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Old 05-26-2012, 02:02 PM   #1
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Travel Trailer vs. 5th Wheel

My wife and I are planning to full-time when I retire.
We are still trying to decide between a 5th Wheel and a Travel Trailer.
I wanted to ask the owners of the premium travel trailer
about the advantages and disadvantages of towing a travel trailer
as opposed to a 5th Wheel.

(Pro: Donít need one ton dually, lighter RV, better mpg?
Con: Swaying, wider turns, harder to hook and unhook?)



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Old 05-26-2012, 02:16 PM   #2
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5th wheels are much bigger for the most part and have lots of storage, but you lose most of the storage space in the pickup bed. The decor in many of them is old fashioned. They have bigger showers. They look clunky. Hooking up a 5th wheel is pretty simple compared to attaching weight distributing hitches. I believe a 5th wheel is easier to back up.

Airstreams are far more cool.

5th wheels can be gotten for a less money, but don't look very sturdy. Of course prices for better ones are pretty high, so the cost factor may favor an Airstream.

If you are parked in a campground, you may not be able to find a big white box easily, but you'll always spot the Airstream.

I think towing the Airstream is pretty easy, but I've never towed a 5th wheel. The non-aerodynamic quality of a 5th wheel means crosswinds would be no fun.


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Old 05-26-2012, 02:34 PM   #3
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There are a number of 5th wheel units that can be pulled with trucks smaller than a 1ton.
Advantage 5th wheel.
1. Living in one is more like being at home. Pretty much standard couch and chair setup.
2. Less likely to sway under normal handling.
3. No special hitch requirements in addition to the TV hitch assembly.
4. You can tow equipment behind the trailer.
5. Cost per square foot is lower.
6. More storage.

Disadvantage 5th wheel:
1. Higher profile, affected more by side winds.
2. Lower TV fuel mileage because of high profile.
3. You need an open bed truck, pickup or flat bed.
4. Requires more clearance for indoor storage
5. Typical life expectance is shorter than A$'s
6. Steep depreciation

Advantage A$
1. Multiple options for TV
2. Low profile
3. Better fuel mileage
4. Higher resale value

Disadvantage A$
1. Most require an equalizer hitch depending on TV
2. Some require special hitch ( Hensley) for proper handling, depending on TV
3. Initial cost HIGH
4. Significant depreciation in first 3 years.
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Old 05-26-2012, 02:47 PM   #4
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I like traveling light, getting along comfortably but only with the "stuff" necessary. I like the Airstream suspension, the form that slips easily through the wind, and its classic, beautiful and timeless design (inside and out). And I don't need a big tow vehicle that also has to serve poorly as a daily driver.

The 5th wheel trailer cannot do any of these things.

doug k
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Old 05-26-2012, 02:57 PM   #5
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I think the bottom line is going to be space a comfort. If you can live in the space of a AS then your get a better looking better quality for you buck. But if you want tons of room and bring lots of stuff then a 5 wheel with the slides are very nice. Go check some out and think about the space you will have to live in. And a dually is not needed. Plenty of 3/4 tons pull 34 ft 5 wheels.

May you have at least one sunny day, and a soft chair to sit in..

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Old 05-26-2012, 03:30 PM   #6
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I think that the newer 5th wheels are way too big. Pulling something that big has got to have some down side. They are extremely tall and top heavy. Yes they are a little easier to hitch and manuver. When 5th wheel trailers were not much bigger than Airstreams they towed much better. The extreme size of the mega 5th wheels negates their advantages. You don't have to go super large but most folks do.

Air Streams with the correct hitch setup are much more stable than anything on the road and much more aerodynamic than the SOB (square old box) type trailers. I personally don't understand the concept of bringing something the size of a house with you. If all you are going to do when you camp is sit and watch TV in your recliner then stay at home. When I camp I spent a lot of time not in the trailer and that is the whole reason to camp. Watch this video. The trailer that almost rolls is a top heavy square box. 5th wheels are going to have the same top heavy issues.

Airstream Performance - YouTube

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Old 05-26-2012, 05:19 PM   #7
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A nice hitch on a 5'er is no cheaper than the best possible hitch for a conventional.

The 5'ers handle terribly, with little to no ability to handle winds of any consequence and a very high center of gravity, which drastically limits accident avoidance (as the necessary truck to pull them is equally handicapped).

As someone else has written, they're good enough to take somewhere and park them for a season. Up to maybe ten if well built (and the roof replaced a few times).

Think about it a little this direction: do you summer in Death Valley and winter in Buffalo? Then a heavy 5'er might be the way to go if never outside. Is "camping" is just more TV watching in a different locale?

As the attraction of camping is to be outside as much as possible then expensively heated and cooled cubic air space is wasted space. After when we are inside we are either sitting or sleeping. A condominium is hardly needed. I always find it funny (sad, stupid funny) that the 5'er owners moving around Texas in the summer find it necessary to run the generator to keep the [2] roof A/C's running as they roll the highways . . takes hours to cool them back down otherwise.

a] If you want to run the roads with the most stable TT made

b] If you want a TT that will last 40-years

c] If you want a TT that doesn't require a truck


then an A/S is right up your alley.

Alternatives abound . . take your time.

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Old 05-26-2012, 05:37 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by REDNAX View Post

After when we are inside we are either sitting or sleeping.
I've seen plenty of people sitting and sleeping outside them too.

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Old 05-26-2012, 06:44 PM   #9
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There is nothing like an Airstream!
To "borrow" a marketing slogan,
"Airstream, there is no substitute!"
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Old 05-26-2012, 06:45 PM   #10
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Well, seems to me that if you want to TRAVEL a lot, then a travel trailer makes pretty good sense, and AS makes one of the best, most durable, etc. If you want to spend lots of time in one place, 5ers have lots of room, storage, etc.

Do talk to someone who's towed a 5er for long distances. I've not ever towed one, but have heard from owners and have read many posts from 5er owners, who have complained bitterly about the "pounding" that the trailer gives the tow vehicle and it's occupants while in tow. That might be brand specific or hitch specific - I'm just too ignorant in this area to venture any sort of opinion. But do ask around.
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Old 05-26-2012, 07:18 PM   #11
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My father would never own a 5er for 1 main reason to many steps, as he has gotten older he's been having more and more trouble with steps. The clearance for gas stations, trees and bridges can be a problem to, 9.5-10.5' for an AS and 13-14' for a 5er.
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Old 05-26-2012, 07:39 PM   #12
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Fifth wheel drop.

Hi, you won't get one of these with a travel trailer.
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Old 05-26-2012, 08:01 PM   #13
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I've pulled them all more miles than I care to mention. For towing and handeling, give me a good quality 5th wheel any day. If you haven't had the opportunity to pull one, you will really be shocked how stable they are compared to an equivalent sized TT.

With that said, stay away from any 5th wheel built on Lippert frames like the low end Keystones or Forest Rivers. There are tons of stories on the web talking about pin box separation. Good names to look for are Mobile Suites, Arctic Fox, Travel Supreme. They are spendy, but well worth the money.

I will agree with everyone here in saying that the Airstreams are just about the best towing TT's you can find. It's just an apple to oranges comparison with a 5th wheel.
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Old 05-26-2012, 08:04 PM   #14
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Wow! Thank you guys! And thanks, Perry. That was a great video. Darn, my head is spinning now! I may have to go back to square one.

I'd like to ask a couple of questions.

1. We plan to sell the house and go full-time. If I want one that will last 15-20 years from now, something we can travel in and then maybe settle down in later, how far back in years can the Airstream be? What's the earliest model year I should consider?

2. Can I get an Airstream under 30' for $30,000 or less?

3. Are they four season, or can they at least be used down to 20 degrees and up to 90 degrees?

I'm glad I asked that question here. You guys have given me a very different perspective than what I've gotten elsewhere.

Again, thanks!


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