Why Are Campers Fifth Wheel And Not Gooseneck?

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Every day millions of Americans hitch up an RV camper to a tow vehicle and set out for new adventures. Why are campers 5th wheel and not gooseneck?

Due to the design, a fifth-wheel hitch provides a quieter, more stable towing experience than a gooseneck hitch. Fifth-wheel hitches are built with sliding head options, aiding in steering control, maneuverability, and stability. Most RV owners prefer the ride quality of a fifth-wheel hitch.

With over 11% of households owning a recreational vehicle, it is easy to see America’s love affair for the RV lifestyle. Whether it is towing a camper across the country, pulling into a state park or KOA, or just finding a nice spot on the lake, fifth wheels are increasingly becoming part of the roadway. (Almost 85 thousand fifth wheel units were manufactured and shipped to dealers in 2022 alone). So, what makes fifth wheels different than gooseneck trailers? Are there advantages to pulling a fifth-wheel camper over a gooseneck? Let’s explore this issue so you can have all the information you need to make the best decision for your family while you build memories with your RV.

Table of Contents


The Advantages Fifth-Wheels For Recreational Towing

Fifth-wheel trailers and gooseneck attach to the truck bed, but a fifth-wheel connection is considered more stable for recreational towing. (Gooseneck towing is considered the better choice for agricultural applications).

Fifth Wheels Provide A Better Towing Experience for an RV

Fifth-wheel hitches provide a less noisy and smoother towing experience due to the strong connection between the kingpin and the pickup truck. Most RV owners feel that fifth-wheel campers are easier to tow because the weight of the kingpin box is centered over the towing vehicle’s rear axle. (About 25% of the trailer’s total weight is in the kingpin, which means that it is sitting over your truck’s bed/rear axles).

The u-shaped connection of a fifth-wheel hitch also offers more significant movement to counter crosswind forces that might be placed on the trailer. This is essential when towing a taller recreational vehicle (which many fifth-wheel units are). Since the assembly slides back and forth, up and down, the camper can flex more efficiently than a standard coupler and ball mechanism. This allows the trailer to navigate sharper turns and provides stability when traveling over uneven terrain.

Fifth Wheel Hitches Require Fewer Modifications

The problem with gooseneck trailer hitches is that you have to drill a substantial hole in the truck, whereas only a few smaller holes are needed to secure a fifth-wheel hitch. The main hitch assembly for a 5th wheel sits on permanently installed rails that are now part of the cargo area. When installed, fifth-wheel hitches also take up a lot of space in the cargo area.

Gooseneck trailer hitch assemblies are easier to remove, which makes them ideal for livestock or agricultural applications, where a rancher might need their pickup to perform multiple tasks. A recreational owner usually needs his truck to do one thing well - pull a camper from point A to point B, which is why RV trailers tend to be fifth-wheel units.

What Are The Towing Capacity Limits Of Fifth Wheels?

Most fifth-wheel hitches will pull up to 20,000 lbs (although some do more). A gooseneck hitch can tow up to 30,000 lbs. Since most RV units weigh no more than 16 - 18k lbs when fully loaded, there isn’t a need for the additional capacity, as there might be for commercial or farming use. This is why many RV owners choose the system that provides a better ride and safer towing experience.

What Size of Truck Do You Need To Pull A Fifth Wheel?

While the size of the truck you will need depends on the maximum towing and payload capacities and the size of the RV you intend to pull, most fifth-wheel manufacturers prefer a ¾ ton truck at a minimum. (An example of a small fifth wheel camper that a half ton truck could tow are the Escape 5.0 or the Jayco Eagle).

Half Ton Truck Towing And Payload Capacities

Here is a listing of the most popular half-ton and three-quarter-ton trucks and their maximum towing capacities.

Truck Maximum Payload Capacity Towing Capacity
2023 Ford F150 1310 - 2338 lbs 5,000 - 11,300 lbs
2023 Chevy Silverado 1500 1510 - 2290 lbs 8,880 - 9,500 lbs
2023 Ram 1500 1,235 - 2325 lbs 6,120 - 8,320 lbs
2023 Toyota Tundra 1,570 - 1,940 lbs 8,300 - 12,000 lbs
2023 Nissan Titan 1,365 - 1,676 lbs 9,053 - 9,325 lbs
2023 GMC Sierra 1,320 - 2,270 lbs 8,700 - 9,000 lbs

Three Quarter Ton Truck Towing And Payload Capacities

Here is a listing of the most While no owner should tow more than their towing vehicles capacities,

Truck Maximum Payload Capacity Towing Capacity
2023 Ford F250 3,283 - 4,323 lbs 13,000 - 22,000 lbs
2023 Chevy Silverado 2500 3,614 - 3,900 lbs 14,500 lbs
2023 Ram 2500 2,719 - 3,999 lbs 10,520 - 15,530 lbs
2023 Nissan Titan XD 1,865 - 2.406 lbs 9,700 - 10,900 lbs
2023 GMC Sierra 2500 3,614 - 3,900 lbs 14,500 lbs

What Are The Pros And Cons Of Living In A Fifth Wheel?

If you plan to adapt to the RV lifestyle, several factors should be considered.

The Pros

Owning a fifth-wheel camper can provide the freedom to take some of the comforts of home on the road. Families can explore new places while traveling (building priceless memories) by having their fifth-wheel unit parked as a base camp and using their tow vehicle (truck) to explore surrounding tourist attractions.

In addition, families do not have the hassle of making hotel reservations each night (although you may have to make a reservation at a trailer park or KOA). Dinner expenses are cheaper because most fifth-wheel campers have their own kitchen features. While RV parks can be noisy or quiet (depending on your neighbors), they usually provide pleasant places to make new friends and socialize with like-minded people.

The Cons

Living the RV life is not all peaches and cream because there is a lot of travel anxiety that occurs for fifth-wheel trailer owners. Whenever the camper needs to be moved, owners must ensure that all connections are secure (which can be a hassle in inclement weather). Safe drivers constantly monitor the towing experience to ensure that their camper is pulling right behind the truck (you don’t just get into a truck and go).

RV owners will find themselves being hand on during maintenance (some tasks like emptying sewage tanks are daily chores).

While many novice RV owners believe an RV lifestyle will save them money, this is seldom the case. Fuel costs, insurance, maintenance, campground fees, and a loss of income (you cannot work while you drive - even as a freelance writer) must be overcome.  While an RV lifestyle can provide beautiful experiences, costs should be calculated before starting this transition.