fifth wheel trailer

What Is a Fifth Wheel? Interesting Facts About The Trailer

As RVs have gained popularity over the last couple of decades, you might have seen towable RVs with a part hanging over the truck’s bed. That’s called a fifth wheel RV. But what is a fifth wheel, to be precise?

Here we will discuss what a fifth wheel trailer is, the history of its name, and its advantages and disadvantages. If you are in a dilemma about choosing between a fifth wheel camper or a motorhome or looking for information, you have come to the right place.

What Is a Fifth Wheel Trailer?

A fifth wheel trailer is a type of RV designed to be towed by a pickup truck. It has a special hitch mounted in the truck’s bed and extends over the cab. It allows the trailer to sit higher than other types of trailers, making it more stable when towing.

Nowadays, a “U” shaped coupling component generally found on the back of a towing vehicle, pickup truck, or large transport is referred to as a fifth wheel. It is also widely used by RVers because of the benefits it offers.

The trailers are usually larger than average RVs and often have more amenities, such as slide-out rooms and built-in kitchens. They are popular among campers who want the extra space and amenities but don’t want to drive a larger RV.

What is a fifth wheel? It must be clear to you by now. If you’re considering purchasing one, you should keep a few things in mind. You’ll need a truck that can tow the trailer’s weight and maneuvering it in tight spaces will be easier. Also, you’ll need to ensure that the campsite you’re planning to stay at has adequate space for the trailer.

fifth wheel trailer
5th wheel trailers are usually towed by pick-up trucks. Photo: duckycards / Getty Images

Why Is a Fifth Wheel Called a Fifth Wheel?

Why is it called a fifth wheel?

The fifth wheel has been around since the 1800s’. Back then, it was used only for horse-drawn carriages. Its design and manufacturing process has been changed significantly, but its primary purpose hasn’t.

The company that first utilized the hitch in the early 1900s is responsible for the naming. The Martin Rocking 5th Wheel Company named the hitch “fifth wheel” because its round shape resembled a wheel.

This upgraded hitch made transporting heavy loads quicker and smoother. The hinge distributes heavy loads evenly while driving and making a turn has become easier than ever with zero casualties.

RVs are generally split into fifth wheels, conventional travel trailers, and motorhomes. Among these, the fifth wheel has been popular for a long time among outdoor enthusiasts because it makes it easy to bring your whole family camping in comfort.

What does 5th wheel mean? Well, it refers to the hitch mounted in the center of the towing truck bed. The trailer is tugged behind the truck and connected to the hitch.

Now, if we are to define a fifth wheel camper, it is a type of camping trailer tugged behind a truck and connected to the truck via a hitch mounted in the center of the truck bed. They differ from conventional trailers/motorhomes that are driven rather than towed. Which generally use a trailer hitch and ball mount.

Pros and Cons of 5th Wheel Trailers

What is a fifth wheel? We hope you’ve already got an idea. If you are considering buying one, check out its pros and cons before making a final judgment.

Advantages of a Fifth Wheel

A fifth wheeler offers more benefits than other types of trailers and motorhomes. In this section, we will go over a few unique advantages of this model.

Safe towing option

The camper is safer to operate versus many tow-behind trailers. As it rests the weight on the bed of your truck, maneuvering becomes more manageable, which increases stability when in motion.

Storage space

The unit is spacious enough for a large family. Plus, it doesn’t require any rooms for engines or driver cabs, which make for extra space. It also features a lofted sleeping space above the truck bed.

On top of that, this particular camper has slide-outs that can be equipped with more sleeping options. If you are someone who wants a homelike feel and spaciousness on the road, a fifth wheel trailer is an excellent choice.


The design of a fifth wheeler is quite versatile compared to the other types. In case of emergencies or a sudden trip to the nearby town for something you might need, you can hop in the towing vehicle and leave the rig at the campsite. In other words, the fifth wheel camper doubles as a means of transportation during and after a trip.


A fifth wheel comes at an attractive price compared to other RV types. Motorhomes are expensive, but a 5th wheeler can be purchased at a more reasonable price.

As it costs less, the resale value decreases at a slower pace compared to a motorhome. After only a few years of heavy use, motorhomes lose their value significantly.

5th wheel camper
Fifth wheelers are reasonably priced when compared with motorhomes. Photo: 2018 RVLIKEMIDGLEY/Shutterstock

Disadvantages of a Fifth Wheel

When many find the 5th wheel as a much better option than other trailers, there are few disadvantages to this type of RV.

Storage could be expensive

Because these campers are large, you cannot store them in a regular garage. Thus, you will need to rent a storage unit or RV space during the off-season.

Separate driving and living space

One important note is that the driving and living areas are situated separately in a 5th wheel, different from a motorhome and other types of RVs. You must exit your truck and enter the fifth wheel to access the kitchen, bedroom, or bathroom. If you are traveling with others, you might feel lonely while driving while the others are having fun.

Demands a good towing vehicle

A fifth wheel camper needs to be pulled by a capable truck, unlike other RVs. Because of its weight and size, it needs a vehicle that is capable enough to tow the trailer but can also safely stop it. Not owning the right vehicle can require a second investment.

Final Words

What is a fifth wheel? The trailer offers numerous lucrative features, but it can only be a good choice depending on your requirements.

If you compare your conditions and needs with the information mentioned above, it will be easier to decide.

Even so, you can always contact a professional or weigh your options on several popular RV-selling websites.

Leave a Reply