How To Pick A Truck for Towing a Fifthwheel/Travel Trailer


Top Factors When Picking a Towing Vehicle:

This article is not intended to be an exhaustive comparison of towing vehicles.  Instead, we want to give you the basics to help you get your search started, and let you know how we made our decisions.  Someone doing weekend local trips will have different needs from someone going cross-country with a lot of towing miles, so let your own RVing needs guide you in narrowing your search.our-truck-how-to-choose-a-truck-for-towing-a-fifthwheel-truck-tour-and-more about our Dodge Ram 2500

Tow Rating:  Seems kind of obvious, but factoring the weight of your fifthwheel/travel trailer is your first step in selecting the vehicle that you want to tow with.  You need to know your gross trailer weight rating, which is the total amount of your dry weight plus the maximum weight for the stuff that you add to it.  For example, our 26 foot fifthwheel has a dry weight of 7,200 lbs.  Our gross trailer weight was 9,900 lbs. – the dry weight plus the maximum allowable total amount of our stuff.  For choosing your towing vehicle, you want a vehicle that can tow your gross trailer weight with a 20% additional buffer.  For us, that meant taking our 9,900 lbs. +  1,980 lbs (20% of 9,900) to give us 11,880 lbs.  Once you have your number, then you can start shopping, ever mindful of the tow rating that you need.  The tow rating of your vehicle is not a place that you want to skimp in your budget.  Using the appropriate tow rating adds to your safety on the road.  We chose a truck with a tow rating of 12,000 lbs.

Gas vs. Diesel: The next big question is if you want gas or diesel.  Generally speaking, diesel vehicles will cost more up front and more for maintenance; but they get better gas mileage especially when towing and the engines are built to last. When making the decision for yourself, consider what type of RVing you will be doing.  Someone doing weekend local trips will have different needs from someone going cross-country with lots of towing miles.  For our situation, we knew we would be towing a lot of miles and crossing big mountain ranges, as newbies to RVing our main concern was reliability; so we chose diesel.

New vs. Used:  We also recommend buying what you can afford.  Period.  Whether that is new or used depends on your situation.  For our circumstances, we chose Used.  We did not want any vehicle or RV payments on the road, so we bought our truck and RV outright.

Those are the main factors, but once you have chosen a make and model, there are several other points to consider…

Two Door vs. Four Door:  In considering your truck’s cab, it is important to keep in mind the length of your RV.  Choosing a two door truck will help to keep your overall length (truck + RV) shorter.  Also, consider whether or not you will have guests visiting you.  Chris & I knew that our families would be flying to visit us at different points in our trip; so we opted to have the four door truck in order to accommodate guests.   

Short Bed vs. Long Bed:  Again, you want to consider your over length in making your decision.  Additionally, if you have a fifthwheel, keep in mind that if you go with a short bed truck, then a slide hitch is typically recommended.  A slide hitch allows you to adjust your hitch to make sharper turns without the top of the fifthwheel hitting your cab.  We went with a short bed to keep our overall length down (especially since we wanted the four door model) and a slide hitch, but we have not had to use the slide in our year and a half on the road.  Still, it is nice to know we have the option.

Standard Tailgate vs. Drop Gate (Fifthwheels Only):  If you have a fifthwheel, you will be attaching and detaching your RV to the hitch inside the bed of the truck; therefore, you will be contending with your tailgate.  Keeping the standard tailgate is an option, and you will just manually drop the tailgate when you attach and detach.  As an upgrade, you can replace your standard tailgate with a Drop Gate, which dips in the middle so that you can attach and detach without touching your tailgate.  We kept our standard tailgate and have never had a problem.   

After over 3 years fulltime RVing in our Dodge RAM, we replaced it with a GMC Sierra, which is our current truck. Learn why here.

 Now, take a look at this two part video series all about our truck.  We talk about how we made our decision to buy it, our pros and cons, our mpg, how we approach maintenance on the road, and give you a quick tour of our truck! 


Click here to see our post on how we chose our RV.

Got a question about our truck?  Or wanna share about your truck choice?  Leave a comment!

About Jen

I love travel, which led me to become a fulltime RVer. I love wellness, which I can talk about 'til the cows come home. I love being self-employed, which means I get to dabble in what interests me from essential oils to RV planners. But most importantly, I love my husband and our life together on the road!

20 comments on “How To Pick A Truck for Towing a Fifthwheel/Travel Trailer

  1. Hi Chris and Jen,

    Like you we purchased our trailer before even having a truck, and had 1 month to purchase a truck and pickup the trailer from the RV Lot. Doing this gave us the opportunity to find a trailer that worked for us instead of buying a truck and limiting our trailer selection. Great minds think alike, we purchased a used diesel 2500, 4 wheel drive, 2012 chevy silverado Z85 (to pull extra weight), with 89,500 miles. When looking for a truck we did all the research as well and decided it was a toss up between the dodge 2500, or a chevy 2500. Our decision was based on sound, and cost. 🙂

    Once again, a great video and post.
    Not to change the subject, hubby and I have started taking pictures and video taping our brief travels. We would like to be able to edit the video footage and maybe add music. I was wondering if you could suggest a program to use to edit video and add music.

    Sandy and Jay Livesay

    • Hi, Sandy & Jay!
      Thanks so much for sharing your experience. I LOVE Silverados! 🙂
      For video editing, I use the standard Windows Live Movie Maker. I have found it to fit all my needs (so far anyway), and it comes with your Windows package, so no extra cost. It allows you to do everything that you see in my videos and even more. I have had a lot of people ask me about this recently, so I have decided to do some quick, basic videos on editing for beginners just to share what I have learned over the past year and a half. It will take me a little while to put it all together, but check back, because I hope it will be helpful to you.

      Thanks again!

      • Hey Jen,

        Thanks for the information, I will check back.
        Enjoy your afternoon 🙂


  2. Hi Guys! I am catching up after being away for over a month, really enjoying your videos and blog. You make RV’ing approachable for everyone with your open and honest sharing of your on the road life. Thank you so much. Seriously, reality that it real, amazing!! So helpful and such good info. Your channel has become my favorite on youtube. : )

    • Hi, Candace! Thank you so much for the kind words! We are so glad you are enjoying our info., and our reality 🙂 Thanks for the encouragement!

  3. This is a great article. I always have a hard time deciding what my priorities are with a vehicle and what I should get for towing and this helps me out. I like full-size trucks for towing but don’t need a full-size truck for my daily driving. got a kid on the way so now I need a back seat. too many factors

  4. Hey guys. We finally pulled the trigger last Nov-Dec timeframe and got our fulltime setup of a 2009 CarriLite fifth wheel (lot more weight) and 2013 RAM 3500 diesel crew cab long bed. I am new to having a diesel of my own to take care of and big trucks as well (did drive some big vehicles and equipment in the Air Force). I don’t know if it’s the newer truck with more emissions stuff or just that it’s a bigger truck but we are only getting 14-16 mpg not towing. I can’t compare to towing yet as we haven’t towed yet due to me having about 18 months before retirement. Not really sure why there would be a 10 mpg difference in non towing fuel mileage between ours and yours. Any advise you could give would be greatly appreciated.

    • Hi Bryan, thanks for the question. I looked up the average fuel economy for the Ram 3500 diesel and with over 400 trucks providing data the average came in at 16 mpg. So it sounds like you are getting what is to be expected. I’m surprised it is that big of a drop from the 2500, but then again everything is bigger and stronger in the 3500, the tow rating for the 3500 really jumps up from the 2500. Do you have dual wheels in the back? I’m thinking that could effect fuel economy as well. I’m sorry the 3500 isn’t meeting your fuel economy expectations, but find comfort knowing that you can tow just about any RV on the road made with that truck!! Best of luck as you continue to get ready to go full time!!

      • Hello Jen,
        Thanks so much for your reply. I have just st been trying to make sure that there wasn’t any mechanical issues with our truck so with you giving me that info and what I got from people on Full Time RVers FB page it pretty much sounds like I’m doing good. I kind of that I might be getting some tall tale fish stories from a few people. Lol. Looking forward to seeing more of your guys travels and maybe one day we would be able to meet up. Safe travels.

  5. I never knew how important it is to look at a truck’s tow rating to ensure it can tow your fifthwheel trailer or boat. My wife wants to buy a boat soon. This info should help us choose a truck that can transport it easily.

  6. These types of decisions are big ones if you plan on living that type of lifestyle. Great article here that really helps the average person see from someone else’s real life experience and make a good decision for themselves. Thanks for the post!

  7. Thanks for helping find the best Ram truck for the new trailer we want to buy. My husband mentioned that he wants diesel, but I’ve never had a diesel, so it makes me a bit nervous. I’m so glad that you mentioned that they are in fact more expensive up front, but in the long run with gas mileage and being built to last they have great savings in the long run.

    • Hi, Sandra! Happy to help! It is a big decision, and we hope you are able to find the right vehicle for you!

  8. My brother is struggling to pick a Ford truck since he likes so many of them. I think he would like knowing that there is a difference in two-door versus four-door. Since he wants his family to fit I think he will choose a four-door truck.

  9. You got my attention when you said that you should consider using a slide hitch if you’re towing a fifth-wheel trailer. My father gave my husband a fifth-wheel trailer which we’d like to be moved to our house soon. We’d like to make sure that the towing company that we will hire has the right towing truck for our needs because we don’t want our trailer to be damaged while being towed.

    • Hi, Ellen! Slide hitches are something to look in to. I will be honest and tell you that we have not had to use our slide one single time! That is the good news. But, you never know when you may be in a tight turn, and you definitely don’t want to pop your window or damage the truck. Best wishes to you!

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