If you are considering purchasing an RV, there are many factors you will need to take into account before committing to such a large investment. No doubt you will have already considered the freedom to explore the great outdoors and travel to enticing destinations.
There are, however, some issues that many wanna-be RV owners overlook, like how to best haul their trailer, fifth wheel vs gooseneck.
Larger RVs can be a pain to drive in cities or confined environments. This means that if you want to experience such destinations, you first need to find an accessible base and then a method of getting from your RV to your chosen objective. The Fifth Wheel and the Gooseneck hitches both alleviate this problem by allowing you to detach your towing vehicle from your RV.
So lets take a look at gooseneck vs 5th wheel hitches to see which may work better for you.
What are Gooseneck and Fifth Wheel Hitches
Both of these hitches are attachments that allow you to link a towable RV to a separate tow vehicle, normally some sort of pickup truck. In both cases, you will need to make modifications to the rear bed of the truck so that the connection between the tow vehicle and the RV trailer can be made.
The RV now becomes a trailer from which the truck can be detached altogether. This ability allows the driver all of the facilities of a regular rigid RV but the truck can still be used independently. It is a very versatile combination and is gaining in popularity with drivers who like to explore but at the same time don’t want the engine component of their RV sitting and doing nothing when they are parked up.
Similarities between a Gooseneck and a Fifth Wheel
Both the Fifth Wheel and the Gooseneck are hitches that are mounted into the bed of the towing truck you will be using. Almost always a truck of some kind. Either hitch allows you to easily attach and detach your RV so that you can drive the tow vehicle independently once you have chosen where you want to leave the RV.
This allows you to pick a great campsite and then leave your RV while you explore in your truck, or use your truck for other purposes when you aren’t on an RV adventure.
The load-carrying capacity on both the Gooseneck option and the Fifth Wheel connection differ slightly. The Gooseneck allows you to pull up to 30,000 pounds while the Fifth Wheel trailer tends to max out at about 5,000 lbs less than that.
In both cases, even hauling such a heavy weight will not make the tow vehicle become unstable, but it is important to know your trailers weight.
The truck-mounted hitches allow the driver to make far tighter turns than he would be able to in a rigid RV and at the same time maintain stability.
In the case of both the Gooseneck and the Fifth Wheel hitches, installation is a fairly simple process.
With all of these advantages, it is easy to see why these tow hitches are becoming so popular with serious RV fanatics. There are some fundamental differences and you will need to consider those before choosing which of the two options works best for your particular circumstances.
Fifth Wheel vs Gooseneck: The Differences Between Them
We have looked briefly at the similarities between these two tow hitches, as well as having a brief glance at some of their many advantages. Now it’s time to delve a little deeper so that you can understand in what way the two hitches differ. That will enable you to decide whether Fifth Wheel vs Gooseneck would be better for your particular set of circumstances.
It is important to recognize that both the Gooseneck and the Fifth Wheel hitches offer many advantages and it is really your personal set-up that will place one option over the other.
The Gooseneck Hitch
The Gooseneck hitch uses a ball and coupler system. This makes it a prime choice if you are hauling with something that has a flatbed such as a commercial trailer or an agricultural truck. They are frequently seen on livestock or horse trailers. In fact, the Fifth Wheel tow hitch was developed for industrial purposes (semi truck hitch) and has since found its way onto the RV market.
They can take more weight which comes into play if you are planning on towing a really large RV.
It is worth noting that the intrusion into the truck is really just the head of the hitch ball connection popping through the bed of the truck so the loss of space is not huge unless you are using a rail mounted system as shown above. These are a bit more intrusive.
There are also goose-head hitches that flip down below the bed of the truck completely concealing the ball.
Finally, it is widely recognized that the Gooseneck doesn’t give as smooth and quiet a ride. As it is a hitch designed principally for heavy duty towing. It also tends to provide a little less stable towing with tall trailers such as box trailers and RVs.
Fifth Wheel Hitch
One of the principal differences is that the Gooseneck hitch is permanently mounted into the bed of your chosen tow vehicle. This saves time and effort when you want to hook up to your RV as you simply need to attach it to your RV trailer and you are good to go.
The disadvantage is that when you are using your truck for other purposes you will always have the gooseneck ball hitch mounted on the bed of the truck and you will need to work around that. Fine if you are carrying smaller materials, but a bit of a nuisance if you need to fill the back of that track or load larger items.
The Fifth Wheel trailer hitch is not a permanent installation and can be removed from the back of your truck when not in use for towing your RV. The system sits on a pair of rails bolted onto the truck bed but the main device can be removed leaving only the rails.
Mounting and dismounting the 5th wheel hitch is a relatively simple operation and allows you to use your tow truck as normal when you are not hauling – something to bear in mind if your tow vehicle also needs to serve as a work vehicle when you aren’t off exploring the wide-open spaces.
In terms of weight, the hitch is heavy and you may need help getting it on and off those rails.
Fifth Wheel trailer hitches are made up of a pair of jaws and a kingpin. The jaws are fixed with a locking bar and they can pivot which allows smooth movement of the trailer or RV. That combination is compatible with a wider range of trucks and tow vehicles, hence its popularity in the world of RV campers.
In case you were wondering, the name Fifth Wheel has been appropriated from horse-drawn carriages dating back to the 18th century. Although these hitches incorporate the latest in technology and materials, the horizontal fifth wheel was first used in carriages to allow the front axle to pivot more easily.
Where to Mount Your Hitch
Both the Gooseneck and the Fifth Wheel hitches generally are mounted above the rear axle where there is the most strength and where they will provide maximum stability for making those tight turns. Both run through the truck’s bed and are attached to the truck frame.
Either option of hitch makes connecting to your RV a cinch. Simply back up beneath the front end of your RV and connect with the link you have chosen.
Although it requires little more than basic handyman skills to fit these systems, don’t be shy to use a professional if you have any doubts about doing so. It is sometimes worth spending a little more for that extra peace of mind.
Mounting the Gooseneck Hitch
Both of the systems we are looking at are relatively easy to mount onto the bed of your truck but, with this system, you will need to cut a hole for the ball hitch to fit through.
It is relatively small and unobtrusive compared to the Fifth Wheel mount but, unlike the Fifth Wheel system, it is a permanent fixture in the bed of your tow truck.
Mounting the Fifth Wheel Hitch
The Fifth Wheel hitch is mounted on a pair of sliding rails and to attach this to the bed of your truck you will only need to drill a few holes for bolting the system into place. Though you can remove the jaws, the rails will still be bolted to the bed of your truck though they don’t take up much space.
That jaw system is large and might become a nuisance when using the RV for purposes other than towing.Fortunately, it can be detached from the rails. Some systems are heavy and two people may be needed to offload them.
How to Hook Up to The Fifth Wheel Hitch
First, make sure that you park on a level spot. You will want to do this anyway or you will spend your nights sliding towards the lower section of your bed. Next, open the jaws on the hitch.
Once you have done that, back up slowly until you are in a position where the jaws are about six inches from the connection on the trailer.
Stop the vehicle at this stage and lower the fifth wheel trailers jacks to a height where the hitch matches the jaws or is slightly lower. Also, open the handle on the jaw attachment. After that, continue to reverse until the jaws engage with the trailer. When this happens, the handle will lock into place confirming you have connected fully.
You can double-check this by looking to see that the jaws have closed around the narrow portion of the hitching pin.
Finally, run through your connection checks to make sure all is properly connected and safe. Fit the safety chains and connect the electric cables.
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How to Hook Up to The Gooseneck Hitch
Before you start, raise the jacks on the trailer so that you have the clearance to reverse up beneath it. Lower the tailgate and reverse until the ball of the Gooseneck Hitch lines up with the coupler on the trailer. The gooseneck trailer can then be lowered onto the ball and locked into place with the security pin.
There are options to make this process easier. Some trucks include a system that lowers the bed slightly so that it can be raised under the coupler when in the correct position. To cheat even more, they come with mounted cameras so that lining up is very simple.
If you don’t have these luxuries, you will need to reverse carefully and it helps to have an assistant to guide you to the exact position for a smooth lineup.
As with the Fifth Wheel system, you should now fit safety chains and plug-in electric trailer wiring and you are good to go.
Both the Gooseneck and the Fifth Wheel hitches offer incredible towing capacity which makes for a comfortable and stress-free driving experience. Typically, the Fifth Wheel system suits recreational towing of slightly lighter RVs but they can still comfortably pull loads of up to 20,000 lbs and some will manage up to 25,000 lbs.
The Gooseneck will handle as much as 30,000 lbs as they are often used for industrial hauling of things such as flat-bed trailers, livestock trailers, and heavy agricultural equipment.
Before choosing your tow hitch, it is a good idea if you know what size and weight RV trailer you will be hauling as this may affect your choice.
As a very general rule of thumb, the Gooseneck towing hitch is for larger heavier hauling while the Fifth Wheel is more suited to smaller and average-sized RVs. That extra weight hauling ability comes at a price because the towing experience is not as smooth or as quiet as the fifth wheel system.
Gooseneck and Fifth Wheel Converters
All of this information might seem a little overwhelming but there is some good news to take away from it all. Both of these hauling systems come with converter kits that enable you to use them on either hitching system. You will need to check that the conversion complies with the payload restrictions.
Also, it is only a temporary fix usually used for one or two excursions rather than on a permanent basis. It would, however, allow you to experience both options and get a better feel for which one to choose.
The other thing to know is that gooseneck adaptors put a very heavy stress on the pin box and frame of the fifth wheel. So much so that many manufacturers will void your warranty if an adaptor is used. There are one or two adaptors that claim NOT to void warranties, but check carefully with your manufacturer before installing one of these systems.
Both of these RV hitches offer a wide degree of versatility that simply isn’t available with a rigid RV. That ability to set up your mobile base in an easy-to-access site, and then unhitch and drive around as though in an ordinary car is very liberating. Also, when not in use, the tow vehicle isn’t just parked up doing nothing and can be used just like any other truck.
You have the capacity to make surprisingly tight turns even with long and heavy trailers and incorporated into that versatility is a high degree of stability. When it comes time to upgrade your RV, you can continue to use the same towing vehicle and vice versa.
Once fitted, both of these hitching systems make it very easy to hook up to your RV and they are both safe and reliable.
All in all, however you choose to answer fifth wheel vs gooseneck, you will be the envy of many at the RV park and are bound to be inundated with questions from covetous campers keen to follow the path that you have taken.
Frank is the Head Hubby, Daddy, and Fix-It Guy of the Roving Foleys clan. He ia an avid traveler and has spent over 5 years traveling full time with his family. he loves helping others learn about the RV life. He has also traveled in Europe, Asia, and Australia with his wife Grainne.