Fifth-wheel RVs offer many advantages to RV travel thanks to a unique towable design. The fifth-wheel hitch provides RVers with many options for floorplans, amenities, overall length, and much more. With that said, there is one glaring problem with fifth-wheel RVs—most require a heavy-duty pickup truck.
Heavy-duty pickup trucks are very large and powerful machines. They’re also expensive. This dissuades many potential fifth-wheel owners from buying one. When faced with the choice, buyers simply don’t want to or can’t afford to buy a heavy-duty truck such as a Ford F-350 or a Chevrolet Silverado 3500, in addition to the cost of a fifth-wheel RV.
Fortunately, there are fifth-wheel options out there marketed as towable with half-ton pickups, like an F-150. Many people already own half-ton trucks, so these options are attractive to potential buyers. However, not all half-ton trucks can or should tow those models.
A base level half-ton pickup may not be able to tow a fifth wheel. But the top trim level half-ton’s with high enough towing and payload ratings have the ability to do so. With that in mind, let’s look at half-ton fifth-wheels and the trucks that pull them.
The Half-Ton Payload Problem
There’s an issue with half-ton pickup trucks that heavy-duty trucks don’t have when it comes to towing fifth-wheel RVs, and it isn’t usually towing capacity, it’s payload capacity.
Simply put, payload capacity is how much the truck can carry. This usually refers to the amount of weight the cab and bed of the truck can handle. In terms of fifth-wheel RVs, many half-ton trucks can’t or can just barely handle the hitch weight or pin weight of a fifth-wheel RV. This is true even with many of the fifth-wheels marketed as half-ton models. Always check your vehicle’s tow ratings. We’ve made this easy with an instant Towing Guide. Calculator.
When purchasing a fifth-wheel, you need to think about the weight at the hitch, or how much weight the fifth wheel will exert on your vehicle’s frame where it connects to your truck (in the bed). Manufacturers disclose this in their specifications for the model. For example, the Jayco Eagle Half-Ton 27.5RLTS Fifth-Wheel has a hitch weight of 1,560 pounds, according to the company website. This is one of the lightest fifth-wheel models.
A brand new 2019 Ford F-150 pickup truck has a payload capacity ranging from about 1,300 pounds to over 2,300 pounds, depending on the trim level, packages, and other equipment. Chevrolet’s 2019 Silverado 1500 has a payload capacity between 1,700 pounds and 2,500 pounds, depending on the trim level, packages, and other equipment. The new 2022 F150 Lightning touts a payload capacity of 2,000 pounds on standard range models. Other trucks offer similar but often slightly less-impressive numbers. Keep in mind, these payload ratings are for brand new trucks. An older model will not have as high of payload capacity.
If you have a brand new, top-of-the-line model with a payload capacity that far exceeds the hitch weight, then you should be fine to tow the fifth-wheel. Remember to ensure the tow rating is also inline with the trailer’s weight. However, if the fifth-wheel RV hitch weight is right at the truck’s payload capacity or barely under, you shouldn’t test it.
When you operate your truck at or near the max payload capacity for long periods of time you put excessive strain on the drivetrain, suspension, brakes, and essentially all other areas of the truck. You’re asking for problems down the road.
Pro Tip: The weight of yourself and your passengers and cargo within the truck needs to be factored into payload capacity. If you only have 200 pounds to spare between hitch weight and payload capacity, you’re going to go over once everyone piles in the vehicle.
What About Half-Ton Truck Fifth-Wheel Towing?
It’s important to know modern half-ton trucks can usually tow somewhere around 9,000 to 10,000 pounds. Not all of them will be able to do that but many come equipped for serious towing duties.
For example, a 2019 Ford F-150’s max towing when properly equipped is at a class-leading 13,200 pounds. Mind you, that’s the max towing when the truck is properly equipped with the right engine, tow package, and other equipment. Chevrolet and Ram half-ton trucks aren’t far behind.
Before you head out and buy just any fifth-wheel that says it’s designed for half-ton pickup trucks, keep in mind that the vehicle’s tow rating must be higher than the RV’s gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR).
The Jayco Eagle Half-Ton 27.5RLTS Fifth-Wheel model we mentioned above has a GVWR of 9,995 pounds. That means if you have a half-ton truck with a towing capacity of 12,000 pounds and a payload capacity of, say 2,000 pounds, you could technically tow this Jayco Eagle model with your truck. However, we again come to the fact that you don’t want to run your truck at or near full capacity all the time. Going that close to the line will put a lot of stress on your tow vehicle, and likely leave you with expensive repairs down the road.
So, Can a Half-Ton Tow a Fifth-Wheel RV?
The short answer is yes, but we’d caution you about it. Half-ton pickup trucks are great. Fifth-wheel RVs are also great, but in many cases, they don’t go together. There are exceptions where a half-ton pickup truck’s payload and towing capacities can easily handle tow vehicle duties for some of the lightweight fifth-wheel models, but the majority of half-ton trucks will be better off towing a different RV type. There are plenty of RV towing accessories that will outfit your vehicle as needed.
If you only have a half-ton truck, and can’t or don’t want to get a heavy-duty (like a Ford F-250 or F-350, a Chevrolet Silverado 2500HD or 3500HD) then you are likely better off with a travel trailer RV. Travel trailers are lighter weight and will more appropriately align with the towing and payload capacities of half-ton pickup trucks. Your truck will last longer, and haul your RV safely across great distances.
Which fifth-wheel RV are you considering, and what truck do you plan to tow it with? Leave a comment below!