Travel Trailer Vs. Fifth Wheel

Learn more about the differences between these two RV types and discover which one is right for you.
November 17, 2020
By: Jim Mac,


  • Because towable RVs don’t incorporate an engine, drivetrain, and the complexity that goes into a self-propelled motorhome, travel trailers and fifth wheels are usually much more affordable than motorized RVs
  • Travel trailers and fifth wheels both offer a full range of camping comforts and conveniences
  • A travel trailer can be towed by a car, truck, or SUV, a fifth wheel requires a pick up truck


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Travel trailers are the most popular type of RV.  Travel trailers come in all sizes, including tiny jellybean-shaped models with a chuckwagon kitchen to the massive “house-on-wheels” with picture windows and sliding glass patio door.

Sometimes called a “bumper-pull” camper (when this style of RV became popular in the early ‘50s, they were attached to the bumper of a car), the modern travel trailer employs a hitch secured to the frame of your tow vehicle along with specialized hardware to make towing safe and easy. 

Travel Trailer PROS

  1. A wide variety of models that fit virtually every budget
  2. “Ranch-style,” single-level living, ideal for campers who would prefer not to climb stairs
  3. Options that can be towed by many cars and trucks may eliminate the need to purchase a dedicated tow vehicle
  4. Many shorter, national park friendly models
  5. Solid walls and locking doors for security
  6. Models with multiple slide-outs offer wide-open living spaces
  7. A wide range of floorplans offers sizes and room layouts tailored to your specific preferences
  8. Two-bedroom (or more) floorplans provide privacy
  9. More bunkhouse floorplans offered than in fifth wheels
  10. Once you unhitch at the campsite, you can use your vehicle to get around
  11. Open truck bed (no fifth wheel hitch) gives you additional space to carry gear and firewood

Travel Trailer CONS

  1. Due to the location of the hitch point at the rear of the tow vehicle, a travel trailer is more susceptible to sway caused by crosswinds and buffeting from passing vehicle
  2. Exterior storage may be limited
  3. Single-level floorplan offers less privacy than a “two-story” fifth wheel
  4. Total rig length (length of the tow vehicle, hitch, and trailer) can be longer as compared to a fifth wheel where about 5' of the RV's length is located over the truck bed


Length: typically 20 to 40 feet

Sleeps: from 2 to 10

Cost: MSRPs starting around $13,500

Outback with GMC truck, loaded with Kayaks at the beach at sunset
Whitewater Kayaker Nick Troutman traveling his wife, Emily, and their two children in a Keystone Outback travel trailer.


Affectionately nicknamed a “fiver,” the fifth wheel is a favorite of many, especially those taking extended trips or traveling full time in their RV. The prominent overhang resting above the tow truck bed is frequently used as a bedroom suite, or, more recently, a living room or even a kitchen. 

The “fifth wheel” in the name refers to the U-shaped coupling mounted onto the cargo bed of the tow truck. A pin box on the front of the fifth wheel camping trailer locks onto the fifth wheel coupling on the truck. It’s similar to the device found on commerical over-the-road tractors that haul semi-trailers. 

Fifth Wheel RV PROS

  1. Exceptional amount of storage for large, bulky items, especially in the basement “pass-thru” area
  2. Because with the tow hitch centers much of the weight of the RV is directly over the rear axle of the tow truck, fifth wheels are very stable to tow
  3. Typically equipped with an auto-leveling system for super-easy setup
  4. Split-level design creates separate living spaces and added privacy
  5. Multiple slide-outs for kitchen, living area, bedroom and wardrobes
  6. Variety of floorplan layouts, from one-bedroom coaches, to bunkhouses, and models with dedicated office/hobby space
  7. Higher ceilings for more headspace and storage cabinets
  8. If you already own a pickup truck, you may be able to tow a fifth wheel
  9. Once unhitched at the campsite, you are free to use your vehicle for side trips

 Fifth Wheel RV CONS

  1. Requires a pickup truck and fifth wheel hitch for towing
  2. Fewer choices available under 30' in length
  3. For those who find it difficult to climb steps, the split-level interior design can be a disadvantage
  4. With exterior height usually between 12' and 13', driving a fifth wheel RVrequires a greater awareness of low branches and other overhead obstacles
  5. Generally, more expensive to purchase than a travel trailer


Length: typically 25 to 40 feet

Sleeps: up to 9

Cost: MSRPs starting around $32,000

Fifth wheel RVs' extended front provides expanded living space for travelers.