Can Your Vehicle Handle a Fifth Wheel?

Can Your Vehicle Handle a Fifth Wheel?

If you’ve decided to upgrade from your current camper or purchase a fifth wheel for your fun family adventures, you’ve likely wondered what you would need to pull it. For those of you wondering if it is possible to maneuver one with a car, van, or even an SUV, you are not alone; however, if you have your heart set on a fifth wheel, you’ll need a few capabilities that only a pickup truck can offer to ensure the maximum safety and enjoyability of your investment. If you aren’t ready to trade-in your smaller vehicle just yet, your RV dreams are not over, you just may want to explore the option of pulling a smaller camper.

For those of you with a pickup truck, or that will invest in one shortly, here are a few things to think about to make sure you have the best vehicle for the job:

Check Your State Laws

Although most states have similar laws regarding towing, even if you want to pull a small trailer. Therefore, it is a good idea to verify the regulations of your current state laws either online or with your local DMV. According to Utah, a few of the requirements include:

You must be able to stop both the vehicle and the towed vehicle;

You must have an attachment other than the hitch coupler, such as a chain;

You must have reflectors and appropriate lighting;

You cannot exceed 65 feet in total length, 102 inches in width, and 14 feet in height; and

If the highway has more than three lanes, trailers cannot operate in the far left lane.

A Longer Bed is a Plus

When it comes to pickup trucks, with bigger cabs comes decreased bed length. Although this helps with maximum maneuverability as a daily driver, it isn’t as helpful when it comes to pulling a fifth wheel. Long beds (8-feet) are by far the most effective; however, a shorter bed does not mean you cannot tow the fifth wheel; you simply need a specialized tow hitch. Of course, the specialized hitch does come at a higher price-point.

Gas vs. Diesel

You may be tempted to jump into a gas-powered truck, but think about this before you do. Yes, a gas engine is excellent as a daily driver for short distances, the engine itself costs less, the fuel costs less at the pump, and repairs are generally less costly overall. However, if you are thinking of towing a fifth wheel, consider that diesel saves you money over time. The engines are made for pulling around heavy loads (like fifth wheels and campers) and put out a substantial amount more torque (pulling power) than a gas engine, expending less fuel and putting less strain on the engine, making the life of the engine also longer. The best truck for pulling a heavy fifth wheel over time and distance is a diesel.

Size Matters

What size pickup truck (quarter-ton, half-ton, etc.) you need depends on the fifth wheel you will be pulling. First, check the sticker on the driver’s side door. The Gross Combined Weight Rating (GCWR) listed is the full weight of your truck and fifth wheel, fully loaded with cargo and passengers. When you subtract the Gross Vehicle Weight (GVW), you are removing the weight of your truck fully-loaded with cargo and passengers. The remainder is the maximum weight your vehicle can pull. Although your truck can haul that much does not necessarily mean it should for long periods and up and down steep mountain grades. Trucks do not like to tow at maximum power all the time. The moral of the story, if you want a 40-foot fifth wheel (or longer), you’ll want a full ton pickup truck.

Ask an RV Sales Expert

Although we covered a lot of ground today, there are still more factors to consider, such as your personal needs as a family. The statements here are generalized and are not meant to be the sole source of information. To find an RV for sale that matches your families needs, lifestyle, and capabilities, stop by and visit Utah’s reliable RV professionals at Recreation RV Sales today. If you’d rather daydream from the comfort of your home, feel free to check out our current RV inventory and give us a call at 888-958-7848 to find out more.


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