Why Are Fifth Wheel Campers So Popular?
The popularity of fifth-wheel trailers (the number one RV vehicle sold in the US) is due to their ability to offer the comforts of home while traveling from place to place. Consider some of the advantages pulling an RV trailer can provide.
- Fifth-wheel trailers offer living space, luxury, and functionality.
- RV owners have the security of familiar surroundings.
- Fifth-wheel campers often offer more stability while towing and are
- They are generally cheaper than more expensive motorhomes.
- Fifth wheels offer the versatility of using their tow vehicle to explore an area while leaving their trailer at a site as a base camp.
How Much Does A Fifth Wheel Camper Cost?
While the size of a travel trailer will vary, owners should plan on towing a 25 - 45 foot unit. The average weight is around 12,700 lbs, with larger units weighing up to 16,000 lbs. Owners should always consider the tow vehicle capacity they will use to ensure the pickup truck can handle a fifth wheel before purchasing one).
Remember that there are more costs than just the price of the fifth-wheel RV. The hidden costs of maintenance, storage, fuel, equipment (a fifth wheel hitch), and insurance should be figured into your budget.
What Factors Must Be Considered in the Purchase Of A Fifth Wheel?
Many factors tend to influence fifth-wheel prices, so it is essential to have a plan before you begin.
The Size Of The Camper
The dimensions of the fifth wheel camper matter (not just height and width, but also weight). The smallest fifth wheel weighs 3.000 - 5,000 lbs and ranges from 19 to 24 feet. The Scamp is the smallest fifth-wheel camper, only 19 feet long, and weighs around 2900 lbs empty. The nice thing about smaller trailers is that they are less expensive and more easily towed but often lack the frills and amenities larger units offer.
Fifth-wheel RVs over 30 feet require a significantly more powerful tow vehicle. (the average weight for a 30-footer is around 13,000 lbs). For an example of a luxury fifth wheel, see an excellent review on camperreport.com.
Comforts and Conveniences
While having all the comforts of home while on a trip, taking those luxuries with you will cost you. For example, a luxurious new 5th wheel trailer with amenities like a built Chef’s kitchen, stainless steel appliances, spacious floor plan, or extra sleeping space will cost more. Some luxury fifth-wheel RVs are more reminiscent of million-dollar yachts than camping trailers.
Make a list of the amenities that you absolutely must have. While you would expect an RV to have sleeping quarters, do you need the two slides and the luxury bed, or will a less expensive arrangement suffice? Most RVs have a toilet and shower, but do you need to be pampered every morning with a marbled shower and ultra-lit vanity? By determining the needs (rather than wants), you can keep your budget in place and not overspend.
Most RV owners have a budget they must adhere to, while money is no object for some. If you have limited funds, streamline the size and amenities to help fit into your plan. Remember that there are more costs than just the price of the fifth wheel. Ensure you factor in RV insurance coverage, fuel and equipment costs, and maintenance (storage).
The kind of materials that are used to build your fifth wheel can affect the pricing. For example, a steel frame usually costs less because campers made with aluminum frames are corrosion-resistant. Fiberglass siding provides better durability and insulation than aluminum siding, so it tends to be expensive. As you might expect, RVs with granite countertops and ultra-fine wooden cabinets cost more than simple plywood with laminate or plastic countertops.
Time Of The Year
Like automobile companies try to offer discounts on the previous year’s models when new cars begin to hit their car lots, RV dealers tend to do the same. Many RV manufacturers offer deep savings during the fall and winter (when demand is down and new models are emerging). If a dealership knows it has to move a former year’s model to make room for new inventory, the salesperson may be more willing to negotiate.
Most RV owners do not pay cash for their fifth-wheel but instead finance the unit like a car or truck. While most dealerships have financing options, you are likely better off exploring outside financing with a local bank or credit union with which you have a personal relationship. The reason is that many dealerships will mark up the rate from a lender as their fee (but they are optional to divulge this information in most cases). Buyers who are armed with rate information before they shop at the dealership usually are the same ones who find the most savings in finance charges.
Fifth-wheel insurance can be influenced by where it is parked when not in use and the age and the unit’s fair market value. Most companies offer special rates for RV and boat owners, and you should expect to pay between $300 - $1400 per year (depending on the size and the amount of use).
Storage and maintenance are a requirement for every RV owner, and these expenses can range from $1000 to $2500 a year. Before you head down to the dealership, ensure you know where you plan to park the RV when it is not in use or during the winter months.
Is It Better To Purchase From A Dealer or Private Owner?
When a dealership accepts an RV trade-in, they will give the seller a wholesale price. This lower amount will allow the dealership to absorb the costs of fixing issues, cleaning, and prepping the unit for sale (they pay people to do those things). If you purchase a fifth wheel from a private seller, it can be a win-win (you might pay less than you would at a dealer, and the seller gets better than a wholesale price for their RV).
Sometimes, a private seller tries to recoup the amount of their finance loan (which can often inflate the price above a fair value). Buyers must be informed of current market conditions so they do not overpay.
The downside with purchasing from a private seller is that you have no recourse if something needs to be fixed with the camper. Most dealerships have a reputation in their local markets that they want to protect, so they are almost always more willing to work with you to fix a problem.
About THE AUTHOR
My name is Matt and I've been around cars all my life! I have owned and worked on many different classic vehicles, so I started this site to share my experiences. If you're new to classic cars, then this website is for you.Read More About Matt Lane