What's the Difference?

Luxury fifth wheels and travel trailers are the most popular choices for upscale RV enthusiasts. While they share some similarities, the two have significant differences, and this article will explain them. However, when it comes time to decide which one is right for you, there's no easy answer that fits all customers because they each offer unique advantages depending on how and where you plan to use them.

As an investment, travel trailers tend to cost less and are more popular, which might make it easier to resell since it's in more buyers' budgets. Operationally, the bumper pull trailer has a less complicated hitching system, making it more available to a broader market for America's number one selling vehicle -- the F-150 Ford half-ton towable truck. It's also physically less trailer -- less weight, storage, and headroom. Most people might have one major issue with a 5th wheel: you will need to enter the 3/4-ton or 1-ton tow vehicles market to hook up and go. Not only do more people own half-ton pickups, but whatever size truck you're towing a travel trailer with, you'll have room for more truck bed storage and a wider range of options to store gear, such as dirt bikes for off-roading. A bumper pull trailer hitch also tends to have a lower tow capacity. If you need to use the entire truck bed for storage space, and higher gas mileage is an important factor to you, then an average travel trailer, a toy hauler, or a towable RV might be your best bet.

On the other hand, the 5th-wheel RV -- commonly known as a gooseneck hitch system -- has one significant difference over a regular trailer, and that is it tends to be a larger -- longer and taller -- trailer and have more high-end trim packages along with many other amenities such as more slide outs and storage space. However, these extras add to travel trailer floorplans that add weight. This increased size and weight add up to less fuel efficiency. The two biggest differences between a 5th wheel and a travel trailer are size and price. Generally speaking, the fifth wheels are larger and tend to have greater outside storage spaces, which is an important value for the full-time RV lifestyle. People looking for a roomier trailer for more long-term travel tend to go for a fifth wheel. And it will probably tow nicer -- due to the way the pin weight of the RV is loaded into the bed of the pickup truck. The weight distribution of fifth-wheel hitches makes it a breeze to tow long distances. Seasoned RVers praise the virtues of the way a fifth wheel will safely haul their rig. They also love the greater amount of useable space, a master bedroom over the truck bed, and exterior storage. If you've got trouble walking up and down multiple levels, however, or are concerned about hitting low-hanging tree branches and want something with a shorter total length, then a 5th wheel may not be for you.

The Main Difference between Luxury Travel Trailers vs Luxury Fifth Wheels

Here are eight main differences between a 5th wheel vs. towable camper:

1. Design and Layout

Travel trailers are towed behind a vehicle with what's known as a bumper pull truck, while fifth wheels require a specialized hitch mounted into the bed of a pickup truck. This fundamental design difference affects each RV type's layout and interior space. It often comes down to personal preference and gear requirements. For example, a towable camper may be better if you have a dirt bike to transport in the back of the truck's cab. Also, the multi-level design may be a drawback for some owners who want to avoid steps due to physical limitations. Finally, the total rig length of a 5th wheel will typically be greater. While either towable campers are the same length, the number of longer 5th wheels to choose from will probably be greater.

2. Total Size, Space & Length

Fifth-wheel trailers are generally larger and offer more living space than travel trailers. The bi-level design of fifth wheels allows for additional headroom and taller ceilings, creating a more spacious feel. The usable space is also greater, allowing for major appliances like a dishwasher, larger fridge, washer-dryer, and built-in generators.

3. Ease of Towing and Maneuverability

Travel trailers are typically easier to maneuver into tight spots than fifth wheels. They have a lower profile and a lower connection point to the towing vehicle, making them more suitable for novice RVers or those who prefer simpler towing setups. The pivot point of the hitch being in the truck's bed allows for a tighter turning radius. A 5th wheel vs. travel trailer vehicle turning radius comparison goes to the 5th wheeler, with the larger turning radius being limited by the tow vehicle's bumper.

4. Tow Vehicle Comfort & Experience

Fifth wheels offer enhanced stability during towing due to their hitch design, which distributes the weight over the truck's rear axle. This can result in a smoother and more controlled towing experience than travel trailers. Truck bed space is also greater in a towable trailer since it's not being used for a gooseneck hitch system. Likely the biggest plus for a 5th wheeler is how it will safely tow your rig. If you plan to put on thousands of miles a year and fuel economy is important, then fifth-wheel trailers are a good place to focus your search.

5. Storage Capacity

Fifth wheels often have more storage capacity, both in terms of interior cabinets and exterior compartments. The additional space can accommodate larger and more extensive storage needs, making them suitable for long-term travelers or those who carry a lot of gear. Basement storage is greater in fifth-wheel trailers because they tend to ride higher off the road. This means you'll have a larger sized storage room and probably more steps to climb up and down.

6. Cost

More costs more, so it should be no surprise that luxury 5th wheels are more expensive than luxury travel trailers. The larger size, additional amenities, and higher-end finishes in fifth wheels contribute to their higher price point. This higher-priced camper will likely need to be matched with a higher-priced truck.

7. Accessibility

Travel trailers have the advantage of being more accessible since they can be detached more easily and quickly from the towing vehicle. Once set up at a campsite, the towing vehicle can be used for other purposes, such as exploring the surrounding area or running errands. As mentioned earlier, maneuvering at highway speeds in the cab of a vehicle towing a 5th wheel will be a more relaxing experience.

8. Flexibility

Travel trailers offer more flexibility in terms of mobility. Since they can be detached, owners can easily leave the trailer at the campsite and use their vehicle for day trips or other activities. Fifth wheels, however, require the truck's presence to remain functional.


These are just some of the key differences that should be considered when deciding between a luxury travel trailer and a luxury fifth wheel, as they can impact the RV owner's overall travel and living, convenience, and safety experience.