A fifth wheel being towed through the mountains on a smooth, paved road during the day.

Can You Tow a 5th Wheel RV With a Small Truck?

Trucks are expensive. Depending on the make, model, trim, and engine, you can pay $100,000 or more for a new heavy-duty truck.

This isn’t in the budget for many RVers. So people often want to know if they can tow with the less heavy-duty truck they already own. When spending tens of thousands of dollars on a fifth wheel, you don’t want to spend a similar amount on a truck.

Let’s see if it’s possible to tow a fifth wheel with a small truck.

A fifth wheel being towed through the mountains on a smooth, paved road during the day.

What Is a 5th Wheel RV?

There are towable and motorized RVs. Towable RVs include travel trailers, pop-up campers, truck campers, fifth wheels, and toy haulers. Motorized RVs include Class A and Class C motorhomes and Class B vans.

Although they’re towable RVs, fifth wheels are very different from bumper pull trailers. Fifth wheels sit in the truck bed, thus putting much of the weight there instead of all the weight on the rear bumper. This provides a smoother drive with less sway.

Fifth wheels have a front-end cap with a unique kingpin. The kingpin slides into a hitch that bolts to the truck’s frame. The locking mechanism closes, and the camper securely attaches to the truck with this special fifth wheel hitch. This hitch is distinct from the standard two-inch ball hitch.

How Heavy Is a 5th Wheel?

Because of the unique design of fifth wheels, they’re much taller than travel trailers. This is a plus when RVing because taller people have ample headroom and don’t feel cramped inside. It can also help a fifth wheel feel like a home with higher ceilings.

However, owners have to pay attention to clearances when traveling under bridges. They might have to alter their routes to get through a city with low bridges. Low-hanging branches are also concerning when towing a fifth wheel.

The size of a fifth wheel is generally broader and lengthier than a travel trailer. Because of the size, fifth wheels can weigh much more than a travel trailer. A portion of this weight sits in the truck bed, so you’ll want to know the payload and towing capacity of your truck before purchasing a fifth wheel. 

A silver dually truck hitched up to a fifth wheel with it's slides out while boondocking with a mountain view.

When you look at these RVs, note the GVWR, which is the maximum weight. This should never exceed your towing capacity.

Also, check the hitch weight. The hitch weight is the force you put in the truck bed once you attach the fifth wheel. This should never exceed your payload capacity.

Fifth wheels range in length and weight. For example, the Flagstaff Super Lite 524BBS is 28 feet by 11 inches with a GVWR of under 10,000 pounds and a hitch weight of around 1,200 pounds. The Riverstone 39RKFB is 42 feet by 7 inches with a GVWR of 19,000 pounds and a hitch weight of approximately 3,000 pounds. The GVWR and hitch weight determine the truck you need to travel safely.

Do you really need a dually to town a fifth wheel?

What Is the Smallest 5th Wheel RV?

Fifth wheels are usually 35 to 42 feet long and have a GVWR of 12,000 to 16,000 pounds. You can find options shorter and lengthier or lighter and heavier.

The Escape 5.0 is a fiberglass built RV that is compact and light weight.

The Escape 5.0 is one of the tiniest fifth wheel RVs at just over 21 feet. The interior height is from 6 feet, four inches to 7 inches, while the exterior height is 10 feet to the top of the antenna. The hitch weight is 646 pounds, while the GVWR is 5,500 pounds.

Can I Pull a Fifth Wheel Camper With a Short Bed Truck? 

You don’t need a regular or long bed truck to tow a fifth wheel, but it makes your towing experience easier. To tow with a short bed truck, you’ll need a slider hitch. This is still the special fifth wheel hitch you bolt into the truck bed, but it moves from front to back to give you room to make tight turns.

Learn the difference between a standard fifth wheel hitch and a sliding fifth wheel hitch.

The problem with towing with a short bed truck is when you make sharp turns, the front of the fifth wheel can hit the rear window and shatter it. A slider hitch prevents this by sliding the fifth wheel down in the truck bed to provide more space between the front cap and the truck window.

Can You Pull a 5th Wheel With a Half-Ton Truck? 

Although several brands have a “half-ton series,” it’s unlikely you’ll find many options that have a hitch weight under the payload capacity of a half-ton truck. You can tow the Escape 5.0 with a half-ton truck, but most fifth wheels are not that small or lightweight.

Grand Design has the Reflection 150 Series, but all units have a hitch weight of over 1,200 pounds. Two units have hitch weights over 1,400 pounds. Once you load the front cap with cargo, you may put anywhere from 1,600 to 1,800 pounds or more on the bed of your truck. 

A close up of the front of a modern blue pick up truck.

You must add cargo to the truck, including passengers, fuel, and fluids, for your total cargo weight. A Ford F-150 Lariat SuperCab with an 8-foot truck bed and the 3.5L EcoBoost® V6 engine will have a payload capacity of 2,200 to 2,300 pounds. You’ll max out the payload capacity or exceed it. The half-ton truck may have an 11,000-pound towing capacity, but that’s only part of the equation.

While Grand Design is a popular choice for RVers, is it a trusted brand?

Do I Need to Remove My Tailgate to Pull a Fifth Wheel? 

Once you secure the kingpin in the fifth wheel hitch in the bed of your truck, you’ll notice a few inches of clearance between the RV and the truck bed rails. You don’t need to remove your tailgate or modify your truck bed. With a short bed truck, you’ll want to consider a sliding hitch, but you’ll need no modifications to install it.

What Truck Do You Need to Tow a 5th Wheel RV?

Can you tow a fifth wheel with a half-ton truck? Yes, but not many half-ton trucks are up to the task. You’re better off purchasing a heavier-duty truck because it will give you more options for fifth wheels.

The 0.75-ton and one-ton trucks will also tow easier. The manufacturers build them for this purpose. You can put much pressure on a half-ton truck when you pull the fifth wheel, even if it’s within the truck limits. Heavy-duty trucks have sturdier suspension systems, engines, brake systems, and other parts that boost their performance.

If you have a fifth wheel, do you tow with a half-ton truck?

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