5th Wheel or Travel Trailer? Which Will You Choose?
In order to decide which one is best for you, take a look at the details you should compare as you decide between a 5th wheel vs. a travel trailer before you hit the road.
If you’re thinking about traveling across the country, you’ll want a way to do it in comfort and style. That typically means using some type of RV you can tow. This way, you don’t have to worry about finding a hotel at every destination, and you can detach your vehicle from your towable home any time you want to go exploring.
But did you know there are different types of towable RVs to choose from? There are 3 types:
Travel trailers are the most popular type of non-motorized RV. Lighter in weight and secured with a hitch to the frame of your tow vehicle.
These can be a travel trailer or fifth wheel. Designed with a rear garage and opening for your “toys.” A toy hauler is a type of RV featuring a “garage” in the rear with a large ramp-door for access. The biggest differences between travel trailers and toy haulers used to be weight and interior space. Toy Haulers are built on a sturdier frame in order to haul ATV’s Razr’s, Quads, and Dirtbikes, and therefore can be much heavier than travel trailers.
Full-sized campers, requiring the “5th wheel” U-shaped hitch to tow. Fifth wheels often come with the same amenities as a motorhome or travel trailer but are constructed with a raised forward section that provides a more spacious bi-level floor plan. These models are designed to be towed by a pickup truck equipped with a device known as a fifth-wheel hitch. The fifth wheel got its name from its original design. They were initially invented for horse-drawn carriages in the mid-1850s.
The two most popular options are a 5th wheel and a travel trailer. So what’s the difference between the two, and which one would be best for you?
1st Is To Look At Towability
The first thing to think about is how to tow each type of vehicle. A 5th wheel features an extended portion that’s supposed to sit over your pickup truck bed. This means you can only tow this type of RV with a pickup truck, usually a 1/2 or 3/4-ton variety. This is an important detail to know if you don’t have a truck and weren’t planning on buying one anytime soon!
On the other hand, a travel trailer can attach to a variety of vehicles. Of course, the vehicle has to have a high enough tow capacity for the trailer, which typically means it needs to be a truck, SUV, minivan, or Jeep.
You’ll also need to consider how a 5th wheel or travel trailer attaches to your vehicle. A 5th wheel attaches to a special hitch in the bed of a truck that’s typically permanently installed. This makes it very easy to hook up the 5th wheel without the use of any extra accessories, though the hitch does take up a lot of space in the truck bed.
By contrast, hooking up a travel trailer can be more difficult, usually requiring some extra time and the use of accessories, such as a sway bar and load leveler. So hitching a travel trailer to a vehicle for safe towing is not usually a one-person job, which is something to consider if you plan on traveling alone or will need to hitch and unhitch the RV often.
Next Is To Know The Drivability Of Each Option And Which Is Best For Your Driving Skill.
Once you’ve hitched the RV to your vehicle, now what? Well, now you need to drive to your destination, so you should consider which one is easier to drive: the 5th wheel or the travel trailer?
For most people, the answer is the 5th wheel, simply due to the way it’s hooked up to the vehicle. Since the hitch is right over the truck’s rear axle, it’s less likely to sway with the wind than a travel trailer is.
Granted, accessories like sway bars can give a travel trailer a smoother ride even in the wind, but it still won’t be as easy to drive as a 5th wheel. However, travel trailers tend to be easier to back up than 5th wheels, so that’s a point in their favor if you ever need to back up during your trip.
Size In This Case Really Does Matter.
In general, 5th wheels are bigger than travel trailers, often reaching up to about 36 feet long. They tend to be tall, as well, with more than one level for the living space.
Many 5th wheels also have a few slide outs that expand the space, along with two or more bedrooms and bathrooms, and a basement large enough to store camping toys. Travel trailers rarely have more than one or two slide outs, and they typically don’t have storage basements or multiple bathrooms.
So if you have a large family and want space to spread out during your trip, a 5th wheel is probably the way to go. Just keep in mind that the larger your RV, the harder it can be to fit into camping spots or maneuver down dirt roads if you’re boondocking.
This is why some people prefer to get a travel trailer, which is usually smaller than the average 5th wheel. In fact, some are as short as 10 feet long. While travel trailers aren’t usually as big on space, they do have the advantage of being easier to park in smaller camping spots. If you plan to spend most of your time outside or exploring the city you’ve arrived at, a small or medium-sized travel trailer may be all you need!
See What Amenities Are The Most Important For You.
If you like the idea of having all the comforts of home with you as you travel, a 5th wheel will probably appeal to you more than a travel trailer. This is because these vehicles tend to have more amenities due to their larger size and heavier weight on average.
So if you want a fireplace, bathtub, spacious kitchen, or more than one bedroom and bathroom, a 5th wheel is usually where you’ll find these amenities. If you prefer to stick to the basics and keep it simple while you’re on the road, a travel trailer may suit you better.
The Cost Is the Final Piece Of The Puzzle.
Of course, one of the most important considerations to make before choosing between a 5th wheel vs. a travel trailer is the price. On average, 5th wheels cost a lot more than travel trailers.
After all, they’re larger and heavier, which usually means they come with more amenities. And their size means you get lower gas mileage, so expect to spend more on gas than you would with a travel trailer. Plus, you’ll need a large pickup truck to tow the 5th wheel. If you don’t already have one, you’ll have to add that expense to your budget.
So which one is best for you? If you value space and luxury while you travel—and you’re not on a tight budget when it comes to your new RV—a 5th wheel should appeal to you. But if you don’t need much space and want to save money—or prefer to spend your time and money at your destination rather than on your accommodations—a travel trailer should work for you.
Either way, you probably won’t know for sure which one is best until you take a trip in each type of RV. The easiest way to do that is to rent from RVnGO! We have a wide variety of 5th wheels you can rent for a trip across your state or even across the country. You can then rent a travel trailer from us for your next trip so you can compare your experiences before you decide between buying a 5th wheel vs. a travel trailer. Feel free to browse our vehicles and contact us if you have any questions!