5th Wheel vs Travel Trailer

By Jordan Fabel •  Updated: February 2, 2022  •  6 min read  •  Recreation
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If you’re considering buying an RV, you might actually be shopping for a 5th Wheel or a Travel Trailer. These are two types of “RVs” that are pulled behind another vehicle. While they do have some similarities, they are also quite different.

Before you decide between a 5th Wheel or a Travel Trailer, you should know what both of these are, exactly. Let’s look at each one, the pros and cons, and the differences between the two.

What is a 5th Wheel?

RVshare.com defines a 5th Wheel as “a large trailer that requires a fifth wheel hitch to tow.” This type of towable trailer is rather heavy and will require a one-ton truck, in most cases, to tow it. The hitch will go into the bed of the truck.

Pros & Cons of a 5th Wheel

Pros

Cons

What is a Travel Trailer?

Merriam-Webster.com defines a travel trailer as “a trailer drawn especially by an automobile and equipped for use (as while traveling) as a dwelling.” It will connect to the tow vehicle at a bumper-style hitch, which is a more common type of hitch found on vehicles.

Pros & Cons of a Travel Trailer

Pros

Cons

5th Wheel vs Travel Trailer: The Key Differences

When comparing a 5th Wheel to a Travel Trailer, there are several key differences to consider. One may fit your situation better than another. Let’s look at a few of the key differences below.

The Hitching System

The most noticeable difference between a 5th Wheel and a Travel Trailer is the hitch system. A 5th Wheel will hitch into the bed of the truck pulling it with a special hitch. This type of hitch will have to be installed on the truck to pull this type of towable trailer.

If you choose a travel trailer, you will be able to use the typical ball hitch system. This allows a travel trailer to be towed by multiple vehicles and not just a truck.

Towing

If you tow a 5th Wheel, and then a Travel Trailer, you will notice the difference. The hitching system on a 5th Wheel makes it a very smooth option for towing. Many 5th Wheel owners have said they don’t even notice they are towing it behind them.

Travel Trailers also perform very well when hooked up to the right type of hitching system. While you can connect them directly to the ball hitch system, it’s best to get a hitching system with sway bars and weight distribution features. This will make for a much smoother towing experience.

Commonly, 5th Wheels will sway less in the wind than Travel Trailers. However, both tow very smoothly, when you use the right type of hitching system for a travel trailer.

5th Wheels also require a full-size truck for towing. Without a truck bed, you cannot tow a 5th Wheel. However, if you choose a travel trailer, you can tow it with an SUV, truck, or even a van.

Weight & Size

A 5th Wheel will be larger than a travel trailer in many ways. While you can find both of these towables in the same length, a 5th Wheel will have higher ceilings and often has more space.

Along with being large in size, 5th Wheels tend to be heavier, too. They can come in such large sizes they might not fit in some camping spots due to the taller ceiling and overhanging trees.

Travel Trailers can also come in long sizes, but they have a shorter roof, in most cases. They will be lighter in weight and often fit into campsites easier. You can also find a small travel trailer pretty easily, while a small 5th Wheel is hard to find.

Cost

Another very noticeable difference between a 5th Wheel and a Travel Trailer is the cost. Travel Trailers are more budget-friendly and offer options for just about any budget. This is especially true when you look at used Travel Trailers.

5th Wheels are more expensive because they are larger and tend to offer more amenities. While they are more expensive, you can still find rather affordable 5th Wheel options on the used market.

Floor Levels

When you choose a 5th Wheel, you will get an extra floor level compared to a Travel Trailer. The way the hitching system is designed means there will be a small set of stairs leading up to this section of the 5th Wheel (usually the master bedroom).

With a Travel Trailer, you get a single-level option. You won’t have any stairs inside the unit or the extra space that is offered with this feature in a 5th Wheel.

There are several differences between 5th Wheels and Travel Trailers. One may fit your needs better than another. It’s best to consider both options, the vehicle you plan to use to tow the unit and the benefits each provides.

Before you decide between a 5th Wheel or a Travel Trailer, also consider what you will use it for. If you plan to live in it and travel full time, you might want the space of a 5th Wheel. However, if you just plan to take a few weekend trips a year, a Travel Trailer might fit better for your needs.

A 5th wheel and a travel trailer are both RVs, however, there are some key differences, especially in how they are towed and how to drive with each one.

Jordan Fabel

Jordan Fabel

Covering different 'paths' that people's lives can take. Creative, foster parent, ticket dismissal, you get the idea. Exploring the requirements, certifications, exams, and obviously, approved courses along each path. I, personally, am the high school dropout son of two teacher parents. So how did I get here? That story is coming soon!