Fifth Wheelers - Import from US

Submitted: Tuesday, Jan 27, 2004 at 20:37
ThreadID: 10062 Views:9507 Replies:6 FollowUps:6
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Hi All,

My parents are currently going around Oz towing a 23ft van and having a ball. Dad has decided he wants a bigger van (the one he's got only weighs 2300kgs!) and is looking at the fifth wheelers where the coupling sits on the tray of a truck like an F250 and resembles a semi-trailer. Apparantly they tow alot better that a drawbar setup (the yanks call this a Travel Trailer) that most of us are used to allowing them to be up to 38ft long. They are also ultra luxurious with expanding sides, recliner couches, king bed and full kitchens.

Does anyone have experience with these things? What are the pitfalls?

Dad was quoted $143,000 by an Australian reseller for a new 33' model which seems very pricey considering their current 23ft van was $33,000 new 2 years ago. They also quoted $100k + for a suitably equipped F series tow vehicle.

There are stacks of these for sale in the states (www.rvsearch.com) with similar models going for about $US42,000 New. Is it unheard of to import these. Can they be used on Oz roads (apart from the door being on the wrong side!)? Is there any import duty on this sort of thing? Dad worked out that he can spend 10 grand on a holiday in the states, buy one of these for about $60k AU, spend 10 grand having it shipped out and still be in front by thousands!

The Archives are pretty bare on this topic but I daresay these may gain popularity as the Grey Nomad boom keeps taking off!

All comments appreciated (even negative ones!).

StevenLPrado GXL TD Manual
It's on order, Delivery in April '04.
This pic will have to do till then. Can't wait!!!
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Reply By: Dave from Fraser Coast 4WD Club - Tuesday, Jan 27, 2004 at 21:14

Tuesday, Jan 27, 2004 at 21:14
There's a mob in Gympie that deal with these, there's always a couple out the front.

I think they are something like "Corvette Conversions" (maybe)

They are next door to "Motorcycle Country" at any rate.

I saw one set up somewhere that expanded on both sides, damn thing would have been bigger inside than many houses.

The way i see it, if you want something that big, then it would have to be safer for all of us than towing a monster caravan.

and $100k+ for a F-truck, that's a bit rich, I'm sure the coupling doesn't cost $20k
AnswerID: 44533

Follow Up By: Member - Bruce (San Diego) - Wednesday, Jan 28, 2004 at 02:07

Wednesday, Jan 28, 2004 at 02:07
I live in San Diego and you can pick up a new or used one most of the time for a fair discount, they always seem to be having RV sales here, and there must be 20-30 dealers within 50 k's of me.

The best idea is to look on the internet to get an idea, its possible to get one a couple of years old, "barely used" (people over here tend to tow them somewhere and sit in the sun next to them for six months and then tow them home, so they don'y get much mileage on them ) you can often pick one of these up for a huge discount from new.

Not too sure how much trouble it would be to convert the electrics.

Let me know if you need any info.

Bruce
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Follow Up By: MartyB - Wednesday, Jan 28, 2004 at 21:30

Wednesday, Jan 28, 2004 at 21:30
Dave was close, the company is Corvette Queensland. (07) 5482 7833.
from marty.
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Reply By: athol - Tuesday, Jan 27, 2004 at 22:06

Tuesday, Jan 27, 2004 at 22:06
Steve, I saw an ad in 4x4 trader mag for a mob in Toowoomba their web address is www.5thwheelconnection.com hope they can help.
Athol.
AnswerID: 44551

Reply By: Cumbo - Tuesday, Jan 27, 2004 at 22:18

Tuesday, Jan 27, 2004 at 22:18
StevenL

There are a number of things with regard to the importaation of fifth wheeelers.
I have been researching for about 18 months and probably too many considerations to go into in the forum. Don't let me put you off as I will still be improting one myslef, but you must be carefull.

First is the weight. Although as you quoted you can get 33-40 footrers you must be mindful of the weight of the f/w and the towing vehicle. Should be kept to about 4 tonne (Ball park figures).

There is also additional costs of conversions for electricity, gas and refrigeration.
There are a number of companies within Aus that will do the import and concersions for you.

As you said you then have to have a stibale towing vehicle, probably an F250 or such.

There are both disadvantages and advantages. One major one to me at the moment is the access available to larger units.

That is why I am starting with a 4wd/camping/caravaning initially to visit various areas and then hopefully going to the states to have a look around there for a while and eventually bring a fifth wheeler from there home.

If you are interested drop me a line t jcumberl@bigpond.net.au and I can give you more info.

Regards

CumboTD42
EFS
TX4400
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AnswerID: 44557

Follow Up By: Member - StevenL - Tuesday, Jan 27, 2004 at 23:09

Tuesday, Jan 27, 2004 at 23:09
Hi Cumbo,

Sounds like you have been looking at this for a while.

Parents are looking at doing this when they finish the current trip in 18 months/2 years. They want to live in the unit for 2 years at a stretch doing a month or two in each place before moving on, so comfort and space is high on the agenda.

A look on rvsearch.com showed some 2,500 units listed with average prices of $US40-50k for nice looking 2003/2004 model 33-35 footers.

Getting the electrical appliances converted to 240 may be tricky. Maybe you just step the power supply down to 110. Could it be that simple? I don't know if the gas systems are any different.

If you have any info on the actual importation process (frieght/customs/ADR etc) I would love to hear from you at scl@sclsd.net.au

Good luck with your search.

StevenLPrado GXL TD Manual
It's on order, Delivery in April '04.
This pic will have to do till then. Can't wait!!!
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FollowupID: 306727

Follow Up By: GaryInOz (Vic) - Wednesday, Jan 28, 2004 at 11:53

Wednesday, Jan 28, 2004 at 11:53
Might have to look into an articulated vehicle licence too.
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FollowupID: 306761

Reply By: Willem - Tuesday, Jan 27, 2004 at 22:48

Tuesday, Jan 27, 2004 at 22:48
The trouble with going bigger on the road is that if you are inclined to stay in caravan parks you will find very few of them can accommodate large rigs. I towed a 27footer around for a number of years and even that was too large at times. I stayed out of CP's however. I have seen a number of 5th wheelers on the road and some of them were downright smart. And you don't need a F250/350 to tow, just a rig with grunt and the right braking power. Some more modest 5th wheelers are converted 4 and 6 horse, horse floats. Bringing a yank tank in from the states may be fraught with problems especially when it comes to ADR. Thorough research is essential.

Cheers
Willem

Googs Lake camp
AnswerID: 44569

Reply By: Member - StevenL - Tuesday, Jan 27, 2004 at 23:15

Tuesday, Jan 27, 2004 at 23:15
Thanks for the replies All,

I have had a look at some of the local web sites and there are a few listings but still around 90-100 grand.

Willem, I take your point about places that can handle big rigs. Dad has a few contacts on private properties but will probably go into CP's that have larger camping areas. They may only move every month or so!

I am interested in hearing of anyone's experiences in towing these rigs and using them.

Many Thanks

StevenLPrado GXL TD Manual
It's on order, Delivery in April '04.
This pic will have to do till then. Can't wait!!!
AnswerID: 44575

Follow Up By: Member - Raymond - Wednesday, Jan 28, 2004 at 07:57

Wednesday, Jan 28, 2004 at 07:57
Hi Steven.
May be worth your father checking to see if any of the caravan, horse float, or large trailer builders would build him a unit over here, the price being quoted seems high after just coming bavck from the USA and having looked at the units. I have seen Australian buil,t units on the road here on our last trip to the centre. One was behind F250 and the other behind a 78 series
Raywanderin' in retirement. victor 2010
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FollowupID: 306745

Reply By: Wizzy - Wednesday, Jan 28, 2004 at 17:23

Wednesday, Jan 28, 2004 at 17:23
Hi Steven,

I've been checking out the imported fifth-wheelers for some months ... even been to view the various models at the Gympie place. Very impressive. We looked at two models, one for $92,000 and the other for $77,000. The smaller one's tare was a fraction under 3000kg so could be towed by a LandCruiser. All had been converted to Aussie standards, though the rollout awning is still on the 'wrong' side of the rig. Might create problems on commercial sites.

I wasn't too impressed with the salesmen though. For instance, they were not able to tell me whether the slideout could be operated manually in the event of the electric motor burning out! They were vague on other points too. Seemed to me they knew very little about the product they were selling.

Lots of questions still remain unanswered. For instance, if problems arise in a remote area can they be recovered easily. Not sure whether breakdown trucks could handle them.

And what about spares? Are the wheel bearings standard and can they be easily obtained here? Most internal fitments are American so if something as basic as a toilet seal needs replacing can spares be readily bought? Will they hold their value? So many questions!!!!!

But there's no doubt about it ... they are truly fantastic inside with oodles of space. In my humble opinion, none of the Aussie-built fifth wheelers come anywhere near them.

Regards,
Dennis
www.damor.net

AnswerID: 44646

Follow Up By: Member - StevenL - Wednesday, Jan 28, 2004 at 18:23

Wednesday, Jan 28, 2004 at 18:23
Thanks for the info Dennis, particularly about the prospect of getting spares for stuff right down to the plumbing! All part of the equation.

Spoke to dad this morning and he sounds like he is loading up for the US holiday. The local ones don't seem to be as good value as the Yank models.

There do seem to be a few people looking at these as an option judging by the replies to my post.

Nice web site BTW. Music is certainly bright and shiny!

StevenLPrado GXL TD Manual
It's on order, Delivery in April '04.
This pic will have to do till then. Can't wait!!!
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FollowupID: 306797

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