For many RV’ers, this question is a hot topic. For others, it’s not even on the horizon. It all depends on the type of RV you are in and what you would like to move into.

For example, I have been towing travel trailers for several years. What will be my next RV? I am planning to get a fifth wheel toy hauler. Why? I like the toy carrier for the flexibility in the ways I can use it. I want the fifth wheel version because of the floor plans that are not available on bumper shooters. But I am so I. This article is about what you want.

By the way, the descriptive terms you’ll hear can be confusing. A fifth wheel is a fifth wheel. That’s what people call it. On the other hand, there is no standardized term for the others. You’ll hear people refer to them as “travel trailers,” “bumpers,” “trailer types,” or a few other terms. For the sake of this article, I’ll use the term “bumper hitch” because it better describes the location of the hitch.

Now that we understand the terms, let’s look at the basic differences between the two. The most obvious difference is where the trailer connects to the tow vehicle. The bumper tow hitch is, of course, located on or near the rear bumper of the tow vehicle. The fifth wheel hitch is located in the truck bed above the rear axle.

The first thing that becomes apparent is that you will not be using a car to tow a fifth wheel trailer. The location of that hitch requires a truck. The bumper trailer can be towed by a car or a truck.

There is another factor about the fifth wheel trailer that requires a truck to be used as the towing vehicle. The fifth wheel frame design is such that it tends to be heavier than required for a bumper trailer. That extra weight needs the strength that only a truck can provide.

So why do people choose one over the other? One reason is the size of the drive. The longer a trailer is, the more likely it is to be designed as a fifth wheel. The smaller it is, the more likely it is a bumper design.

The main issue here is the stability of the trailer when towing. The pivot point (the hitch) of a bumper trailer is located a few feet behind the axle of the towing vehicle. This can cause the trailer to exert leverage on the truck. Longer units need a good anti-sway hitch to keep the truck and trailer under control if hit by crosswinds.

The pivot point for the fifth wheel hitch is on the axle of the truck. There is no way for the trailer to leverage the truck if it gets hit by a gust of wind. That’s the main reason the longest trailers tend to be fifth wheel units.

Another factor in the choice is cost. Fifth wheel units tend to be more expensive than a bumper trailer of the same size. That’s why most of the smaller, less expensive units are bumpers. They are lighter and less expensive to produce.

There is a big difference in the amount of living space you get for every foot of space the trailer takes up on the road or in the camp. A 30 foot long bumper trailer will give you about 25 to 26 feet of living space. The rest of the length is the tongue sticking out in front of the trailer. As for the overall length of the truck and trailer, that full 30 feet is added to the length of the truck.

A fifth wheel uses length more efficiently. A 30-foot fifth wheel will, in most cases, give you about 30 feet of living space. Since the hitch is over the rear axle of the truck, the amount of trailer hanging behind the truck will be more like 24-25 feet. The combined length of the truck and trailer will be 8 to 10 feet shorter for the same amount of living space.

Most fifth wheel trailers require at least a 3/4 ton truck as the towing vehicle. A 1/2 ton truck can safely handle most bumper pulls. The main reason for this is the amount of weight placed on the hitch.

Most bumper trailers are designed to put about 10% of the total weight on the hitch ball. Putting that much weight on a hitch 3 to 4 feet behind the axle works like a lever to lift the front end of the truck. A good weight offset hitch becomes extremely important as trailer size moves toward medium or large sizes.

The fifth wheel trailer is designed to put about 15% of the total weight on the hitch pin that is on the axle of the truck. That amount of weight alone requires a heavy truck.

So where does that leave you? If you already have a 3/4 ton or larger truck, your options are pretty open. It all comes down to which floor plan and price range works best for you.

If, on the other hand, you have a car or small truck, you’re pretty much limited to a smaller bumper trailer. Most cars and small trucks are limited to trailers weighing 3,500 pounds or less. Trailers that light up aren’t going to offer much in the way of creature comforts. At the same time, they offer an affordable entry point into the wonderful world of RV travel.

It all comes down to where you are and where you want to be in the grand scheme of things. The towing vehicle will determine the size and style of trailer you can safely pull. If you want to tow something bigger, you’ll need to upgrade your tow vehicle.

The other main factor is, of course, your budget. It’s true that you can save a lot of money on your vacation trips by traveling light with a tent or even a pop-up tent trailer. Because hotel and restaurant costs can add up pretty quickly, camping can be a real bargain.

However, there comes a point where you are no longer camping to save money. You are camping because you really enjoy the RV lifestyle. Let’s face it, a new 3/4 ton truck with a matching fifth wheel trailer can easily approach $80,000 – $100,000! You can’t camp long enough to save that much money!

So as for the fifth wheel vs. Pull bumper, the bottom line is this: how much are you willing to spend? Most bumper units are on the low to mid point end of the scale. Most fifth wheel units will start from the midpoint and work their way up to the top end of that same scale.

Where are you and where do you want to be?

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