Fifth Wheel RV Information Pages
The next most popular type of RV is the 5th Wheel RV.
The most distinguishing characteristic of the 5th wheel is its unique hitch which is a tiny wheel, hence the term “5th wheel”.
Because it requires a special hitch, which is mounted in the bed of a pickup truck the 5th wheel does eat up some of your truck bed space. In return for this, the 5th wheels can be heavier and they tow substantially better and safer than a travel trailer.
The towing safety is mostly due to the fact that the weight of the trailer is on all 4 wheels of the tow vehicle. Another contributing factor to the safety is the “driven line of the RVs wheels and how that line interacts with the tow vehicle.” This is of course a physics problem and youtube has some neat videos on this.
Because it is more easily identified by its distinctive shape which is meant to allow the hitch to connect to a receptacle IN THE BED of a pickup truck (or larger) you might use terms like gooseneck trailer to describe the shape. However, a gooseneck hitch is different and these are not interchangeable without an adapter.
Believe it or not, the newer RV's (since approximately 2005 or so) allow you to completely STAND up in the section that goes over the truck bed. To me, this looks like the most livable and PRACTICAL RV for full time living or even traveling across the country.
The NEAT thing is you can just disconnect your tow vehicle and use it to get around town, which is not true about a motorhome.
Why are 5th Wheel RVs safer and easier to tow?
The idea behind the fifth wheel is that because it attaches in the bed of the truck it distributes weight to all the wheels of the truck and that allows a little more weight to be placed on the hitch area for the RV designers.
Conversely, the travel trailer has to be very careful with weight because it actually takes weight from the front wheels of the truck and distributes more weight onto the back wheels.
Because of the fifth wheels better weight distribution, the ride and control of the combined tow vehicle and trailer is noticeably improved. I can attest as I've owned both a 29 foot travel trailer and a 40 foot fifth wheel and the 40 foot fifth wheel towed like a dream.
Another reason for a better ride is that when the tow vehicle turns, the trailer will also immediately turn in the same direction because the center of the hitch moves slightly into the direction of the turn.
Not so with a travel trailer – as the turn starts, the hitch ever so slightly moves in the opposite direction of the turn. While not enough for anyone to be concerned, this actually isn't a good concept overall and I think a major contributor to the fifth wheels better towing dynamics.
The fifth wheels do not seem prone to the fishtailing that comes with travel trailers. That is a big plus and big safety adder. If you look at travel trailers much you'll see many towing stabilizers sold – and they are a good idea! They are also called sway bars.
Are 5th wheel RVs easy to hitch to your truck?
I like hooking up a fifth wheel much better than a travel trailer because I can see the hitch. For a one person show, I would think that alone would be a real incentive to lean towards a fifth wheel. Its very pleasant to connect, you get the height correct, then you back up, then drop the RV right onto the hitch ( when I say drop, I don't mean do it violently – I mean lower ). I have some how to about fifth wheel hitches here.
Is the 5th wheel and gooseneck the same thing?
No they are not the same.
You may have heard the term gooseneck. It is a hitch SIMILAR to the fifth wheel, but different. Different enough that you can't apply the term gooseneck to an RV and not be talking apples and oranges.
The biggest difference is that the gooseneck hitch connects to a ball mounted directly into the bed of a truck.
The fifth wheel had a special wheel-like hitch that connects to a PLATFORM in the bed of the truck. The platform would have the hitch point about 2-3 feet ( I've never measured ) above the bed of the truck. Most of the advantages convey – EXCEPT one disadvantage – the fifth wheel hitch can really take up lots of space in your truck. If you need your truck bed, then you'll have to deal with removing the fifth wheel hitch.
You can get conversion adapters to go between 5th wheels and goosenecks.