Which Truck Should I Get to Safely Tow a 5th Wheel Trailer? [Ask TFLtruck]

ford super duty 5th wheel rv trailer towing

As winter is reluctantly giving way to spring and summer in the snow belt states, many people are looking forward to getting on the road for some road trip adventures and exploration. We recently received this question from Evelyn H.

Are you willing to share your wisdom regarding truck requirements? We want to purchase a 5th wheel with dry weight of 7,235 pounds, dry hitch of 1,375 pounds, and a gross vehicle weight of 11,500 pounds. Could you give us advice for truck we need for safe towing? We want margin for safety but money does matter. Would you recommend the F-250 6.2L or do we need the F-250 6.7L diesel?

We live in Southern California but plan to travel all over the U.S., including Alaska and also some of Canada. Although, I am sure we would not travel mountain passes in the winter.

Although, this question is directed towards a Ford truck, this discussion is applicable to any truck when considering a 5th wheel RV trailer.

Half-ton or Heavy Duty?

Evelyn is looking to get a relatively small 5th wheel. The gross vehicle weight (GVW) of the trailer is 11,500 lbs, and it may seem that a half-ton truck could do the job. After all, some light-duty full size trucks are able to tow around 12,000 lbs. The trailer tongue weight (or king pin weight) and safety margin considerations rule out a light duty truck for this application.

This 5th wheel trailer has an approximate tongue weight of 19%. A fully loaded unit would push on the truck with up to 2,185 lbs. This is beyond the payload capability of most new half-ton trucks. Heavy Duty it is.

Truck Configuration?

Evelyn points out that budget matters. You do not want to buy way too much truck for what you need, but you still need a margin of safety. Considering the size and weight of this trailer, a 3/4 ton heavy duty truck will do the job. It provides between 3,000-4,000 lbs of payload capacity and between 12,000-15,000 lbs of 5th wheel towing capacity.

You generally want to a longer wheelbase for better towing stability and comfort, but a crew cab would increase the price and lower payload/towing capacities of the truck. If you do not need four full size doors of a crew cab, then an extended cab is a good option.

2WD or 4×4?

Including a 4×4 system also reduces the payload/towing capacity of a truck. Evelyn is looking to explore Alaska, Canada, and the rest of the United States. It means that the truck will see a fair share of dirt and gravel roads. Having a 4×4 truck provides an additional margin of safety on slippery surfaces and for going off the beaten path.

Gas or Diesel?

Turbo-diesel heavy duty trucks are mighty powerful, but this represents an additional initial investment and maintenance cost. Diesel powertrain may add between $8,000 – $11,000 to a price of a new heavy duty truck. Considering the lighter weight of this trailer and budget considerations, the gasoline V8 would do just fine.

I would recommend an extended cab (Super Cab) 3/4 ton truck with 4×4 and a longer wheelbase option.  Happy motoring and exploration!

Check out this 5th wheel trailer towing battle between the HD dually trucks.