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5th Wheel Vs Travel Trailer: Pros and Cons

There are two different types of towable RVs: 5th wheels and travel trailers. The best choice for you depends on where you plan to camp, how much space you need, the amenities you need, the type of vehicle you drive, your vehicle’s towing capacity, and your personal preference. To help you decide, this guide explains the difference and lists the pros and cons of camping in a 5th wheel vs travel trailer. I’ll cover size, ease of towing, tow vehicles, amenities, cost, storage space, and more.

5th wheels are larger, more spacious, and more luxurious. They come with all of the amenities you could need. They are also easier to tow and maneuver. Travel trailers are smaller, lighter, cheaper, and more efficient. They can be towed with a wider range of vehicles.

Generally, a 5th wheel is the better choice for RV living, families and large groups, those who want some luxury, and those who already own a heavy-duty pickup. Travel trailers are better for beginner RVers, solo travelers and small families, those on a tight budget, and off-road adventures.

Over the past 10 years, I have spent hundreds of nights camping in both 5th wheels and travel trailers. In this guide, I’ll share my experience.

A campground with 5th wheels
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5th Wheel Pros

  • Easier to tow
  • The total rig length is shorter
  • Easier to maneuver
  • Safer to tow
  • Easier to back up
  • More living space
  • More amenities
  • The fit and finish is higher-end
  • More storage space
  • Better bathrooms
  • More sleeping spaces
  • In some states, it’s legal for passengers to ride in a 5th wheel

5th Wheel Cons

  • Fewer tow vehicle options. You have to use a pickup
  • More expensive
  • Poor fuel economy
  • Harder to heat and cool due to the high ceilings
  • 5th wheels are heavier
  • 5th wheels are taller
  • There is less useable space in the truck bed
  • The hitch is heavy and must be professionally installed
  • Harder to store due to the height and size

Travel Trailer Pros

  • More tow vehicle options. You can use SUVs, pickups, or sedans
  • Cheaper to buy and maintain
  • Better fuel economy
  • Trailers are easier to heat and cool
  • Lighter weight
  • Shorter height
  • The hitch is lighter and easier to install
  • Easier to store due to the smaller size

Travel Trailer Cons

  • Harder to tow
  • Longer total rig length
  • Harder to maneuver
  • More susceptible to sway
  • Less living space
  • Fewer amenities
  • The fit and finish is less luxurious
  • Less storage space
  • Harder to reverse
  • Fewer sleeping spaces
  • The bathrooms are less spacious
  • Fewer slide outs or no slide outs
  • It’s illegal for passengers to ride in the trailer
A fifth wheel parked at a campground

What is the Difference Between a Travel Trailer and a Fifth Wheel?

5th wheels and travel trailers are both trailers that are towed behind a vehicle. The main difference between a travel trailer and a fifth wheel is the hitch design.

Travel trailers attach to a standard ball hitch or bumper hitch. The ball hitch mounts to the tow vehicle’s frame and extends out from the rear bumper. The trailer has a coupler that fits over the ball. They are called bumper pull trailers.

A fifth wheel connects to a pickup truck with a special hitch called a fifth wheel hitch or gooseneck hitch. This is a large steel hitch that is bolted into the bed of the pickup truck. It has kind of a U-shape. There is a kingpin on the trailer that locks into the 5th wheel hitch.

Another difference is the type of tow vehicles that can be used. You need a heavy-duty pickup truck to tow a fifth-wheel trailer. Travel trailers can be towed with other types of vehicles, such as SUVs, vans, pickups, and even some sedans.

Another difference is the size. 5th wheel trailers are larger than travel trailers. They are longer and taller. They offer more living space. 5th wheels usually have more amenities as well. In addition, fifth wheels are generally more luxurious. They have higher-end fittings and fixtures. Travel trailers are smaller and are usually built fitted with slightly lower-end materials.

There are a number of different kinds of travel trailers including teardrop trailers, pop-up trailers, off-road trailers, and toy haulers. Travel trailers are also known as caravans or campers. 5th wheels are also available in toy hauler options.

5th Wheels Vs Travel Trailers

A travel trailer parked on the beach

Ease of Towing

5th wheels are easier to tow than travel trailers. There are a few reasons for this. The main reason is their gooseneck hitch design. A 5th wheel hitch bolts into the bed of a pickup truck. The hitch location moves the weight of the trailer forward into the truck’s bed. This allows for better weight distribution across both of the truck’s axles. This hitch location increases stability while driving.

Travel trailers use a traditional ball hitch. These are a little less stable. Trailer sway can be an issue. Particularly in windy conditions or when turning. A sway bar can help stabilize the trailer and reduce sway.

A hitch for a travel trailer
A standard hitch for a trailer

Another advantage of the 5th wheel hitch design is that it improves maneuverability. The hitch’s location in the truck bed allows you to turn tighter. The turning radius is smaller with a fifth wheel. This makes it easier to navigate tight spaces, such as forest roads, campgrounds, or parking lots. Travel trailers tend to have a larger turning radius. This can make maneuvering a little more challenging. Particularly if the trailer is long.

One potential drawback to towing a 5th wheel is that the trailer cuts the corner when you’re turning. This can take some getting used to. You really have to pay attention to where the trailer is going when you turn so you don’t hit another vehicle or run over a curb. Travel trailers follow the tow vehicle through corners. This makes them a bit more intuitive to tow.

In addition, fifth wheels are taller than travel trailers. They have more surface area that can catch the wind. You can get blown around on a windy day. Travel trailers don’t get blown around quite as much because they’re shorter.

Sometimes travel trailers are easier to tow. Tiny trailers such as teardrop trailers and pop-up campers are easier to tow than large 5th wheels due to their smaller size and lighter weight.

Winner: 5th wheels are easier to tow than travel trailers.

A campground with 5th wheels and travel trailers

Tow Vehicle Options

Fifth wheels give you fewer tow vehicle options than travel trailers due to their size and hitch design. You need a heavy-duty 3/4 ton or 1 ton pickup truck to tow a fifth wheel. Most 5th wheels are too heavy to tow with a half ton truck. Because fifth wheels are large and heavy, you’ll need a truck with a higher towing capacity. Due to the hitch design, a pickup is the only type of vehicle that you can use to tow a fifth wheel.

Full-size, heavy-duty trucks such as the Ford F-250 or F-350, Chevrolet Silverado 2500HD or 3500HD, and Ram 2500 or 3500 are popular choices for towing fifth wheels. They offer enough power and payload capacity to handle the weight of a 5th wheel.

A heavy duty pickup towing a travel trailer on a highway
Large trailers require heavy duty dually pickups for towing

Travel trailers give you a wider range of tow vehicle options to choose from because they use a traditional ball hitch. Larger travel trailer models can be towed with a pickup truck, large SUV, or even a full-size van. Vehicles like the Ford F-150, Chevrolet Tahoe, and GMC Yukon are popular choices.

Smaller and lighter travel trailers, such as teardrop trailers and pop-up trailers, can be towed by smaller vehicles, such as compact SUVs or even sedans, as long as they have enough towing capacity. Examples of smaller tow vehicles include the Subaru Outback, Toyota RAV4, and Honda CR-V. These vehicles are capable of towing trailers in the 2500-3500 lb. range.

Another important consideration when choosing a tow vehicle is how many people you plan to camp with. Most heavy-duty pickups can seat 5-6 people. SUVs often have third-row seating and can seat up to 8 people. It is usually illegal for people to ride in a trailer.

Winner: Travel trailers give you more tow vehicle options than 5th wheels.

An airstream travel trailer next to a lake

RV Size (Length, Width, and Height)

Fifth wheels are generally larger than travel trailers. On average fifth wheels range in length from 22 to 45 feet. They measure about 8-8.5 feet wide and 12-13.5 feet tall.

Travel trailers come in a wide range of sizes from 10 feet all the way to 45 feet long. They measure 8-8.5 feet wide and 8-12 feet tall.

A small vintage travel trailer
Travel trailers come in all sizes.

Smaller travel trailers, such as teardrop trailers and pop-up trailers, measure just 10-12 feet long. There are also large travel trailers in the 40 foot range. These are as large as fifth wheels.

Winner: There’s not really a winner here. It depends on what you’re looking for. 5th wheels are usually larger than travel trailers. Small trailers are available.

Total Rig Length

It’s important to consider the total length of your rig (the total length of your trailer and tow vehicle). Some campgrounds can’t accommodate large RVs. If your rig is longer than around 28 feet, you should check with the campground first to make sure they can accommodate you. This is important because both fifth wheels and travel trailers tend to be on the longer side.

Fifth wheels have an advantage. Due to their hitch design, the fifth wheel overhangs the tow vehicle. This effectively shortens the combined length of your truck and trailer. When comparing a fifth wheel and a travel trailer of the same size, the fifth wheel will have a shorter overall length.

For example, a 40 foot fifth wheel and tow vehicle will be shorter than a 40 foot travel trailer and tow vehicle. A fifth wheel can offer more interior space at the same total rig length. This is possible thanks to the extra space in the area overhanging the truck bed.

This shorter rig length makes a fifth wheel easier to maneuver. You can navigate campgrounds more easily. A shorter rig also makes it easier to stop for gas, groceries, restaurants, etc. A shorter rig is easier to park. It will take up fewer parking spaces.

A shorter RV allows you to fit in more campgrounds. Some national parks, state parks, and even private campgrounds have RV length limitations. Oftentimes, the rig needs to be less than 28 feet long.

Most fifth wheels measure 25-45 feet long. This makes them too long for some campgrounds. In this case, a shorter travel trailer is better.

Winner: The total rig length with a fifth wheel is often shorter. Short trailers are available but they have less interior space.

A truck pulling an off-road trailer

RV Weight

5th wheels are almost always heavier than travel trailers. Fifth wheels usually weigh between 12,000 and 20,000 pounds. Travel trailers can weigh anywhere between 1,000 and 9,000+ pounds. 5th wheels weigh more because they are larger and have a heavier-duty frame.

Before buying a 5th wheel or a travel trailer, it’s important to make sure that your tow vehicle has enough power to pull it. Check your vehicle’s towing capacity.

Usually, a 1/4 ton truck, like a Ford F150, isn’t powerful enough to tow a 5th wheel. You’ll at least need 3/4 ton truck like a Ford F250, Chevy 2500, or Ram 2500. If you plan to pull a larger 5th wheel, you’ll need a 1 ton truck like a Ford F350 or Ram 3500. For some heavy trailers, you’ll need a dually truck (a truck with two rear tires on each side) to handle the weight.

Travel trailers can be towed by smaller and lighter vehicles. You can tow a medium-sized travel trailer with a midsize pickup or SUV. Smaller travel trailers weighing less than 3000 pounds can be pulled by compact SUVs and even sedans. Large trailers require a heavy-duty truck.

Winner: Travel trailers are lighter than 5th wheels in most cases.

RV Height

Fifth wheels are taller than travel trailers. The extra height means you need to be careful when driving under overpasses. You need to keep an eye out for low clearance signs while driving. You also need to be careful when approaching low-hanging tree branches.

Travel trailers are shorter. With a travel trailer, you don’t have to worry as much about height restrictions.

There are some places you simply can’t drive with an RV. For example, you can’t drive through parking garages or through drive-thrus.

Winner: Travel trailers are shorter.

An airstream trailer


Fifth wheels are more maneuverable than travel trailers. This is because the hitch is positioned further forward in the bed of the truck. This hitch placement allows for tighter turning angles and better control during turns. The turning radius is smaller. This makes it easier to navigate tight spaces such as campgrounds, parking lots, and narrow forest roads.

The overhang that extends over the truck’s bed also helps with maneuverability by shortening the overall rig length. A shorter rig is easier to maneuver.

Fifth wheels are also less susceptible to sway. The weight distribution is better. This is the case due to the location of the hitch. This improves maneuverability.

Travel trailers tend to be less maneuverable due to their hitch location and design. They have a larger turning radius. This hitch design can also make trailers more prone to sway.

Winner: 5th wheels offer better maneuverability than travel trailers.

Trailer Sway and Safety

5th wheels can be safer to tow than travel trailers. There are a few reasons for this. Most importantly, 5th wheels are less likely to suffer from trailer sway.

Trailer sway is when a trailer begins to oscillate or fishtail while you’re driving. Sway usually occurs due to poor weight distribution, crosswinds, or a sudden lane change. Sway can cause you to lose control and can cause an accident. It is incredibly dangerous.

Thanks to their hitch placement and design, 5th wheels are less prone to sway. This is because the hitch is positioned over the tow vehicle’s rear axle. This hitch placement improves weight distribution and increases trailer stability. This reduces the likelihood of rollovers.

Travel trailers are more susceptible to sway. Due to the ball hitch location, travel trailers are more likely to experience uneven weight distribution. This makes them more prone to sway during a sudden swerve or lane change or in windy conditions.

There are some precautions that you can take to reduce trailer sway. One solution is to use a sway bar or weight distribution hitch. You can also reduce the likelihood of sway by properly packing your trailer. Ideally, you should pack about 60% of the weight toward the front of the trailer.

Winner: 5th wheels are safer to tow than travel trailers because they are less likely to sway.

Living Space

Fifth wheels offer larger and more spacious interiors than travel trailers. They are the largest type of towable camper.

The design of a fifth wheel allows for two levels. There is usually an upstairs bedroom located over the truck bed. This provides a private and spacious sleeping area separate from the main living space. This separate bedroom makes fifth wheels a great choice for long trips or full-time living. Fifth wheels also include slide-outs to expand the interior. Some models feature as many as six slide outs.

Travel trailers offer a wide range of sizes and floor plans. Larger travel trailers feature slide-outs and a private bedroom. Compact travel trailers such as teardrop trailers are far less spacious. They may just offer a sleeping space and some storage.

A teardrop trailer
A teardrop trailer

Winner: 5th wheels offer more living space. Travel trailers come in a wide range of designs and floorplans.


Fifth wheels offer more amenities than travel trailers. The kitchen usually features full-size appliances including a refrigerator, oven, 4 burner stove, microwave, and dishwasher. There is also plenty of countertop space and cabinets for storage.

The bathroom in a fifth wheel is usually larger and more luxurious. Some models have a bathtub. Some larger models have 1.5 or two bathrooms.

5th wheels have a master bedroom with a queen or king-size bed as well as additional sleeping spaces such as a convertible dinette, convertible sofa, or fold-down bunk beds.

Most 5th wheels also come with a built in entertainment system with a large flat-screen TV and surround sound. Outdoor amenities may include an outdoor kitchen, a large awning, storage compartments, and an outdoor entertainment system. Most 5th wheels also come with a built-in generator to power your appliances and electronic devices. Large 5th wheels have a washer and dryer.

A dog looking out the window of a trailer

The amenities found in travel trailers depend on the size and model. Larger travel trailers have most of the same amenities as a 5th wheel. The bathroom and sleeping spaces in travel trailers may be a bit smaller. Most travel trailers also do not come with a built-in generator or washer and dryer.

Smaller trailers, such as teardrop trailers and pop-up trailers, come with fewer amenities. These trailers usually have basic kitchens with a small stove, mini fridge, and sink. They may or may not include a bathroom. If there is a bathroom, it will be a small wet bath with a cartridge or composting toilet.

Winner: 5th wheels offer more amenities and more luxurious amenities than travel trailers. Smaller models may lack some amenities.

Sleeping Space

Fifth wheels often feature two large beds, such as a king and a queen. Usually, there is one bedroom in the space over the truck bed. The second sleeping space is a convertible dinette or sofa in the main living area. Some models also feature a drop down bed or bunk beds that fold out.

Most fifth wheels can comfortably sleep 4-8 people. Some larger models can accommodate up to 10 people. This makes them great for large families or groups.

Large travel trailers usually have one large bed in a private bedroom. In addition, there is usually a convertible bed or bunk beds to accommodate extra guests. Travel trailers can sleep anywhere from 2-6 people, depending on their size and layout.

Smaller trailers may only have a convertible bed, such as a dinette that transforms into a sleeping space. Some models, like teardrop trailers, just have a bed. These models are more suitable for couples or solo travelers.

Winner: 5th wheels usually offer more sleeping spaces.


Fifth wheels usually offer more spacious and luxurious bathrooms than travel trailers. Many models have one and a half bathrooms. There is usually one master bath and one guest bath.

The bathrooms in fifth wheels often come with premium fixtures and fittings. Some models have a bathtub. There is usually more counter space. There may be double sinks. Using the bathroom in a fifth wheel is the same as using your bathroom at home.

Travel trailers usually have one bathroom. Larger travel trailers have a separate shower, toilet, and sink area. Smaller models might have a more compact wet bath. These combine the shower and toilet into a single area to save space.

It’s important to note that some of the smallest trailers, such as teardrop trailers or pop-up trailers, may not have a bathroom at all.

Winner: 5th wheels have better bathrooms.

An airstream travel trailer in a showroom

Luxury Features and Fit and Finish

5th wheels are more luxurious and have a more premium fit and finish than travel trailers. They usually come with higher-end appliances, marble countertops, hardwood floors, leather upholstery, nicer mattresses, better TVs and sound systems, better light fixtures, nicer hardware, etc. They look and feel a bit more luxurious inside. You can even find fifth wheels with luxury features such as a jetted bathtub, a fireplace, a bar, a projector, and more.

All of these features make the RV feel a bit more luxurious. This is nice if you plan to live in your fifth wheel full time. It feels like a home.

Travel trailers usually have a bit of a cheaper feel. The appliances may be slightly lower-end. Manufacturers may use cheaper materials for the flooring, cabinetry, and countertops. The beds may not be quite as comfortable. There aren’t as many luxury features.

Travel trailers are designed for shorter-term camping trips. You don’t need luxury if you’re only camping for a few days. This design also keeps costs down.

Winner: 5th wheels offer more luxury features and a higher-end fit and finish than travel trailers.

Storage Space

Fifth wheels offer much more storage space than travel trailers. Fifth wheels have a large basement storage area under the main living area. This space is perfect for storing bulky items such as outdoor furniture, bicycles, firewood, bug tents, and other camping gear. It is easily accessed through hatches on the outside of the RV. Being large RVs, 5th wheels also have plenty of built-in cabinets and closets inside. This gives you plenty of space for your clothing and food. This makes 5th wheels better for long trip sand RV living. You can carry all of the clothing and gear that you need.

Travel trailers offer varying amounts of storage space. Larger trailers offer cabinets and closets inside as well as some exterior storage area cubbies. The storage capacity will be much more limited in smaller trailers. For example, teardrop trailers may only have a couple of small cabinets for storage.

Winner: 5th wheels offer more storage space than travel trailers.

A small travel trailer


5th wheels are more expensive than travel trailers. 5th wheels range in price from around $40,000 to over $180,000, depending on the size, quality, brand, and features. Premium models can cost well over $250,000.

Travel trailers come in a wider price range. Larger travel trailers can cost between $30,000 and $80,000. Smaller trailers, such as teardrop trailers or pop-up trailers, can start as low as $10,000-$30,000. Premium trailers can cost over $150,000.

5th wheels are more expensive because they are larger and more luxurious. Larger RVs require more materials and labor to build. 5th wheels also use more expensive materials. Premium materials are more expensive.

It is also important to factor in the cost of the tow vehicle when comparing fifth wheels and travel trailers. To pull a fifth wheel, you need a large pickup truck. Heavy-duty pickup trucks are expensive. Prices start at around $40,000 for a basic model. Larger 1 ton models and models with more towing features cost around $50,000 to $80,000.

Travel trailers can be towed with smaller trucks and SUVs. These vehicles are more affordable. You may already own a vehicle that can tow a trailer. If you need to buy a vehicle, prices start around $30,000.

It’s also important to consider the cost of fuel, insurance, maintenance, and storage.

Winner: Travel trailers are cheaper than 5th wheels.

Fuel Economy While Towing

You’ll get worse gas mileage when you tow a fifth wheel. On average, a 1 ton diesel pickup truck will get 8-12 mpg when towing a fifth wheel. If you use a gas truck, your mpg will be even lower. 5th wheels are less efficient to tow because they are heavier and less aerodynamic.

When towing a travel trailer with a smaller truck or SUV you’ll usually get 10-15 mpg. Maybe even more with a small trailer. The exact mileage you’ll get depends on the type of tow vehicle as well as the travel trailer’s size, weight, and aerodynamics.

As a rule of thumb, a vehicle loses around 7 mpg when towing a travel trailer. If your vehicle usually gets 20 mpg on the highway, it will get 13 mpg while towing a large trailer. Smaller trailers will affect your gas mileage a bit less because they are lighter.

A pickup towing a fifth wheel camper
Towing a 5th wheel or trailer significantly reduces fuel efficiency

The difference in fuel efficiency can be significant. For example, if you travel 5,000 miles per year, and fuel costs $3.50 per gallon, your annual fuel cost for towing a fifth wheel at 10 mpg would be $1,750. When towing amore aerodynamic travel trailer at 14 mpg, your average fuel cost would be $1,250. This is a savings of $500 per year. If you drive further, your savings will be even greater. Over the life of the RV, the cost of fuel adds up.

Winner: You’ll get better gas mileage when towing a travel trailer. This saves you money.

Floor Plan Options

Both 5th wheels and travel trailers offer a wide variety of layouts to suit the needs and preferences of different types of travelers.

5th wheels are known for their spacious floorplans. They often include multiple levels and slide-outs to maximize the living area. Fifth wheels usually have more slide-out sections than travel trailers.

A popular fifth wheel layout feature is a raised master bedroom located over the truck bed. This gives you a private and cozy sleeping space that is separate from the main living area. Another common floorplan includes a large living area in the rear with comfortable seating, an entertainment system, and large windows, creating an inviting space to relax and unwind. Many fifth wheel floorplans also incorporate a spacious kitchen with ample countertop space, storage, and modern appliances, as well as an adjacent dining area.

Travel trailers also offer a wide range of floorplan options depending on the size of the trailer. Larger travel trailers may include slide-outs to expand the living space and provide more room for amenities such as a full kitchen, a dinette, and comfortable seating. Common travel trailer layouts include a front or rear bedroom with a queen-size bed, a central living area, a spacious kitchen, and a compact bathroom.

Winner: 5th wheels are more spacious. Travel trailers have more floorplan options.

Backing Up

While driving an RV, one of the most important skills to master is backing up. There is a learning curve for backing up any type of trailer.

Both fifth wheels and travel trailers behave differently while reversing. Some people find it easier to back up a fifth wheel. Others find travel trailers easier to back up.

Backing up a fifth wheel is generally considered to be easier than backing up a travel trailer. This is mainly due to the pivot point being further forward. Fifth wheels don’t react as quickly to movements of the steering wheel while backing up due to the location of the pivot point. This allows for more controlled and precise adjustments. You will need to turn the wheel further when backing a fifth wheel to achieve the desired movement.

One issue you may encounter while reversing a fifth wheel is that you can easily push your truck’s rear end too far one way or the other. This can throw off your angle. When this happens, you’ll have to pull forward and try again.

One potential risk when backing up a fifth wheel is jackknifing. This is when the trailer’s angle gets too sharp and it ends up pointing in a different direction than the tow vehicle. This can cause the front of the trailer to hit the truck’s cab and potentially break the rear window. To avoid this, use slow and controlled movements. Pay close attention to the angle of your trailer in relation to your truck.

Backing up travel trailers can be more challenging for some people. This is because they tend to overreact to minor steering wheel movements. They are very sensitive. This sensitivity can make it harder to control the trailer’s direction and requires more finesse to position the travel trailer accurately.

Learning how to make subtle adjustments and anticipate the trailer’s reaction to steering inputs can help improve your travel trailer backing skills. It takes some time to learn how to not overcompensate.

Of course, there are exceptions. A small travel trailer will be far easier to back up than a large fifth wheel. Some people feel more comfortable backing up a travel trailer because they’re already used to it. For example, if you have experience driving a trailer with a boat, you may feel more comfortable backing up a travel trailer because it already feels familiar.

With some practice, you can learn to back up either type of trailer. There is a learning curve. Each type of RV presents its unique challenges.

Winner: Many people find 5th wheels to be easier to back up than travel trailers.

A small travel trailer parked on the street

Ceiling Height

Because 5th wheels have a higher roofline, they have taller ceilings than travel trailers. This makes fifth wheels the best choice for particularly tall travelers. Tall ceilings also allow for the use of ceiling fans. This can help keep the living space cool during hot summers.

The ceiling height in the section over the truck bed is lower. You will have to crouch down to walk around in this room.

In travel trailers, the ceiling is usually 6.5-7 feet tall. Most travelers can walk around just fine inside. Smaller trailers, such as teardrop trailers, have lower ceilings due to their aerodynamic design. It is sometimes not possible to stand up inside.

Winner: Fifth wheels have higher ceilings than travel trailers.

A toy hauler trailer
A toy hauler trailer. Notice the large garage door on the back of the trailer

Heating and Cooling

Travel trailers are easier to heat and cool evenly. This is because the ceiling is the ceiling is lower. It’s also the same height throughout. Less energy is wasted on heating and cooling as a result.

5th wheels are harder to keep at an even temperature throughout. There are a couple of reasons for this. First, the living area is more divided up. There is an upstairs space over the truck bed. Depending on the placement of heat vents and the air conditioners, there may be hot or cold spots inside. The main living area might be at a comfortable temperature then you go to the bedroom and it’s too hot or too cold.

The ceiling in a 5th wheels is also taller. It is less efficient to heat and cool a space with a tall ceiling because there is more volume inside. More energy is wasted.

Winner: travel trailers are easier to heat and cool than 5th wheels.

Slide Outs

Slide outs are sections of the sides of the RV that move out to expand the living space inside. Most slide outs operate with an electric motor and a simple switch on the wall.

5th wheels usually have more slide outs than travel trailers. There are 5th wheelers with as many as 5-6 slide outs. Most models have 2 or 3.

Travel trailers usually only have one or two slide outs. This makes them feel less roomy inside. Small travel trailers and older travel trailers often don’t have any slide outs at all.

The reason travel trailers have fewer slide out sections is because they are heavy. Each slide out can add 500-800 pounds to the weight of the RV. Travel trailers become more difficult to tow when they are heavier. They are more likely to sway. You don’t have to worry about the extra weight as much on a 5th wheel due to the stability added by the 5th wheel hitch.

There are some drawback to having more slide outs. First, slide outs can develop leaks. They also reduce your efficiency because they add weight. It also takes a bit more time to set your RV up when you arrive at camp when you have slide outs.

Winner: 5th wheels have more slide outs than travel trailers.

Truck Bed Space

One major drawback of 5th wheels is that they take up space in your truck bed, whether you’re towing the trailer or not. While towing, the 5th wheel overhang and bed mounted hitch both take up most of the bed space. While you’re not towing your camper, the bed mounted hitch still takes up space. This reduces useable truck bed storage.

A 5th wheel hitch is not easily removable. It is a heavy piece of steel. The hitch alone can weigh 150-200 pounds. It is also bolted to the bed of the truck. It is possible to remove it while you’re not camping but it isn’t something that you’d want to do often. It’s a bit of a job.

There is still some useable space in the truck bed while you’re towing your 5th wheel. You can store some stuff around the hitch. Particularly if you use a gooseneck hitch. These take up less space in the bed than a standard 5th wheel hitch. For most campers, a standard 5th wheel hitch is the better choice.

With a travel trailer, you have full use of your entire truck bed. While you’re camping, you can haul an ATV, a dirt bike, a golf cart, kayaks, and other bulky items in the truck bed. While you’re not camping, you can use the pickup normally.

If you wanted to haul toys with a 5th wheel, you’d have to use a toy hauler with a garage. If you tow with an SUV, you can use the cargo space inside to haul extra gear.

Winner: You’ll have more useable bed space in your pickup when you use a travel trailer.

Built-in Generators

Most 5th wheels come with a built-in generator. These generators are quieter and more convenient to use than standalone generators.

Trailers usually don’t come with a built-in generator. If you need extra power, you will need to purchase a portable generator. Alternatively, you can install a solar system for electricity.

Winner: Most 5th wheels come with a built-in generator while travel trailers don’t.

Hitches and Hook Up

The hitch design affects the towing experience as well as the ease of installation, ease of hooking and unhooking the trailer, and compatibility with your tow vehicle.

Fifth wheel hitches are designed to handle the weight and size of larger RVs. To install a fifth wheel hitch, you’ll need to purchase the appropriate hitch for your specific vehicle and trailer combination. Not all hitches are compatible with all trucks and trailers.

The hitch must also be positioned precisely so the pin of the fifth wheel is located correctly in relation to the center point of the tow vehicle’s rear axle. This precise positioning is necessary for stable and smooth towing without any sway. A properly set up 5th wheel hitch can handle a heavy trailer.

Fifth wheel hitches are more difficult to install than travel trailer hitches. Most people opt for professional installation.

Once the hitch is installed, hooking a trailer up to a 5th wheel and unhooking it is faster and easier than hooking and unhooking to a ball hitch. There are fewer steps involved in the process. It’s also easier to line the hitch up with the trailer.

Fifth wheel hitches are fairly expensive. A 5th wheel hitch can cost $1000-$1200 alone. Professional installation can cost around $150-$300. Fifth wheel hitches are also less versatile. They are only used for hauling large trailers.

Travel trailers use a ball hitch. These are both cheaper and easier to install. It is possible to install a hitch on your own vehicle if you have the proper tools.

Most trucks and SUVs also come with a tow package option. You can purchase your vehicle with a tow hitch already professionally installed. This usually adds around $1200 to the price of the vehicle. This package usually includes a wiring harness for trailer lights, a transmission cooler, and possibly upgraded suspension and brakes. These upgrades help with towing performance. You can tow a trailer straight from the factory. It’s also possible to buy an aftermarket trailer hitch for around $150-$450.

One major benefit of ball hitches is that they are more versatile. For example, you could use the same ball hitch to tow a boat, a car trailer, a horse trailer, or a general-purpose cargo trailer.

It is a bit more difficult to hook up and unhook a trailer from a ball hitch. Aligning the coupler and latch on the ball mount can be challenging. It helps if you have someone to guide you. The ride can also be bumpy. The trailer pushes down on the back of the vehicle when you hit a rough surface.

Winner: Travel trailer hitches are lighter, easier to install, and less expensive than 5th wheel hitches.

RV Storage

Storing fifth wheels can be more difficult due to their large size and height. These large trailers won’t fit in a standard garage.

When you’re not using your fifth wheel, you may need to pay for storage. Some indoor storage facilities can’t handle trailers that are so tall. Many fifth wheels measure over 13 feet high. You may have to store your trailer at a specialized RV storage facility. Storage fees can add up. A storage facility could charge anywhere from $50-$250+ per month depending on the location.

Trailers are easier to store. Smaller trailers, such as teardrop trailers or pop-up campers, can fit in a standard garage. If your travel trailer is too large for your garage, you may need to rent a storage unit or park it at an RV storage facility.

A pop-up travel trailer
Pop-up campers collapse down for easy storage in a garage or under a carport

Of course, if you have a large property, you could just store your own trailer. You will want to check local zoning regulations and neighborhood association rules. You often can’t store an RV on the street long term.

Winner: Travel trailers are easier to store than 5th wheels due to their smaller size.

Off-Road Performance and Boondocking

When it comes to off-road camping, travel trailers are the better option. Trailers are easier to tow off-road because they are smaller and lighter. It’s easier to tow a small and lightweight trailer down a narrow forest road and over bumpy terrain.

If you like off-roading or camping in remote areas, you can buy a travel trailer that is specifically designed for off-road use. These are often referred to as “off-road campers” or “Overlanding trailers.”

Off-road campers come equipped with reinforced chassis, rugged tires, higher ground clearance, and even independent suspension systems to help them handle rough terrain. For more info, check out my guide to overland trailers.

5th wheels are not designed for off-road use. Their tall design makes them difficult to navigate narrow forest roads. Low-hanging tree branches can cause damage to the trailer. 5th wheels can also rock side to side while driving over uneven terrain. It would be easier to tip a 5th wheel. The weight of 5th wheels also makes them harder to drive off-road. The risk of getting stuck is higher. It is also hard to maneuver such a large trailer. You can’t turn around. If you make a wrong turn, you might have to back out.

Winner: Travel trailers perform better off-road than 5th wheels.

Triple Towing

Triple towing means towing two trailers at once. 5th wheels are better suited for triple towing than travel trailers because they are more stable. The weight distribution of 5th wheels also helps with handling. It is possible to triple tow with a travel trailer but you will likely be limited to a smaller second trailer.

It’s important to note that triple towing is not legal in many jurisdictions. There are also regulations around the total rig length and licensing. Be sure to check the laws everywhere you plan to drive before triple towing.

Winner: 5th wheels are better suited for triple towing than travel trailers.

Riding in the RV While Towing

In some states, it is legal for passengers to ride in the trailer. In some states, it is only legal for passengers to ride in a 5th wheel but not in a travel trailer. Sometimes, it’s illegal to ride in a trailer of any type.

It is legal to ride in a 5th wheel while it’s being towed in more places. It is almost always illegal to ride in a travel trailer. Be sure to check the laws before allowing passengers to ride in the trailer.

Even though it may be legal for passengers to ride in a 5th wheel or travel trailer, it should be avoided. In the event of an accident, the passenger could be seriously injured or killed. It’s dangerous to ride in a trailer or 5th wheel. Personally, I never allow anyone to ride in my trailer because it’s not safe.

Winner: It is legal to ride in a 5th wheel in more places.

Campers at the beach

Is a Fifth Wheel Better than a Travel Trailer?

There is no best trailer. The best choice really comes down to where you camp, for how long, how many people you camp with, your budget, and the amenities you need.

Fifth wheels offer more room and a more luxurious feel. This makes them the better choice for a large family or group. They’re also better for RV living because they have all of the amenities of home.

Travel trailers come in a wide range of sizes and designs. If you’re looking for a small or medium sized RV, a travel trailer is a great option.

When it comes to maneuverability and ease of towing, fifth wheels are the better choice. Travel trailers can be more susceptible to sway.

The towing requirements are also important to consider. Travel trailers can be towed by a wide range of vehicles. 5th wheels need a large pickup truck.

Cost is another important factor to consider. 5th wheels are more expensive. Travel trailers are more budget-friendly and more fuel-efficient.

Who Should Choose a 5th Wheel?

  • Those who travel long term or live in their RV
  • Large families or groups
  • Those who prefer luxury amenities
  • Those who already own or have use for a heavy-duty pickup truck
  • RVers who value stability and ease of towing
  • Those who don’t require off-road capabilities

Who Should Choose a Travel Trailer?

  • First-time RVers
  • Solo travelers, couples, or small families
  • Those who own smaller tow vehicles
  • Those on a tight budget
  • Off-road campers
  • Campers who value versatility
  • Those who only camp occasionally
A caravan being towed down the highway

My Experience

For my style of camping, a travel trailer is the better option. I usually camp alone so I don’t need the extra space of a fifth wheel. A travel trailer also fits my budget better. I can drive a smaller vehicle that’s better on gas. I don’t really have any use for a 1 ton truck right now.

smaller travel trailer also allows me to go places that I couldn’t go with a fifth wheel. I enjoy camping in off-the-beaten-path destinations sometimes. Recently, I have been doing more off-road camping.

Final Thoughts

The choice between a 5th wheel and a travel trailer depends on where you camp, who you camp with, your budget, and your personal preferences. Both 5th wheels and travel trailers have their own advantages and disadvantages.

Generally, 5th wheels are larger and more luxurious. They require a heavy-duty pickup. Trailers are smaller and more affordable. They may lack some amenities for day-to-day living. It’s also important to consider the towing capacity of your vehicle when choosing an RV.

Whichever type of RV you choose, I hope this guide has helped you in making your decision.

Do you camp in a 5th wheel or a travel trailer? Share your experience in the comments below!

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