Wednesday, March 22, 2023



ABCs of RV shopping: Towables (part 2)

By Russ and Tiña De Maris

In our discussion about towable RVs we’ve talked about travel trailers and toy haulers. Now let’s talk about two other towables, fifth wheels and pop-ups.

Fifth-Wheel Trailers

5erA favorite among those who take long vacations or even live full time in their RV, the fifth-wheel trailer is a specialized unit requiring a pickup truck or specialized fifth-wheel pulling unit. The name comes from the manner in which the RV attaches to the tow vehicle. A special fifth-wheel hitch resides in the bed of the pickup truck, attaching to the fifth wheel kingpin on the trailer. By design, the “fiver,” as some dub a fifth-wheel RV, is built with a raised section up forward, giving you, in a sense, two stories. Many manufacturers put a bedroom area in the upper section, while a few place the living room aloft.

Like conventional travel trailers, fifth-wheels come with all the modern conveniences, but often add-on in terms of more slideouts—up to four in some cases. Having panoramic views from huge windows is not uncommon either. Adding to the allure for folks who spend a lot of time in their RV is added “basement storage,” or outside accessible storage compartments. A lot of stuff can be stored in these spaces.

When thinking about a fifth-wheel, keep in mind that in addition to needing a pickup truck to tow the unit, some states may have special license requirements. Once a fifth-wheel is over a given weight range, you may need a special endorsement on your driver’s license, so check with your state’s motor vehicle department for more information. In any event, if you meet your own state’s licensing requirements, you should be good to go with your fifth-wheel in any state, regardless of any endorsement requirement.

Pop Into a Pop-Up

pop upConsidered by some to be an entry-level towable unit, the pop-up, or what the industry calls a folding camping trailer, is a lightweight and inexpensive tow-behind that many families enjoy. As you might think, a folding camping trailer folds up or down, giving it a very low profile in the wind. They are commonly equipped with canvas or nylon sides. It’s like sleeping in a tent — but up off the ground. Plenty of fresh air, with some added conveniences.

Those conveniences could include galley facilities like a stovetop, perhaps even running water. Expect a dining table, and of course, plenty of bed space for the family. Their light weight and low wind resistance make them an easy tow for many family cars, including some smaller ones. They range from eight to 24 feet, and in price from $5,000 to $22,000. Larger pop-ups can sleep up to eight.

Expandable Travel Trailers

Cross a conventional travel trailer with a pop-up and what do you get? A hard-sided trailer whose ends pop out to give more sleeping space in a soft-sided room. Lighter than their conventional cousins, they cost a bit less, too. Built small to be towed by mid-sized rigs like SUVs and larger six-cylinder engine cars, the expandable trailer fills a niche in the non-motorized RV marketplace.

You’ll find the amenities of travel trailers here: galley, bathroom, entertainment stuff, but a bit more room for sleeping folks overnight. Sized from 19 to 30 feet, these units run from $10,000 to $30,000. Numbers vary, but the larger units can sleep eight.

There’s yet another kind of RV to talk about, and we’ll talk about slide in truck campers in our next installment.



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