Choosing a Truck to Pull a Fifth Wheel
What Truck do I need to Pull a Fifth Wheel
This is one of the most common questions we hear from readers.
Selecting a truck to pull a Fifth Wheel RV can seem
like a daunting task. If you have searched various internet
pages then you would have already run into the various
terms and calculations that seem to make finding a truck
On this page we have simplified all of the terms and
important information in an easy to read format. Subscribers have
access to custom tools to help make researching and finding a truck easier. Our
Fifth Wheel Owner Data Tool shows 5th wheels, weights, mpg, and which trucks are
being used to pull rigs by 5th wheel owners. Our Truck Selector Tool shows
preselected trucks that can pull most 29 to 40 foot Fifth Wheels, and our
Tow Calculator shows if a truck is over weight when hitched.
Below are the main questions to be asked when looking for a 5th wheel tow
vehicle. Things like long bed vs short bed, 4x4 versus 2
Wheel drive, gas or diesel engine, tires and axle ratio are all covered
below as well as Gross Axle Weight Rating.
Long Bed versus Short Bed Truck | Diesel versus Gas Engine
In almost every case you will want to tow a Fifth Wheel RV with a long bed truck.
Short bed trucks will require a special hitch for the Fifth Wheel due to the decreased
turning radius over the bed, which can cause the front of the Fifth Wheel to hit the trucks cab.
You are probably going to want to install a truck box
in the bed of the truck for extra storage. With a long
bed truck this will not be a problem. If you are buying a truck for a Fifth Wheel a
long bed is the best investment.
Diesel engines can pull larger 5th wheels than gas trucks. Diesel trucks also tend to get
better mileage and last longer than gas trucks when pulling an RV. The main feature
of having a diesel engine is the low down torque that a diesel engine provides,
which makes towing a large Fifth Wheel easier.Our Fifth Wheel Owner Data tool
shows that the majority of 5th wheel owners use diesel trucks to pull their
What is the Best Truck To Pull a Fifth Wheel RV
We are asked this question many times. For
many people it is a matter of choice as to the brand
of truck they prefer and the many options that the trucks
are fitted with. Todays trucks are more efficient than ever before and all provide
basically the same features.
Our Fifth Wheel Owner Data tool shows that in 2019 the best
truck to pull a Fifth Wheel are Ford trucks. Ford has the best mid-range selection
of trucks that have high towing capacities and high payload. There are other
brand trucks that have high towing capacities but the payload of the truck
cannot handle most Fifth Wheel hitch pin weights, and still provide adequate
payoad for passengers and cargo without exceding the maximum payload of the
You will notice when researching trucks that as the cab size increases,
the payload and towing capacity decreases. Ford offers crew and super cab trucks
that still maintain high payload and towing capacity. Looking at our Fifth Wheel
Owner Data tool we see that few 5th wheel owners use dual rear wheel trucks to
pull their rigs.
Unless you are hauling a rig with a weight over 20,000 lbs a
dual rear wheel truck is probably not needed. 4x4 trucks have slightly lower tow
and payload capacities, a 4x4 is not necessary when pulling a 5th wheel unless
you need the 4x4 capabilites when the truck is unhitched.
Gear ratio is an
important factor when selecting a truck. You will see that certain gear ratios
boost the towing capacity considerably while other gear ratios reduce the towing
capacity by a thousand pounds or more. The higher the gear ratio the more towing
capacity. Gear ratio refers to the trucks rear axle and
a 3.55:1 ratio means the drive shaft turns 3.55 times for each turn of the
What Size Truck do I need to pull a Fifth Wheel
To select a correctly sized truck to pull your Fifth Wheel, you
need to know four critical weights.
For the Fifth Wheel you need to know:
- What is the maximum loaded weight (GVWR) of the Fifth Wheel you want to tow -
this weight is in the specs for the 5th wheel
- What is the pin weight or hitch weight of the Fifth Wheel you want to tow - also
in the specs for the 5th wheel.
For the truck you need to know:
- What is the maximum Fifth Wheel towing capacity for the truck - found in the
specs for the truck
- What is the maximum payload capacity of the truck - also in the truck specs.
If you exceed the towing capacity of the truck you will put excess strain on the engine, the
transmission and the brakes.
The truck will not perform well pulling the Fifth Wheel and steep
inclines could overheat the engine. Driving an overloaded truck is stressful and
if an accident were to occur, insurance could be affected by the fact the truck was overloaded.
Most people look at the towing capacity of the truck as the critical weight, but
the payload of the truck is more important.The truck has to have a payload
capacity that can adequately handle the 5th wheel hitch pin weight plus
passengers and cargo in the truck.The truck payload is the maximum weight that
the truck can safely carry on its axles. The towing capacity is the maximum
weight the truck can pull.
An overloaded truck is stressful to drive. It perfoms badly on inclines and is
slow to accelerate into traffic when merging from a interstate on ramp. As a
driver you find yourself speeding up as much as possible down a hill so that you
can make it up the other side without losing all your speed.
Are Tongue Weight, Hitch Weight and Pin Weight The Same Thing For a Fifth Wheel Trailer
Tongue Weight, Hitch Weight and Pin Weight all refer to the same thing, which
is the amount of Fifth Wheel weight that will be pushing down on the axle of the truck.
It is an important weight to know, as it affects the trucks payload capacity.
The maximum payload of the truck, which will be in the truck specs, includes the driver
and any passengers, any cargo loaded into the truck and the Fifth Wheel pin weight.
It is important to choose a truck that has a payload capacity for the total
weight that will be loaded onto the truck.
Maximum Payload For The Truck
The way we know how much weight the truck can be loaded with is to check the Maximum
Payload capacity for that truck. Below is the specifications as shown in a dealer
sheet for a truck. You should be able to find the Max Payload on the dealers specs
for the truck.
If you cannot find the Max. Payload spec. It can be calculated like this:
How to Calculate Truck Payload Capacity
Take the Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) and subtract the Curb Weight of the truck.
The Curb Weight is the weight of the truck without cargo or passengers. Both of
these weights should always be in the specifications for the truck.
For example, if we have a GVWR of 9900 lbs and a curb weight of 6469 lbs then: 9900
minus 6469 will give us a max payload of 3431 lbs.
Next we have to take into consideration the weight of passengers in the truck and any
other cargo loaded into the truck and deduct that weight from the max payload.
After we have a loaded truck (passengers and cargo plus the weight of the fifth wheel
hitch / pin weight) our loaded truck weight should not exceed the max. payload for
that truck. You can use our
Towing Weight Calculator
to check the weights.
When we see these huge Fifth Wheels, one tends to think that the front end weight or
hitch weight of the Fifth Wheel must be huge. But most Fifth Wheels hitch weights
average around 2,000 lbs or less. The 40 foot Big Horn weighs an impressive 16,000
lbs but the hitch weight is only 2,040 lbs. On average the tongue weight of a 5th wheel
trailer is about 20 percent of the gross trailer weight
Above we calculated how much we can load onto the truck, which includes one of our most
important weights. The weight of the front of the Fifth Wheel. This is the weight
that will be pushing down on the rear axle when the Fifth Wheel is hitched to the
How Truck Tires can Increase Payload Capacity
All tires have various load rating specifications. If the standard tires on the truck are
load rated for 3,000 lbs and you replace those rear tires with a tire rated for 3,400
lbs, then you have just increased the payload capacity of the truck by 800 lbs.
The Trucks Gross Combined Weight Rating
When the Fifth Wheel is hitched to the truck and the Fifth Wheel is loaded for travel,
along with its driver, passengers and fuel, the weight of the loaded
truck and the loaded Fifth Wheel should not exceed the Gross Combined Weight Rating (GCWR)
shown in the specifications for the truck. This includes kayaks, bikes and if a trailer is
being towed behind the Fifth Wheel.
Fifth Wheel Owner Towing Data
Subscribers have access to the Fifth Wheel Towing Data Tool, that shows MPG, Fifth Wheel Makes, weights, truck Makes and engine
type being used to tow
by Fifth Wheel owners. It's useful to see what owners are using to tow their
rigs and the type of Miles Per Gallon they are getting with various trucks. When researching buying a truck, you can
use this data tool to find the most popular trucks and the Miles Per Gallon they are getting based on the weight of rig
they are towing.