New to RVing? Not sure what people mean when they say ‘Towable’, ‘Travel Trailer’, or ‘5th Wheel’? Then this post is for you!
This post is the second half of the RV Types Explained series. In short, during the four to five month period that I was researching and looking at various types of RVs I learned a thing or two, and I wanted to share that information. This will be most helpful for those who know little about RVing and are curious, or those who are in the early stages of RV shopping. I’m going to try my best to explain it in as unbiased a way as possible, so you’ll just have to excuse the somewhat dry language. Let’s get to it.
‘Towable’ is a term typically used to describe any sort of RV that gets towed behind another vehicle, they have no engine in them. In this category we have three basic classes, Fifth Wheels, Travel Trailers, and Pop Ups. General advantages of towables is a lower price since you aren’t paying for an engine. Also if your tow vehicle ever needed to go to a shop to get fixed you can still stay in your towable.
On the other hand, many people feel that maneuvering and backing up towables is harder, since your rig will have a joint in the middle. Plus you will still need to buy a separate vehicle to tow the RV with, and often because they need to be strong enough to pull the trailer, they won’t get very good gas mileage around town. In some states, more commonly in the south, it is legal to tow another vehicle or boat behind a trailer, but be sure that this is legal where you will be traveling before attempting it.
Fifth Wheel: One of the two most popular kinds of RV for extended use, along with Class A motorhomes. Fifth Wheels are bi-level, with a raised portion (sometimes called a gooseneck) that extends up and over to hitch into the bed of a truck – usually this raised portion contains the bedroom. Larger ones will require stronger trucks, and some people even pull 5th Wheels with medium or heavy duty trucks instead of pickups. Average lengths go from 25′ up to 38′, but longer and shorter ones do exist. Like with Class A’s, there is usually a lot of living space, and many have basement storage underneath the living area. Slide outs are also very common
Since Fifth Wheels are a favorite for full-timing, they usually come with all the comforts of home, and I’ve never seen one that didn’t have a bathroom and kitchen. There are manufacturers out there who make high quality ones specifically for extended use. These are typically heavier, but built of sturdier materials and have larger holding tanks.
Between Fifth Wheels and Travel Trailers, many will say that the 5th Wheel is easier to back up and more stable when driving down the road. This is because the fulcrum is right behind the rear axle in the bed of the truck, which leads to more control rather than on Travel Trailers where the fulcrum is at or near the bumper, which is farther away from the rear axle.
Expect to pay a good amount for a 5th Wheel, especially if you’re looking at one made for full-timing. Of the towables, these on average are the most expensive.
Travel Trailer: Of all the towables, Travel Trailers (or TT’s), have probably the largest range of variance. Two things common to all travel trailers is that they hitch to the tow vehicle at or near the bumper, and that they have more or less, rigid siding and roofs. They come in a large range of sizes, from as small as 12′ up to the mid thirties. The smallest ones can be pulled by some cars; but pickup trucks, SUVS, and vans are more common tow vehicles. Travel Trailers are usually made for vacationing and short-term use, and the number and quality of amenities varies widely depending on brand and size (for example, some will have full kitchens and bathrooms, others won’t). Usually Travel Trailers are shorter in height, and don’t have as much storage as Fifth Wheels, but are lighter in weight. Some will have slides, and some won’t.
But wait, if Travel Trailers typically aren’t made for full-timing, then why am I going to be living full-time in one? Just because your favorite flavor of RV isn’t meant for a specific use doesn’t mean you can’t use it that way. There were a number of factors that lead to me deciding on a Casita, but that’s a topic for another time.
Travel Trailers are on the cheaper end of the RVing spectrum (definitely a factor for why I decided on one), but usually not as cheap as the last big category of towables, Pop Ups.
Pop Up: Considered the entry point for RVing, these are usually the simplest of the various types of RV. As the name implies, Pop Ups, well pop up. They have a hard roof and bottom, but part of the side is made of canvas, allowing the roof of the trailer to be collapsed down to some degree to meet the bottom for ease of towing. The bases of these RVs are usually quite small in length: 10 to 14 feet or so – but the canvas sides can make ‘wings’ that bring the total length up to 26′ on large ones. These extendable canvas areas are almost always made for sleeping space, meaning that despite their small size, Pop ups can have vastly more sleeping room than other kinds of RVs.
Since there are less hard materials on Pop ups, they are the lightest of the six main categories, but also offter the least in storage space and conveniences. Most don’t have bathrooms (but if you look hard enough, a few do exist) and many have abbreviated kitchens without an oven and only a mini-fridge, since anything larger wouldn’t allow them to fold down. Like Travel Trailers, they hitch to the tow vehicle near the bumper.
And that wraps up this basic description of the three different kinds of towables. If you’re curious and have any other basic questions about towables, feel free to ask. If I don’t know the answer, someone else may, or I can help you find additional information.
On the other hand, if you own one of the types of RV listed above and have other information to add, please leave a comment. I’m trying to make this series a helpful reference and would love to hear your input. At some point in the future these two posts will end up under their own little category for people new to the RVing scene, if anyone has other topics they would like to see covered for new RVers I’m all ears.
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