All About Fifth Wheel RVs

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Once you've decided to buy a new or used RV, the key question becomes: self-contained or tow-behind? Each type has its merits, but the advantage of a travel trailer, as opposed to a motorhome, is that you can unhitch it at your destination and use the tow vehicle for unencumbered sightseeing. And when it comes to trailers, the fifth wheel has become the pull-behind of choice for many buyers.

The 5th wheel trailer connects to a hitch located in the tow vehicle's bed. This configuration provides an elevated living space inside the trailer that typically contains the main bedroom. Fifth wheels also include a plushly appointed living room, kitchen with stovetop, oven and microwave, full bathroom, and cargo space. In addition, most 5th wheels include a large picture window at the rear, and two-thirds of today's fifth wheel trailers include one or more "slides" or "slideouts," in which a portion of the wall can be extended outward up to three feet to provide additional living space.

The hottest trend in 5th wheel trailers today is known as the "toy hauler." Sometimes called a "toy box," sport utility box, sport utility RV, gear box or ramp trailer, these 5th wheel trailers include a large cargo area at the rear that is accessed via a tall tailgate that swings down to create a loading ramp. These 5th wheel trailers are ideal for adventurers who plan to use their trailer as a base camp while they take their all-terrain vehicles, dirt bikes, watercraft or snowmobiles out to play.

Of course, all trailers need a tow vehicle, so you must take this aspect into account before you shop for new or used 5th wheel trailers. The type of tow vehicle you need will depend on the type of fifth wheel you plan to buy. Smaller trailers (up to about 23 feet long) can be pulled by a half-ton truck. Mid-sized trailers (23-30 feet) require a three-quarter ton or one-ton truck for towing. For larger fifth wheel trailers, get a truck with a diesel engine, which is more powerful than a gasoline engine. Some experts recommend investing in a diesel-powered, dual-wheeled truck for toy haulers heavier than 9,000 pounds.

Naturally, you must take the cost of the tow vehicle into account when planning to buy a 5th wheel trailer. New fifth wheels alone cost between $15,000 and $100,000, depending on what type of upgrades you add on. Used fifth wheels can be considerably cheaper, but you should thoroughly inspect the structural components, including axles, before investing in a used unit.

If you're considering buying a new or used 5th wheel trailer or toy hauler, look for units from makers like Gulf Stream, Nuwa, Holiday Rambler, Mckenzie, Dutchmen, Newmar, Keystone, Jayco and Forest River. These makers have an established reputation for delivering quality fifth wheel trailers. To start your search for the perfect 5th wheel or toy hauler, check out the search engine on our main page, which will connect you to dealers in your area.
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