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Motorhomes vs. Travel Trailers and Fifth Wheels

Recreational vehicles come in all shapes and sizes and styles. Some are towable with a large vehicle and some contain engines and are self-contained. If you’re new to the RV lifestyle and you’re not sure whether you want a motorhome or a travel trailer or fifth wheel, a good way to test them out is by renting. At Ryan’s RV Town of Everett, we have motorhomes, fifth wheels and travel trailers available for rent so you can test them out on a short weekend camping trip to see how you feel about the various ways they differ, such as driving versus towing, fuel consumption, initial costs and maintenance.

Initial Cost

Motorhomes are the more expensive option in general, all other things being equal. Because they have a rather large engine and must propel themselves, they inherently cost more than a comparable fifth wheel or travel trailer. On the other hand, if you don’t already possess a towing vehicle capable of supporting the weight of your chosen fifth wheel or travel trailer, then you’ll have to invest in another vehicle, which adds thousands to the cost of your towable home.

Fuel Consumption & Convenience

Driving a motorhome is generally more fuel efficient than towing a fifth wheel or travel trailer. Towing eats up a lot of your mileage because of the combined weight of the trailer with your towing vehicle and all of your passengers and cargo. A motorhome, being smaller and more contained, only has to carry itself, so they get a few miles more per gallon than your standard towable home does. This may not make much difference if you only use your RV a few times a year, but for full-time RVing, a motorhome is the more cost-effective option in terms of fuel.

However, when you park your travel trailer or fifth wheel and unhitch it, you can then drive around in your towing vehicle and get its usual mileage, which decreases your fuel usage. A fifth wheel or travel trailer is also much more convenient in this regard, because you don’t have to tow it everywhere you go once you camp. With your motorhome, anytime you want to drive, you’ll have to pack up your home and take it with you, even to the grocery store.


Fifth wheels and travel trailers are much easier to maintain at home than a motorhome, since they don’t have an engine. You can do most repairs to trailers yourself and only take your fifth wheel or travel trailer in for a major problem. Motorhomes, on the other hand, have many more maintenance needs like any other vehicle, such as oil changes and tune-ups. When your motorhome needs maintenance, you’ll have to forfeit your living space as well; if your towing vehicle for your fifth wheel needs maintenance, then you can take it in separately and live comfortably in your fifth wheel until the truck is repaired.


Another major difference between motorhomes and fifth wheels or travel trailers is how they’re driven. Some feel that motorhomes are easier to drive because they’re like a large truck or long van with a similar center of gravity to a passenger car. The only main difference is that the air brakes in a motorhome require constant pressure applied over time to stop, rather than the pressure-responsive hydraulic brakes in a passenger car. Learning to tow a large travel trailer can be challenging, since you have to change how you brake, park, reverse and turn to make up for the hitch, which often jackknifes as you try to reverse. On the other hand, travel trailers and fifth wheels can be easier to get around tight turns because the hitch allows them to bend around obstacles to some degree. Rent both styles to figure out which one you prefer!

If you have further questions about motorhomes and how they compare to fifth wheels and travel trailers, come visit our dealership today. Ryan’s RV Town is located in Everett, serving the cities of Seattle and Tacoma, Washington. We offer a great selection of motorhomes, travel trailers and fifth wheels for rent, if you’re interested in trying out the RV lifestyle!