What Is A Fifth Wheel?

multiple images of jayco fifth wheel trailers

Owasco RV Is Your One-Stop-Shop For All Your Fifth Wheel Needs!

The “fifth wheel” in the name refers to the U-shaped coupling mounted onto the cargo bed of the tow truck.

Fifth wheels are very popular RVs and for a lot of good reasons. Given their super-duty hitches, they can be a lot heavier, which means they have a lot more available room and weight rating for luxury amenities and sleeping space. Most fifth wheels today also come with multiple slide-outs, which means the space can be expanded even further once you’ve set up camp.


Advantages of A Fifth Wheel

a jayco north point fifth wheel trailer in a wooded campsite with chairs and a picnic table out front

  • Unequalled amount of storage for large, bulky items with the addition of the “pass-thru” area
  • Very stable towing with the fifth wheel hitch centring some RV weight directly over rear axle
  • Many are equipped with an auto-levelling system for easy setup
  • The split-level design creates separate living spaces and added privacy
  • Multiple slide-outs for kitchen, living area, bedroom and wardrobes
  • Variety of floorplan layouts with bunkhouse and models with dedicated office/hobby space
  • Higher ceilings for more headspace and taller cabinets
  • Once unhitched at the campsite, you have your vehicle for side trips


FAQsa u-shaped fifth wheel travel trailer hitch

  • Why is it called a fifth wheel?
    • A fifth wheel travel trailer is a large trailer that requires a fifth wheel hitch to tow. Fifth wheels are heavy, and thus require a full-size, one-ton truck to tow them — and their unique hitch requires the coupling to be in the bed of the truck.
  • How does a fifth wheel hitch work?
    • The “fifth wheel” in the name refers to the U-shaped coupling mounted onto the cargo bed of the towing truck. It is similar to the device found on over-the-road tractors hauling commercial semi-trailers. A pin-box on the front of the fifth wheel camping trailer locks onto the fifth wheel coupling on the truck, allowing for left and right rotation as well as up and down movement.
  • Can fifth wheels be converted to gooseneck?
    • A gooseneck is a type of hitch commonly found on farm and construction equipment. Fifth wheel RVs are equipped with a trailer pin box that attaches to the fifth wheel hitch mounted to the truck bed. Before converting the fifth wheel to a gooseneck system, check your RV owner’s manual or with your RV dealer. A gooseneck hitch applies different forces to the trailer frame and may void your RV warranty.
  • What do fifth wheels weigh and how are they measured?
    • Fifth wheel weights vary depending on the make, model, and floorplan. Models can be found at around 6000 lbs up to approximately 14,000 lbs empty weight. Fifth wheel measurements are commonly taken from pin box to rear bumper.
  • Are fifth wheels easier to tow?
    • While fifth wheels are usually larger and heavier than a pull-behind travel trailer, many experienced RV enthusiasts consider a fifth wheel easier to tow. The reason is that on a fifth wheel, the hitch weight of the RV is placed over the rear wheels of the tow vehicle, making for a more stable towing platform. Compare this to a conventional travel trailer, in which the hitch weight is located behind the rear wheels of the tow vehicle. Additionally, since the front portion of the fifth wheel overhands the tow vehicle bed,  the overall length of the tow vehicle/RV combination may be shorter than with a similar length pull-behind trailer.
  • What are the pros and cons of fifth wheels vs travel trailers?
    • A travel trailer can be towed with a car, van, SUV or pickup truck. A fifth wheel requires a pickup truck.
    • With fifth wheel hitch-weight placed directly over the pickup truck bed, a fifth wheel is inherently more stable than a pull-behind travel trailer.
    • A travel trailer offers ranch-style single-floor living; a fifth wheel is split-level. If you have difficulty navigating steps, a fifth wheel may not be the best choice. On the other hand, the privacy of the bedroom located on the upper level of a fifth wheel may be what you are looking for.
    • The front pass-through storage of a fifth wheel is unparalleled; travel trailers off less exterior storage.
    • Most travel trailer floorplans offer multiple bedrooms or bunkrooms; many fifth wheels offer only one bedroom, with sofas in the living room designed to be converted into beds.
    • Fifth wheels are taller than travel trailers. While this results in more interior headroom, it also means that you need to be more aware of overhead tree branches and low bridges.
  • Why choose a fifth wheel over a motorhome?
    • As with any towable RV, with a fifth wheel, you don’t have to worry about towing a vehicle behind a motorhome, which can be tricky. You’ll automatically have an auxiliary vehicle with which to see the sights around town since you need that vehicle to tow the rig in the first place!
    • Fifth wheels are the actual largest RVs available on the market, and they give you the very best bang for your buck as far as living space is concerned.
    • If you already have a tow-capable truck, a fifth wheel is a whole lot cheaper than investing in a Class A motorhome.
    • Fifth wheels do take a little bit longer to set up than their motorhome cousins… but that actually works out really well if you don’t travel often and are mostly looking for a full-time home. Once you have it levelled and the slide-outs out, your RV is a nice enough home you might even forget it’s on wheels.
  • Do I need a special driver’s license to tow a fifth wheel?
    • For most RVs, all that is needed is a regular driver’s license. Driver’s license requirements vary so you should always check the specific regulations in your province. When towing a 5th wheel, it is important to match the loaded weight of the RV to the towing capacity of the tow vehicle. Consult your dealer or owner’s manual for details and have the tow hitch professionally installed.
  • How do I figure out the capacity of my tow vehicle and hitch?
    • When towing an RV, it is important to match the loaded weight of the RV to the towing capacity of the tow vehicle and this includes factoring in the added weight of the equipment you are bringing. Consult your dealer or owner’s manual for details and have the tow hitch professionally installed.

Fifth Wheel Media

several lifestyle images of jayco fifth wheel trailers in various campsite locations including trees in the background and an older couple in the foreground