Fifth wheels and class As are both fantastic RVs. This makes it difficult to choose between the two of them.
For some people, a class A might be better for them and for others a fifth wheel camper might be better for them. I’ll talk about the latter on this post and will share insights into the former in another post.
In this post, I’ll give you 20 reasons to choose a fifth wheel over a class A motorhome. When you finish reading, you’ll have a much clearer idea of which RV type is best for you.
More Space Inside
Fifth wheels generally offer more space than a class A motorhome does.
The reason for this is that the front of a fifth wheel isn’t taken up by the driver’s seat, passenger seat, and engine. An RVer can easily lose 40 to 50 square feet just in this area alone.
Additionally, a fifth wheel usually has more space from floor to ceiling. This gives the RVer more opportunities for overhead shelves. While you won’t gain square footage this way, you will gain cubic feet which can be equally important.
The storage space in a fifth wheel is usually larger as well. Oftentimes this storage area is all in one area rather than spread out through the “basement” of the RV. This is nice because you can place larger items in the space.
To put it into perspective, a bedroom in a house only has to be 110 square feet. This means that you lose half of a bedroom just from the cab.
In an RV, however, you lose even more functional space. For instance, a set of bunk beds may only take up 21 square feet. Take away the cab and add a room with two bunk beds and you gain the ability to sleep, 4 additional people!
Large Truck Are Popular
To tow a large fifth wheel, you’ll need a large truck. Conversely, when driving a class A motorhome, you probably won’t be able to tow a large truck behind it.
Owning a large truck comes with many benefits. You can use the truck to tow other items like toy haulers, boats, and cars. You can also use your large truck transport heavy and bulky items in the pickup bed.
Yes, it is true that you can load large items into some class A motorhomes but what about the items you don’t want in your home. What about when you’re trying to transport 200 pounds worth of fertilizer? Would you really want to put a bunch of fertilizer inside your beautiful class A motorhome? With a truck, you can just throw it in the back of the pickup.
Your large pickup truck can even help you do maintenance on your RV. You can use your truck to pick up new appliances, new fixtures, and even painting and roofing materials. Just bring your truck to your local home improvement store and bring everything you need back to the site your fifth wheel sits in.
Large trucks can also be used for work. A plow or recovery hooks can be added to the front of the truck or a flatbed could be added to the back. On the flip side, you can’t do too many equipments intense jobs from the back of a class A motorhome.
A big truck can even be used to tow other people’s campers and boats. This offers yet another business opportunity to the entrepreneurial RVer.
Separate Home On Wheels
Another benefit of owning a fifth wheel over a class A motorhome is the fact that you have a separate home to live in. This has psychological benefits, like not seeing your steering wheel from your living room, as well as practical benefits.
For example, you can drop your fifth wheel off at camp and still have a vehicle to use. This is especially useful when you’re camping with multiple people. For example, you can leave some people at camp while others go off to explore the surrounding areas. You can’t do this with a motorhome unless you tow a vehicle behind it.
Additionally, you won’t have to worry as much about your home breaking down on the road. If your truck ends up breaking down, you can have your home towed to a nearby campsite where you can wait until your truck is repaired at a nearby mechanic’s shop. Break down in a motorhome and you may end up living in the parking lot of a mechanic’s shop while you wait for your motorhome to be repaired.
Fifth Wheels Need Less Maintenance
Speaking of repairs, fifth wheels are easier to maintain than class A motorhomes.
These RVs do not have motors so you don’t have nearly as many components to worry about as you do with a class A.
Sure, you have to maintain the truck, but the truck is going to be easier to work on and most local mechanics will be able to do it. When you want to get your class A worked on, you’ll probably end up having to go to a specialized shop. This will increase the cost of maintenance and will make it harder to find a mechanic in many areas of the country.
If you break down, it will also be harder to get your class A towed away. Any tow truck can pick up your truck but you’ll need a special one to tow a large class A.
Yes, you may have to get your fifth wheel towed away too, but not always. Break down at camp and you won’t have to get your fifth wheel towed anywhere. Even if you do break down while out on the road or in a parking lot, you may be able to leave your fifth wheel in place until your truck is repaired enough to come back and get it.
Fifth Wheels Are Less Expensive Than A Class A
A fifth wheel costs less per square foot than a class A does.
This means you can get a lot more space for less money just by choosing the fifth wheel over a class A motorhome.
Here are some examples that demonstrate this:
|Class A||Length||Square Feet||Price||Price per Sq.Ft.|
|2019 Winnebago Sightseer 36Z||38 feet||323||$149,885||$464|
|2018 Jayco Precept 29V Full Wall Slide, King Bed Master Suite||32 feet||272||$106,999||$393|
|2018 Newmar CANYON STAR Canyon Star 3716||38 feet||323||$159,995||$495|
|Fifth Wheel Camper|
|2019 Forest River Sandpiper 377FLIK||40||340||$54,999||$161|
|2019 Forest River Salem Hemisphere Lite 28BHHL Double Bunks||34||289||$26,900||$93|
|2019 Keystone Rv Alpine 3801FK||41||348.5||$59,999||$172|
As you can see, the total price, as well as the price per square foot, is dramatically less expensive on a fifth wheel camper. This being said, a fifth wheel camper does require an expensive tow vehicle to pull it. A brand new pickup truck capable of pulling a camper of this size could easily cost well over $50,000.00.
If you already have a large truck, this isn’t a big deal since it wouldn’t be an added cost. However, if you have to buy a new truck, you may find that the class A motorhome ends up being less expensive in the long run.
Of course, even RVers with class As often have to buy separate vehicles as well. A towable car will cost money and you’ll also have to buy specialized equipment to tow it as well. Depending on what type of car you have, you may find that you end up having to buy another trailer just to tow the vehicle on.
Insurance May be Optional
Insurance on a motorhome is mandatory. Fail to get insurance on your motorhome and you could face time in prison. This is true regardless of whether or not you own the motorhome outright or not.
With a camper, you don’t necessarily have to get insurance on it. People who finance their campers will usually need to get insurance on the camper as their finance company will make them do so. However, if you own the camper or you bought it on a credit card or with an unsecured loan, you don’t have to worry about getting insurance on it.
Motorhome insurance can end up costing you an extra $1,000.00 a year. Multiply this out over the lifetime of the RV and you may end up spending an additional $10,000.00 to $15,000.00 on insurance premiums.
Check our extensive guide to RV insurance here.
More Storage Options Available
With a fifth wheel camper, you have many different places to store your belongings.
You can store them in the truck, in the truck bed, inside the fifth wheel camper and in the outdoor storage area of the fifth wheel camper.
Additionally, the outdoor storage area of a fifth wheel tends to be concentrated in one place. This makes the area larger, meaning you can store larger items within this area.
With a class A motorhome, the storage compartments are usually located throughout the bottom of the motorhome. While you may get more of these areas, they won’t be as large.
Also, you don’t have the truck to store anything so everything you bring will have to go inside of the motorhome.
One feature that many class A owners like to point out is that they can access their fridge while driving on the road. Their food and drinks are stored in the motorhome. However, a fifth wheel owner can store food in their fifth wheel as well as a cooler inside of their car.
This means they can grab a drink on the road without having to open their camper’s fridge.
More Floor Plan Options
A class A motorhome always has the same layout in front of it. What I mean by this is that the driver’s area will always be at the front of the motorhome and every floor plan has to work around this particular type of layout. Fifth wheel campers don’t have this problem.
Fifth wheel campers can place bedrooms, living rooms, and even bathrooms at the front of the camper. This gives them the ability to place the dining or living room area at the back where the views are often best.
Additionally, a fifth wheel does not have to worry about having slides that take up the entire inside area of the camper while not in use.
This means the slides can be longer which gives you the ability to have layouts centrally focused. For example, you could put in an island kitchen or even a bathroom right in the center of the camper with room to walk around it when the slides are out.
This is nice because different people in different bedrooms can access the bathroom without having to walk past each other’s rooms. Achieving this in a motorhome is often impossible without adding in additional bathrooms.
You’ll find many different companies that offer a wide variety of unique floor plans within each model. Grand Design offers fifth wheels with bedrooms in the front with horizontal and vertical bed layouts. It also offers floor plans with kitchens in the back and kitchens in the center. Some of their floor plans offer lounges up front and others even offer massive walk-in closets and master bathrooms up front.
Fifth Wheels Are Easy To Climb Into
Climbing into the cab of a large pickup truck can be difficult, but it can be even harder in a class A motorhome. These vehicles sit up high and you may literally have to pull yourself up into place each time you enter the cab.
Also, with a fifth wheel, you won’t have to climb into the vehicle each time.
Once you’ve set your camp up you’ll mostly be climbing in and out of your fifth wheel camper rather than a big class A driver’s seat.
(Usually) Better Gas Mileage
A class A motorhome is likely to get about 8 miles per gallon. Large trucks can often get about 15 miles per gallon when not towing and 8 – 12 miles per gallon while towing.
This means that you’ll always get better gas mileage when not towing and you may still get better gas mileage while you are towing.
Of course, you can bring a towable car with your class A motorhome, but this will also bring your gas mileage down even further while traveling.
Besides, a fifth wheel camper owner can always put a scooter or motorcycle inside of their fifth wheel for fantastic gas savings at camp.
Here is what the additional gas mileage looks like. The person towing a fifth wheel gets 10 miles per gallon and travels 10,000 miles in a year. At $3.00 a gallon, this costs him $3,000.00.
The person with the class A motorhome does the same amount of driving but only gets 8 miles a gallon. This ends up costing him $3,750.00.
The person with the fifth wheel ends up saving $750.00 or $62.50 a month.
Indoor Staircases Are Great
Having a staircase inside of the camper makes it feel much more like a house than a camper. The staircases provide the illusion that the camper is actually a two-story home and makes it feel more like a residential house.
A motorhome, on the other hand, has a cab with a steering wheel in the location that the fifth wheel has its steps.
This immediately shatters the illusion that the RV is anything other than an RV.
Also, the staircase puts RVers above the bed of the truck which can offer some amazing views. For this reason, many fifth wheel manufacturers are now putting a lounge area over top of the truck bed. This lounge area will usually have a sofa bed which offers even more sleeping options for RVers and their overnight guests.
One final benefit of the staircase is that you can often store items within the steps. This ensures that no space is wasted within the fifth wheel.
Fifth wheels usually offer much more headroom than class A motorhomes do. This is great for taller people as it gives them more space to stretch out.
It’s also great for providing the appearance of a home. A standard home has 8-foot ceilings so the taller ceilings of a fifth wheel RV are closer to that of home.
In addition to extra headroom and views, higher ceilings have another benefit. With a higher ceiling, you have more room for cabinets and other wall mounted storage spaces. This provides more cubic storage space which is especially important when living in an RV.
Here’s a list we have made about 13 RVs with extra tall ceilings (for tall people). It’s a must-read if you need extra height in your camper.
The Vehicle Can Be Changed Without Changing Homes
When you own a motorhome, your vehicle is your home. This means that if you want to change your vehicle, you also have to change homes. Not only is this inconvenient, but it is also expensive.
With a fifth wheel, you can change your tow vehicle while retaining your home. On the other hand, you can change your home without changing your vehicle as well. This gives you many more options and cuts down on costs as you only have to buy one item at a time rather than two.
It also makes the purchase easier as you won’t have to sacrifice driving technology to gain a better floor plan and vice versa.
Many RVers eventually make the switch from an RV to a boat. With a large truck already on hand, all the RVer has to do is sell the fifth wheel and use the money to buy a boat. When a person wants to go back to the RV lifestyle, they just have to buy another RV. All the while, the person gets to keep their personal vehicle.
Only One Engine to Maintain
With a fifth wheel, you don’t have an engine in your home. The same thing cannot be said about a motorhome. Not only this, but most motorhome owners need to have a vehicle in tow. This means that they have to maintain the engine on their motorhome as well as on their tow car.
Maintaining an additional engine means you also have to maintain additional transmissions and everything else that helps a motor vehicle run well.
Not only this, but you’ll have to get both engines inspected as well. This can add a significant amount of money to the cost of owning a class A motorhome over owning a fifth wheel.
Here is what the numbers might look like with an additional vehicle to maintain over a 10 year period. Annual inspections, $150.00 a year.
Annual insurance, $900.00 a year. Two oil changes a year, $100.00. This all adds up to an extra $11,500.00.
Also, before the ten-year mark, you’ll probably have to do a tune-up on the engine which might include changing the ignition wires, the distributor cap, the spark plugs, the battery, the timing belt, the water pump, and the transmission fluid. This can all add up and you should expect to pay at least another $1,000.00 to keep the vehicle running in good condition.
Easier to Re-Fuel
A class A motorhome is tall, wide, and long. This makes it hard to get in and out of many gas stations. In fact, some gas stations are completely off-limits to large class A motorhomes.
Fifth wheel campers often do not fit into many gas stations either. Fortunately, this isn’t that big of a problem because the owner can always unhitch their vehicle so that they can refuel without having to bring their fifth wheel into the gas station.
This doesn’t just apply to refuel the fuel tanks either. A person with a fifth wheel can leave their camper behind while they go buy propane for their gas appliances, fuel for their generators, and fresh water for their water tanks.
Tanks can also be emptied without having to move the fifth wheel. This can be done through the use of portable black and gray water tanks that can be loaded and unloaded onto the truck.
A person pulling a fifth wheel can leave their camper behind and access drive-throughs and any other places that are not accessible to a motorhome owner. Again, a person can take a towable vehicle to do this with a motorhome but this leads to multiple engines to maintain as well as additional costs.
It also drives down gas mileage and makes the motorhome harder to drive.
For more information on towable vehicles, check out our post titled, “The Complete Guide to Tow Cars“.
A fifth wheel camper can have slide-outs that block portions of the camper off. This is possible because the RVer still has access to their tow car as well as the ability to continue to move the camper.
With a class A motorhome, the entire vehicle must be able to be accessed even with the slides pulled in. This means that class A motorhomes often have shorter slide-outs built into them.
The shorter slides can make the class A much narrower than the fifth wheel which leads to a big loss in interior space.
Also, fifth wheels can have more slideouts than a class A motorhome can. This is because it isn’t possible to add slideouts around the cockpit of the motorhome.
Class A RVs Are Not As Well Insulated
No matter how well you insulate a class A motorhome, it is always going to have one critical weak spot when it comes to insulating it.
This comes from the front windshield of the motorhome.
Fifth wheels don’t have this problem. A fifth wheel can be insulated well throughout the camper and it does not have a massive window right on the front of it to contend with.
In fact, even if the fifth wheel did have a large window on the front, this window could at least be a double-paned window, which just isn’t possible when the window also doubles as a windshield.
Also, a fifth wheel isn’t encased in a sheet of metal like a class A motorhome often is. This means that extreme temperature changes won’t affect the fifth wheel the same way it might affect a class A motorhome.
Fifth Wheels Can Potentially Last Much Longer
A well-cared-for motorhome can last a long time but it isn’t very likely. The reason for this is that there are many mechanical parts that can wear down within a motorhome. If these parts are not replaced, the motorhome can no longer function.
Unfortunately, these parts are harder and harder to replace as the motorhome gets old. This means that even a properly maintained motorhome can eventually become unusable.
Fifth wheel campers don’t have this problem.
Trailers can always be repaired and tires can always be replaced. The interior components of a fifth wheel are not very complicated and you can often replace them yourself.
In fact, since you have a truck, you’ll be able to transport items like home appliances back to your fifth wheel without ever having to drag your large RV to the parking lot of a home improvement store.
A fifth wheel can be much better than a class A motorhome for many people. However, a motorhome might be much better than the fifth wheel for other people. Which one is better for you will depend on your particular needs and lifestyle.
If you value versatility, space, and the feeling of home, you’ll probably want to consider a fifth wheel. If you want the feel of being in your home while driving, you may want to consider a motorhome.
Morten is the founder of GoDownsize. He has filmed and interviewed people living in tiny houses and RVs since 2011. He grew up on the coast where his dad took him boating from a young age. He has completely rebuilt two RVs in which he travels with his family for months at the time. Read more about Morten here.