RV Knowledge: How To Find The Best Fifth Wheel Hitch
RVing is one of the most freeing pastimes that anyone can take part in. While many people rent, when you own your own RV, it's pretty great. There are a lot of great RV options; you can own a travel trailer, motorhome, or a campervan.
That being said, when you're ready to really get into RVing, a fifth wheel hitch provides a lot of possibilities, especially if you want a spacious RVing experience.
In this guide, I'm going to help you find the best fifth wheel hitch products and also help you better understand what fifth wheel hitching is all about.
- What Is A Fifth Wheel Hitch?
- Jaw Types For Fifth Wheel Hitches
- Fixed Position vs Sliding Hitch
- Two Pivot vs Four Pivot Design
- Consider Your Vehicle's Towing Capacity
- Consider The Length Of Your Truck Bed
- 6 Best Fifth Wheel Hitchs Reviews
- Final Thoughts
- Bonus: How To Install A Fifth Wheel Hitch
What Is A Fifth Wheel Hitch?
A fifth wheel hitch is a special type of RV that attaches to the rear of a truck. Unlike other types of hitch options, you really can't get away with a minivan or an SUV with a fifth wheel; you really need a truck that has a bed.
The advantage of this type of hitch is that you can really have a varied RV sizing experience; you'll just have to consider the weight capacity of your vehicle.
The largest fifth wheel hitches require fairly heavy-duty trucks in order to maneuver them, but these big rig fifth wheel hitches can be so large that they can even dwarf Class A motorhomes.
The attachment method for a good fifth wheel hitch differs significantly from a travel trailer or a pop-up trailer. Instead of hitching to the rear of your vehicle, you'll have to install a fifth wheel hitch assembly into the bed of your truck.
This assembly usually is installed on rails and it allows the fifth wheel trailer to move along the rails so that you can easily navigate the tighter spaces of the campground. Fifth wheels do not suffer from the travel sway that you can sometimes experience with fifth wheel trailers, which means that they provide a very stable and easy ride.
Jaw Types For Fifth Wheel Hitches
There are primarily three different types of jaws for fifth wheel hitches. Each of the jaws usually comes at a different price point, and while all will get the job done, some are quieter at the king pin than others.
Here's a quick breakdown:
- Single Jaw: If you're looking for security and a tight fit, this is definitely the fifth wheel system for you. With a single jaw design, the jaw clamps firmly around the king pin, which virtually prevents the majority of contact noise due to its tightness. If the sound of the king pin bothers you as you drive, give a single jaw a try. This is also the most expensive of the three options.
- Double Jaw: Double jaw hitches also are very secure, but you may have to expect some king pin noise during your trip. Usually, the jaws are serrated, which means that the jaws may move periodically, which is where the sound may come from at the king pin.
- Sliding Bar Jaw: If you're not bothered by a bit of noise, and you want to save some dough, the sliding bar jaw is the cheapest option that still has a good amount of security. Simply put, the fit is much looser on this type, but this is the only jaw type that will automatically close around the king pin when you're lining up the hitch.
Fixed Position vs Sliding Hitch
The choice between fixed position and sliding hitches can pose a difficult decision for RVers.
As you might expect, a fixed position hitch will stay stationary in the bed of your truck, but will allow the truck to pivot and turn when you need it.
A sliding hitch, on the other hand, has the ability to adjust to the circumstances of your driving. For example, when you're trying to maneuver through a campground, slower turns can be difficult with a travel trailer or a fixed position fifth wheel hitch.
When you use a sliding model, these slow turns are easier because you can adjust the positioning of the hitch and the tow vehicle much easier. This type of turning is perfect for right-angled turns. The chief disadvantage of this type is the fact that sliding hitches are usually much more expensive than fixed position hitches.
Two Pivot vs Four Pivot Design
What kind of ground will you be hitching on during your average RV trip? This is a question that you should ask yourself when you're getting ready to purchase your next fifth wheel hitch. This is because the surface often greatly impacts your overall hitching experience.
If you're primarily going to be hitting the paved campgrounds that have even surfaces, you can get a two pivot hitch. These hitches pivot forward and back so that you can quickly hitch up to your fifth wheel.
On the other hand, if you're the type that likes to RV off of the beaten path, then you'll most often be hitching on uneven land. If this is the case, then a hitch that pivots forward and back and side to side will really make hitching much easier.
Consider Your Vehicle's Towing Capacity
There's one thing that varies greatly in trucks: towing capacity.
The towing capacity of your truck is one of the most important stats for you to consider when getting a fifth wheel. While you can usually find a good truck that will manage 15,000 pounds or more, you shouldn't seek out a 15,000-pound fifth wheel if that's what your truck can handle.
Always remember that a fifth wheel's weight is usually factored with nothing in it. So when you store your television, your AC unit, your generator, and all of your other stuff, it can really increase the weight of your fifth wheel.
For this reason, it's always a good idea to get a hitch that has a weight that's at least 2,000 to 3,000 pounds lower than the towing capacity of your truck.
Consider The Length Of Your Truck Bed
This is absolutely crucial because the last thing you need is to have your fifth wheel ramming into the back or side of your cab while you're trying to turn.
For this reason, there are different types of hitches designed for short bed or longer-bedded trucks. Always select the one that fits the design of your truck.
6 Best Fifth Wheel Hitchs Reviews
If you are looking for a high-quality fifth wheel hitch that works from a fixed positioning, the Curt 16130 is a great option.
First, this is a hitch with a dual-jaw design, which means that the jaws wrap completely around the king pin so that you'll have a secure fit during your trip. The head assembly is designed to pivot in any direction so that you'll be able to hitch on just about any surface.
The handle has a fairly useful feature that's designed to provide a high degree of hitch safety; when your hitch is locked into place by the jaws, there is an indicator on the assembly that displays green.
When you release the pin, clip, lock, and lock out the hitch, this indicator displays a red color so that you can quickly see that the hitch isn't secure.
Finally, if the handle is released, the indicator in the small window will display yellow, which tells you that the assembly is ready to be hitched.
- The height of this hitch is adjustable via several bolt holes.
- This hitch is capable of towing up to 20,000 pounds with a 4,000-pound vertical load limit.
- This Curt hitch secures to the rails via a pin and clip attachment system, which means that you can remove it at any time.
- There might be a little bit of king pin rattling over rougher terrain.
- The latch handle is a bit hard to see without using a ladder.
If you need a good hitch that can hitch up your fifth wheel on relatively uneven surfaces, the Curt 16130 is definitely a good, inexpensive solution.
Sometimes, it's very useful to have a slider-style hitch that allows you to make those slow turns inside of a campground or RV park. This particular hitch is designed with short bed trucks in mind and requires no rails so that you can quickly gain access to your truck bed when the hitch isn't needed.
The head of the hitch has a four-way pivot system, which makes this a good option for anyone looking to hitch on various surfaces.
There are three height settings on this hitch that can make it easier to find the right fitment for your fifth wheel trailer. The hitch is also well protected from the elements; B&W used a powder coating over the steel body of this hitch so that you'll be able to use it for years without worrying about rust or corrosion.
- This hitch has a gross towing weight of 20,000 pounds.
- If you need an easy-to-install hitch that can be removed very quickly, the B&W RVK3400 is a great option.
- Navigating through lots and campgrounds is very easy to do when you have a slider assembly as responsive as the one installed on the RVK3400.
- The hitch itself definitely takes up a lot of space in the bed.
This is a very convenient hitch. The simple fact that it doesn't use rails means that your bed is very usable whenever you're not planning on going RVing. In fact, it's a quick one-person job to remove it.
In my experience, like many Reese hitches, the 30120 is a very inexpensive hitching option that's designed for people that are serious about fifth wheel RVing.
As a result, this is a fairly feature-rich product that folds in features like a floating head, a double jaw system for holding the king pin, and an adjustable height that lets you vary the hitch from 13 to 17 inches.
If you prefer a slider system, this hitch can even be upgraded so that this is an option.
Similarly to the previous product, this hitch can manage 20,000 pounds of gross towing weight. The overall experience is very stable due to the fact that the legs have a sturdy footprint and are comprised of steel.
Additionally, despite the excellent build quality, the Reese 30120 is fairly easy to install and remove when you need the bed space.
- This is a good hitch for those with short bed pickups.
- Reese provides a three-year warranty for this fifth wheel hitch.
- This hitch actually includes a set of rails and mounting hardware, which simplifies things significantly.
- The rails and mounting hardware doesn't work for every truck bed, which means you may have to make additional purchases.
- The installation instructions could be a bit clearer.
For those looking for a good overall hitching performance, the Reese 30120 is a great option. While it doesn't pivot in every direction, it's definitely a heavy-duty product that will get you through most hitching situations.
This product from B&W is designed to convert your B&W turnover ball gooseneck hitch into a fifth wheel hitch. One of the best features of this hitch is that it's completely rail-free, which means that you can quickly install it into your pickup bed with a fairly simple installation.
To install, you simply need to drop in the square post into the opening of your gooseneck hitch. As a result, day-to-day installation takes mere minutes.
The product also includes rubber pads that can prevent a tight fit so that there's no rattling in the truck bed during use. The securing system of this hitch consists of a dual jaw system that uses thicker jaws to provide a tight and strong fit.
To close the jaws, all you have to do is unpin the lever and then push it towards the hitch. I like the simplicity of this system because all you have to do is push the king pin into the hitch and it'll close around it fairly easily.
- It's very easy to install a locking system on the lever; simply run a padlock through the hole.
- This product uses a cam-action lever so that there's no pressure on the kingpin so that there's no binding on uneven terrain.
- The head pivots in four directions.
- This hitch is only compatible with B&W's gooseneck hitches, which means that you have to have one installed beforehand.
If you have a B&W gooseneck, buying this companion hitch is a no-brainer. I particularly like how versatile and easy it is to install this product.
Another fifth wheel hitch that uses a dual jaw design, the BWRVK3050 is a versatile fifth wheel companion hitch that has a 22,000-pound gross weight capacity.
Since this is a companion hitch, this product, like the RVK3500 is designed to be installed on an under-bed gooseneck hitch by B&W. Similarly to the previous B&W product, this product uses a cam action lever that manages binding pressure on unlevel terrain.
The head is fully articulated, which is another feature that will help you hitch up easily on uneven surfaces. There are also rubber pads throughout the construction of this product so that you experience very minimal rattling during operation.
- This has a very simple installation; simply drop the post into the ball hole of your gooseneck hitch and secure it.
- The product is weather resistant via a powder coat finish that protects the steel from corrosion and rust.
- This can manage somewhat larger fifth wheels because it has a 22,000-pound weight capacity and a vertical load limit of 5,500 pounds.
- This isn't the easiest hitch to put together, so you may need to have it professionally assembled.
- The BWRVK3050 is on the heavier side, so you may want to get help when installing and removing it.
In my experience, it's good to have versatility. If you have a gooseneck hitch and you want to tow a fifth wheel hitch, a companion hitch like the BWRVK3050 is a great option.
This product is specifically designed for Ford Super Duty trucks that come with the towing prep package. This hitch is easily installable with the prep package so that you won't have to modify it in any way.
It's a very compact product compared to the other companion hitches that I've covered thus far, but it provides a comparable level of performance and versatility.
This is also the companion hitch with the largest towing capacity; it can handle a fifth wheel trailer that weighs a full 25,000 pounds, which is perfect for those RVers with larger vehicles.
This product uses a dual jaw mechanism to secure the king pin of your trailer; as a result, there will be very little rattling due to the 360-degree capture method. The product secures via a cam lever that also ensures that you'll be able to hitch fairly easily, even when you're on unlevel ground.
- The cam lever system makes it easy to hitch without worrying about binding.
- This is a fully articulated hitch; the head pivots in any direction, which can prevent chucking.
- You can adjust the height via the holes in the inside of the hitch assembly.
- The legs can be swapped, which gives you different height settings.
- At 66 pounds, this hitch can cause a lot of fatigue if you install in on your own.
This is definitely a good hitch for anyone with a Super Duty; it doesn't take up a lot of space and it has a good amount of gross towing capacity.
When you need a fifth wheel hitch, in my experience, it's a good idea to not skimp and invest in the best fifth wheel hitch that you can buy. Each of these products that I've reviewed in this fifth wheel guide is designed to provide absolutely excellent fifth wheel performance.
If I had to pick a winner, I'm inclined to prefer the Curt 16130; it doesn't require any previous installation, it has a good towing capacity, and it's easy to track the coupling process thanks to the indicator window.
Bonus: How To Install A Fifth Wheel Hitch
To install a fifth wheel hitch, you'll usually need:
- A Torque Wrench: When you install your hitch, it needs to be attached securely to the bed of your truck.
- A Ratchet and Ratchet Extension: Used when you're attaching bolts. Some beds have hard to reach bolts, which is why you'll need an extension.
- A Corded Drill: You'll need to create 5/8 and 5/16 inch drill holes for most hitches and the hitch rails.
- A Brake Controller : When you want to come to a stop, you'll need this so that your truck's brakes and the hitches brakes work in conjunction.
- Rails: Some models of hitch come with rails, but many do not. Always assume that you'll have to purchase these.
- A Tape Measure: Use this for getting accurate measurements.
- Extension Harness: This serves as a go-between for your cab and the fifth wheel. This hooks to the controller so that you can brake both the cab and the trailer at the same time.
Most fifth wheel hitches take anywhere between two to five hours for installation. The first step is lining up the rails with the axles of your truck bed.
Mark the spots where you'll be drilling in the bolt locations. When installing, the rails need to be aligned so that the space to the wheel wells is equal on each side of the hitch.
Drill pilot holes in the cab and then use a step drill to create the larger bolt holes to secure the rails. Some people drill in and install one rail and measure the distance to the second one for accuracy.
It's just very important to position the rails accurately. Next, you'll just have to attach the hitch to the rails; this is typically done via a clip and a steel pin.