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Choosing the Right Truck for Your 5th Wheel

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When selecting a truck to pull your fifth wheel, it can be a challenge because there are lots of options and many different factors to consider before making a final purchase. To help you with choosing the right truck for your fifth wheel, we’ve created this guide to simplify the process. Take a look at the information and you’ll be on the open road before you know it, successfully hauling your fifth wheel in tow!

Long bed vs. Short bed

You’ll want to choose a vehicle that has a long truck bed for towing your fifth wheel. Short bed trucks will require a special hitch due to the tight turning radius in the bed. Long beds also give you room to install a truck box for more storage space. For peace of mind during sharp turns and to ensure a safe journey, choose a long bed truck over a short bed.

Trailer Brake Controller

When you are towing thousands of pounds, you want to feel confident that you can stop effectively. An electric trailer brake controller can be installed in the cab of your tow vehicle to activate your trailer’s electric or electric-over-hydraulic brake system when you hit the brakes in your truck. A brake controller will stop the trailer with almost no shuttering. The troubleshooting feature on most models also allows you to conveniently view diagnostics.

Calculate Truck Payload Capacity

When selecting a truck, you need to know the hitch weight or pin weight of the RV you are going to be towing. This weight is normally always in the specifications for the trailer. The pin weight is the weight of the front of the fifth wheel that will be pushing down on the axle of the truck. To calculate the truck payload capacity, take the Gross Vehicles Weight Rating (GVWR) and subtract the curb weight of the truck. The curb weight is the weight of the truck without cargo or passengers. The GVWR and Curb Weight can also be found in the specifications of the truck. Now consider the weight of passengers in the truck and any other cargo loaded into the truck, and deduct that weight from the max payload. For more information on how to calculate the truck payload capacity, click here. People tend to think that the front-end weight or hitch weight of the 5th wheel must be substantial, but most fifth wheels hitch weights average around 2,000 lbs or less. For example: The 40 foot Big Horn weighs an impressive 16,000 lbs, but the hitch weight is only 2,040lbs.


All tires have load-rating specifications, so upgrading tires can increase your payload capacity if needed. For example, if the standard tires on your truck are load-rated for 3,000 lbs and you replace them with a tire rated for 3,400 lbs, then you have just increased the payload capacity of the truck by 800 lbs.

Calculate Truck Towing Capacity

Check out the specification of the vehicle and look up how much weight the truck can pull behind it. That number represent your towing capacity. You do not want your fifth wheel to exceed the trucks towing capacity. If it does, it will put excess strain on the engine, the transmission and the brakes. An overloaded truck will not perform well when pulling the fifth wheel, and steep inclines could overheat the engine. Driving an overloaded truck is stressful and if an accident were to occur, insurance could be affected by the fact that the truck was overloaded. Avoid costly repairs and ensure peace of mind by being conscious of the truck’s towing capacity.

Gross Combined Weight Rating (GCWR)

The GCWR is the maximum mass allowable to tow. When the fifth wheel is hitched to the truck and it is loaded for your trip, (this includes all passengers and fuel) the weight of the loaded truck and loaded trailer is your gross combined weight. This number should not exceed the GCWR shown in the specifications for the truck. Towing more weight than you can haul puts additional stress on your vehicle and can cause advancing wear and untimely breakdowns.

Ensuring that you have the proper truck to haul your fifth wheel is vital to making sure your journey is safe, stress-free, and successful! Let us know what truck you use to haul your fifth wheel in the comments below, we’d love to hear from you!
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