If you’re new to the trailer life and are looking to purchase your first 5th wheel or are simply looking to upgrade, it can be so easy to get caught up in the features of the unit you want to buy, dreams of awesome family vacations, (dumping and cleaning out the septic tank…) and all the other perks that come along with being an RVer. But let’s not get too ahead of ourselves here, guys. You need a truck to tow that bad boy first! And not just any truck will do. There’s plenty of crucial information necessary to determine what type of tow vehicle will best suit your dream trailer.
Know Your Tow Vehicle’s Ratings
In order to tow your new 5th wheel safely, and by safely we mean without exceeding the weight ratings of the tow vehicle (we’ll get into those ratings in just a minute), you’re going to need to know the towing capacity of the truck BEFORE purchasing the trailer. A couple things to keep in mind when shopping for a new truck…Look for a 2WD truck, 4 wheel drive/AWD vehicles typically have a lower towing capacity due to their heavier weight. The same goes for trucks with extended cabs. When speaking to the salesperson while truck shopping, make sure to find out the following important rating information:
Gross Vehicle Weight (GVW) – this is the actual weight of a fully loaded vehicle (includes cargo, passengers, fuel, etc.) without the tow hitch or trailer attached
Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) – this is the most the tow vehicle should weigh and should never be exceeded
Rear Gross Axle Weight (RGAW) – this is the actual weight on the rear axle (wheels, tires, etc.) with the hitch or trailer attached
Rear Gross Axle Weight Rating (RGAWR) – this is the most weight the rear axle of the tow vehicle should carry
Gross Combination Weight Rating (GCWR) – this is the total weight of the tow vehicle, hitch, and trailer and should never be exceeded
In order to determine how heavy of a trailer you should purchase, subtract the GVW from the GCWR.
Find the Right Hitch for your Tow Vehicle/Trailer
There are tons of different hitches out there for any type of trailer and/or towing vehicle. For the purposes of this article, we’ll stick to just 5th wheel hitches. When it comes to 5th wheel hitches, they can be rated to tow trailers that weigh over 30,000 pounds. The most popular 5th wheels, however, usually weigh in at about half that. For example, this 40’ Forest River Cedar Creek 5th wheel has a GVW of 16,540. If your truck has a shorter bed (approximately 70” – 80” in length measured outside to outside), you’ll need to look at a sliding hitch. The sliding hitch allows the hitch and the king pin to move closer to the tailgate to increase the turning clearance of the trailer and to avoid the truck and the trailer rubbing together (Quick Note – the king pin should be approximately 15 – 25% of the GVW). For tow vehicles that have longer beds (up to around 100”), a fixed hitch will work fine. Remember, the weight of the hitch factors into the GCWR and will play an important role in the decision making process. Also, sliding hitches are slightly more expensive than fixed hitches, so you may want to take that into consideration when shopping for a new truck.
Tow Vehicles to Consider
Here’s a short list of tow vehicles to consider if you’re looking to purchase a 5th wheel that weighs in the neighborhood of 10,000 – 19,500 pounds.
Dodge Ram 3500, 4500, 5500
Ford F-150 w/ Ecoboost Engine, 250, 350, 450, 550
GMC Sierra 3500
This may seem like a lot of information to swallow, but don’t forget, knowledge is power. Make the right decision the first time and save yourself the headache later. And now that you’ve got the tow vehicle straightened out (which is basically a new toy in its own right…), it’s time to get serious about that new 5th wheel!
Crossroads Trailer Sales has been the #1 5th Wheel dealer in New Jersey for the last 8 years. Our 10 acre lot features over 200 5th wheels, travel trailers, and toy haulers to choose from. We are a family owned and operated business that has been proudly serving the RV community since 1988. Please contact us for all of your 5th wheel and trailer needs. We look forward to hearing from you and thanks for reading!