It’s a bus… It’s a plane… NO – it’s a spaceship on wheels!
Okay, maybe fifth wheels aren’t that dramatic, but after you read this article (and see the interior space of some of these travel trailers) you’re going to agree with me about the spaceship thing.
Welcome! If you’re here to learn about 5th wheel trailers then you’ve come to the right place. This article is going to provide you with everything you need to know about the wonderful world of fifth wheel campers. We’re going to dive into what they are, the quick facts, benefits (and disadvantages), how they’re built, and the interior of these really cool RVs.
If you’re thinking about purchasing this RV type, STOP, and keep reading. I promise you won’t regret it!
What’s A Fifth Wheel Trailer?
Let’s get right to it. What exactly are fifth wheels and why are they the perfect RV (or not so great) for you?
A fifth wheel travel trailer (also called a 5th wheel RV or just 5th wheel) is a non-motorized towable travel trailer that uses a special hitch within the bed of your truck instead of being pulled by the bumper.
This RV type is large (trust me, it’s a big boy) and will provide you RV enthusiasts with more space, storage, luxury, and headaches than any other travel trailer on the market.
You can always tell an RV camper is a fifth wheel because of the over hanging portion which sits above the truck bed of your tow vehicle. This is often called a “goose-neck” and is the most common characteristic of these RVs.
Fifth Wheel Trailer Quick Facts
Typically between 20 – 40 feet, but some trailers can get as large as 57 feet in length!
Anywhere from 5,000 – 25,000 pounds.
Usually sleep between 6-8 people comfortably.
Almost always have at least 1 slide out, but often 2-3.
Most fifth wheels will cost between $50,000 – $100,000. Although, some top end options can easily run you up to $200,000+ in cost.
Benefits Of Fifth Wheel Trailers
So, what’s the benefits of going camping with a fifth wheel RV?
If you’re considering living in your RV full-time, then storage features with a 5th wheel is going to appeal to you. Nearly every model will feature a basement storage option which often comes stock to the travel trailer. This allows you to store a wide variety of cargo. From golf clubs, to full generators, and everything in between.
Of course, with a fifth wheel you’re getting the fully equipped feeling of camping in style, or glamping, but the storage difference with this RV type is well suited for those full-timers.
Fifth wheels offer you full size everything. What do I mean? Because of the larger size of living space, you can expect standard queen mattresses, large refrigerator, full size stove, bunk beds, large showers, and so much more. This is a huge difference compared to other trailer options and the different class motorhomes.
Living Space & Floor Plans
It’s my personal opinion that fifth wheel RVs offer the most options for living space compared to other floorplans on the market. Because of their over hang (which typically houses a bedroom) there’s a wide set of options you can choose from. You can pick a floorplan with the living room in basically any area of the RV, you can get one for remote work, you can focus on large kitchens, or you can get one built for families. Each manufacturer is focused on creating a place for every kind of family.
Disadvantages Of Fifth Wheel Trailers
Now that you know all the juicy benefits of a fifth wheel, what are the drawbacks?
Okay so fifth wheels vary widely in terms of size, but even with all this variety, you have to expect your trailer too large. Like Big Gulp (do people still drink those?) large. Not only is the length a concern – the average fifth wheel is typically between 25-35 feet – but you MUST be aware of the height of this travel trailer. They are almost always 3-5 feet taller than other bumper-pull travel trailers. Why does this matter? Because going camping with a fifth wheel can be tough, and you must know that most national parks won’t allow any trailer longer than 30ft. Not to mention the larger your RV, the greater safety concern you must have.
If you want a more in-depth look at the differences between fifth wheels and travel trailers, check out our post here.
So you like camping in style, or maybe living full time on the road with cozy amenities? Great! But… Have you thought about towing? This might damper your enthusiasm, but if you plan on getting a fifth wheel, then you MUST get a tow truck with enough power for pulling that much weight. The average fifth wheel is going to weigh between 8,000 – 16,000 pounds and if you’re thinking you can tow that with a F-150, you’re in for a nasty surprise. The right kind of truck for this towing job will need to be a diesel engine with enough towing capacity to pull your trailer when its fully equipped and loaded down. This is going to cost a good deal of money, so be prepared.
When you’re getting a new RV, I doubt the first thing you thought was “How am I going to store this guy?”. Well, with a fifth wheel, you’ve got to keep this in mind. I don’t think I’ve come across an HOA that will allow a travel trailer (that can’t fit into the driveway) to be parked for longer then a week before you start getting nasty letters from Nancy down the road who just can’t mind her own business. Anyways, it doesn’t matter the model or the brand, when you’re not using it, you’ve got to store it. Which means finding a storage facility (hopefully with a cover) that will allow you to keep your RV safe and secure. However, this does mean more money out of pocket which is something to think about.
How Are Fifth Wheels Built?
Okay, so you’re interested in how these RVs get built? Well, let’s get started.
As with any RV, you must start building from the ground up. What that means is starting with the frame. Almost all fifth wheels (at least the ones worth purchasing) are going to be made with steel as their primary frame metal. This will typically come stock by the majority of RV manufactures.
This frame will have anywhere from one to three separate axles, which will depend on what model you get, and the length plus expected weight of the RV.
Quick note: there are some manufactures that will build an RV like a boat (using fiberglass throughout the entire structure to reduce weight). We don’t recommend that as you’ll find them more of a hassle to deal with down the line.
With the frame selected and the axles added, the next thing manufacturers will do is provide the preliminary wiring for electrical power along with the insulation.
Depending on the RV type the manufacturer is selling, they’ll also add the holding tanks (both the grey and black water tanks) into the different sections within the frame.
From here, they’ll begin the process of getting the living quarters added.
Interior & Living Space
Now the fun part. After the fifth wheel frame is complete, they’ll begin putting the flooring down (typically laminated) with different sections cut out for the wiring and ductwork.
This is where fifth wheels really shine.
Here the fifth wheel manufacturers will start building out the different floor plans based on what you purchased. This can included a full bathroom (not just a wet-bath), full size kitchen, multiple bedrooms (bunk beds included) and large sitting areas.
There are even options for a full office for those road warriors (like us!).
Like I mentioned earlier, fifth wheel trailers are literally space ships when it comes to the amount of features, luxury, and just plain awesome extras you get.
The interior space will very often have island sinks, multiple lounging chairs, a full master style bedroom with regular queen size mattress, some even come with built in home theaters.
These RVs have nearly unlimited options that will make anyone want to sell their home and hit the road full time.
With all of that being said, the manufactures will add all of these features at this step in the process before getting the outer shell added on.
Outer Shell & Roof
At this point with the interior finished, it’s know time to start adding the outer walls (which included the cuts for the slide outs) to the new fifth wheel travel trailers.
These walls are going to be laminated fiberglass which will start to make the RV come to life.
Once the walls are added, it’s now time to put the roof on.
This is actually where most fifth wheels will differ significantly. The roofs can be either:
Depending on the model and selected features you chose for your travel trailer, you can expect one of these options when you pick up your new 5th wheel.
With the roof added, you now have your new RV ready to tow and ready to go!
If you’re going camping anytime soon, and you want an A1 experience, then you need to look into fifth wheels as your go to selection for a new travel trailer. Designed to be towed by a super duty truck, this RV type is built for enjoying the great outdoors in style.
Even better if you’re looking to RV full-time!
With all that being said, hopefully you found this article useful.
If you are interested in learning more about other RV Types, check out our other articles:
- The Ultimate Guide To RV Types & RV Classes
- Everything You Would Want To Know About A Class A RV
- Everything You Would Want To Know About A Class B RV
- Everything You Would Want To Know About A Class C RV
- Everything You Need To Know About Travel Trailers
- Everything You Need To Know About Toy Haulers
- Everything You Need To Know About Hybrid Travel Trailers
- Everything You Need To Know About Teardrop Trailers
- Everything You Need To Know About Pop Up Campers
- Everything You Need To Know About Truck Campers