The main difference between a fifth wheel and a motorhome is that a motorhome is a self-contained, self propelled motorized recreational vehicle, and a fifth wheel is towed by connecting to a hitch inside the bed of a truck. A motor home is usually more expensive and will require more miantinance.
Deciding on what kind of RV to purchase can be a difficult process. Even though you have endless options to choose from, you can expect to make tradeoffs in the process. This article will help you decide by covering the Pros and Cons of Fifth Wheel vs Motorhome.
Sometimes RV-ers are looking for a cozy interior, and other times, gas mileage and efficiency is the most important thing on their list of requirements. Finding the perfect RV is a process riddled with uncertainty. You won’t know what you’ve gotten into until you take it out for your first ever trip and then it may be too late to change your mind. That is why you need to do your research before you can make the purchase to avoid any complications later on.
Ultimately, though, it all comes down to preference. What matters most to you may not matter to other RV owners. Similarly, when you’re comparing two or more types, you need to realize that you are looking at it with a narrow perspective. That’s because you need to stick to your budget yet also manage to get your hands on the best RV for you.
One of the longest-running debates in the RV world is the debate of Motorhome vs. Fifth Wheel. What makes it worse is that there is enough support on either side to make you question your decisions over and over again.
But you shouldn’t worry! After you’ve made a list of things you are looking for in your vehicle, it can be a lot easier to make the final decision.
In this post, we are going to take an objective look through some of the pros and cons of owning either vehicle. Before we get started, you must remember that these may not apply to all the existing models out there. Some outliers may exist that majorly differ from what we have stated here.
Pros and Cons of Fifth Wheel vs Motorhome
As you know, a Fifth Wheel requires a tow vehicle to take it around to places, but you’ll be surprised to learn how much of a difference that can make in your RV-ing experience. Some of the benefits of owning this vehicle are listed down below:
⊕ More Living Space
A Fifth Wheel has a higher ceiling and strategic placement of windows and stairs to give it a more homey feeling. It is perfect for you if you have a tendency of getting homesick when you’re on the road for a long time. It looks more like an apartment then a Motorhome ever can.
Usually, things can be on different levels (bathroom or bedroom may be a couple of steps higher than the rest of the space) to make it appear a lot more spacious than it is.
⊕ No Engine
Arguably the best part about a Fifth Wheel is that you don’t have an engine to maintain or take for emission testing. This already means that you will be spending less fuel as compared to a Motorhome and you’d be getting a better gas mileage.
⊕ Cost Effective
Normally, when you’re buying a Fifth Wheel, you’ll realize you are paying less for more space. If you opt for a more luxurious model, you can expect it to cost in the ten-thousands. Even if there is an additional cost of the tow vehicle, the cost still happens to be way lower than what you’d pay for a Motorhome.
⊕ Easier to Replace
Because it takes a separate vehicle to operate it, you’ll find that if the engine gets damaged or another complication arises, you won’t be completely helpless. You’ll still have your trailer to live in as you get the issues resolved.
Moreover, if you need to replace your trailer, you can just use your tow vehicle to get help easily.
⊕ Easier to Run Errands
When you own an RV, you know you can’t just drive into town every chance you get. But you do need to make trips to the grocery store among other places. This is where your pickup truck can come in handy.
Even if you have connected your RV to the campsite, you won’t have to rely on your own two feet to get the job done.
A Fifth Wheel may seem like a great option right now for fulltime RVing, but you can still run into obstacles even with all these advantages.
⊗ Less Storage
One flaw of having a Fifth Wheel is that you will have less external storage capacity, if we are looking at the trailer alone. This means that there aren’t enough compartments where you can organize your utilities to make them easily accessible to you.
However, you can always use the space in your pickup truck to store away some of the necessities.
⊗ A Little Difficult to Drive
You’ll have to be really careful when you’re driving through massive curves. The trailer doesn’t always follow the same path as your pickup vehicle so you need to make sure you ease out slowly when you have to make abrupt turns.
It is advised, however, to steer clear of city streets whenever you can for the safest trip possible. If you try to go fast, you can expect the trailer to swing a lot more behind you. This not only puts your safety at risk but also of other vehicles on the road.
⊗ No Access to Trailer on the Road
If you decide to buy a Fifth Wheel, you need to be mindful of the fact that you won’t have access to your supplies while travelling. If you need to get something from the refrigerator or you have a bathroom emergency, you will have to pull over.
Also, if you are a passenger then sitting for hours in the same position can make your legs ache because you won’t have much room to stretch them out.
⊗ Cheaper Tires
Unless you spend more than 75 to 85 thousand dollars on a Fifth Wheel, you can expect to have tires of inferior quality on your trailer. When you’re doing the fulltime RV lifestyle, this is not a good sign.
The tires need to be robust to handle the load you’ll be carrying. You may end up replacing them to provide for a better travelling experience and to get through difficult bumps in the road.
There are three classes of Motorhomes available, but we will only be discussing class A as that can be compared to a fifth wheel in terms of size and capacity.
Motorhome class A is built to be driven. It doesn’t rely on a separate tow vehicle, because everything is in a single unit. This makes for an interesting traveling experience that has its ups and downs.
Before we get into why this might not be the perfect RV for your particular lifestyle, let’s enumerate some of its best features.
⊕ Great Storage
It only makes sense that with a larger build, you can expect a lot more storing capacity. You can use the space in the basement to store cargo and other supplies.
You can organize everything in a way that suits your needs. With this much space, you don’t have to worry about running low on anything.
⊕ Massive Windshield
The windshield has to be one of the best parts about owning a Motorhome. This gives you an amazing view to look at as you’re driving through town. A bigger windshield also allows you to have better command over the vehicle and spatial dimensions.
⊕ Robust Tires
Motorhome Class A excels at what an average Fifth Wheel fails to provide; robust tires. These tires usually have a really good commercial rating. They are reliable and built to withstand rough road conditions.
⊕ Better Drivability
Operating a Motorhome is comparatively easier, especially when you’re driving through unexpected bends and turns. It is almost like driving a truck.
The best part is that you always have access to your bathroom or your kitchen when you’re on the road. Not to mention, there is enough legroom that adds an element of ease.
⊕ Larger Holding Tanks
These include freshwater and wastewater tanks. Larger holding tanks are especially useful if you plan on going dry camping or ‘boondocking’. This gives you more freedom to decide on your resting locations. You can take your time through a scenic route because you simply can.
As you may have suspected, there are major downsides to owning a Motorhome as well.
One thing that can put the kibosh on your plans of buying a Motorhome is the hefty cost. You need to think about additional expenses like maintenance and insurance before you make the final deal. The total cost can go all the way up to a million dollars, if you don’t watch out.
Buying a used Motorhome can be a lot easier on your pockets, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it will deliver in terms of quality.
⊗ Need for a Towable Vehicle
Another drawback that you should consider is that you can’t take your RV out of the campsite just to run quick errands.
For such occasions, you may need to have a smaller towable vehicle on hand to go sight-seeing or grocery shopping. This means that you will have another engine to look after and maintain, and you can only imagine the cost of that on top of everything else.
⊗ Any Damage Means You’re Pretty Much Stranded
Having everything in the same unit isn’t always a great thing. If the engine gets damaged or you bust a tire, well…your RV will be out of commission until you get it resolved.
This is why it is necessary to have a separate towable car with you so that you can get yourself out of a tricky situation without difficulty.
⊗ Susceptible to Problems During Inactivity
If you plan on keeping your RV stored away for long periods of time, getting a Motorhome might not be for you. During inactivity, the engine can get corroded and your fuel system may get severely damaged.
Having an empty fuel tank or old fuel can be very detrimental for your vehicle. You need to keep it in regular usage because these tires are built for moving.
It is important to note that both Motorhome and Fifth Wheel depreciate with almost the same percentage over time. But, because the cost of a Motorhome is greater than the cost of your average Fifth Wheel, the loss here is way worse.
Now that we’ve gone over the Pros and Cons of Fifth Wheel vs Motorhome, you can take your time and decide which one will fit better within your lifestyle. It is perfectly normal to get confused because of the wide variety of options. All it takes is recognizing the deal-breakers and narrowing it down through the process of elimination.
Your lifestyle and your requirements can change over time, so you need to make sure that your RV will work for you no matter what happens down the line. And if you change your mind, you can always check out other amazing options.
Even if your choice of RV is not perfect, you can always make your own little adjustments to personalize it and make it feel more like home away from home.
To find some of the best RV gadgets to make your experience even better, check out our blog.