Feedback on towing fifth wheels with half-tons – Part 2

Feedback on towing fifth wheels with half-tons – Part 2

By Steve Savage, Mobility RV Service

[Editor’s note: Steve’s original posting on this subject appeared in an RV Daily Tips newsletter. He had a lot of feedback on the subject. This post is a little longer than our usual, but we felt it important to post it, more or less, intact. In case you missed it, click here for Part 1.]

My earlier rambling about towing with half-ton-rated trucks brought me a good deal of email and I have promised some of those folks I would publish what they had to say along with my response, and here is the last one. Names have been omitted.

Finally this email from a dealer.

“Commenting on someone’s opinion is something I do very little — but I had to cringe at your article about towing with a half-ton truck.

“I have been selling fifth wheels for over 40 years and many to half-ton trucks. I will caution people about looking at the UVW, the pin weight and gross combined weight. I also tell them that the gross weight (which is the maximum weight that the axles will support) cannot be too high, only too low. The GVWR is not what the unit will weigh when loaded. I do use the 1,000 lbs. added as a general rule of thumb.

“What bothers me most about your article is that you are giving off the impression that dealers and their salespeople are trying to hoodwink unsuspecting RVers into a dangerous situation. In 1985 I opened an RV dealership and my shop truck that we used was a F-150, in which I towed many fifth wheels. Even right now I have both a Ram 1500 and a 3500 to use for towing.

“What bothers me most is your first two paragraphs which states that dealers are ballyhooing and ready to trap the unwary. There are a lot of good dealers and salespeople out there that will educate a buyer on proper towing combinations and a lot of lightweight fifth wheels that can be safely towed with a half-ton.”

First of all, thank you very much for taking the time to email me.

Yes, there are a lot of very good dealerships and salespersons out there. When sales are good, almost all my work is for dealerships. The problem I have is there also are many dealerships for which I hold very little respect.

I think how much a truck can tow is spelled out by the manufacturer of the truck or tow vehicle, and as long as the RV owner stays within those limits I have no problem. Now here is where I have a real problem. In my opinion, the RV industry has gone too far with terms like Ultra-Light and half-ton towable. I understand the unstated goal with using these terms is to broaden the market and I have absolutely no problem with that. It actually works to my advantage by increasing my business. I do have a problem, however, if those terms or what they imply are used to suggest everything can be safely towed with half-tons and units are being sold to folks who have little or no experience with RVs. I also remember how hard the RV industry fought against weight labels.

Now, I ask you. If you were to visit a large dealership with a tag showing the empty box weight hanging on the pin of every fiver, what purpose would you say it was intended to serve? Not a single GVW rating in sight. Since my wife and I are avid RVers (when we are not fixing RVs), here’s an example. A month ago we were camped next to a young couple who proudly showed me their first fifth wheel. It as an ultra-light model with a GVW of 12,800 pounds. It was on the back of their new half-ton, and the half-ton was not an eco-boost. Was there not a problem with that if their truck was rated to handle 11,000 pounds? Last night I read a piece in one of the hard copies about the new lines of ultra-light fifth wheels. One of those listed had a GVW of 13,400 pounds and was nearly 34 feet long, by my recall. Maybe everything really is half-ton towable and I am just getting old and cranky.

Cutting to the chase, some dealers are terrific and do everything they can to educate buyers. My hat is off to them. Others, again in my opinion, are wheeler-dealers moving as much merchandise as they can by whatever means possible. In that regard, the RV industry is just like any other!

Buyers also play a role. Some truly are victimized and uneducated. Some are simply lazy or disinterested. They are of the ilk who will always blame someone else for what should have been their responsibility. In my experience, RV owners are no more honest or dishonest than RV dealerships.

Obviously I have a goal. My goal, in this case, is to call attention to what may be a problem for some shoppers. When someone purchases a towable RV, I want them to know they are choosing one within their tow vehicle’s ratings as provided by the manufacturer of their tow vehicle. I don’t care which model they choose. I don’t care which manufacturer made it. It just seems to me like this is one thing buyers, whether they be first-timers or long-time owners, should not have to think about when choosing an RV.

For buyers, given the array of information on the Internet, you can find whatever you need to know on your computer. Use it!

Steve (Mobility RV Service). You can reach me at mroeditor(at)chartertn.net. Please do not call me on the phone unless you are looking for service for your RV here in Tri-Cities, Tenn.

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