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What’s the Difference Between a Fifth Wheel and a Class A Motorhome?

Published on November 16th, 2019 by Brian Newman
This post was updated on April 2nd, 2021

For anyone who loves to travel, or anyone looking to expand their horizons and travel more often, one of the most important aspects is the living space you’ll have when you reach your destination. For those who enjoy road trips and camping, these accommodations aren’t just waiting for you when you arrive – you can bring them with you! Two of the most popular options are fifth wheels and Class A motorhomes. In this article, I will address some of the fifth wheel and Class A motorhome differences to help you decide which option is best for you and your family.

The Overall Costs

A luxury fifth wheel can generally be purchased for less than $70,000. However, a Class A motorhome of the same caliber can easily cost upwards of $300,000. But the initial purchase price is not the only factor to take into consideration when evaluating the overall costs.

The cost of insurance for both a fifth wheel and a Class A motorhome is comparable, usually, anywhere from $500 to $1,300 a year depending on factors such as price, year, etc. Class A motorhomes tend to run closer to the higher end of the spectrum because they are more expensive. However, other factors such as the insurance company you choose, where you live, and the other vehicles you have insured on your plan will also affect this price.

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Between the fifth wheel and the Class A motorhome, the fifth wheel is the easy winner when it comes to the cost of maintenance. According to those who own them, the average budget for fifth wheel maintenance is about $500 each year. In contrast, owners of Class A motorhomes say they budget closer to $1,500 a year to maintain their vehicles.

Neither a fifth wheel or a Class A motorhome does particularly well on gas mileage, and both will run on the high end when it comes to putting fuel in the tank. That said, it’s important to remember that you will be bringing another vehicle along with you that can be used once you reach your destination. A Class A motorhome can tow a small car behind it, while a larger truck will be used to pull the fifth wheel.

In cases where you will be driving a particularly long distance to reach your destination and spend most of your time parked at a campsite after arriving, a fifth wheel would most likely be your best bet on gas mileage. On the other hand, if you intend to drive a shorter distance to reach your destination but will be driving around a lot once you get there, a Class A motorhome may be better suited for your needs. This is one of the fifth wheel Class A motorhome differences that you will have to consider on a personal level.

Ease of Handling

If you are a beginner without much experience with recreational vehicles, one of the most important questions you probably have is whether a fifth wheel or a Class A motorhome will be easiest to get accustomed to driving. For those without much experience, a fifth wheel is likely going to be an easier adjustment, as you will be driving a truck and towing the fifth wheel behind you. In a Class A motorhome, you will be driving a much larger vehicle while still responsible for towing the smaller car behind you.

However, when it comes to the actual maneuverability of your vehicle, a Class A motorhome has distinct advantages. The fact that it drives like a longer car and has excellent views at multiple angles certainly allows for getting parked more efficiently into a camping spot once you’ve reached your destination. This is yet another one of the fifth wheel Class A motorhome differences that will vary person to person.

Safety and Accessibility

There are two schools of thought when it comes to safety differences between fifth wheels and Class A motorhomes.

In the first school of thought, safety is considered in relation to driving on the roads and how safe you and your family will be should an accident occur. In this case, the fifth wheel is the clear winner. When driving a fifth wheel, you and your family will be in the truck and not in the fifth wheel itself, and protected by airbags and seat belts therein. In the event your family was in a Class A motorhome during a car crash, they would not have airbags or seat belts, and would also be surrounded by objects that may become projectiles.

However, in the second school of thought, safety is discussed in relation to campground safety and your ability to protect yourself and your family should an environment where you are staying become dangerous – due to wildlife, fires, other campers becoming aggressive, et cetera. In this case, it is the Class A motorhome that is the winner. This is because the motorhome has a much faster “get up and go” time than a fifth wheel, making it much easier to climb inside and quickly leave behind a dangerous situation.

Similarly, Class A motorhomes are much less likely to be stolen or to be stolen from than a fifth wheel. It is much easier for a thief to hook your fifth wheel up to their truck and drive off with it than it is for them to steal your entire motorhome. In that sense, Class A motorhomes get another point for being the safer choice.

When considering the safety fifth wheel Class A motorhome differences, you will have to decide which of these scenarios is more important to you and your family.

In terms of accessibility, though, there is one obvious winner because the Class A motorhome is much more accessible than a fifth wheel. A fifth wheel often has steps with no railing, which can make it difficult for seniors or those with disabilities to get around without assistance. A Class A motorhome, on the other hand, does not have a set of stairs to navigate.

Living and Storage Space

On the surface, the fifth wheel is the clear winner when it comes to space. Fifth wheels generally have more spacious floor plans allowing for your family to spread out and enjoy themselves with a little bit of privacy once you reach your destination. They also usually have higher ceilings, which make the space feel even bigger than it is.

However, there are other factors to take into consideration when we talk about living space. If you are primarily concerned about using the space once you arrive at your destination, the fifth wheel may be what you’re looking for. But there are plenty of advantages in terms of living space that come with having a Class A motorhome, especially when it comes to the drive itself.

For example, while a fifth wheel is technically bigger, it’s important to remember that you and your family won’t be riding in the fifth wheel itself on the drive. Instead, you’ll be riding in the truck that’s towing the fifth wheel. This can get really inconvenient if you have a large family or want to bring friends along and not everyone can fit in the truck.

In cases like this, a Class A motorhome would be preferable. Because you and your family will all be riding together in the motorhome on your trip, you’ll be able to travel with many more people all in the space together and you won’t have to worry about being cramped during the drive. This can also help to save on gas, as large families with a fifth wheel may have to bring additional cars to fit extra people.

When it comes to storage space, there are pros and cons to both the fifth wheel and the Class A motorhome.

Generally speaking, Class A motorhomes will have more storage compartments inside than a fifth wheel will. While both types of vehicle should have plenty of space for you to bring along the necessities, Class A motorhomes will have slightly more room for you to pack along all the extras. This is largely due to the fact that most furniture in a motorhome is multi-purpose and functions as additional storage.

However, fifth wheels make it far easier for you and your family to travel with larger equipment such as ATVs or other big toys. If you’re interested in bringing equipment like this along, a fifth wheel is almost definitely the route you’re going to want to go. In order to bring these with you in a Class A motorhome, you will have to sacrifice the car to tow them behind you.

Overall, it’s important for you to look at the fifth wheel Class A motorhome differences in living and storage space and determine which one is going to work best for you and your family. There is not a one size fits all solution, and what works best for you will be different from what works best for anyone else.

The Feel Good Factor

What is a “feel good factor?” Well, a feel good factor is something special that’s hard to put a value on, something that helps both the fifth wheel and the Class A motorhome stand out from the crowd. And these factors can have major influence in which one you prefer over the other.

For a fifth wheel, the feel good factor is that it feels a bit like taking a piece of home with you wherever you go. In a fifth wheel, you don’t necessarily need to feel like you’re on vacation. This is especially good for people planning to take extended trips or who do a lot of traveling for business purposes and want to feel like they’re at home wherever they go.

The reason the fifth wheel feels this way is because of the way they’re laid out, and the furniture that comes with them. Fifth wheel furniture is typically residential furniture, the same kind that would be found in living room or kitchen back home. This is contrary to Class A motorhomes, who use special “RV furniture” that’s more space saving but less homey.

Additionally, fifth wheels come with many of the perks of home that you may miss out on while you’re away. Some of these include kitchen islands, dedicated work spaces, and a more comfortable heat and air flow system.

On the other hand, a Class A motorhome is going to provide just the opposite sensation. There is something undeniably classic about the whole family piling into the motorhome together and setting out on the road. You will truly feel like you’re headed out on a traditional vacation pulled straight from the movies in one of these vehicles.

The large front windshield offers unparalleled views as you drive through scenic terrain. The multi-use furniture can do things such as turning a kitchen table into a bed into a storage unit. If a fifth wheel will make you feel like you’ve brought your home on the road with you, a Class A motorhome will definitely help you to feel as if you’ve really gotten away.

As I’m sure you’ve realized over the course of this article, there are many fifth wheel Class A motorhome differences. The way they make you feel is one of the biggest ones.

Which One is Right for You? A Fifth Wheel or a Class A Motorhome?

At the end of the day, only you can decide whether a fifth wheel or a Class A motorhome is right for you. I hope this article helped shed some light on the differences between them and the pros and cons of each. If you’re still feeling undecided, check out this Youtube video from someone who has lived and traveled full time in both a fifth wheel and a Class A motorhome.

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