Gooseneck vs 5th Wheel Hitch: Which is Best for You?
Say you’ve found the perfect camper: roomy, homely, and just right for you and your loved ones to stay in. This process in itself can take a long time, so congratulations! You may also have found (or already own) a big, heavy-duty truck that you know will be capable of towing your new purchase.
The question is: how do you attach them together? How do you tow a camper safely, especially if you need to travel at high speeds? You’ll need a hitch – but this raises more questions. How do you know which one to buy and whether it will last the hundreds, if not thousands of miles that you’re about to travel?
Today, we’ll be looking at two types in our gooseneck vs. 5th wheel comparison. If you’re looking at both of them and you can’t decide which one to buy, then don’t worry – we’ll take an in-depth look at both types, including some product recommendations, and their pros and cons, to help you to decide which one is right for you.
The Main Differences between Gooseneck and 5th Wheel
On the surface, it should be simple: if you’ve bought a 5th wheel RV, you’ll choose a 5th wheel hitch. Right? Actually, the use of adaptors means you may be able to use them interchangeably, depending on the type you have. So, how do you choose between them?
If you’re in a rush, here are the main differences between the two:
- Gooseneck hitches can be more difficult to install
- Most states don’t allow passengers to travel in a trailer towed using a gooseneck hitch
- Gooseneck hitches tend to be cheaper than 5th wheel hitches
- A gooseneck hitch usually has to be used with a specific type of RV (the kind with a bit that sticks out further than the rest, allowing your truck bed to slot neatly next to it). A 5th wheel hitch is used with a 5th wheel RV – which tend to be a bit roomier.
- A 5th wheel hitch will decrease the amount of room you have in your truck quite significantly
- Gooseneck hitches tend to have a higher weight capacity than 5th wheel hitches
Now, we’ll have a look at trailer hitches in general, and what you need to know about them.
What is a Trailer Hitch?
Simply put, a hitch is one of the most vital pieces of equipment you can buy to make your RV life successful. If you’ve found the perfect camper, and you’ve found a great truck to tow it with, the hitch is the thing that will link them together, and it’s incredibly important to get the right one.
Your trailer will have a socket on the end of the arm (otherwise known as a tongue), which fits onto a ball – this is found on the tow bar of your truck.
Hitching a trailer or a camper to a truck can be dangerous, especially when you’re traveling at high speeds. You want to make sure that the two are firmly attached at all times, not only to keep you safe but to keep other road users safe, too. It’s important to get the right kind of hitch for your camper.
The most important thing to consider is the weight of your RV or whatever accessory you would like to tow. There are various classes of trailer hitch – this will determine the weight they can carry.
The class I is for light loads of up to 2,000 pounds.
This class can carry up to 3,500 pounds.
This class can carry up to 5,000 pounds.
Class IIII can carry up to 10,000 pounds.
This may seem simple enough – just pick a trailer hitch based on the weight of your camper. However, there are a few more things to consider. Trailer hitches are generally divided into two main categories:
The receiver type uses a removable ball mount. You must make sure that your ball mount matches the SAE hitch class. It consists of a square bar that fits into a receiver, which is then attached to the vehicle. They usually have risen and drop variations to make sure your towing is level.
A fixed-drawbar type of hitch has integrated ball mounts. You will not have to worry about purchasing a ball mount separately.
There are a few more things to consider, too:
Receiver Tube Size
A receiver tube makes a little more space between your vehicle and your camper (or whatever accessory you want to tow). You may find certain accessories, like bike racks, require this extra space. You may also require a little more space between your camper and your vehicle to prevent the two from hitting each other when turning.
They come in different sizes:
- I & II Class – ¼ in the receiver tube
- III & IV Class – 2 in the receiver tube
- V Class – 2 or 2 ½ in the receiver tube
Tow Ball Sizes
Tow balls also come in different sizes, and you must make sure you pick the right one:
- 1 7/8 in
- 1 31/32 in
- 2 in
- 2 5/16 in
- 3 in
There are a few more variations of tow hitch, two of which (gooseneck and 5th wheel) we’ll be looking at today. Which of these you pick will depend on the model of RV that you have. Before that, however, here are a few things to bear in mind when you’re shopping for a new tow hitch.
What to Look for When Buying a Tow Hitch
Here are a few things to bear in mind when you’re shopping for a new tow hitch:
This is the most obvious starting point. Different RVs will, of course, have different weights. You’ll have to bear in mind how much your trailer will weigh once everything is installed – this is particularly important if you’re renovating your camper from scratch. It’s incredibly dangerous to tow something outside of the weight capacity of your trailer hitch – so make sure you stick to this.
You can tell the weight of your trailer by looking at the Vehicle Identification Plate. It should have a GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating). This will enable you to decide which type of trailer hitch is right for you.
Vehicle and Camper Type
Again, this is obvious, but make sure your hitch is compatible with the type of truck you have, and the type of camper you’ll be towing. For example, a gooseneck hitch requires a certain shape of the camper.
Tow Hitch Lock
You can purchase tow hitch locks – this is great for your peace of mind. The last thing you want is for someone to attach your camper to their vehicle and drive away with it. A tow hitch lock covers the hitch, protecting it from thieves. This is definitely a product we’d recommend buying.
These are another great purchase that we would recommend. A towing mirror will allow you to see around your trailer, removing blind spots and helping you to see properly when you’re changing lanes.
Some states do not allow passengers to travel in trailers towed using certain types of hitches – if you’re planning on traveling around the country, make sure you’re using a hitch that allows for passengers to be towed (if that’s what you need, of course).
Some types of trailer hitch can be quite difficult and time-consuming to install. Installing them in a safe way is vital, so you may want to consider having a professional do it for you – of course, this will bump up the cost.
Some brands offer warranties with their hitches, meaning if anything were to go wrong, you’d be covered. This is a reassuring extra just in case.
A gooseneck hitch can handle heavy loads – up to 30,000 pounds, which is a whopping amount. If you’ve got a big trailer you need to tow, a gooseneck hitch can handle it.
Gooseneck hitches look a little different than regular trailer hitches, as they are actually placed through the bed of a pickup truck using a hitch ball. This enables you to make tighter turns when you’re driving.
There are a few things to consider if you want to buy a gooseneck hitch. Firstly, you need to make sure you have the correct type of trailer – it needs to attach to a camper of a certain shape (the kind that has a small area sticking out of the front of the trailer).
Secondly, you’ll need to consider the installation. Installing a gooseneck hitch is a little more complicated than some of the other kinds. You may want to consider hiring a professional to do this for you to make sure it’s 100% correct. Obviously, this will bump up the cost quite a bit, but it’s vital that this is done correctly.
Installation involves drilling a hole in your truck bed and then attaching the frame to the hitch ball. You will have to attach it in a few different places to make sure it is securely fixed in place. Some models offer chain anchors, too – so if the worst happens and the hitch does fall off, the trailer will still be attached.
There are a couple of different varieties of a gooseneck hitch. Some come with a fixed ball, which you cannot detach. Others have a detachable ball which you can swap around, allowing you to use different sized balls. Some fold away, saving you space in your truck.
One more thing to consider is that most states do not allow passengers to travel in a trailer or camper that is being towed using a gooseneck hitch – this could be a big deciding factor for you.
A definite plus point of a gooseneck hitch is that they do tend to be cheaper than a 5th wheel hitch. However, the cost of professional installation could make the difference as to whether it’s affordable for you or not, as financing the RV life can be pretty expensive already!
Top Gooseneck Recommendation
B&W Trailer Hitches 1111 Gooseneck Hitch
If you’re looking for a recommendation, the B&W Trailer Hitches is a pretty solid choice. B&W is a great brand, and this particular model has good reviews online. It has a fixed gooseneck ball, and it is made of stainless steel – this means it won’t get scratched or rusted.
The rail system is attached to the endplates, allowing it to be safely attached to your truck.
Although it only uses basic tools, it can be complicated and time-consuming to install – some users reported that it took several hours to do correctly. If you have the patience, however, you may be able to do it yourself. It can tow up to 30,000lbs – so if you’ve got a heavy camper, it could be a great (and safe) choice.
This particular model is made to fit 2011-2016 FORD F250/F350/F450 (Non-Cab & Chassis) super duty trucks.
Pros of a Gooseneck Hitch
- Can tow very heavyweights
- Allows for tighter turning as you drive
- Takes up much less room in your truck than a 5th wheel hitch
Cons of a Gooseneck Hitch
- Can be tricky to install
- Most states do not allow passengers to travel in a camper towed using a gooseneck hitch
Frequently Asked Questions about Gooseneck Hitches
Here are some of the most commonly asked questions about gooseneck hitches:
Do gooseneck hitches sway?
No – A gooseneck hitch should not sway and wobble as you travel, as it is attached closely to the truck bed.
Does a gooseneck hitch increase towing capacity?
A gooseneck hitch does allow for heavy tow loads, so you may find it more suitable than some of the other kinds of trailer hitch if you have a heavy camper.
Are gooseneck hitches safe?
Yes – Providing they are installed correctly.
What does a gooseneck hitch look like?
A gooseneck hitch looks like a ball mount – it’s just installed in your truck bed as opposed to behind it.
A 5th wheel hitch is quite different to a gooseneck hitch. Instead of using a ball, it uses a king pin (a downward facing pin) and a plate which rests along with the hitch plate (which is horseshoe-shaped). The name ‘5th wheel’ comes from the fact that your RV will have four wheels, and your vehicle will act as the ‘5th wheel’ – provided, of course, you use the 5th wheel hitch.
What people like about a 5th wheel hitch is that 5th wheel RVs tend to be roomier. They’re excellent in that you can travel in your RV whilst using a 5th wheel hitch – this could make it a much more attractive choice if you’re traveling in a group. They tend to be more passenger-oriented, with features like anti-vibration to make the passenger experience much nicer. This is part of the reason why they are usually seen as suitable for recreational use.
Again, they’re great for towing heavy loads, with some allowing up to 30,000lbs. This varies, however, so make sure you check beforehand that you have the right one for the weight of your camper. Usually, a 5th wheel hitch has a lower weight capacity than a gooseneck hitch – so this could be something to think about.
A 5th wheel hitch takes up quite a lot of room in your truck. However – this could be a consideration if you need that space in your truck. They also tend to be more expensive than gooseneck hitches.
They tend to be a little easier to install than a gooseneck hitch.
Top 5th Wheel Recommendation
CURT 16516 E16 5th Wheel Slider Hitch
As far as quality 5th wheel hitches go, this is a good choice.
It has a dual-pivot head: this allows for smooth and stable towing. The auto-lock feature means that the coupling process is slightly easier for you (and more secure – which is a great thing). The CURT 16516 has a few features to make the towing process a little smoother – it has an anti-rattle feature at the coupling point with an anti-rattle skid plate, helping to reduce vibration.
It is on the lower end of the scale in terms of towing weight – about 16,000lbs trailer weight and 5,000lbs vertical load. So it’s definitely suited for smaller RVs and trailers as opposed to heavier loads.
However, safety testing, single-handed operation, and versatile fit options mean that it’s a good quality choice. You will have to purchase the rails, however. You can choose permanent rails, or removable rails – this really depends on if you want to use your truck for other things at a later date. It has great reviews, with users saying it is fairly simple to install and very reliable.
Unfortunately, the addition of rails bumps the cost up slightly, but you may decide this is worth it for the flexibility it gives you.
Pros of a 5th wheel hitch
- Passengers will be allowed to travel in the RV whilst on the road
- A 5th wheel hitch allows for a smooth ride
Cons of a 5th wheel hitch
- Can be expensive
- May not be able to tow heavier loads (unlike gooseneck hitches)
Frequently Asked Questions about 5th Wheel Hitches
Here are the most commonly asked questions about 5th wheel hitches:
Can I install a 5th wheel hitch myself?
Yes – it may take some time, and it’s important to follow the instructions properly, but you can install a 5th wheel hitch yourself.
Do 5th wheel hitches wear out?
Overloading or exposure to salt may wear out your 5th wheel hitch. However, they’re generally pretty heavy duty and dependable.
Are 5th wheel hitches removable?
Usually, the hitch itself is removable, but the rails are not. However, some models (such as the one we featured earlier) give you the option of removable rails, too.
How much does a 5th wheel hitch cost to install?
The typical cost is around $250-300 (minimum) – obviously, if you install it yourself, you will be saving money, but it may take a bit of time to do it right. If you’re unsure at all, it’s better to get it done by a professional.
So, can you use a gooseneck adaptor with a 5th wheel RV?
You can get adaptors, which will allow you to use one with the other. So, if you’ve got a 5th wheel RV but you’d rather use a gooseneck hitch, you could use an adaptor to make it work.
Similarly, if you already have a gooseneck adaptor, but you need to use a 5th wheel hitch, you can buy an adaptor for that set-up, too. The use of an adaptor may void your warranty, however, and they have their own weight capacity – as always, it is vital that you stick to this weight capacity.
In conclusion, the type of hitch you buy will obviously depend on the type of camper you want or the type of camper you’ve already found.
For many people, the fact that you cannot have passengers sitting in the RV while you’re on the move is a huge consideration. If you’re traveling with a large family, you’ll need those extra seats, and your passengers may be more comfortable sitting in the camper than they would be in the truck. This puts gooseneck hitches at a significant disadvantage.
However – there are plus points, like the lower price, and the fact that they take up less room than a 5th wheel hitch. If you don’t have a lot of room in your truck, a gooseneck hitch will be better for you.
There is also the issue of weight capacity. If your RV is particularly heavy, a gooseneck hitch may be the better choice, as they tend to be able to bear more weight than a 5th wheel hitch. You can get heavy-duty 5th wheel hitches, but they’re less commonly found.
It’s a little difficult for us to choose a winner here. However, in terms of basic passenger comfort and the ability to sit in your RV on the road, we’ll choose the 5th wheel hitch as your best bet. The CURT 16516 E16 5th Wheel Slider Hitch is a particularly good model and offers you flexibility, safety, and a smooth ride for your passengers.
Whatever your choice, we hope this article has helped you – and we hope you have safe and happy travels!
Did you enjoy this article? We’ve got more information that we’d love to share with you. Check out our guide to Finding the Best RV Parks, Resorts and Campgrounds, or our Ultimate Guide to RV Maintenance.