ll track in after walking from the tow vehicle to the 5er.
This is a personal decision. The 5th wheel has more room ‘kind of’, but because the basement storage for a Class A is usually double the storage of a 5er this changes and everyone that is a true RVer knows that storage area and easily accessible storage areas are a very important issue in RV’s.
So I’d say the writer of this article is a 5er supporter and did not give a fair view of the Class A. And if one can find a Class C, say a 32 footer it’s even an easier drive/ride than either the 5er or the Class A.
Use your heads people and understand that what is good for you may not be good for the next person.
That would be a fair analysis.