RV Adventure

Ask the Experts: Fifth Wheel or Travel Trailer

As we draw closer to the closing date of selling our house, I’ve begun to think more and more about our future RV. Though we have been researching and ‘touring’ RVs since last fall, it’s all fun and games until you have to hand over the money.

We are still teetering between purchasing a fifth wheel or travel trailer. Both have a few pros and cons as we see it, but since this is a big purchase for us that we want to be happy with for a year on the road, I decided to reach out to several seasoned RVing families to ask their advice when it comes to choosing a fifth wheel or travel trailer.

Fifth Wheel or Travel Trailer

For any other future RV families out there, here’s all the information I’ve gleaned, which has increased our list of pros and cons for both types of RVs and made our decision just a little harder. Based on this compilation, there are a lot more pros for fifth wheels, but alternately, a lot more cons. In a world where price and time are no objects, we would choose a fifth wheel without hesitation. But there is much more to consider, such as size, resale value and new vs. used (post coming soon!). In the end, our RV choice will likely come down to what is on the market when we decide to buy next month and who is willing to negotiate.


Fifth Wheel Pros

  Travel Trailer Pros

– Roomier floorplans, more space for larger families      – Affordability, generally cheaper
– Better maneuverability backing in      – Can tow without a truck
– Split bedrooms with doors      – Accessibility, less height restrictions
– Options for second bathrooms and king-sized bed      – Easier for boondocking/dry camping
– More space and privacy in master bedroom      – Generally smaller size makes traveling more
– Generally taller so more headspace for taller people         nimble
– Greater stability and smoother towing      – Can use back of truck like a garage
– Easier to hook up
– More storage
– Overall length is shorter than a trailer of same size
   because the fifth wheel overlaps the truck bed


Fifth Wheel Cons

  Travel Trailer Cons

– Generally heavier: Harder for boondocking      – Larger trailers tend to sway more
    down on unpaved roads      – Generally smaller
– Generally longer: Some campgrounds have      – Less storage
   limited spots for RVs longer than 30 feet     – Lower ceilings
– Taller: Height doesn’t always fit into camping
   spots with overhanging trees
– Typically more slides: More can go wrong
– Generally more expensive



Why Fifth Wheel or Travel Trailer?

Straight from the sources, here’s what these seasoned RV families had to say about their preferred type of RV.

Erin Hill, Find the Hills, Travel Trailer family

When looking at our options, we were very much caught up in the thought of, “What’s going to give us the best probability for success? What’s the best layout for our day to day?” However, we were not so concerned about how big our purchase was or the reality of pulling it down the road, parking it or where we couldn’t go with it (campground size limits, backroads, etc.) Of course, time and experience has changed a lot. Now our youngest is close to a year old and we realize we don’t need as much space as we thought we did.

Heather Gebbia, Four Radical Roadschoolers and a Fat Cat, Fifth Wheel family

We had a travel trailer before we went full-time. It was nice for weekend camping trips, but we didn’t feel it was enough space to live in. Our fifth wheel is much bigger with much more living space. We love that the kids have their own bedroom and I also love that they have their own bathroom. It’s wonderful to have a second bathroom.

Jon McCartie, Take Me On Adventures, Travel Trailer family

We loved the space our fifth wheel provided, but wanted to downsize for a few main reasons. It was very tall, long and heavy. This made towing a little scary in some places. And with two slides, we were always nervous about something breaking (and either costing us a fortune to fix, or leaving us stranded somewhere). Also, the further West we went, the smaller the national park campgrounds got. We started getting shut out of good campgrounds in the summer, too, as there were limited spots for rigs over 30′ (on his reasoning for downsizing from a fifth wheel). And we wanted to boondock (dry camp) more and towing 10,000lbs down dirt roads was pretty nerve-wracking.

Mike Johnson, Living a Good Story, Fifth Wheel family

The main reason we bought a fifth wheel vs. a travel trailer is the size of our family. We have a 15 year old , a 12 year old, a 10 year old and a 6 year old and we really wanted a relatively big floor plan. The fifth wheel we got is 42 feet long. With something that big the stability that a fifth wheel provides was a must for us. Bigger tow trailers have a tendency to sway a lot easier. In general, fifth wheels tow a lot more smoothly. I have towed a few travel trailers and at high speeds or in windy conditions I could feel the travel trailers swaying the truck around a little. With our fifth wheel, I have only felt it swaying us around in the wind a couple of times in 6 months. So the main reason was ease and safety of towing.

Fifth wheels overlap the track bed, so if you are towing a 30-foot-long fifth wheel vs. a 30-foot-long trailer pull, your overall length is smaller on the fifth wheel.

Margie Lundy, The Lundy 5, Fifth Wheel family

Ultimately we decided we would be living in it more than driving in it and the fifth wheel floor plans are so much roomier. They’re usually taller than travel trailers and just feel bigger. Plus, they’re much easier to tow and hook up. We also wanted the kids’ bedroom in the back and ours in the front, all with doors. And the second bathroom for them has been wonderful.

Caleb Simpson, Freedom in Tow, Travel Trailer family dreaming of a Fifth Wheel

While we have only towed with a bumper pull, we have also recently extensively looked at both bumper pulls and fifth wheels, and I have to say we really like the fifth wheels much better…at least the ones that offer a split bedroom arrangement for our kids. The down sides of the fifth wheels are that they tend to be much heavier. Fifth wheels do tend to have more space in the master bedroom though, which we are really liking, and look forward to having in our next rig.

Also, fifth wheels have more maneuverability when backing in (you can’t jack knife them) and they tend to have way more storage than the bumper pulls. We we seem to have just enough with our bumper pull, but sometimes do wish we had more.

Gretchen Holcomb, Boxy Colonial on the Road, Travel Trailer family

We never seriously considered fifth wheels for a couple of reasons. They’re significantly more expensive than travel trailers–both the RV itself and because it would have meant buying a truck instead of a van, and vans are typically cheaper. We have four kids, and we just wouldn’t fit comfortably in a truck. We tow with a V10 Ford e350 passenger van that seemed like by far the most affordable way to do it. If we’d had one fewer kids, we probably would have at least seriously looked at trucks, which might have led us to look at fifth wheels–who knows?

Mandy Emanuel, Simple RV Living, Travel Trailer family

Note: I chatted with Mandy for more than 30 minutes, grilling her on the reasons she liked her travel trailed and preferred a just a 26-foot trailer for her family of five. It was great to ask questions off the fly and get so much insight in one sitting.



I'm a full-time wife and semi-stay-at-home mom to four young kids. Day to day, I help my husband with his small business, but when I have any extra time, you can find me cooking or being active outdoors with my family. We live at the foothills of the North Georgia mountains and are embracing modern homesteading month by month.


  1. Such a big decision! We just pulled our trailer over a mountain pass (Monteagle, south of Nashville) for the first time this past week, and I was happy that it was so lightweight while that was going on….but I’m probably more paranoid than average about such things ;).

  2. In your situation, I would buy a huge van then the biggest bumper pull trailer it can handle plus a Hensley hitch. You need the van for the car seats and the space in the trailer for rainy days or sick, thus grumpy, kids. Yes, my husband and I did fine in a 24′ motorhome but there’s just two of us.

    Also, don’t count on only doing this for a year. It’s addictive. And road schooling doesn’t have to stop at age 6. There are lots of families out there doing this. If you haven’t found this site yet you probably should set aside some time to explore it: http://www.familiesontheroad.com

    1. Yes one RVing family I follow has a passenger van and trailer for their family of 6 and they love it. I’ve also heard people say it’s addictive, so we can be flexible if we need to be. I have browsed Families on the Road in the past but will definitely revisit and glean all the info I can. Thank you for the advice!

  3. My grandparents lived 23 years in a travel trailer. They had a small camper cap on the F150 they drove and would often leave the trailer in a campground for a time and tour with just the camper and their bicycles. Tough to do with little ones, but a possibility further down the line. The “Rig”, as they called it, gave them good flexibility.

    1. I love this! I grew up going on short trips with my grandparents in a Class C and have the best memories. We’re planning to get bikes with baby seats and maybe a pull-behind trailer for the kids.

  4. Over time, my uncle has had both a fifth wheel and a trailer. Like you said, fifth wheels are far roomier and easier to hook up. Overall, I think he loved the fifth wheel much more than he ever liked the trailer. Money is a big factor too, however, and if a trailer is the only option in your budget, I’m sure it would be a good choice as well!

  5. Hello. We’re new to camping and I just ran across your website and have a quick question for you- you state that the fifth wheel travel trailers are easier to pull and don’t have the sway that a regular travel trailer has. My question is how/or is it inconvenient to have the hitch for the fifth wheel stay in the truck bed? Don’t you lose a lot of hauling room with the hitch being in the bed? Just curious. Thank you in advance for your response.

    1. Hi there! So yes having the hitch in the truck does yield less storage room in the truck bed. We usually put a large cooler and an adult bike and kid bike between the hitched trailer and the back truck window. I feel like the main drawback is hauling outside toys, like bikes, strollers etc. some full timers have added the utility trays in the back of their rigs, but because we are part timing we have not opted for that approach. When we are at our house, when we need to haul something heavy like a pallet we simply remove the hitch. It’s heavy, but my husband and I both lift it out without any problem. Hope that helps!

  6. I think I would rather get a fifth wheel over a regular travel trailer. I like that they are generally more spacious, since we have a tall family. I think when we get one we’ll be able to take more trips together because we would all fit!

  7. I’ve been thinking about getting a fifth wheel, but I might have changed my mind. The only reason is because I read in your cons section that fifth wheels have a harder time maneuvering through unpaved roads. I live in an area where most of the roads are unpaved. I think a trailer would be better suited for these conditions.

    1. Hi there! We had always heard that you couldn’t, but on several occasions we’ve seen fifth wheels towed by short bed trucks. Hopefully a dealership would have more to say on the issue, but I would think you’d have to be careful making sharp turns.

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