LAST UPDATED: June 27, 2019
Best 5th Wheel Hitches: Haul More with Your Pickup Truck
The best fifth wheel hitches to haul heavier loads
The Review Team
How We Decided
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PUBLISHED ON June 27, 2019
Traditional fifth wheel hitches are the preferred choice for hauling large, heavy trailers with a truck. Compared to ball hitches, fifth wheels offer more stability and higher weight capacities because of their location over the bed of the truck. Like some gooseneck 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 to check out today.
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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 2020
The B&W Companion Fifth Wheel Hitch represents the high-end quality and versatility you can expect from options that sport this price tag. While the expensive isn't something to ignore, the Companion offers a lot of value that budget options tend to lack. Beyond the quality construction, the highlight of the hitch is the full articulating head that offers adjustments from the front to back and side to side. The hitch also sports a vertical adjustment range between 16.25 and 18.25 inches.
The articulating head makes the fifth wheel hitch quite versatile when it comes to pulling a heavy trailer or other loads. The head allows the hook-up hitching connection to rotate when traveling on uneven terrain, improving the quality and safety of the ride. The included instructions are fairly easy to follow, especially in the assembly phase that's required before you can install the hitch onto a truck bed. The hitch comes disassembled in two separate packages.
Installation takes just a few minutes on a properly equipped truck but does benefit from a second pair of hands or professional installation given the weight of the hitch itself. Given the heavy-duty construction, the hitch is a bit difficult to move around to get it into position for mounting. If you are new to fifth wheel hitches, it's a good idea to have a professional install it the first time around.
Well-known for high-quality construction quality, Curt's Black E16 Fifth Wheel Hitch is no exception when it comes to durability. Rated for 16,000 pounds (gross trailer weight) and 5,000 pounds (vertical load weight), the E16 is designed to simplify the installation process while saving the customer a few hundred dollars over most $1000+ options. The hitch is designed to work with a universal rail.
The design of the hitch not only promotes simple mounting (using industry-standard legs that lock into the base rails), it also emphasizes quiet and reliable operation. The dual-pivot head offers around 10 degrees of lateral movement for uneven surfaces and terrain. There is also an automatic lock that kicks in once everything is coupled together. Lacking base rails, the hitch is mainly sold as a solution for trucks with existing rails, but base rails are available from Curt.
Beyond the incomplete kit, the main drawback of the hitch is the shipping process. There are many reports of unreliable shipping, with many boxes arriving damaged. The hitch itself tends to arrive just fine, but we recommend checking the integrity of the welds, bolts, and individual parts (such as the legs) before mounting it to the base rails for the first time. If you notice any damage, it's best to return it for a replacement or for another model.
Curt's Complete E16 Kit offers the complete package of a fifth wheel hitch and included base rails at a budget price. As a result, we recommend this kit not just as our honorable mention but also as a perfect start-from-scratch type of kit for first timer fifth wheel buyers. Since the hitch comes with base rails, compatibility isn't much of an issue, making it a perfect option if you don't know all of the ins and outs to buy your first fifth wheel hitch.
Like many of Curt’s hitches, the E16 has a dual-pivot, auto-locking head that offers 10 degrees of movement on the lateral side. While it doesn't articulate as much as higher-end options, the head offers enough freedom of movement to work on slightly uneven terrain. With its heavy-duty construction and design, the hitch is rated for 16,000 pounds of gross trailer weight and 5,000 pounds of vertical load.
On the negative side, this hitch isn't the easiest thing to install the first time you want to use it. Proper installation first involves mounting the base rails to the truck's frame, which is best left to a professional if you want to save some time and headache. Once the base rails are on, mounting the hitch is easier. The weight of the hitch, however, may warrant the use of an extra pair of hands to avoid damaging the hitch or the truck bed if the weight escapes your control.
- 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.