Fifth or Class A


New Member
My family and I are just beginning our search into RVing. Here is our situation. My wife and I will have a couple children within a few years. My parents are getting close to retiring and are interested in RVing as a possible lifestyle. Therefore, we are trying to buy something that will fit both our needs (really just the extra bedding for children).

We need help figuring out what would be best for us.

I've excluded Class C's after reading how comparable their mileage is to an A and the probable inability to pull a car behind.

Therefore we are at the point of arguing over 5th vs Used Class A.

I've been going over in my head both ways. I have some questions I keep coming back to;

MILEAGE:: First of all let me state neither of us have a Diesel pickup (I have a VW GOLF Diesel). Therefore we'd have to buy one, and my dad has thought about selling is lightduty pickup so maybe we could pickup the $20-$25,000 cost for a used crewcab.
WHICH GETS BETTER MILEAGE? Gas Class A 30 foot? or 30foot Salem Fifth Diesel Pickup?. Also, in more detail how much does the Class A drop if I had to tow say my VW behind it.

In terms of the Fifth I don't know what kind of mileage I'd get on the Truck empty. I've heard anywhere from 15 to 22 depending on performance chips, etc. Anybody have any realistic estimate and are any of the Big 3 known to get better than others.

CONVIENENCE: In terms of setting up camp how much longer does it actually take to set up a fifth vs. the Class A. Also, this might be a stupid question, but does the TV play while you are driving a Class A (i.e. children's entertainment). I guess I'm thinking of the actual driving experience for passengers.

COST: Insurance Rate Differences Between the Two? Maintenance Costs?

FINANCING: Is it the same 15 year 7.99 type of loan?

OTHER HELP: For the next five years this will be used for weekend getaways and possibly 2 weeklong vacations each year.

Thank you in advance for all help.


Senior Member
Re: Fifth or Class A

My 2001 GMC 6L gas engine got 13 MPG unloaded, 8.2 MPG pulling the trailer at the speed limit (60 - 75) and 10.2 MPG at 55 MPH. It strained going up hills. I haven't figured out the mileage for the diesel class A yet, but the first fillup indicated around the 8 MPG range.

Note that RVs of any type are heavy, and if you want to go up hills without sweating, diesel is better. Unfortunately, the guvment made it manditory that all diesels made starting in 2007 must be a new design, so the odds of them having design flaws for a couple of years is high. And there is a new fuel, USLD, mandated for the new engines and the effects of this on the old engines is unknown. Several people have reported problems with the USLD eating the gaskets in their fuel pumps. So buying any diesel now, new or used, is a crap shoot.

had an entry level fifth wheel, so perhaps a higher level one would have some of the conveniances of a midrange coach, but here are the set up differances I have experianced:

1) on the fifth wheel, all the connections were on the side of the trailer, so I had to get all the hoses/wires/dinguses out of the storage compartment, join them together and hook them up. On the motor home, they are in compartments already hooked together, all I have to do is pull them out and hook them to the hookups. Unhooking is the reverse. Say an extra 5 minutes each way, not a deal breaker.

2) The real differance is leveling and stabilizing. With the trailer, I stopped before the site and walked around, looking for the levellest spot, then horsed the trailer into that spot, then checked the side to side level and got out the yellow blocks to build a 'hill' on the low side, then pulled the trailer up onto the yellow hill, then used the front jacks to get front to back level, then cranked the rear stabilizers down. *whew*, that was a chore and a half. Motorhome, I pull into the spot, lean back in my chair and push a button. A few minutes of groaning and jerking later, I'm level and stable. All right, I do get out and put a pad under each jack first, but that's no biggie.

3) Unhooking the truck from the trailer and hooking it back up are not a big deal, say 5 minutes to unhook and 10 minutes to rehook. Don't rush it, because you can really screw things up if you forget a step. I don't have a toad yet, so don't know how hooking/unhooking a toad compares, but I'll guess it is in the same ballpark.

So if you are going to be travelling a lot and staying only a night or two at each location, the motorhome gets the nod. If you are going to travel a bit and then stay a while, the fifth wheel is very attractive. Also, the motorhome is more useful 'on the road', you don't have find a place to stop to use the toilet/get a snack. In my very limited experiance (one of each), the motorhome is more comfortable to drive (better seat, less cramped) than the truck.

If the TV is visible to the driver, it is required to have a cutout which shuts if off whenever the ignition is on. This can be bypassed, of course, but I would advise not getting caught having the driver visible TV going while driving. Invest in a portable DVD player for the kids/passengers.

With a trailer, there is no liability insurance required, so it can be pretty cheap. Of course, you will need to insure the truck as well, with liability. The motorhome is a vehicle, so needs to have full insurance. I think the rates tend to be less for liability because RVs have a better record than do cars. But the collision/comp tends to be higher because they are rather more expensive.

Maintenance on the trailer is pretty limited. Batteries, tires, axel seals, bearings and brakes are the biggies. On a trailer, you can usually do these yourself or have them done at 'normal' service places. The truck is like any other. Diesel maintenance will be more than gas. The motorhome is something else. Batteries may be the same, but everything else often is much more, because only a few places can work on it.

Loans depend on where you get them. 10 years is common for RVs, but 20 years is not unheard of. The rate is what you can get. Shop around with companies which specialize in RV financing, you can save a % or 2.


Senior Member
Re: Fifth or Class A

I think that you will have difficulty in finding an RV that will serve well for two people and also for a family. I am puzzeled by the decision that a class C can't tow a vehicle? The fact is that unless you get a very large diesel engine, any motorhome should keep the vehicle towed to under 5000# and many it is under 3500#. In addition, towing a vehicle costs extra fuel and so the larger the vehicle you tow, the more it will cost in fuel. But there are thousands of class C motorhomes that are towing vehicles well and safely. As a general rule, a class C is more likely to be designed for a family than is the typical class A.

Before you even consider what type of RV you need to consider how each will use it? If you plan to only go for short week end trips, is that also what your parents plan? If your parents plan to go south for the winter, they will want space and not a large number of beds. But if you want to take the family to Disney World, you will need beds and play space. If your parents will be retired, it would probably be more practiacl to get something that fits them and have the kids use sleeping bags where they can, or even sleep in a tent outside?

If mileage is a major concern, an RV is probably not for you. Gas powered class A motorhomes generally get between 7mpg and 9mpg with some a little worse and very few any better. When you add the tow vehicle you will probably not see much change as the effect will be pretty small. A diesel pusher will get better fuel mileage, but the extra cost to buy it would probably buy several years of fuel for the gas chassis. Diesels do not fair as well when parked a great deal as do gas engines, generally. But there are very few hard rules when it comes to RVs.

For set-up, a class A can generally be ready to use in five minutes or less if it has leveling jacks as leveling is the most time consuming part. A fifth wheel will take at leas 1/2 hour to be ready to live in. But the fifth wheel has more living space than does the class A, or the class C.

Insurance is one of those things that none of us can tell you because your location and driving record will be the key to that. The cost comparison will be pretty close to the same if the value is the same for each unit. Maintenance costs will depend upon the age of the unit, the care and maintenance it had previously and how much you can do for yourself. Diesel service will cost significantly more if you pay to have it done. Just check the labor rates at the local shop to see what they charge for diesel service, compared to gas engine service. That will be a hint. Also, diesel parts are much more expensive. At the same time, diesels usually have somewhat less maintenance.

You won't get 15 year financing on any RV unless it is new when purchased. With used RVs you are very unlikely to get longer than 10 years. Also the interest rate will vary widely with higher rates for used rigs and your credit record will also make a great difference.


Senior Member
Re: Fifth or Class A

Hmm, I got 20 years on a used RV and wasn't even trying :)

Yes, 10 years is usually the limit for banks and credit unions, and with any loan on a depreciating item, shorter is better than longer (you don't ever want to owe more than it is worth). However, RV specialty loan places can go longer.

I fell for the 'how much can you afford a month' speech from the dealer, and didn't find out the loan was for 20 years until I saw the paper work. Fortunately, I can often make double payments, so my actual loan term will probably be more like 10 years. But it is not some fly by night outfit, in fact the loan is through a division of US Bank (out of St Louis), and there is a branch right down the road from me.

So, longer terms should be available, although are not recommended.

DL Rupper

Senior Member
Re: Fifth or Class A

My first RV loan was for 15 years. I refinanced at a lower rate and less time at the first opportunity.


New Member
Re: Fifth or Class A

I have been driving a 33 ft Class A Itaska-Winne for 7 yrs now and I've had trouble with the Exhaust Manifold, they are bad for cracking under heat of the engine, so I replaced mine with a Banks Stainless Steel exhaust system, It has increased my mileage and horse power a great deal, I am driving a Ford 360 Engine made in 97. Gasoline of course, My wife and I are just crazy about it and it has a towing rate of 3800 pounds. I pull a 93 Geo Tracker and have put only 38000 miles on it. I keep it in good shape, we only go out only 2 to 6 months a year. You just have to make sure you have a brake assist in the car because most states require it 48 of them, because if you do not have one and you have a accident the people you hit can take you to the cleaners. Good luck on your choice.
Re: Fifth or Class A

MontyR My wife and I resently bought a 96 33' Itasca with a 454. We will be towing a 2002 Tracker. Info form the list -- 454 also has manifold problems. Our dealer just replaced 1 on our unit. I did not know about the brake assist being required. A friend has a blue ox MH hitch that was rebuilt. Checking into that, and what is required. We are new to RVing and have a lot to learn. We'll bring home the unit this Sat.
Thanks for the info