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Buying a Fifth Wheel - New vs Used.

What to look for when buying a Fifth Wheel

Buying a New Fifth Wheel vs Used

If you are going to buy a new Fifth Wheel research is key. Do a search on the internet for the make and model you are looking to buy. Check the manufacturer. Are there a lot of complaints about the manufacturer, does the manufacturer stick to their warranty? Check how that particular Fifth Wheel RV is manufactured. The manufacturer will normally have information on their website about the design and manufacture of their Fifth Wheels.

Most of the time you will be buying from a dealer and you need to do some research on the dealer as well. Once you take possession of the Fifth Wheel it is then your problem if any problems arise. It is not a simple process to tow the Fifth Wheel back and forth while it has any problems fixed. You can end up between the dealer and the manufacturer with each blaming the other as to who should fix what. One of the main problems with buying a new 5th wheel is that the buyers do not understand that Fifth Wheel manufacturers outsource a lot of the RV's components to third party suppliers. When you purchase the unit and a problem arises you can end up dealing with a supplier other than the actual manufacturer. Join some RV forums and ask questions about the unit you want to buy. There is a wealth of information in the forums. Keep in mind when you buy a new Fifth Wheel, no one has lived in the unit and tested everything on an ongoing basis. Everything may look good but after a few retractions of the slides, do they still function correctly? After a rain storm with the slides out, did water get into the unit?

What Size 5th Wheel Should You Buy

It is important to know what you will be using the Fifth Wheel RV for. If you are going to spend a lot of time traveling with the rig, then try and find a rig that will work for you without it being to large. There are many campgrounds that cannot accomodate a rig over a certain size. A 40 foot Fifth Wheel RV will be problematic when finding sites to accomodate it. The sites you do find will be tight and that requires extra backing skills to get into them. Many of your trips will be to camp in State Parks and those parks particularly do not accomodate very large rigs.

As you will soon find out, going on a trip with a Fifth Wheel is not just get in and go. There is some planning to every trip. Where are the gas stations? The truck pulling a Fifth Wheel normally averages around 10 mpg. One has to know where the next gas station is and does it have diesel. Getting into a gas station presents its own set of problems. With a 13-14 foot high rig and a truck it is not simply a case of pulling in at any gas station. One has to know if the rig will fit and maneuvering around gas pumps is often not an option. Many gas stations have seperate diesel areas for 18-wheelers and that is where a Fifth Wheel would have to re-fuel.


Buying a Used Fifth Wheel vs New

When you buy a used Fifth Wheel the owner has normally already used and corrected any issues with the unit. Many used Fifth Wheels have extra options fitted by the owner that might not come standard with a new unit. Because the unit has aged slightly, you do not normally pay extra for those options. In our experience buying a good condition used unit if preferable over buying a new 5th wheel. There are many stories about how new Fifth Wheels have become real problems for their owners when the manufacturer does not honor their warranty. New units often get delivered with problems and that is a real problem for new owners. Even if the manufacturer does honor the warranty, it is a problem hauling the new unit back and forth to a dealer to be repaired. Price is also a big factor with new units. A used unit is going to cost you less to purchase, and as mentioned prior, you may get options that you would have to pay extra for on a new unit. Most used Fifth Wheels have not been traveled with extensively, so the unit is normally in very good condition. The main factor when buying a used 5th wheel is that you need to be prepared to travel some distance to view units that are for sale. If you live in a large metropolitan area, 5th wheels will be more expensive than if you travel to a more rural area where there are less buyers, and you can get some amazing deals if you do your research. Sellers in more rural areas also tend to be able to take better care of their 5th wheels and you will often find that the unit has been garage kept for most of its life, compared to other metro units that have been stored in storage lots open to the sun and weather.

Adequate Heating and Cooling

Make sure that the fifth wheel has adequate heating and cooling. One roof-top A/C might not be adequate for 90 degree days. Look in the fifth wheel camper for air vents. Some fifth wheels have central heat & air, if you see air vents around the ceiling area and vents on the floor of the unit, then there is a good chance that is has central heat and air. The central air unit is normally situated on the outside of the unit behind a metal vented door.

Black & Grey Water Tanks Capacity

Check the capacity of the grey water (all waste water other than the toilet) and the black water tanks (toilet waste water). These two tanks are important if you intend to stay at camp grounds that do not have a sewer hook-up. Ask the dealer if there is grey water tank for the kitchen. Many new owners do not know that the kitchen can have its own grey water tank. They empty the rear grey water tank only to have the kitchen sink start backing up. There have been numerous calls to RV service centers asking how to unblock the kitchen sink, when in fact the kitchen grey water tank is full. That tanks release handle can often be hidden away where one would never think to look.

Fifth Wheel vs Travel Trailers vs Motorhomes.

Choosing between a Motorhome, 5th wheel and a Travel Trailer can be a difficult choice. All three have their pros and cons and the choice really comes down to how much you will be traveling and with how many people, and are you comfortable towing a 34 - 40 foot rig. One of the benefits of a trailer over a Motorhome is that once your trailer has been unhitched, the tow vehicle is free to be used for other purposes. Unlike a motorhome which requires another vehicle to be towed behind in order to have a vehicle to use while the motorhome is parked, your fifth wheel is completely self contained once the tow vehicle is unhitched. Large Class A Motorhomes or diesel pushers essentially have their own large and expensive engines and transmissions which require regular maintenance. Maintaining these large vehicles can be very expensive. The price of a large Class A can definately be a major factor when choosing between a 5th wheel and a motorhome. There are many smaller motohomes on the market and the only factor to take into consideration is that a motorhome is the primary vehicle unless you travel with a second vehicle being towed or driven. That means if you want to go to a store or visit surrounding areas you will need to pack up camp each time and make sure you mark your site so no one takes it while you are away. With a 5th wheel you always have a vehicle for day travel and you only setup camp once. A compact motorhome can be easier to travel with if you do a lot of traveling. They are easier to maneuver into gas stations and easier to backup into RV sites but you do lose some of the space that a 5th wheel offers. Motorhomes are basically get in and go, whereas 5th wheels require hitching which might be a factor depending on your age.
The living area view of a Fifth Wheel RV

Fifth Wheel vs Travel Trailers

By design fifth wheels have a large amount of interior space as well as storage space on the exterior of the RV. Once the slides are extended in the fifth wheel it is amazing how much interior space is available. Because the fifth wheel is attached to a heavy duty hitch in the bed of the truck, the fifth wheel can be heavier than a travel trailer which hitches to the back of the tow vehicle, and still be pulled safely. Towing a Fifth Wheel is easier than towing a Travel Trailer because the 5th wheel hitch is located in the bed of the truck, which eliminates all trailer sway. Because Fifth Wheels mount over the axle of the truck, the truck can pull a much heavier trailer and backing the Fifth Wheel is easier than with a Travel Trailer. If you are researching trucks to pull your trailer using a towing guide it is important to note that towing guides list both conventional towing and 5th wheel towing. Conventional towing is bumper mounted / ball hitch towing and 5th wheel towing is with a hitch mounted in the bed of the truck. Fifth wheel towing is always higher than conventional towing.

Fifth Wheel vs Travel Trailer Construction

When building a 5th wheel the manufacturers are not limited on what materials they use in a Fifth Wheel as much as they are with Travel Trailers that need to be lighter. That means 5th wheels tend to be better quality than a Travel Trailer and have more features inside the unit.

Travel Trailer vs 5th wheel Full Time Living

If you are planning to live in your RV full time a Fifth Wheel has more interior features and will have better construction, which would be a major factor when selecting a RV that you will be living in for a long period of time. There are 5th wheels that are designed for full time living and have some features that a Travel Trailer might not have. One of those features is that the holding tanks are in the belly of the 5th wheel, which stops the tanks from freezing in very cold temperatures. A Fifth Wheel tends to better insulated than a Travel Trailer and do better in cold climates.

Fifth Wheel vs Travel Trailer Gas Mileage

Travel Trailers are lighter than a 5th wheel and some Travel Trailers can be pulled by a passenger vehicle rather than by a truck. If you are towing a larger Travel Trailer with a diesel truck your Miles Per gallon is not going to differ very much as opposed to pulling a large Fifth Wheel. Most diesel trucks pulling 14,000 to 16,000 pound 5th wheels average 10 - 11 mpg. As you can see the amount of space that is provided with the slides extended is extensive in a Fifth Wheel. Nearly all of the new model fifth wheels make use of ample window space so that the natural views outside the fifth wheel can be appreciated and help lighten the interior of the fifth wheel. Todays fifth wheels are truly home-away-from-home.