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5 Best Fifth Wheels for Half-Ton Trucks

If you’ve visited any campgrounds, you’ve seen the types of trucks that typically pull fifth wheels. There are many dually and heavy-duty trucks with long beds and large tires. Perhaps you’ve considered upgrading your travel trailer to a fifth wheel. You may want to buy your first RV but don’t want to spend money on a new truck. Do you need a heavy-duty truck to tow a fifth wheel? No, you don’t. But your options are limited. Let’s look at the best fifth wheels for half-ton trucks so you can make the best decision for your camping future!

Motorhome, Fifth Wheel or Travel Trailer For Full Time RV Life

How Do You Tow a Fifth Wheel?

There are two general types of towable RVs: travel trailers and fifth wheels. Travel trailers are the standard bumper pull trailers that connect to a tow vehicle with a ball and hitch on the rear bumper. SUVs, trucks, and even a few sedans can tow travel trailers depending on their towing capacities and trailer size.

On the other hand, fifth wheels require a special kingpin hitch in the bed of a truck. Underneath the front cap of a fifth wheel is a uniquely-designed kingpin that slides into a hitch that bolts to the truck bed. Because so much weight sits in the truck bed, fifth wheels require a much higher truck payload capacity than travel trailers.

Also, because of their two unique towing methods, travel trailers and fifth wheels handle much differently. A travel trailer tends to sway more because its connection is so far behind the rear axle. However, drivers tend to feel more control when towing a fifth wheel because five or six feet of the RV extends over the truck bed. This helps manage the weight distribution.

Pro Tip: Half-ton truck fans will love these 9 Best Half-Ton Truck Campers for Easy Adventuring.

Half ton truck towing fifth wheel
Tow your home on wheels with a half-ton truck.

Can I Tow a Fifth Wheel With a Half-Ton Truck?

Half-ton trucks are abundant. Examples of half-ton trucks are the Ford F-150, Chevrolet Silverado 1500, GMC Sierra 1500, Ram 1500, Toyota Tundra, and Nissan Titan. However, most trucks that you see towing fifth wheels aren’t half-ton trucks. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t some half-ton trucks that can pull a fifth wheel. It means that more fifth wheels exceed the payload capacity and towing capacity of these smaller light-duty trucks. 

Additional factors contribute to whether a half-ton truck can tow a fifth wheel, like truck bed size and handling. When towing with a smaller vehicle, safety should be the top priority. 

Payload and Towing Capacity

First, do not assume you can tow all half-ton fifth wheels with a half-ton truck. The sticker on the side of the camper isn’t always correct. Different trucks have unique capacities. When choosing a half-ton truck to tow a lighter fifth wheel, you must consider the payload capacity and towing capacity of that specific truck.

For example, a 2023 Ford F-150 can have a towing capacity of up to 14,000 pounds. However, this is only with the SuperCrew 8 box and SuperCrew 4×2 with the available 3.5L EcoBoost and max trailer tow package. A 2023 Ford F-150 King Ranch SuperCrew 4×4 won’t have the same towing capacity.

Generally, it’s not the towing capacity that becomes an issue with half-ton trucks. Most half-ton fifth wheels won’t be near that maximum towing capacity. The problem lies with the payload capacity. This is the weight the truck can handle sitting in the truck bed, plus all other cargo and passengers in the vehicle.

The maximum payload capacity of the 2023 Ford F-150 is 2,410 pounds. But that’s only on the Regular Cab 8 box 4×2 with the available 5.0L V8 engine and max trailer tow package, and heavy-duty payload package. A half-ton fifth wheel may only have a GVWR of 10,000 pounds, but 1,400 pounds could be sitting in the truck bed. That only leaves a few hundred pounds for fuel, cargo, and passengers.

Half-ton trucks tend to have more car-like suspension in the rear. This gives them a much softer ride and makes them better for daily driving. However, this soft suspension does not handle heavy weight as well and will compress or sway more.

Get Your Numbers Right: Learn the differences between GVWR, GCWR, cargo carrying capacity, and payload in layman’s terms.

Truck Bed Size

In addition to payload and towing capacities, it’s crucial also to know how a shorter truck bed will affect the towing experience. Half-ton trucks can have smaller truck beds. When making a tight turn, you might smash the front cap into the truck’s back window.

This usually means drivers of half-ton or short-bed trucks must install a sliding hitch instead of the standard kingpin hitch. A sliding hitch moves forward and backward to allow the fifth wheel to accommodate the tighter turning radius.

Handling

Finally, the handling of a half-ton truck towing a half-ton fifth wheel isn’t the same as a heavy-duty truck towing the same fifth wheel. A half-ton truck doesn’t have the beefy suspension system or more robust engine to handle the heavy payload of a half-ton fifth wheel.

Also braking performance of a half-ton is far less powerful than a 3/4 or 1-ton truck. While fifth wheels have brakes of their own, they are known for being weak or failing. This is not a situation you want to be in with a truck that’s too small to control the weight.

The weight over the rear wheels and the taller trailer make towing a fifth wheel much different than towing a travel trailer. A smaller truck usually means less control over the trailer. When driving in windy conditions or when a large semi-truck passes by, you may feel the entire truck and RV combination sway.

There are plenty of half-ton truck and fifth wheel combos that work for towing.

What Are the Advantages of a Half-Ton Fifth Wheel?

If you have a half-ton truck and are looking to go from a travel trailer to a half-ton fifth wheel, there are some advantages. First, the overall living space increases because of the taller ceilings. Fifth wheels tend to feel “homier” because of their layouts and interior space. It’s like a split-level layout with a defined living area and bedroom. Many RVers think there’s more privacy in a fifth wheel than in a travel trailer.

Second, there’s more outdoor storage in a fifth wheel. Underneath the front cap is an additional area for storage that travel trailers don’t have. You can easily store long fishing rods or an outdoor tent in the pass-thru storage. Travel trailers don’t have the same amount of storage space.

Third, the handling is generally better when towing a fifth wheel vs. a travel trailer. The weight that sits in the truck bed helps distribute the overall weight of the RV more evenly. Instead of having 10,000 pounds attached to the rear bumper, you have 8,000 pounds following the truck and 2,000 pounds sitting on the rear axle. As a driver, you’ll feel like a fifth wheel is more stable than a travel trailer.

Pro Tip: Before you dive into fifth wheel living, uncover All You Need To Know About Fifth Wheel RVs.

Half ton truck towing fifth wheel
Fifth wheels provide more living space than other RV options.

5 Best Half-Ton Fifth Wheels

If you’re looking for a half-ton fifth wheel, there are some excellent options. The most significant considerations when choosing which one is right for you aren’t only the floorplan and amenities. Learn the numbers on your truck to know whether it will safely tow the new RV. You need to know the towing capacity, payload capacity, and truck bed size when deciding which half-ton fifth wheel will be the best solution for your camping needs.

1. Palomino Puma 255RKS

At 28 feet 5 inches, the Palomino Puma 255RKS is an average length for a half-ton fifth wheel. The hitch weight is 1,102 pounds, so if your truck has a 3,000-pound payload capacity, that leaves plenty of room for additional cargo, fuel, and passengers. The GVWR is 8,800 pounds, so if your half-ton pickup has a 10,000-pound towing capacity, you should be safe with this Palomino.

The floorplan features a rear kitchen with a residential refrigerator, booth dinette, large sofa, entertainment center, and ample overhead storage space. The front bedroom has a queen bed with two small wardrobes. Along the exterior, you have four storage bays for plenty of places to store your camping gear. The Palomino Puma 255RKS has an MSRP of around $53,000.

Palomino-Puma 5th-255RKS

2. Coachmen Chaparral Lite 25RE

At 29 feet 10 inches, the Coachmen Chaparral Lite 25RE is one of the longest half-ton fifth wheels on this list. The hitch weight is 1,115 pounds, so like the Palomino Puma, there’s plenty of room for additional cargo in a half-ton truck with a 3,000-pound payload capacity.

The GVWR is 9,800 pounds, so if your half-ton pickup has a 10,000-pound towing capacity, you might want to reconsider this model. You’ll be close to the limit if you load the Chaparral to the max. You’ll want to have at least an 11,000-pound towing capacity.

The floorplan features an open living space with a corner entertainment center, theater seating, a booth dinette, and an L-shaped kitchen. The front bedroom has a queen bed with two small wardrobes on either side, like the Puma. The MSRP is around $71,000.

Coachmen RV Chaparral Lite 25RE

3. Keystone Cougar Half-Ton 32RDBWE

This Keystone Cougar Half-Ton 32RDBWE is 27 feet 11 inches with a hitch weight of 1,200 pounds. The GVWR is 9,900 pounds. Like the Chaparral, you’ll want a towing capacity of at least 11,000 pounds to tow this half-ton fifth wheel safely. The hitch weight is about the same as the others on this list.

Inside this Cougar, you’ll find a rear kitchen with large windows to let in lots of natural light. A 12V refrigerator comes standard, but you can install an eight cubic-foot RV refrigerator. The living space features a tri-fold sleeper sofa across from a booth dinette, a pantry, and a hutch for more counter space. There’s a second slide-out in the bedroom with an additional wardrobe to supplement the two side wardrobes.

This half-ton fifth wheel also has an outdoor kitchen and LCI solid steps. The MSRP for the Keystone Cougar Half-Ton 32RDBWE is around $65,000.

Keystone Cougar Half-Ton 32RDBWE Curtis Trailers

4. Grand Design Reflection 150 Series 270BN

The longest half-ton fifth wheel on this list is the Grand Design Reflection 150 Series 270BN at 29 feet 11 inches. The hitch weight is 1,166 pounds, typical for a half-ton fifth wheel. However, the GVWR is almost 10,000 pounds, so not all half-ton trucks can tow it. You’ll probably need a half-ton truck with a max trailer towing package, or jump up to the three-quarter ton just to be safe.

The floorplan features the trendy L-shaped rear kitchen with a pantry and a ten cubic foot refrigerator. A sizeable 78-inch sofa sits across from the television and electric fireplace. A unique feature of this layout is the breakfast nook, which provides additional seating for lounging and a designated place to eat. The front bedroom is similar to all the other models on this list, with a queen bed and two side wardrobes.

The exterior features an outdoor kitchen, spray port, and tv hookup. The MSRP of this Grand Design Reflection 150 Series 270BN is about $71,000.

2023 Grand Design Reflection 150 Series 270BN New Fifth Wheel Floorplan

5. Escape 5.0

The most miniature half-ton fifth wheel on this list is the Escape 5.0. It’s also the only fiberglass RV on this list. At 21 feet 2 inches, you can easily tow it with a half-ton truck. The hitch weight is also only 646 pounds, and the GVWR is 5,500 pounds, so you’ll have no trouble finding a half-ton truck with enough payload and towing capacities to tow the Escape 5.0 safely.

Because this half-ton fifth wheel is much shorter than the others, there isn’t as much interior space. You’ll find a 4-person dinette in the rear that you can convert into a second sleeping space for two people. The permanent bed with overhead storage cabinets is in the front cab. In the center of the Escape 5.0 is a wet bath, wardrobe, refrigerator, and full kitchen. The MSRP is around $44,500.

Pro Tip: The Escape is one of the smallest fifth wheels on the market! Check out some of the other small contenders.

5th Wheel 5.0 Escape Travel Trailer (Unbiased Review)

When you see a half-ton truck towing a fifth wheel, it’s generally a Ford F-150, GMC Sierra, or RAM 1500. The Ford F-150 has a max towing capacity of 14,000 pounds and a max payload capacity of 3,310 pounds. However, this is only true for specific models.

The GMC Sierra has a max towing capacity of 13,000 pounds and a max payload capacity of 2,500. The RAM 1500 has a max towing capacity of 12,750 pounds and a max payload capacity of 2,300 pounds. However, like the Ford F-150, these maximum capacities are only for specific models with unique specs. You must know the capacities of your particular truck. Engine, truck bed length, cab size, and axle ratio all affect these capacities.

Always check your GVWR and hitch weight before you attempt to tow your fifth wheel with your half-ton truck.

Make Sure to Check the Numbers Before Towing With Your Half-Ton Truck

Don’t risk unsafe driving conditions by towing something your half-ton truck can’t handle. Always check the numbers to ensure the payload and towing capacities of your vehicle are greater than the hitch weight and GVWR of the half-ton fifth wheel. Most RVers follow the 80/20 rule and won’t tow over 80% of their maximum capacities.

However, there are half-ton trucks that can safely tow half-ton fifth wheels. They’re also cheaper than heavy-duty trucks. So if you have a half-ton truck and don’t want to fork over thousands of dollars to upgrade it, head to your local dealer and check out the half-ton fifth wheels on the lot.

Which fifth wheel will end up being your home away from home? Tell us your favorite option in the comments!

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About Tom Morton

Tom, a Pacific Northwest native, is our technical genius. Born in Washington and raised in Alaska before settling in Michigan. He's the man who keeps our operation running, both figuratively and literally.

With a background in Electrical Engineering, Tom specializes in RV solar systems and lithium batteries. He made history as the first documented individual to use a Tesla battery module as an RV battery. Tom has personally assisted countless RVers with system installations and has educated thousands more through his videos and articles.

Cinematography is another of Tom's passions, showcased in his work on the Go North series. You can see his camera skills on display in The RVers TV show on Discovery Channel and PBS where he also stars as a co-host.

Tom's mechanical expertise extends beyond RVs to boats, planes, and all things mechanical. He's renowned for taking on maintenance and repair projects single-handedly and is often spotted underneath RVs, making him the technical backbone of our endeavors.

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S. Landrum

Friday 11th of August 2023

The Mortons tried to save this article in their counter-replies, but think of all the people being put in dangerous territory if they don't read the comments below and understand ALL the math involved. I go with NO 1/2 ton is safe enough for 5th wheels!! And never trust a salesman to steer you to the truth. Please change this article's flawed premise- keep travelers safe!! Thank you everyone who commented.

Steve F

Monday 19th of June 2023

OK, so which set up do we have to look for on the Ford F150 for the max towing and payload I’m trying to decide if I get a bigger trailer or a truck bed camper and it’s only me and my two dogs

Vernon pierstorff

Sunday 30th of April 2023

You guys talk alot about gross vehicle weight I understand all that. I don't worry to much about all that. It's not what you can pull it's what you can stop that matters. I have a 35 foot I pull behind an F350 ford never had a problem

Mortons on the Move

Sunday 30th of April 2023

Yes, stopping is critical, and we do talk about breaks being one of our biggest concerns with half-tons. They are just so much smaller and less capable than a larger truck.

[email protected]

Tuesday 25th of April 2023

Please be very weary of pulling a trailer of any weight with 1/2 ton truck. Most folks ignore the need for ample breaking; concentrating rather on pulling power and the inflated pulling specs of manufacturers. Safety should paramount. So error on the side of too much truck for your pulling needs.

Steve H

Tuesday 25th of April 2023

Manufacturers' hitch weights are dry fifth wheel weights, ie., they are worthless. Half-ton pickup owners shopping for a 1/2-ton towable fifth wheel should use only the GVWR and multiply it by 15%. So the pin weight of the Cougar above becomes 9900# x 0.15 = 1485#, not 1200#.

We refused to sell our lightweight fifth wheel to a couple with a brand new Toyota Tundra. They wanted to take their 3 teenage grandsons camping with them. I showed them the payload capacity and combined VW of their Tundra on the door sticker and the GVWR of the trailer on its sticker. I had them calculate the weight of the five passengers, our 250# hitch, and 15% of the trailer GVWR for pin weight. They couldn't believe overweight condition they would have since the Toyota salesman had assured them that the max. tow of the truck would work with the fifth wheel. Max. tow isn't the number people should worry about! Personally, I don't think there are ant "1/2-ton towable" fifth wheels except the Escape 5.0.

Tim

Wednesday 26th of April 2023

@Steve H, I have recently retired and returned to the US after working and living overseas for some time. My wife and I do not own a US home and wanted to fulfill a long time dream of traveling within the US and visiting our homeland. Since we are new to this experience, we have so many questions and I’m rather anxious about doing this “right”. If we are interested in an all-season 5th wheel (this becomes our home) that is between 36-39 feet in length, I suspect I need to look at purchasing a 2500 model pickup, correct? I would also need to do this before purchasing a 5th wheel, so I would need one that can handle a high GRVW and larger weight capacity for the bed. Is this correct? Thanks for your guidance and assistance.

Barbara

Wednesday 26th of April 2023

@Steve H, this is great info! Thank you!