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Old 06-16-2013, 03:20 PM   #1
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travel trailers vs 5th wheel outfits

This is probably not the "right" forum for an "unbiased" answer but thought I would give it a whirl. Given the choice between a 5th wheel outfit and an Airstream travel trailer, which is a better choice for full time living? We are considering a 34' Airstream but have full time relatives telling us that a 5th wheel outfit is far better for storage of "stuff" and a better overall experience in terms of "creature comforts" and the like. What do you all think?
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Old 06-16-2013, 03:30 PM   #2
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I'm obviously bias toward Airstreams, but on the matter of full timing, I would agree with your relatives.

The fifth wheel trailers have lots more room inside, more storage, and more like living in a home. Airstreams are built for travel and excel at it.

The down side of having a fifth wheel trailer is a BIG TRUCK is mandatory, an probably a one ton dually. They are very heavy, and have lots of wind resistance going down the road, so when you do move it, you will be using lots of fuel....probably 20-25% more fuel than if you were towing an Airstream. Also, almost everything you take with you with a fifth wheel, must be stored in the fifth wheel.

Actually, however if I were to go full timing, I would want a large Diesel pusher motorhome pulling a small vehicle like a Jeep, but that's just my opinion.

These are my thoughts based on my experiences and input from other travelers. Good luck with whatever you choose.
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Old 06-16-2013, 03:44 PM   #3
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True. It is better for storing stuff and creature comforts (where bigger is more comfortable). And you get more trailer for less money up front.

For travel, an Airstream with a Hensley style hitch can't be beat. For sitting in an RV park, a fifth wheel can't be beat. A MH has some of each, and is preferred by many who have plenty of money or are handy.

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Old 06-16-2013, 04:02 PM   #4
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I went camping this weekend at the local state park. One of those massive 5th wheels rolled by and I just shook my head. First of all, if you are going to take your house with you, what is the point of traveling and camping. These things are heavy and tall and have a lot of sail area. I would not want to be towing something like that in a high wind or up mountain roads. Imagine what would happen if you blew a tire on one of those top heavy beasts. How many bridges would be too low to pass under? One advantage of a bumper tow is you can put things like motorcycles and bicycles in the bed of the truck. Airstream's, tow much better because they are aerodynamic and have a low center or gravity. 5th wheels before they became so HUGE would tow better than a similar sized SOB trailer. The size that 5th wheels are now scares me a little. There is something to be said for simplicity. Now if I had the money and I wanted to go big, I would get one of those motorhomes on a bus chassis and pull a car behind it. There is one guy on here who pulls an Airstream and also has a small slide in camper that goes in the truck bed.

Perry
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Old 06-16-2013, 04:11 PM   #5
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I have had both...

Fifth wheel wins for sheer capacity and overall living space.

Airstream wins for ease of towing.

If you have to have a bunch of "stuff" an Airstream is probably not for you. I learned a long time ago what is really necessary for living, in that case I really don't need an Airstream a Casita would serve my needs, however I like the durability and repairability of an Airstream over most of the other choices out there.

We tow our Airstream with either a 1/2 ton F150 or my F350 dually, which is really overkill for our needs, but we own it free and clear and it comes in handy on the farm.

FWIW our current house is only 950 sf and we are going to be downsizing to a 870 sf garage apartment in then next couple of years...but it will have an 1900sf shop attached to it.

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Old 06-16-2013, 04:24 PM   #6
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The storage in a bigger trailer is handy. We trade our square white box trailer for the Airstream and then jettisoned some cargo. Airstreams still have plenty of storage, but it is not possible to take all the stuff we used to take. The Airstream is prettier and nostalgic or old-timey looking and tows well.
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Old 06-16-2013, 05:02 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by perryg114 View Post
I went camping this weekend at the local state park. One of those massive 5th wheels rolled by and I just shook my head. First of all, if you are going to take your house with you, what is the point of traveling and camping?
There's a substantial difference between camping and fulltiming, which is the OP's stated intent. I've spent the last year work-week-timing and switched to a 5er after a few months in our 31' Airstream. Hands down the 5er is for "Living in", But If you're fulltiming solo, a wide body Airstream would be suitable IMO. The issue with fulltiming is the tendency to collect stuff and most Airstreams pale in comparison to 5er's when it comes to storage space.

Just my $0.02. Let us know which way you proceed.

Kevin
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Old 06-16-2013, 07:13 PM   #8
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If I was going to pull it somewhere and leave it as a second home, then I would get a 5th wheel. It would be rotten in 10yrs without a roof or lots of maintenance. I see a trailer as a base camp for doing other stuff and not as a home.

Perry
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Old 06-16-2013, 07:40 PM   #9
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Yup, agree with all of the above. There are several possible axes of analysis. For example:

1. Sit vs roll. If you're gonna' travel a lot, the aerodynamics of an Airstream and low center of gravity / emergency maneuvering capability will win hands down. But it sounds as if you probably plan to sit in one place for extended stretches. Big box / 5er wins for space, larger tank sizes (very important if you want to boondock) and overall comfort.

2. It it gonna be home forever or for a while? Airstreams' longevity and "rebuildability" wins over the long haul. But they're more expensive by far. If you don't need it "forever" then only you can decide the cost / depreciation / longevity equation's outcome.

3. $ per cubic foot / square foot. Big box or 5er wins by a mile. Airstreams never were intended for economy.

4. Tow vehicle. Got one already? If not, a smallish 3/4 ton pickup or a largish 1/2 tonner will tow most Airstreams most places (big mountains get more dicey). But a 5er in size large or extra large probably needs a 1 tonner and probably benefits a lot from a big dually. That's some extra cost, loss of maneuverability and parking issues, plus fuel upcharge. Is this tow vehicle your daily driver? If so, smaller is better. But while under tow, larger is usually better.

Lots of other issues as well, but if I were gonna' live in it full time, not travel too much, and didn't expect it to outlive me, I'd be looking at a non-Airstream. But I "camp" in mine, it hardly ever is in one place more than two or three days at a time, and I already had the diesel pickup. So I'm happy with mine. You gotta' figure what will make YOU happy. Good luck.
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Old 06-17-2013, 07:22 AM   #10
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Another consideration is the condition of your hips and knees. Our Airstream is 3 steps up from the ground. Our previous SOB was 4 steps up. A fifth wheel is at least 4 steps up, and then another at least 3 steps up to the front of the trailer. Most big motor homes are at least 4 steps up. For this reason I live in a single story house as well. If I lived in a two-story house there would have to be at least 1 bedroom and 1 bathroom downstairs and I would never go upstairs.
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Old 06-22-2013, 10:00 PM   #11
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My husband, doggy and I fulltime in our 28' 1999 Excella Classic. Plenty of storage and we have an extended bed Dodge 2500 Ram. Still have storage space if needed and we just started this 2/1 so there are things we still to acquire.

Just really depends on how much stuff you need with you. Good luck..BadKat
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Old 06-22-2013, 11:03 PM   #12
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I agree, I you want to bring your home with you, then go with the 5th wheel. For us, just the 2 of us, kids grown and gone and families of their own we chose our Airstream. For all the related previous comments. It is our home away from home for our camping experiences.
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Old 06-23-2013, 08:50 AM   #13
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Our blog is www.lifeonthebluehighways.com..other AS fulltimers are watsonswander and aluminarium. Love both their blogs. Watson totally renovated an AS and Aluminarium bought new. Nice reads. Hope it helps.
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Old 06-25-2013, 07:34 AM   #14
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This question has been asked before. Do a search, OP, and bring in other contributions to this question that may not be posted in this one thread.

3. $ per cubic foot / square foot. Big box or 5er wins by a mile. Airstreams never were intended for economy.

Let's expand this. One can buy a used 10-15 yr old A/S that will be in better shape, all around, than a 5'er of any age past a few years (as no 5'er is built to this standard). The depreciation is worse for the 5'er as residual value (true value, not just book) does not take into account wall delamination and subsequent rot due to the need for a $3-$5,000 roof replacement every 5-years or so. Etc.

In other words, it is pretty easy to make the case for a used A/S over any 5'er new or used as to dollars spent. There are many ways to make the money work on a permanent acquistion (such as the A/S) over a disposable one (the 5'er).

As noted in the the post quoted, the difference comes down to where one wants to stand in terms of $$ at the end of 5-7 years. Or, longer. My parents were hardly unique in having kept their Silver Streak 27-years . . any more than I am unique in having bought my latest aged 24-years.

The majority of time spent inside is sitting or sleeping . . that is test for "room" . . and don't be swayed by psychological preconceptions. Need versus want is in debate, here. We camp to enjoy the outdoors. Not to spend more in heating/cooling or more time in cleaning a larger space. Unless one enjoys extra work in housekeeping.

.
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