Full-time RV living: Should you buy a 5th wheel or a motorized RV?
Monday, October 19, 2015
For those starting out full-time RV living, there is an important decision that has to be made — choosing a fifth wheel RV or a motorized one. Now that does not mean you can't full-time in a travel trailer, because we have friends who do, but the majority seem to face the decision of buying either a fifth wheel RV or a motorized one.
My wife Pam and I have traveled more than 65,000 miles in RVs. We started renting RVs 14 years ago. Once we decided on what we wanted, based on our rental experiences, we purchased our full-time RV home in 2008 — a 2005 Freightliner Sportchassis and a 2006 Newmar Kountry Aire.
We have rented Class A gas and diesel RVs, we have rented and owned Class C gas RVs, and we owned a large fifth wheel RV for six and a half years. We logged many miles on that fifth wheel RV.
So, I feel comfortable being able to share my opinion on the pluses and minuses of each. Now this is my disclaimer: I realize everyone has his own opinion, wants and needs. Mine is based on our experiences and our changing needs.
As a matter of fact, Pam and I are heading to Arkansas for a month's worth of business meetings, the NRVIA National Conference and to teach an RV inspector advanced training class. As I write this article, Pam is driving the Class C motorized RV. We left Pennsylvania yesterday and are traveling through Tennessee on our way to Arkansas. I am in the co-pilot seat with my laptop, while Pam keeps us moving toward our destination.
So, given that fact, here is a major advantage of a motorized RV. While you are traveling, you have instant access to what you need: the refrigerator, the toilet, the TV, all while rolling down the road.
We have even switched drivers in heavy traffic so the driver could make a potty stop. We did similar things in our fifth wheel, it was just not as convenient. Since we are on the move all the time, we enjoy the convenience of the motorized RV. It's easy to park, easy to set up and easy to move.
We had the fifth wheel setup and departure routine pretty well orchestrated, but it was never as easy as it is with our current motorized RV. We have been in about 20 different locations this summer. Comparing that much moving around based on living in our previous fifth wheel and our current motorized RV, we find our current RV much more favorable for the full-time RV lifestyle.
We have been in situations while traveling in Class A RVs that involved boondocking in Walmart parking lots and casinos. After being parked for a few hours, there were times we got concerned about our safety. Because we were able to just turn on the motor and not have to get out of a trailer to get rolling, we were kept safe and able to get away from any potential danger.
Now, motorized RVs tend to be more expensive relative to a comparable fifth wheel RV. We have good friends who have a Redwood fifth wheel RV. They are beautiful inside and offer many amenities that are only found in motorized RVs that cost $250,000 and up.
Also, for folks who plan on having a full-time RV lifestyle that does not involve lots of moving around, or only moving a couple of times a year, the fifth wheel RV might fit that need better. They are like living in a small, one-bedroom condo.
Our 40-foot fifth wheel RV was roomy inside. Our three favorite features were that it had a spacious kitchen — allowing us to prepare meals as we would in our "sticks and bricks" home — a large shower and an apartment-size washer and dryer.
When towing a fifth wheel RV, I found I always had to plan ahead and be sure my route was able to accommodate the length and height of my RV. It was important to be sure my route did not include bridges with low clearance, narrow roads and tight areas where I might get into trouble. Its 13.5-foot height had to be considered. I especially had to pay attention to the RV parks at which I wanted to stay to be sure I would be able to navigate their premises.
Now, I have driven 40-foot Class A diesel RVs that I got in trouble with, but not as much as in my fifth wheel. I could always get the Class A RV into an RV site, but backing the fifth wheel could be a bit more of a challenge.
I have observed other fifth wheel RV owners struggle getting settled into their RV sites. We have watched fifth wheel owners damage their new RVs because they had no idea of how to handle the trailering aspect of owning that type of vehicle.
This really seems to be the big challenge and difference between a fifth wheel RV and a motorized one. The less you know about trailering and backing a long trailer, the more stress you will have when it comes to moving it from place to place.
We always suggest to new RV owners that renting an RV before moving forward and purchasing one is a good idea. That is how we started, and we found the experience helped us choose wisely based on our needs at that time.
Motorized RVs are easy to rent. You can also rent towable RVs. You may have to go to an independent dealership to get set up, but you can rent anything you want to try if you do some research.
Your needs and wants in a full-time RV home will be different than ours. The idea here is to investigate different people's opinions on this subject, rent what you can and weigh that information against how you will use the RV type you choose.
The goal is to purchase your full-time RV home and get it right the first time — no regrets. And how do you do that? Keep researching until the time is right and you can make an educated decision on your purchase.
Pam and I wish you all the best as you work towards being able to enjoy the full-time RV lifestyle!
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