A Fifth Wheel Tow Hitch Buying Guide

Contributor

Conner Lund

Favorite Trip

Backpacking Ozark Trail

Home Base

Bowling Green, KY

Favorite RV

Winnebago Revel

About Contributor

Conner Lund is a Technical Content Writer. He has both hands-on experience and real-world knowledge. He’s an avid outdoorsman: camping, hiking, backpacking, mountain biking, kayaking, hunting, and fishing are all things he enjoys that you could find him doing on any given weekend. He loves to travel and see new places. He does most of his exploring and camping out of his overlanding truck with a rooftop tent.

Choosing a fifth wheel tow hitch is an important first step in your journey to explore the great outdoors with your new or used fifth wheel trailer. It’s an overwhelming choice for some, with many different brands and styles. If you need help, you’re not alone and in good hands. Let’s walk through everything you need to know before you pick up your dream trailer.

What is a 5th Wheel Hitch?

Setting Up B&W 5th Wheel Hitch
Photo by Camping World

A fifth wheel tow hitch is a heavy-duty towing receiver used to connect a fifth wheel RV to a pickup. Unlike traditional trailers, which attach behind the rear bumper, 5th wheels attach inside the truck bed. It’s a similar mechanism to what is used to connect semi-trucks to the trailers they tow, just on a smaller scale. You can actually use a semi-truck to pull a 5th wheel RV, but this may require an adapter, a 7-way umbilical socket, or other accommodations.

How Does a Fifth Wheel Hitch Work?

5th Wheel Hitch Parts Explained
Photo by Camping World

A 5th wheel hitch is mounted inside the truck bed to the frame. The hitch comprises a head, base/legs, and center section/body. The base attaches to the truck’s frame and houses the center section. The center section then connects the head, which contains the locking jaw mechanism, to the base. The locking jaw mechanism secures around the king pin on the trailer to form a connection with the truck.

Choosing the Right Fifth Wheel Tow Hitch

You must make many different choices when selecting a 5th wheel hitch. You’ll need to gather info about your truck and trailer. Let’s review.

Sliding versus Fixed 5th Wheel Hitches

sliding versus fixed fifth wheel hitches
Photo by Camping World

The most significant choice when selecting a hitch is between a fixed or sliding base. A sliding base provides turning clearance between the truck and the trailer. This is needed for short-bed trucks to prevent accidental contact between the truck and trailer. You must exit the truck and engage the slide mechanism on the hitch to activate the slider when making tight turns. Once finished, you’ll need to exit the truck again and resecure the hitch in the travel position. A fixed base provides no additional turning clearance, is reserved for long-bed trucks, and does not require exiting the truck for tight turns.

Technician Tip: A short bed truck is a truck bed measuring 6-½’ or less, and a long bed truck is a truck bed measuring 8’. Generally, we recommend using a sliding hitch on a short-bed truck and a fixed hitch on a long-bed truck, but there are exceptions. Not every trailer is the same. Some can be used on a short-bed truck with a fixed hitch and not have contact, whereas others cannot.

To ensure no contact will occur, you’ll need to measure. Here’s a formula to use:

(A + B) – C = Clearance

A = Distance from the center of the fifth wheel hitch jaw to the truck cab

B = Distance from the center of the king pin to the end of the trailer

C = Width of the trailer divided by two 

The main advantage of a fixed hitch over a sliding hitch is weight. Sliding hitches are much heavier than fixed fifth wheel hitches, making them more cumbersome and harder to remove. On average, a sliding base will add around 100 pounds to the weight of the hitch.

Rails Versus Prep

Photo of In-Bed Puck System for 5th Wheel Hitch
Photo by Curt Mfg.

As we mentioned, the base of a fifth wheel hitch secures to the truck’s frame, which is how the hitch mounts. There are many different bases, so knowing the difference is important. To simplify things, we’ll break them down into two categories: rails and prep.

Rails secure above the truck bed over the rear axle. They consist of two pieces of metal that lay horizontally in the bed with holes to secure the rails to the frame and holes to secure the hitch to the rails. The spacing between the holes used to mount the hitch is mostly standard so you can install any hitch made for above-bed rails, no matter the brand. 

Prep is specific to a particular manufacturer and utilizes underbed mounts. These prep packages consist of pucks pre-drilled into the bed at the factory, usually four outer and one center puck. These pucks are used to mount the hitch, and the base is specific to them. 

For example, Ford, Chevy, GMC, and Ram have their own puck system for mounting a 5th wheel hitch. The puck spacing changes from brand to brand, so they are not universal. In other words, you cannot use a 5th wheel hitch for Ford prep on a Chevy truck or vice versa. The puck systems are only offered on ¾-ton and 1-ton models. 

The main advantage of an underbed prep system versus above-bed rails is a cleaner bed for hauling when the hitch is removed.

Hitch Weight Capacity

Weight ratings on fifth wheel rv
Photo by Camping World

Every fifth wheel tow hitch has a gross trailer weight and a vertical load rating. The gross trailer weight rating is the weight of the loaded trailer. The vertical load is the amount of downward force on the hitch. You’ll need to be sure both of these hitch weight ratings exceed the loaded weight of your trailer.

For example, say your fifth wheel has a gross vehicle weight rating GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) of 15,000 pounds, which is the most it can ever weigh fully loaded. Then, your fifth wheel hitch must have a gross trailer weight rating of at least 15,000 pounds, ideally more. 

When looking at your fifth wheel’s specs, you likely won’t see a vertical load rating. That’s because it’s more commonly known as “pin weight.” The trailer’s pin weight cannot exceed the hitch’s vertical load rating. Remember that the manufacturer’s listed pin weight is dry weight, so it will be more when the trailer is fully loaded. 

Most modern 5th wheel hitches start at a minimum rated capacity of 16,000 pounds and increase from there. You won’t hurt anything by going with a hitch rated for more weight than your trailer. You’ll just pay a slightly higher price, but you’ll have room to upgrade down the road should the need arise. 

Jaw Type

5th Wheel Hitch Jaw Display
Photo by PullRite Mfg.

There are multiple different jaw types when it comes to securing the king pin. Jaw design influences ride quality and safety, so it is worth taking a closer look. Ride quality is largely based on the connection between the jaw mechanism and the king pin. 

When you hear others complaining about their trailer chucking and jarring, that is likely because they have a cheap or worn set of jaws. The tighter the fit of the king pin inside the locking jaws, the less movement and the better your ride quality. The thicker the jaws are, the more security they’ll provide. Now, let’s review some of the different jaw styles.

Slide Bar

The most basic and economical style of locking jaw is a slide bar. This design consists of a steel bar that traps the king pin inside the head. There is very little contact between the king pin and the jaw, which leads to a loose and sloppy ride. They’ll get the job done but not well. 

Single Jaw

The next step up from a slide bar is a single jaw. Compared to a slide bar, the single jaw design contours to the shape of the king pin, which provides more contact. More contact equals a smoother ride.

Dual Jaws

A dual jaw locking system is the standard for most modern fifth wheel tow hitches. In my opinion, it’s the bare minimum of acceptable jaw designs. That said, not all dual jaw systems are equal. Some manufacturers have different clearances, which affect your king pin contact and, ultimately, ride quality. Thickness is a good indicator of a dual jaw system’s clearance. A thick dual jaw set usually has a tighter clearance than a thinner set. You’ll see most jaw thicknesses between ¾” and 1”. 

Interlocking Jaws

The best locking jaws are interlocking, which means the jaw wraps completely around the king pin. This creates 360 degrees of contact and makes for the best possible ride quality. These types of jaws are also very secure. I’ve seen photos of trailers on their side, still attached to the truck because of the security of interlocking jaws. 

What’s the Difference Between a 5th Wheel Vs. Gooseneck Hitch?

Gooseneck Hitch Installed
Photo by B&W Mfg.

5th wheel and gooseneck hitches are similar, which is why they are often confused. They are both used with heavy-duty trailers and installed inside the bed. However, that’s about where the similarities end.

Gooseneck hitches are more common in the agricultural industry, whereas 5th wheel tow hitches are more common in the RV industry. 

Gooseneck hitches use the same connection style as traditional pull-behind trailers, a round hitch ball. Fifth wheel hitches use a king pin and locking jaws. 

Fifth wheels have a smoother ride than goosenecks, which is why you see most goosenecks being used for work and most 5th wheels being used for leisure. 

How Much is a 5th Wheel Hitch?

The cost of a 5th wheel hitch varies significantly by brand and model. You can expect to pay anywhere from $300 to $500 for a low-end option. You can expect to pay as much as $2,000 for a high-end option. Sliding options are generally more expensive, and these price estimates do not include installation kits or labor required for a safe, secure installation.

Remember that these hitches rarely come as a complete kit when comparing prices. The vast number of truck and trailer combinations makes designing complete hitch kits nearly impossible. A retail specialist can compile an accurate list of components that include the Head, Base, Bedrails, Frame Brackets, and Hardware Kit in your parts quote, at a minimum. Ensure that all of these are accounted for while making a decision.


Is It Easy to Install a 5th Wheel Hitch?

Above-Bed 5th Wheel Hitch Rails
Photo by Curt Mfg.

The installation difficulty of a fifth wheel hitch varies by truck. If you have a truck with a factory puck system, installation will be much easier than a truck that uses above-bed rails. Let’s begin with installation tips for using above-bed rails. 

Above-Bed Rails

The bolts that secure above-bed rails go through the bed and into frame brackets. If your truck has pre-existing holes, the task is much easier. If it doesn’t, holes must be drilled to secure the rails before the hitch body can be installed. 

The bottom line is that the process takes several hours and requires professional installation, whether your truck has pre-existing holes or not. A professional installation ensures the hitch is installed correctly and everyone on board or around is safe. If something were to happen, you would not be held liable. 

Factory Puck System

Unlike above-bed rails, there’s no drilling into the bed or frame with a factory puck system. The mounts are pre-installed from the factory, making for easy installation. That said, it can still be tricky to get it right, which is why we always recommend help from a professional. A factory puck system is versatile and convenient, and you’ll also have a clean truck bed when the hitch is removed.

What Is Needed to Install a 5th Wheel Hitch?

The parts required for a 5th wheel hitch installation vary. There are many factors, but the main one is your truck and what’s already in the bed. If you have a half-ton or a ¾ to 1-ton pickup with an empty bed, you’ll need the hitch and installation kit, which consists of above-bed base rails and under-bed frame brackets. 

The base rails secure the hitch to the bed, and the frame brackets secure the base rails to the frame. If you have a ¾-1 ton with a factory prep or puck system, you won’t need an installation kit, just the hitch and an adapter (assuming the hitch is not already puck/prep compatible). 

What is a King Pin Wedge?

pin box wedge for fifth wheel tow hitch
Photo by Camping World

In some cases, you may need to install a wedge onto the skid plate of the pin box to prevent the king pin from rotating inside the jaws of the hitch. This is only needed when using a rotating pin box to provide additional turning clearance with a fixed hitch in a short bed truck. 

The wedge is specific to the hitch and bolts onto the pin box. Some of the more common rotating pin boxes are the Reese Revolution, Reese Sidewinder, MORryde Oribital, and Lippert Turning Point. 

Top Selling 5th Wheel Hitches from Camping World

Compare these five fifth wheel tow hitch models to find the right setup for your fifth wheel and tow vehicle: 

Reese 5th Wheel Hitch

Reese fifth wheel tow hitch
Photo by Camping World

Hitch Specs

StyleLiftWeight (lbs.)Weight Capacity (lbs.)
Fixed18”10816,000
Sliding18”15816,000

This is an excellent option if you’re looking for a budget 5th wheel hitch. It features a dual jaw locking mechanism for more king pin contact, a pivoting head to help with hooking up on uneven terrain, and an adjustable height for leveling. 

The hitch is offered with both fixed and sliding bases. It comes with a 16,000-pound weight capacity and a 4,000-pound vertical load limit. The Reese hitch mounts to above-bed industry-standard rails. 

Make the Reese 16K Fixed 5th Wheel Hitch or the Reese 16K Sliding 5th Wheel Hitch yours today!

Curt A-Series 5th Wheel Hitch

Curt 5th wheel hitch
Photo by Camping World

Hitch Specs

ModelStyleLiftWeight (lbs.)Weight Capacity (lbs.)
A16Fixed17”11216,000
A16Slider21.5”18016,000
A20Fixed17”13420,000

If you’re looking for the best bang for your buck 5th wheel hitch, look no further. The Curt A-Series is a great option to start out that won’t break the bank. It has some great features you’ll find in high-end choices, such as interlocking jaws that grip the king pin tightly, producing a smooth ride, an easy-to-read indicator system for safety, and built-in Zerk fittings for easy maintenance. 

The Curt A-Series is available in multiple configurations from 16,000-pound up to 30,000-pound capacities, with fixed and sliding bases. It’s also offered for above-bed rails and below-bed factory pucks. 

Check out the Curt A-Series 5th Wheel Hitch.

PullRite SuperGlide 5th Wheel Hitch

PullRite SuperGlide 5th wheel tow hitch
Photo by Camping World

Hitch Specs

ModelStyleLiftWeight (lbs.)Weight Capacity (lbs.)
16KAuto-Slide17.5”20016,000
20KAuto-Slide18.5”23020,000
24KAuto-Slide16.75”26524,000

This fifth wheel tow hitch is for short-bed owners who need a sliding base for clearance between their truck and cab. The PullRite SuperGlide eliminates the need to engage the slide mechanism before making sharp turns because it’s engineered with an automatic slide feature that moves the hitch forward and back to provide the necessary clearance. 

It also has a wrap-around style locking jaw system, which provides excellent king pin contact and makes for a smooth and secure ride. It’s offered in many different capacities for above-bed rails and factory under-bed pucks.

However, there are some downsides of the SuperGlide –weight and difficulty of use. You’ll need help getting it in or out of the truck bed, and the head design makes it more challenging to hook up a fifth wheel

If you value staying in your truck while making tight turns, go with the PullRite SuperGlide 5th Wheel Hitch.

Andersen Ultimate 5th Wheel Connection

Andersen Ultimate fifth wheel tow hitch
Photo by Camping World

Hitch Specs

ModelStyleLiftWeight (lbs.)Weight Capacity (lbs.)
StandardFixed18.875”3524,000

The Andersen Ultimate fifth wheel tow hitch is the lightest design on the market. If you don’t tow year-round, you’ll likely remove the hitch from your bed after use. That way, you don’t sacrifice bed space and can still use your truck bed when you aren’t towing. This sounds great in theory, but when tasked with moving a hitch that weighs several hundred pounds, it becomes a much bigger chore.

The Andersen Ultimate comes in at around 35 pounds, which means you can send one of the kids into the bed to retrieve the hitch. In addition to the lightweight design, you’ll also be switching from a king pin to a gooseneck ball, creating an easier coupling procedure. It offers a capacity of up to 24,000 pounds and a vertical load rating of 4,500 pounds. 

Don’t dread removing your hitch anymore with the Andersen Hitches Ultimate 5th Wheel Connection Gooseneck Mount.

B&W Companion 5th Wheel Hitch

B&W Companion Fixed Fifth Wheel Hitch
Photo by Camping World

Hitch Specs

StyleLiftWeight (lbs.)Weight Capacity (lbs.)
Fixed18.25”20020,000
Slider19”28020,000

The best of the best, buy once cry once, is the B&W Companion. B&W is a leader in heavy-duty towing, and the Companion tops the charts in all categories. 

One of the best features of this hitch is the cam-action handle which allows you to release the coupler on uneven terrain without binding. It also uses a set of extra-thick locking jaws, providing a secure connection and a safe, smooth ride. 

The Companion is offered in a range of capacities from 20,000 pounds to 25,000 pounds,  with mounting options from gooseneck to puck system. This is a hitch that will last you a lifetime. However, if you’re looking for a minimalistic, lightweight fifth wheel tow, this is not the one.

Get the hitch you’ll never regret, the B&W Companion 5th Wheel Hitch.


Choosing a fifth wheel hitch is important; hopefully, after reading this, you will feel more well-equipped to make that choice. If you need further assistance, don’t hesitate to contact one of your local Camping World pros.

  • Comment (6)
  • Rick says:

    I have a Ford F-250 super duty. 6 and a half foot bed, so I know I need a sliding type. Also heard something about chucking? Recommendations?

    • Conner Lund says:

      Yes, you must use a sliding hitch to make full turns with this size truck bed. Chucking has many names when towing, jarring, bucking, etc. It all just essentially means the trailer is bouncing around due to dips or bumps in the road. The best way to avoid this is with a quality hitch. The better-quality hitch you select, the tighter the tolerances will be and the fewer issues you’ll have with ride quality. If you want the best and have the budget for it, get the B&W Companion Slider, but if you want good quality without as high of a price tag, the Camping World 5th Wheel Hitch is a fine choice.

  • Jay Ward says:

    We use the Reese 25K that came factory equipped on our Ford F350 longbed diesel (2011 model). It pulls a 40 foot Sabre fiver. I heartily recommend a factory installation if available when buying a new truck. It will be properly set up along with the brake controller and other equipment. Effortless towing since 2010.

    • Conner Lund says:

      Hi Jay,

      Thanks for sharing! I agree, the factory fifth wheel prep is the way to go if you have that option. You have the first year of the prep package on Ford Super Duty pickups. It sounds like you have a great setup already, but let us know if you ever need anything.

  • Monte says:

    I have the companion hitch, removes in two sections reducing installation and removeal . nice to have an empty bed when removed and the ability to gooseneck too. Great hitch. I pulled a 34 foot Newmar.

    • Conner Lund says:

      Hey Monte,

      Thanks for sharing. I’m glad you are happy with your B&W Companion. It’s an excellent hitch that will last you a lifetime. Safe travels!

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