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Travel Trailer vs Fifth Wheel: Comparison Guide

For those seeking adventure and fun, travel trailers and fifth wheels are becoming popular. These RV types each fit the needs of a certain individual or family, so it can be difficult to decide which is best. When wondering whether you need a travel trailer vs Fifth wheel, it is important to take a look at the differences and similarities between the two. We’ll discuss the main differences between the travel trailer vs fifth wheel, the ideal person each model is designed for and what they have in common. Then, it will be much easier for you to make the decision that will work best for you. travel trailer vs fifth wheel

Travel Trailer vs Fifth Wheel: Features

Wikipedia says that a travel trailer is also called a camper trailer or caravan. It is a trailer that is towed behind a vehicle and provides a more comfortable place to sleep than a tent. They also state that a fifth-wheel is another kind of trailer that gets supported by the hitch in the pickup truck bed instead of on the bumper of a vehicle. Let’s start by looking at each feature that makes up these two vehicles. We can look at the travel trailer vs fifth wheel head to head.

Hitch & Towing Capability

A travel trailer attaches to the rear of your vehicle on the bumper. You purchase a conventional ball hitch system and attach it securely. A fifth wheel attaches to the bed of your truck through a specially designed hitch. You’ll find it to be less complicated to hitch a fifth wheel than a travel trailer. In towing comparison, most people feel that fifth wheels are easier to tow. They seem to offer more control than having a travel trailer attached to the back of the vehicle by a hitch.

Size and Weight

A travel trailer is usually smaller and lighter in weight than a fifth wheel. This makes it easier to maneuver. Keep in mind that you can customize many travel trailers and fifth wheels to be the sizes that you need so there are smaller or larger sizes of both available.

Floor Levels

Inside a fifth wheel, you will often find spacious living areas. Generally, most units feature a bedroom above the hitch that is attached to the truck bed. There will be some stairs in these units and they maximize all of the space. Travel trailers, on the other hand, are going to be on one level and offer less space overall.

Length

While both units are available in multiple sizes, it is important to note that a good portion of the fifth wheel is over the hitch. This means that you aren’t towing all the trailer behind you, but some on top of the truck bed as well.

Roof Height

Travel trailers offer less vertical height than a fifth wheel does. Because the fifth wheel hitch is higher, they are taller than most travel trailers. This can lead to a spacious, more comfortable living space. When traveling in areas with low clearances, a travel trailer is going to be a better option. Many travel trailers are 9-foot or less making it easy to get into tight spaces.

Backing Up

The fact that a travel trailer hitches at the bumper means that it is easier to back up with. Considering that a fifth wheel attaches directly to the truck bed, it isn’t that backing up is difficult, just different. Many users say that there is an adjustment period learning how to back up the fifth wheel with ease.

Storage Room

Overall, you’ll find much more storage space inside of a fifth wheel. That’s due to the two-level design as compared to a travel trailer’s one-layer. You’ll also find that fifth wheels normally offer larger tank sizes when compared to a travel trailer. Many fifth wheel models offer the area underneath the bedroom as storage space as well, whereas the travel trailer contains small storage compartments on the outside of the unit.

Price

It wouldn’t be a true comparison between the travel trailer vs fifth wheel if we didn’t look at the price points. Most often, travel trailers cost less than a fifth wheel. Certainly, you could save money on either option by looking at used models versus a new model. Looking at prices on used units will lower the price significantly on both the travel trailer and a fifth wheel.

Fuel Economy

A travel trailer is going to offer better fuel economy with your vehicle. That’s because the travel trailer features a lower profile than a fifth wheel. In general, you can expect about a 2 to 3 mpg better fuel economy. You can do even better with the fuel economy by using a smaller vehicle than a full-size truck. travel trailer vs fifth wheel

Travel Trailer vs Fifth Wheel: Pros & Cons

To make it even easier for you decide travel trailer vs fifth wheel, let’s take a closer look at the pros and cons of each unit.

Travel Trailer Pros

  • These units are affordable and fit in the budget of most people.
  • They can be towed even when you don’t own a truck.
  • The roof is lower meaning there are fewer height restrictions to worry about.
  • Traveling is easy due to the smaller size.
  • Storage can be placed in the truck bed.
  • Travel trailers are a great option when dry camping.
  • Expect better fuel economy.
  • They are easy to back in with the simple movability.

Travel Trailer Cons

  • They tend to be smaller in size.
  • There is less storage capability.
  • Generally, they feature lower ceiling spaces.
  • Longer trailers are going to sway easily.

Fifth Wheel Pros

  • Larger families will enjoy the spacious floorplan and additional living space.
  • You can enjoy a split bedroom style sometimes even offering multiple doors.
  • Taller people will fit easier with the additional headspace and soaring ceiling heights.
  • While driving there is an additional steadiness and even towing.
  • They are easy to hook up.
  • There is more storage available within the unit.

Fifth Wheel Cons

  • They are larger than a travel trailer (which can be a pro depending what your needs are).
  • The weight is heavier.
  • They could present clearance issues due to the additional height.
  • It is more expensive to own a fifth wheel than a travel trailer.
  • They are often harder to back up until you are used to the movement.
  • You will pay more for

Considerations to Think About When Making a Decision

Before deciding whether you want a travel trailer vs fifth wheel, you should keep some things in mind. Ask yourself these questions to find the right unit for your needs.

What Type of Camping or Travel Will I Do?

If you will only be using the camper for short periods of time, then space might not be an issue for you. For those who are considering traveling full-time or on a regular basis, a fifth wheel might offer the additional space you need to be comfortable.

How Much Will I Be Traveling With?

Not only do you need to consider how many people will be staying in the trailer, you should also think about how much stuff will be with you as well. Then, you’ll know how much storage space and indoor living space you will need.

How Much Maintenance Do I Want?

A general rule of thumb is the larger the RV, the more that could go wrong. If you aren’t handy with things, you will either want to get a smaller RV or be prepared to hire someone to do the work.

What am I Towing With?

A large factor in which to choose is what you will be towing with. The vehicle must have a trailer hitch to tow a travel trailer and you need a pickup truck to tow a fifth wheel. You also need to consider the tow capacity ratings of your vehicle. You can find this information online or contact your dealer. This is going to be a determining factor in what size trailer or fifth wheel you can handle.

Where Will I Park it?

If you are planning to purchase a large fifth wheel, you need to consider where you will park it when it isn’t in use. Do you have room at the house for it or will you need to pay a monthly fee at a storage facility?

What is My Budget?

Price is an important thing to consider when purchasing your next trailer or fifth wheel. Obviously, the fifth wheel is going to be more expensive if purchased new. If you need to keep the cost down, consider looking at some used options instead. Many dealers have used models available from people who traded in for new.

Conclusion

The decision between travel trailer vs fifth wheel is personal. No one can tell you the right choice for you and your needs. It is something that you will have to weigh the options of and determine what is important to you. Thankfully, there are many styles and sizes of both travel trailers and fifth wheels on the market. That makes it easier to make a choice that will work for you.

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