Trying to decide between a class A motorhome and a fifth wheel camper?
If so, this post is for you.
In this post, we’ll give you 17 reasons to choose a class A over a fifth wheel camper.
You Don’t Need a Separate Tow Vehicle
You won’t find many fifth wheel campers that can be towed without a very large truck.
Fifth wheel campers are heavy and most fifth wheel owners will need at least a 1-ton truck to tow their camper. The only exceptions I’ve found to this were the Casita and Scamp fifth wheel campers which are light enough that you could potentially tow them with a half-ton truck.
Even so, you still need a truck to tow these campers.
Class A motorhomes, on the other hand, move on their own. Buy a class A motorhome and you won’t need a tow vehicle at all. This means you’ll take up less space on the road, in the parking lot, and at the campsite.
On top of this, you’ll save money because you don’t have to buy a tow vehicle and all of the towing equipment that comes with it.
For example, a tow vehicle might need to have airbags added to the suspension, a cooler added to the transmission, and a fifth wheel towing hitch added to the truck.
You’ll also need a brake controller added to the vehicle and a 7 pin connector to connect the brake controller to the brakes and lights of the fifth wheel camper.
Here’s an article we have written about which RVs that have brakes.
All of these items can add up to thousands of dollars to the cost of owning a fifth wheel and they are serious modifications that you may not be comfortable making yourself. This means you’ll also have to invest time and money into having a professional do them for you.
Here is a quick break-down of the extra items you’ll need for towing a fifth wheel camper instead of driving a motorhome.
- A brake controller.
- A 7 pin connector.
- A hitch.
- Airbags for your suspension.
- A transmission cooler.
A good electric brake controller will cost around $100.00 to purchase and another $100.00 to install. The 7-pin connector will cost around $50.00 for the connector and the wire.
It will probably cost another $100.00 to get it installed. A transmission cooler might cost around $75.00 and another $225.00 to install it. The airbag suspension system could cost over $300.00 with another $300.00 to install it. Fifth wheel hitches can easily cost $200.00 and another $150.00 for installation.
In the end, you might end up spending an additional $1,600.00 just for towing gear.
You Might Not Have to Store Your Class A
In most areas of the country, you can’t leave your camper out on the street. In fact, I’ve never come across a town where it was legal to do so.
We have written an article here with all the rules about parking large RV on the street. It’s crucial to know these rules before you decide what is right for you!
Some towns won’t even let you store your camper in your yard or in your driveway. This makes using the camper more difficult as you end up needing to find a place to store it.
Many fifth wheel owners face this problem.
They can’t store their fifth wheel at home so they have to spend money on a storage unit. They also have to drive to the storage unit to pick their fifth wheel up each time they want to use it. This means they can’t pack up the night before their trip and they may even have to leave later than they want because they have to wait for the storage facility to open up before they can leave.
Class A motorhome owners have an actual vehicle that can often be parked right out on the street.
These class As can sometimes be parked in driveways where a fifth wheel might not be allowed as well. Being able to park at home saves money and makes weekend trips much easier and more convenient.
You Don’t Have to Get Out of The RV
When you are traveling with a fifth wheel camper, you have to get out of your tow vehicle to access it.
This means that every time you want a drink or want to use the bathroom, you’ll have to pull over, get out of your truck, and walk back to your camper.
While this might not sound like a lot of work, it can be frustrating when it is raining or snowing out and you end up getting wet moving from your truck to your fifth wheel and then back again.
Not only this, but it can also be more dangerous.
Imagine you’re at a truck stop or parking lot and trouble arises. To leave the area, you’ll need to get out of your fifth wheel and move back into your truck before you can leave.
In fact, you may even have to take in your stabilizing jacks and setup your fifth wheel camper so that it can be towed properly before you can leave. All the while, you’re outside and vulnerable to whoever may be out there.
Now imagine the same situation, but you’re in a class A motorhome.
With the motorhome, you’ll just need to push a button so that the automatic levelers come up and then you can walk to the cab and drive away. You never have to leave your RV and thus you’re never exposed to whoever may be outside.
Easier to Transport Pets
RVing with pets is much easier in a motorhome.
When you’re towing a fifth wheel camper, you need to have a truck that is capable of holding both you and your pets while towing the fifth wheel. This is because leaving your pet in your fifth wheel while you’re in transit is not safe for your pet.
The fifth wheel in motion does not have climate control and even if it did, you wouldn’t want to leave your pet alone in it anyway.
After all, if you leave your cat or dog in your fifth wheel while you’re in your truck, how will you know if they’ve gotten car sick?
When you’re in a motorhome, you can simply bring your dog or cat into the living quarters of the motorhome while you travel.
In fact, your dog or cat probably has a spot that they like to sleep in while camping anyway so it is easy just to put their crate in their favorite spot so they’ll feel comfortable as you travel to your destination.
The Generator Comes Standard
Many fifth wheel owners have generators. The issue is that they have to buy this generator separately and it is not fully integrated into the vehicle like a motorhome’s generator is.
This means that you have a completely separate generator fuel tank that you have to manage.
With a class A motorhome, your generator usually shares its fuel tank with the motor. This means you only have one fuel tank to fill up. It also means that with a full tank, you have a massive amount of fuel for your generator. People who travel often find this to be incredibly convenient as they do not have to worry about managing multiple tanks.
If the motorhome has fuel in it then they know that they have fuel to power all of the devices inside the living quarters as well.
No Indoor Staircases
Some people like to call fifth wheel campers, “rolling townhouses”. This is because a fifth wheel has a second floor. Many people find this charming as it makes them feel like they are living in a home rather than a vehicle.
However, this second floor comes with one big downside.
A fifth wheel has a staircase inside of it.
Often-times this staircase will either go to a master bedroom or a lounge area. This means that the owner of a fifth wheel camper will have to climb a set of stairs at least twice a day.
Motorhome owners don’t have this problem. A class A motorhome is more like a ranch house in that everything is all on one floor. This is great for people who have bad knees or other mobility issues.
Not only this, but it makes getting items in and out of the home much easier as you don’t have to navigate a set of stairs with your suitcase each time you go camping or traveling.
Climate Control While Traveling
Have you ever gotten into your vehicle in the middle of the day only to find that it is unbearably hot?
When this happened, you probably had to air out your vehicle for a little while before you could even stand to be in it.
On the other hand, have you ever gotten into your car in the middle of winter only to find it unbearably cold? The car may have been so cold that you simply turned it on and went back inside to wait until it was warm enough to sit in.
These are the exact same scenarios that fifth wheel owners face when they are traveling with their fifth wheel. The joy of being able to pull in anywhere to grab a bite to eat or to use your restroom is really just a fantasy during most times of the year.
In the afternoon, a fifth wheel will often be too hot to just jump into and at night it might be too cold.
When you finally arrive at your destination, you may have to wait for twenty or thirty minutes before your fifth wheel is comfortable enough to live in.
With a motorhome, your house is being cooled or heated as you travel. When you pull up to your campsite, your home will already be at the ideal temperature. The same holds true when you pull over to rest, eat, or use the restroom. This is a big advantage for someone who is traveling frequently or going on long journeys.
Continuous climate control makes the trip much more comfortable and enjoyable.
Set Up and Take Down Is Quicker with a Class A
To set up a fifth wheel camper, you have to level the camper with the truck and then you have to unhook it from the truck.
Once the fifth wheel is unhooked from the truck, you then have to stabilize it and hook it up to the electric and sewer hookups.
When you want to leave camp, you have to unhook everything and then connect the fifth wheel back up to the truck again. Make a mistake while doing this and you may damage your truck, your fifth wheel, or both.
This is a risk you end up having to take each time you set up camp and each time you take your camp down.
Class A motorhome owners don’t have to worry about this.
A class A motorhome owner simply needs to drive their motorhome onto a relatively flat spot and then use the automatic stabilizing jacks to stabilize their motorhome. Once this is completed, they’ll still have to set up their sewer and electrical connections, but they won’t have to disconnect a tow vehicle.
This is much less work.
It is also less stressful and creates much less room for error.
A Class A Motorhome Takes Up Less Space
A 40-foot long motorhome takes up 40 feet of space in length. A 40-foot long fifth wheel, on the other hand, might end up taking up well over 50 feet of space.
This is because you need to have a truck connected to it to make it move.
If you’re storing your RV at home in your driveway, you’ll need less space to store a class A motorhome. Also, as we touched upon earlier, you’ll also be able to bring your class A to places that you wouldn’t be able to go to in a fifth wheel camper.
Because the motorhome is shorter in length, you’ll have many more options.
You Can Have Two Vehicles
While a motorhome can act as a vehicle and a home, it doesn’t always have to. You can tow a car or SUV behind your motorhome. This car could be a small fuel-efficient vehicle or a small but rugged off-road vehicle.
In fact, you could even tow an electric vehicle that you charge using a large solar array built into the top of your motorhome.
For more information on electric tow cars, see our, “Complete Guide to Tow Cars“.
In addition to the versatility and fuel savings that a tow car offers, it also offers flexibility. For example, what happens when you’re traveling with other people and you both decide you want to visit two different places? If you’re traveling with a truck and a fifth wheel camper, one person will get to use the truck while the other person will have to find other travel arrangments.
In remote areas, this might be difficult or even impossible to do. If you have two vehicles, one person could go one place for the day while another person can go somewhere else.
You Can Tow Your Toys
Many class A motorhomes can tow as much as a truck can. This means that you can tow your boat, your go kart, your ATVs, snowmobiles, dirtbikes, and anything else you can fit onto a trailer.
Being able to have your home, your vehicle, and all of your toys with you can make your trip much more exciting.
Some people even go as far as to tow a second camper with them while they travel. These people end up with a vehicle, a home, and even a guest house. This is perfect for people who are traveling with friends and extended family members.
For the ultimate in versatility, one could use a large class A motorhome to tow a small van camper or class B motorhome. This would give the class A owner two vehicle and two homes while out on their journey.
You don’t have to be this adventurous with your toys either. Some people use their motorhomes to tow small cargo trailers that hold their kayaks in them. Others bring along a small trailer just to bring their bikes or their surfing gear with them.
The point is that you get to bring more fun items with you when you have a motorhome to tow them.
Better Views From The Front
A class A motorhome has a massive window at the front of the camper. This window can provide spectacular views while driving as well as when camped.
In fact, many class A motorhomes are designed to take advantage of this window while at camp.
The front seats were designed to swivel to the sides so that campers can sit at the front while enjoying a meal or using their laptop.
This means that a class A motorhome owner could sit in the front of their camper in the evening while enjoying the northern lights of Alaska or while watching the sun gently settle into the ocean in Florida.
With a fifth wheel, you just can’t dedicate this much space to a large window like that.
Even if you could, you wouldn’t be able to put it on the front of the fifth wheel.
Most people agree that driving a motorhome is easier than driving a truck with a fifth wheel camper. There are many reasons for this.
For starters, a class A motorhome will be shorter than a truck with a fifth wheel.
The additional length can be upwards of 15 extra feet. This is 15 extra feet that you need to account for when changing lanes or attempting to park somewhere.
Also, a motorhome’s turning radius is more intuitive than a trailer is. This is because a trailer will go the opposite way when you turn or change lanes while a motorhome will perform more as a standard vehicle would.
Finally, a motorhome has much better visibility than a truck has.
You’re up much higher in a class A motorhome so you have a better vantage point and the window is much larger so you can see more of the road in front of you. You’ll also have a camera at the back and on the sides of any new motorhome so you’ll be able to see what is behind you at all times.
With a fifth wheel, you’re unlikely to have a camera that goes behind the actual camper so you lose out on this additional feature as well.
Here’s a guide we have written with some very good tips on how to learn to drive a big RV.
You Can Use With the Slides In
A fifth wheel camper will often have large slides on either side of it. This is great as it provides extra room for the RVer while he or she is parked.
Unfortunately, it also often means that the fifth wheel can’t be used with the slides in.
The slides end up taking up so much interior room that it would be impossible to access the bathroom or the kitchen without completely pulling the slides out. This means that each time you want to stop to use the bathroom, you need to level and stabilize the fifth wheel and then pull out the slide.
Motorhomes don’t have this problem.
All motorhomes are built so that you can still access all areas of the motorhome even with the slides in. This is great for making use of the motorhome while stopped and while in transit. Not only this, but you can park in more narrow campsites or parking lots.
This can be critical for RVers who want to park overnight at a truck stop where they might not be able to physically move the slides out.
You Don’t Have to Stop As Often When Traveling
When you’re in a motorhome, your passengers can technically use the bathroom, the kitchen, and any other area of the motorhome they’d like to use. This means they can also stand up and stretch when they need to.
Normally, a driver should stop every two hours so that they can get up and walk around. This prevents dangerous blood clots from forming.
However, if two people are traveling in an RV, they can take turns getting up and walking around the motorhome and therefore wouldn’t need to stop. They also wouldn’t have to stop to eat or use the bathroom so trips could theoretically be completed without any stops at all.
This being said, walking around and using a bathroom or kitchen while a motorhome is dangerous and illegal so I wouldn’t advise you do any of this.
Also, would you really want to be sitting on the toilet or holding a kitchen knife during an accident?
Multiple Separate Storage Areas
With a fifth wheel, you get all of your outside accessible storage at the front of the RV. This is good for some people because they like to store larger items in one large space.
Others prefer to store a multitude of smaller items. They also like to have these items stored separately from each other. For these people, a class A motorhome’s basement storage is ideal as class As offer a multitude of small storage areas underneath of them.
Cooking Is More Convenient
I wouldn’t recommend cutting up vegetables or frying up food while traveling in a motorhome or fifth wheel.
This being said, it probably wouldn’t hurt to run a crock pot in a motorhome while traveling. In this case, the passenger could keep an eye on the crock pot and could even stir it from time to time.
A slow cooker wouldn’t get too hot but it would thoroughly cook up dinner while you travel.
This makes healthy eating during road trips much more convenient and is a great way to travel.
Security Issues To Consider
A class A motorhome’s exterior is encased in metal or fiberglass. This exterior is difficult to penetrate and a break-in will take longer with a motorhome than it will in a fifth wheel.
Also, when you’re in your motorhome you don’t have anything else to look after.
What I mean by this is that when you’re in your fifth wheel, you can’t keep an eye on your truck and when you’re in your truck you can’t always keep an eye on your fifth wheel. With a motorhome, you are always in the same vehicle so you never have to worry about whether or not someone is robbing the one you’re not in.
On top of this, a motorhome gives you the ability to drive away at the first sign of trouble.
With a fifth wheel, you’ll have to get out of it before you can access your truck and drive away. Not only this, but you may even have to hook the camper up again before you can head off.
A class A motorhome offers many advantages over a fifth wheel. However, fifth wheels also offer many advantages that motorhomes do not offer.
One isn’t necessarily better than the other for all people. To make the best choice, you’ll have to decide what is best for you and base your decision off of your particular needs.
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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.