Fifth Wheel Vs Gooseneck

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You are about to tow a recreational trailer, but which is better to tow with, a gooseneck or a fifth wheel? Fifth Wheel vs Gooseneck - what’s the difference?

A gooseneck hitch uses a trailer ball in the truck’s bed connected to a coupler on the trailer. A fifth-wheel hitch uses jaws on a plate that connects to the trailer’s kingpin. Goosenecks are usually used for agricultural/work purposes, while fifth-wheel hitches are for recreational use.

Many Americans face the reality of hooking up trailers and recreational vehicles to their trucks every day. Whether pulling a heavy horse trailer, hauling construction equipment, or just hauling the fifth-wheel camper, having the right hitch for the right trailer can make a difference. The last thing you want to do is have to tow a heavy load and not be able to because your truck is configured with the wrong kind of hitch. But what exactly is the difference between a 5th-wheel and a gooseneck hitch? Which is better for your trailer application? What are the advantages of each hitch? Which costs more? There are just so many questions. Let’s explore the realities of these two types of trailer hitches and see if we can’t answer some questions, so you have all the information you need.

Table of Contents


What Is A 5th Wheel Hitch?

A 5th wheel hitch uses a set of jaws and a pivoting plate that clamps on a kingpin connected to the trailer. The jaws grip the kingpin in a lock, and the base plate rotates back and forth to provide movement when the truck and trailer need to navigate a turn.

Fifth-wheel hitches are generally used for towing heavy recreational vehicles like campers or RV trailers that weigh up to 30,000 lbs. Commercial haulers use the same type of mechanism to attach a tractor-trailer box to the chassis of a semi-truck.

What is a Gooseneck Hitch?

A Gooseneck trailer connects to a hitch ball centered in the pickup truck’s cargo bed to a coupler on the tongue of the trailer. The ball hitch mounts on the bed of the vehicle frame with bolts, with the trailer ball sticking up through a hole in the truck bed. Gooseneck trailers can haul more than 30,000 lbs and are used for towing horse trailers, or commercial hauling flatbed equipment.

Which is the Better - Gooseneck vs 5th Wheel?

Both trailer hitches have their distinct advantages and disadvantages. Let’s examine some of the towing capabilities of each hitch.

Gooseneck Hitches

A Gooseneck trailer hitch requires a less invasive setup and uses lighter components for the pickup truck. These trailers are less expensive to install, and because they operate with a ball and coupler, they are easier to attach and remove. However, they do necessitate drilling a hole in the bed of the truck if you didn’t happen to have one installed when you purchased it.

A gooseneck trailer hitch can haul more weight than the standard fifth-wheel hitch. The coupler connection and safety chains fit inside the pickup truck’s bed, making them easy to disengage when just the truck is needed. This configuration makes them perfect for livestock, agricultural or flatbed trailers.

5th Wheel Hitches

Fifth-Wheel hitches require more installation expense and often require permanent rails on the truck bed. Without question, the coupling mechanism is more difficult to remove because it is heavier. While the 5th wheel hitch connection offers a more stable and smooth towing experience, with less trailer noise, it is harder to connect the trailer to the cargo box.

The standard fifth-wheel trailer hitch can be adapted to various pickup trucks, making them ideal for recreational towing because RV trailers and campers come in all shapes and sizes.

How Does a Gooseneck Trailer Connect to a Tow Vehicle?

A Gooseneck trailer has a coupler on the end of a vertical post attached to the trailer tongue that fits on top of a hitch ball. This connection is similar to the way a standard trailer might fit on a ball hitch attached to the back of a pickup truck. Owners who use the gooseneck hitch system lock the coupler to the ball and secure the trailer with safety chains.

How Does A 5th Wheel Trailer Connect to a Tow Vehicle?

A 5th-wheel trailer hitch has a pin box and a kingpin on the end of a trailer tongue that fits snugly into a series of metal jaws that clamp around the kingpin to hold it securely.

The hitch is similar to how a semi-truck attaches to a trailer. The jaws are situated on a movable plate that pivots, allowing for movement for turns so that the trailer follows the truck.

Which Hitch Provides the More Stable Towing Experience?

A Fifth-wheel hitch provides the most stable ride due to the kingpin being held more securely than a coupler on a gooseneck trailer. Drivers are liable to detect more noise and vibrations with a gooseneck coupling than recreational vehicles towed by fifth wheels. The reason is that the coupler tends to have less surface connection to the trailer (a ball and coupler form a smaller connection). In addition, fifth-wheel units are more aerodynamic than the livestock or ag trailers that get pulled with gooseneck.

Can A Truck Be Adapted to Pull Both Kinds of Trailers?

Fifth-wheel trailers can be pulled by a gooseneck hitch as long as the correct adapter is installed and what the tow truck’s weight capacity is. To tow both kinds of vehicles, the pickup truck needs to have an adapter plate installed to have the rail support to accept a 5th-wheel hitch. The average cost of an adapter mechanism is about $1000.

Conversely, a gooseneck can be towed with a 5th-wheel hitch with the correct adapter. One type of adapter changes the coupler into a kingpin which then connects to the jaws installed in the cargo bed. The other kind of adapter locks around a gooseneck ball so that the hitch can be used by the regular gooseneck trailer.

Can You Tow A Car Behind a Fifth-Wheel Trailer?

Currently, sixteen states allow triple towing. Some states will allow you to tow a car behind your recreational trailer if your towing truck can handle the load. Most states have regulations regarding the length or weight of the towed vehicles. (For example, California and Michigan require special licenses to tow any trailer over 10,000 lbs or a Motorhome longer than 40 feet).

Other states do not permit this kind of triple towing, so you should check with your department of motor vehicles before you decide to hook up the car behind the 5th wheel. (Please note that only a few cars can be towed with all four wheels on the ground, so make sure your car manufacturer has certified the vehicle you want to take on vacation as being towable).

A quick check of the Internet can save you a lot of hassle and headache as you travel.

Do Fifth-Wheel or Gooseneck Trailers Need to Stop At Weigh Stations?

The answer is no in almost every state. Most weigh stations measure the weight limits of loads over 10,000 lbs, so you should be okay if your load is less than that. If your recreational vehicle is above the 10,000 lb limit, you need to consult the various states you plan on visiting. (Most of the time, the weigh station will wave you through, but it never hurts to check.