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What is the Difference Between a Motorhome and a Fifth-Wheel?

Looking to upgrade your camper or buy a new RV? Read on to learn the difference between a motorhome and a fifth-wheel and which one you should choose.

fifth-wheel hitch installation

If you're looking to transition to a life on the road and searching for the perfect rig, you must have come across terms like 'motorhome' and 'fifth-wheel trailer'. Are these the same thing? Or if they're different what makes them so? How do you choose which one is the better option for you? Read on to learn the answer to these questions and more.


What is a Motorhome?

A motorhome is the quintessential 'home on wheels that you see everywhere when you start thinking about living on the road. It is a single vehicle that has both the driving area and living quarters. There are three basic classes of motorhomes on the market; Class A motorhomes are the largest and most luxurious motorhomes, Class B RVs are the smallest and are usually called campers or campervans because they are built on a van chassis. Class C motorhomes are larger than campers but smaller than Class As and come with a varied set of amenities.


What is a Fifth-Wheel?

A fifth-wheel camper is basically a trailer that is attached to the back of your vehicle by a fifth-wheel hitch. The fifth-wheel trailer comprises the living quarters while a separate vehicle serves as the towing companion to the trailer. You can find luxe fifth-wheel trailers that have all the amenities of a small stationary home as well as smaller trailers that can easily be towed anywhere. The main advantage of owning a fifth-wheel is that you don't have to tow a separate vehicle along when you travel, your car goes with you wherever you go.


Comparing Motorhomes and Fifth-WheelsTake-Off

​Motorhome

​Fifth-Wheel

Price

$85000 - $300,000 (and up)

$30,000 - $70,000

Size

25 - 45 feet (living space + driver's area)

22- 40 feet (living space only)

Floor Plans

​Less floor plan options since space in front is taken up by driver's area

More variety in floor plans since the entire trailer is living space

Insurance

RV insurance is costly, depending upon the type and class of motorhome

​Trailer insurance is less expensive than motorhome since it costs less and doesn't have many mechanical parts

Fuel

Gas mileage depends on size and weight of motorhome. Class B's have the best fuel economy

​Fifth-wheels are larger and heavier so fuel economy isn't very good

Family Riding Space

Riding space can vary from two people up to 8 people

​Trailer cannot be used while it is being towed. All riders need to travel in the towing vehicle

Safety on the Road

​Motorhomes are less safe on the road since most don't have any airbags, are not crash tested, and do not have a “crumple zone”

​Fifth-wheels are safer because the driver is in a different vehicle that has airbags and is crash tested

Campground Set-Up

​Auto-leveling isn't ideal for boondocking or camping in the wilderness

​Easier to level at both campgrounds and uneven terrains

Backing Up and Parking

​There is a learning curve on backing up and parking Class As

​Backing up and parking can be tricky

Toy Hauling

​Toy hauling requires a towing a separate trailer

​Perfect for toy hauling

Towing

​Most Class As would require a toad to get around

Your toad goes with you wherever you go

Depreciation

20% loss of value in the first two years. More expensive motorhomes lose more

20% loss of value in the first two years. The tow vehicle will depreciate more slowly

Take Off Time

​Faster take off thanks to stabilizer and hookup provisions

​Slower take off since a lot has to be done manually

Maintenance

Higher cost of maintenance especially for Class As

Maintenance costs are not that high


Motorhome vs. Fifth-Wheel: Which RV Lifestyle is Right for You

Choosing between a motorhome and a fifth wheel can be a tough choice. Look at the infographic below to make an educated buying decision.



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