5th Wheel RV Trailers vs Bumper Pull RV Trailers – See Which Is Best

When it comes to RV trailers you have 2 basic choices:

  • The 5th wheel RV trailer which hitches directly over the rear axle of your truck.
  • The RV travel trailer which hitches at the rear bumper of your car, SUV, or truck.

large-5th-wheel-rv-trailers-tow-very-smoothly-by-Peter-Long.jpg Fifth wheel RV trailers generally start in the 20 to 24 foot category, and can be as large as 40 feet long, weighing up to 20,000 pounds.

RV travel trailers can be quite small, such as a Teardrop trailer that is around 8 feet long and weighs less than 1,000 pounds. Travel trailers can also be up to 40 feet long and weigh around 15,000 pounds.

The neverending question is which is the best style to buy?

There is no simple answer, but these tips will help you decide for yourself…

 

5th Wheel RV Trailers

  • Large fifth wheel RVs tow very stable. There’s no sway, no tail wagging, you can actually relax while you’re driving.
  • 5th wheel RVs are multi-level.  You must climb a few stairs up to get to the bathroom and bedroom.
  • Large 5th wheel RVs are the most expensive of the RV trailers, though this is offset by the fact that they are also the most luxurious and well-appointed of the RV trailers. 
  • Storage space is often very large because the area below the bathroom is one large bay.

 

RV Travel Trailers

 

Personal Observation

choosing-rv-trailers-by-Little-island.jpgHaving owned both styles of large RV trailers, and having traveled long distances with both, I find the following to be true:

1.  If your RV lifestyle has you staying in one place (so basically, you’re not towing your RV very far), the single level of the RV travel trailer makes life a little easier.

2.  If you plan on traveling long distances, the better handling characteristics of the 5th wheel RV make it a much better choice.

 

Curtis Carper

I’ve been involved in RVing for over 40 yrs -- including camping, building, repairing, and even selling RVs. I’ve owned, used, and repaired almost every class and style of RV ever made. I do all of my own repair work. My other interests include cooking at home, living with an aging dog, and dealing with diabetic issues. If you can combine a grease monkey with a computer geek, throw in a touch of information nut and organization freak, combined with a little bit of storyteller, you've got a good idea of who I am.

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  • Bev Meadows

    Hi I’m thinking about buying a used pull behind camper. What should I look for that might give me trouble

    • Curtis

      Bev, I could go on for quite awhile on this subject, I’ll hit a few high points.  Towability: make sure the trailer and tow vehicle are properly matched and that you have a proper load equalizer hitch if the trailer has any size to it.  Test all appliances, lights, and mechanical’s before paying any money.  Once it’s out the drive way it’s yours, whether everything works or not.  Look closely for any sign of past leakage and if anything is found just walk away (real quick).

      • staci

        being new to the rv world, what is “any size” to a trailer, and what is the type of hitch you’re talking about?

        • Curtis

          Staci, Not exactly sure which article you’re referring to but I’ll try to read between the lines.  ”any size”  travel trailers come in sizes from about 13′ to +40′.  A trailer of any size, say longer than 13′ and weighing more than 1,000 lbs will probably require an “equalizer hitch” to tow properly and safely. Here’s  an example of one brand of equalizer or weight distributing hitch: http://tiny.cc/i8jum   

          • Preston Keith

            You could also check out Hensley Arrow Hitch. I purchased a 30′ TT from Camping World in Chattanooga TN. They sold me a Weight Distribution Hitch System for $600.00. It was a useless waste of money. Upon embarking down I-75, every time an 18 wheeler blew by the pucker factor went off the scale. The truck and trailer were all over the place. (pullling with 2010 F-150 2W/short bed). Bt the time I arrived home, I had decided I might never pull this thing on the Interstate ever again. Researched the internet high and low to educate myself and stumbled upon the Hensley Arrow Hitch. I purchased a rebuilt unit to “try it out”. Well…three 1200 mile trips to Florida, countless miles driven on the interstate, now and the Arrow Hitch has made all the difference in the world in the handling as well as weight distribution,braking and no more having to get out and loosen something so you can back up! The hitch system isn’t cheap as the “junk” they sell at Camping World. But it sure as heck works! I”ll purchase another one in a heartbeat if I ever need too!

    • http://surveysarereal.blogspot.com/ Flannel734

      bring the camper you intend to buy and have it checked out at a camper dealer.

      • Curtis

        Flannel734, Good call, it might be the best $100 you ever spent.

  • Mhill

    what is easier on your rear axle, the 5th wheel or the bumper pull trailer

    • Curtis

      Mhill, If they are set up properly I don’t think there is much difference as to wear.  A bumper pull trailer needs an equalizer hitch with the spring bars set to distribute the weight.  A more important issue is quality of handling.  In that comparison the 5th wheel wins hands down.  

  • Nursenicki68

    Hi all! I need a mentor! I finally got financed for 10k to buy an RV…woo hoo! But where to begin? For starters I have a 2004 Suzuki XL 7 with about 170k miles on it. I think I am ok to tow a travel trailer but am confused about towing capacity,etc. Does anyone want to help me? Or, can anyone tell me where to start? You can reach me at nursenicki68@gmail:disqus.com. 
    Thanks so much!!
    BTW, I live in PA. 

    • Curtis

      Nursenicki68, The best I could find on the internet indicates 2004 XL7′s can tow up to 3,000 lbs.  That amounts to a good many pop-up trailers, a few small (about 13′) travel trailers, and that’s about it.  Think small and light weight and likely you can find something that will work for you.

  • http://www.facebook.com/sheila.boatrightkelley Sheila Boatright Kelley

    Howdy campers! Im pretty new to this so I need all the help I can get. I have a 2012 Ram Express with a hemi. My sons inlaws have the same truck that I have and they pull a 5th wheel camper. Could I do this safely? My son said it pulls great.

    • Curtis

      Sheila, Most likely. If you have unusually high suspension (lift kit), there may be clearance concerns, and if you have a short box you may need a special hitch to provide turning clearance. Beyond that as long as you stay within the towing limits of the truck you’re golden.

    • Lakotawolf

      This is my 3rd Dodge 1500 with a Hemi, And I have pulled BOTH bumper pull and 5th wheel, The 5th wheel handle 200% better over-all. The Dodge suspension seems to handle better with the weight directly over the rear wheel (whith a slider hitch on short wheel base models). I went the extra $200 for the Electric remote controlled slider hitch,, don’t have to get out and pull the slider release. For short trips I pull a 24 footer, and longer trips I pull a 33 foot, (max capacity with air bag suspension) The Hemi is the only engine out of all the manufactures trucks that can handle a grade really well. Plus I still get 15mpg with either trailer on the back,(KEEPING TRANS OUT OF OVERDRIVE). Bumper pulls over 24 foot gets kinda squirrley in the California mountains.

      • Curtis

        Lakotawolf, Bumper pull trailers over 24′ get kind of squirrelly no matter what truck you use. I towed a 36′er across the country and it was pure work. On the other hand I towed a 38′ 5th wheel across the country and seldom knew it was back there it handled so well.

      • dodgeman

        lakotawolf I’m sorry but you need to research more into vehichle motors a hemi is not the greatest engine out there and it never will be.

  • PM

    So, why does a 5th wheel handle better?

    • Curtis

      PM, A 5th wheel handles better because the hitch weight and pivot point of the trailer are located directly above the rear axle of the truck. A travel trailer places the weight and pivot point a good 3′ to the rear of the axle which not only loads weight way back beyond the bumper disturbing the weight distribution of the truck. An equalizer hitch can help redistribute the weight but it will do nothing to stop the sway that will be induced because the pivot point is way behind the truck rear axle. Especially with larger trailers it is a both hands on the wheel and all attention to what you’re doing when towing. Even then, winds can throw you out of control no matter how good you are. In today’s world with trailers being bigger but lighter this danger is even more pronounced. A 5th wheel trailer eliminates sway, it’s practically impossible with the hitch point over the axel. Plus it places the hitch weight in exactly the best spot as the box of the truck is where the manufacturer designs the weight to be.

  • hamed qabazard

    curtis how are you , my name is qabazard, m hamed from Kuwait i starts buying pulling rvs from us and Dubai since 2 years . finally i decided to make them in my country Kuwait , i have the land to build them and i started construction . any thing you like to tell me , you must welcome to come to Kuwait .

    • Curtis

      hamed qabazard, Good luck with your venture, it’s great to hear that RV’s have made it to your country too. Thanks for the invite!

  • scott brown

    Thanks for the insightful help! I’m still learning about rv’s but mostly because my parents are older and I would like for them to still enjoy the outdoors