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Trying to decide which is better, a Class C RV or a 5th Wheel is a very common question. We happen to own a Class C motorhome but the decision between buying our Class C RV vs a 5th wheel was really tough. Both have their pros and cons. We attended an RV show and after seeing hundreds of RVs we ended up more confused than ever about what type of RV we wanted to buy.
So, which is better, a 5th wheel or Class C RV? The answer is it is a personal decision that each person must decide for themselves. But if you break down the decision-making process you will have a much better chance at making the best decision for yourself.
There are so many factors to consider before deciding whether a 5th Wheel or Class C RV is best. These include cost, drivability, interior features, and usability. We break down each of these categories in the article below to help create an organized approach to evaluating all of your options.
But first, you need to think about how you plan to use your Class C RV or 5th Wheel. Understanding how you like to travel is the first step in deciding which RV is better for you.
How Will You Use Your RV?
We have created four categories of how most people’s travel personality traits affect how they use their RV. The categories are:
- Full Time or Vacation Time
- Stationary Campers or Campers on the Go
- Minimalist or Creature Comfort Oriented
- Frequent Stoppers or Get There in Record Time.
It’s important to understand your own travel preferences before evaluating the features of a 5th Wheel or Class C RV to ensure you make the best choice.
Full Time or Vacation Time
If you are a full-time RVer versus a vacation time RVer there will probably be a big difference in which type of RV will be a better choice. Full-timers will look at features of RVs very differently than a vacation RVer. For a full-time, it’s their home and everything they need or want has to fit within the confines of the RV. So, there isn’t as much room for compromise for a full-timer. It either works or it doesn’t.
A vacation time RVers motivations may be very different if they only spend ten to thirty days a year in the RV. For example, they may like to spoil themselves while on vacation. So they may want as many features as possible to stay comfortable. Or maybe they just want to get away from it all and can do without many things while on vacation. They just pack what they need and off they go to enjoy the journey.
Are You a Stationary Camper or On The Go
How do you travel when you are on the road? Do you go to one spot and set up camp or do you stay one or two nights in each location and then move on? It’s important to understand this because it makes a huge difference in which RV is better for you. If you move a lot then a Class C may be a better choice because it literally takes minutes to set up or break camp.
If you are more stationary then a 5th Wheel may be a better choice because it will offer many more conveniences in exchange for the increased set up and break down time required between moves.
Are You a Minimalist or Do You Enjoy the Creature Comforts
I used to enjoy the creature comforts but have become a minimalist over the years. Neither way is right or wrong but you need to understand who you are before you decide on a Class C or 5th Wheel RV.
Since a 5th Wheel is larger, has more storage space, and has more amenities it will definitely be a better choice for those folks who enjoy all the creature comforts of home. 5th Wheels offer conveniences like a separate living room and dining area, bigger bathrooms, separate sleeping quarters, a king-sized bed and lots of storage space so you can bring everything from home you will ever need on your road trip.
A Class C RV is smaller and is designed for more efficiency. Therefore, it may be a better choice for folks who can pack what they need, get along without all of the conveniences of home, and enjoy a simple smaller living arrangement.
Do You Like to Stop Often or Reach Your Destination Fast?
When we travel we like to be spontaneous and stop whenever and wherever we want to. We do this because we love taking photos, stopping at all of the scenic overlooks, checking out cool small towns or festivals, or whatever else we want to do. There are times, however, when we have a time constraint, like catching a pre-scheduled ferry boat or attending a wedding and we need to drive straight through to be on time.
But how about you? Do you like to stop and smell the roses or do you like to drive straight through to your destination at a record pace? Again, neither style is right or wrong. You should just understand what you like and don’t like about traveling. So, what kind of traveler are you and how might a Class C RV vs a 5th Wheel affect your travel style?
If you like to stop often a Class C is a better choice because of its smaller size and drivability. You can easily pull into a scenic overlook, or pull off on the side of the road to take pictures of the scenery. You can also be more spontaneous and drive through a small town while driving a class C RV without worrying about turning around or getting stuck.
When pulling a 5th Wheel it is much more difficult to be spontaneous because of its size. Pulling into a scenic overlook is more of a challenge because the parking area may be too small to accommodate you. And finding a spot on the side of the road to pull over is really difficult because of the length of the towing vehicle and 5th Wheel combined. And 5th Wheels don’t maneuver as well as a Class C RV so driving through a small quaint town may prove to be extremely difficult.
So, now that you have considered your travel preferences you can better match the features and benefits of a Class C RV and a 5th Wheel RV to your travel needs.
Below we have broken down the features and benefits of Class C and 5th Wheel RVs into four main categories. These categories are Cost, Drivability, Interior Features, and Usability. We also provide a chart for each category to help determine your best choice.
Price of a Class C RV vs a 5th Wheel
The price range for a Class C RV is from $65,000 to $85000 and the price range for a 5th Wheel is from $30,000 to $50,000. But, you also have to get a truck that is able to pull the 5th Wheel and that will cost you around $50,000. So, if you bought a mid-range 5th Wheel your cost would be about $90,000 as compared to $75,000 for a Class C RV. Check out our full-length article called How Much Does A Class C RV Cost? for more info!
I have my insurance through Geico so assuming the following scenario here are the insurance costs. The cost to insure a Class C 2019 Thor Freedom Elite 26HE with 30 days of use per year is $516.00
The cost to insure a 2019 Ford 350 – Super Duty Deisel Crew Cab pickup truck along with a 2019 Keystone Cougar 30RLS 5th Wheel RV is $1,822.00 per year.
Clearly, the cost to insure the 5th Wheel and new pick up truck, which by the way will probably be used to drive to and from work, is way more than the Class C insurance under similar circumstances.
I would call this a wash. The cost to maintain the Class C is certainly more than the cost to maintain just the 5th Wheel but you also have to maintain your towing vehicle with a 5th Wheel so oil changes, tires etc. are pretty equal in my opinion.
When you search the internet for Class C RV mpg you will see estimates from between 8 to 12 mpg. Almost everyone I talk to gets 8 to 10 mpg. So, let’s assume the 8-10 mpg. A Ford 350 Super-Duty King Ranch with a Diesel Engine will get about 9 to 11 miles per gallon when hauling a 5th Wheel. Check out our article called What is the Average Gas Mileage for a Class C RV?. In this article, we discuss ways that you can improve your gas mileage.
However, if your pick up truck is also the vehicle you drive to work every day. You will only be getting 14 to 15 miles per gallon.
|Cost||Class C||5th Wheel|
Frequent Stops or Pulling Over
The Class C wins this category by a long shot. It is just much safer and easier to pull over into scenic overlooks or along the side of the road in a class C RV. A 5th Wheel is just too long to be safe or convenient for frequent stops and or pullovers.
A Class C Motorhome has a tighter turning radius than a Fifth Wheel. This makes driving a Class C much easier. Imagine making a right-hand turn at a red light. You would have to pull much further into the intersection before starting your turn with a 5th Wheel. This makes judging turns more difficult, dangerous and likely that you will hit something. Check out our article called Travel Trailer Turning Radius Tips for more details on making turns in your RV.
Backing up any vehicle while towing an RV or boat is very difficult for most people. It’s even hard to keep the towing vehicle straight while backing up. Trying to turn while backing up with a 5th Wheel is not easy because you have to turn the towing vehicle steering wheel the opposite direction that you want the 5th Wheel to go. Anyone who has tried backing up a camper, trailer, boat or 5th Wheel will tell you how difficult it can be. I installed a wireless back up camera on our RV and it has really helped but backing up will always be difficult.
Backing up a Class C RV is much easier. It’s just like backing up your car or truck so it’s pretty easy to get used to the size difference.
Height, Width, and Length
The Class C RV is better in terms of drivability regarding height, width, and length. An average Class C RV is between 24′ to 35′ long, 11′ to 12′ tall and 8.5 feet wide. An average 5th Wheel with tow vehicle is 45′ to 60′ long, 12′ to 14′ tall and 8.5′ wide.
Just in terms of the vehicle dimensions, it is easy to see that a Class C RV is much easier to handle than a 5th Wheel RV.
Parking a Class C RV is much easier than parking a 5th Wheel. It’s easier to back up and it fits in more parking and campsite spaces. It’s also easier to park in store parking lots, gas stations and restaurants.
Since a 5th Wheel is so much longer and taller than a Class C RV it is also much harder to drive in windy conditions. A 5th Wheel also has a higher center of gravity so the wind can also tip it a bit while driving, which creates a very uncomfortable feeling!
|Drivability||Class C||5th Wheel|
The ceiling height inside a 5th Wheel ranges from 7.5′ to 9′ and really makes the living space feel very large and spacious. A Class C RV typically has a ceiling height of 7′ to 7.5′.
Bathrooms are usually larger in a 5th Wheel and include a larger shower, vanity, and toilet than you would find in a Class C RV. Some 5th Wheels even have two bathrooms.
Heating and Cooling
Class C RVs usually have a rooftop A/C unit which is louder than AC vented by interior ductwork. Many 5th Wheels have the vent system built in and the AC is much quieter.
Class C RVs typically have three sleeping areas: an over cab bunk which is queen size but with very little headroom, a dinette which converts to a bed, and if the RV is 22′ or longer a queen sized bed in the back. If you need to use the dinette as a bed it can be very inconvenient for everyone and uncomfortable for the person sleeping on the dinette bed.
A 5th Wheel has much better sleeping arrangements and offers features like bunk beds, a pullout sofa in the living area, and a king sized bed in the bedroom! 5th Wheels are much more convenient and comfortable for the most part.
Since 5th Wheels are larger and have more room to work with they offer much better floor plans than Class C RVs. There is really no competition between the two in this category.
|Interior Features||Class C||5th Wheel|
|Heating and Cooling||Win||Lose|
Passenger Comfort While Driving
A Class C RV has a huge advantage because passengers can be in the back of the RV while driving. They can use the bathroom, have a snack or watch TV all while driving down the road. In many locations, passengers are not allowed to be in the back of a 5th Wheel while it is being pulled. So, if you own a Fifth Wheel everyone has to pile into the pickup truck while driving.
Setting Up and Breaking Camp
Class C RVs take much less time than 5th Wheels to set up at the campsite. Just easily back in, level up, hook up the utilities and you are all set. We can get set up in 10 minutes usually.
5th Wheel RVs take much longer. They are much harder to back into a camping spot and then you have to disconnect them from the truck and level them, then stabilize, then hook up the utilities. A 30 minute set up is not uncommon.
When it’s time to break camp the same holds true, Class C RVs are easier and faster to get packed up and go.
There is way more storage in a 5th Wheel than there is in a Class C RV. The design of the 5th Wheel allows for increased storage capacity under the front area. A Class C RV typically has limited storage in the rear of the RV.
There are many more steps in a 5th Wheel RV than a Class C. Sometimes you have to go up 4 or 5 steps just to get into a 5th Wheel and then there may be additional steps inside to get to the forward bedroom or bathroom. This may be perfectly fine for some but for someone with limited mobility this can be a real challenge.
A Class C RV typically has 2 steps to enter the RV and that’s it. If you are in a compact Class C then you will need to climb up to the over cab bunk to sleep, which isn’t really easy if you’re not up to the challenge.
Traveling Once You Reach Your Destination
So, here is where the 5th Wheel really excels over a Class C or a Class A RV in my opinion. With a 5th Wheel once you disconnect you have your truck to get around and sightsee.
With a Class C RV, you will need to unhook the utilities and drive the whole RV if you want to drive anywhere. (Or tow a car behind your RV but that is a whole other story). Luckily it’s really easy to unhook and set up so to me, it’s not that big of a deal.
Vehicle Break Down
I hear the argument all the time that a 5th Wheel is a better choice because if your Class C breaks down you won’t be able to stay in it while it is in the shop for repairs. And I agree. The reverse side of the argument is if your pickup truck breaks down at least you can still stay in the 5th Wheel. And this is true too.
However, most breakdowns occur while the pickup truck is pulling the 5th Wheel! I just haven’t seen many breakdowns occur after the 5th Wheel is all set up and then people are driving just the pickup truck around.
So, I contend that neither situation is good.
Some 5th Wheel RVs are designed to hold motorcycles, ATVs, etc. These are called toy haulers and if you are into riding dirt bikes or ATVs they are a great option. Although they take up some living space they are a very convenient way to haul your toys around. Class C RVs just don’t typically have a toy hauler floor plan available.
|Usability||Class C||5th Wheel|
|Comfort While Driving||Win||Lose|
|Set Up/Break Down Time||Win||Lose|
|Travel Vehicle at Destination||Lose||Win|
|Vehicle Break Down||Lose||Lose|
I hope you found this article to be helpful for deciding which is better, a Class C RV or a 5th Wheel.
Do you have an idea or thought about which is better and why? Please leave your comments below!
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