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Class A vs Class C vs 5th Wheel
Old 05-17-2011, 03:46 PM   #1
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Class A vs Class C vs 5th Wheel

I'm a single woman with severe wanderlust. The plan is to buy an RV and hit the road on Day 1 of my retirement. I'll be travelling alone. I never want to see a snowflake again as long as I live.

The big concern is the cost of gas at this point. Does anyone have an RV in the 30 ft range? What kind of mpg could I reasonably expect without a tow vehicle.

What are your preferences re the various types of RVs?

Thanks!
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Old 05-17-2011, 04:27 PM   #2
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Welcome Nuiloa, I currently have a 35ft class A, and average a whopping 6mpg on a 2004 National. I have full time RV friends who prefer a 5th wheel, and diesel truck for the higher mileage. I would just suggest searching the internet, there are tons of websites setup for people just like you. You can find everything from RV site reviews, to opportunities to work camp while RVing.

I love traveling by RV, and so do my dogs! Just a thought, you might also check into the premier RV AAA card, just in case you ever break down out in the middle of nowhere and need a tow.
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Old 05-17-2011, 06:36 PM   #3
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I would also suggest going to a large RV show and seeing what is out there.

After reading the blogs of a number of full-time RVers, I would say that the reaction to high fuel prices seems to be decreasing the frequency of moving around from every few days to a week or more. That is an excellent way to get to know an area better and cut your gas/diesel bill.
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Old 05-17-2011, 08:26 PM   #4
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DH and I have been researching these different types for many years (in prep for buying one.....hopefully....in 2012). We settled on a fifth wheel, because of the layout.

Knowing what I know now, I think if it were just me, I would go with a Class B, so I wouldn't have to deal with the hookup, although people say you can always find someone around to help and/or you can do a fifth wheel by yourself, if necessary.

If I thought the Class B was too small, I would probably do a Class C with a small toad. I would stay away from a Class A, only because to get one that fits the recommended wheelbase to length ratio - you need to get a pretty good sized one. I have yet to see any below 35-36 feet that fit that recommended ratio....

But that's me. You might feel different. Before you buy, you should definitely go look at some of each and see what is involved in driving and setting each of them up. No matter what you get - the gas mileage is going to be tough to swallow. But a small diesal 3/4 ton with a small fifth wheel (30'+-) or diesal Class B will probably give you the best gas mileage.

P.S. I hear you about them snowflakes.......
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Old 05-18-2011, 07:20 AM   #5
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If fuel economy is your greatest concern, ditto on the Class B motorhome idea. They are also easier to drive in traffic than a larger rig.
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Old 05-18-2011, 08:18 AM   #6
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I can attest from personal experience - there is no 'perfect' RV type. Over the past 35 years I've owned every style other than a class B: three pop-up's, a class C, a travel trailer, a 40' diesel class A, and now a 5th wheel. Each has pluses and minuses, you have to do a lot of research to figure out which best fits your needs.

Oh, and I don't recommend you use my research method - too slow and way too expensive...
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Old 05-18-2011, 08:21 AM   #7
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+1 on the Class C I had a fifth wheel and it was a pain to hook-up and un-hook and requires a good sized pickup to pull it. If you are planning on moving around alot then I would suggest a self contained unit such as a Class A,B or C they are much easier to setup and take-off. Can't help you on the fuel economy.. It is what it is.. My 43' Class A gets great mileage for a house on wheels (About 7MPG). Do you really need 30' for one person? The smaller your RV the more options you have for places to stay. I like the luxury of the big Class A but it is somewhat limiting as to where I can stay. Look up RV Shows in google for your area and check out all the alternatives.. Focus on the floor plans and what you are looking for: Do you need a Washer/Dryer, Do you need storage space for Bicycles,Golf Clubs etc.? Also check out the storage tank sizes as they can be useful when you are not hooked up to services. Does it have electronic leveling or do you have to manually do it? How big is the refrigerator is it big enough for you needs. Will you be cooking in the RV ? If so does it have enough storage for all your pans etc. I would also consider towing a small car behind the Class C it's really easy to hook up and unhook and gives you lots of flexibility once you get where you are going.
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Old 05-19-2011, 08:12 AM   #8
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I think the answer to this question has more to do with personal preference than anything tangible. It's like asking 'how big of a house should I get?'

For the past 14 months we've lived in a 35 foot Class A. It's perfect for us. We get 7 MPG while towing, closer to 8 without the tow vehicle. Doing this full-time, with no end in sight, would be difficult for us with something much smaller. And at the same time, we have no desire for anything larger.

If I were single, however, I could easily make do with far less. A small travel trailer, camper van, or even a truck camper would be sufficient. When traveling full-time with other people, having separate rooms for some 'alone time' now and again is important. That's obviously not an issue for a solo traveler. I'd probably prioritize ease of use and mobility, rather than living space and conveniences, if I were doing this by myself - but that is completely a personal preference, as mentioned in the opener.

Edit to add: I just re-read your original post and I get the impression you're not considering bringing a tow vehicle. If that is true, then I'd say a Class A or even a large C would probably be a big mistake. You're not going to want to pack up all of your belongings, unhook all of your utilities, unlevel the rig, drive around town in a large RV, and then set everything back up again every time you want to run an errand or go sight seeing. Definitely plan on having an escape pod of some kind. With travel trailers and 5th wheels there is no need to bring another vehicle.
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Old 05-26-2011, 11:03 PM   #9
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We have had a Class C 32ft, gas engine MPG around 8. It was a bit cramped for two adults and two dogs, especially since it had no slides. We also found that the Class C cab is quite noisy due to the proximity of the engine and the wind noise from the cab-over. We had to go with a large C because neither of us was really felt able to negotiate the cab-over sleeping arrangements. Especially with several trips to the bathroom most nights (TMI).

We moved up to a Class A 42 foot with a tag axle. 7-8 MPG depending on were we are (flat land vs mountains). We also tow a 4500# car. If I were alone I would go much smaller but stay with a Class A. You get more living space per foot than with any other setup except a 5th wheel. A towed vehicle is always a great thing to have be it a truck with a 5th wheel or a car behind a Class A or C. We looked at some Class Bs but there were too cramped for our "family" and our usually long trips. On the other hand, if you are totally alone i.e., no animals along, you might do OK in a Class B but you will have to see if the available storage space would be adequate for your full time needs (doubtful). Even most Class Cs have limited storage for full time use.

Like the others have said, go to an RV show and see what you get for your money. MPG is a minor part of RVing costs when you look at the whole picture. Sure a couple of MPG over many hundreds of miles adds up but if you were looking for strict economy you would not go the RV route anyway. We enjoy the "personal" space and the fact that we can travel with anything we want and our dogs without worrying about hotel problems and bed bugs. We save on food by eating from our own refrigerator and in an emergency on the road we have a hotel room on wheels that we can "survive in" for well over a week with all the comforts of home.

We have a number of female solo full timers and they drive a variety of Class C and Class A coaches. We have not noticed many with 5th wheels but I am sure they exist. One of the biggest problems with going solo and towing a car is when (not if, but when) you get in a situation where you have to unhook the car to back up to get out of your situation. In almost 4 years of RVing so far we have had to do this twice. Having another person to drive the car makes the whole event much easier to handle but is not impossible for one person...it just takes more planning and somebody is going to have to wait for you to do all the steps before you can be out of their way.

If I were solo with my small dogs, I would most likely go with a 35-40ft Class A for the room and carrying capacity for stuff. I tend to carry more stuff than some folks due to my hobbies...photography and scuba diving. The gear is quite extensive and heavy.

The tag axle is great for driving stability but that additional 2 feet adds a lot of grief sometimes. California has restrictions on many highways for 40+ foot coaches. It can be a nightmare to navigate while off the freeways. Some states require a CDL for coaches over 40 ft. too.

Good luck and take your time...rent some if you can to really get the feel before you buy.
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Old 05-27-2011, 07:55 AM   #10
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Perhaps it has been mentioned, but you can rent an RV to get an idea of what might fit your needs. Sometimes it is hard to anticipate all issues and tradeoffs from an armchair or even an RV show. Once you have a good idea of what you might want, you can save a lot of money by buying a used RV. Many are purchased by retirees, used a year or so, then sold. Have any used RV checked out before you buy it, just like you'd have a used car checked out.

Oops - I see the rental recommendation above.
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Old 05-27-2011, 07:26 PM   #11
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In ascending order of my preference
- VW bus or similar small Class B: Fun when you are young for a few days or a week when traveling, but way to small to full time.
- Truck and slide in camper: To be comfortable you will need a 3/4 to 1 ton truck
supporting a 10' plus unit. Lance makes a nice one. Cost of units could become prohibitive. Need to pull a toad or tour in a your large and high rig.
-Class B+ or Class C: Might work for a single person. Still requires a tear down for sight-seeing. A rental car is not an option in most areas I camp.
-5th wheel: Requires a larger truck (1 to 1 1/2 ton for most "livable' units. My 36' Travel Supreme is great, but is 36' and weights over 16,000 #. The combination is nearing 50' in length.
-Pull trailer: Nice set-up with easy hitching/unhitching. Most have few cabinets and little storage for a full-timer. The icon is an Airstream, which seem to hold value reasonably well. I would look at an Evergreen/Everlite unit, which is about 2,000# lighter than most competitors, and can be pulled with a half ton truck or a larger SUV. Also no wood to rot and reasonable initial cost. So new, that there are probably no used units available.
-Class A and Toad: Pull into a highway rest area, Sams Cub or campground and you are home. No need to unhitch, or step outside if it is raining or you are worried about the local environment. Plenty of storage both in inside and outside compartment. Plenty of cargo carrying capacity, toad towing capacity, availability of gas or diesel engines, etc. Connect/disconnect the toad in minutes, do traveling and come back "home". Units are cheap now. An older (1995-2000) high-end Beaver or Foretravel, or also nice slightly newer Newmar or Tiffin can be bought for around $55,000. Add a toad and tow system for a few thousand more and you have a home on wheels that will fit your every need. As an example, I also have an older Winnebago 34' Class A, gas unit, with 50,000 miles and a Suzuki Grand Vitara, plus all of the tow and braking equipment, all for under $20,000. It won't beat the diesels in a drag race up the mountain, but it will get there. I didn't know it was a race anyway!

By the way, I have had all of the above units, although in a slightly different order.

Good luck with your selection and keep it pointed down the road!
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Old 05-27-2011, 07:56 PM   #12
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My motor home cost about $600/sq ft ...not bad since houses don't come with cool aluminum wheels.
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Old 05-27-2011, 08:42 PM   #13
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We are noobs to the RVs, so I'm listening in and learning. That said, we chose a truck and slide-in camper. Our four-wheel drive diesel crew cab long box can get off and out to boondock but still has enough essential amenities for comfort. After watching some fifth wheels scour for a place to park and camp, we decided on this arrangement for us. The down side is parking in the city.
I second the used discount buying. Our truck and camper together was $14K. A new truck in that size and class alone is $50k.
If we decide we need to move to a larger space, the truck will easily accommodate a fifth wheel. I intended to get a 25-30 ft. 5th wheel when I bought the truck until DW talked me out of it.
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Old 05-31-2011, 05:11 PM   #14
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. After watching some fifth wheels scour for a place to park and camp, we decided on this arrangement for us. The down side is parking in the city.
.
Are 5th wheels that hard to park?

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Old 05-31-2011, 05:18 PM   #15
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Are 5th wheels that hard to park?
In my opinion, no - not when compared to other RV's of similar size. But they are more difficult to maneuver than a smaller RV such as a truck camper which is what devans0 chose.
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Old 06-02-2011, 05:11 PM   #16
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If you are concerned with gas milage and easy towing, I would look at Trailmanors. They are hard sided units that fold down. They are light weight and can be towed with a much smaller vehicle. You can get excellent gas milage with them as well. They claim only 3 to 4 miles less than your normal milage. I have one and bought it for the above reasons. They are very easy and quick to set up.

You can see how they work on YouTube. They say you can do it with one hand, but I'm a woman and use two. It onlly takes about 10 minutes at the most. They have multiple floor plans. I have the smallest one with two beds, but for a single person I'd recommend the next size up as you will only need one bed. You save a lot by buying one used, but it might take you a while to find one. They have a web site where you post a link saying what model you are looking for in what region, and if your patient you will find one. Also internet searches as well.

I actually got mine from an internet ad at a pretty good price. It's a 2007 and was like new.

Here's the web site. Check them out.

Travel Trailers That Are Lightweight and Easy to Tow|Trailmanor Travel Trailers
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Old 06-02-2011, 11:29 PM   #17
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I was in a park and watched a couple of fifth wheels try to park in a spot that was NOT built for fifth wheelies. After several tries, they would have to leave. Foregoing some room to go where the boons dock is a trade we will gladly make.

The downside for me is 'city parking' my truck is still a spectator event to watch with popcorn and a beer.
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Old 06-03-2011, 12:45 AM   #18
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I never want to see a snowflake again as long as I live.
Amen!!!!!

We are trying to decide between a 5th wheel and a Class A. Kind of a toss up so far, but we have a few years to make up our minds. You can get a pretty nice 5th wheel and a new truck for what a nice Class A will run you, but the Class A is a little cleaner package and we could bring along a fuel efficient toad.

Not worried too much about mileage. Sure you get single digit mileage in either rig, but really how many miles are you logging on the rig as a whole? Driving the Class A or fiver around daily is a hassle and expensive. We plan to park and use the vehicle (toad or truck) to visit the immediate area for a week or several, then move on and do it again. I think a lot of folks do that. Kind of takes the mileage question out of the equation. Of course, the daily drivers will have differences, but in our case it's a diesel truck or a Jeep and both get around 20 mpg so it's a wash.

When we think of what type of vehicle we want as a daily driver, the Jeep, and therefore the Class A, win out. But when we think of overall cost, the fiver usually wins. Who knows? It will probably come down to which feels right at the time. We plan to buy used, probably late model, so we won't take the big depreciation hit if we decide to switch at some point.

By the way, congrats and good luck!!
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Old 06-03-2011, 01:15 AM   #19
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Rent.

Several types.

You'll figure out what you like and don't like pretty quick. Also, you'll be able to make mistakes on someone else's rig.

(Did I just say that?).

Once you find one you really like, I'd look around for a used one at a price you like. Since you're already renting a rig, you can afford to be choosy.

Have fun!
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Old 06-03-2011, 09:51 PM   #20
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6 years ago, before we became full-timers, I agonized over the 5er vs A question.

We decided on the 5er and diesel dually. We liked the "gee-whiz" gadgets on the A's, but we also knew that the only time we would see "our" dealer is when we drove off the lot.

I've found it is important to be able to to make most repairs yourself while on the road. Our RV is middle of the line, and doesn't have auto level, or push-button dump-valves, TVs that rise out of a pedestal, Satellite dishes that auto find, heated floors... and on and on.

Problems will happen on the road, and travelers are an easy mark. Keep your repair center visits to a minimum.
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