motorhome vs. fifth wheel


New Member
This is my first time here, and I had some questions about our next purchase. We currently own travel trailer and are looking to upgrade, but undecided about what to get. To give you a little background, we are a family of 5, (maybe 6 in the future!), and our kids are still pretty young, 6, 4, and 2, so safety is a huge issue. We are able to go quite a bit, as I do not work, and my husband is a school administrator with lots of time off. We had pretty much decided on getting a new fifth wheel and had even decided which one(Coachmen Chapparal 340), but as we were leaving we happened to step into a Class A motorhome, and thought that maybe we should maybe think about a Class A instead. I have started researching Class A's and my only concern is that with our price range we are looking a lower end Class A, which I afraid that we would be sacrificing our safety as we were travelling?? I really like the bunk bed floor plan that the Damon Daybreak offers, and price wise I think we would be ok, but how safe would it be? We really like having the extra space to travel in with a motorhome, because right now we are all crammed into our truck, and we are on the road alot!

I guess my main question is how safe is a lower end Class A??


Senior Member
Re: motorhome vs. fifth wheel

I would hope that any motorhome offered for sale would be designed to the same level of safety. The advantages of the higher end units would be more durability, more comfort, more amenities, more automation. That said, I doubt any motorhome is safer than a passenger vehicle.

From what I can tell from my motorhome, it is reasonably safe for 2 people (shoulder belt but no airbag, marginally safe for a third (lap belt, sitting sideways), and very unsafe for more than 3. It may be that all motorhome passanger setup is tied to the sleeping positions. Mine is designed for 3 people max to sleep, so only has 3 seatbelted positions. The very first thing you want to check on any motorhome before buying it is if it has enough travelling positions for the number of people who are likely to travel in it. In your case that would be 6, and finding a motorhome capable of transporting AND sleeping 6 may be a challange.

The motorhome is particularly handy when you are travelling. The fifth wheel is equal or sometimes better when you reach a place you are going to stay a while, and is definitely cheaper (as long as you stay light enough to be towed by a pickup; the bigger tow vehicles get pretty pricey). Of course, the biggest, crew cab pickup might get crowded with 6, so it is possible that you might want to stay with a TT, pulled by a SUV or van with plenty of passenger room.

Since your kids are young, they will tend to grow bigger. Thus a unit which fits you well now may not be so appropriate in future years. With a fifth wheel, you can change trailers easier (ie cheaper) than changing motorhomes. And maintenance/repair of a motorhome may be more of a challange than it would with a pickup.


Senior Member
Re: motorhome vs. fifth wheel

Like the previous poster, I too own a motorhome and in fact we are fulltime in ours. But I have serious doubts about a class A motorhome that would fit a family of 5 or 6. While it would have the advantage of being able to use the table and toilet while traveling, there are very few that have enough sleeping space for three teenagers and yours will be that age before you know it. As to the safety issue, it just depends upon how you look at it. Studies show that motorhomes are involved in fewer accidents than trailers (or so I have read), but in a major accident no RV is structurally as sound as it a truck, van or car. Until you get into the bus conversions, none of them would fare well in a roll-over. I love my class A, but I have never seen one that would have worked for us when our three sons were in the teen years.


New Member
Re: motorhome vs. fifth wheel

I own a 37' Southwind which is considered an entry level motorhome. The government sets standards for safety on all vehicles, but like the previous posters I don't think any big truck fairs well in a roll over collision. You are right though in your thoughts about the room. I pulled a travel trailer for many years with a GMC Suburban and then a GMC Crew Cab 1 ton and the issue of having to ride in the suburban or truck all day aggravated my wife. We stopped by a dealership to get some supplies for the tt and wound up walking out with the new motorhome. My wife fell in love with it.

It can sleep five comfortably on the hide a bed and kitchen table but you have to break the table down just like in a travel trailer or fifth wheel. The forward seat at the table has seat belts and so does the hide a bed and swivel rocker. So there are seat belts for 5 people.

One of the drawbacks of the motorhome, since you are not going to be full timing in it, is that it sets in a parking spot not being driven but still being paid for. I have a complete hook-up on a pad in my yard including septic tank. I use my motorhome as a guest house when we aren't traveling. I tell everyone it is my $100,000.00 guest house. It is something to consider. If you buy a nice tow vehicle, like a crew cab, and a fifth wheel, you will be able to use the tow vehicle for other trips or as a second car. But the price will probably be about the same.

Whatever you decide I know your kids will grow up with many great memories of places they went, things they saw, others they met, and the love of a family. But when they get older they will only remind you of the bad things that happened. Unless they are different than my now grown kids.