Buying Our RV | Deciding between a Travel Trailer Vs. Fifth Wheel

Let’s be real. Starting the RV buying process is extremely overwhelming. Travel trailers, fifth wheels, Class A’s…oh my! Where do you even start? First, let’s start off by defining what each of them mean. (Want to see all of this in video form? Skip to the video at the end or click here!)

Travel Trailer: a towable RV, has all the conveniences of home, including a kitchen, dining area, bathroom and storage. Often called a “bumper pull.”

Fifth wheel: The fifth wheel travel trailer can have the same amenities as the conventional travel trailer, but is constructed with a raised forward section that provides a spacious bi-level floor plan. These models are designed to be towed by a pickup truck equipped with a device known as a fifth-wheel hitch.

Class A/B/C: Class A motorhomes are built using a very strong, heavy-duty frame. These frames are built on either a commercial bus chassis, a commercial truck chassis, or a motor vehicle chassis. From the outside, the Class B motorhome looks very much like an oversized van. They are also commonly known as camper vans. The Class C motorhome is the compromise between the Class A and the Class B. They are built with a cabin chassis.

For the purpose of this post, we will be talking about travel trailers and fifth wheels. The hitch defines the most basic difference between a travel trailer and a fifth-wheel trailer. A travel trailer attaches to the bumper of the towing vehicle with a ball-and-coupler hitch; a fifth-wheel trailer connects to the bed of a truck using a jaw hitch.

A few things we considered when deciding what RV to buy:

  1. What do we already own? The easiest way to avoid overwhelm is to start with what you have. Instead of waiting to get the “perfect” RV, start where you are. For example, we already owned a 1/2 ton truck, so we knew we were limited to a bumper pull travel trailer. That narrowed down our options and made things A LOT easier. Keep in mind most fifth wheels need to be towed by at least a 3/4 ton truck.
  2. New VS Older RV. We considered remodeling an older RV, but we didn’t have a lot of time to work on it and also wanted the peace of mind with buying new. This is all personal preference and what you and your family want to spend. Remember you want to have fun on the road, and not be worried about affording your rig!
  3. How many people will be in the RV and what are their ages? We are a family of 5 with 2 small kids and an older daughter so bunks were a must. Most RVs have sleeper sofas and other places for extra people to sleep. Our 1 year old sleeps in this travel bed (affiliate link) and we have loved it! If it is just two of you, the sky is really the limit when it comes to choosing a trailer it just depends on your travel style.
  4. What are your RV goals? Do you want to visit all the National Parks or boondock (dry camp) or want full hookups every day? Many National Parks have length restrictions so if that is important to you, make sure you buy an RV that doesn’t restrict you.
  5. Walk through different types of RVs! We visited lots of RV shows and walked through a bunch of different RVs. This helps to get a better feel for each model and what layout works best for your family.

We are not experts, but this is what helped us. We ended up purchasing a Forest River 263BHXL. I hope that this helps and gives you a better idea about how to go about this huge (but AMAZING) decision. Happy travels!