Fifth Wheel Travel Trailer

What Is A Fifth Wheel RV And Why Is It Called That?

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In my experience with RVing, the hardest part is learning all the terms that go with it. If you’re new to the RV world, you know what I mean. It is especially frustrating learning all the different classes and types of RVs that are on the market today. We’re here to help. In this post we are going to look at 5th wheel campers and answer a very popular question, “Why is a fifth wheel called that?” But first, what is a fifth wheel? Let’s jump in…

What Is A Fifth Wheel?

A fifth wheel is a type of RV that is connected to a tow vehicle by a unique hitch mounted in the bed of a truck. The most recognizable feature of a fifth wheel is the nose cone. Unlike a traditional travel trailer, the nose cone of a fifth wheel camper will hang over the bed of a truck.

Fifth Wheel Travel Trailer
fifth wheel RV

Fifth wheel RVs will range in size from around 19 feet all the way up to 45 feet. This type of RV can also weigh anywhere from around 3,500 pounds up to a whopping 24,000 pounds.

When it comes to floorplans, the fifth wheel campers have a wide variety to meet the needs of the most meticulous camper. These RVs are well known for being equipped with residential finishes, modern amenities, and other luxury accommodations.

Why Is It Called A Fifth Wheel?

A common question people have is “Why is it called a fifth wheel?”. Good question. Obviously, these RVs don’t have 5 wheels, so where did the term “fifth wheel” come from?

The term “fifth wheel” originates from the mid-1800’s. To connect carriages and wagons to a team of horses, a round coupling was used to allow the front axle to pivot to help navigate a turn. Since these wagons and carriages only had four wheels, the round coupling was considered the “fifth” wheel.

the original fifth wheel design
original fifth wheel design

As time passed, the term stuck. Of course, present day couplings are nothing like the ones used 150 years ago, but the overall idea is very similar. As technology improved over the years, the fifth wheel hitch became one of the most stable and safest way to tow an RV or other type of trailer.

Even with these technological advances, nothing is perfect. There are pros and cons of everything, even fifth wheels.

Benefits Of A Fifth Wheel RV

A few of the main benefits of fifth wheel campers are safe towing and maneuverability, increased storage capacity, and limitless amenities. In addition, a fifth wheel RV gives you the ability to use you tow vehicle as local transportation without breaking camp.

Safe Towing

The fifth wheel hitch is mounted in the bed of the tow vehicle, generally above the rear axle. This allows for better weight distribution versus a bumper pulled travel trailer. In addition, stability is greatly increased because the pivot point is more towards the center of the tow vehicle, not on the bumper.

modern fifth wheel RV hitch
fifth wheel RV hitch

Increased Storage Capacities

When compared to travel trailers or other bumper pull campers, fifth wheel RVs generally have an enormous amount of basement storage. In addition, since the floorplans are normally larger, storage capacities are increased inside the coach as well.

Modern Amenities

With the size of fifth wheel RVs comes endless floorplans and amenities. Are you looking for hardwood cabinets, dishwashers, and outdoor kitchens? If so, a fifth wheel might be the best choice for you. When it comes to luxury amenities, modern designs, or an extra bathroom, you can find them in a fifth wheel RV.

Tow Vehicle Doubles As Local Transportation

Another great benefit of a fifth wheel RV is the ability to use your tow vehicle once you are disconnected. With a drivable RV, if you want to explore the local sights, you will have to break camp in order to do so. With fifth wheel RVs and other bumper pull campers, once you are unhooked and set up, you have the freedom to explore to your heart’s content without worry.

Drawbacks Of A Fifth Wheel RV

Like stated above, no RV is perfect, not even a fifth wheel. The main drawbacks of this type of RV include the need for a large truck, storage during off-season, and limited campsites for longer rigs.

Large Truck Needed

Generally, when towing a fifth wheel RV, you will need a truck with a high towing capacity. The heavier the RV, the bigger the truck. If you are looking at purchasing a fifth wheel at the upper end of the weight range, you will need a truck that is capable of towing the weight.

Off-Season Storage

Unlike smaller bumper-pull campers and travel trailers, a fifth wheel RV requires much more space to store. If you are limited to space at your home, you may need to rent a storage unit or other RV space during the off-season.

Truck Bed Not Usable While Towing

Because the nose cone of a fifth wheel RV hangs over the bed of the truck, you will not have the use of the bed while towing. Certain items like bicycles, coolers, or camping tables will need to be stored somewhere else for the trip.

Limited Camp Sites For Longer Rigs

Typically, a fifth wheel will fit into most RV sites. However, some RV campgrounds and National Parks will have a length limit. Generally, if you are 35 feet and under in length, you shouldn’t have any issues.

What Is The Average Price Of A Fifth Wheel?

The average price of a fifth wheel RV will depend on many factors. Instead of asking, “How much is a fifth wheel RV”, the question to ask is, “How much do you want to spend?”. The size, floorplan, and amenities you need will have the biggest impact on the price you will pay. For instance, if you are looking for a luxury, extended living fifth wheel like the Grand Design Solitude, you will pay considerably more than you would for a 19’ Scamp fifth wheel.

Ford Ranger pulling Scamp fifth wheel RV
Scamp Fifth Wheel

Generally, fifth wheels range in price from around $20,000 for a small, basic fifth wheel, up to $200,000 and above. Again, the price will be dependent on you needs, wants, and of course, budget.

With the huge selection of models, build quality, and amenities offered, there is a fifth wheel RV to fit every budget.

Solitude Kitchen Area
high-end appliances offered in fifth wheels

In Conclusion

Hopefully now you have a better understanding of what a fifth wheel is. Additionally, we hope we helped answer the question of why it’s called that.

What are your thoughts on fifth wheel RVs? Do you have, or have you ever had, a fifth wheel RV? If not, is a fifth wheel RV in your future? Leave us a comment below and let us know. We would love to hear from you. When it comes to the wide selection of RVs on the market, we hope you find the one that fits your every need.

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