This guest post comes from Tami, thanks so much for sending this in! Excellent post. Their new 5th wheel is pictured above…
Our Decision to “Downgrade” from a Motorhome to a 5th Wheel Trailer.
My husband and I aren’t that unlike many of the RV folks we meet in our travels. Most of us started small with a pop up camper. Then we moved onto a travel trailer, and then tried our luck with a motorhome. It wouldn’t be the great USA if we didn’t then take our motorhome and upgrade to an even larger one right? Our most recent motorhome upgrade was to a Thor Hurricane Class A. It was 7 years newer than our last and a few feet longer. It came with many more toys and shiny gadgets as well.
But, that wasn’t the only reason we bought it.
For the last decade my Husband and I have run a commercial construction business and more recently worked with DoItYourselfRV.com from our motorhome. We travel from job site to job site across the country working on construction projects. The motorhome affords us a unique experience unmatched for traditional business travel. Our work has taken us from Southern California, to Michigan, to Montreal, Canada, all the way to Florida, and everywhere in between over the years. We are fortunate to have seen the Grand Canyon, The Alamo, Disney, Redwood Forest, Finger Lakes and countless other sites all in the name of business travel. Our motorhome has been the catalyst for unquantifiable travel savings and convenience. Not to mention a place we could call home and feel comfortable while being thousands of miles from it.
Recently we have had a change of heart. We have decided that it is time to consider selling our motorhome. Traditionally for us that would mean another upgrade to an even more elaborate Class A motorhome with maybe even more pop-outs and gadgetry. But, not this time. We have decided our next RV will be a fifth wheel travel trailer. We admit this is an unconventional direction for a couple with a decade of motorhome living under their belts. After all, when we first started talking about moving to a fifth wheel trailer, my husband said “honey, once you go Class A, you never go back”.
The decision wasn’t easy but we had to weight the pros and cons. There are certainly tradeoffs for each, but we felt in the end the fifth wheel trailer would fit our situation best. Our considerations were primarily along the lines of travel flexibility, fuel economy, carrying construction equipment, living space, and maintenance expenses.
RV Fuel Economy
Though the argument here rages on between many RV owners, our experience towing heavy equipment tells us that this is a win for the fifth wheel. We estimate (we use the word loosely as we haven’t bought our truck for towing the trailer yet) that we should see an increase from 8-10 mpg with the motorhome to 11-14mpg when it is all said and done and fully loaded. This is primarily a function of the truck you buy not necessarily the fault of the trailer.
Towing a Vehicle
With our motorhome we always were forced to tow a vehicle for transportation from the RV park to our job site. This was problematic for us. The vehicles we wanted to tow for good fuel economy weren’t functional around the job site and had trouble with the loads of tools and equipment we carry. The fact that it is a no-no to back up a motorhome with a car on a tow bar also made for the occasional frustration. Having a fifth wheel trailer will allow us to detach the tow vehicle and instantly have a useful work truck in which to carry tools and equipment without issue. We may even use it for sightseeing if there is time!
More Room to Live
Our last motorhome was 36 feet long and offered a large amount of living space with 3 pop-outs. The unfortunate thing about most motorhomes in our price range is that the need to have an area to drive it costs us precious living space. There are also special design considerations in a motorhome that can limit the floor plan. For example, motorhomes are designed to be used while in transit while fifth wheel trailers are not. This means that motorhome floor plans must allow for use of the entire motorhome while in transit, leaving walkways, bathrooms, and the fridge accessible. A fifth wheel floor plan has no such limitation and it frees up designers to be much more creative with space. Not to mention that that huge window in the front of a motorhome we call a windshield isn’t the best insulator for keeping the RV cool or warm when needed.
Motorhomes tend to be more costly when it comes to maintenance. We find the tires, oil changes, and even pop-out corner trim to cost more than it would for a fifth wheel trailer. With the fifth wheel, all we should need to watch is the wear on the tires and perhaps check the bearings on the wheels periodically. Most all maintenance on a fifth wheel trailer is either the same or less costly than that of a motorhome. For example an oil change for a truck is a fraction of the $200+ it can cost for a diesel motorhome.
We were pleasantly surprised to find that the new premium for our full time RV insurance dropped by about 30% with the fifth wheel. This was a surprise bonus that we welcomed with open arms!
Our previous motorhomes didn’t offer any additional space for the work we do. We had to make our own around the dinette or by using makeshift tables with the captain’s chairs. Most fifth wheel floor plans we looked at offered some type of nook or workspace. This is a huge benefit for us and anyone that works on the road.
Things We Will Miss About the Motorhome
If I have given you the impression that it is all sugar, spice and everything nice with a fifth wheel then this is where the balancing act starts.
1. The view from the cockpit of a motorhome is one of the most awe inspiring spots on a road trip. The up-high perspective and the panoramic windows allow for views that no other vehicle can offer.
2. If you are on a long road trip, it is so easy to just pull over at a rest stop, flip off the lights and crawl into bed. No fuss, no setup. Then just wake up, walk a few feet, and hit the road.
3. No way to use the bathroom while in transit. What a luxury that is!
4. Having a space for our pets while traveling. We forgot how much of a pain it can be to have them in the back seat!
5. Ease of finding items. When you can’t find what you are looking for you don’t end up running from the RV to the truck and back several times. With our motorhome there is only one area it could be.
Our New Trailer
We ultimately settled on the Keystone Montana Mountaineer Fifth Wheel travel trailer. Of course making the decision to switch to a fifth wheel is only half the battle. After that you get to wade through the countless fifth wheel brands, models, and floor plans looking for the right one at the right price! I wish you the best of luck and hope that if you are considering full time RV’ing or are in a situation like us you think twice about giving the fifth wheel a try. Safe Travels!