Travel Trailers vs. Fifth Wheels: A Helpful Pros and Cons List


Both Travel Trailers and Fifth Wheels are great recreational vehicles. They both pose good and bad things that correlate with each. But, which one is a better fit for you? I have compiled a detailed pros and cons list below with everything you may need to know about each.

Travel Trailer:

Pros:Cons:
Most towing optionsHarder to tow
Cheaper in priceSway more
Better fuel economyNot good for full-time RVing
Cheaper to maintainLess in-trailer storage
NimbleCan’t always fit in campgrounds
More accessibilityLess space
Back of truck = GarageLonger (vehicle +trailer)
Short TripsLow Ceilings
Easier to rough itMost styles boring
Modern styles becoming available

Fifth Wheel:

Pros:Cons:
Easier to towNeed to buy a big truck
Easy to hook upMore maintenance
SaferHard to travel through cities
Less likely to swayMore slides = more can go wrong
Tow-able “home”Heavier
RoomyHarder to rough it
More home amenitiesLarge
Great for full-time RVingSmall size range
More in-trailer storage
More space and privacy
Shorter than Travel Trailer
Taller ceilings
More modernized

Towing

Travel Trailer

Pro – Travel trailers have the more towing options when compared to a Fifth Wheel. With the wide range of towing vehicle options, you may not need to buy a car for towing your trailer. You can often tow Travel Trailers with Suburbans and ANY SIZE of pickup truck! This makes the Travel Trailer is a lot more convenient and is an even cheaper option when compared to getting a Fifth Wheel.

Con – Despite Travel Trailers being more convenient for towing due to the wide range of vehicles that can handle towing them, it is harder to tow Travel Trailers. This is because of the location of the hitch point on the vehicle.

The hitch point for a Travel Trailer is located off the back end of a vehicle. There is usually a little block of metal sticking out the back of the vehicle with a metal ball on it. This is the trailer hitch. You would hitch your travel trailer onto this in order to tow it.

The location of the hitch point makes it much easier for your trailer to be thrown around by the wind. The location of the hitch point for towing a Travel Trailer also makes it so you don’t have as good of a turn radius which can make traveling difficult as well.

Fifth Wheel

Pro – Unlike Travel Trailers, Fifth Wheels are much easier to tow because of the location of the hitch point. The hitch point for a Fifth Wheel is actually located in the center of your pickup bed. There is a special trailer hitch that you would install in the bed of your pickup meant for towing your Fifth Wheel.

Having the towing hitch located in the bed of the pickup makes it much easier to make turns because you have a tighter turn radius capability that you would if you were towing a Travel Trailer with a back end towing hitch.

Pro – Fifth Wheels are also easier to hook up to the trailer hitch than Travel Trailers are. The hitch point for a Fifth Wheel, being in the pickup bed, is much easier to line up because you can see what you are doing when driving to line up the hitch and the hitch point. With a Travel Trailer the hitch point is below your line of vision on both your towing vehicle and the trailer which makes it much harder to line up for hook up.

Con – One downer to Fifth Wheels is that you do need to have or buy a big truck in order to tow them. You can’t just use any vehicle you already have. This means that, if you don’t already have a big pickup truck to tow your Fifth Wheel, you will need to put out the money to get one. This can get expensive, sadly.

Cost

Averages:Travel TrailerFifth Wheel
RV Price$8,000-$65,000$15,000-$50,000
Mileage7 mpg12 mpg
——————————————————-————————-————————–
Extras$1,000$1,000
Gas $/Mile (based on $2.85/gal)$0.41$0.24
Yearly Maintenance$600$1,000
Yearly Insurance$250$250
Yearly Tags$40$40

Yearly Total Not Including RV Price
(assuming 1000 miles traveled):
$2,300$2,530

Note: All prices are averages and not specific numbers to any particular RV or state. Prices will vary depending on the RV you get and the state it is registered in.

Travel Trailer

Pro – Travel Trailers can be much cheaper than Fifth Wheels to buy because of their lighter build and smaller than Fifth Wheels are. Travel Trailers are also cheaper because you don’t necessarily have to buy a huge truck to tow your trailer if you buy a Travel Trailer. You can tow this trailer with nearly any vehicle!

Pro – Travel Trailers are definitely more of a rough-and-tumble kind of RV and they are more durable than Fifth Wheels. Because of this and many other reasons, Travel Trailers are also much cheaper to maintain than Fifth Wheels are.

Pro – Travel Trailers are usually lighter and smaller than Fifth Wheels are including the towing vehicle. Because of this lighter total weight, Travel Trailers get better gas mileage and fuel economy than a pickup truck towing a Fifth Wheel would get, making a Travel Trailer cheaper to travel with.

Pro – Travel Trailers are overall just cheaper to own and maintain than Fifth Wheels are. They are usually cheaper in price of the trailer itself, cheaper towing vehicle (because you may not have to buy a new one), cheaper gas mileage, cheaper maintenance, and overall cheaper running costs. If you are looking for the cheaper option, you should go with getting a Travel Trailer.

Fifth Wheel

Pro – If you don’t mind spending the extra money in all different aspects to own a Fifth Wheel, then one of these RVs would be a good fit for you probably. (If you are looking to save money where you can, I would not recommend getting one of these types of RVs)

Pro – If you already have or are looking into buying a larger towing truck anyway, a Fifth Wheel wouldn’t be a bad option because there are so many great benefits like safety, storage, and modern styles. The cost is not a fun factor, but if you already have one of the trucks needed to tow it, then it will be much a much cheaper buy.

Con – Fifth Wheels cost more than Travel Trailers do for sure. Not only is the trailer itself more expensive to buy, but you also usually have to buy a new truck large enough to tow your RV along with the trailer. Along with the two expensive vehicle purchases, the maintenance costs can get expensive as well for this type of RV.

Con – Fifth Wheels also need more maintenance and checking up on because of their larger size and such. People often use their Fifth Wheels very frequently, because that’s what they bought it for. However, the more use your trailer gets, the more maintenance it will need too. Because of how pristine Fifth Wheels are as well, the maintenance gets expensive.

Travel

Travel Trailer

Pro – Travel Trailers usually come in smaller sizes than Fifth Wheels do, with the exception of abnormally large Travel trailers that are not often purchased. This smaller size makes them a more nimble RV to maneuver and work with. It is a smaller amount of vehicle to have to deal with so it is easier to work around things and even park in places because of the small size.

Pro – Something that is nice about travel trailers is that there are less height restrictions for traveling and docking. They are a shorter RV which makes it so that they can travel more places without worry of height restrictions and accessibility.

Con – Despite the smaller size of Travel Trailers being much more convenient, this smaller size makes it so that they end up swaying more when wind hits. This is because of the light weight. Because the trailer isn’t heavier, it is much easier for the trailer to catch the wind and not be able to stand its ground.

Fifth Wheel

Pro – Due to the way this RV hitches, the Fifth Wheel is much less likely to sway during traveling and it also has a better turn radius which is much safer when traveling as well. The location of the hitch makes it a lot safer for many reasons because the trailer is much more secure and at a much better location for ease of use.

Pro – Along with Fifth Wheels being much safer on the road due to the location of the hitch, it specifically is great because it is less likely to jack-knife. Jack-Knifing is when the trailer keeps driving straight ahead of the towing vehicle when the towing vehicle is trying to turn.

Think of a pocket knife and how the blade flips in and out. The trailer would be in the place of the handle on the pocket knife and the towing vehicle would be in the place of the blade. You do not want your towing vehicle to close (jack-knifing, causing that acute angle).

Con – Fifth Wheels are much harder to travel through cities with. Due to their width, it is harder for them to navigate through city streets because the streets don’t leave any extra room for wide vehicles. If you are traveling in a Fifth Wheel, it is better to avoid city streets when you can.

Usability

Travel Trailer

Pro – With a Travel Trailer, the hitch is off the back end of the car and not in the bed of your towing vehicle, as I have stated before. If you are towing your trailer with a pickup, you can use the bed of your pickup as a garage or extra storage space.

Pro – Travel Trailers are better for short trips as well. They are equipped for light traveling with only the absolute necessities. This makes them great for quick weekend trips and trips similar to that. These trailers have what is absolutely necessary such as a bed, bathroom, mini kitchen, and table, but not all of the luxury appliances that you would like when going on longer trips or living somewhere.

Con – Because of this lightweight, bare necessity set up of Travel Trailers, they are not well equipped for long trips such as cross country road trips for weeks on end or full-time RVing. For this type of long traveling, you would much rather prefer a Fifth Wheel where you have all of the amenities and personal space you need for a fun and comfortable trip.

Con – Travel Trailers also have less storage space than Fifth Wheels do. This is because of the lightweight, quick trip set up that Travel Trailers naturally have. There are less places to store things because the trailer is smaller and is set up to be able to travel as lightly as possible.

Fifth Wheel

Pro – Fifth Wheels are a luxury RV compared Travel trailers and are basically tow-able houses or apartments. These RVs have all the amenities you could ask for. Having so many amenities makes them much easier to adjust to living or traveling in because you don’t have to give up to comforts of your own home to travel. Especially, if you are using your trailer to live in or travel for work, a Fifth Wheel is a much more comfortable option.

Pro – With the large size of Fifth Wheels, there is extra space for wanted amenities such as if you wanted a washer and dryer in your RV. There is plenty of space to accommodate for any and all extra needs that you have for your trailer.

Pro – Fifth Wheels also have split bedroom spaces, because they have the extra space for it. This provides more privacy which is always nice. They also sometimes have a second bathroom and a King bed which will provide the optimal amount of comfort and privacy for both you and whoever is staying with you.

Pro – Fifth Wheels have plenty of room for any extra storage you may want or need for various reasons. These large trailers have nooks and crannies all over the place that you can stash your stuff in both inside and outside the trailer. You will never have to worry about not having enough storage space for your things when traveling with a Fifth Wheel.

Con – These nice RVs, because they are accommodating for more space, have more slides than a Travel Trailer would have. Though these extra slides may be great for providing more living and entertaining space inside the trailer, they also provide more possibilities and places for things to go wrong on the trailer, leading to more expensive maintenance.

Camping

Travel Trailer

Pro – One great thing about travel trailers is that they are much easier to go boondocking in. Boondocking is dry camping, RV camping without any electrical or water hook ups. Travel Trailers are easier to boondock in because they are much easier to transport to these uncivilized locations.

Con – Travel Trailers, however, can be harder to fit in campgrounds because they can get pretty long. The rig length (vehicle + trailer) when towing a Travel Trailer is longer than when towing a Fifth Wheel. This extra length not only can make fitting in campgrounds hard, but it can also make overnight stops harder for similar reasons.

Fifth Wheel

Pro – Fifth Wheels have a shorter rig length (truck + trailer) than Travel Trailers of the same size do. This is due to the difference in location of the hitch point. The shorter rig length makes overnight stops and fitting into camp spots easier, especially with this size of trailer.

Con – Fifth Wheels are much heavier that Travel Trailers are. This extra weight makes it much harder to boondock or even simply traveling down an unpaved road. The extra weight makes it super hard to travel anywhere uncivilized because you need the compact, sturdy road to hold up the weight of the trailer while traveling. If you are an avid adventurer and dry camper, it would be better to get a Travel Trailer.

Con – Fifth Wheels, despite them being a shorter rig length than travel trailers, are hard to fit into camp spots due to their large size. There are always a limited amount of camp spots that fit trailer longer than 30 feet and taller than the average travel trailer. Fifth Wheels fit in these spots but it tends to get rather tight.

Size

Travel Trailer

Con – Travel Trailers do come in many sizes ranging from rather small to rather large, but these trailers tend to start feel claustrophobic. This is due to the smaller width of the trailer. There are pullouts, but everything can tend to feel kinda smashed in this skinny space. If you are someone that likes your space, it is probably better to get a Fifth Wheel.

Con – Not only does the inside feel claustrophobic, bit the trailer itself is just smaller. The width and length run small. It can get tight. This type of RV was definitely made to be used for short term and this is exactly why. If you are looking for a more long-term option, it is probably better to get a Fifth Wheel.

Con – Along with this space issue, the ceilings in this RV are not very tall either. They are just tall enough to fit the average adult height of a human being and that is it. This factor definitely contributes to the claustrophobic feeling. Especially if you are above average in height, it would be better to get a Fifth Wheel to have that extra head room.

Fifth Wheel

Pro – Fifth Wheels have plenty of head space for its occupants. You won’t get claustrophobic and won’t have to duck your head if you are above the average height for an adult human being. Even if you are average height and just like taller ceilings, this would be the option to go with. You won’t ever have to worry about the ceiling being too short.

Con – These RVS are massive. They are huge! They don’t have a wide range of size option either. Only big and bigger. Because of this large size, these trailers are hard to fit in camp spots. You can’t custom make a Fifth Wheel trailer in a smaller size either. The sizes are only big and bigger.

Styles

Travel Trailer

Pro – Travel Trailers are working to become a popular purchase item again and, to make this happen, the companies are coming out with more modern styles for you to choose from. These styles are very appealing and functional as well. The options for nice travel trailers are opening up.

Con – Despite more modern styles that are starting to be introduced to the Travel Trailer market, most of these trailers have a very old and boring style. Travel Trailers are most often found in brown color schemes with boring or old school designs and styles. Because this is mostly what’s out there at prices most people are looking at, it is hard to find a Travel Trailer that people actually like that still looks nice and appealing.

Fifth Wheel

Pro – Another thing that I personally love about Fifth Wheels is their modern and appealing styles that they almost always come in. Fifth Wheels have always had high class styles and appealing color schemes that are sure to please you. You won’t have to fight not liking the style of one of these trailers when shopping, unlike with Travel Trailers.

So, What One is Better?

This answer ultimately depends on what you are looking for.

If you are looking for a high quality, long-term RV that you don’t mind spending money on, one you could live in for extended periods of time and have a luxury space, you should definitely get a Fifth Wheel.

But, if you are looking for a cheaper RV that you can do a ton of little short trips in that is easier on your wallet even though it isn’t the most spacious or best extended vacation option, you should go for a Travel Trailer.

No matter which option fits your needs best, both are great and can take you on some awesome adventures.

Geoff Southworth

I am a California native and I enjoy all the outdoors has to offer. My latest adventures have been taking the family camping, hiking and surfing.

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