Should I buy a Travel Trailer or Fifth Wheel?

If you’re shopping for a towable RV, you have some decisions. Narrowing your choices down to a towable RV versus a motorized option has advantages. A towable RV allows you to separate your tow vehicle from your living space. This separation lets you park your RV and still have a ride to the store or nearby scenic locations without breaking camp. 

Typically, a towable RV provides more interior space than a motorized version. That’s because motorized RVs have a cab that takes up space. Newer models often feature cab seats that rotate 360 degrees. These seats turn toward the living space and act as furniture in your living room when you aren’t driving.

Travel Trailer vs. Fifth Wheel: An Overview

So you’ve narrowed things down to a towable RV. The big question then becomes, do you want a travel trailer or a fifth-wheel trailer? Both offer similar accommodations, design quality, and available options. The main difference between a fifth wheel vs. travel trailer is how you hook them up to your tow vehicle. This difference may sound simple, but you must dig deeper to understand. To help, we asked our RV experts to compare and contrast these popular options.

Keep in mind that these differences are neither good nor bad. In most cases, how you plan to travel and camp will determine which setup works best for you.


Size varies widely across the many types of RVs. You can find travel trailers ranging from eight to 40-plus feet in length. The most common lengths range between 20-28 feet. Fifth-wheel trailers tend to be longer, wider, and taller than travel trailers. 

In particular, the ceiling height of a fifth wheel typically measures nine feet versus the travel trailer’s six- to seven-foot height. This matters to taller people. The added ceiling height can make a smaller fifth-wheel trailer seem larger than a longer travel trailer.

Fifth wheels often have slides on opposing sides, further expanding the living space. You’ll find dinette, pantry, and appliance slides that expand the kitchen and closet and dresser slides that add space to bedrooms.

Amenities & Aesthetics

A travel trailer or fifth wheel can have any amenity you want. As you shop, you’ll see popular interior features like kitchen islands, bunk houses, residential refrigerators, fireplaces, four-burner ranges with an oven, and televisions in every room.

Outside amenities like showers, kitchens, refrigerators, pass-throughs, and awnings are prominent in travel trailers and fifth wheels. You can even find toy haulers in both types of RVs with garages to bring your golf cart, ATV, or boat on every trip. 

Once you unload, these garages smartly convert to living space. You can turn them into bunkhouses and living rooms and modify the door to create an outdoor patio. 

Towing Vehicle Capacity

Before choosing a travel trailer or fifth wheel, you want the right tow vehicle. As we stated earlier, how you hook up these trailers differs. A travel trailer uses a ball hitch mounted to the frame of your car and extends out beneath the rear bumper. A fifth wheel’s hitch sits inside the bed of a pickup truck. So, if you own an SUV, you have eliminated the fifth wheel option unless you want to add a new truck to your purchase list.

We strongly recommend that you research the trailer’s weight ratings next. You’ll see two ratings: UVWR and GVWR. The unloaded vehicle weight rating represents the weight of the trailer before you put anything into it, such as pots and pans, linens, silverware, clothes, hiking gear, etc. 

Then, you need to look at the gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR), or the maximum weight of the trailer and its contents. You cannot exceed the GVWR without jeopardizing safety, so be careful how you load your RV. 

We recommend you do the math and add the weight of all items loaded to ensure you stay within the trailer’s safe limits. For example, if you have a UVW of 12,000 pounds and a GVWR of 15,000 pounds, you can safely put up to 3,000 pounds inside the trailer without compromising safety. 

When choosing a tow vehicle, we suggest you find one that can safely haul the trailer’s GVWR, not the UVWR. Doing so will ensure you can always tow your trailer. You can find your truck’s GVWR in your owner’s manual or contact the nearest dealership. 

Once you determine your truck can tow the GVWR, you might consider adopting the popular 80/20 towing rule. This means you never exceed 80% of your truck’s towing capacity. The 80/20 rule allows for any miscalculations and lessens the strain on your vehicle.

What Are You Looking to Use Your RV for?

The RV community includes people from all walks of life who enjoy RVing in various ways. Some retirees enjoy exploring the country at a relaxed pace and families turn summer vacations into road trips. 

Then there are the full-time RVers who call the next campsite home. With the boom in remote jobs, this style of RVing has gained popularity. Some RV enthusiasts like going off the grid, while others prefer RV parks for their apartment/condo-style amenities, which include pools, game nights, pancake breakfasts, and more.

Before choosing an RV, ask yourself what you want to do with it. This will lead you to find the perfect RV for all your adventures. For instance, if you’re more of a glamper than a camper, you’ll want an RV with those creature comforts you enjoy. On the other hand, if you love the outdoors, perhaps a toy hauler with a pair of ATVs or a boat makes more sense.

Feel free to contact us with questions. Our team loves RVing and can provide helpful insight to make your decision a good one.

Speak With Our Team of Grand Design Experts if You Have Any Further Questions

At Bretz RV & Marine, we know the importance of making a good RV purchase. If you’re still undecided about 5th wheel benefits or travel trailer benefits that suit your needs, we invite you to shop our virtual inventory for more information. We have an expansive selection of Grand Design RVs in travel trailer or fifth wheel configurations. You can visit one of our six showrooms in Montana, Washington, and Idaho. One of our friendly RV specialists will answer your questions and show you around.

Photo Credit: Image via Pixabay

Share Button