Too big or too small?

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jeaninejoy

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Sep 14, 2019
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2
Hi,
I'm shopping for a 5th wheel (used). I'll buy as soon as my house sells.

I keep looking at monsters (about 40 feet). I'm downsizing from a big house but am I going to create problems I don't know about? I'm going full-time. I don't plan to move very far at a time (about 150 miles max most of the time). I will be working and living in the RV. I will need work and play clothes. I love a specific floor plan that only seems to come in rigs that are around 40' (with two facing sofas plus a love seat -- a lot like a conversation pit).

I'm buying the truck after I find the RV so I'll buy the right truck.

Have you bought large and wished you bought smaller? Why?
Have you bought smaller and wished you bought larger? Why?

I am hoping to get it right the first time. I feel like I don't know what I don't know.

Thanks for any guidance you can provide. I need the benefit of experience that I don't have. Thanks!



If you prefer black ink:
Hi,
I'm shopping for a 5th wheel (used). I'll buy as soon as my house sells.

I keep looking at monsters (about 40 feet). I'm downsizing from a big house but am I going to create problems I don't know about? I'm going full-time. I don't plan to move very far at a time (about 150 miles max most of the time). I will be working and living in the RV. I will need work and play clothes. I love a specific floor plan that only seems to come in rigs that are around 40' (with two facing sofas plus a love seat -- a lot like a conversation pit).

I'm buying the truck after I find the RV so I'll buy the right truck.

Have you bought large and wished you bought smaller? Why?
Have you bought smaller and wished you bought larger? Why?

I am hoping to get it right the first time. I feel like I don't know what I don't know.

Thanks for any guidance you can provide. I need the benefit of experience that I don't have. Thanks!
 
Have you ever owned a RV or trailer before?  If not, starting out at 40', wow, that's a monster.  Just if you have never done any of this, it's a tall order.  I'm pretty solid pulling smaller trailers, bigger boats, but a dually truck and 40 trailer, I could and I would, but I will not lie, that's a lot of rig.  If you have RV'd, and you are fine with handling a large rig, get what makes you happy.  What I often see, people who travel a lot, find the larger rigs to be a challenge in some adventures.  If you will park and work, it will be a personal preference.
 
Unless you are planning to entertain or hold meetings in your trailer I really suggest starting smaller, 40' plus a suitable truck is a big rig. Do you have any towing experience? Manoevring in and out of fuel stops and camp grounds will pose challenges you may not be prepared for. We started out with an 18', it was cheap, but quickly found out it was too small for the two of us even for a weekend so upgraded to a 25'. It was adequate for our needs but we were not living in it full time. Friends have a 32' with a slide which would be very comfortable for a single person or couple but is still a lot of trailer for a beginner.
 
I live full time in a 33 foot fifth wheel that is permanently parked. It is the perfect size for me and my three cats. I would not want to live here with another person. We would be constantly bumping into one another and we would be fighting over who gets what storage spots. It is very rare you will run into anyone who wants a smaller RV. The most important feature of any RV is floor plan, floor plan and floor plan. If you have found the floor plan you are in love with then that is the one you should get. I have seen women over 70 years of age pulling very large fivers, so it is possible for you to drive one around. However I have a better idea. Buy the fiver and then pay someone to move it whenever you wish to move. It would be far cheaper than buying a huge truck. When I bought my fiver three years ago I paid a guy $250 to move it about 75 miles. You could start out paying someone to move it and if that didn't work out you could then buy your own truck. Meanwhile you would be able to use a little car for getting around town instead of a huge truck. The money you would save would be significant. Repairs, insurance and gas are not cheap with a big truck.
 
Great question and welcome to the forum! I've never had a 5th wheel (I've had a pop up, TTs, and a class A) so I won't participate, just follow along :)
 
I think far more people have bought too small than too large. Even a large 5W is  (by law) under 400 sq ft, so tiny compared to even a small apartment. You should get one large enough to satisfy your comfort needs. Including a decent size bath area and plenty of storage for clothing, kitchen tools and recreational gear.

That said, 40 ft is really big and maybe overkill.  Plus it will need a very substantial truck, at least a high-end configuration of a one ton (F350/3500), dual-wheel, diesel powered beast. You are probably talking about a $60k truck.
On the other hand, there probably isn't all that much difference in towing and maneuvering between a 34 ft trailer and a 40 footer, and from yur comments I surmise you may not be happy in much less than 34 ft.

The floor plan you describe doesn't sound unusual for rear lounge 5W's, though many have an entertainment center on one side instead of a 2nd sofa. Do you anticipate entertaining a lot, such that a large conversation pit is a plus?  A typical 5W lounge area can easily handle 4 people, e.g. a sofa or loveseat plus two recliners or another love seat.  You could probably remodel if you had no use for the entertainment center and wanted recliners or sofa instead.
 
Gary,

Im curious as I?ve never heard it before.  What law says a 5er must be under 400 sqft? Is this with slides in or out?

Josh
 
If you never pulled a FW, starting with a 40 ft will be a lot. Why do you need something that big?  Most people stay on 32-35 ft.  Do you want a dually for your daily driver?
 
Im curious as I?ve never heard it before.  What law says a 5er must be under 400 sqft? Is this with slides in or out?
It's a matter of the building codes, both HUD and state-level codes.  Trailers of 400 sw ft or more (including deployed slides) must adhere to the much stricter Manufactured Home building code rather than the Recreational Vehicle code. It's legal to build a towable trailer that complies with the Manufactured Home code, but not really practical to haul it around regularly for reasons of weight and code wrinkles concerning wiring and plumbing.

Oddly enough, motorhomes are exempt from the 400 sq ft limitation because they are self-propelled rather than trailers. It's mostly a quirk of the legal language, but it's never been changed because motorhomes & buses are subject to other size constraints that keep them from getting much over 400 sq ft anyway.  A 45 foot motorhome with multiple slides still comes in just a bit over 400 sq ft.
 
Gary,

Interesting and thanks for informative answer.  I assumed it would be some DOT law I wasn?t aware of.

Josh
 
There apparently is an exception for park models in FL that they may be 500 sq ft. I would presume it also applies to other trailers.

Ernie
 
I see a Florida-only exception to the RV Park Model trailer code IF it is built to HUD standards.  It applies only to park model trailers.  I have not yet found a definitive list of the differences between the HUD park model standard and the ANSI 119.5 PMRV standard, but meeting the Zone II & III Hurricane Wind Resistance code is one of them.  ANSI RV standards for towable and self-propelled recreation vehicles are NOT affected by the HUD Park Model standard.

All 50 states have adopted the ANSI RV standards for both towed and self-propelled recreation vehicles as well as Park Models (PMRV).  As far as I know, only Florida has adopted the HUD standard as an alternative for Park Models.  Think about it: Even if the HUD standard exception applied to 5W, no RV manufacturer would be likely to build a 5W that is legal only in one state.

This whole business of RV building codes standards is a regulatory rat's nest because it is all based on exceptions to normal HUD building codes. Basically every structure intended for human occupancy has to comply with HUD codes for either Manufactures Homes or Site-built homes.  There are some exceptions to that, and  "Recreational Vehicles under 400 sq ft" is one of the big ones.  So are "Park Model RVs and Self-propelled RVs. Thus the entire concept of an RV is based on an exception to HUD standards and every one built for human use has to qualify for one of the exception categories.  The RVIA summarizes the exceptions to the HUD standard for Manufactured Homes as follows:

A recreational vehicle that meets the requirements of this section is exempt from [Manufactured Home Construction and Safety Standards]
?Recreational vehicles? are defined as:

Designed only for recreational use and not as a primary residence or for permanent occupancy; and either: 
  • built and certified in accordance with NFPA 1192-15 or ANSI A119.5-15; or
  • self-propelled vehicles.
You can drive yourself nuts trying to sort out all the definitions and exceptions and cross-references to other standards that may or may not directly apply.  For RV manufacturers, they know if they get RVIA-certified, which means NFPA 1192 and ANSI 119.5 compliant, they are automatically exempt from the legal morass of HUD& state building codes.
 
I am looking at 5th wheels these days. When we sell the house we need somewhere to live until we find or build the next one so it is more mobile apartment than mobile motel room.
We like the ones with a (sorta) second bedroom which can be an office. During renovation or building, we can put it on site and have meetings in it too.
The one thing we do notice is the comfort level for watching tv in the evenings. I don?t want to turn my head to watch.  That would be a deal killer for me. So, the ones with a couch at the rear, a pair of recliners on a side facing the entertainment area likely next to the kitchen are what I like.
 
Welcome to the RV Forum.  At first we bought a new 22' TT that was too small and within two years upgraded to a used 35' 5th wheel.  Wow what a difference!  Both in the amount of living space and the ease of towing/parking. We love, love, love our floor plan with a rear living area.  We've been able to fit in most RV parks.  We wouldn't consider going over 35'.  The 35' fifth wheel is amazingly comfortable and surprisingly spacious for the two of us, a dog, and cat.  When we moved up to the 35' 5th wheel we also upgraded our truck to a one ton diesel.  You can save money and learn from our mistakes.  We bought both our current the 5th wheel and the one ton diesel used and have been extremely happy with both.
 

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