5th Wheel vs Travel Trailer – Which One is Right for You?

| Last Updated: June 25, 2022

If you're looking for a new way to travel, you might be wondering if a 5th wheel or travel trailer is right for you. Both options have their own unique benefits and drawbacks, so it can be tough to decide which one is the best fit.

Both types are very popular among RVers looking to enhance their outdoor adventures. Both offer various features that provide maximum comfort and ease while traveling, but when it comes to Fifth Wheel vs Travel Trailer, which comes out on top?

In this blog post, we look at the 5th Wheel vs Travel Trailer debate and break down the comparisons, pros and cons of each type so that you can make an informed decision about which one is right for you.

Our comprehensive guide will walk you through the similarities and differences between the most luxurious and largest towable RVs. We also look at the different types of 5th Wheels and Travel Trailers. Yes there are different types of each.

We've also included an FAQ section on the age old 5th Wheel vs Travel trailer debate, so by the end of the article you should be in a better position to judge which RV is best for you.

5th wheel v travel trailer

Photo credit: campingworld.com

What is a Fifth Wheel and What is it Best for?

A fifth wheel is a large trailer that offers an abundance of living space along with luxury amenities. They're suitable for families or people who prefer larger RVs while traveling part-time or full-time. 

5th wheels are heavy-weight RVs that need a fifth wheel hitch to tow. They attach to the bed of the towing truck through the specially designed hitch.

They're popular among RVers for a variety of reasons. They provide plenty of facilities such as large kitchen areas, showers, and sufficient sleeping space. You wouldn't need to rely on the campground amenities while traveling on a fifth-wheel trailer.

Why Is It Called a Fifth Wheel?

The name fifth wheel dates back to the 1800s when old horse-drawn vehicles had a fifth wheel. The horizontally placed fifth wheel allowed the front axle to spin. This was a long time before travel trailers even existed. The name stayed even though the current fifth wheel usage is different from the old times.

5th wheel vs travel trailer? 5th wheel of course!

Grand Design Solitude Fifth Wheel (Source)

The present fifth wheels use a sturdy and heavy-duty fifth wheel hitch that pulls the hefty loads. The U-shaped hitch is connected through the trailer's kingpin and tows the bed of a truck.

Types Of 5th Wheel Campers

Depending on your needs, you may want to choose a specific type of fifth wheel camper. They come in varying sizes and luxury amenities. Here’s a rundown of the few different types:

Fifth Wheel with Slideouts

Fifth wheels usually come with three, four, or even five slide-outs to increase the living space and offer more comfort and ease to the campers. People camping with their family would prefer such vehicles as they offer much more space. However, slideouts add extra weight to the trailer, requiring a heavy-duty truck for towing purposes.

Fifth Wheel Sizes

As mentioned earlier, 5th-wheel trailers come in varying sizes. Those traveling with their families may need a bigger one for added comfort. 

They're available in various lengths ranging from 22 to 40 feet. The most popular fifth wheels measure 32, 34, and 36 feet in length and are 8 to 8.5 feet wide. However, slide-outs may increase the width of the vehicle.

The average weight of a fifth wheel ranges from 12,000 to 15,000 pounds, and depending upon your requirements, you can choose a specific size

Luxury 5th Wheels

These types of fifth wheels include full-fledged kitchens, separate bedrooms, toilets, closets, and other facilities. They also offer advanced models that consist of generators to make off-grid camping convenient.

Full-time travelers, couples, or campers find trailers with the luxury amenities ideal for their trips. Of course, luxury costs more, so your budget always has to be considered.

5th wheel luxury bedroom

Grand Design Solitude Fifth Wheel (Source)

What is a Travel Trailer and What is it Best for? 

A travel trailer is a shorter and lightweight camper. It is also known as a bumper pull since it's hitched to the bumper of a truck. Travel trailers come in different sizes, but most models have a standard box-like shape.

Typically, a travel trailer offers various options in floor plan layouts that you could choose from, depending upon your needs. These include couples coaches, bunkhouse models, and back kitchen floor plans. Some models offer two or more private bedrooms, depending on size obviously.

Travel trailers can have one or two slide-outs to provide extra living space, making them are suitable for a couple or small family to go on a camping trip. Also, they're easy to set up, which makes them suitable for short camping trips.

Travel Trailer Types

There are various types of travel trailers, including classic travel trailers, toy haulers, and teardrop trailers. Each one is briefly described below:

travel trailer provide ample space and confort

Airstream Flying Cloud (Source)

Classic Travel Trailers

Classic travel trailers are 10 to 35-feet long, providing sufficient living space on the inside. They generally have high ceilings to allow for comfortable living inside the cabin.

Models may differ from one another, but most of them have a kitchen, dining area, bathroom, bedroom, storage compartments, and entertainment center. Also, some classic travel trailers include slide-outs to expand the living space. These come in different sizes and mostly include luxurious and spacious models. 

A classic travel trailer requires a heavy-duty towing vehicle as it is usually large and heavy.

Toy Haulers

Toy haulers are specifically designed for carrying camping equipment, cargo, or recreational automobiles. Since they carry bulky equipment, they are the same size as classic travel trailers. 

Many travel trailers have garage space in the back, which is suitable for extra cargo. You can also have furniture in the back, making them suitable for people who want both a living and storage space.

The garage space in toy haulers makes the loading and unloading of their heavy-weight equipment into the back easy, but the garage space does take away some of the living space.

Also, you'd need a heavy-duty tow vehicle for towing a toy hauler. The bulky equipment on the trailer adds to its weight, trucks are usually the best option for pulling these.

Airstream travel trailer

Airstream Flying Cloud (Source)

Teardrop Trailers

Teardrop trailers are small travel trailers that have a compact and streamlined design. They efficiently utilize their limited floor plan and come with luxury amenities.

They weigh under 1000 lbs and are ideal for people with small tow vehicles, as pretty much any vehicle can tow these. Due to their compact size, they can be parked in a garage. 

They have a living space along with sufficient storage capacity, but they don't usually include bathrooms due to their small size. These trailers are the best solution to short-term camping trips and provide great comfort.

Travel trailer lengths

You'll find travel trailer models have different lengths, typically ranging between 9 and 42 feet. The standard travel trailer is 24 feet long and 8 feet wide. Also, the average dry weight lies between 1,000 and 13,000 pounds. Depending upon the features and specifications of a certain trailer, its length, width, and weight may vary.

5th Wheel vs Travel Trailer Similarities and Differences 

The following section walks you through the similarities and differences  in the 5th wheel vs travel trailer debate. This will help you understand various aspects of both models that set them apart from other RVs.

fifth wheel vs travel trailer? Depends on your budget...

Grand Design Solitude Fifth Wheel (Source)

5th Wheel vs Travel Trailer Similarities

Let’s take a look at their similarities before getting on to the differences. Both models have some qualities in common, as mentioned below:

Relative Affordability

Fifth wheels and travel trailers are more affordable than motorized RVs. The high price of motorized RVs is primarily due to their built-in driving component. Of course with a fifth wheel and a trailer, you must have a separate towing vehicle is required to tow them.

Ease of using the towing vehicle

If you want to explore the camping area or run an errand during camping, you can easily use your towing vehicle. The towing vehicle can be easily detached from the fifth wheel or travel trailer and used for exploring areas that a motorized RV cannot reach.

Sufficient living space

For living space in the 5th. wheel vs travel trailer debate, both types provide sufficient living space for couples or families. There are spacious and family-friendly models that are ideal for camping trips, and offer luxury amenities such as bedroom, bathroom, and kitchen enhance the living space.

Storage capacity

You'll find the two types are best for bigger families, as they offer more luxury amenities and storage compartments. Also, some models feature overhead cabinets, making it easy for people to store their belongings while traveling.

fifth wheel with an island kitchen

Grand Design Solitude Fifth Wheel (Source)

What Are The Differences Between a Fifth Wheel and a Travel Trailer?

5th wheels and travel trailers might have a lot of similarities, but there are some obvious differences that you should know about too.

Size and Weight

Generally, travel trailers are lightweight, shorter, and smaller than fifth wheels. They're suitable for people who prefer towing with a smaller vehicle, as opposed to 5th wheels which are bigger and offer more living space.

Fifth wheels also greatly vary in their weight. The average model weighs 10,000 to 15,000 pounds, whereas the travel trailer's average weight ranges between 1000 and 8,500 pounds. 5th wheels usually have more luxury amenities too, which adds more weight to them.

Ease of Towing

Fifth wheel vs travel trailer for towing? No doubt, fifth wheel is easier to tow. The way it's hitched to the truck makes towing easy and smooth. It sits onto the bed of the truck, which gives a better turn radius and keeps the trailer in place even during windy weather.  

Type Of Towing Vehicle

Both the fifth wheel and travel trailer are towed with different towing vehicles. A larger truck is required to tow the a fifth wheel with a special fifth-wheel trailer hitch installed in its bed. Bearing this in mind, you have limited truck options when it comes to towing a fifth-wheel RV. 

Airstream Travel trailer

Airstream Flying Cloud (Source)

On the contrary, a travel trailer can be towed with many different vehicles, including SUVs, as they are capable of utilizing a hitch attached to the back of the vehicle.

5th Wheel vs Travel Trailer - How Do They Compare?

Here we compare and contrast both models based on various aspects.

5th Wheel vs Travel Trailer Towing Comparison 

A fifth wheel is towed with a truck that has a special fifth-wheel trailer hitch installed in the truck’s bed. The hitch takes up the majority of the space in the truck bed, leaving a large family with limited space on the vehicle. Also, it doesn't give space to pack a dirt bike or an ATV on the towing vehicle. So, a fifth wheel offers more storage and living space but provides less space on the towing vehicle during the trip.

A travel trailer, on the other hand, is hitched to the bumper of the truck. One of the most convenient things about travel traiulers vs 5th wheels is that trailers can be towed by many different vehicles. And being hitched to the bumper of the vehicle, a travel trailer provides a large family enough space to fit on the tow vehicle.

Travel Trailer vs 5th Wheel Gas Mileage

The gas mileage depends on the size of the trailer, along with the capacity and power of the tow vehicle. Generally, travel trailers are fuel-efficient as they are small and lightweight. 

travel trailer being towed

Airstream Flying Cloud (Source)

On the other hand, fifth-wheel trailers are larger and heavier, which makes them costly to run. A fifth wheel running behind a one-ton truck would be more expensive than a travel trailer. So when it comes to gas mileage, travel trailers win vs 5th wheels.

Travel Trailer vs 5th Wheel Full Time Living

Fifth-wheel trailers come with many luxury amenities that make them ideal for full-time travelers. They offer a larger living and storage space, which makes long trips comfortable and enjoyable. They have a more residential feeling as they include a private master bedroom, kitchen, and bathroom. These features make them feel more like a house or an apartment.

On the contrary, travel trailers are smaller, so they don't offer as much living and storage space. Although they do offer luxury amenities and storage space, and are really more suitable for short-term trips. Taking all this into consideration, for full-time living, a fifth wheel is usually preferred.

The Best 5th Wheel vs Travel Trailer

Before you pick either of the two models, you must consider your requirements. A fifth wheel is an enticing option for long-term traveling. The plenty of living space it offers enhances convenience and comfort during long trips. It provides ample storage space, too, which makes storing your belongings easy. 

5th wheel bedrooms are luxurious

Grand Design Solitude Fifth Wheel (Source)

Travel trailers are smaller, lightweight and more pocket-friendly RVs. Those who are occasional road-trippers or short-term travelers would find them more suitable. If you're planning not to go beyond a 28' trailer and want to save some money, consider a travel trailer.

You also get more towing options with a travel trailer, which could also offer you more space on your camping trips. So, depending upon your needs and budget, you may choose either of the models. 

Overview of Our Favorite 5th Wheel and Travel Trailer

Let's take a look at our favorite 5th wheel and travel trailer models. Read on to get acquainted with their features and attributes.

Best 5th Wheel:
Grand Design Solitude Fifth Wheel

Best 5th Wheel: Grand Design Solitude Fifth Wheel

Pros

  • Provides maximum insulation with weather-tek insulation system
  • Features stealth 3+ AC system that offers uninterrupted airflow throughout the trailer
  • Includes a full-size residential refrigerator that offers ample space for storing perishables
  • Comes with stainless steel cooktop along with an electronic ignition oven to make cooking convenient
  • Features MORryde CRE 300 suspension system to provide smooth towing and increased protection from road shocks

Cons

  • May not be suitable for short-term campers who frequently move around

What Recent Buyers Report

Buyers loved the Grand Design Solitude fifth wheel for its abundant storage capacity, including a walk-in closet, pass-through storage, and overhead cabinets in the kitchen and living room. Long-term campers found it comfortable and well-constructed equipped with residential appliances. And many users were more than content with the trailer’s high-quality features offered at such an affordable price.

Why it Stands Out to Us

The Grand Design Solitude is a spacious trailer ideal for those who desire more space in their unit. It comes in varying sizes with lengths ranging from 34’4” to 41’5”. Their weight ranges between 15,000 and 16,800 pounds.

The Solitude is the most spacious model that features deeper cabinets, higher ceilings, large windows, and 80-inch tall slideouts. It comes with luxury facilities such as a master bedroom, kitchen appliances, and residential appliances, making a living and sleeping space comfortable. The ample storage space will also make your long camping trips enjoyable.

Also, with the weather-trek insulation system in place, it's perfect for keeping the RV warm in winters and cool in summers. The dual pane windows also make it more economical and of course comfortable to live in. And the pull out kitchen area makes for a great place to dine.

Bottom Line

To sum up, the well-built and comfortable Grand Design Solitude is ideal for long-term campers. The spacious model offers ample storage space inside the living and plenty of kitchen space. We would highly recommend this spacious fifth wheel model if you are traveling with your family or your partner.

Best Travel Trailer:
Airstream Flying Cloud

Best Travel Trailer: Airstream Flying Cloud

Pros

  • Features a durable ZipDee awning with Sunbrella material
  • Has a rear hatch that could be opened to conveniently load and unload gearOffers plenty of overhead storage cabinets that provide sufficient storage space
  • Comes with a Quietstream climate control system for regulating the temperature inside the trailer
  • Includes kitchen accessories like a Furrion three-burner gas stove, built-in microwave, and Baraldi cooking vent

Cons

  • Does not include slideouts

What Recent Buyers Report

Users of the Airstream Flying Cloud were very satisfied with the high-quality trailer that offers comfort and enough space while on road trips. Those traveling with family found the cabin well-equipped with all the necessary home and kitchen appliances. It provides sufficient storage space for items like food, clothes, and hiking and camping gear.

Why it Stands Out to Us

Airstream needs no introduction, and you know their trailers are going to be to a high standard. If you are looking for a family-friendly travel trailer that offers comfort during your trips, the Airstream Flying Cloud is an ideal option for you. It comes with 14-floor plans, providing you options to choose from based on your needs.

You'll find abundant storage space in the cabin, with several overhead cabinets to keep your belongings out of the way. Besides, the ultra-leather seating gives the living space a modern look, it's also easy to clean, scratch-resistant, pet-friendly, and withstands changing temperature, so it would go a long way on your outdoor camping trips.

The Quietstream climate control system makes the cabin suitable for hot and cold weather, as it maintains the temperature with its swift heating and cooling system.

Bottom Line

In a nutshell, the Airstream Flying Cloud is a versatile travel trailer that makes your trips enjoyable and easy with its exceptional features. It offers luxurious living and kitchen designs, and ample storage and living areas. If it's a travel trailer you'd prefer vs a 5th wheel, this one should be considered.

People Also Ask - 5th Wheel vs Travel Trailer FAQs

It is imperative to be well informed about the RV you plan on buying. Here you'll find responses to the commonly asked questions we get from our readership. Hopefully, these will help you gain a clearer understanding of various aspects of the two models. 

How Much Does a Travel Trailer Weigh?

Travel trailers are usually smaller and lightweight. However, there are large and heavy models, too. The average weight of a travel trailer ranges from 1000 to 8500 pounds. Factors like the gear you bring along and water weight once you fill the tanks may add an extra 1000 pounds to the overall weight.

How Much Does a 5th Wheel Weigh?

Fifth wheels are heavy and large trailers. The weight lies between 10,000 and 15,000 pounds. Due to their heavy-weight, they require a heavy-duty towing vehicle. They're also more spacious trailers offering more luxury amenities, which only adds to the weight.

5th wheel vs travel trailer kitchens? No debate!

Grand Design Solitude Fifth Wheel (Source)

What Are the Advantages Of a Fifth Wheel vs a Travel Trailer?

Fifth-wheel trailers are much more spacious and luxurious than travel trailers. They come with several floor plans along with more than ample living space and usually include a private master bedroom. They also boast plenty of storage compartments to make long trips convenient. Unlike travel trailers, they also feature more luxury amenities owing to their large size.

What Size Truck to Pull a Travel Trailer?

Travel trailers are comparatively lightweight and smaller, so many different types of vehicles can tow them. You can use SUVs as they utilize a hitch attached to the back of the vehicle. You may use your seven-passenger SUV to tow your travel trailer. People who plan to go on long trips should consider an eight-inch truck to pull a travel trailer. A one-ton pickup truck is best to tow a toy hauler, which is the heaviest of travel trailers.

What Size Vehicle Do I Need to Pull a 5th Wheel?

Determining the size of the truck to pull a fifth wheel largely depends upon the type and use of the trailer. The requirements of a full-time traveler will differ from an occasional road tripper. That said, a half-ton truck is usually sufficient to pull a fifth-wheel trailer, but people who have larger trailers will need at least a three-quarter-ton truck.

5th Wheel vs Travel Trailer - The Debate Has Ended and so it Continues

So, which is better? 5th wheel vs travel trailer? The answer, of course, is that it depends. It depends on your budget, your needs, and your personal preferences.

If you need a lot of space and are looking for a luxurious RV experience, a 5th wheel might be the right choice for you. On the other hand, if you're looking for a more affordable option that is easier to tow and maneuver, a travel trailer might be the way to go.

Ultimately, the decision is up to you! We hope that this blog post has helped you understand the key differences between 5th wheels and travel trailers so that you can make an informed decision about which type of RV is right for you. Happy travels!



My husband and I live a life on the road so we figured no better way to share our journey than through a blog! While traveling place to place as RV noobies, we quickly realized how often we were in need of RV accessories and supplies. This led us to launch RV Expertise and sharing our top picks.