What’s best for towing trailer?
If you’re new to towing big trailers, you may have heard the terms “gooseneck” and “fifth wheel/5th wheel” thrown around, but what’s the difference and why would you choose one over the other?
While they’re both heavy-duty hitches that connect large trailers to a truck’s bed instead of a receiver under or even on its bumper, they do so in different ways for important reasons.
No matter if it’s your casual trailer or a popup camper, if you want to tow something then you need a hitch. When the weight of what you want to tow increase, the choice of hitch become ever more important.
Vehicle or RV trailer
Hitch installations often come in handy when there is a need to tow another vehicle or a large RV trailer. Hitches can do wonders when they are attached to the chassis of your vehicle.
Most of us do not mind hitching our trailers to the backs of our tow vehicles.
If the ball fits the trailer, you’re just good to go. But having the right hitch is just as important as having the right tow vehicle because one mistake could mean the loss of your beloved ski boat or just anything you want to be hitched.
And you’d be surprised to know that there are an overwhelming variety of hitches and towing hardware available out there.
Not all vehicles are created equal, so you need to carefully choose your hitch based on the towing capacity of your tow vehicle and the RV trailer. Two of the most popular and widely used hitches are gooseneck and fifth wheel hitches.
A gooseneck hitch looks similar to a conventional hitch, utilizing a ball fitted in the truck bed and a round receiver on the trailer tongue. Larger than a conventional ball hitch, a gooseneck ball fits into a hole in the truck bed.
The trailer tongue, which looks like a vertical section of pipe hanging under the trailer’s front end, is lowered over the ball and secured after you back the truck up under the trailer tongue.
As with any trailer type, safety chains and trailer wiring must also be connected.
Gooseneck hitches are typically rated for pulling up to 30,000 lbs. or more, and they are commonly used to tow livestock trailers, horse trailers and flatbed equipment haulers.
There are two different types of gooseneck hitches: above-bed and under-bed.
First is the above-bed gooseneck hitch which attaches to the same standard rails as a 5th wheel hitch does on your truck. This makes it easy to take on/off of your truck and is great if you’re switching hitches often.
Second is the under-bed gooseneck hitch, which is probably the most popular style of gooseneck hitch. They are custom fit to your specific truck and have rails that attach beneath the bed of the truck.
The two most common types of under-bed gooseneck hitches are the OEM gooseneck hitch and the B&W gooseneck hitch.
Benefits of a Gooseneck Hitch
A gooseneck trailer hitch is significantly smaller in the truck bed than a fifth wheel. Despite this, it can tow a higher weight capacity in most cases. Plus, the ball coupling system is easier to operate for a lot of people.
Advantages of Gooseneck Hitches
When considering a 5th wheel vs. gooseneck hitch, one area the gooseneck comes out ahead is that it can usually tow a heavier trailer. It also has more stability for heavy loads because of better weight distribution.
A gooseneck is less invasive and takes up less room in the truck’s bed than a 5th wheel hitch. Above the truck bed, a gooseneck hitch consists merely of a gooseneck ball and safety chain anchors.
Many models also feature a removable or folding ball that is comparatively lightweight and easy to operate.
Disadvantages of Gooseneck Hitch
There are a few modest disadvantages to a gooseneck hitch. First of all, is the overall size of the trailer you tend to see with a gooseneck.
You will need a robust three-quarter-ton pickup truck or even a one-ton pickup truck to be able to safely tow a trailer with this kind of girth and gross vehicle weight rating.
Many gooseneck trailers are technically classified as commercial and you need a special driver’s license endorsement to tow it legally on state and federal highways.
The fifth wheel hitch is a truck bed hitch that comes under the Class IV category of hitches which are designed for heavy towing duties with a gross trailer weights in between 5,000 and 10,000 pounds.
A 5th wheel hitch is a truck bed hitch that couples to the kingpin of a 5th wheel trailer. Metal jaws or a locking bar secure the kingpin, and a pivoting head plate on the hitch provides the necessary movement to tow the trailer smoothly.
5th wheel hitches are available in weight capacities from 16,000 lbs. to 30,000 lbs. Their most common usage is towing RV trailers and large campers.
Benefits of a Fifth-Wheel
The most significant benefit of a fifth-wheel hitch is that it provides a smoother towing experience. Additionally, it is a common hitch type for campers.
So, if that is what you expect to be towing, it may be the right choice for you Although fifth-wheel hitches require a permanent addition to the truck bed, they do not require as large of a hole in the center as gooseneck hitches.
Finally, there are far more capacity options for fifth-wheel hitches.
Advantages of Fifth-Wheel
The very first advantage of fifth-wheel hitches over gooseneck hitches is that they come in one piece. There are little to no additional parts that you would need to get to install a fifth-wheel hitch. This can make the installation a bit easier. And besides, you won’t have to go and buy some additional items to get your fifth-wheel hitch working.
Disadvantages of Fifth-Wheel
Disadvantages of the 5th wheel vs. gooseneck include that the 5th wheel hitch is heavier and more challenging to move and assemble.
Additionally, it comes with a higher price tag than a goosenecks. It also requires permanently installed base rails in the truck, and it is challenging to move after installing.
Similarities between Gooseneck and Fifth Wheel
There is a certain limit to how much weight can be towed from the back of a pickup truck with traditional ball hitches. No matter how powerful the towing vehicle is – it is the strength of the frame below the rear bumper that significantly limits the towing capacity of rear hitches. Fifth-wheel and gooseneck hitches are both designed to address this problem.
What is also common between gooseneck and fifth-wheel hitches is that they increase the stability of the towing vehicle-RV system, as well as noticeably increase its maneuverability. This is because both these hitches bring the RV forward and closer to the vehicle. With these hitches, the front end of the RV is hanging over the rear axle of the towing vehicle.
Both occupy the bed truck area
The hitch plate obviously needs some free area in the truck bed for the installation. And the bigger the hitch, the more area it is going to take up. And besides, the front end of the RV hangs above the towing vehicle cargo bay, which limits the headroom you have in your pickup truck.
Difference between Gooseneck and 5th Wheel
The primary difference between the two is their construction. Gooseneck hitches come with a ball and a coupler design, and that’s why they are famous as ball mount hitches. At the same time, the fifth wheel hitches have a jaw and kingpin design. Gooseneck hitches are minimally invasive during the installation process. However, fifth wheel hitches are massive, and they also come with an option to remove the trap.
Gooseneck vs 5th wheel pros and cons
Gooseneck hitch pros and cons
- Minimally invasive in truck bed once installed
- Lightweight, easy-to-operate ball
- Simple coupling mechanism
- Great for agriculture, commercial
- Convertible to 5th wheel
- Hole saw drilling in truck bed
- Less stability for tall trailers
- Noisy compared to 5th wheel
Fifth Wheel pros and cons
- Smoother, more stable towing compared to gooseneck
- Variety of weight capacity options
- Sliding options for short-bed trucks
- Great for RVs, recreation
- Convertible to gooseneck
- Heavy assembly is difficult to move
- Relatively more expensive
- Permanent truck bed base rails
Why can gooseneck tow more than 5th Wheel?
When considering a 5th wheel vs. gooseneck hitch, one area the gooseneck comes out ahead is that it can usually tow a heavier trailer. It also has more stability for heavy loads because of better weight distribution. A gooseneck is less invasive and takes up less room in the truck’s bed than a 5th wheel hitch.
What Kind of Hitch should I use?
Before you come to decide which one you should buy between a gooseneck and 5th wheel hitch, check your vehicle pulling ability. You can figure this out by examining the truck manuals In order to safely and effectively use either of the hitches, your truck needs to be a ¾ ton, 1 ton or larger.
The reason behind this requirement is fairly simple. Trailers that can accept gooseneck or 5th wheel hitch couplers have an average weight of 10,000 lbs. This makes them beyond the towing capacity of ½ ton truck and smaller.
When you are sure that your truck has sufficient towing capacity, the next thing to check is the trailer attaching assortment. Inspect to see it got gooseneck couplers, tongue mounted couplers or kingpin arm and box.
The trailer weight is also important. As mentioned above, if your trailer weight exceeds 10,000 lbs then you can use a gooseneck or 5th wheel hitch. Information about the trailer weight can be found in its VIN plate, short for Vehicle Identification Number.
The GVWR, or Gross Vehicle Weight Rating, is the loaded weight of the trailer. If that number is above 10,000 lbs weight limit, you can now consider using either of the hitches. After finished checking the weight, ask yourself if you want to carry passengers in the trailer while it’s being towed by the hitch.
Which is better 5th wheel or Gooseneck?
A fifth wheel hitch is better for recreational towing, and a gooseneck hitch is better for farming and commercial towing. Fifth wheel hitches provide a smoother and more stable ride, while gooseneck hitches are preferred for their minimally invasive design.
Fifth wheel hitches are more difficult to move in and out of the truck bed. They are also relatively more expensive. Gooseneck hitches, however, can be noisier.
When deciding between a fifth wheel hitch and gooseneck hitch, begin by considering which type of trailer you will be towing and what your priorities are based on the pros and cons of each hitch type.
The bottom line on if a 5th wheel vs. gooseneck is better comes down to the purpose. If you are looking to have the flexibility to haul livestock or commercial trailers and tow a fifth wheel, the gooseneck is better. But for most RVers, the 5th wheel hitch is the better choice.
Just keep in mind that you should choose a hitch depending upon the trailer you have. You can always go for a gooseneck to fifth wheels adapter as well, but these adapters are tough on your truck’s frame. In some cases, if you use these adapters, you will void the manufacturer’s warranty.