Travel Trailer or Fifth Wheel: Which Do You Prefer?

The world of recreational vehicles is pretty extensive. On the high end are motor coaches that can be as big as buses. On the low end are tent campers – small trailers that combine a solid frame with a canvas enclosure. Not wanting to go to either extreme pretty much leaves you with two options: travel trailers and fifth wheels. Do you prefer one over the other?

A fifth wheel is a type of trailer that hitches to a pickup truck using a coupling similar to what you would find on a tractor-trailer. A travel trailer hitches to the tow vehicle with a standard ball hitch. For the record, that’s the only technical difference between the two. Fifth wheels and travel trailers are designated only by their hitching methods.

Practically speaking, there are plenty of differences. The following paragraphs will discuss some of them. If you are looking to buy a trailer in the near future, you will hopefully find this information helpful for making a decision.

Vehicle Size

One of the first differences you notice between fifth wheels and travel trailers is size. Travel trailers can be as short as six feet or as long as thirty feet. The smallest travel trailers can be towed safely by compact cars. Fifth wheels, on the other hand, are all large. The smallest fifth wheel is larger than the largest travel trailer.

Of course, fifth wheels also weigh more. You cannot tow a fifth wheel without a heavy-duty pickup truck designed to safely manage the weight. The larger size and weight also mean that some fifth wheels are too big for some campgrounds. Conversely, nearly every campground can accommodate any travel trailer.

Floor Space

Floor space in an RV is equivalent to living space in a stationary home. You want as much as you can get. By design, fifth wheels generally have more of it if, for no other reason, than the fact that the master bedroom is contained in the forward area that hangs over the back of your pickup truck.

The amount of floor space offered in a travel trailer really depends on its length and width. The biggest trailers offer adequate space; the smallest trailers may leave you just enough space to sleep.

Vehicle Cost

As you might expect, vehicle cost correlates to the size and weight of your chosen rig. But cost can also be influenced by amenities. You could spend more on a travel trailer with all the bells and whistles than you would on a stripped-down fifth wheel.

There are some expenses that are relatively equivalent regardless of the rig you buy. Take RV skirting, for example. Connecticut-based AirSkirts has designed a revolutionary inflatable skirting solution that works with virtually any RV. You pay just about the same price (per foot) regardless of the length and width of your RV.

Driving and Parking

This final difference is the deciding factor for some new RV owners. As strange as it may sound, larger fifth wheels are easier to both park and handle on the road because of their pivot point resting over the back of the pickup truck. The way a fifth wheel pivots makes turning, backing, and parking easier.

A travel trailer’s advantage is easier navigation on tight city streets and narrow country roads. Because travel trailers are generally not as wide, you can take them to more places.

So what do you think? Given the chance, would you prefer to buy a fifth wheel or a travel trailer? There is no right answer here. Whatever works for you is the best choice.