Fifth Wheel magazine

Choosing the Fifth Wheel

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Many of the new fifth wheel RV's have amazing interior spaces and it can be quite a challenge to choose a fifth wheel for the family. The best way to go about choosing a new fifth wheel is to imagine yourself using it. Go into the kitchen and imagine cooking. Is there enough storage space? Is there enough space to move around? Go into the shower and imagine taking a shower, using the bathroom. Is there enough space? What might look like adequate space now can soon become cramped with the whole family in the fifth wheel.

Bigger is Not Always Better
It is important to know what you will be using the Fifth Wheel RV for. If you are going to spend a lot of time traveling with the rig, then try and find a rig that will work for you without it being to large. There are many campgrounds that cannot accomodate a rig over a certain size. A 40 foot Fifth Wheel RV will be problematic when finding sites to accomodate it. The sites you do find will be tight and that requires extra backing skills to get into them.

As you will soon find out, going on a trip with a Fifth Wheel is not just get in and go. There is some planning to every trip. Where are the gas stations? The truck pulling a Fifth Wheel normally averages around 10 mpg. One has to know where the next gas station is and does it have diesel. Getting into a gas station presents its own set of problems. With a 13-14 foot high rig and a truck it is not simply a case of pulling in at any gas station. One has to know if the rig will fit and maneuvering around gas pumps is often not an option. Many gas stations have seperate diesel areas for 18-wheelers and that is where a Fifth Wheel would have to re-fuel.

Bridge heights are also a consideration and one should know which routes to avoid that have low bridges. It is really easy to head down a road following a GPS,and then suddenly find a low level bridge in front of you. Especially when heading out to State Parks. Make sure you know the exact height of your RV, including the airconditioner unit on the roof.

Fifth wheel road atlas
Invest in a Motor Carriers Atlas and keep it on hand at all times when travelling.

Buying a New Fifth Wheel RV
If you are going to buy a new Fifth Wheel research is key. Do a search on the internet for the make and model you are looking to buy. Check the manufacturer. Are there a lot of complaints about the manufacturer, does the manufacturer stick to their warranty?

Check how that particular Fifth Wheel RV is manufactured. The manufacturer will normally have information on their website about the design and manufacture of their Fifth Wheels.

Most of the time you will be buying from a dealer and you need to do some research on the dealer as well. Once you take possession of the Fifth Wheel it is then your problem if any problems arise. It is not a simple process to tow the Fifth Wheel back and forth while it has any problems fixed. You can end up between the dealer and the manufacturer with each blaming the other as to who should fix what.

Here is a link to our Fifth Wheel owners data showing common trucks being used to tow / MPG and weight of rigs being towed
Fifth Wheel Owner Towing Data / MPG / Truck Type

Join some RV forums and ask questions about the unit you want to buy. There is a wealth of information in the forums.

Especially check the tires on the Fifth Wheel RV you are thinking of buying. Then do a search on the internet for that make of tire reviews. For some reason manufacturers tend to put tires on Fifth Wheels that are just within the load ranges. There are many stories of tire blowouts on new Fifth Wheels and a tire blow-out does extensive damage to the underside of the RV. Then it comes down to who is going to pay for that?

Keep in mind when you buy a new Fifth Wheel, no one has lived in the unit and tested everything out on an ongoing basis. Everything may look good but after a few retractions of the slides, do they still function correctly? After a rain storm with the slides out, did water get into the unit?

Adequate Heating & Cooling
Make sure that the fifth wheel has adequate heating and cooling. One roof-top A/C might not be adequate for 90 degree days. Look in the fifth wheel camper for air vents. Some fifth wheels have central heat & air, if you see air vents around the ceiling area and vents on the floor of the unit, then there is a good chance that is has central heat and air. The central air unit is normally situated on the outside of the unit behind a metal vented door.

Black & Grey Water Tanks Capacity
Check the capacity of the grey water (all waste water other than the toilet) and the black water tanks (toilet waste water). These two tanks are important if you intend to stay at camp grounds that do not have a sewer hook-up. Ask the dealer if there is grey water tank for the kitchen. Many new owners do not know that the kitchen can have its own grey water tank. They empty the rear grey water tank only to have the kitchen sink start backing up. There have been numerous calls to RV service centers asking how to unblock the kitchen sink, when in fact the kitchen grey water tank is full. That tanks release handle can often be hidden away where one would never think to look.

Check the Tires on the Unit
If your are purchasing a used fifth wheel or toy hauler make sure you check the tires on the unit. A good looking tread on the tires does not mean the tires are good. Old tires deteriorate on the inside and are prone to blowouts. You need to check the age of the tires. It is standard practice to replace any tires over 5 years old. Here is how to check the tires age. How to tell the age of a tire.

Get a Quick Extended Warranty Quote if buying a used RV
This can be very useful to see how much a warranty would be for the year and model of unit you are about to buy. The older the unit the more the warranty will cost. You just enter minimal information and immediately get the quote. The quote is from Good Sam, one of the largest providers in the US, so pricing gives a very good idea of what a warranty would cost. You will also receive a blank copy of the contract which is very useful in seeing what is included and what is not in the warranty. Normally the contract is the last thing you see, when in it should be the first document reviewed.

Use the quote as one of your research tools when buying, there is no obligation.
Extended warranties are big money makers for dealerships, so if you are buying from a dealer, go directly to the warranty provider and save money.

Get My RV Quote.

Stay a Night in The Fifth Wheel or Toy Hauler Before Buying
One of the most important tips from fifth wheel owners is to make sure that you stay in the fifth wheel that you choose at least overnight at the RV dealers site. The bigger RV dealers will normally allow you to do this and it is by far one of the best ways to test out the fifth wheel. If there are any problems with the fifth wheel, you will normally pick them up that night. You can also accumulate questions to ask the dealer the next day. Many fifth wheel owners drive off the lot and then have many questions when they try and setup the fifth wheel.

Make sure the slides have an awning
Another important tip is to try and make sure that all of your slideouts have an awning that automatically extend when the slide extends. This awning keeps leaves and debris off the slideout roof, which can cause damage when the slideout is retracted. Without an awning one normally has to have a ladder to check the top of the slides before retracting them.

When Purchasing a Used Fifth Wheel - Hook-up the Water So That You Can Check The Plumbing
Older fifth wheels tend to have some leaks, especially around the toilet area. Check and make sure there are no leaks. Replacing a toilet is not as easy as it looks as some of the older toilets are not available in the same footprint configuration (where the toilet bolts to the floor). Check under the rig to see if there are any leaks caused from not winterizing the unit properly.

Make Sure To Operate The Slides on a Used Rig
Have the owner/dealer pull in the slides. If there is any water damage to the walls around the slides you will immediately see the slide either not line up or the wall will move/buckle slightly when the slide is pulled in.

Make Sure To Check The Roof of a Used Rig
Climb up the rear ladder on the rig and check the roof. Well kept fifth wheels will normally have a good condition roof. If the roof is badly discolored or there is debris on the roof then check inside the rig for signs of water leaks.

Find out the basics for choosing a truck for your fifth wheel rig

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