When it comes to traveling all over the States, investing in your own place to stay ultimately saves money and makes it easier to take the comforts of home wherever you go. Fifth wheels and motorhomes are well worth the money you spend, but which of the two is better?
Fifth wheels are better for people with a lower budget that want the functionality of a trailer. Motorhomes are better if you want more amenities and features but don’t mind spending more money.
The truth is, it depends on what you are looking for and that’s why we have broken down the pros and cons of each for you.
In this article, we’re going to compare these two types of homes on wheels to give you an inside look at which is better suited to your needs so you can hit the road and make memories that you’ll cherish forever.
Fifth Wheel vs. Motorhome: The Basics
While motorhomes and fifth wheels are the same when it comes to their ultimate purposes, the two are quite unique from each other and the distinctions between them will make all the difference depending on your travel needs.
- Fifth Wheel
A fifth wheel is a type of trailer that is mobile like a motorhome, but instead of being able to drive the trailer itself, you must hitch it to a truck and haul it to a stable destination before enjoying all of its benefits. These models tend to be more luxurious than the average travel trailer, but less so than motorhomes.
Motorhomes fall under the umbrella of recreational vehicles or RVs. There are several different classes (Class A, Class B, and Class C) with varying price points. You are able to drive motorhomes and use the amenities that they provide if you are a passenger without having to stop.
Fifth Wheel v. Motorhome: The Price
The price of the motorhome or fifth wheel that you need will vary based on the amenities that they provide. As a general rule, motorhomes are much more expensive than their truck-hitched counterparts.
- Price of Fifth Wheels
Fifth wheels are typically more affordable than motorhomes because they don’t provide the same luxuries that motorhomes often do. They are still more than adequate for any adventurer, but some RVers prefer being able to use their mobile home away from home while in motion.
The average price of a fifth wheel camper is an estimated $45,000, though you can find used models for less. Some older or used models can be bought for as low as $4,000. These campers can be as expensive as $100,000, depending on the model you buy and what you want in terms of space and amenities.
- Price of Motorhomes
As mentioned previously, motorhomes have varying price points based on the class type that you choose.
Class A motorhomes are the most luxurious and spacious of the bunch; because of this, they tend to be the most expensive motorhomes on the market. You can expect a Class A motorhome to be equipped with a dining room, bathroom, and a living area at the very least.
The average price of these motorhomes is around $100,000, though you can find older or used models for less. They can be listed for millions of dollars, but there’s really not a reason to buy one of these high-end motorhomes, as the majority give you everything that you need and more.
Class B motorhomes are smaller RVs that are otherwise referred to as camper vans. You will not usually get all of the amenities that you would with Class A models. Most often left out of the plan is a bathroom. However, these motorhomes do have their advantages, including a more affordable price point.
The average Class B motorhome costs between $60,000-$100,000 with pricier models averaging $250,000.
Class C motorhomes give you the best of both worlds that the aforementioned classes have to offer, though they are considerably less luxurious. They do offer more space than Class B vehicles, but they are usually more affordable than Class A types.
The average Class C motorhome costs around $65,000. Again, you will find several more affordable models for less, and the pricier models average at around $92,000.
Fifth Wheel vs. Motorhome: Amenities
The deciding factor for many groups on the type of RV that they use depends on what these models offer. Living space, bathrooms, sleeping areas, kitchens, and more are important to some while others may be fine going without the whole package.
- Fifth Wheel Amenities
A fifth wheel often offers less than motorhomes do, but they are still desirable to travelers who don’t plan to stay in them for long periods at a time.
Higher-end fifth wheel models offer more, with features typically including:
- kitchen sinks
- cooktop stoves and other kitchen appliances
- dining area
- sleeping quarters
- sound system
- solar panels
- heating and cooling system
The more expensive the fifth wheel, the more that is likely included.
The more affordable models will still offer many of the same amenities, but they typically offer less space, and thus, some will be unavailable. On average, the more affordable options include:
- small living area
- sleeping quarters
- water heater
- kitchen and small dining area
You still have most things that you need no matter the price point. Keep in mind that many older fifth wheel models may not include bathrooms. This is a dealbreaker for many campers, but if you park your fifth wheel at a campsite, you will likely be able to use their facilities instead.
Depending on the motorhome class that you choose, you will enjoy quite a lot more than some fifth wheels have to offer. You don’t just have more, but you have better quality appliances and products. These luxuries come at a premium, though, and some may not be willing to budget quite so much unless they plan to spend months at a time in their RV.
These motorhomes are the most high-end of the bunch, so you can expect to travel in comfort and style. Most offer all of the basic needs like kitchens, living spaces, sleeping quarters, and dining areas, but they usually come with so much more, including:
- ample storage space (primarily cabinetry for dinnerware and closets in the sleeping areas)
- carbon monoxide and smoke detectors
- heating and cooling systems
- privacy shades
- solar panels or solar panel mounts
- awnings and patio lights
- roof ladders
- lighted exterior storage compartments
- WiFi capabilities
- sound systems
- TV mounts
- bathrooms with showers (and water heaters)
Class B motorhomes come with many comforts that you can’t get elsewhere, but they might not offer all of the state-of-the-art items that you want. What a typical Class B motorhome does have includes:
- WiFi capabilities
- basic kitchen appliances
- charging ports
- storage space (cabinetry, closets, exterior storage)
Some may have more to offer depending on the price range.
Class C motorhomes come with several amenities, but again not as many as you can expect from a Class A. In addition to the basic living areas, kitchens, and sleeping quarters, these amenities include:
- awnings with lighting
- bathroom with toilet and shower
- water heater
- LED lighting
This is what you can expect to find in a typical mid-range Class C motorhome manufactured within the past 5 years. Older models may offer less.
Fifth Wheel vs. Motorhome: Pros and Cons
Fifth wheels and motorhomes have significant benefits that will keep long term travelers happy and safe, but they also have some downsides that turn some campers off. Your decision is important because you will be investing quite a bit of money into your home away from home, and you want to be sure that you are happy with your purchase for years to come.
In order to know which is better, you have to look at the pros and cons and apply them to your situation.
Fifth Wheel: Pros and Cons
Though initially, you may not consider fifth wheels to be serious contenders in a competition against motorhomes, these campers have so much to offer that could change your mind. However, the downsides in comparison are also essential to consider.
Fifth wheel recreational vehicles are the most affordable out of all of the options mentioned here. If you are on a tight budget but want to explore what this beautiful world has to offer, a fifth wheel is absolutely the right choice for you. Because they are so affordable, you have more room in your budget for attractions and sightseeing wherever you go.
- Compact size
Fifth wheel campers are typically smaller than motorhomes. While this can be a downer for larger groups, it’s perfect for small groups/families. The small size also makes it easier to maneuver unlike Class A motorhomes, which are often the size of buses.
While there may be less in the average fifth wheel than in a motorhome, you still have most or all of your basic needs covered. You may not be living in the lap of luxury, but you have what you need on your journey to stay content and well-rested.
- Fuel Efficiency
Your fifth wheel will be hitched to your everyday motor vehicle (best for a truck) and will use more fuel than you may be used to, but you will use considerably less than you would if you chose to drive around in a class A motorhome. You’ll save even more money for this reason and won’t put such a strain on your wallet.
- Compact Size
While the size of a fifth wheel is perfect for some, it’s a deal-breaker for others. Very large groups or families may technically be able to squeeze in, but it makes the living situation considerably less comfortable. If you want more size but also a more affordable option, a Class C motorhome would be better for you.
- Fewer Amenities
It’s plain to see that on average, a fifth wheel offers less than a Class A motorhome does. Your basic needs are covered, but you may want more out of your living experience. If you prefer a more comfortable extended trip that offers the comforts of home like the internet or bigger showers, motorhomes are more suited to your desires.
- Less Stability
Fifth wheels are reasonably stable due to a high hitch point, but motorhomes are often more level and provide a safer environment for living in while the motorhome is in motion. It’s safer to walk around the cabin, though it’s never ideal to do so in any vehicle as a crash would become more dangerous.
- More Space
With the price that you pay for a motorhome, you get more space inside the cabin than the fifth wheels often offer. This makes it ideal for larger groups at a time and can fit more luggage inside. With more cabin space also comes more storage so your gear can be packed away when you don’t need it.
- More and Better Amenities
Motorhomes give you the luxuries that you expect when you’re comfortable at your primary home. The amenities are also of higher quality than some fifth wheels provide. Memory foam mattresses, stainless steel appliances, WiFi, better lighting – anything a fifth wheel has, a motorhome likely has an upgraded version, and more.
Motorhomes can be more stable than fifth wheels and as a result, they are safer to move freely around in if you have to. This is not recommended for safety reasons, but sometimes nature calls and your bathroom is conveniently located inside the cabin. If you have to move without the safety of a seatbelt, you’re going to need the trek from the living area to the bathroom to be relatively safe.
- Price Point
The basic motorhome of any class will be more expensive than a fifth wheel. While you get the tradeoff of more amenities, those on a tighter budget can seriously put a strain on their finances investing in one. This means that you likely won’t be able to do or see as much at the destinations you choose. If you plan to take a nature retreat, this isn’t a huge problem, but those wanting to really experience these attractions may not be able to because of the high cost of their motorhome.
- Low Fuel Efficiency
Your motorhome is going to be huge, maybe even the size of a bus and it will guzzle gas like one as well. This is ultimately more expensive and harmful to the environment. You’ll have to stop more which can be a pain to maneuver with such a large vehicle. Your motorhome was already expensive and the price of gas can add up quickly. It’s a money-burning machine and if you don’t have a lot to spare, driving a motorhome becomes stressful.
- Driving is Harder
Driving in a large vehicle is harder than driving with a fifth wheel. Turning can be tricky, your speed is lower, and you take up more of your lane than you otherwise would in a regular truck. It’s easier to get into accidents if you don’t stay vigilant, and you could seriously injure yourself and other drivers. Because of this, you may need a special license to even drive a motorhome. This costs even more money and a test with long DMV wait times. Some campers are not willing to put in this much effort.
- Campground Accommodations
Campgrounds that do offer parking spots for RVs have size limits. If you own a large motorhome, you may not be able to stay at these spots and will have to find a safe and legal place to park. The major downside of this is that you miss out on the hookups that campgrounds provide (i.e. water, sewer, electrical.) You won’t be able to take full advantage of the amenities you have when you can’t find a campground to stay at.
Fifth Wheel v. Motor Home: Ultimate Winner
The truth is that there’s no clear winner between fifth wheels and motorhomes because everyone has their own preferences and unique situations. What is better for you isn’t the best for everyone else.
Motorhomes are better for:
- large groups
- long term trips
- more luxurious trips
- living in indefinitely
- campers with cash to spare
Fifth wheels are better for:
- smaller groups and solo travelers
- day-to-day trips and camping trips
- campers with a tighter budget
- anyone needing easier maneuvering
- campers okay with forgoing the full RV experience
Having more stuff and a pricier vehicle does not always mean that you got the best deal for what you plan to do and how you plan to travel. You don’t need a flashy model to have a great time! Sometimes, fifth wheels can give you a freedom that Class A motorhomes don’t and other times, these motorhomes give your family the perfect place to vacation without paying nightly rates in hotels.
Either way, the ultimate winner is you when you consider all of your options and choose a recreational vehicle that you can enjoy for many trips to come. Adventure awaits and whether you buy a fifth wheel or motorhome, you can take that journey in comfort and style.