One of the best parts of owning a motorhome, whether new or used, is having your home (or second home) on the road. Still, the choice between drivable coaches and towable campers can be tough because of this very question: can you ride in a travel trailer or fifth wheel?
Perhaps surprisingly, there are quite a few states that allow riding in a towable camper. But many have restrictions or conditions that must be met to do so legally. To stay on the right side of the law, follow these recommendations when considering riding in a travel trailer or fifth wheel.
Can You and Should You Ride in a Travel Trailer or Fifth Wheel?
This is a tricky situation because every state is different and the rules change depending on the type of RV you’re traveling in. Many states have different rules for travel trailers and fifth-wheels, for example.
Besides that, there’s the question of safety. Even if something is legal, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a safe or smart thing to do.
Most towable campers lack seat belts, especially smaller towable campers like the Happier Camper, which means getting into an accident with passengers riding in a trailer could result in significant injury or death. Few travel trailers or fifth wheels are equipped with airbags and other safety features that reduce the likelihood of serious injury in the event of an accident.
Because of their lack of safety features, riding in a travel trailer or fifth wheel is strongly discouraged. Unless your trailer is equipped with proper seat belts and safety features, carrying passengers back there can, and should, be avoided.
With that said, if you bought it and it is “technically” legal in your state, it is within your right to ride in a travel trailer or fifth wheel. You’ll just need to operate within the confines of the law when traveling to new states and take precautions to make things as safe as possible.
Where Can You Ride in a Travel Trailer or Fifth Wheel?
Multiple states allow passengers to ride in a travel trailer or fifth wheel while it’s traveling down the road.
Always double-check the laws in your state before riding in a travel trailer or fifth wheel. Laws change and staying up-to-date on those changes are important to keep you legal.
Also, keep in mind that you’ll need to abide by the laws for the states you’re traveling in. When you cross state lines, new laws for that state apply.
States That Allow Riding in a Travel Trailer or Fifth Wheel
According to this report from the RV Industry Association (RVIA), the following states allow you to ride in a travel trailer. However, some states have detailed descriptions of the trailer types that qualify and the conditions for legal passengers (i.e. age minimums and required safety equipment).
Laws also change frequently. So check your local laws before carrying passengers in a travel trailer or fifth wheel.
- California (fifth wheels only)
- District of Columbia
- Montana (fifth wheels only)
- New Jersey
- New York (fifth wheels only)
- North Carolina
- North Dakota (fifth wheels only)
- Oregon (fifth wheels only)
- Pennsylvania (fifth wheels only)
- South Dakota (fifth wheels only)
- West Virginia
- Wisconsin (fifth wheels only)
Tips for Carrying Passengers Safely in a Travel Trailer or Fifth Wheel
Most states that only allow passengers in fifth wheels typically require a two-way communication device between the driver and passengers in the fifth wheel. Other requirements include, but aren’t limited to, having approved safety glass windows and maintaining an unobstructed entryway at all times.
Not all states specify these requirements, but they are recommended to ensure the safety of your passengers. Keeping in communication is one of the best ways to stay aware of issues so you can pull over and address them quickly before they become more dangerous.
You should reduce your driving speed (55 to 60 mph) and increase your following distance to allow for plenty of time to stop or slow down without slamming on your brakes. There are also several towing accessories, such as sway bars and electronic brake controllers, that can provide safer towing conditions if you’re carrying passengers. Regardless, passengers should remain seated or lie down at all times when riding in a travel trailer or fifth wheel.
Also, make sure your trailer is loaded properly and secure all items to minimize the risk associated with falling objects. And, finally, consider installing seat belts in your trailer. Seat belts save lives, but installing them should always be done by professionals to ensure they are up to acceptable safety standards.
A Final Word
Please note that, while some states allow it, carrying passengers in a travel trailer or fifth wheel carries considerable risk and is not recommended. If an accident does occur, these towable campers don’t have the safety features found in motorhomes and passenger vehicles.
If you do intend to accept this risk, please double-check the laws in your area and the areas you’ll be traveling to and through. Laws change regularly, so even if it used to be legal in the state you’re heading to, make sure that’s still the case before making the assumption.
Do you know the laws in your state? Leave a comment below!
I think the only way I would feel safe doing this is if I were driving through a national park/seashore or scenic byway…lower speeds so less risk and everyone can have a “window” seat to enjoy the scenery.
People who believe that they should be able to do as they please as long as it doesn’t affect others have lost sight of the fact that we all pay for dangerous behavior. Many people rely on public assistance in terms of health care or insurance premiums, both of which are subsidized by others, rely on health care systems supported by public funds. They have no “right” to behavior that puts others in jeopardy or financial responsibility, legal or not. Our lawmakers leave much to be desired and are subject to outside influences as we all know. We all need to be less narcissistic & take more individual responsibility. If we don’t, who will?
For everyone saying how trailers are super dangerous, and that they are death traps. Don’t ride in cars!!! I just saw a wreck on the road, and there was a car that was just torn to shreds. And don’t ride in trucks either! Don’t even get me started on motorcycles. And don’t ride bicycles!!! I just saw a mountain bike wreck, and it was not pretty. Also don’t go down stairs!!! A little while ago I heard a story about a lady who fell going down stairs. Ended up in the ER. Also don’t walk. Earlier this year there was an accident where a pedestrian was hit. Holy smokes it was terrible.
By your logic, just stay at home. No wait! Don’t do that, there was a house that caught on fire and killed all the occupants.
Thank you for all your comments. Especially from the State Trouper and other professional drivers. I plan to rent an RV or travel trailer this summer for the first time. Your comments made me think twice about my plans. That’s the importance of dialog.
Is it any safer to ride in a motorhome? I have seen some of the smaller ones in wrecks too and its not pretty. I just don’t know if there is a real safe way to do it unless the thing you’re driving is the size of a bus maybe.
Just get a motor home your it’s made with the same safety features as a vehicle cause it is one and still has all the perks of a travel trailer just make sure you know how to drive a bus.
We are full time life in our 5w with children.
Regularly ride with the wife and kids in the 5w. It adds some anxiety to me, but they all love to kick out, relax, run the genny and the ac and ride in comfort.
Slow lane for me. 65mph max even in 70 zones. Besides, gotta pull them easy anyway so you don’t spill your stuff everywhere. Easy does it on the accelerator and brakes.
They know sometimes I gotta cinch it down for whatever is ahead of me, everyone knows to stay seated or lying down.
No there aren’t any seat belts…we understand that. We aren’t trying to put ourselves at undue risk, but we also love our freedoms. We all have different thresholds of risk. I respect both sides. Just choose to be a touch more vigilant about driving while my family can snuggle and hang out in the rig.
I my self would probably never ride in one going down the road but some people have a point horse trailers are built a lot better than an rv and the axles are in the very back for a better ride for the horses
I’m really laughing as I read some of these concerns about safety. Article made its point about what the author thought was recommended or not but it’s just describing state laws. Think motorcycle. Many states have helmet laws many states do not. I typically don’t see motorcycles with seatbelts. I have seen many people in cars with seatbelts on in accidents dead. Let people be free to make their own choices and decisions as long as they don’t hurt you. That’s what freedom is. That’s what we veterans have fought for. Me? Im riding in the rear as I please. Enjoy your freedom. Great info.
Great comments and insight. Safety first, safety second, and safety third. If I have my family in the back of the fifth wheel, it is during ideal conditions while traveling below the speed limit with no opposing traffic. So if you do allow the unnecessary convenience of loved ones in the fifth wheel while in transit, dont accept a normalization of deviance- i.e. speeds eventually creeping up or operating under less than ideal conditions. Keep in mind, most accidents involving recreational vehicles are from unforeseen circumstances- mechanical failure, adverse weather, fault of other drivers. My Ram 2500 isnt a sports car but pulls 12k lbs like one, and there is an immediate false sense of security with how that amazing machine will perform during a reaction. I’ve worked in public safety for a long time, and the common denominator is speed.
Always maintain “an out” and safe travels,
Great info. Its a dicey idea to let someone ride back there. However, if the law allows it it is up to each driver to make that choice. I agree 100% with the idea of having people take a course to show and teach how to drive when towing or how to drive an RV. Ive been with a few that have absolutely NO idea how to tow something.
whether or not if I have someone in the trailer, I see trailers with million dollar race horses in them so I think that risk is perceived to be minimal.
I worked in public transportation for over 30 years, inter / intrastate. Commutter transportation consisted of 5th wheel units with a seating capacity of 42. The problem with RVing is the majority of owners have not been professionally trained to drive their rigs. RVing would be a lot safer if a driver training course would be required.
People should be able to decide these things for themselves. If they are adults, they can make the decision for themselves and their kids. Big Brother doesn’t need to control people’s choices.
Have you ever seen a travel trailer or fifth wheel that has been involved in an accident while being on a speedy highway? They splinter into thousands of pieces. It is absolutely a totally stupid idea to allow passengers to ride in these RVs, and I’m just guessing that few, if any, even have seatbelts. This article implying that it might be okay to ride in one of these vehicles when it’s moving should never have been posted..
I think you should be allowed to ride in a trailer in all states
Surprising! Having worked for Camping World for a number of years now, I always tell clients to check their local laws, but that I would never be comfortable having my family in a towable (FW or TT). Then again, I’m the kind of nervous mama who gets worried when my children go on school trips in those buses without seat belts! This is good info though. I’ll be sure to pass it on to clients who inquire from now on.
Interesting article, first off, I have NEVER heard of any state allowing anyone to ride in the back of a travel trailer ( rear reciever ball hitch, bumper hitch) actually last I heard it was strictly prohibited. The ONLY RV that I have ever heard it was legal was in 5th wheel RVs. And it is specifically due to the hitching mechanism being mounted directly above the rear axle of the truck. I can only say it is legal in California to ride in a 5th wheel with conditions, 2-way communication between driver and inside RV, safety glass windows, unblocked doorway, and more. Further more I would never do it if I wasn’t meeting vehicle weight limits to the letter of the law. Finally, if everything else was a go, I would definitely use common sense while driving, reduced speed, (55 mph, Ca speed limit when towing ANYTHING.) I would also stay in communication with the occupants of the RV. Making sure all is good. Safe Travels
Well said. I agree completely.
Using California law as the basis for other states seems crazy. And I’m surprised this is legal there. Everything is illegal there. That said. Is it really 55mph when towing anything?
Unfortunately, the major source authority for this article appears to be AAA, and a review of their “Digest of Motor Laws” state by state is rife with errors on this topic.
You show excellent common sense sir. I would be more than happy to share the road with you any day.
I can’t drive 55 my Ford f250 with interntional 6.3 only handle good at 70 plus and yes there is a fifth wheel back there but you cant tell because the engine and transmission pull it like a bike.
I was surprised to find that there are states that allow it you to travel in a travel trailer. I assumed it would be prohibited everywhere, but according to AAA and some other resources I found, that’s not the case. Definitely, an interesting topic.
I understand the concern but with that logic no one should ride a motorcycle. We all have to decide our risk level. I feel safer riding in the back of camper than riding a motorcycle. It really is not the government’s job to protect me from my own wise or stupid choices that don’t risk other people’s lives.
In California, it is absolutely ILLEGAL to travel wit a passenger in a travel coach (trailer), UNLESS it is a 5th wheel type. Here are quotes from the relevant California Vehicle Code sections:
People are not allowed in a trailer coach while it is being
towed (CVC §21712(d)).
• People are allowed in a fifth-wheel trailer coach while it is
being towed (CVC §21712 (f), (i)).
• A camper with people in it must have an unblocked exit door
which can always be opened from both the inside and outside
I am 65, and the trailer coach passenger prohibition has been in place since before I was born.
Glad you chimed in on this! You’re right…TTs and FWs just are not designed with any safety features that protect passengers at 55+ mph. They’re made to be rooms when parked and not an additional cab for a vehicle. THAT would be a train….and such a totally different mode of transportation. ❤️
Agree. Why chance this. I oftain wonder why people take chances that potentially can lead to a disaster. If you want to have family drive in your trailer, first check yourself into a psychiatric hospital because you need serious help.
In all reality there is such training. Everything is based on weight. If your towing a trailer combo weight is 10001 lbs and you need a CDL. Weight and length decide on they class of CDL. If you hold a CDL you have proper training.
Agreed, Horse trailers are not made the same as travel trailers. Therefore me riding in the back of our living quarters horse trailer is not the same as a bumper pull travel trailer, lets face it when your card is punched it really doesn’t matter what your in, a sherman tank wouldn’t be safe. God Speed all and happy campinh
Motorhomes are much safer than riding in a travel trailer. They’re designed on vehicle chassis, so they are much safer. Also, there are seatbelts for you to use.
Just because YOU disagree does not mean the article should not be posted.
If you don’t agree, great. Don’t do it. But the rest of the world should not have to do without the info because you don’t agree with it. Nothing wrong with informing people of the laws and letting them make their own decisions.
You need to go reread the post before you post your comments. Because if you had read the article completely through you would’ve read no where in the article did the writer indicate that it was ok or safe to ride in a few/tt. Infact the writer totally discouraged the whole idea! Now had you read the whole article before putting in your nonsense, you’d know this already. So in my opinion your comment should’ve never been posted because it was a complete waste of time and space for comments that are actually useful and worth reading.
Did you actually read the article? Cause the writer listed the safety concerns and said that while it may be legal in some states that doesnt mean it is safe. Meaning its not okay
Yes but very rare and most are the drivers fault. So be careful who you let drive .
But speed limit is 70 plus down south and Colorado.. so dont let the wimps scare you into 55 drama
I am a retired trooper from Arkansas. Riding in a 5th wheel is a fatal accident waiting to happen. I know, I investigated a few of them over the years. Believe me it is not worth the possible end result.
Hi, as I stated in the article I don’t think you should ever ride in a towable RV. With that said, I don’t see any problem educating people on the laws. I would never tell someone to ride in a towable RV, but it is ultimately up to them. If it is legal in their state, then they have the right to make that decision.
I like this one. When I first started driving my rig, no one asked if I had any idea as to what the hell I was doing. I still don’t. I ran into many a curb and many a pole making those short turns and backed into a couple of things as well. I believe that a mandated license type or training course should exist. And as far as riding in the damn things… You’re nuts! But if you die doing so do it before you have kids as that will help to keep the gene pool purer.
Horse trailers are far stronger than travel trailers.
but those horses are insured for millions so if the owners loose them they just buy another. how much is your kids worth?
Those horse trailers have special designs to provide fresh air and avoid asphyxiating the horses due to carbon monoxide poisoning. Never do this to your family or pets!
I don’t agree a friend was in an accident and the travel trailer was torn to bits across the whole interstate.
100 percent agree Bob! The driver of the rig should make that decision. Personally, I’d say no to someone wanting to ride back there.
Even if it was legal, I would not allow anyone to ride back there, the driver makes the decision whether he is comfortable with this.