What’s the Best RV for Full-Time RVing?
All RVers have their own opinion about the best kind of RV for full-time RVing. As a towable owner, I’ve discovered that full-time RVing in a fifth wheel has pros and cons of its own. Yet after fourteen years of traveling, living, and working in a fifth wheel, I’m still in love with this RV type. Here’s why.
My Pros of full-time RVing in a fifth wheel
As you’ll see below, I have a hard time coming up with the cons of full-time RVing in a fifth wheel. But when it comes to the pros, my list is long. After owning two fifth wheels by the same manufacturer, here’s what I love the most about full-time RVing in a fifth wheel.
Towable RVs cost less to own.
With only one vehicle engine to maintain, the cost of full-time RVing in a fifth wheel is lower than motorized RVs. The cost of ownership for our Dodge RAM 2500 that pulls our Arctic Fox fifth wheel is in line with NADA Guides and far exceeds trailer maintenance costs. But those costs still can’t compare to the much higher expense of full-time RVing in a motorhome and tow vehicle. Our fifth wheel trailer insurance and registration also costs less than a motorized RV policy.
If your engine needs work, your home stays in the RV park.
When you live on the road, a vehicle repair can upend your plans and generate unwanted stress. But on those rare occasions when our Dodge RAM needs to visit a diesel repair shop, we are grateful that our home can stay put. Sure, there’s the hassle of getting to and from the shop without a second vehicle, but we always find a way to make it happen. From shop courtesy vehicles to ride shares to our bicycles, getting around hasn’t been a huge full-time RVing hassle.
Fifth wheels have more interior living space.
Take away the driving cockpit and steering wheel of a motorized RV and you’ve got the closest thing to living in a sticks-and-bricks house. Step inside and you’ll see very little features reminiscent of a rolling home. I feel that the increased interior living space in fifth wheel interiors leaves more room for features like kitchen islands, propane fireplaces, and larger bedrooms.
As a bonus during summer, fifth wheel occupants aren’t subjected to the hot greenhouse effect created by motorhome windshields. And while my fifth wheel doesn’t have a ton of basement storage space, the largest models also have basements that rival compartments found in large motorhomes.
My cons of full-time RVing in a fifth wheel
Honestly, I can’t think of too many obvious downsides of living in a fifth wheel trailer. I had to dig deep to find things I don’t like about a towable home, such as:
You’ll need an expensive, heavy duty truck to pull it.
A handful of ultralight fifth wheel trailers can be towed by a capable half-ton truck, but the majority of fifth wheel models need heavy duty trucks weighing ¾ ton or more to safely pull them. Unfortunately, whether you buy a new or used Dodge, Chevy, or Ford, heavy duty trucks are the most expensive on the market.
As a consequence of fifth wheel truck requirements, the chicken-and-egg scenario often occurs when people want to purchase a fifth wheel trailer. Do you buy the truck first? Or the fifth wheel? Can you even afford both? In our case, we purchased our used Dodge RAM 2500 first, then found a fifth wheel it could tow without exceeding the gross vehicle weight ratio (GVWR). We love our truck, but the downside of buying this size is that now we cannot purchase a bigger, heavier fifth wheel trailer without upgrading our truck too.
Fifth wheels don’t feel as solid as a motorhome.
On rare occasions I get motorhome envy. It usually occurs when hanging out inside a friend’s motorhome. As people walk around inside, I immediately notice that the motorhome doesn’t feel bouncy when occupants are moving around. Aside from the heaviest, largest fifth wheel trailers I’ve been inside, the lack of four wheels on the ground makes fifth wheels more prone to shaking and rocking from occupants and threatening high winds.
Fifth wheels depreciate faster than all RVs.
I’ll be honest. We didn’t even consider the depreciation factor when we purchased our first or second trailer. It was enough for us to go with hearsay that Northwood Manufacturing towables hold their resale value better than most. Only this year when researching the most surprising RV costs for this publication, did I discover that fifth wheels have the fastest depreciation rate of all RVs!
“The larger the camper, the more quickly it depreciates,” according to the experts at the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA). In their helpful article “How Much Do Campers Depreciate,” they give a rundown of the truth about RV depreciation.
For instance, did you know that RV class type is one of the biggest factors that influence how much money you will lose on your RV? “On average, fifth-wheels have the most rapid depreciation, followed closely by Class A and Class B vehicles,” they explain.
- Class A RVs drop the fastest. RV coaches sink 30% in value over three years.
- Class C RVs depreciate a little more slowly. Motorhome values drop about 38% over five years.
- Travel trailers hold a better value. Trailer depreciation is roughly 40% over five years.
- Fifth wheels tank the fastest. They shed 45% in value over five years.
If you are just testing the waters of full-time RVing, there may come a time when you’re ready to sell your RV. Whether your ideal full-time RVing vehicle is a fifth wheel, bumper-pull trailer, motorhome or van, putting some thought into your future RV’s resale value is a smart move before you buy.
Everyone’s “best RV” is different
Through the years, many people have asked me “What is the best RV for full-time RVing?” After all this time, I still don’t have an answer. But what I can tell them is this: full-time RVing in a fifth wheel pros and cons are many.
However, a fifth wheel is still the best RV for my full-time RVing lifestyle. Everyone else needs to discover the answer on their own. The only way to find out is to take a leap of faith and just do it!
Read more about the pros and cons of towing fifth wheels in this Do It Yourself RV article.
Rene Agredano and her husband, Jim Nelson, became full-time RVers in 2007 and have been touring the country ever since. In her blog, Rene chronicles the ins and outs of the full-timing life and brings readers along to meet the fascinating people and amazing places they visit on the road. Her road trip adventures are chronicled in her blog at LiveWorkDream.com.
Rene– Concerning your comment/article on Pros and Cons of a fifth wheel:
. 1. Heavy Duty truck to pull it– Yup if you don’t have that heavy duty truck you’re not going to be able to pull a fiver unless it is a VERY light and small one. Cost of truck and fiver not compared to cost of a Class A and the “toad”.
2. Fiver not as solid– Of course it isn’t because the frame is lighter, the wheels are in the rear half of the unit and you are on two legs and not wheels on the front of the unit. You CAN add stabilizers to a fiver to make it more stable and they are a whole lot cheaper to put on than the tires on a Class A.
3. Depreciation: Your examples make no sense. Class A= 30% in three years which equals 10% a year
Class C= 38% in 5 years which equals 7.6% a year
Tow Trailer= 40% in 5 years equals 8% a year
Fifth wheel= 45% in 5 years equals 9% a year
Lets compare apples to apples here: in 5 years a Class A would depreciate 50% if it stays at 10% a year. So where is there a comparison here. In fact, I would estimate a Class A would depreciate even more than the 10% a year.
Let’s do some comparison on fuel mileage. A Class A will average about 5-7 miles per gallon and that is a HIGH estimate where if towing a fiver with a diesel tow vehicle the average miles per gallon is normally 10-12 and the lowest average is around 8 mpg. When you fill a Class A you are filling at least a 100 gallon tank where with a fifth wheel the average tow vehicle is about 35-38 gallon tank but a lot of folks have added a supplement tank to bring it up to 60-80 gallons. That is a substantial savings on diesel fuel alone not counting when you have an oil change on the Class A it is nearly 3-4 times the cost of one on a diesel heavy duty truck. Maintenance costs comparison is not even close to comparison between the Class A and the tow vehicle towing the fiver.
This is why we along with a whole lot of others a in fifth wheels rather than Class A motorhomes.
Cyndii Spahl says
Thank you for an excellent article. I found it very helpful – and mirrors my perspective from all the reading/research I’ve been doing prior to actually commiting to the Full Time RV Lifestyle. I also think a comparative analysis – interviewing full-timers who luve in the various types of RVs – to compare the pros & cons across the board would be an equally interesting, helpful article. We’ve already decided on a 5th wheel and are in the process of selling the house and ridding ourselves of a lifetime of “stuff!” We’re excited about taking this lufe-changing step and SO appreciate the sage advice of those like yourself who have gone before and are willing to share their experience/expertise with the “newbies!!!” Thank you, again, for a very good article.
I don’t agree with your mpg estimates. Mostly depends on your combined vehicle aero dynamics, weight, and speed. With my 3500 single cab ram dually pulling my 14,000 pound, loaded, 5th wheel, I get between 4 and 6 mpg, depending on grade, pulling at 80mpg. My ram, without trailer, gets about 16mpg at 80mpg.
Joey Smith says
I like owning an F-450 that comes along with the decision to own a 5th wheel. We often take longer trips away from the RV and a large stable vehicle with great visibility is my preference. I use the bed pretty often as well and I can also pull uhauls of any size, car haulers, boat trailers when need arises.
Ray Scrafield says
My wife and I full-timed in a 36 foot Hitchhiker for 3 years. We pulled it with a 1 ton CC Dually Chevy Duramax/Allison. Four slides made it a very comfortable home once we parked each day. We now have a 37 foot motor home and it can’t compare to the 5er. If we have it to do over again, we’d go back to what we had and hit the road but we are now too old. SAD!
Larry Hansen says
Please understand. My wife and I did full time in both. There is a reason they call them “Travel Trailers” point made and “Motorhomes” point made. You can live in a trailer or live in a home.
then my 5er must be a very expense classic as it was first sold in 2001. 19 and 1/2 years old and looks like it just came off the dealers lot. one owner, non smoker.
i never buy to “resale” i get my moneys worth through usage. and there are ways to stop the wiggle in a 5er.
only con i know of, but goes for all rvs no mater what it is. and that is parking. need a side yard, long wide driveway, or pay to park in some lot… and pray that it is not stolen, or vandlised.
i do not do facebook. i want to keep my life out of corporate hands.
Jim Sprague says
If you are looking to buy a rv of any type do not buy any made from Thor industries they build junk and will not stand behind their products take it from a full timer save yourself alot of grief look elsewhere
john simpson says
You can get your RAM fixed anywhere!
Ted Miller says
So what about the blue tote hassles if you use the campground dump station. Much easier to disconnect, slides in legs up and drive to the dump…..back to the site, hook up, legs down, slides out. And there’s a lot more storage in the basement areas (my wife couldn’t reach the higher cabinet shelves in the 5er)
While we are not full-timers, we spend 3, 4, and 5 months at a time in our 5’ver. And the Arthur left out a few perks of a 5’ver over a motorhome. 1 you can turn a 40 ft 5th wheel around on a 35 ft. wide residential street with a crew cab long bed truck. 2 Towing a 5’ver, you get better gas mileage than with a large motorhome. 3 You can fit into more campgrounds than a large motorhome because the turning radius far exceeds the motorhome. 4 you don’t need a tow car to get around in.
Kyle Vanwinkle says
Modern fifth wheels using either electric or hydraulic leveling systems are very solid and resistant to camper shake.
As well as being wind resistant.
My 42ft Jayco eagle 355mbqs weighs in at 14995 gvwr and has held up to 80-90mph hurricane winds. Granted you want to take certain steps like filling the fresh water tanks and even closing the other tank if you know weather to coming a few days ahead. This extra weight at the bottom of the trailer lowers the center of gravity and makes the trailer harder to flip. Bring in the slides for anything above 50mph. I really only do this to prevent slide lift and shift on the tracks. Otherwise the expanded width would make it harder to flip especially if you bring in the slide on the side not receiving wind.
Another tip for making the camper more stabile day to day is to crib up the jacks pretty much as high as possible with a fairly large footprint block. This takes alot of the jacks tolerances out of the equation for the more solid foot print.
Tony R.. says
Hi, we are new to rving it is our third year ,we bought a class c rv and we try to enjoy every minute of traveling, going to as many places we can, I think we should not worry to much about the cost or size if we already bought it and can afford to keep it. Just enjoy it. Any rv is an adventure…
Robert Stafford says
So did I make a mistake in buying the 2500 and not the 3500? I currently pull a 32 foot towable and am looking to upgrade to a 5er for 6 month living/traveling during the summer months.
John Boy says
First we don’t full-time we go out about 4-6 weeks per year after our retirement (EOY 2020) we’ll up that time to around 6-10 weeks.
We had a 5th wheel for 7 years and loved every bit of our Sundance from Heartland.
We then decided to sell the 3500 Chevy Silverado Dully and the 5th wheel for a 2017 Jayco Seneca 37TS Super C. We don’t regret it one bit. Easier to setup, nothing to detach, push a button to level and 3 other to open each slide. Don’t have to pull of the road for a Bio brake unless the person needed the Bio break is the driver. My wife and I share the driving.
Now as Rene stated there are pros and Cons to both types. I have to pull a toad. I used a card dolly which I will not do anymore and will have to get my 2021 AWD trailblazer setup for flat towing next year.
But, BUT my wife and I did say if we decided to go full-timing it would be in a 5th wheel for the 1 major reason of maintenance. Simple maintenance, (oil change) Say good bye to you home right!!! That is the big, BIG reason for a 5th wheel. Also I can buy a 2500 vs a 3500 (GM of course) because I would buy the SafetyHitch https://www.safetytowingsystems.com/. I wish I knew about this before I purchase the 2008 Dully Silverado. Plus its very hard to find a motor home with ceiling fans in the main living area and bedroom. For maintenance on the 5th wheel, there are many mobile RV companies available. In fact I had a few issues with my Sundance all fixed by mobile RV company.
My 40 ft Heartland Bighorn is our 6th RV and 3rd 5th wheel (had 3 travel trailers). I have a Ford F350 dually, diesel, long box, crew cab. I could never overemphasis my mental and physical comfort in having dual rear wheels. Totally stable as is my auto levelling system. My gross weight is 25, 200 lbs and if in the unlikely chance I want to go to the beach I’ll take my truck and leave the RV. Yes, there are certain spots I can’t get into but there are other places I can go with my 4X4 truck that a Class A, B or C won’t be going and that’s more important to me. 4X4 to me is not optional. Without locking it in I’ve even been stuck on wet grass.
Eric Wuolle says
The length of the fifth wheel is not as important a factor as the Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVRW) of the trailer. We have owned a 39′ fifth wheel that weighed the same as our current 34′ fifth wheel. The weight difference is related to the quality of the two rigs. For us, purchasing a one ton diesel pick up enabled us to change fifth wheel trailers without changing trucks. If you can manage it, I recommend you change up to at least a one ton tow vehicle, even higher if you can. Having the right towing capacity is not only peace of mind, but ultimately will pay off in vehicle lifespan and repair costs, and flexibility in towable models and brands.
Les A says
5th wheel – a good way to go. Keep it simple. No pull-outs and keep it to short – 25′ to 30′ is lots of room for 2x folks. My issues with all of rv’s is these things built without any insulation and total lack of good economical heating. The ‘propane heaters’ are an expensive joke. Use something like Webasto or Espar diesel heat – 100% reliable and real heat in the coldest night.. TRAVEL WELL and stay out of jail.
There are many 5th wheels that can safely and “legally” be pulled with a 3/4 ton (250/2500) truck. But I would and do tell anyone that if you are buying a truck to pull a 5th wheel, if possible buy a 1 ton truck (350/3500). You will not spend that much more and you have much more capability for a bigger range of 5th wheels. Safe camping
Forty feet and four slides, it’s just the right size for my wife and I. We are comfortable and it’s easy to pull. Sure there are places we can’t go with the size, but there’s places you can’t go no matter how small you get…even a slide in camper has limitations.
While a 5W might depreciate more percentage-wise, it also costs far less. 30% of $250k is $75,000 in depreciation for a Class A. 45% of a $150k 5W is $67,500. Factor in financing costs and/or invest the money you *didn’t* spend on a Class A, and a 5W saves even more. A couple of other points: 1) Trucks are far more regulated (air bags, for example) and considered safer in an accident. 2) I can park my 5W and easily refuel wherever I like without paying truck stop prices.
Roberta Besemer says
We are selling our house and purchasing a Class A Motor Home I think one point that should be mentioned here is there are alot of really nice RV parks that only allow Class A Motor Homes (Outdoor Resorts). Also if you are traveling with animals you can let them stay inside your coach with you instead of stuffing them in a truck (especially cats). If you schedule your oil changes by appt. You can usually wait for them at the service center or take your tow vehicle (electric) and go do some shopping!!! I also really like being able to use the bathroom without having to find a rest stop and grabbing a snack!!!