Presumably you are here because you have decided that a tow-able RV makes sense for your travel style and budget. Leaving aside pop-up campers, which aren’t really in the same class, your choices are travel trailer (TT) and fifth wheel trailer (5er). As with other decisions in the RV spectrum, there is no single right answer. Both have their strong points and drawbacks. Think about your needs in relation to these pros and cons and the choice will be easier. And if you haven’t already done so, it’s a good idea to visit one or two dealers and tour a few coaches of each type. This will help you rank some of the less tangible differences in these RVs.
The major difference between these trailer types is the hitch: The TT is hitched to the rear bumper of the tow vehicle (TV) using a ball and coupler hitch while the 5er uses a truck bed mounted pin and jaw hitch. As such, the TT is constructed on a single level frame, whereas the forward section of the 5er is elevated resulting in a split level floor plan that extends over the rear of the TV. In most cases the 5er is somewhat more expensive than a TT with similar features and options, but it will have more living area and substantially greater storage space.
Advantages of the TT
- Tow vehicle flexibility: Van and SUV TVs provide more passenger space and truck beds are available for additional hauling.
- Lighter weight which may result in improved fuel mileage and requires less power from the TV.
- Lower roofline means less risk of snagging overhead obstructions.
- Some people, especially those with disabilities, may find the single level floor plan more to their liking. Also, the TT is typically lower to the ground.
Advantages of the 5er
- Overall TV plus trailer length is less for equivalent floor space, providing for better maneuverability.
- More stable towing, though load balancing TT hitches can reduce this advantage.
- Easier to hitch and unhitch, especially by a single individual.
- Usually have larger fresh and waste water storage capacity which can extend dry camping stays. Additional storage space for extra batteries can also help in that regard.
- Added ceiling height gives a more spacious feeling and provides additional overhead cabinet space.
Because of the different pivot points of their hitches, these trailer types differ somewhat in how they handle when backing up. However, most people find that with practice they can become proficient with either.