How To Choose Best Truck For Towing A Fifth Wheel (Helpful Guide)

How To Choose Best Truck For Towing A Fifth Wheel (Helpful Guide)

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Are you planning to buy a fifth wheel and wondering what to considering before buying a truck to tow a fifth wheel? Continue reading to find out all that you need to consider and also the 9 best trucks that can tow most fifth wheels with ease.

To have luxury of a fifth wheel you need to have a truck with power to tow it behind. Not every vehicle is up to the task of towing a 5th wheel trailer behind it. Knowing what to look for helps you find the right truck and avoid those risks that can ruin any vacation.

To find out how to select the right truck as well as see some suggestions, just continue to read this article.

So, what to look for in a truck that has to tow thousand of lbs?

The road is filled with big rigs and 5th wheel trailers. The drivers of those vehicles make pulling a trailer look easy.

Part of making it look easy is that those drivers knew what kind of truck they needed to haul their trailers. Here are some tips to guide you in finding the right truck for your 5th wheel rig.

Bed size

Bed size is critical in choosing the truck that would pull your fifth wheel or even have a pop up truck camper go on it.

That is because the length of your truck bed plays a very important role in 5th wheel hauling. Ideally, you want the hitch to sit in front of the truck’s rear axle.

Short, Mid Size and Long Bed

Normally, you will find 3 different pick up bed sizes in the market. These sizes are long bed, short bed and a standard size or mid size truck.

A long truck bed normally is around 5 feet 8 inches, standard bed size is around 6’5″ and long can be as long as 8 feet.

These lengths vary for different manufacturers but mostly remain in this range.

Trucks with shorter beds sometimes need a special hitch to give you the turning clearance you need to come around corners safely. The trucks with an 8 foot bed may not have a large cab but it is the best size for towing 5th wheel trailers.

Anything under 8 feet and you are going to have trouble as your turning clearance is reduced, you lose traction and so on.

Cab or Seating Capacity

When you are towing a fifth wheel using a truck note that you may not be allowed to travel inside the fifth wheel. This is by law in most states and therefore the seating capacity inside the truck could be a major thing for you.

Fifth wheels unlike travel trailer can however be sued for traveling in some states but its something that is nor same through in the US so be sure to check the laws before trying this.

Read : What to Know Before Buying Fifth wheel

Okay, whats the seating capacity for a standard truck? Lets check out.

There are 4 types you would see in cab types. This will have an impact on the bed size so be sure on checking both the cab capacity and bed size.

Standard Cab

This is a 3 people occupancy with just 2 doors. A single row seat will allow for 3 people seating. There wont be any storage behind the seats so its a very compact front cab.

Extended Cab

With this type you get four doors that means seating capacity of equal number behind the first row or you can have cargo instead. The backside seating is very compact and its for more seating with some sacrifice on the overall comfort and bed size.

Double cab

This is similar to a double cab type with four doors and similar seating capacity. The difference here is mainly with the space that is given. All the doors here are conventional unlike the double cab type. The interior space and leg room is better and this makes the truck length little longer.

Crew Cab

This is the length giving a much better leg room for the behind seats. Truck is also given the bed size that is long enough as well.

Cab is an important thing to look at in the truck selection as you may not be allowed to have traveling side the fifth wheel.

Fuel type

It is tempting to go with a gas powered truck as those pumps are easier to find, the gas costs less and other advantages that come with that fuel. Gas vehicles also cost less on the sticker price.

But, gas engines do not compare to the power you get from a good diesel motor. That is just one advantage the diesel engine has over the gas version. You get greater torque and higher towing capacity from a diesel engine which allows you to tow more weight.

Plus, diesel engines last longer than the gas ones do.

The maintenance with diesel may also be better as the built is much more better so you may not need much maintenance. However do not postpone the maintenance if the need arise.

Another great factor to ponder upon is the length of travel you will do with the fifth wheel. Most people who prefer fifth wheel go on longer travels. And if that is the case with you then do consider diesel engine truck as its performance will be much better for long duration travels.

If you plan to go on trips that will be short then gas can be a good option. Diesel burning is much more economically and therefore you can save a lot if full timing with the fifth wheel.

Payload capacity

The best truck to use to pull a 5th wheel is the 1 ton. It usually can tow the higher weights, allowing you to bring more stuff or use a bigger and heavier trailer.

It is possible to get away with using a 3/4 and 1/2 ton pick up, but you need to make sure the trailer meets the payload capacity of the truck. That capacity is found in your owner’s manual.

To find the payload capacity you subtract the curb weight (truck when empty) from the gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) and the result is the amount you can tow.

Lets summarize of what capacity truck is needed for towing a fifth wheel.

1 ton trucks are best suited for towing most fifth wheels but even a 3/4 ton or half ton trucks can do the job as long as your fifth wheel weighs within the trucks towing limit.

Most 1 ton trucks are rated to tow fifth wheel weighing up to 30,000 lbs. This is almost double as compared to half ton truck than can tow up to 12,500 lbs fifth wheel. 3/4 ton trucks on the other hand stay somewhere in the middle, on an average they are rated to tow fifth wheels weighing up to 18,200 lbs.

Here are some best 1 ton, 3/4 and 1/2 ton trucks and their fifth wheel towing limit.

1 Ton TruckCan Tow Fifth wheel WeighingPros
Ram 350030,000 lbsHigh Rated for towing
GMC Sierra23,300 lbsGood Resale Value
Ford F-350 Super Duty27,500 lbsHigh Torque and Horse power
Chevy Silverado 350023,300 lbsHigh Resale Value
3/4 Ton TruckCan Tow Fifth wheel WeighingPros
GMC Sierra 250018,100 lbsHigh Towing Capacity.
High Horse Power
Chevrolet Silverado 250018,100 lbsHigh Towing capacity.
High Torque.
High Horse Power
High Resale Value
Ram 250017,290 lbsGood Towing Capacity
Ford F-250 SuperDuty18,000 lbsHigh Towing Capacity.
High Torque
Nissan Titan XD12,700 lbs
1/2 Ton TruckCan Tow Fifth wheel WeighingPros
Ram 15012,100High Towing Capacity.
Best Rated Safety.
Chevrolet Silverado 150011,600 lbsHigh Rated Safety.
High Torque
Ford-15012,100 lbsHigh Towing Capacity.
High Torque
GMC Sierra 150011,600 lbsBest Resale Value.
High Rated Safety.
Toyota Tundra10,200 lbsHigh Resale Value
Nissan Titan9,740 lbsGood MPG

Note : Fifth wheel towing with these 1 ton, 3/4 ton and half ton trucks is much depended on the type, quality of equipment you use for towing. Check with truck, fifth wheel manuals before going ahead with towing. Take suggestion from the RV/truck technician professional as well to find out best equipment and calculate the actual capacity.

Towing limit

This is an important figure to strictly pay attention to. Again the specs section of your owner’s manual should have this figure. Once you find it memorize it and do not go beyond that limit.

An overloaded truck will make the engine, brakes and transmission work too hard and create problems for you. The least of those problems is just an overheated engine.

Fifth wheels do weigh a lot and not every truck will be capable of towing them. Truck towing limit is to be taken very seriously.

Most Mid size trucks can tow anything between 5000 lbs to 8000 lbs. Most short bed trucks like Honda Ridgeline, Toyota Tacoma, Chevrolet Colorado, Ford Ranger, GMC Canyon, jeep gladiator have towing weight capacity in this range.

Fifth wheel on an average weigh much more and therefore your options with these trucks are limited.

Most large pickup trucks can tow in the range from 85000 lbs to 11,000 lbs. Each truck is made differently and therefore the weight limit varies accordingly. Some of the best know and popular trucks like ford F150, GMC Sierra, Toyota Tundra, Nissan Titan, RAM 1500, Chevrolet Silverado have tow limit in this range.

Rear wheels

Next there is this question about whether the truck should have dual or single wheels on the rear axle. If you are just doing driving, then a single wheel rear axle is best. If you are towing a 5th wheel, then dual wheels are best.

Do you need a dually truck to pull a fifth wheel? NO, its not mandatory to have a dually truck but having one wont be bad. Having six wheel also means low fuel efficiency, overall maintenance cots is high and replacing a an extra tore is a obviously an extra cost.

Also, if the truck is not only needed for towing a fifth wheel then its an extra cost unnecessarily. This is in fact a good point, think carefully if the truck is needed for only pulling fifth wheel or for other purpose as well.

A big fifth wheel with high sleeping capacity may demand dually truck but otherwise you should be okay to go without it. Single rear wheel trucks not only provide good visibility but also are easier to drive and also parking is much easier with them.

If you want very good stability while towing then dually truck is a much better option to go with. A large fifth wheel with options like toy hauler can be tough to handle while toying and a dually truck will be in much better position to handle it.

Tire blowout is another reason to have a six wheel drive as you have an immediate option to continue with the other tires. This is a advantage when you go on long distance travel wherein tire blow is a possibility. DO not the dually truck will obviously a high upfront cost option.

Hitch type

This you may have to install yourself or have someone do it for you. For 8 foot truck beds you will want to go with a fixed hitch. This provides you with the maximum cab and trailer clearance.

For shorter than 8 foot truck beds, you should go with a sliding hitch. These hitches make it easier and safer to do turns. But this topic deserves its own article as there is a lot involved with selecting the right hitch.

What size truck for what size fifth wheel?

So, are you among those who neither own a fifth wheel nor a truck? And, now planning to own both? Then you probably have the above question!

Well, first you would want to finalize on the fifth wheel. You can buy truck first and then choose a fifth wheel. At least i wont do that unless i had the liking for a specific truck manufacturer and model.

Read : Travel Trailer or 5th Wheel?

Its fair enough if you owned a truck already. In that case, you will probably have this question. Can my truck tow a fifth wheel?

If you are starting out fresh then choose a fifth wheel based on sleeping capacity, key features, floor plan, amenities like kitchen dinette, sofa, bed, appliances, storage, bedrooms, flooring, roof. Do not worry about the weight as of now. Once you know what you want you can always find a truck to the do the job.

A fifth wheel that weighs above 25,000 lbs can be towed by a 1 ton truck. Those weighing between 12,000 lbs to 23, 000 lbs can be towed by a 3/4 ton truck and finally small fifth wheels weighing less than 12,000 lbs can be pulled by half ton truck.

Hopefully all your queries related to factors to consider while choosing a truck are solved. Lets now check out the best trucks that do the job.

Top 9 trucks for towing 5th wheel trailers

Now that you have gone through all the important things to consider while choosing a truck to pull a fifth wheel lets check on best truck out there that you can buy. Most of these trucks are already popular for towing and you don’t have to worry while picking any of this.

But, be sure on the weight of the fifth wheel and the truck’s capacity to tow. The last thing you want is a fifth wheel that weighs more than the truck can actually pull. Choosing right equipment list also critical as otherwise the ride wont be smooth. Since the towing equipment costs significantly too be sure on what you pick.

Now, lets see some of the best trucks to tow a 5th wheel.

1. Ford F-350 Super Duty

When you want power, this top Ford truck brings it in style. It comes with a 6.2L SOHC 2-valve Flex Fuel V8 engine and a 10 speed automatic transmission. You should be able to traverse those mountain ranges without breaking into a sweat.

Then its 18 inch wheels accept LT275/65Rx18E BSW A/S tires providing you with maximum traction even when the road is a bit wet. And for safety you have seat belts, child tethers and airbags deployed in key locations.

On the low end of the scale, you can get a 29 gallon fuel tank that helps power the engine to 385 horses and 430 pounds of torque at 3,800 rpm. The power is there to get you and your 5th wheel to your destinations. Of course, this truck has options so you can go bigger if you need to.

The best piece of information is that it can tow a 5th wheel weighing up to 27,500 lbs when equipped with best towing equipment.

The good news is you are not sacrificing any comfort to get this power. This truck comes with air conditioning, cruise control, lane alert, map lights, rear view camera, audio controls and a lot more.

The seats may be made of cloth but you get a minimum of 5 speakers to the standard stereo package. Just about everything in this rig is power so all you have to do is sit back and enjoy the ride. You do not even have to turn the high beams on as those are automatic.

2. Chevrolet Silverado 3500

In just looking at the maximums you should be able to tell that this truck option is perfect for towing 5th wheel trailers. Its maximum torque reaches just over 900 pounds and has a maximum of 83.5 cubic feet of storage space.

This truck can tow a fifth wheel of upto 23,300 lbs. Its payload capacity reaches to just under 7,500 pounds.

If that doesn’t whet your appetite to test drive this rig, then maybe the following information will help you make that decision. The fuel injected gas V8 engine produces about 400 horses while giving you an almost 50 foot turning radius.

The stopping power should be second to none as the truck is equipped with 4 wheel disc brakes and all of this rides on 17” tires. Of course, there are options and upgrades to all of this information but those will influence your cost.

On top of that you get LED lights in the cargo bed, the headlights as well as the fog lamps. Inside is a 3 1/2” driver information center as well as a 2 speaker stereo system, wifi connection for hotspots and Bluetooth capability.

In addition, there is a heated steering wheel, driver memory system, cruise control and so much more. The complete package you get will depend on the options you select. That means you can customize this rig to fit you and your family’s needs.

3. GMC Sierra 3500

Unlike GMC canyon this one is capable of towing much more. This 1 ton truck can a tow a fifth wheel of upto 23,300 lbs. Curb weight is between 5059 lbs to 5817 lbs.

The V8 engine on this truck is much stronger and therefore has high towing capacity. The acceleration is much better providing better towing capacity. Its definitely much more tougher than an average similar truck from other manufacturer. The muscular power of this truck is an added advantage for pulling a fifth wheel.

Apart from power, its also a good looking one with headlamps that are sculpted, diesel trims with vented hood, 20 inch wheels. It is also better equipped with technology to make towing is easy.

the camera has 15 views which makes it easy to judge while towing and driving. The proGrade trailering system from GMC gives added information like trailer tires pressure, how to position trailer hitch.

Seating capacity and leg room is really good with this truck. There is extra leg room at both front and rear seats. The leather seats increase the worth giving a luxury look for this truck. There are several other high tech features that makes it much controllable and keeps you connected with the web as well.

4. Ram 3500

This is a 1 ton truck quite capable of pulling a fifth wheel or travel trailer. It can pull a fifth wheel weighing upto 30,000 lbs. Not all 5th wheel trailers are large or heavy that is why you need this truck to handle the towing duty. It is made for those smaller 5th wheel trailers that are made for just the two of you.

The truck can handle trailers up to almost 30,000 pounds, and has a payload capacity of a little bit over 4,600 pounds.

That is handled by the powerful V8 6.4 liter engine that kicks up approx. 400 horses An 8 speed automatic transmission lets you keep your concentration on the road.

Also, it has rear wheel drive helping you power out of those slick areas after a good night’s rain. The halogen headlights make sure you can see where you are going when the sun has disappeared for the night or has not gotten up yet.

Inside you will be feeling like you are driving a truck as the creature comforts are kept to a minimum on the basic package. You will have air conditioning, 4 way seat controls, cruise control and other standard features found on modern vehicles.

Then for safety, this rig is well equipped with seat belts and multiple air bags so everyone inside should be nice and safe. The ABS braking system should be able to keep you and your trailer from sliding off the road when you have to stop quickly.

All in all it is one of the better trucks to use when towing a 5th wheel trailer. The only drawback is the short bed.

5. Toyota Tundra

Next one on this list is tundra by Toyota. This pick up truck is capable of towing between 8800 lbs to 10,200 lbs. With a fuel capacity tank of 26-38 gallons and a mpg of 13-18 miles it a good option for your fifth wheel.

The price for the base model starts at around $33,500.

It is power with a V8 engine that supports for a stable towing behind its bed when equipped with good towing equipment. The standard towing features are good enough for pulling your light weight fifth wheel. The towing package consists of heavy duty battery, engine oil cooling, haul mode, and brake controller.

If you are looking for a spacious backseat in the cab then tundra is definitely a good option. The price is also good at the features you get. The powerful V8 engine also supports the towing capacity pretty well.

There is long list of standard features that you get with this pickup. The safety features are also impressive, a radar with a camera works to identify vehicles in its path. It is also keeping up with all the latest technology. The remote connect from phone allows for multiple actions like lock, unlock,stopping/starting the engine.

Some models are also equipped with destination assists that help in finding restaurant, hotel. Its a great application that will be useful for those who travel a lot. You don’t have to have separate app for your fifth wheel to find some great destinations and places.

Some things that aren’t great include the miles per gallon, its low to about 13-18 gallons. The firm suspension makes the ride a little stiff and you may realize this when the roads aren’t that great.

With fifth wheel pulled behind it the experience may not be great. This however will also depend on the equipment you use to connect the fifth wheel at the bed. Overall the truck is great and makes a great case for itself for towing a standard sized fifth wheel.

6. Nissan Titan XD

This truck has a towing capacity between 9210 lbs to 11,000 lbs. This will depend on the model you choose. A Titan King cab is capable of towing 9370 lbs where as TITAN XD Crew cab can tow 11,000 lbs. The payload capacity varies from 1680 to 2240 lbs.

Titan XD is 5.6-liter Direct Injection Gasoline powered that produces a 400 horsepower and 413 lb-ft of torque. It is gas driven truck with 4 by 4 drivetrain. It has a 9 speed automatic transmission

This truck is equipped with technology ad features that makes the towing easy and stress free. It has intelligent around view monitor that provide 2 views and guide lines that make the fifth towing a easier task.

It is also provided the capacity of integrated brake controller and remote trailer light check. Trailer sway control and tow haul mode are additional feature that lets yo tow with much better control and power.

Titan XD truck prices are beyond $44,000.A normal Titan is cheaper and starts at around $36,000 but the towing capacity is reduced.

7. Ford F-150

The 2020 ford F-150 top end truck is capable of towing 13,200 lbs. Other models are rated to tow similar pounds. On an average you can tow between 8000-13000 lbs with ford f-150. This one of the USA’s most popular puck up truck. This one of the best half ton truck you can own.

You can expect the mpg to be around 21 without any towed RV but with fifth wheel the MPG would obviously come down to 10-20%. There are multiple F-150 models that you can choose.

Their specs vary and also the prices vary in accordance to that. With ford you get regular, super and super crew cabs, the seating capacity varies accordingly. A regular cab has 3 where as supercab and supercrew has 5 or 6 seating capacity.

There is F-150 Raptor that is priced around $53,000 then there is ford F-150 XL at the base model which starts at around $28,000. Based on which one you choose the towing capacity will also vary.

Here are all the models for F-150:

  • XL
  • XLT
  • LARIAT
  • King Ranch
  • Platinum
  • Limited
  • Raptor

8. GMC Canyon

This pickup truck is capable of towing between 3500 lbs to 7000 lbs. A extended cab truck starts at 22,000 where as the crew cab is priced at $27,000. The standard 2.5 L l4 gas produces 200 horsepower and 191 lb-ft torque.

This is a small bed truck and you have 4 different options to choose from. Below are the models.

  • Denali
  • AT4
  • Elevation
  • Elevation Standard

There are some things that make this truck a good buy provided your fifth wheel falls inside the towing limit. Its base model is low cost among all the options out there. The mpg is fairly good, the V6 engine can give you a 24-26 miles without any towed RV. A fifth wheel behind the bed would reduce the mileage.

It gives a comfortable ride, seats are provide cushioning. There are some cons that you need to pay attention to. The base model of this truck isn’t great for towing, the safety features aren’t great in comparison to other models out there.

The seating capacity is okay with four doors but the overall space isn’t great. If you need better leg room then this isn’t the best option out there. A long legged person wouldn’t find this comforting. Again since we are mainly focused on finding best truck for towing a fifth wheel you are limited with its capacity.

9. Honda Ridgeline Truck

This mid size truck from Honda is a solid built but is little less capable of towing as compared to our other picks. Its obvious, this is a mid sized truck with bed that isn’t that huge and therefore the towing capacity is limited. It is capable of towing between 3500 lbs to 5000 lbs.

With this much capacity your options with fifth wheels are limited. But, if you own a one of those compact small fifth wheel s then you should be fine. Also, it can very easily tow small travel trailers or pop up campers. Its also a great fit for truck campers.

This truck is equipped with 3.5 litre V-6 Engine that produces a 280 horsepower and 262 lb-ft torque.

The towing weight limit is dependent on the model you choose. Like for example, 2019 Honda Ridgeline RT has towing capacity of only 3500 lbs where as 2019 Honda Ridgeline RTL-E is capable of handling 5000 lbs.

This is a gas driven 6 speed automatic transmission truck that gives all wheel drive. The total seating capacity stands at 5 which is great if you have a family of 4 or more. Since you may not be allowed to travel inside a fifth wheel seating capacity is indeed an important factor to look at.

The standalone miles per gallons of this truck is somewhere around 21 gallons but expect it to reduce to at least below 15%-25% with a fifth wheel behind it. The basic warranty is of 3 years of 36,000 miles which ever comes first this is standard warranty that similar across other manufacturers.

The price is dependent on the model you choose and what accessories you choose from the options. There are several models that you can choose. The prices normally start at approximately around $36,700. There are 7 colors you can choose from.

Choose this truck only if you own a or plan to buy a fifth wheel that weighs below 5000 lbs or the exact towing capacity of the model. Its an amazing truck otherwise.

Best lightweight fifth wheels

Just like other RVs and travel trailers, fifth wheel weights vary a lot. Also, unlike travel trailers or pop up campers, fifth wheels weigh much higher..

You can have those that weigh close to 2500 lbs and even those that weigh beyond 24,000 lbs. But, after analyzing several models, average weight of a fifth wheel is between 10,000 lbs to 16,000 lbs.

Do not own a 1 ton truck and want to know what are your options in lightweight fifth wheels?

Well, here are some of the popular and best less weighing 5th wheels you can own and tow using a 3/4 ton or half ton truck.

  1. Palomino Puma Fifth Wheel
  2. Forest River Rockwood Ultra Lite Fifth Wheel.
  3. KZ Durango 1500 Fifth Wheel.
  4. scamp fifth wheel
  5. Northwood Mountain Fox
  6. Keystone Hideout Fifth Wheel

Another question that newbies have is this, can my car tow a fifth wheel? What about van or a SUV?

Well, fifth wheels are mostly heavier then the towing capacity of most cars or SUV’s. Also, fifth wheels have a front part that should hang over a part of the towing vehicle which is truck’s bed in case of pick up truck.

Technically it is possible to tow fifth wheel using specialized tool with car but its not recommended and not ideal as well.

In Conclusion

Finding a good truck only takes knowing what to look for. There are a lot of good vehicles that can handle a 5th wheel and these are just 9 of them. Be patient as this is a decision you do not want to rush. Make sure to select one that is right for you and your family, so everyone can have a good time.

G. Yoganand

A RV enthusiast who spends countless hours researching and learning various things related to RV camping. He believes in spending time doing Outdoor activities.
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