This is the big debate. There are no shortage of opinions online about which is best for full-time living, and everyone is right. Following are some of the things we took into consideration.
Pricing is interesting. You can get a beautiful, custom, reasonably-sized New Horizons fifth-wheel and a new Ford F-450 with a custom hauler body for probably less than a new, high-end diesel pusher. If you select a larger New Horizons trailer (ours is 42′), an F-450 is not enough and you have to start looking at semi’s — Freightliner M2-112’s and rebuilt Volvos are most common. A new Freightliner M2-112 (for instance) outfitted for towing, and a new, decked out, large New Horizons fifth-wheel is priced in the same ballpark as a comparable, new, high-end diesel pusher. Pricing for us was pretty much a wash.
DRIVING AROUND AFTER PARKED
If you have a diesel pusher, you’ll be pulling a car. There’s no way around it. If you pull a fifth-wheel, it’s common for owners to drive their tow vehicle around town after parking the trailer. Driving your tow vehicle around town makes more sense to me if you’re pulling with a F-450 or even a F-550, but in our case I had no desire to take the Freightliner to the local Starbucks or not-so-local national park. However, I’m surprised that three people I met last week pull with the same Freightliner we own, and they use them as daily drivers. That’s not for us, but it seems to work for these folks.
Since we plan to park for 1-2 months at a time, we chose a Toyota Tacoma 4WD (for exploring in the desert!), and Karen follows me to our new location. I can’t feel sorry for her. After living in such close proximity, she needs a day to herself. Having a small pickup to drive around town on short trips makes for very comfortable and easy transportation. The two-vehicle solution works for us.
I’m almost embarrassed to admit this, but we also pull a 6X10 Haulmark cargo trailer behind the Tacoma. There’s a reason. Karen and I love riding bikes, and we own a tandem. I anticipated storing the tandem in the fifth-wheel basement, but to my dismay I discovered soon after arriving at the New Horizons factory that all our earthly belongings filled the basement, and as much as we pushed and shoved and swore, there was no room for the bicycle. I’d give away my first born (or second or third or fourth on any given day) before I’d sacrifice my bike. So we got the trailer. I call it my garage.
This turned out to be a blessing in disguise. In addition to storing the bike with easy access, we also store other things that were previously in the trailer. When we park, the cargo trailer will be parked. The only time it will be hooked up to the Tacoma is when we travel from one location to the next. Now nothing is cramped. I like loose underwear and I like room to move around my trailer. I’ve always had the first; now I have both.
Again, this is all personal preference. We liked the layout and space utilization much better in a fifth-wheel trailer. We also appreciated not having the driver’s area up front in our home.
To the best of my knowledge (I think I’m right but maybe not), you typically don’t get to customize a diesel pusher to the extent you can customize a New Horizons trailer, unless perhaps your amongst that rarified group of human beings who can afford a Prevost or something similar. The New Horizons is completely customizable. The customer starts with a blank piece of paper, lots of creative and practical ideas, and goes from there. This includes designing built-in furniture, determining placement of that furniture, depth of slides, selection of appliances, water and communication systems, motorcycle lifts, paint — you name it and it’s done. We know, because we spent 6 months doing just that.
So there you have it. Tomatoes or tomahtoes. We went down the fifth-wheel route and it works for us. Others, like the famous Nina and Paul from Wheeling It, chose the diesel pusher, and it works for them.