Best 5th Wheel Hitches: Haul More with Your Pickup Truck
The best fifth wheel hitches to haul heavier loads
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Traditional fifth wheel hitches are the preferred choice for hauling large, heavy trailers with a truck. Compared to ball hitches, fifth wheel hitches provide more stability and higher weight capacities due to their location over the bed of the truck. Like some goose neck trailers and hitches, fifth wheel hitches can also be added as an aftermarket purchase to almost any truck with a high enough towing capacity. Take a look at our handy guide on the best fifth wheel hitches.
- The design of the head allows it to fully articulate front to back and side to side.
- Good articulation range for uneven terrain.
- The hitch is heavy compared to lower-end models.
- Installation may require more than one person to position the hitch.
- The design of the hitch uses many industry-standard components (like the base rails), making it compatible with different accessories and mounts.
- Comes as an incomplete kit.
- Will need to spend more money on base rails.
- Shipping is problematic at times.
- Head offers a little bit of articulation for uneven terrain.
- Has a high degree of heavy-duty construction
- Difficult to install for the first time.
- The included base rails may require professional installation to avoid damaging the truck.
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Why Buy a Fifth Wheel Hitch
- Tow heavier loads. The main purpose of a fifth wheel hitch is to tow loads you normally can't with a traditional ball hitch. The design manages to offer a higher weight capacity because of the location and construction quality of the hitch. The weight of a trailer presses down near the rear axle of a vehicle, which can take the greater load compared to the rear bumper. These hitches work with things like campers, fifth wheel trailers for cargo, and more.
- Stabilize heavy loads. In combination with a greater weight capacity, fifth wheel hitches benefit from the truck bed located in the form of extra stability. In other words, connecting a fifth wheel trailer to a truck near the bed is naturally more stable than a typical ball hitch location at the rear of a vehicle. This helps when towing a trailer on rough terrain or at high speeds.
- Minimize the chance of damage. A typical fifth wheel hitch reduces the chance of damage to the truck or trailer during transit. Maneuvering the trailer, for example, is somewhat easier compared to a ball hitch since there is more room for the hitch and trailer to pivot around the truck.
Types of Fifth Wheel Hitches
Fixed or mounted hitches remain in one location in the truck bed while pulling a trailer. The design has the advantage of simplicity since there are very few moving parts, but the turning radius is more limited. On trucks with a bed that is 6.5 feet or shorter, a trailer runs the risk of hitting the cab near the 90-degree mark. This is why fixed hitches are most common on trucks with 8-foot beds instead.
A sliding hitch is a preferred choice for short bed truck (6.5 feet or smaller) because the design creates room for the trailer to move during tight turns without hitting the edge of the cab. The kingpin can be positioned more forward or back along the slide bars depending on the trailer and the driver's personal preference without having to remount the whole hitch.
Top Brands of Fifth Wheel Hitches
As a well-known brand of towing products, Curt has become a trusted name when it comes to pulling heavy loads safely. The brand's line of gooseneck hitches and weight distribution hitches is supplemented with other accessories like bike racks, hitch components, and, of course, fifth wheel hitches. The E16 is a great fifth wheel hitch to consider if you are looking for your first hitch.
Founded in 1957, Reese Hitches has a long history of specializing in trailer hitch and towing accessory design and manufacturing. Since that time, the company has expanded into a full online retailer that offers an entire line of hitches and parts for nearly any type of vehicle. The Reese General Hitch is a great option for a fifth wheel hitch to consider for your truck.
Fifth Wheel Hitch Pricing
- $250 and under: There are a few budget fifth wheel hitches you can find for under $250. The build quality tends to be decent, but you will notice a lack of useful features like fully articulating heads. Most options also lack base rails here.
- $250-$500: This range tends to offer a few high-quality hitches (lacking base rails) along with lower-end kits that include all of the parts required to mount the fifth wheel hitch to a truck.
- $500 and above: The best fifth wheel hitches are found in this price range. For the most part, options here have the highest pulling capacities and the greatest range of movement in the head.
The head of a fifth wheel hitch is where a trailer slides in and connects to the hitch, creating a secure connection when towing. An articulating head is recommended so it can rotate with the trailer on uneven terrain. Some heads use a two-way pivoting mechanism that twists along one axis. More expensive options have a four-way pivot head that articulates along two axes for even more stability. A self-aligning head with height adjustment is also good for getting the right connection.
To mount to a truck, a hitch needs some base. Many hitches use a rail kit, either sold separately or as a complete package. The rails tend to bolt directly into the frame of the truck for the best stability. Other mounting solutions also exist, including under-the-bed and above-the-bed mounting systems that use a bracket or base to attach the hitch directly.
- Weight Rating: In combination with the towing weight capacity of the truck itself, the weight capacity of the hitch is important to consider. Higher-end hitches can have capacities upwards of 20,000 pounds for large trailers. Smaller capacities do exist, but this can limit the usefulness of a fifth wheel hitch compared to heavy-duty ball hitches in terms of sheering towing capability.
- Jaws: The jaws on a hitch create a secure hold around a trailer to stabilize the load and reduce noise and movement when towing. Most designs offer single- and dual-jaw varieties. Single-jaw units have a one-piece design that offers a more secure hold for heavy loads (greater than 25,000 pounds) but can produce more noise. Double-jaw designs, on the other hand, are preferred for lighter trailers when noise reduction is paramount.
Best Fifth Wheel Hitches Reviews & Recommendations 2021
- Always remember to stay within the weight limit of your tow vehicle, hitch, and trailer. Exceeding limits can make driving very unsafe.
- Higher altitudes can make gas engines work harder when pulling a heavy load. Take this into consideration if you are looking for a trailer to pull when living or visiting in high-altitude areas.
- If your truck has a straight gas pipe coming under the rear bumper, you may need to reroute it to the side. Otherwise, it could scrape against the trailer since the front will be closer to the tail.
Q: Can I install a fifth wheel hitch myself?
A: The hitch installation can be a DIY process, although professional installation tends to be recommended if you don't have much experience with automotive work.
Q: Do fifth wheel hitches work with bed liners?
A: Plastic bed liners typically don't work with fifth wheel rails. The loads can damage the plastic, causing it to disintegrate and loosen the hitch itself. Spray-on liners, however, can work with installation rails without the worry of damage.
Q: How does a slider hitch work?
A: The hitch slides around its base, moving forward or backward depending on the need. Under normal driving conditions, you can position the neck near the front or middle of the base for better stability. If tight maneuvering is required, you can move the neck towards the gate to clear the room with the cab.
The winner of our top spot is the B&W Companion for its generally easy installation process and towing capacity.
Taking our value spot is the Curt E16. It offers a good weight limit and installation process for the price.