What Is a Fifth Wheel Trailer: Features and Advantages


Published : September 14, 2022
Car towing RV in a beautiful landscape

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Fifth wheel trailers are rapidly becoming a favorite for first-time owners, leading the market as the top RV choice for families. A fifth wheel trailer is a type of RV that must be towed by a pickup truck with a fifth hitch.  Some date their name back to the carriages of the 1800s that featured a fifth wheel for extra pivoting. Fifth wheels or “fivers” are capable of sustaining heavy loads and expand to reach great sizes.

Nowadays, fifth wheels are a popular choice for those who already own a large truck and wish to enjoy the freedom of detaching from their trailer and exploring the surroundings without the extra load. Fifth wheel trailers are a great alternative to the Class A models that can be more difficult to handle.

What Is a Fifth Wheel? – Definition

A fifth wheel trailer (or fiver) is a type of RV that requires a full-size truck to be towed. The advantage of disconnecting from your truck once the unit is parked is of great value for travelers who are not accustomed to driving larger RV models. 

Although considered a type of trailer, the fifth wheel can reach surprising dimensions, and thanks to its slideout feature, its size can match that of other motorhomes and sometimes even exceed it. Their spacious interiors allow manufacturers to design a wide range of floor plans that cover all the necessities you’d find in a home. Full-sized kitchens, living rooms, and various sleeping areas are only some of the amenities that make fifth wheels attractive to first-time owners.

Fifth Wheel Camper: Features and Specs

Fifth wheel trailer models are approximately 8 feet wide (not including the extra room you’d get from their slideouts) and can range between 25-45 feet in length. When the slideouts are expanded, fivers can become 14 feet wide. If you are planning to buy a fifth wheel trailer, you must be prepared to tow and manage a large rig.  

Fifth wheels are typically taller than the majority of other towable RVs, allowing for various floor plans and higher ceilings that create a sense of coziness. The longer the model, the more storage space and options will be available. Some fifth wheel trailers feature a basement-like structure where long objects can be stored, such as surfboards, bikes, paddles, and kayaks.

Fifth Wheel Trailer Specs

If you already own a truck, fifth wheel trailers can be a great alternative to many of the Class A models. They are easier to drive through national parks and smaller towns, however, their size can match that of a large RV thanks to its slideouts The comfort of detaching from the trailer and exploring the surroundings using a smaller vehicle is one of the biggest selling points for a fifth wheel trailer. Fivers are also easier to maneuver than most other motorhomes, having the fifth hitch provides increased stability. 

The technical specs for standard models include:

  • Storage: Ranges from moderate to high, some models offering several storage compartments and a basement-like structure for long objects.
  • Weight: 6,000 to 14,000 pounds while empty.
  • Gas mileage: Depends on the tank capacity of the towing vehicle—the smaller the unit, the lower the fuel consumption.
  • Sleeping capacity: Can accommodate up to 10 adults.
  • Other amenities: Multiple slide-outs for kitchen, living area, bedroom, and wardrobes, lofted sleeping space, split levels, bunks, and more.
  • Price range: Ranges from $25,000 to $140,000 for the bigger models.

Fifth Wheel Trailers: Standard and Special Amenities

Fivers are enclosed trailers, meaning that the extra engine space goes towards the comforts of living. Many fifth wheel models go as far as to match the luxuries you’d get with a Class A motorhome. Standard and special amenities of fifth wheel trailer models include:

  • Sleeping: Sleeping areas accommodate up to 10 people, with convertible master bedrooms, private sleeping compartments, multi-bunk areas, and multiple slideouts for extra sleeping space.
  • Kitchens: Fully-equipped kitchens with plenty of storage space, cabinets, solid countertops, ovens, as well as modern outside kitchens.
  • Dining Areas: The kitchen and dining areas can be isolated from the rest of the living space. 
  • Bathrooms: Most fifth wheel models come with fully-equipped bathrooms, and some may even feature two bathrooms.
  • Water Tank: Most fifth wheel trailer water tanks can hold about 60-80 gallons
  • Storage Space: Ample storage space thanks to multiple slideouts and various storage options.
  • Generator: Factory-installed options designed for long-term use.

Some of the top searched fifth wheel trailer manufacturers include:

  • Keystone
  • Forest River
  • Grand Design 
  • Heartland
  • Jayco

Fifth Wheel Trailer Pros and Cons

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Deciding on the right type of RV can be daunting, especially with the wide range of models available on the market. Thanks to their utility and size, fifth wheel trailers allow for a variety of floor plans that can make them suitable even for full-time living. Owners can customize their fifth wheel to match their personal preferences in amenities and comfort. 

Fifth wheels come with various advantages, especially for larger groups and families who require more space, privacy, depositing options, and the possibility of bringing extra gear for activities. Nevertheless, fifth wheel trailers are completely dependent on a second towing vehicle, a con that can make all the difference for potential buyers. Here are some of the biggest pros and cons of owning a fifth wheel:

  • Fifth wheel campers are much safer to operate, having a fifth wheel hitch that provides more stability in maneuvering.
  • As opposed to other RV classes, fifth wheels are more compact but can expand to match the size of larger motorhomes.
  • The extra space is ideal for big families and groups who require additional sleeping and storage space.
  • A clear separation between the driving and the living space, making some trips more comfortable for both parties.
  • Enclosed kitchens and dining areas can be a great comfort when cooking indoors.
  • Large body space that allows for various configurations.
  • The camper can be unhitched and parked for long periods.
  • They require less maintenance than other motorhomes as they aren’t motorized.
  • Fifth wheels are easier to tow than hauling a trailer.
  • They are easy to customize, as their size allows for various floor plans and configurations.

Despite the various amenities and configuration options that come with a fifth wheel, some of their cons can be crucial for first-time owners. Here are some of the most relevant cons of owning a fifth wheel trailer:

  • Requires a large SUV, truck, or another heavy-duty vehicle to be towed. A fifth hitch must also be installed if the towing vehicle doesn’t have one.
  • Switching between the driver area and the living area requires stepping out of the vehicle.
  • Fifth wheels require extra storage space. Owners will need to have the available space to park and store their trailers.
  • The living space of a fifth wheel can be bouncier than that of a large motorhome.
  • Out of all the RV classes, fifth wheels are the ones that depreciate the quickest.
  • Because of their size, there may be some restrictions on where you can drive them
  • The gas mileage can be particularly low.
  • They are more difficult to boondock with than smaller travel trailers.
  • Backing up and turning requires you to be extra careful.
  • Fifth wheels are taller, imposing difficulties with low branches and bridges.
  • Can cost more than most travel trailers, given their wide range of amenities.
  • Hitching can take some time and practice to get it right.
  • Some smaller models may not include an onboard generator.

Who Should Use a Fifth Wheel Trailer?

Adventurers who wish to wander outside the campgrounds are probably the luckiest to own a fifth wheel. Having the possibility to detach the camper and explore off-site without the extra load is a definite advantage. The slideouts you would find on most fifth wheel models permit travelers to bring extra gear or equipment needed for their activities.

Full-timers will be happy to know that fifth wheels are equipped with everything you would need for a long-term stay. The comfort and amenities of a larger motorhome can be easily matched, leaving owners the sole job of moving the trailer from one place to another. 

Families can enjoy plenty of living space, thanks to the slideout feature that brings some fifth wheel models to the size of a Class A motorhome. Separate sleeping areas, enclosed kitchens, and various storage compartments can make a difference if you are traveling with children. Drivers can also ease their task if silence is something they require to get to the destination quicker and safer. 

Pet lovers will be happy to know that fifth wheels are among the most comfortable for bringing your pets along. There is plenty of space for them to roam freely, and some models even go the extra mile to attract this segment by incorporating beds and pull-out dishes for pets.

What Are the License Requirements to Drive a Fifth Wheel Camper?

Normally, there no special license would be required to tow a fifth wheel trailer. Nevertheless, some states will have special requirements and limitations depending on the weight you are towing. You should always make sure that you remain within the limit and always check if the towing capacity of your truck is compliant with the weight of your fifth wheel.

What to Look for in a Fifth Wheel?

Before considering a fifth wheel, you must determine whether your second vehicle can support its weight. Not having a towing vehicle can be a massive setback for any first-time buyer, so you must first decide whether your budget is ready to cover a second investment. 

Already owning a towing vehicle will make things easier. Nevertheless, you will have to make sure that your truck can support the weight of the fifth wheel model, and ensure that a hitch can be installed on your truck’s bed. Different hitch styles may or may not be compatible with the model or your towing vehicle’s features. If you are unaware of your vehicle’s towing capabilities, this is a good time to investigate and narrow down your options.

Other things you can look at before purchasing a used fifth wheel include the quality of materials, inclined water tanks, and uncovered wires. Cooling and heating issues are also very common with fifth wheels.

What Is a Fifth Wheel? Bottom Line

Fifth wheel trailers come as a great alternative to larger motorhomes that may not give travelers the freedom to explore surrounding destinations without carrying the extra load. The market for fifth wheel trailers is expanding, allowing potential buyers to explore and choose from a wide variety of models. Fifth wheels come at different prices depending on their specs and amenities and are welcoming to customization. If you already own a large truck that can tow a fifth wheel, this type of trailer is ideal for families and large groups who need extra space, privacy, and the comforts of full-time living.

Fifth Wheel Trailers: FAQs

Here is what people looking for a fifth wheel trailer also ask:

What does a fifth wheel trailer look like?

Fifth wheels are easy to spot, as they must be towed by a large truck with a fifth wheel hitch. Although smaller in size than other motorhomes, they can expand and reach great sizes thanks to the multiple slideouts.

What is the highest quality 5th wheel camper?

Some of the most appreciated fifth wheel trailer models include:

  • Grand Design Solitude
  • Keystone Laredo
  • Forest River Cardinal
  • Keystone Fuzion
  • Jayco Pinnacle
  • Redwood RV Redwood
  • Heartland Bighorn
  • Keystone Cougar
  • Forest River Wildcat

How much does a fifth wheel camper cost?

Prices can range from $25,000 to $140,000 for the bigger and more luxurious models from the best RV brands

What is the lifespan of a fifth wheel?

The life expectancy of a fifth wheel camper is averaged at 10 to 20 years. With good maintenance, a fifth wheel can last even longer.

Where do you park a fifth wheel trailer?

A fifth wheel can be parked anywhere you would normally be allowed to park a large motorhome. Nevertheless, keep in mind that parking a motorhome or a fifth wheel trailer is different than living in it full-time. Make sure to check any local laws before parking your fifth wheel.

What is the difference between an RV and a fifth wheel?

The difference stands in the way they are towed. As opposed to an RV, a fifth wheel requires a special hitch inside the truck’s bed.

What to do with an old fifth wheel trailer?

You can sell your fifth wheel directly to us, or try to conduct a sale yourself. Posting an ad in the local newspaper, looking for potential buyers on forums, or holding a garage sale are other helpful ways to sell your used RV.


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