Is a Motorhome, Travel Trailer, or Fifth Wheel Best for Me? Our list of Pros and Cons

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Buying the right RV for you is an important thing when getting started on your RV journey. However, the answer to what is right for each person is different. If you don’t get it right, it isn’t the end of the world, especially if you bought your rig used at a good price, you can resell it and get what you find works best for your travel style. To save yourself the hassle though, it is good to do your research and weigh out your own personal list of pros and cons to pick what will be best for you. We can say that we are happy with our decision and happy that we feel like we got the rig that was right for us for the time being. Another factor in all of this is how flexible and determined you are make your choice work for you as long as possible, if you find that your first choice isn’t your ideal option.

We went back and forth on what type of RV would be best for us when picking one out. Before we started traveling, we had never stayed in or owned an RV before. So, we really had no clue what would be best for us, and we began to research all of the possibilities. With that being said, each person and family will come to a decision of what type of RV is best for them and any decision can be the right one for you!

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Things that we like about owning a motorhome: The 360 views out the windshield when traveling and parked. Traveling in comfort. The kids fall asleep on the couch in their seatbelts almost every time we travel. That being said, we found out after buying a motorhome that seatbelts in motorhomes haven’t been tested for safety like cars are, so that is something important to consider. Some people we know drive their tow car behind the RV, but for us, we feel like riding all together in our large motorhome (buckled up at all times) is probably just as safe as driving in our small car anyway. Another thing to consider with small kids is if they will stay in their belts when in the motorhome, because we did have a problem with this with our 3 year old when we first started traveling. We may or may not have used candy as rewards to getting to our destination while staying buckled the whole time! Ease of using the bathroom and making food when needed in a motorhome is also a plus. Another thing is the ease of setting it up and driving away if needed at anytime without having to get out of your rig is another plus. Once we get to a destination, it is pretty simple to unhook our car we tow and zoom around town and park wherever we want to in the small car that doesn’t take much gas.  We love having our car with us and wouldn’t want to travel without a car as well. Backing in a trailer is a little more complicated to us than backing up in a motorhome. We feel like our motorhome is built well and feels sturdier than some less expensive RV options out there. It is well insulated, has a heated underbelly for when we are in cold weather,  a great generator that we start with the push of a button inside, and is set up straight out of the gate for comfortable dry camping. We also have a high overall weight capacity so it would be hard to overload our RV with too much stuff. If your motorhome ever needs fixed, you could drive yourself around town in your car that you tow, or if your car needs fix, you can still get around in your motorhome, and tow your car to where you need to take it to. It is definitely worth it for us to tow a car! We would not want to travel in a motorhome without towing a car.

Cons to the motorhome: The seatbelt issue above, you may choose to have shoulder belts installed if they aren’t already in your motorhome. It is a little bigger than most tow vehicles so there is a learning curve to driving it, but the same is true for other RV types as well. You will need to buy a tow system or tow dolly (ours was $1000) to tow your vehicle behind you, and you need to check what your motorhome is rated to tow so that your tow car isn’t too heavy for the motorhome. Slightly shorter ceiling than most fifth wheels. You have to walk into the kids bunk area to use the bathroom get to our bedroom, and the rooms are close. While the kids are smaller though, this hasn’t been an issue for us since they are good sleepers as well. If the tanks need dumped and we are driving, it smells. This may be something wrong with our motorhome, so if you have a motorhome, please let us know if this has been an issue for you. We try to only drive after emptying our tanks, but if there isn’t an RV dump nearby (like on BLM Land) it smells inside our RV where we have to drive until we can find the closest RV dump. You have 2 engines to maintain instead of one.

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Things we like about Fifth Wheels: We thought for a long time that we were going to buy a fifth wheel because we liked how they felt like home inside. We liked the higher ceilings and spacious kitchens and cabinet space. However, once we realized the price of a good truck that was capable of pulling a fifth wheel that was the size we would like, in addition to the price of the fifth wheel, we realized we could get a used motorhome for about the same price. So we looked at both. We do like the feel of being in a large fifth wheel with separate rooms the best of all of the setups. Once we saw our motorhome though, and realized we could get the bunks with separate doors to all of the “rooms”, we knew that would work well for us. It was very important for us for everyone to have their own beds that we didn’t have to set up each day. The larger fifth wheels can also have bigger tanks than our motorhome, and smaller ones can have smaller tanks.  For large families, people who already have a large truck with a good towing capacity, or those who want a little more space, want to travel in their normal vehicle, a fifth wheel, or travel trailer is a great option.

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What we like about Travel Trailers: A travel trailer often weighs less than a fifth well, which means they can be pulled with a smaller tow vehicle.  If they are shorter than 25 feet, they can also get into just about any campground or area.They usually cost less, and can have rooms on the opposite sides of the trailer depending on the model. This also really depends on the make and model of the truck, and how much you are towing, but trucks can get a little better, or the about same mileage when towing a large RV as a motorhome. Not having to drive in the area where the bathroom is connected can be a plus if you ever have tank issues.

Cons to Fifth Wheel or Travel Trailer: Depending on the build quality and company, if you don’t get an arctic model of a travel trailer or fifth wheel, they may not be as well insulated, so arctic models are best if you plan to be in the cold much. You also need to purchase a separate generator and/or to install solar in most models for more than a short time of dry camping. In smaller models of travel trailers especially, the tanks, including the hot water tank for longer hot showers, may also be smaller so that is another thing to consider. Fifth Wheel hitches can be expensive to buy and have installed. Something else that depends on build quality, we have heard that things often break on travel trailers a little more often, especially on newer models, so buying used is often a plus for multiple reasons including maintaining the value of the rig. It can also be hard to find places to park your truck on occasion when traveling into the city, especially if you have larger dually truck. Trucks use more gas when sightseeing at a destination, and traveling around the city, than a small car would. Be sure to look at the overall weight capacity as well to see how much weight an RV you are looking at can hold inside to be driven safely, as sometimes these numbers can be a little low and be limiting to what you can take with you.

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There are also Class C RVs and Class B van RVs that we didn’t cover in this post, that are similar to a smaller scale Class A where you are just compromising more space of the Class A for the maneuverability of a smaller RV, which can really come in handy when exploring our beautful country!

This is a list of our experiences, opinions, and research on buying an RV. We would love to hear in the comments if your experience is the same or different, and what set-up you have found works best for you!

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