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Thread: RV: Need opinions on small trailer vs small 5th wheel & tow vehicle

  1. #1
    sandy
    Guest sandy's Avatar

    Default RV: Need opinions on small trailer vs small 5th wheel & tow vehicle

    We just got back from a 4 month trek from Florida to Washington state
    and back and with the gas prices being so attrocious, we've been
    thinking of selling our 30' Winnebago and getting something better on
    gas mileage. We're thinking of buying a small pickup anyway so we've
    been thinking of buying a small trailer or 5th wheel. I'd appreciate
    opinions on which is best...trailer or 5th wheel and why. What size
    pickup we need for towing a small trailer/5th wheel, any brand
    recommended (or to steer away from), etc.

    I'd also appreciate your opinions on how easy it is to drive, maneuver,
    park such a package (as I'll be doing all the driving). I have managed
    to back a boat trailer before but haven't done it much and it's always
    been a little of an "adventure". But I'm sure I can learn.

    Thanks!

    Sandy

  2. #2
    Lindakay
    Guest Lindakay's Avatar

    Default RV: Need opinions on small trailer vs small 5th wheel & tow vehicle

    I Googled "trailer vs. fiver" in this group and got 133 hits.

    Good luck too.

    Lindakay

  3. #3
    ltrib2001
    Guest ltrib2001's Avatar

    Default RV: Need opinions on small trailer vs small 5th wheel & tow vehicle

    All depends on what you call a "small" trailer. I have a 2619
    Trailmanor. It has hard sides, yet folds down for towing. With the
    Chevy Trailblazer, I get 14 mpg towing on the flats, 11 - 12 in the
    mountains...
    Leon in Texas....

  4. #4
    Richard Ferguson
    Guest Richard Ferguson's Avatar

    Default RV: Need opinions on small trailer vs small 5th wheel & tow vehicle

    The real issue is what your milage expectations are. If you expect to
    get 20 mpg towing a trailer, I doubt very much that you can, even if you
    downsize to the smallest Casita or Scamp. I remember towing an aluminum
    rowboat behind my Subaru, and I only got 22 mpg. To get over 20 mpg, I
    think that you need a small station wagon and a tent.

    We moved from a large pickup camper to a 28 foot 5th wheel, and the fuel
    milage changed from 10 to 9 mpg, not very significant. (We figure to
    come out ahead in the end, as we never took the camper off the truck,
    but we often travel with the truck and leave the 5er in the campground.
    Empty we get 15 mpg, so for most trips the average mpg may actually go
    up.)

    Tell us what milage you get now, and what you want to get, then you
    might see a reality check. The correct way to analyse costs is to take
    your average miles per year, assume a gas cost, and then figure the fuel
    costs for a couple of different options. In most cases, the difference
    is likely to be under $1000, in which case you are thousands of dollars
    ahead keeping your old rig.

    For all that people are upset about fuel prices, milage, etc., I think
    that fuel is much less than half of the total cost of owning an RV. I
    drive my RV about 10,000 miles a year, so if I figure average 10 mpg,
    $2.50/gal gas, then that is $2500/yr, much less than the annual
    depreciation on my rig, not to speak of campground fees, licence plates,
    insurance, repairs, tires, etc.

    Richard

  5. #5
    William. Boyd
    Guest William. Boyd's Avatar

    Default RV: Need opinions on small trailer vs small 5th wheel & tow vehicle

    There are just the two of us and we're used to living in small spaces.
    (Lived for a dozen years aboard a sailboat, traveled for many years in
    a van camper). I loved our van camper as we could go/park anywhere and
    gas mileage wasn't bad either. But when my husband had a stroke a year
    and a half ago, we opted for the comfort of a larger Motorhome. On our
    last trip, we were driving it VERY slowly to increase gas mileage (I
    think Hubby is a little obsessive about this) and we averaged between
    10 and 11 mpg on our 30' Winnebago.

    I've been happy with both the van camper (my favorite) and the
    motorhome. I'm a little wary of towing a trailer as I had towed one
    once a number of years ago and the whole rig seemed to sway. But I'm
    guessing that a properly setup rig shouldn't do this.

    Sandy
    I do not think that you stand to gain enough if any on your fuel
    expenses by going to a pickup and trailer. So long as the MH is in
    good condition, maybe you could consider taking on a toad to provide
    transportation around local areas that you travel to. But then you
    would have to get one that gets over double what the MH gets to
    realize a fuel savings. Because any where you went in the toad would
    be a round trip back to the MH. So you are getting 11 mpg, the toad
    would have to get 22 mpg to break even.

  6. #6
    HD in NY
    Guest HD in NY's Avatar

    Default RV: Need opinions on small trailer vs small 5th wheel & tow vehicle

    I'd also appreciate your opinions on how easy it is to drive, maneuver,
    park such a package (as I'll be doing all the driving). I have managed
    to back a boat trailer before but haven't done it much and it's always
    been a little of an "adventure". But I'm sure I can learn.

    Thanks!

    Sandy
    I can share our experiences. We towed a 21' Sunline 5th
    wheel with a GMC Sonoma, long bed, std cab, 4.3L V6,
    automatic. The combination was very stable and we had no
    problems towing it from central New York to Florida. Mileage
    towing was in the range of 10 to 14. Fourteen was on the
    flat at 60 mph going toward the coast on 66 (Williamsburg,
    VA). Normal mileage towing was 11/12.

    Something like a Dodge Dakota with the 4.7L V8 would be a
    good choice for a small 5th wheel. Our Sunline was only 7'
    wide which made a big difference in towing ease. Less
    frontal area means less wind resistance. Shadow Cruiser made
    some 5th wheels that had good layouts for traveling.

    I don't know if there are current models of 5th wheels that
    are similar to these. Maybe the best bet is to look on the
    web for used Shadow Cruisers.

    Most important to consider is the allowable bed weights
    (payload) of any pickup you get. The 5th wheel pin weight
    will determine if you can tow a particular trailer, along
    with the gross combined weight rating of the truck. Staying
    within those guidelines can be difficult if you set your
    sights too high on the 5th wheel. Slideout(s) would be a
    no-no as they would add too much weight.

    Full size 1/2 ton and mid-size 1/2 ton pickups can tow 5th
    wheels and small trailers but are severely restricted on
    what can be towed. Not saying it can't be done but much care
    must be used in selecting both the truck and trailer.

    If a conventional tow behind trailer is a must, then the
    choices get tighter. Although a 1/2 ton can be used to tow
    trailers, the power required to tow the larger ones will
    make your non-towing mileage much less than if you picked a
    smaller trailer and engine.

    I know others won't agree with me on this but, if I were
    picking a combo for least expensive towing I would pick a 4
    cylinder import truck and a scamp 5th wheel. I'd pick the 5
    speed standard shift. Both the Nissan and Toyota small
    pickups have sufficient power and suspension to handle a
    Scamp (or equivalent) 5th wheel.

    In a full size 1/2 ton pickup, I'd get the smallest engine
    available and a 5 or 6 speed standard transmission. Doing it
    this way avoids the pitfalls of automatic transmission
    cooling. This would give you best mileage both towing and solo.

    Ease of driving makes the 5th wheel combo the best in my
    opinion. Learning to back a 5th wheel is easy compared to
    backing a trailer, once you learn the procedure. Old pros
    will know what I mean. The advantage of the 5th wheel is the
    ability to keep the trailer pointed one way while changing
    the angle of the truck to the trailer. It can make the
    difference in getting into a tight site and not.

    Hope this helps.
    HD in NY

  7. #7
    William. Boyd
    Guest William. Boyd's Avatar

    Default RV: Need opinions on small trailer vs small 5th wheel & tow vehicle

    I agree with most of this advice, except the part of import
    vehicles. I know the little four cylinder engines can develop a lot
    of power, adequate for towing. But the automatic transmission has so
    much more advantage over a standard, I would prefer it. As for
    cooling problems, that is taken care of with the domestic top three
    automakers when you order it with a tow package. I think I would
    check in to what the imports have to offer in tow packages
    regardless of transmission. Also insure they address the
    transmission cooling if you do choose to get the automatic, because
    the advice on transmission overheating is correct unless they do.
    I would choose a 5th wheel to tow with the smaller pickups where I
    do not think they can safely tow a Travel Trailer, at all. Being
    able to stop a rig or keeping it in control is a lot more important
    than having enough power to move it forward.

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