Last Updated on January 21, 2021 by Tanmay Sarkar
Travel trailer or Fifth-wheel, which is better, this is a question that many campers ask. If you know about the different features of them then it will be much easier for you to select one.
If you are in a hurry then a quick answer – 5th wheels are better for a bigger trailer which is 28’ or more. Travel trailers are smaller in length and weigh less than the fifth wheel. 5th wheel tow better have multiple levels and higher headroom. Travel trailers are less expensive and can be towed by any vehicle which you have due to less weight.
Travel Trailer vs Fifth Wheel: Features & Difference
1. Size & Weight
Travel trailer – it is generally smaller and lighter in weight than the fifth wheel, which makes it much easier to maneuver.
Fifth Wheel – the fifth wheel is bigger and heavier than travel trailers. You can even customize both the fifth wheel and travel trailer according to your demand.
2. Floor Level
Travel Trailer – they are less spacious and are on one level only.
Fifth Wheel – the fifth wheel is spacious with living areas. Most of the models have a bedroom just above the hitch that is attached to a truck bed. Some model even has a stair.
3. Hitch and Towing capacity
Travel Trailer – they are attached to the rear of the vehicle on the bumper. For hitching, you will need a conventional ball hitch system. For many people towing a travel trailer is difficult than the fifth wheel.
Related Reading: RV & Trailer Towing | Trailer Hitch Guide
Fifth Wheel – they can be attached to the bed of the truck through a specially designed hitching system. Hitching them is much easier than travel trailers. People find it easy to tow the fifth wheel than the travel trailer.
Related Reading: Best Trailer Hitch Locks
The reason for this is that the design of a fifth wheel puts more weight on the center between the axles of the towing vehicle. This brings the center of mass forward on the towing vehicle. You will have greater control over the vehicle as it is attached to the back of the vehicle.
4. Length of vehicle
Travel Trailer – they come in different sizes.
Fifth Wheel – fifth wheels are also available in multiple sizes. One thing which you have to remember is that a good portion of the fifth wheel is over the hitch.
5. Roof height
Travel Trailer – travel trailers have less vertical space. If you are traveling in an area of low clearances then a travel trailer will be a good option. Many of the versions are 9 feet or less which makes it easy to fit in tight spaces.
Fifth Wheel – they have much vertical room because their hitch is higher than the travel trailers. This provides more living space for the campers. But, remember that the ceiling height is much bigger in the living area than in the bedroom.
6. Truck Bed Storage
Travel Trailer – they are small compared to the fifth wheel and take less place for towing that’s why your truck bed can have more things.
Fifth Wheel – it uses a nearly entire truck bed. You can keep a few things but you won’t have space for ATV, Bikes, or anything which you want to bring in camping.
Travel Trailer – they are less expensive than the fifth wheel because they are smaller and are lighter build. A travel trailer is also cheaper as you don’t have to buy a huge truck to tow it. You can tow a travel trailer by any vehicle.
They are more durable than the fifth wheel. They are lighter in weight which makes it easier for the vehicle to tow, which is good for gas mileage. They also have cheaper maintenance cost as compared to a fifth wheel.
Fifth Wheel – they are costlier than travel trailers and have less mileage. Fifth wheels are costlier to maintain.
8. Multiple Levels
Travel Trailer – they have one level and are less spacious.
Fifth Wheel – fifth wheel have multiple levels, they generally have some steps which take you to a bathroom or bedroom. You will have much more privacy in it as it blocks sound from one part to another.
9. Basement Storage
Travel Trailer – have less space for storage as it is of smaller size and have only a single level.
Fifth Wheel – it has a very large exterior storage. This is possible due to the multiple level design.
10. Luxury Features
Travel Trailer – due to the small size it has fewer things compared to the fifth wheel.
Fifth Wheel – some fifth wheel can even fight off rival motorhome when it comes to luxury features. Due to the much larger interior space, you can opt-in to get any luxury item in it.
Travel Trailer – they have much better mileage due to less weight.
Fifth Wheel – due to heaviness it gives less mileage than the travel trailer. If you are already having less mileage then it can be an issue.
Travel Trailer – it is a little bit difficult to hook up a travel trailer as per people who used it. But, if you keep practicing it then it will not take more than 2 minutes.
Fifth Wheel – it is easier to hook up the fifth wheel.
13. Built-In Generators
Travel Trailer – generally travel trailers do not have built-in generators.
Fifth Wheel – some models of the fifth wheel have built-in generators. It saves you money and time and it quiet too.
14. Second tow
Travel Trailer – Generally, you cannot tow anything behind it. (Exceptions are always ready to do anything)
Fifth Wheel – if you want to tow something such as a dirt bike or ATV or a boat behind your RV then the fifth wheel is better. As some states in the USA allow you to tow something behind a trailer if your trailer is a fifth wheel.
Travel Trailer – travel trailers can have 2 bathrooms but that’s rare.
Fifth Wheel – most of the fifth wheel has 2 or 1.5 bathrooms. It is better if you have more people camping.
16. 5th wheel tow receiver
Travel Trailer – hitch of the travel trailer takes less space.
Fifth Wheel – 5th wheel takes space you are towing it or not. Its tow receiver is made up of a big and heavy piece of steel. If you have less space then you have to remove it after each camping trip.
Travel Trailer – it can have 1 or 2 slide outs. The reason for fewer slide outs is the weight. As travel trailers themselves are small, manufacturers have to design keeping the weight in mind. Travel trailers are difficult to tow if they are heavy.
Fifth Wheel – generally, you will find 3,4 or even up to 5 slide outs in a 5th wheel. It increases the roominess of the 5th wheel.
18. Backing up
Travel Trailer – if you do not learn to back up properly then you can end up with some wide-angle while backing up.
Fifth Wheel – a fifth wheel needs larger wheel movement to turn it, that’s why it often pushes the truck end too far from one way.
19. Cooling and Heating
Travel Trailer – it has even cooling and heating due to one level.
Fifth Wheel – many times 5th wheel could face a problem of uneven cooling or heating as they have multiple levels with segmented areas. The bedroom could be the warmest part while AC is on and visa-versa because the bedroom is often on the top.
20. Riding on a towed vehicle
Travel Trailer – in many states it is illegal to sit in a travel trailer while it is moving. They are not so balanced like a 5th wheel.
Fifth Wheel – in many states you can ride inside a 5th wheel while it is being towed.
Questions before you buy a fifth wheel or travel trailer
If you still have problems in deciding as to what you should consider buying then you should ask these questions to find the right need.
What type of camping you are going to do?
If you want to camp for a shorter period of time then a travel trailer is best for you. As you would be camping for a short time then you won’t need a large space.
If you are going to travel or camp full time then consider buying the 5th wheel as it has large space compared to a travel trailer. You will need a larger space because you will need many things for a living and will be much more comfortable.
How many things I will be carrying?
If you camp with lots of stuff then the fifth wheel is best as it has huge space for storage.
How many people will camp?
If you have fewer people say 2 then a travel trailer is perfect. If you are going to camp with more people then consider buying the 5th wheel.
How much maintenance I could afford?
It is a general rule that the larger the vehicle larger the problem it can go through. Not only 5th wheels are costly but their maintenance cost is higher than travel trailers.
How will I tow it?
To tow a travel trailer your vehicle should have a trailer hitch and to tow a 5th wheel you need a pickup truck. You have to know the towing capacity of the vehicle which you could find with the dealer or online. This will be a big factor in determining which is better for you.
Where will I park?
A fifth wheel takes a huge place, so you should have a large space to park it. If you do not have room in your house then you have to pay for it in a storage facility.
What is the budget?
Obviously, the fifth wheel is expensive than the travel trailer. If you still need a fifth wheel with less money then consider buying a used one. Many dealers have used models as people trade them for new ones.
If you still have questions then rent before buying
RVs are a huge investment and many people can do mistakes by buying the wrong one. If you seriously want to know want is better for you then consider renting a fifth wheel and a travel trailer one after another.
You can spend time in both and try to evaluate which will be the best option for you.