Deciding to live in an RV full-time is indeed a huge, if not even life-changing, commitment. Living on the road full-time, you will be faced with a series of decision-making instances. For starters, you will have to think of what type of motorhome to get. And while most people usually just call it RV, there are many types and kinds of motorhomes you can choose from.
Fifth-Wheels may not be in your initial list of options since the term isn’t tossed here and there as often as #vanlife, but if you only give it a more in-depth consideration, Fifth-Wheels might just be the perfect RV type for you! You just have to know the ins and outs, whats and hows, and you’re bound to have it better.
How to have a great Fifth-Wheel living experience? Know everything about your Fifth-Wheel – its exact size, capacity and limitations, and even its cleaning requirements. Next, study your interior layout – the living spaces and storage areas. All these will help you know how to make the most out of living in your Fifth-Wheel.
In this article, I will let you in on the fundamentals of a Fifth-Wheel RV. What it is, what units are the best and most common, and what to consider before your purchase. Also, I will give you helpful tips that you can take note of, along with some suggestions on how you can earn while living your best Fifth-Wheel life.
What is a Fifth-Wheel RV?
The Anatomy of a Fifth Wheel
A Fifth-Wheel is one of the larger types of RV that is hitched on the bed of a pickup truck. Its length can be up to 45-feet long and can weigh up to 18,000 lbs or even more.
What’s even more interesting about this, is the history of its name. It can be traced back to the historic times when people use horse carriages to travel. They added a fifth wheel placed horizontally, allowing the front axle to pivot with ease. Though the built and design’s become more evolved and improved over time, the term is still being widely used today.
Generally, a Fifth-Wheel is perfect if you opt for a trailer that has better maneuverability. Since it is hitched on top of your truck, it makes it more stable and easier to control unlike with travel or a camper trailer.
There are also Fifth-Wheel Toy Haulers. This is the larger built of Fifth Wheels primarily designed for hauling your toys like your ATVs, motorbikes, mountain bikes, etc.
Most people who use Fifth-Wheels are those who travel often with a partner, a group, or a family. This is because it is usually larger and so has a bigger capacity to sleep more people. Many travelers also choose this RV because they can stay at camp parks, leave their trailer, and explore the city more comfortably with their truck.
Like other motorhome types, Fifth-Wheel also comes with the basic exterior parts like a rubber or fiberglass roof and the body which is also usually made of durable fiberglass. Most Fifth-Wheels also come with awnings. Some even have slide-outs that provide more space. What’s unique with a Fifth-Wheel is its heavy-duty hitching parts. Most Fifth-Wheels also have huge basement storages especially those types with a Z frame or Drop Frame design.
How the Trailer is Hitched on Your Truck
You don’t attach a Fifth Wheel trailer to your truck with the typical ball hitch like with other trailers. The reason why Fifth-Wheels can only be towable with a pick-up truck is that the main trailer hitch is supposed to be attached to a pick-up truck’s bed.
The Fifth Wheel hitch is a large flat plate that resembles a horseshoe. The trailer is connected via a kingpin along with a plate that rests on top of the fifth wheel hitch plate. This will securely attach the trailer and allow pivots as well.
Most Fifth-Wheels have similar interior features. It just varies on size, capacity, and design. The basic setup has a bedroom, living area, and kitchen and bath. How everything is designed is based on the floor plan, which can depend on the Fifth-Wheel model or unit.
With regards to the furniture and fixtures, Fifth-Wheels are popular for some fancy appliances that usually come with it when bought. A full refrigerator, wide TV sets, and upgraded air conditioning units are just common in a Fifth-Wheel.
Most Suggested Fifth-Wheel RV Units and Their Costs
Most RV manufacturers have their Fifth-Wheel lines that provide a wide range of options. And while each brand is well-known for its advantages, here are some of the most commonly suggested Fifth-Wheel units with some of their features and approximate costs:
Keystone Montana Series
Image Source: hwhrv.com
Keystone Montana is one of the most popular Fifth-Wheels brands. There are 23 unique floor plans you can choose from. Its length is ranging from 33-42 feet and is about over 13,000 lbs.
They provide a residential-type of amenities – with a full fridge, microwave oven, and even washer and dryer hookups. It has a suite that has a queen-sized bed and storage, and also some hideaway beds that can sleep 5 comfortably.
In terms of storage, this model has plenty of it. With spacious basement storage for things that you don’t need to access easily but are still important to keep.
Some of its notable features include a four-door fridge, a 48-inch LED TV, and a porcelain toilet in the bathroom. You read that right, a porcelain toilet.
This is usually priced around 25,000 – 90,000 USD.
Forest River Wildcat Series
Image Source: rvusa.com
This model from Forest River offers a Fifth-Wheel with highly-competitive features and prices. It has approximately an unloaded weight of 7,500- 13,000 lbs and can range from 31-42 feet in length.
It offers up to 23 floor plan layouts that can sleep 4-10 people, depending on your chosen unit. It is popular for being on the more affordable side but at the same having the amenities that you would need for a good camping experience. This type is also mostly seen in the mid-western and north-eastern areas because of its quick adaptability when moving in the colder areas.
It has a master bedroom and flip-out bunk beds perfect for a family. It has a complete kitchen, with a built-in outdoor grill setup as well.
These kinds of Fifth-Wheel are priced around 25,000 to 50,000 USD
Grand Design Reflection Series
Image Source: rvusa.com
With the Grand Design Reflection Series, you might not have to buy a bigger pick-up truck than the one that you already own, since it is generally lighter and more compact. Its unloaded weight is only about 8,000-12,000 lbs, with a length of 29-42 feet. On average, it can sleep up to 4.
Despite having a more compact design, it still has a master bedroom with a king-sized wardrobe and under-bed storage. It also has a complete functioning kitchen with solid countertops and leather sleeper-sofas.
What’s notable about this series is its Arctic Seasons Package which is helpful when you go camping up north or anywhere during the winter season because of its excellent insulation features.
The price for this type is around 35,000 to 80,000 USD.
Jayco North Point Fifth-Wheel
Image Source: jayco.com
This series from Jayco is probably the best choice for families. It has an approximate unloaded weight of 12,400-14,200 lbs and an average length of 38-43 feet. It has 9 different floor plans available that can comfortably sleep up to 9 people.
Some of its exceptional features include a full kitchen with three possible TV hookups. It is also good to travel with during summer and warmer days because it has 3 functioning AC units. It has a master bedroom and a bunkhouse on the opposite side, keeping the distance between parents and playful and active children.
It also has outdoor cooking capabilities for when the family wants to grill some meat and have the best time!
The price for this line is around 40,000-90,000 USD.
Redwood’s Redwood Model
Image Source: rvusa.com
This particular model is a bit heavier, weighing almost 18,000 lbs, with an average length of 37 feet. It offers 18 different floor plans that can sleep up to 6 persons.
What’s amazing about this is its enclosed underbelly, keeping the floor of the rig efficiently heated, making this a more preferred option for those who wish to do winter camping. You will also not get bored as is this equipped with LED lights and even a soundbar.
It’s also got a complete kitchen set with promising appliances and even a baking oven! If you wish to travel for a long time or full time, Redwood also gives you more than enough space for storage.
The price for Redwood’s Redwood line is around 40,000-100,000 USD.
Why Choose a Fifth-Wheel? (Pros)
You are probably here because you’re interested in having a Fifth-Wheel as your motorhome and so if you need more convincing of why you should get one, here are some of the notable advantages of owning a Fifth-Wheel, compared to other motorhome types:
For More Stable Driving
One of the first reasons people choose a Fifth-Wheel over other trailer home types is its stability. Since a part of your rig is safely hitched on a big part of your truck with the kingpin, you can do turns more smoothly, even avoiding the ”swaying” situation for those who tow other trailers.
Even when it is still generally a tiny home, Fifth-Wheels can be huge. And this is one of the best reasons you can have for choosing to have one. Depending on your chosen floor plan, you can have a rig that looks exactly like an actual house since you get to have separate rooms for living, sleeping, and dining.
Also, Fifth-Wheels, because of its multi-section layout, can sleep 4 or more people comfortably. Aside from the master bedroom, there can be bunk rooms for more sleeping space. Sofas in the living areas can also be usually converted to beds giving more room for people to sleep.
With its exceptional height feature, you can walk around comfortably without worrying about your head bumping unto the ceiling.
Massive Storage Areas
Also relating to the huge space advantage is having a wide room for storage. As I have mentioned previously, some Fifth-Wheels have a Z frame allowing for a huge basement space that is mainly for storage purposes.
One of the best things also with the Fifth-Wheel is the fact that it has generally larger holding tanks! If this won’t make you consider a Fifth-Wheel yet, then I don’t know what probably will. When Boondocking or traveling often, having to dump your waste tanks every time can be so much of a hassle so having larger holding tanks is important.
Even when your trailer is hitched directly on your truck’s bed, this won’t likely use the entire truck bed area so you are still left with some open space that you can use for, you guessed that right, even more storage!
Relatively, trailer homes can be significantly cheaper than other motorhome types. This is because you have to have a separate driving car. It’s the same with a Fifth-Wheel. Of course, the price is still highly dependent on its size and amenities. Some extremely luxurious Fifth-Wheels could be more expensive than some Class As.
Another cost-friendly advantage is the fact that you will pay for your truck’s fuel. And normal driving car’s fuel expenses could be less than the non-trailer types.
Maintenance and Repair costs are also usually less because when your truck breaks down, you can simply park your trailer and then drive to the nearest auto shop and have your car fixed quickly at a lower price than RV shops.
Has Promising Features
A two-door or even a four-door fridge, a kitchen island, and a full-sized closet. These are only some of the promising features of most Fifth-Wheels. Imagine living on the road with all these amenities. You won’t have to completely turn your back from the house that you loved and wanted and at the same time continue with your on-the-road adventure!
Don’t worry if you aren’t the luxurious living type, there are also several choices where you can have a simple, functional, and spacious Fifth-Wheel rig.
And did I already mention that your Fifth-Wheel can also have a garage for your toys? Because it absolutely can. I know, it just gets better!
Special Use Cases
Another amazing thing about Fifth-Wheels is it is easily detachable. Of course, you will have to spend time learning it. This is especially useful when you are finally settled down in a camp resort or national park, and you have to drive back to town to buy something you forgot. Or if you simply want to travel around for a whole day and then get back at your trailer to get some rest.
Driving with Fifth-Wheels is basically carrying around your home.
Fewer Maintenance Problems
When your trailer needs some fixing, you just have to drive it at the repair center, leave it and maybe drive around or drive to your family’s home or crash at your friend’s for a night while waiting for your rig to get fixed. The point is, you still have your truck with you.
On the other hand, if your truck needs to be repaired, you still have your trailer home parked somewhere for you to continue living in. Again, the point is, you still have your house with you.
Why Not Choose a Fifth-Wheel? (Cons)
By now, you are probably 95% sure that you are going for a Fifth-Wheel. However, despite its amazing qualities, there are some Cons, that are not that much of a disadvantage but are things you should also consider.
Limited to Driving a Pickup Truck
If you already own a good-quality pick-up truck with a high towing capacity, then this can be more of an advantage but if you don’t then it can be quite a hindrance.
Since Fifth-Wheels can only be hitched on a pick-up truck bed, you are strongly required and obliged to have one. This can be quite pricey, especially if you buy new trucks on the higher end but if you really want Fifth-Wheel as your motorhome then it should be worth it.
Separate Driving and Living Space
Unlike the other motorhome types, you won’t have easy and quick access to your living quarters, while this can be an advantage for some, it is usually a burden for most who want to maximize their life on the road.
So when you need to stop to use the bathroom or grab something to eat, you don’t simply pull over and walk a few steps but instead, you’d have to go out of your truck and open your rig’s doors to do that.
Hitching Process Takes Time
This can be difficult and overwhelming at first but once you learn how to properly hitch your Fifth-Wheel, practice a few times, and eventually, without you even noticing, it’ll be easy as 1, 2, 3.
Height Clearance Restrictions
This is more of a reminder that some states or areas can have height clearance restrictions. You must always know the exact hitched height of your trailer just so you can compare it with the state’s restrictions and avoid unexpected issues while you’re on your trip.
What to Consider Before Getting a Fifth-Wheel
Before purchasing your first Fifth-Wheel, you should take the following considerations to mind, not only to decide on which model to buy, but also to help you understand more about Fifth Wheels and then have a generally better attitude about it.
You have to know firsthand the reason why you are getting a Fifth-Wheel. Whether you’re planning to go full time on the road or just to travel for a while, then you’d have to think of that in making major decisions about your rig.
Also, keep in mind what will mostly occupy your time while on the road. You could be doing some remote work or a lot of city exploring, or just simply lounging around, resting and chilling. These are important points to think about.
This is maybe the biggest chunk of what to consider because most of the things that you will have are highly dependent on the budget that you have. From purchasing your Fifth-Wheel, you can buy a brand new or choose a secondhand. From having a pick-up truck to also needing to purchase one. These are all anchored to the budget that you have set.
Remember also that being able to buy a truck and the Fifth-Wheel is not the end of your expenses because you are surely bound to paying for other fees like insurance, repair, and registration.
People Living With You
Fifth-Wheels are not usually suggested for a solo traveler but if you’d like that then it is still up to you. If you’re a couple or just really good friends, there are some Fifth-wheel models primarily designed for two people. So you can check that. And as for families, Fifth-Wheels are the better choice if you wish for more sleeping space and room for family entertainment.
If you already have a pick-up truck or if you’re about to get one, you should consider its towing and carrying capacity. You can ask this from your car dealer, or the seller, or you can also look it up online. Some RV-friendly websites can give you this information too!
Just like when buying a gadget or any other technological investment, you are suggested to always look up the specs to let you know what exactly you are signing for and what is your money’s worth. The same goes for buying a Fifth-Wheel. Here are some specifications that you need to look up:
Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR)
The GVWR measures the maximum weight for the Gross Vehicle Weight or Gross Trailer Weight. Manufacturers also call GVWR a Maximum Loaded Trailer Weight.
Unloaded Vehicle Weight (UVW)
Unloaded Vehicle Weight (UVW) is the weight of a vehicle as manufactured at the factory. It includes full engine and generator fuel tanks and fluids, if applicable. It does not include cargo, water, propane, or dealer-installed accessories.
Cargo Carrying Capacity (CCC)
CCC = GVWR – UVW – full fresh tank water weight – full LP gas weight
Knowing your CCC is essential for you to determine how much you can load in your trailer.
What are Your Non-Negotiables
Consider what you can’t do without in your trailer home. It may be a huge closet space, area for your pets, separate toilet and shower rooms, etc. You can mention with your dealer or manufacturer so they can offer you a model that would fit your description.
Size and Floor Plan
The longer and larger your Fifth-Wheel, the larger your interior space. If you wish to stay in one place for a long time, you may opt for a more homey layout with a huge bedroom and living areas. There are also bi-level layouts you can look at.
Floor Plans vary from one rig to another, this will depend on your preferences, the number of people with you, and your main purpose.
Common Floor Plans for Couples or Partners
This is a set up where the living area is on the front side or in the elevated section of your trailer. Since the area is wide, this layout usually includes sofas on opposing sides which can be converted into beds for occasional guests.
The more luxurious front living floor plans would also give you the option of having high-quality leather seating and even a fireplace.
More couples usually choose this set up because of the open floor concept. The living area is on the rear part of the trailer so it almost coincides with the kitchen and dining area, giving a more residential vibe.
There is also the option of leather seating and a built-in fireplace for this floor plan.
If you or your partner loves spending time in the kitchen, this is the best layout because the kitchen is situated on the back. This is to avoid more people getting in the way when someone is cooking or baking.
Common Floor Plans for Families
This is one of the most common layouts for families. If you have 4 or more people that will be staying in on the regular, this floor plan has a rear bunkhouse.
In the back area, there can be three or even more bunk beds. Some even include a slideout for more space. This layout also usually has a built-in outdoor grill that can be used for occasional family barbecue nights or usual cookouts.
Rear Corner Bunkhouse
This is also a type of layout that has a bunkhouse located on the rear corner of the rig. It can also have three or four beds.
Last is the Mid Bunk Floor Plan. In this layout, the rear area of the rig is the living room, making it a more spacious area for family nights and entertainment. The kitchen also usually includes an island with more countertops for better food preparation.
The bunk room is located in the mid area which sometimes even has loft-type beds providing sleeping room for more people.
Again, it varies depending on the model but you have to consider your preferences and hobbies that would directly influence your need for storage space.
If you wish to carry on your mountain bikes, surfboards, or even ATVs, then you can choose the larger Toy Hauler types.
Think about what is unique with your particular Fifth Wheel options. Some rigs are slideout ready if you wish for more space. Some even have prepared solar power inlets in case you want them installed. Others have special storage areas for big generators and extra batteries. If you are traveling in extreme-climate places, consider your rig’s air cooling and heating systems too.
These are things you might tend to forget or overlook but are important to consider as well.
When Buying Second-hand Fifth-Wheels
Whom Are You Buying it From
You have the option of buying a used Fifth-Wheel from a dealer or private owner. Buying from a dealer can be beneficial in terms of finding the right rig for you. You can state your considerations, budget restrictions, and other non-negotiables, and a dealer can give you the perfect or closest possible option.
Also, with an authorized dealer, you can be sure that there is no hidden information regarding the Fifth-Wheel. Most dealers also have a high technical understanding of the trailers so you can request for certain specifications and things like that.
Lastly, dealerships usually have different financing options so if you wish to pay in different terms, this is something that can easily be set and negotiated.
On the other hand, it can also be good to buy from private individuals. Just make sure that they are the actual owners of the rig and can present you with the necessary legal files and documents to prove it.
Before buying from the previous owner, be sure to also ask all the questions like their reason for selling, the length of time they used the rig, the places it traveled through, and things like that.
Always ask for the maintenance records to give you confidence that what you are about to buy has been well-maintained and properly taken care of.
This will also provide you with the details of all the kinds of fixes and repairs that have been previously done for future maintenance references.
Note that this is a huge factor to consider in purchasing used RVs. Some water damage, if left unattended, can cause major and even irreparable damages to your rig. Carefully inspect for any soft spots in the roof, interior, and exterior walls, and basically the whole part of the Fifth-Wheel.
Mold and Structural Damage
Also, inspect the rig thoroughly for mold or even minor structural damages. Don’t forget that there could be mold buildups even in the tiniest nooks and crannies so make sure you see them. This can be a factor to further negotiate the price since you will need to spend on the repairs.
Also often overlooked, make sure you check all the tires’ condition. It may not seem like it does not need replacing at first glance but when you have it checked you can discover how worn-out it is so you would know if you have to spend a huge amount for tire replacement.
Warranty & Service Package
Some second-hand Fifth-Wheels might not have been used for long so there’s a possibility that it could still be covered by a warranty from the time it was first bought. Others could also be under a certain service package that came with it when it was bought, insured, or when it acquired some maintenance service.
Don’t forget to test everything! From the engine, electricity and water, lights and other appliances – test it all. Do a dry run, if possible, try asking if you can stay in it for a night to make sure everything works well.
Tips to Improve Your Fifth-Wheel Living
Water and Electricity Tips
Since you can’t be so sure if you’re staying somewhere with accessible hookups, it is best to always be prepared. Keep a generator and even some extra batteries for when you go boondocking and do a lot of traveling. If you have the means, it is most recommended that you invest in a Solar Panel system. This is useful, especially in the long run.
Conserve water as much you can. Just because a Fifth-Wheel has larger holding tanks doesn’t mean that you’re allowed wasting water. Remember that you still have very limited holding tanks so save water and energy as well and don’t try to make your trips to the dumping stations too often.
Have a water container filled for backup, collapsible water bladders can be useful if you wish to save some storage.
Organization and Storage Tips
It is indeed true what they say about how the layout matters more than the size. Even with a huge space with the Fifth-Wheel, you will be surprised by how much more space you can have when you try to be creative with how you store and organize your stuff.
For one, you can make use of storage boxes and baskets. This will not only provide you with easier access to your stuff but also help in making your home neat-looking.
If you have stuff that you wish to be more accessible when driving or things that you think you will need now and then, keep a storage basket or box in your driving truck. This will help you make your driving more comfortable and also save you extra time and energy.
Another tip is to use remaining space in your truck’s bed for extra storage. Things that can be stored outside like coolers and other containers can be placed there.
Cleaning and Maintenance Tips
No one knows how to clean your Fifth-Wheel more than its manufacturer. So don’t just toss your manual around or keep it in a box you would probably never open again. Read your manual. Other than important information about your rig, your manual also has the basic cleaning instructions. It may include the do’s and don’ts when it comes to cleaning so don’t skip that.
Your Fifth-Wheel’s material make-up may be sensitive to general cleaning agents and tools so if you plan on cleaning it yourself, don’t just start wiping without consulting the manual.
Having an accessible cleaning and maintenance kit is essential too. It will also help if you equip yourself with the basic knowledge of doing minor auto repairs to help you save some repair costs!
Consider cleaning contractors once in a while for your truck and trailer’s deep cleaning.
Safety/ Towing Tips
Go back to your truck’s towing capacity and the Gross Trailer Weight to see and know if you are within the bounds of safe towing. It is recommended to always set buffer zones in terms of these limitations just to be safe and sure.
Also check the existing and updated rules and regulations for trailers, including the height clearance, in the area or state you are planning to travel to so you won’t get any unexpected violation calls on the way.
Joining an RV Community
If you ask RVers what the best thing about living on the road is, the most common answer you’d probably get is just this one simple word – community.
Whether you own a Fifth-Wheel or another type of motorhome, you can find a community that is ready to welcome you. There are the more popular membership clubs like Passport America, Good Sam Club, and Harvest Hosts. These are bigger clubs that give you numerous privileges in terms of campground parks and locations.
There are also smaller and more specific clubs and groups you can check out. If you are an RVer with pets, or if you are a solo traveler, or if you are into sports, I’m sure there’s a particular club for you.
These clubs and groups also organize social gatherings that you can join to meet other people who have most likely similar interests with you. You can also ask for help and tips about life on the road. It could be overwhelming at first, but once you find your place (and I’m certain you will), you will love the community just as much as the other members do.
Can You Work While Living in a Fifth-Wheel?
Living in a Fifth-Wheel full time can cost anywhere from $10,000 to $36,000 per year. This, of course, is greatly dependent on your lifestyle and preferences. Needless to say, you must still consider your source of income and overall financial capacity before fully committing to this life. If you are thinking of leaving your office job and using your savings to invest in an RV, don’t worry that you will not have any opportunities while living on the road, because there are countless options for you.
Fully Remote Jobs
There are several work opportunities that you can do remotely. The only huge consideration for this is that you need to have a strong and stable internet connection almost every time. With today’s technology, though, this isn’t much of a problem anymore, even for an RVer.
With your laptop and internet, you can find online jobs that fit your skills. If you used to be a writer, editor, administrative assistant, etc. then you can still do it on the road. There are several websites that you can look up that hires remote workers.
If you are into vlogging and blogging, this can also be your main source of income, especially if you have established a huge online following.
If you are more on the physical side of the work kind of person. There are still options that you can check. There is this thing called gate guarding where you are hired to live by the entrance of a huge farm or factory, so living in an RV is the best fit.
You can also search for jobs in some national parks, they offer part-time work especially during peak seasons when they need extra workers to do maintenance, cleaning, and maybe even tour assistance.
Some campgrounds and resorts also hire RVers as temporary workers during the peak season where they provide free hookups and a certain salary per hour. This is also usually referred to as Workcamping.
Just like when making life-changing decisions, it is truly important to research beforehand. Indeed, there is so much more to the Fifth-Wheel than being just another trailer home type. This article has provided you with quite a comprehensive information about Fifth-Wheels – what it is, what the common brands are, and the considerations to think about before committing to living in a Fifth-Wheel full time.
However, even with countless tips and guides, know that challenges and difficulties are inevitable. Just think that they exist to give you a more challenging, and therefore, more fulfilling adventure. Keeping in mind all these things, I’m sure you’re bound to have that best life on the road you have been dreaming about.