RV, 5th Wheel or Travel Trailer For Full Time Living?

The wife would have a fit if she knew I used this photo so ex-nay on the pic-ay, m-kay?

The wife would have a fit if she knew I used this photo so ex-nay on the pic-ay, m-kay?

by Chris Poindexter

The answer is any of the above will work for full time RV living. In our travels we’ve seen people living in tents and everything on wheels from tiny travel trailers to double deck 45 foot Class As. But just because you can live in something doesn’t mean it’s going to be fun.

Travel Trailers

Travel trailers are much lighter and better made than just a few years ago.

Travel trailers are much lighter and better made than just a few years ago.

New ultra-light travel trailers can be towed behind relatively modest tow vehicles. The chief advantage to newer travel trailers is weight and lower weight translates to higher gas mileage.


Not all travel trailers are created equal and there are a few that weigh more than our 5th wheel and require a much larger tow vehicle. Personally, I don’t like heavy travel trailers because it’s like trying to tow a drunken elephant.

The downsides to travel trailers are headroom and storage space. Some of the newer travel trailers feature slightly domed roofs which help the headroom but you’re still going to limited when it comes to storage space. If you’re okay packing light, then your travel dollars will go farther.

Some travel trailers are built for sitting more than traveling and they’re called “destination trailers” or “park models”. They lack storage tanks and 12 volt systems and must be connected to plumbing and electric be livable. Many fulltimers live in destination trailers, which can be quite nice.

If you want to travel a lot, a travel trailer is the way to go.

IMG_71985th Wheels

Fivers tend to be larger and heavier than travel trailers but, due to the shape, you get more headroom and storage space. With opposing slides a 35 foot 5th wheel can be roomy as a small apartment.

The quality among 5th wheels can vary quite a lot and finding a good one can be as much luck as skill and 5th wheels in general will require more maintenance than travel trailers, though your mileage may vary.

5th wheels are great for going somewhere and staying for a long time in relative comfort. The downside is weight. 5th wheels can weigh anywhere from 10,000 up to 16,000 pounds which is a lot of weight to drag and requires a tow vehicle that can easily cost as much as the camper. Some of our friends have 5th wheels so big they need a vehicle like an F-450 turbo diesel to tow, which is considered a commercial vehicle in some places.


This truck can tow 16,000 pounds but it expensive to operate and insure.

This truck can tow 16,000 pounds but it expensive to operate and insure.

While it’s nice being able to disconnect your tow vehicle and use it to run around town, that’s an incredibly expensive local car. When we were using our F-350 for local trips we were sometimes spending $350 a month on diesel.

RVs

RVs come in various flavors from Class B van conversions up to double decker Class As which are like a rolling palace. Class As are probably the most popular choice for RV fulltimers.

Big Class As can haul big trailers which can carry a car, motorcycles and supplies.

Big Class As can haul big trailers which can carry a car, motorcycles and supplies.

Class As are expensive, heavy and marvelously roomy. Being self-contained and most having an on-board generator any flat piece of ground becomes your home.

All that space comes at a price and the big expenses are fuel, maintenance and insurance costs. When you’re paying $200,000 for an RV, expect it cost as much as a house to insure. When we replaced the tires on our F-350 it cost just over $900. When you replace the tires on a Class A, you can pay that much for one tire and they’re only rated for five years!

The other downside to any RV with its own engine is that when your RV is in the shop for service, your house in the shop. If you can work around those issues Class A RVs can provide a comfortable lifestyle.

Which one works for you depends on your budget, space needs, how much you want to travel and where you want to go. Do a lot of research and you’ll be fine.

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