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The Differences in Fifth Wheel vs Gooseneck Hitches You Should Know

The Differences in Fifth Wheel vs Gooseneck Hitches You Should Know

If you’ve looked at fifth wheel campers, you’ve probably noticed the unique design of the front cap. Fifth wheels require a special hitch in the bed of a truck. This can be a fifth wheel hitch or a gooseneck hitch. There are pros and cons to both hitches. We’ll look at the fifth wheel vs gooseneck debate, and you can decide which type of hitch is best for you and your travels. Let’s get started! 

What Is a Fifth Wheel Hitch? 

Many drivers use the fifth wheel hitch. The kingpin on the front cap of the fifth wheel slides into a locking mechanism of a fifth wheel hitch in the truck’s bed. This hitch securely bolts to the truck’s frame and isn’t as simple to remove as a ball hitch for a bumper pull.

There is a pin to lock the handle of the hitch to ensure the kingpin stays secure between the claws of the fifth wheel hitch during travel. A fifth wheel hitch is straightforward to use, as the owner backs up the truck until the kingpin locks into the hitch in the truck bed.

Tom Talks About Trucks & Towing - Our Experience and Tips on Towing Heavy

What Is a Gooseneck Hitch? 

The other option in the fifth wheel vs gooseneck debate looks more like the ball and hitch connection of a bumper pull. A gooseneck hitch will connect to a ball you secure to the truck bed. Gooseneck balls are located only a few inches above the bed right above the axle.

What Is the Main Difference Between a Fifth Wheel and Gooseneck Hitch?

The most significant difference between these hitches is their connection to the truck bed. Both can tow a heavy load, are safe options, provide excellent turning capabilities, and require installation in a truck bed.

The main difference is how they hook up to the trailer. The owner backs up the truck underneath the gooseneck hitch. Then they lower the trailer onto the ball in the bed of the truck. This connection process is different from the fifth wheel hitch process of backing up into the kingpin that slides into the locking mechanism. So connection wise fifth wheel hitches use a jaw and kingpin connection and connect at a higher position, while a gooseneck hitch uses a ball and coupler connection that connects near the bed.

fifth wheel hitch connection getting backed into
This is hitching up a fifth wheel

Pro Tip: Check out these 5 Best Fifth Wheel Hitches for Solid RV Towing when purchasing a 5th wheel hitch.

What Is Better Gooseneck or 5th Wheel Hitch? 

The answer to the fifth wheel vs gooseneck debate depends on the owner’s needs. If you want access to your truck bed and need a less invasive hitch, the gooseneck hitch is optimal. A fifth-wheel hitch is much bulkier, heavier, and more challenging to move.

fifth wheel hitch taking up lots of bedspace
Fifth wheel hitches can take up alot of space in your trucks bed.

Pros to installing a fifth wheel hitch include having a sliding hitch option for short bed trucks and various weight capacity options. If you own a short bed heavy-duty truck, to prevent the fifth wheel from crashing into your rear window during tight turns, you need a fifth wheel sliding hitch to increase the distance from the hitch to the window. This is only available as a fifth-wheel hitch and not a gooseneck hitch. Because the fifth wheel hitch is raised up some say its easier for one operator to hitch them up.

Close up on RV fifth wheel hitch install on RV
You can use many different types of fifth wheel pinboxes

If you’re towing a 10,000-pound fifth wheel, you don’t need the same weight rating as someone pulling a 20,000-pound fifth wheel. Fifth wheel hitches give you numerous options when searching for a suitable towing capacity.

Pros to installing a gooseneck hitch include simplicity and functionality. A gooseneck hitch doesn’t have all the moving parts of a fifth wheel hitch, which means less chance for problems. It’s also easier to switch between a horse trailer or other agricultural or commercial trailers and a fifth wheel because you can use the same gooseneck hitch. A fifth wheel hitch is not multipurpose.

girl holding gooseneck ball

If you’re looking to go off-road often, a gooseneck hitch is also better for rough terrain. There’s more swivel capacity around the ball than a fifth wheel kingpin and coupler will provide. So if you want to boondock, a gooseneck hitch may be the better option.

Does a Gooseneck Increase Towing Capacity? 

Usually, a gooseneck has a rating to tow 30,000 pounds, which is more than most fifth wheel hitches. However, most fifth wheels aren’t near 30,000 pounds, so a gooseneck hitch might be overkill. When considering fifth wheel vs gooseneck hitches, the type of hitch doesn’t change the towing capacity or payload capacity of the truck.

Whether you choose a gooseneck or fifth wheel hitch, the towing capacity will remain the same. If your truck can safely tow 20,000 pounds, that’s the max limit you want to pull. If your vehicle can safely haul 4,000 pounds in the truck bed, that’s the max weight you want to put there. The two hitches don’t affect those manufacturer numbers.

Is It Easier to Back a Gooseneck Trailer? 

Compared to a bumper pull, a fifth wheel is much easier to tow. The ball and coupler connection on the tow vehicle’s rear doesn’t provide the same stability and control as a gooseneck or fifth wheel hitch. Travel trailers usually have problems with sway because of this rear bumper connection. Fifth wheel owners that have also towed travel trailers typically say they’ll never go back because of the massive increase in control.

However, there is no difference between backing up a fifth wheel with a fifth wheel hitch or a gooseneck hitch. Both connect to the exact location in the truck bed above the axle, and both offer control and turning ability.

What Trailers Have Fifth Wheel vs Gooseneck Connections?

In addition to fifth wheel campers, horse trailers and large flatbed trailers also have gooseneck connections. This is why installing this type of connection might be the best choice for people who will also tow these trailers. They aren’t compatible with a kingpin. Fifth wheel connections are unique to fifth wheel campers. You’ll also see them on semi-trucks, although those hitches have ratings well above 20,000 pounds.

Pro Tip: Learn more about the ins and outs of What Is a Gooseneck Pin Box for 5th Wheel RVs?

Men installing fifth wheel hitch onto RV
For a quieter ride, use a fifth wheel hitch.

Can You Convert Between Fifth Wheel and Gooseneck?

There are gooseneck adapters for fifth wheel kingpins. If you use a gooseneck hitch, you’ll need to purchase one of these adapters because, more than likely, your camper has a kingpin under the front cap. It’s a simple addition that extends below the kingpin to create a hole for the gooseneck hitch.

Convert-A-Ball C5G1216 Adjustable 5th...
  • Towing capacity: 20,000 lb.
  • Pin weight capacity: 4,000 lbs.
  • Reduces bounce and vibration
fifth wheel to gooseneck hitch adapter

Alternativly you can convert the pinbox of a fifth wheel to a gooseneck altogether. Gen Y and Reese offer hitches that can do this. These pinboxes are said to put less stress on the frame of the camper than the gooseneck extensions.

Gooseneck hitch installed in truck bed
This is our GenY hitch that converts our fifth wheel to a gooseneck so we can tow it on a gooseneck ball.
Sale
GEN-Y Hitch Executive Torsion-Flex Auto Latch...
  • Built-In Suspension Creates Up to 90% Smoother Ride
  • Shock Absorption Protects Cargo from Harsh Bumps
  • Break-In Period: 1,000 miles
Sale
GEN-Y Hitch Executive Torsion-Flex Auto Latch...
  • Built-In Suspension Creates Up to 90% Smoother Ride
  • Shock Absorption Protects Cargo from Harsh Bumps
  • Break-In Period: 1,000 miles

You can also install a fifth wheel hitch on top of a gooseneck hitch. The adapter piece includes a shank and a set of fifth wheel rails. The shank portion acts as a ball and drops into the gooseneck hitch. Then the rails provide a mounting platform for a fifth wheel hitch.

B&W Trailer Hitches Companion Fifth Wheel Hitch -...
  • Fully articulating head allows front to back and side to side...
  • Cam action latching handle for easy release, even when parked on...
  • Polyurethane bushings provide a quiet, rattle-free towing...

Another gooseneck hitch to fifth-wheel trailer is the raised ball hitch type. Andersen Manufacturing and Pull Rite have versions of this hitch that raise a gooseneck ball to the height of a kingpin. These conversions offer the benifits of a ball pulling from the height of a fifth wheel.

Gooseneck hitch ball installed in truck bed.
Early in our travels we used a raised ball hitch before switching to a gooseneck pinbox.

Additionally, you can mount a gooseneck adapter on your fifth wheel hitch. If you remove the coupling mechanism, you can install a gooseneck hitch onto the fifth wheel hitch rails. If you have a sliding hitch for a short bed truck, this allows you to use a gooseneck hitch without damaging your vehicle.

ENIXWILL Universal Gooseneck Ball Plate Fit for...
  • 【Fitment】Universal Gooseneck Ball Plate fit for any set of...
  • 【Load】 This 5th wheel gooseneck hitch is tested and rated to...
  • 【Design】This is a great choice for switching between 5th...
Gooseneck vs Fifth Wheel Hitch - Whats the Difference?

Whatever You Choose, Tow Safely  

There is no correct answer regarding the fifth wheel vs gooseneck hitch debate. Consider your traveling style and needs and select the hitch that works for you. If you’re on a tight budget, a gooseneck hitch will be cheaper. If you want a quiet ride, a fifth wheel hitch provides a less noisy experience. Choose what works for your needs and not what everyone else has.

Which hitch will you be using to tow your fifth wheel? Tell us in the comments!

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