Fifth Wheel

An introduction to recreational vehicle types


This is a brief introduction to the Fifth Wheel type of recreational vehicle, intended to provide essential information for choosing the best RV type. (Looking for Fifth Wheel Manufacturers?)

Tip: Not sure if this is the right RV type for you? Please take a look at Getting Started.

Definition

Fifth Wheel

Photo courtesy of Travelaire

The fifth wheel is a towable that connects to the tow truck directly above the rear axle by way of a special fifth wheel hitch. This causes several feet of the connected trailer to hang over the tow truck, placing about 15 to 25% of the trailerís weight on the rear axle of the truck.

Commercial semi trucks and trailers use this hitch configuration.

Other terms used for fifth wheel:

  • 5th wheel
  • Fiver

Sub-Types

The fifth wheel has one sub-type:

Toy Hauler

The term toy hauler is applied to both fifth wheels and travel trailers, and it describes an RV designed to carry toys—small cars, dune buggies, four wheelers, motorcycles, etc.

Distinguishing features of a toy hauler is the large door in the back which opens down to create a ramp, dedicated garage area or fold-away furniture in the main living compartment, and often a third axle to support the heavy toys.

Fifth Wheel Pros

  • Easier and safer to tow than travel trailers, but requires more caution and skill than motor homes.
  • Easier to back up than travel trailers.
  • Spacious, open floor plans suitable for fulltimers.
  • Provides more interior space per length foot than motor homes because it does not contain driving and engine compartments.
  • Most storage space of all trailer type RV's.
  • Tow vehicle doubles as local transportation.

Fifth Wheel Cons

  • Requires a truck with fifth wheel hitch in bed.
  • Large trailers require large, medium duty trucks.
  • Driving and living compartments are separate. Living area inaccessible while moving.
  • Generally cannot tow vehicle behind trailer.
  • Larger models can be difficult to maneuver in tight spaces.
  • On tall models top clearance can be a problem under low branches and structures. Problem compounded if carrying items on roof such as canoes.
  • Most models require large storage area when not in use.

RV Checklists

The following RV checklists on our web site are applicable to fifth wheels:

Other Resources

A list of recommended fifth wheel resources on our web site: