5th Wheel vs Travel Trailer – 2021 Comparison

| Last Updated: March 11, 2021

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Fifth wheel and travel trailers are popular among people who are fond of going on outdoor adventures. Both offer various features that provide maximum comfort and ease while traveling. Thus, they fit the needs of an individual or family traveling full-time or on weekends. 

However, it could get tough to decide which is best for you. To help you out, we present you with a detailed comparison guide of the 5th wheel vs travel trailer. The comprehensive guide will walk you through the similarities and differences between the most luxurious and largest towable RVs, so you can make your pick! 

So, keep reading to learn more about them.

Photo credit: campingworld.com

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

A fifth wheel is a large trailer that offers ample living space along with luxury amenities. It is suitable for families or people who prefer larger RVs while traveling part-time or full-time. 

Fifth wheels are heavy-weight RVs requiring a fifth wheel hitch to tow. They are attached to the bed of the towing truck through a specially designed hitch.

They are popular among RVs for a variety of reasons. They provide plenty of facilities such as toilets, showers, and sufficient sleeping space. You would not 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.

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 upon 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 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. However, slideouts add extra weight to the trailer, requiring a heavy-duty truck for towing purposes.

Fifth Wheel Sizes

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

Fifth wheels are 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. Moreover, the average weight of a fifth wheel ranges from 12,000 to 15,000 pounds. Depending upon your requirements, you can opt for a specific size

Luxury Units

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.

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 is hitched to the bumper of a truck. Travel trailers come in different sizes. However, 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. It includes couples coaches, bunkhouse models, and back kitchen floor plans. Some models offer two or more private bedrooms.

Moreover, travel trailers have one or two slide-outs to provide extra living space. Thus, they are suitable for a couple or small family to go on a camping trip. Also, they are 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 of them is briefly described below:

Airstream Flying Cloud (Source)

Classic Travel Trailers

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

Models may differ from one another in some respects. However, most of them have a kitchen, dining area, bathroom, bedroom, storage compartments, and entertainment center. 

Also, some classic travel trailers include slide-outs to enhance the living space. They 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 have 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. This makes them suitable for people who prefer both a living and storage space.

Moreover, the garage space in toy haulers makes the loading and unloading of their heavy-weight equipment into the back easy. However, the garage space may render the living space smaller than others.

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

Airstream Flying Cloud (Source)

Teardrop Trailers

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

Moreover, they weigh below 1000 lbs and are ideal for people with small tow vehicles. Due to their compact size, they are capable of being parked in a garage. 

They have a living space along with sufficient storage capacity. However, they do not 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 will find travel trailer models having different lengths. Typically, it ranges 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 between the two models. This will help you understand various aspects of both models that set them apart from other RVs. Have a look:

Grand Design Solitude Fifth Wheel (Source)

5th Wheel and 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:

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. However, a separate towing vehicle is required to tow a fifth wheel or a travel trailer.

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 for the purpose. 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

Both types provide sufficient living space for couples or families. There are spacious and family-friendly models that are ideal for camping trips. Luxury amenities such as bedroom, bathroom, and kitchen enhance the living space.

Storage capacity

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

Grand Design Solitude Fifth Wheel (Source)

What’s The Difference Between a Fifth Wheel And a Travel Trailer?

The two vehicles also have some prominent differences between them. These include:

Size and Weight

Generally, travel trailers are lightweight, shorter, and smaller than fifth wheels. They are suitable for people who prefer towing with a smaller vehicle.

On the other hand, fifth wheels are larger and offer more living space. Also, they are heavier due to several luxury amenities that come along with them. 

Fifth wheels also greatly vary in their weight. The average model weighs 10,000 to 15,000 pounds. Meanwhile, the travel trailer's average weight ranges between 1000 and 8,500 pounds.

Ease of Towing

When it comes to towing trailers, the fifth wheel is easier to tow. The way it is 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 former with a special fifth-wheel trailer hitch installed in its bed. Thus, you have limited truck options when it comes to towing a fifth-wheel RV. 

Airstream Flying Cloud (Source)

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

How Do These Compare?

Here we will compare and contrast both models based on various aspects. So, let’s take a look at them.

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. A travel trailer, on the other hand, is hitched to the bumper of the truck. In the former, the hitch takes up the majority of the space in the truck bed. This leaves a large family with limited space on the vehicle. Also, it does not 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.

On the other hand, several vehicles, including SUVs, can tow travel trailers. Being hitched to the bumper of the vehicle, the 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 upon the size of the trailer, along with the capacity and power of the tow vehicle. Travel trailers are fuel-efficient as they are small and lightweight. 

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. Thus, the latter, being smaller and lighter, gives better gas mileage than the former.

Travel Trailer vs 5th Wheel Full Time

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 due to which they do not have as much living and storage space. Although they do offer luxury amenities and storage space, they are more suitable for short-term trips. For a full-time living, a fifth wheel is usually preferred.

Top Pick Between 5th Wheel and Travel Trailer

Before you pick any one of the two models, you must consider your requirements. With our detailed comparison, it should not be a difficult task for you to weigh your options. 

However, 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. But, if you have a large family, then there would not be enough space to fit everyone on the towing vehicle.

Grand Design Solitude Fifth Wheel (Source)

Travel trailers are smaller and lightweight models that are pocket-friendly RVs. Those who are occasional road-trippers or short-term travelers would find them more suitable.  

If you are planning not to go beyond a 28' trailer and save some money, consider a travel trailer. Besides, the towing vehicle for this could provide you the desired space for your large family. Therefore, for better flexibility of the towing vehicle, a travel trailer is suitable.

So, depending upon your needs and budget, you may choose either of the models. 

Overview of Our Favorite 5th Wheel and Travel Trailer

Here are in-depth reviews of our favorite 5th wheel and travel trailer models. Read on to get acquainted with their features and attributes.

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 ample storage capacity, including a walk-in closet, pass-through storage, and overhead cabinets in the kitchen and living room. Moreover, long-term campers found it comfortable and well-constructed equipped with residential appliances. Users were 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. Moreover, 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 is convenient to keep the RV warm in winters and cool in summers.

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 kitchen space. So, 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

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 satisfied with the high-quality trailer that provided comfort and ease 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

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.

Moreover, you will find abundant storage space in the cabin. It has several overhead cabinets to store various items. Besides, the ultra-leather seating gives the living space a modern look. The ultra-leather furniture is easy to clean, scratch-resistant, pet-friendly, and withstands changing temperature, so it would go a long way on your trips.

In addition, the Quietstream climate control system makes the cabin suitable for hot and cold weather. 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 space with abundant storage capacity. Thus, you would not have to worry about anything while on adventures.

Conclusion

After going through the detailed comparison between the two models, you must know which one will best suit your needs and budget. Both fifth wheel and travel trailer models promise comfort and luxury while on camping trips. All you need to do is weigh your options and align them with your preferences and budget. This way, you will make a wise purchase decision that will take you a long way.

People Also Ask

It is imperative to be well informed about the products that you plan on buying. Here you will find responses to the commonly asked questions. 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 are also spacious trailers offering more luxury amenities, which makes them heavier than their travel trailer counterpart.

Grand Design Solitude Fifth Wheel (Source)

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

Fifth-wheel trailers are much more spacious and luxurious than travel trailers. They come with several floor plans along with ample living space and usually include a private master bedroom. Moreover, fifth wheels have 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; hence, various vehicles can tow it. 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. Also, a one-ton pickup truck is used to tow a toy hauler, which is the heaviest of travel trailers.

What Size Do I Need For 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. A half-ton truck is sufficient to pull a fifth-wheel trailer. However, people who have larger trailers will require at least a three-quarter-ton truck to tow their fifth wheel.

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.