Worst 5th Wheel Brands To Avoid – Read This Before Purchasing

RV manufacturers do their level best to offer quality fifth-wheel trailers and campers to meet every imaginable need.

Yet it’s an unfortunate reality that sometimes they miss the mark. In some cases, you might find a fifth-wheel trailer that you like, but there’s some feature that just isn’t in line with how it’s intended to be used.

In a few other cases, the fifth wheel manufacturer might have cut some corners in the material selection, engineering, design, or overall build quality.

The last thing you want is to end up with a fifth-wheel trailer that becomes a money pit of maintenance and breakdowns.

So, what are some of the fifth-wheel trailer brands or models to avoid? This can be a tough question to answer.

However, there are a few that have developed a reputation for certain issues or design faults like the Dutchmen Voltage and the Coachmen Chapparal.

There’s no doubt about it, a fifth wheel trailer is a major investment. It’s natural for you to feel a little leery about where you invest your hard-earned money.

Especially, if you’ve never shopped for an RV before. So, we rolled up our sleeves and did our best to give you an object review of some of the more common fifth wheel trailers that you may want to avoid.

5 Worst Fifth Wheel Brands To Avoid At All Costs

It’s hard to take a negative stance on any manufacturer’s product. Especially a high money investment like a fifth wheel camper.

The following reviews are of models that have earned a reputation for mismatched features or known design faults that have caused some owners trouble in the past. 

Here Is A List Of Fifth Wheel Trailers To Avoid:

  • 1. The Jayco Eagle
  • 2. The Dutchmen Voltage Fifth Wheel Camper
  • 3. The Winnebago Minnie Fifth Wheel Camper
  • 4. The Coachmen Chaparral Fifth Wheel Camper
  • 5. The Keystone Cougar

1. Jayco

It might seem a little bit of a shock to hear that Jayco made the list of fifth wheel campers to avoid.

They certainly have a loyal following and many people will argue passionately for their creature comforts at an affordable price.

It’s even more shocking when considering that Jayco now resides under the Thor Industries umbrella, which means they should have access to the titan’s material components and engineering specs.

Now, this isn’t to say that all Jayco RVs and products are bad.

The problem likely lies in Jayco’s efforts to offer entry-level prices to small families who want to be able to hit the open road, or for tradesmen and road construction workers who need a place to stay that’s cheaper than living in a hotel during the peak season of summer.

This mentality breaks down a little bit when you start wandering into entry-level fifth-wheel campers in the Jayco line.

A fifth wheel camper is meant to reside in the sweet spot between the towable nature of a travel trailer camper, and the luxury of a Class B or Class C motorhome.

The advantage is that you can unhitch and use your tow vehicle pickup truck without having to break camp as you do with a large, awkward motorhome.

Ultimately, trying to make an entry-level fifth wheel camper means cutting a few corners here and there.

This translates into problems with reliability and minor design flaws that should have been caught earlier in the drafting stages.

You Should Avoid The Jayco Eagle Fifth Wheel Camper

Jayco Eagle
  • Dry Weight of 10,755 lbs.
  • Payload Capacity of 1,745 lbs.
  • GVWR of 12,500 lbs.
  • Hitch Weight of 1,350 lbs.
  • Total Fresh Water Tank Capacity of 75-gallons
  • Total Gray Water Tank Capacity of 97.5-gallons
  • Total Black Water Tank Capacity of 32.5-gallons
  • 3 slide outs
  • Sleep up to 4 people

The Eagle is the model that tends to draw the most complaint in the Jayco line. Many people site design flaws as well as poor choices in material selection.

Right off the bat, there are a lot of material selection issues that impact the overall build quality of the Jayco Eagle.

This also gives way to a lot of little gremlins like wiring issues and minor components that fail.

It lends itself to a lot of frustration knowing that your major investment in a fifth-wheel camper has been crippled by a minor part that you might have to wait days if not weeks to get.

An underlying problem here is that Jayco’s customer service and the warranty claims process isn’t the best.

This is part of the cost-cutting that comes with trying to offer entry-level priced travel trailers and fifth-wheel campers.

Worst of all is if you plan to use it at base camp for a hunting season or into the winter. The fuse for the standard heater has a nasty habit of burning out.

So, you end up going to bed all snuggly warm. The heater kicks on more frequently at night when the temperature drops, which is more likely to burn out a fuse or trip a circuit breaker.

Then you wake up in the middle of the night freezing cold and bleary trying to figure out the problem when you should be getting ready to head out to your hunting stand.

Even if you catch the breaker tripping early in the night, you’re still going to lose sleep worrying if it’s going to go out again.

There have also been some complaints about the material selection and overall build quality of the slide-out.

If anyone of the three slide-out sections fails to deploy or retract properly it can be a real headache at a time when you truly don’t want one.

2. Dutchmen

Dutchmen used to be their own independent RV manufacturer, and they saw a lot of popularity in the late 1980s into the mid-to-early 1990s.

They sort of earned their name making entry-level RV and fifth wheel campers for entry-level, first-time buyers.

This was at a time when the RV industry didn’t show a lot of innovation and material selection was questionable across the board.

When Dutchmen merged with Keystone they were allowed to maintain their own brand identity.

Somehow this stalled out any attempts at innovation, and some of the fifth wheel campers in the Dutchman line seem to be mired in the past.

Though there are a few that have embraced modern-day materials and improved manufacturing technology.

You see some of this reflected in the three-year warranty they offer with many of their travel trailers and fifth-wheel campers.

You Should Avoid The Dutchmen Voltage Fifth Wheel Camper

Dutchmen Voltage
  • Dry Weight of 13,512 lbs.
  • Payload Capacity of 3,288 lbs.
  • Hitch Weight of2,812 lbs.
  • Total Fresh Water Tank Capacity of 160-gallons
  • Total Gray Water Tank Capacity or 86-gallons
  • Total Black Water Tank Capacity of 38-gallons
  • 3 slide outs
  • Sleeps up to 7 people
  • Cargo Area Length of 12.5-feet
  • Air Conditioning 30,000 BTUs per hour

The Dutchmen Voltage is one of the fifth wheel campers in their line that has drawn the most complaints, and likely a lot of warranty calls to customer service.

The 2018 iteration of the Voltage in the V3655 was also designed to be a fifth wheel toy hauler.

The insulation quality of the Dutchmen Voltage and the airflow is a real issue that pops up on hot summer days.

When the temperature and humidity go up even the 30,000 BTU rooftop air conditioner struggles to keep the interior cool. This is added to by the poor airflow and seals on the cargo area.

The cargo area itself also struggles to feel like it’s still a cargo area, even after you’ve transformed it over from being a toy hauler to a living area.

People sleeping in the back will end up feeling like they’re sleeping in a garage. Especially with the constant odor of the rubber floor.

There are also numerous complaints about the build quality of the kitchen and bathroom hardware.

This includes things like cabinet doors that don’t latch tightly, which causes the contents to spill out while you are underway.

3. Winnebago

Winnebago is one of the more established RV manufacturers. They really had a strong presence in the motorhome industry throughout the 1980s and into the early 1990s.

This rapid expansion included offering travel trailers, toy haulers, and fifth wheel campers in hopes of drawing in new customers from other niches in the RV industry.

The problem Winnebago is struggling to deal with today is that demand is exceeding their current production capacity.

Rather than expanding their manufacturing, they are trying to alter their line to use as many interchangeable parts as possible, while also lowering their quality standards to keep up with production.

You Should Avoid The Winnebago Minnie Fifth Wheel Camper

Winnebago Micro Minnie
  • Dry Weight of 5,780 lbs.
  • GVWR of 7,700 lbs.
  • Hitch Weight of 1,060 lbs.
  • Total Fresh Water Tank Capacity of 31-gallons
  • Total Gray Water Tank Capacity of 50-gallons
  • Total Black Water Tank Capacity of 25-gallons
  • Sleeps up to 6 people
  • 13,500 BTU air conditioner
  • Slideouts 1

The Winnebago Minnie fifth wheel camper has been a particular problem area in the lineup.

It’s intended to be the bigger brother to the Minnie toy hauler and travel trailer. Unfortunately, it didn’t seem to scale up into the fifth wheel iteration well.

The Minnie was so popular in its travel trailer form that Winnebago tried to upsize it into a fifth-wheel trailer, with mixed results.

Beyond the irony of the name, there are some quality concerns in the material selection as well as the layout of the Winnebago Minnie Fifth wheel camper.

You also see problems with the air conditioning system. It’s only rated at 13,500 BTUs which is more than a little under-powered for a fifth-wheel camper.

Most of the competition has 18,000 BTU to 25,000 BTU air conditioners.

Right off the bat, you find a lot of complaints about leaks in the pipes and the sinks. At the same time, the storage tanks are out of proportion.

You only get a tiny 31-gallon fresh water storage tank, then a whopping 50-gallon gray water and a small 25-gallon black water storage tank.

So, if you want to book dock with the Winnebago Minnie fifth wheel camper you’re going to have to bring extra fresh water with you, then use a portable wastewater storage tank to make runs to the nearest RV dump site every day or two to empty the black water tank.

Ultimately, if you go with the Winnebago Minnie fifth wheel camper you are dedicating yourself to only keeping it at a full-service RV campground.

4. Coachmen

Coachmen is an RV manufacturer with roots that extend all the way back to the 1970s.

Its long-term popularity has drawn a fair number of loyal customers, who buy and upgrade to their brand name.

This has spurned a little bit of complacency in Coachmen’s manufacturing quality standards.

Now that’s not to say that everything in the Coachmen lineup is poor quality. You just find a lot of complaints about things that shouldn’t be an issue.

This includes things like poor quality drawer slides and cabinet hardware. The veneered finish on woodwork should be solid or laminated wood.

Roof leaks around air vents and in corners also start showing up over time.

You Should Avoid The Coachmen Chaparral Fifth Wheel Camper

Coachmen Chaparral
  • Dry Weight of 10,520 lbs.
  • Payload Capacity of 1,480 lbs.
  • GVWR of 12,000 lbs.
  • Hitch Weight of 1,880 lbs.
  • Total Fresh Water Tank Capacity of 48-gallons
  • Total Gray Water Tank Capacity of 90- gallons
  • Total Black Water Tank Capacity of 45-gallons
  • Sleeps only 4 people
  • 15,000 BTU air conditioner

This is a little bit of a sore spot for Coachmen, who have tried to push the Chaparral as a high-end luxury model in their line.

Unfortunately, there are some build quality issues, problems with loose trim, and roof leaks that seem rife in the Chaparral model.

 All at a price point that is arguably a little too high for what you get.

Beyond the build quality complaints you find with the trim and possible roof leaks, you also see a lot of engineering and design flaws in this iteration of the Coachmen Chaparral.

Right off the bat, the 15,000 BTU air conditioner is a little weak for a fifth wheel camper this large. It’s also a little sparse with storage in the main living area, as well as a tiny pantry in the kitchen.

Not to mention the fact that it only sleeps up to four people. Yet the master suite in the front only has a queen-size bed, with an option to upgrade to a king.

Then there is a ton of wardrobe storage. This almost encourages you to keep cans of soup and other pantry items in the master suite, which isn’t exactly what you think of when you think of a high-priced luxury fifth wheel RV.

The water storage tanks are also out of balance. The 48-gallon fresh water tank is a decent size, as is the 45-gallon black water storage tank.

Then for some reason, they gave it an enormous 90-gallon gray water storage tank.

5. Keystone

For the most part, Keystone has earned a reputation for providing quality RVs.

Though in recent years they have started absorbing a lot of lesser manufacturers and infusing some of the questionable build quality and material selection into their line.

This has led to a few models that have a reputation for specific faults that develop over time.

You Should Avoid The Keystone Cougar

Keystone Cougar
  • Dry Weight of 11,202 lbs.
  • Payload Capacity of 2,788 lbs.
  • GVWR of 13,990 lbs.
  • Hitch Weight of 1,990 lbs.
  • Total Fresh Water Tank Capacity of 81-gallons
  • Total Gray Water Tank Capacity of 76-gallons
  • Total Black Water Tank Capacity of 38-gallons

For the most part, Keystone has earned a reputation for providing quality RVs.

Though in recent years they have started absorbing a lot of lesser manufacturers and infusing some of the questionable build quality and material selection into their line.

This has led to a few models that have a reputation for specific faults that develop over time.

Newer models of the Keystone Cougar seem to have been rushed into production without a lot of thought given to quality control.

So, there are somewhere everything is assembled properly and you will find few complaints.

Then others have that “Build on a Friday Afternoon” feel, with little water leaks in toilets and sinks or seals that aren’t properly installed.

Electrical issues tend to also be a common complaint with the Keystone Cougar.

You get the feeling that they rushed through the engineering of the circuit breaker putting too many things on certain circuits.

So, you end up having to flip a lot of switches if you accidentally have too many things on at once.

Granted a certified electrician can upgrade your circuit breakers, but that’s not necessarily something you want to do when you buy a new fifth wheel camper.

It’s also worth noting that some models of the Keystone Cougar have an optional upgrade to a traditional electric refrigerator with a compressor, instead of a typical RV absorption refrigerator.

Yet they freshwater, and wastewater storage tanks are massive and almost encourage you to boondock.

Unfortunately, electric refrigerators don’t do well on rough rides and bumpy roads.

So, if you are going to do a lot of backwoods boondocking, you’ll want to prioritize a model with an absorption refrigerator.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is It Better To Buy From A Dealership?

RV dealerships can be hit and miss. On the one hand, you are getting access to a lot of RV’s and fifth wheel campers all in one stop.

They are usually more than happy to let you take a comprehensive tour of the interior and even kick a tire or two.

A dealership is also a primary option if you are looking to buy something brand new with all the factory warranty protection in place.

It’s also the preferred option for most lending agencies. A lot of dealerships even have their own financing programs available, complete with incentives.

The downside of going to an RV dealership to buy your fifth wheel camper is that you’re going to face a lot of pressure to buy, and you might not always get an honest answer. Nearly all RV dealerships work on commission. 

Since they don’t tend to move a high volume, compared to say, car salesman, they tend to gloss over any flaws in the units they sell. 

Once you sign on the dotted line, any manufacturing flaws in the fifth wheel camper are referred to the warranty program, and repair costs don’t come out of the salesman’s paycheck.

Should I Buy My Fifth Wheel Camper From A Private Seller?

With a private seller, you are rarely going to see any warranty transfer from the manufacturer. So, you are on the hook a little bit more for future repair costs.

Of course, there are a few private sellers out there that are simply trying to offload their own lemon. 

Though a lot of times, it’s a family that is either upgrading to a larger model as their children grow, or are downsizing now that their children have left the house.

If you are interested in a used fifth wheel camper take the time to read some reviews online.

Then make sure to look for things like pride in ownership when you tour the model in person. Ask for things like maintenance records, and RV inspection reports. 

A person who has pride in ownership will typically have these things on hand and they’ll be up to date.

While taking the tour, look for signs of water damage. This includes discolorations in the ceiling, especially the bathroom ceiling.

Then also look under the sink cabinets and the feel of the floor around the toilet. 

While you’re at it, look at the ground under the camper to see if there are any signs of past or present leaks.

Conclusion

There’s no doubt about it, whether you are buying new or used, a fifth wheel camper is a major investment.

Before sinking your hard-earned dollars into one, you need to take the time to shop around, read reviews, and consider how you are most likely to use the RV.

If you hear complaints about water leaks like the Coachmen Chapparal, you might want to think long and hard.

Especially if it’s a used model that has discolorations in the ceiling or soft spots in the bathroom or kitchen floor.

If you will be camping in hot conditions, you might want to avoid fifth-wheel campers like the Winnebago Minnie with it’s 13,000 BTU air conditioner.