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A fifth wheel being towed on the road on a cloudy day

Best Vehicle Types for Towing Fifth Wheels

Updated on February 4th, 2024

You’re living the Great American Dream! You bought a camper, and you’re ready to put the rubber on the pavement as you hit the highway for the adventure of a lifetime.

Before you begin, however, you may want to figure out where you plan to go and how you plan to get there. What are the best vehicles for towing a fifth wheel?

Let’s have an inside look at some of the best things that make up a vehicle for towing and what makes them the best on the road.

Short Bed vs. Long Bed: What’s Best for a 5th Wheel?

SuperCrew Cabs, Mega Cabs, and Quad Cabs have all exploded in popularity in the last couple of years as people have taken a liking to have more room in the truck.

The problem comes from how truck bed lengths used to have a standard 8 feet of length, and this has gotten smaller as these trucks have taken over.

The reason that truck bed length matters is because of how the setup will have an impact on the cost and it will have an impact on the simplicity of towing once you get on the road.

An 8 Foot Long Bed

Any truck with the standard 8 feet is referred to as a long-bed truck. This is the ideal setup if you want to be hauling a fifth-wheel camper.

The fifth-wheel axle will remain in front of the truck, so the camper will sit next to the cab. An 8-foot bed gives you plenty of clearance while allowing you to make sharp turns without a special pinbox or hitch for the truck.

With a long-bed truck, you can buy a fixed hitch, which will let you tow your camper.

Short Bed Truck

Short-bed trucks are where things get a little more tricky because you may have to pay a little more to get it set up. However, you shouldn’t let that get you down because you will be able to tow your truck in most cases.

Sometimes these trucks will run into clearance issues because they’re so close to the truck’s cab. Nevertheless, you can buy hitches specifically tailored to this kind of truck that will allow you to tow it without a problem.

a short bed truck hauling two mattresses

Sliding hitches are normally what you would use with one of these trucks because it provides you with better clearance, and the truck tailgate will be able to do sharper turns more easily.

Keep in mind if you pick the wrong vehicle, it can lead to RV problems/mistakes.

Gas vs. Diesel: Which Does a Better Job?

In the past, diesel used to be the less expensive fuel of the two, but in the last few years, diesel has become more expensive. This is largely because of how the federal tax on diesel is more expensive than regular gasoline.

In general, diesel engines will normally have better towing ability, and they will get better gas mileage. The reason for the better towing capacity comes from the high torque output of these vehicles.

Diesel engines also tend to last longer than what you’d get with a regular gasoline engine.

What Is the Best Payload Capacity?

When it comes to trucks, you have a 1/2-ton pickup, 3/4-ton pickup and 1-ton pickup. Which one will do the best job of hauling fifth wheels?

In most cases, you will want at least a 3/4-ton pickup type of vehicle to do the towing for the fifth wheels. Meanwhile, a 1-ton pickup will get the job done with plenty of towing capacity to spare.

Especially if you have a bigger camper, you will want one of these to help you out. The larger vehicles don’t strain the drivetrain components and suspension as much as what you would with a smaller truck.

With that said, you can even tow a fifth wheel with a 1/2-ton pickup, it’s just that it will put a lot more strain on the truck, and this could eventually lead to problems.

Let’s have a look at some of the best vehicles for towing fifth wheels and what makes them the best:

The Ford F 350 Super Duty

The Ford F-series has become famous as one of the most iconic and best-sold vehicle series on the market today. The Ford F-350 is the 1-ton version pickup for the Ford brand.

What makes this the best is that you get 935 torque and 450 horsepower. The higher amount of torque and horsepower is really what puts the Ford F-350 over the top as a truck.

You also get advanced technologies available with seven different cameras to help you back up. For a truck of its size, most people have reported how this truck feels surprisingly comfortable to sit in.

When it comes to towing capacity, few can do better clocking out at 27,500 pounds of towing capabilities. That might be overkill when it comes to towing any fifth-wheel camper, but it gets the job done right.

If you were to choose between the Cummins engine or the Power Stroke engine, the Power Stroke wins because of how it has a higher amount of torque and horsepower.

Nevertheless, both are respected engines, and you can’t go wrong with either of them.

The biggest downside of the Ford F-350 comes from how they have prioritized hauling over fuel economy, and you don’t get the best fuel economy from this truck.

The Ford F-350 also costs a little more than its rivals, but you have a good trade-off when it comes to raw power.

RAM 3500

This truck breaks a world record with 30,000 pounds of towing capacity. That means that you shouldn’t have any problem whatsoever with towing fifth wheels.

You can haul even some of the largest campers without having to worry about breaking a sweat. Meanwhile, the maximum torque output sits at 930 pounds, which is slightly less than what you’d get with the Ford F-350.

You also receive a rear-end camera that makes backing up your fifth wheel much easier. RAM also maintains the iconic rugged appearance that has made it wildly popular.

a ram 3500 being shown on display

When it comes to downsides with this truck, even despite its pristine reputation as a solid truck, they don’t outperform the Ford F-350 in terms of torque and horsepower.

However, the RAM 3500 still has a better towing capacity than its rival. Another potential downside is that the RAM 3500 doesn’t feel as comfortable when you ride it on the inside unhitched.

Chevrolet Silverado 3500

When towing a fifth wheel, this vehicle type has a towing capacity of 23,300 pounds. That’s not the greatest in comparison to the RAM 3500 or the Ford F-350, but some diehard Chevy fans may still prefer this truck over the competition, and you have a couple of reasons for why.

First, you have a smoother and quieter ride than what you have with the other two. You also have a host of safety features and rear-view camera features that makes backing up a little easier with a fifth wheel.

The biggest con that you will get from the Chevrolet Silverado 3500 comes from its lackluster towing capacity, but plenty of people use this truck and have no problem. It just depends on the size of your camper.

Each Has Its Own Pros and Cons

Every brand that you choose will be unique in its own way, but each will have its own pros and cons. For example, the Ford seems to be the cream of the crop in many ways for towing a fifth wheel, but if you want better fuel economy, this may not be the best choice for you.

In that case, Chevrolet Silverado 3500 gets the best mileage at 18.5 mpg, which makes it the best in its class. Meanwhile, the RAM 3500 trails with 17 mpg and the Ford F-350 is in last place with 12 mpg.

This depends on the trim that you have chosen as well because the lower trims tend to get worse gas mileage.

Did You Know Truck Tires Can Increase Payload Capacity?

One of the best ways that you can get the most bang for your buck comes down to looking at the load rating specifications of your tires. Most standard tires will have a maximum load rating of 3,000 pounds.

Most don’t people don’t realize that they can get a slight advantage from this. For example, you can replace your 3,000-pound tires with 3,400-pound tires. Even if you only did the rear tires, it will help you to increase your payload capacity by 800 pounds.

What Makes a Good Vehicle for Towing Fifth Wheels?

You have a couple of things that will make a vehicle good for fifth wheels. First, they will have a higher towing capacity.

Second, they should have a lot of horsepower and torque so that you don’t stress out the internal components of your vehicle. One that is either a 1-ton truck or a 3/4-ton truck will do the best job because they were made for towing.

Finally, with the newer vehicles, you should look for one that has a rearview camera because of how it will help you with backing up your camper.

Can You Pull a Camper with a Van or SUV?

You should only tow fifth-wheel RVs using trucks. Technically, you do have a specialized tool that would make it possible for you to pull gooseneck-style trailers.

This is known as the automated safety hitch. However, especially if you have a bigger camper, hauling it with an SUV or a van may not work the best because of how this exceeds the towing capacity of your vehicle.

vans lined up to be sold

You should make sure that your van or SUV has the right towing capacity before you buy the automated safety hitch because it costs quite a bit. Otherwise, there have been cases where people bought one of these things, and it wasn’t the right towing capacity.

Not to mention, you will burn up more fuel hauling with a van or SUV because of how they weren’t built for this.

Towing Above Capacity

For towing fifth wheels, whether in a car or a truck, the most important thing that you want to pay attention to is your vehicle type. What happens in a worst-case scenario hauling with a van or SUV?

When you ask a vehicle to haul above and beyond its towing capacity, bad things start to happen. For example, the brakes start to fade, and they’re not as effective.

Your engine might also begin to overheat, and this will overload the drivetrain and cause a shortened lifespan for your transmission. As a side note, replacing a transmission isn’t cheap.

In fact, you can pay anywhere from $1800 to $3400 to replace your transmission. Even if you were to salvage one, it will cost you between $800 to $1,500, and then you don’t know how good it will be.

You may not even notice any signs of wear and tear from having a vehicle haul above its towing capacity. However, it adds up over time. Under the best of circumstances, you will be in and out of the repair shop often.

In the worst of circumstances, you can expect a total meltdown and a big wreck. It can be dangerous to haul a fifth wheel with a vehicle above its towing capacity because of how so much can go wrong.

Even if nothing else happens, you will notice how the handling and stability are out of shape.

Why Should Someone Buy a Fifth Wheel Camper?

You should buy a fifth wheel because of how it leads to a harmonious level of weight distribution. Let’s say that you were to try a different route.

The rear axle acts as a pivot point, and all the weight gets distributed on the rear suspension. Soon or later, your truck is going to have problems when you put that much weight on the rear suspension.

With the fifth wheel, the weight gets placed on the truck and the cab. This eliminates the pressure placed on the pivot and doesn’t stress out your truck quite as much.

The dynamics of towing your vehicle are more favorable in comparison to a trailer that you have hooked up near the rear.

Can You Tow a Fifth Wheel with a Half Ton Vehicle Type Pickup?

Some marketing suggests that you could haul a fifth wheel with a Ford F-150. However, if you want your truck to work afterward, it’s advisable that you use something a little stronger to handle the weight capacity better.

Normally, you will want a 3/4-ton or 1-ton pickup to do the hauling.

Are Diesel Trucks The Vehicle Type For Towing Fifth Wheels?

While gasoline does cost less than diesel, diesel trucks are the better of the two options when hauling a fifth wheel. While gas might cost less upfront, if you factor in a longer trip, you’ll burn through more gasoline than you would with diesel.

Over the long-term diesel will cost you less because of better power and fuel economy over the long term.

When choosing a vehicle for a fifth wheel, you have a lot of different factors to consider like budget, towing capacity, size of the truck and whether you want gasoline or diesel.

Giving a direct recommendation won’t work because in most cases, everyone will have different circumstances, but we have listed three of the best vehicle types for towing a fifth wheel, and we have looked at some of the reasons that they make for one of the better trucks to haul them with.

What Is the Best Truck to Tow a Fifth Wheel? (Video)

Related Questions

  1. What are the key differences between short-bed and long-bed trucks when it comes to towing fifth wheels?

Short-bed trucks, while more maneuverable, often have less towing capacity and may require specialized hitches due to their shorter distance between the cab and the rear axle, potentially posing a risk for fifth-wheel pin box contact with the truck cab.

In contrast, long-bed trucks typically have higher towing capacities, provide more room for hitch placement, and reduce the risk of cab contact, making them traditionally better suited for towing fifth wheels.

  1. How does the choice of fuel type (gas vs. diesel) impact the towing capacity and efficiency of a vehicle?

The choice of fuel type significantly impacts a vehicle’s towing capacity and efficiency; diesel engines generally provide higher torque at lower RPMs, enabling superior towing capacity compared to gas engines.

Furthermore, diesel fuel has a higher energy density than gasoline, which typically leads to better fuel efficiency, especially under load such as when towing.

  1. What is the significance of payload capacity in vehicles used for towing fifth wheels?

Payload capacity in vehicles used for towing fifth wheels is critical as it indicates the maximum weight a vehicle can carry, which includes the weight of the trailer’s hitch, passengers, and cargo.

If exceeded, it can compromise the vehicle’s performance, fuel efficiency, and safety.

  1. How do the Ford F-350, RAM 3500, and Chevrolet Silverado 3500 compare in terms of towing capacity, horsepower, and fuel economy?

The 2023 Ford F-350 has a towing capacity of 14,700 lbs, horsepower ranging from 475 hp to 401 hp, but the fuel economy is not specified. The 2023 RAM 3500 offers a slightly higher towing capacity at 14,970 lbs, horsepower between 405 hp and 370 hp, with no fuel economy data provided.

The 2023 Chevrolet Silverado 3500 outperforms both in towing capacity at 20,000 lbs, has horsepower ranging from 500 hp to 445 hp, but also lacks specified fuel economy data.

  1. How can changing truck tires increase the payload capacity for towing fifth wheels?

Changing truck tires to ones with a higher load rating can increase the payload capacity for towing fifth wheels because they can handle more weight without failing.

This allows the truck to safely carry and tow heavier loads, including larger fifth wheels, without risking tire blowouts or other damage.

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