When looking for a new RV, one of the best options can be a fifth-wheel trailer. Rather than driving your mobile home around, you can park it and take off in your tow vehicle instead. Also, fifth wheels can offer more amenities than most class C RVs, which means you get to travel and camp in style.
Unfortunately, while there are benefits to buying a fifth-wheel trailer, you have to be cautious. Not all brands are alike, and some are downright terrible for this kind of purchase. In this article, we’re going to discuss how to choose an RV, and which brands you should avoid.
How to Choose a Fifth Wheel RV
How Will You Use It? How Often?
First and foremost, you’ll need to determine who and when you’ll be hitting the road in your new RV. If you’re planning on traveling once a month, you should buy a model that offers many of the creature comforts of home. Alternatively, if you’re looking to ride out once or twice a year, it may not need to be as opulent.
Another thing to consider is how much time you think you’ll be inside the RV when it’s parked. For example, if you’re going to be outside most of the time, it might not matter that the accommodations are a little cramped. However, you don’t want to be stuck inside a small RV for extended periods, such as when camping in heavy rains or snow.
Where Will You Travel?
The environment you plan on spending the most time in will influence your decision. If you like the idea of heading out into the cold with your fifth-wheel trailer, you need to be sure that it will stay well insulated. If summer fun is the goal, then you want one that can get adequate ventilation without leaking.
The other thing to pay attention to with your travels is the road you’ll have to drive on to get there. Since fifth-wheel trailers can be so big and bulky, you don’t want to get stuck on a narrow, winding path. Also, pay attention to height limitations if your trailer is particularly tall.
What Kind of Tow Vehicle Do You Have?
Fifth wheel RVs are unique in that they have a distinct overhead on the front. This means that you can only tow it with a flatbed pickup truck. Cars and SUVs won’t be able to accommodate this kind of trailer, so if you don’t have a pickup, that could derail your plans altogether.
Even if you do have the right kind of truck, what is its weight capacity? You don’t want to buy a trailer that will be too heavy, as that will be dangerous on the road. Also, consider how much gear you plan to bring along. You never want to buy a trailer that will max out your tow capacity by itself. You should give yourself a buffer of at least 500 pounds, just to be safe.
What Amenities are Most Valuable to You?
Some campers like to rough it, while others prefer to have all the modern trappings of home. Traveling in an RV means that you’ll be better off than sleeping in a tent, but there are stripped-down versions as well as high-end models.
One thing to pay attention to is the power source - does the trailer have a generator, or does it rely on batteries? What kind of appliances will you be using regularly? What about the shower and sinks? Before buying a fifth wheel, be sure to explore everything to ensure that there are no surprises.
Worst Fifth-Wheel Brands to Avoid
Now that you know what to look for, here are some RV brands that you should avoid at all costs. You might be surprised by some of the names on here, but when it comes to high-quality fifth wheels, they come up short.
This luxury brand has had a long and slow descent over the years. One of Fleetwood trailers' primary selling points was how opulent and spacious they were, but now the company seems less interested in providing the same level of quality. These days, many owners complain of dead batteries that refuse to charge, leaks that can flood the kitchen and flimsy parts. If you want to travel in style, look elsewhere.
For a long time, Winnebago was seen as the Cadillac of RVs. However, while that may have been true during the brand’s heyday, it’s now a husk of its former self. Although not all fifth wheel models from Winnebago are terrible, the bad ones outnumber the good. Common complaints include leaks, chipping paint, and poor craftsmanship. Even worse, the company doesn’t seem to take responsibility for these problems, as evidenced by its lackluster customer service.
You’ll notice a running them on this list - once-mighty titans in the RV industry have resorted to cheap parts and shoddy workmanship over the years. In most cases, this decline is due to the companies wanting to increase their profit margins, although not always. With Coachmen trailers, you’ll notice that the drawers and cabinets are incredibly flimsy and break easily. Also, roof leaks are relatively common, which can be a problem for many reasons, including rust.
One of the minimum requirements that should come with a fifth wheel RV is to stay together while driving. Unfortunately, Gulfstream can’t even meet that low benchmark. While the trailer won’t necessarily fall apart while you’re on the road, pieces of it will. To make matters worse, many electrical components like the heater or generator will give out without too much effort. Overall, a terrible brand.
The less that can be said about this model, the better. Let’s just say that it’s fitting that the RV is named after a natural disaster. Thor Motor Coach shouldn’t be making these trailers, and even when they do, they install shoddy and sometimes used parts. Don’t even bother checking it out.
Can You Get A Better Deal From A Dealership?
It is not easy to find a good RV dealership. One advantage is that you have access to a number of motorhomes and fifth wheels in one place. Many of them will even let you kick a tire or two as part of a comprehensive tour of the interior. The majority of lending agencies prefer it as well. The dealer may even offer incentives to encourage you to apply for financing. In contrast, an RV dealership is a disadvantage you should be aware of when buying your fifth wheel camper because there will be pressure to buy, and sometimes you might not get the honest answer. Commissions are almost universal in RV dealerships. The salesman doesn't get paid to fix the fifth wheel camper if it has manufacturing defects.
Bottom Line: Do Your Research First
Buying a fifth-wheel trailer is a significant investment, so you don’t want to make any uninformed decisions. By considering every aspect of the RV, from how you plan to use it to how many people will be living inside it, you should be able to anticipate any potential problems. Hopefully, you can spot them before signing on the dotted line.