Inviting floorplans, innovative amenities and technology provide lots to choose from for fifth-wheel buyers

Travel trailers fit the needs and budgets of many RVers, providing comfortable accommodations for part-time and extended use. But for those who want more elbow room, defined living spaces and cargo storage in a trailer that’s considered by many easier to tow, a fifth-wheel may be the better choice — and there are plenty to choose from in 2020.

Last fall’s trade show for RV dealers in Elkhart, Indiana, left little doubt as to the growing trend in fifth-wheel popularity and how manufacturers are dedicating lots of energy to designing and equipping fivers to meet the ever-increasing demands of discriminating buyers.

“People who are shopping for a fifth-wheel look at it as a graduated aspect of RVing,” explains Jeff Cripe, product manager for Forest River’s Cherokee Arctic Wolf and Alpha Wolf brands. Fifth-wheel shoppers tell him they’ve “done the travel trailer thing” already and now want to take longer trips.

First Things First

See Related Stories

New RVs for 2020: Fifth-Wheels

Finding the Perfect Fifth-Wheel

Today’s fifth-wheels are excellent for traveling longer distances and providing more overall living and storage space than a conventional trailer of similar length. The trade-off is that fifth-wheels tend to be heavier than travel trailers. That means the tow vehicle becomes as big a part of the buying decision as the fifth-wheel itself.

In years past some potential fifth-wheel buyers stayed put with their travel trailers because the pickup they owned didn’t have the towing capacity or payload to handle a fifth-wheel of similar or larger size, and they didn’t want a bigger, harsher-riding truck rated to handle the heavier load.

The good news is that the Big Three’s 2020 three-quarter-ton pickups (2500 series) are easily capable of pulling midsize fivers, while the new one-ton trucks (3500) can tow most of the biggest fifth-wheels with ease. And all of the new pickups ride smoother and are more comfortable than their predecessors.

The crucial factor is that the tow vehicle and trailer are weight compatible. Towing a fifth-wheel that weighs more than the truck is rated for presents a serious safety issue.

“No one should consider towing above the rated capacity for the hitch and the tow vehicle,” says Aaron Bresky, Ford Super Duty engineering manager. “You should account for your heaviest trip load that you will ever experience throughout the ownership of the vehicle. That means figuring in all possible passengers, pets, cargo, luggage, equipment, fluids and supplies. It all adds up quick.”

It’s important to note that there are pickups that have the tow rating to handle the weight of the loaded fifth-wheel but not enough payload and/or axle capacity to handle the trailer’s pin weight. Overloading the rear axle, suspension components, driveshafts, transmission, engine and cooling system, whether because the trailer is too heavy or the pin weight is too high, can lead to serious issues in handling, braking or parts failure.

Fifth-Wheel Buying Tips

When shopping for a new fiver, four basic questions should be addressed: Will the fifth-wheel be used for occasional trips, extended stays or full time? Will the primary use be
with or without hookups? How many people will be using it? What floorplan is preferred?

Once you’ve narrowed the field, take walking — or virtual — tours of some models that match those parameters. “Pay attention to craftsmanship, counter space, storage space and comfort as if this were your home,” suggests Freddie Swinney at Vanleigh RV, a manufacturer of fifth-wheels.

Consider the length of the trailer. Longer affords more elbow room but can limit where you can stay. Many campgrounds have length restrictions, particularly those at state and national parks that were planned and built back when most trailers were a lot smaller. If you plan on living in your fifth-wheel full time, ones that are 37 feet or longer provide the most interior spaciousness and basement storage.

Fifth-wheels with multiple slideouts make the living space more like a luxury condo than
a studio apartment. Swinney also advises paying attention to headroom. “Taller slides open up the rooms that you are in, and taller ceilings bring a greater sense of comfort,” he says.

Seasonal Considerations

If you’re shopping for a four-season fifth-wheel, the higher the R-value, the better the thermal protection. Unlike conventional homes with thick layers of insulation, trailers usually have 2-to 3-inch-thick walls and 5-inch-thick ceilings between the living space and the outside elements. Slides generally have thinner roofs and walls than the main body of the RV, so they contribute to heat loss and gain. The same is true of skylights and access doors into storage areas.

How much air conditioning is needed depends on where you plan to travel. “If you are going to use your fifth-wheel south of the Mason-Dixon Line or the desert Southwest, a second A/C is highly recommended on any unit that has a bedroom slide,” says Cripes.
Fifth-wheels have split levels and differing ceiling heights, which make the heating and cooling layout very important, especially with a raised bedroom. For all-season use, make sure the HVAC system can handle temperature extremes, and opt for dual-pane windows, and a heated basement and holding tanks.

Clearly, there’s a lot to consider when shopping for a new fifth-wheel, and you’ll want to take your time exploring the options. For 2020 nearly every fifth-wheel manufacturer has added new floorplans to its lineup, and that means the odds are good you’ll find one that checks off all the boxes.


Cedar Creek Champagne 38ERD
Rich decor and residential furnishings set the 38ERD at the top of Cedar Creek’s fifth-wheel offerings.

Cedar Creek
Champagne 38ERD

As the name implies, Champagne Edition fifth-wheels are all about luxury. They are condos on wheels for full-time RVers who like to live large and use their fifth-wheel as a primary abode or seasonal getaway. The nearly 41-foot Champagne 38ERD (elevated rear den) is a triple-axle, 324-square-foot luxury “apartment” with 8-foot ceilings and three distinct living areas. “This is the newest, largest and highest level fifth-wheel that we build at Cedar Creek,” says Nick Shrock, sales and product manager for the Forest River subsidiary. “This model is for that customer who is stuck between buying a luxury motorhome and a fifth-wheel.”

The 38ERD is built with 2-by-2-inch studs on 16-inch centers filled with residential insulation, dual-pane windows and real maple doors and fascia. The huge basement storage areas are heated, and appliances in the center kitchen are residential size, including a 20-cubic-foot refrigerator.Cedar Creek Champagne 38ERD interior living areaThe master suite’s king bed is on a slideout opposite a large dresser with a pop-up LED TV. The full-width closet up front can be configured to house a side-by-side washer and dryer while retaining the closet’s storage function. The spacious bathroom is “about 40 percent larger than anyone else’s on the market,” according to Shrock. A 57-gallon freshwater tank feeds the Truma AquaGo on-demand water heater so there’s never a lack of hot water.

Another thing that sets the 38ERD apart from comparably sized fivers in the luxury class is its raised rear den. Opposing slideouts hold trifold sofas, and twin power recliners face the 55-inch smart TV located in the rear entertainment center above a 36-inch electric fireplace. Cedar Creek Champagne 38ERD floorplanTo top it off, the fiver is equipped with an Amazon Echo Dot for voice control of the lights and HVAC, monitoring tanks, security and other functions. It also features a pullout exterior galley under the awning.

Cedar Creek Champagne 38ERD interior galleyExterior Length 40′ 11″
Exterior Width 8′
Interior Height 8′ 6″
Exterior Height13′ 5″
Freshwater Cap. 57 gal.
Black-Water Cap.41 gal.
Gray-Water Cap.82 gal.
LP-Gas Cap.14 gal.
UVW14,124 lbs.
Hitch Weight2,415 lbs.
GVWR18,000 lbs.
MSRP, Base $110,000


 CrossRoads Redwood 4001Lk exteriorCrossRoads Redwood 4001LK

Full-timing in the Redwood 4001LK is like living in a fine home with all the amenities to make enjoying the four seasons a pleasure, including zoned heating and cooling.

“The foundation, heating and cooling efficiencies rival any other fifth-wheel in the industry,” says Matt Popovic, the company’s eastern sales manager. “We build it on a 12-inch Falcon Integrated Technologies chassis with more cross members, so the flooring is stronger, and we use a MORryde 4100-series suspension and the largest brakes in the industry.” The warranty includes full-time living and is fully transferable, Popovic adds. CrossRoads Redwood 4001Lk interior galleyThe quad-slide floorplan places the spacious and well-appointed gourmet kitchen at the rear. It’s furnished with a full complement of residential-size appliances, stainless-steel double sinks, waterfall-edged countertops and cabinetry finished in real cherry hardwood.

The midship living and dining area is equally impressive and richly appointed with a trifold leather sofa in the streetside slide next to the entertainment center and electric fireplace. In the opposite slide is the two-seat dinette. Two reclining theater seats back up to the kitchen divider and face the big LED smart TV. A half bath is conveniently located on the same level. It’s a nice open layout for entertaining or having guests spend the night.

Taking two lighted steps forward leads into the master suite. The focal points are the tilting king bed in a slideout and the dresser, twin wardrobes and 39-inch TV that take up the opposite wall. An abundance of storage space, inside and out, helps sustain full-time living.
Another nice touch is locating the master bathroom up front. It features his-and-her sinks and an impressive glass-enclosed marble-look shower. An optional stacked washer-dryer replaces the streetside shelves in the large walk-in closet that lines the front of the 4001LK.  CrossRoads Redwood 4001Lk floorplanFull-timers will like the power-management system that automatically monitors and regulates power inside the fifth-wheel for easy hands-off living, Popovic says.

Exterior Length 42′ 10″
Exterior Width 8′
Interior Height 8′ 6″
Exterior Height 13′ 6″
Freshwater Cap. 66 gal.
Black-Water Cap. 89 gal.
Gray-Water Cap. 82 gal.
LP-Gas Cap. 14 gal.
UVW 15,088 lbs.
Hitch Weight 3,152 lbs.
GVWR 17,900 lbs.
MSRP, Base $111,415


 Northwood Arctic Fox Grande Ronde 28-5C exteriorNorthwood Arctic Fox Grande Ronde 28-5C

Part of Northwood’s flagship Arctic Fox fifth-wheel line, the Grande Ronde 28-5C is an excellent example of a premium-level midpriced fiver. The quality of craftsmanship, amenities and storage is some of the best you’ll find in a sub-33-foot model.

The front-bedroom configuration utilizes a slideout for the linen closet and wardrobe, maximizing space to walk around the 60-by-80-inch queen bed featuring a Northwood-exclusive Tru-Rest Comfort Mattress. Drawers are on heavy-duty roller-bearing slides and faced with solid hardwood, which adds to the rich look and convenient functionality of the master suite. Entry to the adjacent bathroom, which has a large glass-enclosed garden shower and comfortable floor space, is from the bedroom and the hallway. Northwood Arctic Fox Grande Ronde 28-5C interior galleyThe most eye-catching aspect of the 28-5C is its spacious, 8½-foot cathedral-type ceiling and bright, roomy, nicely appointed gourmet kitchen, living room and dining area. The quad-door, 14-cubic-foot refrigerator and stainless-steel Furrion Cooking Suite, with its three-burner cooktop, residential-style oven and convection microwave, are all enclosed in the second of the fifth-wheel’s three slideouts.

A 40-inch Vizio TV and premium sound system are standard and built into the entertainment center, opposite of which is a 76-inch sofa in the third slideout. The TV is also easily viewed from the clever L-shaped dinette at the rear of the RV, which provides added storage beneath the cushions.  Northwood Arctic Fox Grande Ronde 28-5C floorplanThe basement storage includes a huge generator-ready front compartment, and access is via big side doors. The lower portion of the front exterior is covered in an aluminum diamond-plate gravel guard to protect against road debris thrown up by the tow vehicle.

Exterior Length 32′ 2″
Exterior Width 8′ 6″
Interior Height 8′ 6″
Exterior Height 13′ 4″
Freshwater Cap. 80 gal.
Black-Water Cap. 42 gal.
Gray-Water Cap. 54 gal.
LP-Gas Cap. 20 gal.
UVW 11,564 lbs.
Hitch Weight 2,338 lbs.
GVWR 15,500 lbs.
MSRP, Base $76,478


 Vanleigh Beacon 42RDB exterior Vanleigh Beacon 42RDB interior living areaVanleigh Beacon 42RDB

For full-time RVers, the shining light from Vanleigh is the new Beacon 42RDB. This 42-foot-plus fiver is airy, spacious and luxuriously appointed with handcrafted real-wood cabinetry. It’s a big-boy fifth-wheel that lacks nothing when it comes to layout and creature comforts. The 42RDB has five slides, dual-pane windows, and a raised den with a 6½-foot ceiling height and opposing sofas in the 6-foot-wide slides.

This model has so many features it’s hard to do it justice in a summary. Everything wood is handcrafted by artisans inside Vanleigh’s 70,000-square-foot cabinet shop. Flooring is hand-laid synthetic planks, and the ceiling is made of soft-touch vinyl that not only looks cool, it also damps vibrations and acts as an extra insulator in an already well-insulated RV. An 8-foot sliding tray in the rear provides a great deal of basement storage.

The galley, which has three separate counters under an 8-foot, 7-inch ceiling, is furnished with an array of stainless-steel residential appliances any chef would be proud to own. The split-level den overlooking the galley is a fine space to chill or entertain, with opposing trifold sofas and a third reclining theater-style sofa facing the entertainment center that lines the rear. Push a button, and a 55-inch TV elevates out of the cabinet.

The master suite’s 70-by-80-inch king bed is in a slide, leaving space to easily access the highboy dresser and big front closet. The adjacent closet is prepped for a stacked washer-dryer. The bathroom offers a 48-inch walk-in shower, porcelain toilet and solid-surface vanity counter.  Vanleigh Beacon 42RDB interior galleyEverything electrical can be controlled by a 7-inch Spyder multiplex screen with several backlit and push-button switches throughout the fifth-wheel. Outside, double awnings, a powder-coated aluminum wet bay and dual 15,000-Btu low-profile A/C units are just a few of the standards. The only things the 42RDB lacks are a butler and maid.

Exterior Length 42′ 4″
Exterior Width 8′ 5″
Interior Height 8′ 7″
Exterior Height 12′ 11″
Freshwater Cap. 70 gal.
Black-Water Cap. 45 gal.
Gray-Water Cap. 90 gal.
LP-Gas Cap. 14 gal.
UVW 15,700 lbs.
Hitch Weight 3,500 lbs.
GVWR 18,500 lbs.
MSRP, Base $132,860


13 More Fresh New Fivers


Brookstone Chaparral 398Mbl ExteriorBrookstone Chaparral 398MBL

The 398MBL from Coachmen’s Brookstone division is a quad-slide, mid-bunkroom model built on a 101-inch-wide body and 10-inch dropped frame. It handles extreme temperatures with double insulation, a 40,000-Btu furnace, dual A/Cs and many other features to make four-season living comfortable.

Exterior Length 41′
GVWR 15,500 lbs.
Hitch Weight 2,239 lbs.
MSRP, Base $86,749


Cherokee Arctic Wolf 3660 Suite exteriorCherokee Arctic Wolf 3660 Suite

Arctic Wolf has previously focused on smaller fifth-wheels for lighter duty pickups, but the 3660 Suite goes big without the big price tag. The two-bedroom 42-plus-footer has four slideouts, flip-up bunks, washer-dryer prep and all the modern conveniences.

Exterior Length 42′ 5″
GVWR 15,500 lbs.
Hitch Weight 2,015 lbs.
MSRP, Base $61,300


Flagstaff Classic 5W 8529Rksb exteriorFlagstaff Classic 5W 8529RKSB

This nearly 36-foot fifth-wheel from Forest River subsidiary Flagstaff features bar-type seating as well as theater seating and a spacious kitchen with ample counter surface. The king-bed slide gives plenty of walkaround space, and the bathroom boasts a walk-in residential shower.

Exterior Length 35″ 11″
GVWR 12,500 lbs.
Hitch Weight 1,555 lbs.
MSRP, Base $62,923


Grand Design Solitude 390Rk exteriorGrand Design Solitude 390RK

Ideal for full-timers, the nicely appointed Solitude 390RK has five slideouts, plenty of exterior storage space, a large gourmet rear-kitchen layout and a spacious master bathroom. See the January 2020 issue of Trailer Life or go to www.trailerlife.com for a full test of the 390RK.

Exterior Length 41′ 5″
GVWR 16,800 lbs.
Hitch Weight 2,794 lbs.
MSRP, Base $100,141

See Related Story: RV Review: 2020 Grand Design Solitude 390RK


Heartland Bighorn 3375Ss exteriorHeartland Bighorn 3375SS

With an innovative slide-in-a-slide that houses the king-size bed, this 37-plus-footer has the largest bedroom of any fifth-wheel of its size, according to Heartland. The rear-lounge layout features opposing slides and an updated interior with new wood treatments and decor.

Exterior Length 37′ 8″
GVWR 16,000 lbs.
Hitch Weight 2,580 lbs.
MSRP, Base $87,285


Jayco North Point 310Rlts exteriorJayco North Point 310RLTS

The new 310RLTS is the shortest and lightest full-profile luxury fifth-wheel among the North Pont offerings, with a dry weight just over 12,000 pounds. It will appeal to many three-quarter-ton truck owners because it’s loaded with high-end features in a tow-friendly package.

Exterior Length 34′ 5″
GVWR 15,000 lbs.
Hitch Weight 2,440 lbs.
MSRP, Base $67,316


Keystone Alpine 3120Rs exteriorKeystone Alpine 3120RS

Keystone’s new luxury fifth-wheel features an impressive master suite that includes a window in the front cap, dual closets and bench seating. The nearly 35-foot floorplan, with a rear living room and kitchen island, sacrifices nothing in its wide-open living space.

Exterior Length 34′ 11″
GVWR 15,000 lbs.
Hitch Weight 2,595 lbs.
MSRP, Base $78,382


KZ Durango Gold G391rkq exteriorKZ Durango Gold G391RKQ

Featuring four slides, the G391RKQ is earmarked as a full-time couple’s fiver with a floorplan that offers abundant storage, a very comfortable living area, a spacious master suite with a king-size electric-tilt bed and a private bathroom with a residential shower.

Exterior Length 40′ 11″
GVWR 16,000 lbs.
Hitch Weight 2,230 lbs.
MSRP, Base $88,254


Prime Time Crusader 395Bhl exteriorPrime Time Crusader 395BHL

The triple-slide, bath-and-a-half 395BHL has unique sleeping arrangements that add flexibility to a bunkhouse floorplan. Two full bedrooms include a loft and full-size bed in the rear bunk room, making this a suitable fiver for traveling with kids, in-laws or guests. A king bed is standard in the front master bedroom.

Exterior Length 40′ 10″
GVWR 14,241 lbs.
Hitch Weight 2,241 lbs.
MSRP, Base $65,395


Rockwood Ultra Lite 2622Rk exteriorRockwood Ultra Lite 2622RK

Weighing in under 8,000 pounds (dry), the Ultra Lite 2622RK from Forest River’s Rockwood subsidiary can be towed with many of today’s more robust half-ton pickups when they are properly equipped. The 2622RK supplies great kitchen storage and counter space, a roomy U-shaped dinette and a side-aisle bath.

Exterior Length 29’ 10”
GVWR 9,830 lbs.
Hitch Weight 1,230 lbs.
MSRP, Base $48,928


The RV Factory Luxe Elite 44Fl exteriorThe RV Factory Luxe Elite 44FL

Custom-built for full-timers, the Elite 44FL brings a front-living-room floorplan into the Luxe line of high-end fivers. Six slides, a sealed and insulated chassis, one and a half baths, residential appliances, dual 35,000-Btu furnaces and heat pumps on the A/Cs are just a few of its features.

Exterior Length 44′ 11″
GVWR 24,000 lbs.
Hitch Weight 4,900 lbs.
MSRP, Base $244,209


Starcraft Telluride 251Res exteriorStarcraft Telluride 251RES

RVers will appreciate the 251RES floorplan with a living-room slide and
a stylish layout that is rich in amenities. From stainless-steel appliances to solid-surface countertops and theater seating, this new fifth-wheel is full of conveniences at an attractive price and relatively light 7,360-pound dry weight.

Exterior Length 29′ 3″
GVWR 9,995 lbs.
Hitch Weight 1,215 lbs.
MSRP, Base $42,939


Winnebago Voyage V3134rl exteriorWinnebago Voyage V3134RL

Stretching just over 34 feet, the V3134RL has a spacious rear living room and walk-in pantry in the smartly equipped kitchen with a center island. This new triple-slide model provides comfort during long trips and extended stays. A king bed is optional, and washer-dryer prep is standard.

Exterior Length 34′ 4″
GVWR 16,000 lbs.
Hitch Weight 2,488 lbs.
MSRP, Base $54,095


Bruce W. Smith head shot with tan capA respected automotive and RV journalist and longtime Trailer Life contributor, Bruce W. Smith has held numerous editorial titles at automotive and boating magazines, and authored more than 1,000 articles, from tech to trailering. He considers his home state of Oregon a paradise for RVing and outdoor adventure.


Cover or 2020 RV Buyers Guide with green background and RV photosOnline RV Buyers’ Guide

For information on new and used towable RVs, including specs, floorplans and photos, visit Trailer Life’s online RV Buyers’ Guide at rvbg.trailerlife.com. The search tool has model-year-specific details on RVs going back to 2003. Searches can be done by length, price and manufacturer, as well as model year.


LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here