What is a 5th Wheel? - Talking Campers

What is a 5th Wheel?

Disclaimer: The content contained in this blog is for informational purposes only. Click here for our full disclaimer poilcy. Disclosure: This content may contain affiliate links, which means we may earn a small commission on items purchased through links. Thank you for your support! Click here for our full terms.

Ever wonder what is a fifth wheel? From advantages to disadvantages, here’s everything you need to know before deciding if a fifth wheel is right for your family.

5th wheel camper at a campsite

Fifth wheels and travel trailers are like siblings. They have a lot of similarities, but they also contain their own characteristics that make them unique to one another.

Of the two, Fifth wheels are definitely the big brother or sister. It’s like comparing Class A and Class C motorhomes. While both are nice, one comes with a higher standard length and has the ability to be decked out with some high-end features.

Fifth wheels have a length of 24 to 42 feet, but the most popular sizes range from 32 to 36 feet. You won’t find a shortage of sleeping space in one more often than not. They can sleep 4-10 people, depending on their length. You can find some smaller or more basic units starting around $20,000, but they will average around $35,000.

Advantages

There’s one word that easily sums up that which is a fifth wheel – Impressive. 

Space

Space is one of the most attractive features of a fifth wheel. When you walk in, it just gives you that ‘Oh, wow’ factor. You will find slides galore here that will extend to give you a ton of living space.

The high ceilings provide the entire interior with an open concept feel. They also give more space for options such as lofts for people to relax and ultimately more storage, among other things.

Speaking of storage, you won’t find more storage in any motorhome or towable. Not only indoors, but outdoors as well. There is a large underbelly compartment at the front of each fifth wheel that passes through the entire underside of the unit. 

Comfort

With more space comes more options. There are more opportunities to install things such as a full-size refrigerator, an island, a large seating area, or a washer and dryer.

These options and space give the fifth wheel a homelike quality that doesn’t come as easily to other types of RVs.

Outdoor kitchens are a nice exterior feature that comes with a good number of fifth wheels. You can be outside, grilling burgers and drinking a cool beverage from your mini-fridge, all while watching the game on the TV that’s stowed right next to it.

I mean, does it get much better than that?

Value

There are many things to like about a fifth wheel, and one thing that can sometimes get missed is the value that is found in it.

When you start adding so many nice options, you would expect the price to skyrocket as well, but they actually increase at a lower rate than that of a motorhome, even considering the fact that you have to provide your own tow vehicle.

A towable rig has it’s advantages. You’re able to make a trip to the grocery store without having to pack everything up. You’re able to leave the fifth wheel at the campground and even take a day trip to an attraction in the area with no worries. 

5th wheel camper at a campsite

Towing

While it can be daunting, towing the fifth wheel is by far easier than towing a travel trailer.

It attaches to a hitch in the bed of your truck with the nose sitting over the bed. This provides you with less length behind you which makes it easier to maneuver. It also provides you with better angles when maneuvering. 

Disadvantages

While fifth wheels have many options that make are attractive, there are downsides that can make ownership more challenging. 

Cost

While fifth wheels are a great value and don’t cost quite as much as motorhomes, they do start at an overall higher price point than that of travel trailers. Cash is king to quite a few people, so this is one reason that I believe travel trailers are more common than fifth wheels.

Storing them can also be more difficult because they are generally longer which would require a longer space and would result in higher monthly expenses. 

Towing

Towing is actually on here as both an advantage and a disadvantage.

Hands down, towing is going to be easier, but you may not have the right equipment. That could cause you a major problem.

Unless you have a truck, you aren’t going to be able to tow a fifth wheel. Even if you do have a truck, is it rated for the weight of the one you’re looking to purchase?

Trucks have a rating for the overall weight, payload, and weights for each axle. These can be overlooked when looking to make your purchase. Fifth wheels are naturally heavier than travel trailers as well due to the extra materials used to make it taller.

Hooking it up will require a hitch to be installed in your truck bed, so if you don’t have one, that’s another expense.

Getting used to backing up and attaching the fifth wheel to an in-bed hitch can be difficult. It will require practice to really master. Take it from the guy that forgot to put his tailgate down after unhooking from the hitch a time or two.

There is definitely a learning curve with fifth wheels.

Size

Since fifth wheels have a higher profile than other towables, you will have to be wary of how tall it is when navigating. If you’re traveling a route that you haven’t been on before, there may be areas with a low overhead clearance for which you will need to be on the lookout.

As large as it may be, one downside is that you aren’t able to access any of that space while traveling. You better hope that you didn’t accidentally pack something that you needed for your road trip in the fifth wheel. 

5th wheel camper at a campsite

Lengthy Setup

As with travel trailers, it can take time to get set up at your campsite. Not all campsites allow you to pull your Fifth Wheel straight through which will then require you to back it in.

If the campsite isn’t level, then you will have to get out the leveling blocks and back up and pull forward enough times to adjust them to become level.

It can be hit or miss as to whether your fifth wheel has an auto-leveling system to make it easier to level, but it is definitely a nice feature to save some time. 

TL;DR Bottom Line

Fifth wheels have the most potential to feel like you’re taking home with you on the road. You will need a bigger truck to allow towing to be as easy as possible unless your model is lightweight. If you want the big mamma jamma feel of a Class A without the price tag, fifth wheels are for you.

Did we pick it?

Did pick it. When you look at all of the features that come with a fifth wheel, it allowed us to get the features that we desired without having to spend the typical money that comes with a Class A or Class C motorhome.

I already owned my truck outright, so it made the monetary benefits worthwhile. I was hesitant about learning how to tow the fifth wheel using a hitch, but I had my father-in-law there to guide me in my journey.

I also knew that once I got it down, towing it would be much easier in the long run than hauling a travel trailer. We also found the perfect floor plan for our family which is another important factor in choosing which is best for you.