If you’ve looked at the price of fifth wheels recently, you may wonder who can afford such vehicles. But if you’re on a tight budget, don’t fret! There are options for cheap fifth wheels. Just be aware of the quality and lack of features you’ll be getting. Let’s examine the pros and cons of owning a cheap fifth wheel and a few examples of the best options available. Read on!
What Is a Fifth Wheel?
While travel trailers connect to a ball and hitch on a rear bumper, a fifth wheel is a towable RV that attaches to a special hitch in the bed of a truck. You can tow travel trailers with all vehicle types depending on the weight. However, you must haul fifth wheels with a truck.
The kingpin fifth wheel hitch locks into place, providing easier maneuverability and a much smaller turning radius. Most owners will explain how much easier it is to tow a fifth wheel than a travel trailer because the weight of the front cap sits in the truck bed rather than at the end of the vehicle.
What Is Considered a Cheap Fifth Wheel?
Fifth wheels are generally more expensive than travel trailers. However, cheap fifth wheels are available. Usually, these fifth wheels have an MSRP of less than $70,000, so the dealer price will be in the $40,000-50,000 range. Some cheap fifth wheels are even less than $40,000.
Still, because of a lower price, you won’t get the same quality and features as a higher-priced unit. You won’t get residential appliances, hand-crafted cabinetry, or washer and dryer hookups. Usually, the length is smaller, and the weight is lighter. You can also see a visible quality difference if you walk in a cheap fifth wheel versus a more expensive model.
Personally, we are fans of purchasing older used higher-end RV’s than a cheaper new one. This is one way to get a good RV within your budget. We however are very technical and are comfortable looking over and testing used RV’s. Its important to know what your looking at when purchasing a used RV.
Pro Tip: Curious to see what a luxury fifth wheel looks like on the inside? Check out these 7 Top Luxury Fifth Wheel Campers You Won’t Believe.
What Are the Pros of Cheap Fifth Wheels?
The price isn’t the only advantage of owning a cheap fifth wheel. These units also tend to be smaller and lighter, so you can tow them with a lighter-duty truck. This lessens the cost for the entire setup as large diesel trucks are very expensive. However, you still get the high ceilings and the fifth wheel feel.
The MSRP for some luxurious fifth wheels starts at well over $100,000. Not everyone can afford such a price tag. Also, not everyone needs those features and amenities. If you’re only going camping three or four weekends a year, there’s no need to spend that much money on an RV. Cheap fifth wheels still provide an excellent camping experience without the huge price tag. You’ll still have all the essentials, like a full bathroom, a main bedroom, a kitchen with appliances, and a spacious living area.
Camping on a budget? Find out all the ways to save on your next camping vacation.
Size and Weight
To lower the price point, manufacturers produce affordable fifth wheels with cheaper materials. You won’t find natural wood or heavy solid surface countertops. Because cheap fifth wheels won’t have this additional weight, they’re generally lighter. You won’t have to spend even more money upgrading to a heavy-duty truck.
In addition, cheap fifth wheels are usually shorter, making them easier to tow. If you’ve never towed anything, it’s best to start with a shorter fifth wheel. They’re more manageable to back into a campsite and control on the roads.
High Ceilings and Fifth Wheel Feel for Less
Finally, you don’t sacrifice the space of a luxurious fifth wheel just because you’re saving money. You still get the high ceilings and the fifth wheel feel for less. The rear of the unit is usually the living space and kitchen, while the front contains the main bedroom. This layout means plenty of entertaining and lounging space with family and friends.
What Are the Cons of Cheap Fifth Wheels?
Although there are advantages to owning a cheap fifth wheel, there’s always a flip side. When you choose to save money, you won’t get the same quality, you’ll have fewer features, and you probably won’t camp in it year-round. In addition, cheap fifth wheels are harder to resell because their quality deteriorates more quickly.
Quality May Be Poor
A Forest River Wildcat doesn’t have the same quality as a DRV Mobile Suites. The $250,000 price tag of a DRV Mobile Suites means you’ll get a solid box steel frame, pinless hydraulic jacks, and residential R-16 insulation. That’s only the construction. There are many more luxurious features inside the unit.
However, a cheap fifth wheel that’s $50,000 won’t have the quality of a $250,000 unit. Don’t expect a well-insulated RV, hand-crafted cabinetry, or granite countertops.
These are the most extreme examples, but to be honest most RV’s in similar price points are constructed in very similar ways no matter the cost. However fit, finish, and amenities may be different.
Few Luxury Features
A cheap fifth wheel will lack many of the features that higher-end rigs have. Many times they will offer similar functions with lower quality components, however. For example, hydraulic leveling is automatic and fast, but cheaper fifth wheels tend to have slow electric and may not offer auto level.
While the lack of features may be a con in some areas, it can be a pro in others. Many of the systems in a cheaper fifth wheel are easily or much more cost-effective to repair. Giant luxury motorhomes cost the most to maintain and repair because their systems are so complicated compared to cheaper RV’s. Pretty much all costs scale with the expense of an RV.
Usually Not Four-Season
Manufacturers like Luxe offer much thicker wall insulation. You can camp in the winter and summer and still be comfortable. Other higher-priced fifth wheels feature insulated underbellies that enclose the tanks and pipes to prevent freezing. Some even have tank heaters. However, you won’t find anything like that in cheap fifth wheels. Don’t expect to camp in sub-freezing temperatures in a Palomino Puma.
Pro Tip: Looking for a fifth wheel that can withstand freezing temperatures? Take a look at the 9 Best Four-Season Fifth Wheels for Year-Round Camping.
Harder to Resell
Finally, when it’s time to say goodbye to your cheap fifth wheel, it will be harder to resell. The initial price was more affordable, so that you won’t get much out of it after years of use. RVs depreciate substantially. Cheap fifth wheels will lose even more value because they lack quality and luxurious features. Many times the exterior of cheaper fifth wheels will not hold up to the elements as well either. Graphics fade and crack, the gel coat loses its shine and exposed underbellies rust.
What Are the 5 Best Cheap Fifth Wheels on the Market?
When looking for cheap fifth wheels, here are five of your best options. Manufactured by four different brands, each has at least one slide-out and a dinette and sofa for two designated living spaces. They also all have a north-to-south main bed with wardrobe storage in the front of the unit.
1. Palomino Puma 257RESS
About: The most unique cheap fifth wheel on this list, the Palomino Puma 257RESS, has a rear kitchen layout with a large slide that contains both the sofa and booth dinette. There’s also an additional linen closet and wardrobe in the hallway leading to the main bedroom. Outside, there are three exterior storage compartments.
Length: 30 feet, 8 inches
Dry Weight: 7,419 pounds
Features: The rear kitchen features a spacious countertop underneath a vast window. The entertainment center is in the corner, while the fridge, microwave, sink, and range sit along the passenger wall. This floorplan creates lots of space for entertaining and enjoying the kitchen/living room area.
MSRP: Starting at $56,000
2. Forest River Wildcat 260RD
About: The floorplan of the Forest River Wildcat 260RD features a front main bedroom with a queen bed and side wardrobe closets. There are two entry doors leading into the bathroom, which provides easy access from the bedroom. The driver-side slide-out contains the theater seating sofa and fridge, while the kitchen sits on the passenger side. In the very rear of this cheap fifth wheel is a U-shaped dinette and pantry storage.
Length: 31 feet, 6 inches
Dry Weight: 8,369 pounds
Features: The large U-shaped dinette in the rear of this unit provides ample seating for a family. It also easily converts to additional sleeping space for a weekend camping trip. The L-shaped kitchen offers countertop space to cook meals. In addition, you can cook meals outside with the outdoor griddle and propane hookup.
MSRP: Starting at $68,000
3. KZ Sportsmen 231RK
About: The smallest fifth wheel on this list is the Sportsmen 231RK. KZ manufactures this fifth wheel. It features a rear kitchen, a slide-out with a tri-fold sofa, and a booth dinette. The shower and sink lead into the front main bedroom, while the toilet is in a separate room.
Length: 24 feet, 10 inches
Dry Weight: 6,200 pounds
Features: Separating the toilet from the rest of the bathroom offers privacy while allowing another person access to the shower and sink. Although small in length, the Sportsmen 231RK has a spacious interior thanks to the design of the rear kitchen layout.
MSRP: Starting at $59,000
Pro Tip: If you’re looking for a family fifth-wheel, check out these mid-bunk models with extra sleeping space.
4. Crossroads RV Volante VL240RL
About: The Crossroads RV Volante VL240RL has one slide-out on the driver’s side with a booth dinette and entertainment center. A tri-fold sofa is in the rear of the unit underneath a broad window. The kitchen sink, microwave, range, and fridge are on the passenger side, and the front bedroom has a queen bed and side wardrobe closets.
Length: 27 feet, 10 inches
Dry Weight: 6,977 pounds
Features: The roomy rear tri-fold sofa offers plenty of lounging space and an additional sleeping area for weekend camping trips. The extra pantry and wardrobe in the hallway across from the bathroom don’t take away from the bathroom space while providing extra storage. Plus, the extra hutch and cabinetry in the kitchen give you even more storage space.
MSRP: Starting at $58,000
5. Crossroads RV Cruiser Aire CR24RL
About: Like the Volante VL240RL, the Cruiser Aire CR24RL has a rear tri-fold sofa. Instead of the booth dinette, this unit has a U-shaped dinette in the slide-out beside the fridge. The kitchen is on the passenger side with the sink, range, and microwave, and the entertainment center is on this side of the unit, too. The main bedroom features a king bed with an additional wardrobe closet next to the two side wardrobes.
Length: 28 feet, 1 inch
Dry Weight: 6,948 pounds
Features: The third wardrobe closet in the main bedroom is an excellent addition for travelers who camp longer than a weekend. The position of the entertainment center across from the sofa and dinette also makes watching movies or sports games convenient for everyone in the family.
MSRP: Starting at $66,000
Pro Tip: RV camping doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg. There are cheap places to travel in your RV that will still make amazing memories.
Are Cheap Fifth Wheels Worth It?
If you’re on a tight budget, a cheap fifth wheel may be the only option to get you on the road to making memories. As long as you understand the cons of owning a cheap fifth wheel and are willing to deal with the repairs and problems that may occur, there’s no reason to avoid one of these options.
You won’t have the luxurious features or residential appliances that a Grand Design Solitude or Jayco North Point might have, but you also won’t be making that monthly payment, either.
Have you considered purchasing a cheap fifth wheel? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
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