5th Wheel Vs Travel Trailer: Pros & Cons

Campers often prefer taking their vehicles and RVs to provide luxurious accommodations for themselves and their families while going on long road trips. While many buy RVs and towing vehicles beforehand, some prefer renting them before going on such trips.

However, while choosing RVs, especially between fifth wheels and travel trailers, campers are plagued with essential questions like which RV to choose, what are their towing requirements, how much do they cost, are fifth wheels safer than travel trailers, and many others.

If you, too, are looking to go on a road trip with your family but are uncertain how to decide between fifth wheels and travel trailers, this article can guide you with a comprehensive comparison between these two. Read on to know more!

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5th Wheel & Travel Trailer Compared
Similarities 
Difference 
What’s Best For You?
Conclusion

What Is The Difference Between A 5th Wheel & Travel Trailer?

5th WheelTravel Trailer
Larger, taller and longer space insideSmaller & shorter 
Full of luxuryFever amenities and luxuries compared to 5th Wheel
Easier to towMore difficult to tow
Usually more storage space. Easier to carry taller and bigger thingsLess storage
Can come with a built-in generatorNot available
Better build qualityBuild quality is not soo good except few good travel trailer brands like Airstream
Easier backing and shorter turning radiusEasier to get in and out while boondocking
More expensiveLess Expensive
Fewer size optionsVersatility & Choice of size 
Heavier & requires larger trucksCan be towed using a range of SUVs and cars
Harder to fit in small campsitesCan fit in more campsites
Loss of space in the truck bedLots of storage space in a truck bed
Worse fuel economy Size and lightweight allow better economy

Before we check the pros and cons of fifth wheel & travel trailer, let us first get a better understanding of what they are.

Fifth Wheels are hitches that allow campers to attach a cargo or a trailer to a much larger vehicle like a truck or a tractor. On the other hand, a travel trailer refers to any unit that can be used as a towing vehicle for pickup, van, or car with the help of a frame hitch or a bumper. This trailer also sports all the comforts of a home and is mainly used for full-timing, family vacations, road trips, and weekend getaways. Travel trailers are relative consider compared with fifth wheels. That’s not all, travel trailers are less expensive and can be tow using range of SUVs.

Now that we have basic knowledge, let us now consider 5th wheel vs travel trailer pros and cons in detail.

Similarities Between 5th Wheel & Travel Trailer

1. Towability

If you are going out for outdoor camping amidst forests and nature or exploring cities or sporting events, you require an easily towable RV. You would also want it to be easily detachable, complete with living benefits, and easily driven on country roads, highways, and even in heavy traffic on city roads. Thus both 5th wheels and travel trailers can be a great option. They will also house a large group and offer a cheaper alternative to staying at hotels or getting a motorhome.

2. Safety And Privacy

RV Camera System
RV Camera System

When it comes to safety and privacy, both fifth wheels and travel trailers are equally good. They both have enough safety measures and tools to ensure that you can remain in your RV enjoying your vacation without any worry of being attacked or looted.

Again, they both provide good privacy – they are well-equipped with blind curtains, locks, and others to ensure that you can stay in your RV safely without having anyone barge in.

The similarities between these two, however, end here. Now let us move on to the fifth wheel vs travel trailer – their main differences and how they affect your choice between the two.

Difference Between 5th Wheel And Travel Trailer

While contemplating on the fifth wheel vs travel trailer, there are several factors to be considered. Given below are the significant factors that one needs to consider while choosing between the two types of RVs.

1. Towing Vehicle Requirements

While talking about these two types of RVs, the 5th wheel vs travel trailer towing comparison is necessary. Both these types of RVs are perfectly towable but having different towing requirements. A fifth wheel requires a larger vehicle to tow it around as it has multiple levels, high ceilings and requires better towing. Travel trailers are suited for a more extensive selection of towing vehicles as they are slightly smaller.

Thus if you have many people travelling with you, we suggest getting a 5th wheel and large vehicles like a truck or a tractor to tow it around. However, if you have a smaller group but require larger storage space and have a smaller vehicle like an SUV or a minivan, we suggest going for a travel trailer.

2. Size Ranges Offered

Another significant difference between travel trailers and fifth wheels is that they vary considerably in size.

Fifth wheels have a more considerable length that ranges from 25-45 feet and thus have an extended rig length. Because of size, they require more prominent, more powerful vehicles like trucks or tractors to tow them around. They also give the feel of an apartment as they come with multiple levels, including a living area, master bedrooms, and more.

So if you have a large group travelling with you and require a massive amount of space to accommodate them all, then we suggest going for the fifth wheel. Fifth wheels are often equipped with dishwashers, dryers, and washers, and fireplaces. So if you are looking to live full-time in an RV, we suggest choosing a fifth wheel or a travel trailer.

Travel trailers are slightly smaller in length, starting from 12ft but can go up to 35ft. While you can get a large-sized travel trailer like a fifth wheel, you get the option of choosing from a smaller one in this type of RV. Thus, if you choose a small travel trailer, you can get away with a smaller towing vehicle like an SUV, mid-size truck, or minivan.

3. Driveability

In the case of driveability, fifth wheels are better than travel trailers. Due to their hitch point, they are sometimes safer to tow and easier to manoeuvre.

Toyota SUV towing an Airstream travel trailer
Toyota SUV towing an Airstream

The hitch point for fifth wheels is located closer to the midline of one’s vehicle bed, which lends a better turning radius, reduction in sway while driving, as well as more even weight distribution.

On the other hand, a travel trailer has a lower hitch point. This leads to a little bit of throw-off when you drive and a large turning radius compared to a fifth wheel.

However, travel trailers can be easily towed and manoeuvred if you have the accessories to improve stability and reduce sway while driving.

4. Rig Length

The rig length of your fifth wheel or travel trailer will heavily affect the kind of trip you are planning to take, the places you are going to, and even the kind of resting place you want while travelling.

For example, while going camping, one needs to know the length and area of the camping grounds they plan to garage their RV and towing vehicle. This is because if one plans to leave their RV at any camping grounds, the grounds should be able to accommodate the rig length of the RV. This problem mainly arises if you have an RV with a rig length of 24ft and above.

Again, the duration of your trip will also require the rig length details of the RV you choose. For example, if you plan to travel for a long, you need to make regular stops at camping grounds for gas and food. You need a vehicle that you can easily park during these moments and manoeuvre in and out of busy parking lots.

While supermarkets like Walmart can always accommodate even the largest rig length trailer, most local ones would not adjust the larger ones. A travel trailer is a better choice in such scenarios as it is much easier to handle and more elegant than the giant fifth wheel.

Again, if you are looking for comfort and luxury while travelling, we suggest getting a fifth wheel as its larger rig length will provide better accommodation. However, if you are happy to travel in a smaller space, a travel trailer will be enough.

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5. Price Difference

In the price department, travel trailers win hands down. They are much cheaper than fifth wheels. This price difference happens due to the following reasons.

Travel trailers are much cheaper as they have more variety of size ranges. A smaller travel trailer will cost you much less than even the smaller fifth wheel. Again, since a small travel trailer can be towed with a smaller vehicle like an SUV, a minivan, or a medium-size truck, one can cut the cost of hiring a large vehicle like a large-size truck or tractor.

On the other hand, a fifth wheel comes in much bigger sizes with multiple levels and a comfortable stay. Thus, they tend to be more on the expensive side. Also, due to their massive size, they require bigger vehicles like large trucks and tractors to tow them around, and thus you need to pay more while hiring your towing vehicle.

6. Towing Safety

When it comes to towing and driving safety, the fifth wheel is better than the travel trailer. Due to the difference in hitch point, as discussed before, it is much easier to tow a fifth wheel than it is to tow a travel trailer. Even though the travel trailers are smaller, a fifth wheel becomes much easier to manoeuvre in some instances. Thus, it is sometimes easier to tow and drive a fifth wheel.

Towing Airstream using truck
Towing Airstream using truck

On a parting note, we would suggest getting your vehicle’s towing capabilities measured. If you have a truck, a minivan, or an SUV, we suggest understanding its towing capabilities even before you consider buying a towable RV. This is because you need to keep in mind your vehicle’s towing limitations, and you might risk your and as well as your family’s life.

Many often choose their vehicle based on the type of RV they have chosen. On the other hand, many choose an RV based on your vehicle. If you already have an existing vehicle to tow, you should check its towing capacity and choose an RV accordingly. However, if you do not possess any prior vehicle, you can choose an RV according to your wishes and then rent or hire a vehicle as required.

Also Read:

Fifth Wheels VS Travel Trailers: What’s Best For You?

There is no choice that is best for everyone. Choosing between the 5th Wheel & Travel Trailers depends on a number of factors.

5th Wheel Pros & Cons:

ProsCons
Plenty of living space insideMore expensive
More amenities and luxuriesFewer size options
Easier to towHeavier & requires larger trucks
Usually more storage space. Easier to carry taller and bigger thingsHarder to fit in small campsites
Can come with a built-in generatorLoss of space in the truck bed
Better build qualityWorse fuel economy 
Easier backing, shorter turning radius

Should you buy a 5th Wheel?

5th wheel is best for part and full-time RVers with a larger budget. Also, people who want an apartment feel, not a camper.

Travel Trailer Pros & Cons:

ProsCons
Versatility & Choice of size Fewer slides and offers less room
Less ExpensiveOften fewer and smaller appliances
No need for truck towingFever amenities and luxuries compared to 5th Wheel
Can fit in more campsitesMore difficult to tow
Easier to get in and out while boondockingLess storage in the RV
Lots of storage space in a truck bedBuild quality is not soo good
Easier to manoeuvre, more nimble

Should you buy a Travel Trailer?

A travel trailer is the best for weekenders & people who goes for short vacations.

Conclusion

Thus, choosing between fifth wheels and a travel trailer can be a complicated process. However, it can be made simpler by carefully weighing all the benefits of fifth wheel vs travel trailer. I hope you found this article helpful to the difference between a travel trailer and fifth wheel in making your final decision while choosing a towing unit.

Don’t forget to write your thoughts in the comment section.

Image Source: Airstream

by Shailesh Thakran
Hi, I am a Marketing professional with expertise in SEO. I help Organizations/Startups in Structural, Design and Content Marketing to become online entities. I love blogging, mainly about automobiles, travel trailers & everything related to wheels. With the help of Thorttlebias, I want to educate and share in-depth articles/tips for other RVers. Outside of work, I love to read & play with my Rottweiler. Guess what! We can be friends, below are my social profiles.
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