Episode #149 Pros and Cons of a Fifth Wheel

The RV Atlas Podcast

Episode #149 Pros and Cons of a Fifth Wheel

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Episode #149 Pros and Cons of a Fifth Wheel

It’s been a long time coming, but now its finally here! Our EXTRA HUGE Pros and Cons of a Fifth Wheel episode! If you have ever wondered if a fabulous fiver might be right for your family, then this episode is for you.

We will talk about the best aspects of the fifth wheel, such as:

  1. Residential Feel
  2. Private Master Bedroom
  3. On Point Mid Bunk options

And some drawbacks and things to consider, such as:

  1. Need for a HUGE tow vehicle
  2. Losing the bed of your truck
  3. Increased height and need far more caution

And much, much more!

Plus, we invited Chris Barth, Senior Director of Product Development at Jayco, onto the show for the first time. And we are so glad we did. Chris is an encyclopedia of knowledge about fifth wheels and he talks about his Eagle fifth wheels in detail, and the market segment in general. Chris breaks down what floor plans are selling like hotcakes, and who is buying them.  We loved chatting with him and look forward to having him back on the show.

You might think its impossible to figure out what towable RV will work best for your family. But we know that a good ole list of pros and cons can clarify any situation! You are listening to episode #149 of RVFTA, the Pros and Cons of a Fifth Wheel!

Thanks to our sponsors for supporting weekly content for all our RVing fools…

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  1. Tyler Nofziger

    I have to vent about the rv industry for a moment. I know you guys have alluded to this but have been in the industry a lot longer so maybe you can share some insights with me.

    What is with the horrible decor in most higher end rvs? I’m looking to upgrade from a travel trailer to a fifth wheel to fit my growing family and have been through dozens of rvs and my choices are: brown, browners, brownest, dark, depressing, “grandma’s upholstery”, “old folk’s home chic”, “1980’s mobile home”, “russian disco” and “70’s thrift store”.

    I’m about at my wit’s end trying to find something that we wouldn’t be embarrassed to live in. (We want to live in ours part time) I had always imagined that there was a group of 80 year olds who designed these things so I was SHOCKED to hear your interview with Chris Barth, where he said that he was doing all of the things I’ve been suggesting these designers do to come up with new decor (watch HGTV, hang out on Pinterest etc). If there are people like him in the industry, then why are so many rvs still turning out so hideous?

    I’m in my mid 30’s so maybe I’m not the target market for so many of these high end fifth wheels I’m looking at, and maybe the makers of these high end fifth wheels are thinking: “well, we only really sell to retirees so that’s who we design for”. But is it maybe a situation where they are only selling to old people because young people have been so turned off by their products?

    I see so many videos online where people renovate RVs and lighten them up, paint the cabinets lighter colors and add more modern backsplashes and they look SO much better! That luxe fifth wheel video with the light interior has 3.6 million views because it’s FREAKING BEAUTIFUL! Why can’t we get a new Montana, Pinnacle, North Point etc that looks like those renovated, luxe or airstream rvs that normal people love?

    I have money. I’m in the market. I’m trying to throw up to $100,000 at this industry for a nice fifth wheel (and so are 2-3 of my friends) but we all have a mutual hatred for the decor in this industry so we spend half of our time frustrated and the other half planning renovations for whatever rv we hold our noses for and eventually purchase.

    Honestly one of my fears is that I’ll eventually settle on something, buy it, and a year later the entire industry is going to come to their senses on styling and the next year’s models will all be gorgeous and no one will want my ugly model as a trade-in lol.

    What is going on!?

    • RVFamilyTravelAtlas

      Hey Tyler, We hear this complaint quite a bit, but we also understand the economic reality of the RV industry. It seems that people tend to overestimate how popular their particular design preference is. The bottom line is that when the industry has tried to ‘niche down’ in their design, sales numbers niche down as well. For example, should they steer more towards modern, traditional, or shabby chic? Winnebago has bucked the trend with lighter cabinetry and I have stood inside those models at RV shows and heard people talk about how ugly it is. Likewise, I am not a fan of tile floors and mirrored ceilings, but the people buying Tiffins seem to want the bling.

      When I was house shopping, I did not expect the decor of the interior to match my own particular design preference. I knew that I would have to introduce my own taste to make myself happy with the space. Folks who flip homes keep colors and styles simple so as to appeal to the greatest number of buyers. The RV industry has to do this with design as well. Have you been inside the Eagles? They are not decorated to my particular preference (My home has a mid century modern edge) but I don’t see how anyone could think they are ‘ugly’ or be ’embarrassed’ by the design.

      When you reference the online renovations, that is like comparing a house that has been customized by a professional designer to a flip that is staged for a sale. I think that if an RV is going to be your home, and you clearly care so much about the aesthetic, you have to be willing to do the remodel yourself in order to achieve the look you want.

      Good luck on your search!!!

  2. Tyler Nofziger

    Thanks for the reply!

    I just wish that they would make these MORE like your average “model home” in normal every-day houses and not your every-day retirement village. I love the “model home” generic look. I have no problem with that. You don’t see burgandy floral patterns and overwhelming oak interiors in model homes.

    If you Google “2017 model home interiors” or “2017 interior design”, you don’t see a hint of brown anywhere. Everything is light and airy and open. I’d love to see more of that in RVs.

    You hear so much from the rv industry that they want to start catering to the millennials and that they are all learning how. One of the biggest things they could do is stop making these look like their grandparent’s retirement villages. Retirement village on the inside, tribal tattoo on the outside. And I agree with you that those new Surveyor exteriors look AWESOME!

    I think that there are a couple of possibilities for what’s going on.

    1. There is a silent majority of old people who simply are the people buying these rvs. Perhaps the average age for your Montana fifth wheel purchaser is 65. And all the talk about starting to market to younger people just isn’t one of their concerns. As Joshua Winters said: “People in their 20’s and 40’s aren’t usually purchasing a Montana. Your grandparents are.”

    2. The rv market is doing well and they they are terrified of changing at all because they don’t want to mess up the gravy train.

    The design of these WILL change over the next 3-5 years. Chris Barth gave me hope in that interview you did with him. My grandparents and their friends are now too old to be in the market for rvs. My parents are very fashion forward and are now in their 60’s. I hope the rv market reacts to this faster rather than later.

    2017 design doesn’t have to sell poorly either. Go look at the Luxe “Beachfront” interiors. That very modern look accounts for over 60% of their sales. If it’s wildly popular like that, why don’t you see that trickle down into the other manufacturers?

    • RVFamilyTravelAtlas

      We will have to agree to disagree on the current design sensibility. We have a 2017 toyhauler and the interior is exactly like contractor grade design on new homes or ‘flips’–certainly no floral patterns or oak cabinets. I think the same is true for the entire Eagle line. The interior design of RVs has changed dramatically over the last five years alone. So yes, I think it will continue to change, but I never think you are going to see the design you are looking for except in niche products made by companies like Oliver, Airstream, and Little Guy. Even Winnebago’s attempt to amp up design with the retro Winnebago was a huge flop and they discontinued that model. Vanilla sells to the biggest audience and makes the most money. We continue to believe that RVers with a strong personal design aesthetic will need to personally redecorate.

  3. Tyler Nofziger

    I actually don’t like retro or the Oliver look. I’m not old enough to have any emotional connection to retro culture so the retro look is lost on me. I like “2017 modern model home”. I like “Fixer Upper” or “Brother vs. Brother” or any modern HGTV show look. This is why I liked hearing Chris Barth say that he watches those shows for ideas. They need to hire Chip and Joanna Gaines to consult with them on design =)

    I love vanilla, I just want a lot less chocolate (brown) in my vanilla! =)

    I think a lot of people aren’t just using their rvs as dirty little camp trailers so the whole “brown earth tones hide dirt, so you have to go dark brown” mantra is a little past it’s prime.

    Currently about a third of my friends are living in rvs to either travel around and work from home, or are living in them while they build a stick-framed home, or they are using them as a replacement for hotels when they travel to other cities. I don’t know of anyone actually using their rv to go sit in a state camp ground and dry camp, and I live in Oregon.

    I do understand that I’m probably in the minority though, being in my mid 30s shopping for a higher end fifth wheel. As Joshua Winters told me, “they are designing those for your grandparents, not you”. However I wouldn’t be surprised if that changes in the next 5-10 years as the rv industry continues to morph.

    But yes, I do agree that things seem to be changing fairly rapidly. As designers realize that it’s not just retirees buying these things I think that the designs will rapidly change.


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