If you are deciding between a motorhome and a travel trailer, one item you need to take into account is towing capacity. Travel trailers, especially fifth wheels, require larger vehicles with more towing capacity to haul them.
So can an F150 or F250 tow a fifth-wheel trailer?
You can haul some models of fifth-wheel travel trailers with an F150 but a general recommendation is to get one that has a dry weight less than 8,000 pounds and depending on the year and make of the truck, you may need an even lighter fifth-wheel trailer. F250 trucks have a greater tow capacity and can generally handle fifth-wheel trailers with a dry weight under 14,000 pounds. There are many things to consider and the best practice is to always choose a trailer with a dry weight of at least 1,000 pounds and preferably 2,000 pounds below your towing capacity.
Always remember you have to consider passenger and equipment weight on top of the trailer weight.
As a fifth wheel can rival a class A motorhome in size and weight, you will need a heavy-duty towing vehicle. In some cases, an F150 truck (also known as a half-ton truck) can tow a fifth wheel, but you will certainly be testing the vehicle’s limits. An F250 truck (or any of the following classes) is a much safer choice for hauling your trailer.
When determining which vehicles can tow a fifth wheel there are a few things to consider. You should also brush up on your knowledge and skills of towing trailers prior to hitting the road. Thankfully, this article is here to help!
What Size Vehicle Can Tow a Fifth Wheel?
When hauling something, you need to figure out the max payload the vehicle can withstand as well as the max towing capacity. The towing capacity is how much weight the truck can pull. The payload is how much weight can be placed on the truck bed and payload includes passengers and gear, in addition to the weight of the trailer tongue.
A fifth-wheel is often both heavy and long, both of these things could present issues if you have too small of a vehicle.
- Truck Beds and Hitches
A fifth-wheel trailer attaches to your vehicle using a plate hitch connector; therefore, you will need a flatbed truck to haul it or a gooseneck trailer for standard beds. These hitches look very similar to the type used by semi-trucks.
For fifth wheel hitches, one part of the hitch is affixed to your truck bed while the other is connected to the fifth-wheel trailer. The hitch is mounted on your truck and is responsible for the towing and weight distribution while the skid plate component of the hitch makes turning possible.
The kingpin is the term for the connecting or coupling part affixed to the trailer. The kingpin is what will slide into the plate hitch in the bed of your truck. Once coupled, you can then tow your fifth wheel.
On occasion, some individuals will use a gooseneck hitch to tow a fifth wheel. These work in a similar fashion as the hitch plate, with the adapter being mounted in the bed of your truck and coupling with the connector attached to your trailer.
Because the hitch is seated in the bed of your truck, the weight of the fifth wheel should be better distributed as compared to all of the weight resting on a ball hitch. The fifth wheel hitch, being mounted in the bed, should also provide you with a better turning radius.
However, the size of your truck can sometimes mean a shorter truck bed. A truck bed that is shorter in length can affect proper hitch placement, unevenly distributing wait and impairing your turning. Additionally, the payload capacity may suffer, and this number determines how much weight the bed of your truck can withstand.
- Towing Capacity
The size of fifth-wheel trailer that your truck can safely tow also depends on the GVWR or gross vehicle weight rating of your trailer compared to the towing capacity of your vehicle. It is important to know the GVWR of your specific fifth wheel. Thankfully, this number is almost always provided in the specifications of the trailer.
Some of the lightest fifth wheels range in weight from 7,000 to 10,000 pounds, however, some ultralight models weigh as little as just under 4,000 pounds. Average fifth wheels range from 10,000 – 14,000 pounds while large luxury fifth wheels tip the scales at 14,000 – 20,000 pounds.
When figuring out the weight of a trailer you should take into account the dry weight, cargo capacity, and the hitch weight. All of these numbers constitute the total weight rating of the fifth wheel.
Even with a lighter model trailer, an F150 truck may be pushed to its limits. The goal for towing is often to have the GVWR of the truck exceed the GVWR of the trailer and tongue combined by at least ten percent, if not more.
Half-Ton Trucks or F150’s
The max towing capacity of a Ford F150 is generally between 7,000 and 13,200 pounds and that number only applies when towing with a completely empty truck (i.e. no passengers or gear). The max payload is generally 1,125 to 2,309 pounds.
The towing capacity and payload capacity vary based on model and year of your truck. Older trucks typically have less towing capacity.
A lighter fifth wheel, plus the tongue and hitch, and any additional weight from items stored inside the trailer will really challenge almost any half-ton truck.
Some examples of towing capacity with various models of the 2019 F150:
- 3L V6 Engine: towing capacity is 7,700lbs.
- 0L Ti-VCT V8 Engine: towing capacity is 11,600 lbs.
- 5L EcoBoost® V6 Engine: towing capacity of 13,200lbs.
However, towing a fifth-wheel trailer with an F150 is technically possible. Though, it is recommended that you opt for a larger truck just to be on the safe side.
Below are some trailers that can be hauled by an F150.
- Keystone Cougar 22RBSWE, weight: 7,780lbs
- Scamp 19′ Standard, weight: 2,900lbs
- Escape 5.0TA, weight: 3810lbs
F250’s or Three-Quarter Ton Trucks
An F250 truck is a much safer choice for hauling a fifth wheel. An F250, as a bigger vehicle, will provide you with the towing capacity and payload capacity as well as the truck bed length for towing almost any size fifth wheel.
Ford F250s maximum towing capacities range from 12,300 to 15,000 pounds and have a max payload capacity that exceeds 4,250 pounds. The Ford F250 super duty can tow up to 18,600 pounds. The towing capacity and payload max vary based on the model and year of your truck.
As you can see, these trucks have specifications that are much more adequate for hauling a fifth-wheels trailer. They also have the benefit of a larger bed and cab for carrying family members, pets, and gear.
The list of fifth wheels that can be towed by an F250 is much longer. Some examples can be found below.
- Montana 3400RL, weight: 11,925lbs
- Grand Design Reflection 337RLS, weight: 10,570lbs
- 3200 Dutchmen Voltage, weight: 13,236
If you purchase a smaller and lighter fifth wheel and are a light packer, you may be able to get away with an F150. It is very important to always check the specifications of your vehicle and the fifth wheel prior to making any purchases. Some individuals may tell you that an entire host of fifth wheels can be pulled by a half-ton truck but this is not always the case.
Once you have your trailer and truck, there are some towing guidelines you should bear in mind.
Weigh your fifth wheel before you head out. The weight listed on the specs is often the dry weight of your trailer. It does not include gear, passengers, and personal items. You should load up your trailer and weigh it before setting out on your journey. It would be upsetting to figure out your truck can’t adequately pull your trailer or end up with a broken hitch on the road.
Check your tires. Not only the tires of your vehicle, but also the tires on your fifth wheel. Even though they may get less use than your vehicle tires, proper care and maintenance are important. You should check them for tread, wear and tear, and their pressure before departing.
Your mirrors are your friend. Most of us regularly use are mirrors, but we are becoming more reliant on backup cameras and blind-spot detectors. Using your mirrors when towing a huge trailer is vital. Extended mirrors, or mirrors that are added to your vehicle’s existing side-view mirrors, are often necessary. These mirrors can help you check your surroundings and make turning and backing up easier.
Don’t automatically put it in overdrive. Overdrive may sound like it is a helpful setting, especially when you realize that it uses fewer RPMs and less fuel, but this isn’t always true when towing your trailer. Manually putting it in overdrive when towing a fifth-wheel can be rough on your vehicle’s transmission so it is better to only rely on automatic overdrive.
It can be very beneficial to practice your towing skills before taking a long trip. Knowing how to appropriately tow your fifth wheel will keep you and everyone else on the road safe.
In conclusion, an F150 may be able to haul some lighter models of fifth wheels. However, you need to compare the gross weight of your trailer to the towing capacity and payload capacity of your truck. As most F150s can just barely (or maybe not even) be able to handle the weight of a fully-loaded vehicle, opting for a larger F250 can certainly be worth it.
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