In the world of towables, the two classes most compared by prospective buyers are travel trailers and fifth wheels. Which one is better for you?
First, the major difference between a “fiver” and a travel trailer are the hitch point. A fifth wheel attaches to a special hitch system mounted close to the rear axle in a truck–most often a pickup truck; although, we have seen flatbeds used for towing fivers. A travel trailer attaches to a ball mount at about the level of the tow rig’s rear bumper.
Here’s where the first difference in your lifestyle comes in: A fifth wheel always requires a truck to pull, while you may be able to use other types of tow vehicles to pull a travel trailer. If your SUV or even a four-door sedan has the rating towing capacity for the trailer you want, you’re in
If you opt for the fifth wheel route, you will have a considerable amount of the truck bed taken up with a fifth wheel hitch system. You won’t be able to use a canopy to store things when towing, and if you decide to remove the hitch when not towing, it’s heavy. You can have your full bed area available for storage when towing a travel trailer.
From a lifestyle perspective, a fifth wheel provides more living space. Additionally, fivers are far more likely to have greater “basement storage” available in compartments accessed from outside the rig. Because the bedroom is often placed up over the hitch, the seeming “residential” feeling of a fifth wheel is often greater.
And yes, fifth wheels are an “easier” tow than a travel trailer. There is far less sway involved. If sway is a problem with a travel trailer, you can add accessory sway control systems–at an additional cost.
Another big difference between the two types of trailers is hitching up. Hitching a travel trailer can be a maddening experience, particularly for those who have difficulty with depth perception. You can’t “see” the trailer hitch from the steering wheel, and getting these two lined up without a “spotter” can be an agonizing issue. There are some clever devices available that make this easier, but with a fifth wheel it’s easy to hitch up without devices or spotters. With the hitch in the truck bed, spotting the king pin on the trailer (the equivalents of a trailer ball and coupler on a travel trailer) is easy.
So what’s better? Well, it’s all a matter of what is more important to you. The best thing to do is to get to know each type of RV real well, then make your decision based on your needs.