Travel Trailers versus Fifth Wheels

Published: Wednesday, June 6, 2007

With progressive improvement in the national economy and an increasing percentage of the population enjoying disposable income on hand, the demand for recreational vehicles has increased significantly over the last few years. For those who love traveling with their family and friends, visiting diverse locations of exotic natural beauty, during weekends and long holidays form some of the best recreational options. While family cars are suitable for short trips in and around the city, if you are planning to go for extensive cross country travels or relaxing long weekend trips, recreational vehicles, equipped with providing you all comforts of home, are some of the best entities that you can opt for. In order to suit the budget and meet the specific requirements of different people, recreational vehicle manufacturers are today designing vehicles in a variety of structures. Broadly, these RVs can be subcategorized into the two groups of towable and motorized vehicles. Whereas, motorized vehicles primarily comprise of Class A, Class B and Class C Motorhomes, towable RVs come in a variety of models including travel trailers, fifth wheels, tent campers, park models and toy haulers.

The basic characteristic of a towable RV that distinguishes it from motor driven vehicles is that they do not possess any independent motor engines of their own and need to be towed by another towing vehicle. While proper co-ordination of movement of the two vehicles and maintenance of optimum balance plays a significant role in towable recreational vehicles, on the other hand, as in most towable vehicles, once you reach the destination spot you can detach the towing vehicle, you can use the latter for exploring the new locality without having to tow along the whole RV. Among towable recreational vehicles, fifth wheels and travel trailers are some of the most popular entities of the modern RV market. Whereas, the basic features of towable vehicles are common in both, each has its own set of distinct advantages that are best kept in mind while selecting either RV type. Other than certain specific Park Models, Fifth Wheels are the most expensive towable RVs available today. The main difference between travel trailers and fifth wheels is that while the former uses a ball and couple hitch for hitching to the rear end of the towing vehicle, the latter uses a pin and jaw hitch that is hooked in the truck bed. Another main structural difference between travel trailers and fifth wheels is that while the entire body of a travel trailer exists in a single level plane, the front part of a fifth wheel is constructed at an elevated level with part of the floor plan extending over the rear part of the towing vehicle. As a result of this structure, the stability of a fifth wheel is better than a traditional travel trailer. Since the total weight of a fifth wheel is more evenly distributed, maneuvering these vehicles under windy conditions and while traveling on highways is much easier. As there is a distinct floor level difference in fifth wheels, the elevated section is often used as the master sleeping bedroom with provisions of bunk beds provided at the other end of the vehicle. In order to make your holiday travels as comfortable as possible, the kitchens of fifth wheel campers are usually structured elaborately with spacious pantries, numerous cabinets, large countertop space, snack bars and provided with various modern gadgets including refrigerators, microwaves, ovens and stoves. Fifth wheels are some of the most spacious campers you can select today. Provided with numerous slideout facilities, these vehicles enable you to expand the interior living space according to your need. However, as with addition of every slideout, the camper becomes heavier, the cost of the Fifth Wheel rises correspondingly. However, if you are selecting a Fifth Wheel for your recreational trips, make sure the truck you are going to use for towing has adequate capacity to tow the RV. As Fifth Wheels themselves are heavy vehicles, many families find they need to invest in an adequately capable pickup for towing the Fifth Wheel. This can prove to be an expensive investment and add to the total cost. Another point to be kept in mind while purchasing Fifth Wheels is that since the RV needs to be hitched to the bed of the truck, the utility of the truck bed itself is somewhat reduced. You can, however, remove the hitch when the fifth wheel is not in use.

One of the main advantages travel trailers have over fifth wheels is that as the former are much lighter in weight and smaller in length, they can be easily towed by most vans and SUVs and can be more easily maneuvered while traveling on highways. Moreover, as these vehicles are hitched to the rear end of the towing vehicle, the truck bed remains free for other use. In spite of being smaller in length than fifth wheels, travel trailers come complete with all comfort facilities including living, dining and sleeping areas and fully equipped kitchens and bathrooms. However, while purchasing a travel trailer, it is best to check the actual living space you will be able to use in the vehicle. If you already own a mini-van or a small truck, a travel trailer weighing less than 4,000 pounds, can prove to be a good investment. However, because of their hitching structure, travel trailers are less stable than fifth wheel and are more difficult to manage in windy conditions and within restrictive campgrounds. Yet, if you have a suitably capable towing vehicle, a stable hitch and experience in maneuvering a trailer behind your vehicle, a travel trailer can be an affordable yet, luxurious purchase.

No matter which type of recreational vehicle you opt for, it is best to keep in mind the dimensions of your storage space and select the vehicle accordingly. At the same time, while making your RV purchase, make sure all parts of the vehicle you are selecting, both in its internal design and external structure are in the best of conditions and working properly. It is also best to check the warranties that are available with each vehicle. Getting some reliable insurance coverage for your recreational vehicle also goes a long way in safeguarding your cherished vehicle.

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