You would think that finding a fifth wheel RV that will work for our plan of living on the road for three years with two small children would be relatively easy. The fact of the matter though is a search for one has been difficult and frustrating. Natasha and I learned early on that fifth wheel RVs built for full-time use are not common, but rather rare in the RV business. Only a few manufactures build “full-time” fifth wheel RVs, meaning a RV built well enough to hold up to daily living. This makes some sense since the vast majority of RV owners are using them for short stays, mostly in the summer months while on vacation, or maybe a weekend of tailgating at a football game. The list of manufactures building full-time fifth wheel RVs today is short, I’d say (and this is only my opinion) just five, NUWA (and they have announced they will cease production by Christmas 2012), DRV, New Horizon, Excel, and LifeStyle (formerly Carriage Inc.). High end fifth wheel manufactures have had a hard time in this volatile economy, several have gone out of business (It seems folks have no problem buying a luxury car when cheaper are available, but not so much with fifth wheel RVs.) And these fifth wheel RVs from these companies are expensive, from $80,000 to well over $100,000! But you get what you pay for and all these companies make fifth wheel RVs that are well built, have luxury features, are comfortable to live in, well insulated and warranted for full-time living.
So you would think from the list of full-time RV manufactures above it would be a simple matter of just picking a floor-plan and be done. However, it seems these manufactures are only interested in a single market, retires. And retires do not usually have young ones living with them (though not all of course). What does this mean? Well it means that finding a floor plan that works for us is just not available. Or stating this a little differently, a floor-plan that works for all that we want to do with our young ones is not available. It is true that there are floor-plans that would work but they come with a penalty, weight and length. For instance, DRV offers a nice floor-plan with a second bedroom but the RV weighs over 20,000 pounds loaded and is 43 feet long. We want to be relatively mobile in our living on the road and there is nothing mobile about 20,000 pounds and 43 feet, unless you are spending four months in a trailer park in Arizona (i.e snowbirds). And another problem, we wish to spend as much time in National Parks as possible and many have strict limits on RV length and few would even allow a 43 foot RV in their campground.
So what is one to do? I think a compromise is in order along with a little creativity. We just are not going to be able to have it all, we have to give up some space for freedom of movement. It is a good thing we are accustomed to living in a small house, as we are now. And after all, the country awaits, how much space do we need when outside our door will be such immense space. Stay tuned for Part II.