What is a Fifth Wheel

What Is a Fifth Wheel? & The Top 6 Reasons Families Love Them

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Last Updated on March 14, 2023 by Jessica Lauren Vine

Did you know that more than 11 million households in the United States own an RV? If you are getting ready to jump in the RV travel bandwagon but, are hearing words such as Class C, fifth wheel, Class B, travel trailer, Class A, and are a bit confused with all the lingo we are here to clear things up on what exactly is a fifth wheel and the top reasons that families love them.

This is What a Fifth Wheel Is

A fifth wheel is a towable RV that you can tow with a pickup truck. There is a special hitch (either a gooseneck hitch or a fifth wheel hitch with a king pin) that you use to attach the front end of the fifth wheel to the back of a pickup truck. Unlike a camping trailer, some of the weight of the fifth wheel RV sits directly over the rear axle of the tow vehicle which makes for more stable towing and a lot less swaying when you are pulling your fifth wheel trailer down the road.

Trust me that traveling on a windy day with a swaying RV behind your towing truck – is not fun. Trailer sway is one of those things that all RVers will agree they can do without.

The design of fifth wheel hitches is similar to the type of hitch that a semi-truck uses which also means a sturdier and safer tow. This is definitely a bonus when you have a family as well.

What is a Fifth Wheel

Why Are They Called Fifth Wheels?

The reason this RV is called a fifth wheel is because Martin’s Fifth Wheel Company was the first company to use the fifth wheel hitch in the early 1900s. They ended up naming their device after the hitch’s round shape making it known as the “fifth wheel.”

Now, that you know a little bit of fun history about fifth wheels, let’s chat about the reasons that more families are opting for fifth wheel RVs.

Is a Fifth Wheel Right for You?

Here are the reasons many families choose a fifth wheel RV, especially when full time RVing.

1. More Room

One of the top reasons families love fifth wheel RVs is that the floor plans tend to be roomy, giving kids and parents their own space along with extra living space. Fifth wheels also have higher ceilings making the RV feel even roomier. The taller ceilings in fifth wheels don’t only give you more headspace, but it also means taller cabinets (which, of course, means more room for storage).

Many fifth wheels have a minimum of 3 slide-outs adding plenty of sq ft once you arrive at your final destination and put all of your slides out. If you opt for a toy hauler fifth wheel you even have a garage where you can haul some extra toys or have a room with infinite possibilities.

Fifth wheel trailers can handle the extra weight that comes with multiple slide outs because the frame is built to handle the extra weight, unlike travel trailers that can only handle so much weight. We recommend opting for a fifth wheel camper that has 3 axles vs 2 axles because it will have no problem when you load the fifth wheel with everything your family needs for your road trips.

2. Bigger Bathrooms

Along with more room, you also have bathrooms that are more comfortable and have a little more space than in other RVs. Most fifth wheels also have more than one bathroom. It is not uncommon to have a full bathroom off the master bedroom and another full bath or half bath near the bunkhouse or toy hauler area in a fifth wheel.

This, of course, equates to no fighting over sinks or showers #exciting.

3. Larger Waste and Water Tank Capacities

Another reason that families love fifth wheels is that they have much larger waste and water tank capacities. It is not uncommon to find fifth wheels with freshwater tanks that hold up to 100 gallons or waste tanks that hold up to 80 gallons.

For those that plan on doing a lot of dry camping AKA boondocking, then these larger tanks will definitely come in handy when you have a family.

4. Larger Basement Storage

Usually, when you have a family, you also have more things to tow like camping chairs, toys, bikes, and everything else to make your trip more enjoyable. Fifth wheels have a larger basement storage area than most other towable RVs giving you that extra space to bring along everything you need.

You can travel with bulky outdoor gear in tow and not feel cluttered.

What is a Fifth Wheel

5. Generator Storage

It is not uncommon to have a space to place a generator in the front storage area of a fifth wheel. Some even come with a generator onboard that you can easily turn on and off from inside your RV.

This is extremely convenient if you plan on doing some dry camping or if the power ever goes out at a campground, you have a backup source of power.

6. More Kitchen Space

Having a family means more food and more cooking vs eating out all the time. With a fifth wheel you will have a larger fridge (in many cases a residential size refrigerator) so that you can fit all of your groceries and some even have a pantry.

There is usually a little extra counter space to cook. If you love kitchen islands, you can find plenty of fifth wheel models that include an island.

What is a Fifth Wheel

Feeling Like a Fifth Wheel Pro?

We hope that now that we cleared up what fifth wheels are and why they are becoming more popular for those traveling with families, you can make an informed decision on whether or not a fifth wheel will work for your own travel needs. Fifth wheels are great for extended camping trips, living the full time RV lifestyle, or a getaway with some friends. Now it’s time for some fun RV shopping so that you can get out there and collect experiences with those who matter most.

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