The Complete Fifth Wheel Buyer's Guide

Aug 17, 2022 Randall Boggs Comments Disabled
The Complete Fifth Wheel Buyers Guide

Quality. The definition of the word being “the standard of something as measured against other things of a similar kind; the degree of excellence of something. This, of course, can vary from item to item and industry to industry but the words of that definition ring true throughout. “The degree of excellence of something”. Not only is that a definition of the word, but a statement all by itself. It commands that only the best be given the reward. And this is what you are looking for when you make any substantial purchase, especially your fifth wheel trailer.

Before we get started on all of the do’s and don'ts when purchasing a fifth wheel trailer or fifth wheel toy hauler, we should first look into the origins of the fifth wheel to see where it got its name. If you are like myself, I never knew why they called a fifth wheel a “fifth wheel”. They don’t have any sort of extra wheels or specific traits that I would think of that would make people call them that, so why?

Well, after asking myself the question and doing a very quick google search to uncover the not so easily covered mystery, I found the answer. In fact, it was closer than I would have thought as the quickest and most concise answer was found on, a site used by ourselves and many other dealers to find values. There it states that in fact, “the name actually comes from the company that first utilized the hitch in the early 1900’s. The Martin’s Fifth Wheel Company named their device after the round shape of the hitch. Hence, the hitch itself is the “fifth wheel.””

So what is the difference between a travel trailer, or bumper pull, and a fifth wheel camper. Mainly it is the location of the hitch on the truck that makes all the difference. The conventional travel trailer that hitches to the back of your truck on the pre-mounted hitch assembly provides an easy and almost universal way to pull anything from a camper to a small yard trailer. The fifth wheel hitch resides in the bed of the truck where it is not as easily accessible and has a much different mounting system. You may ask why go through the additional work to hook up a fifth wheel hitch over a travel trailer?

What do you notice when you see someone pulling a rather large travel trailer with a medium sized truck like a half ton pickup? Well, I see that with the right bump or pothole, the back of that truck nearly hitting the rear tires and the front of the truck almost coming down. I have see some that look like the hitch itself may hit the ground. 

The reason this is happening is due to the weight displacement of the trailer hitch. In the conventional "bumper pull" hitch method, the full tongue weight of the travel trailer is resting on the very end point of the truck. This causes the truck to "squat" under the load and the front end of the truck to rise. 

With the proper equipment this effect can be mitigated a little, but it will never resolve the issue 100%. Do you remember the teeter totter on the playground when you were a child? This is the same thing that happens when your truck has a little too much weight on the back. By causing this effect, the driver now has less control of the vehicle as there is now less weight on the front which are the wheels that turn the truck.

Fifth wheel campers and fifth wheel toy haulers overcome a substantial portion of the “teeter totter effect” by allowing a displacement of the tongue weight throughout more of the vehicle's tires. Imagine that 2 items were sitting on a teeter totter with one weighing 100 pounds and the other weighing 50 pounds. Obviously, if the 2 were on the very ends, the one the weighed 100 pounds would be sitting firmly on the ground while the one that weighed only 50 pounds is sitting high in the air. But, if you were to keep the 50 pound item on the end and slowly move the 100 pound item inward toward the center of the teeter totter, you would reach a point where they would both be off the ground by the exact same amount. 

This is what is happening when a fifth wheel hitch is used to pull a camper or toy hauler. Then being that the weight is now a little more centrally located on the truck rather than on the very back point, the truck does not “squat” nearly as much and allows for a much safer driving experience. It also allows more weight to be pulled by the truck.

So is this the right type of camper for you? There may be a few more factors that will go into that question. 

Many people drive half ton pickup trucks. These are fantastic choices for many reasons due to their smaller size, better fuel mileage, and still hefty capabilities. But many automotive manufacturers have stopped producing half ton pickups with an eight foot bed. The issue with this, a pulling a fifth wheel camper, lies in the bulk of the overhang that extends over the truck while towing. Many times, this bulkhead of the fifth wheel trailer is too large to allow the truck to turn and spin to the proper angles. This could cause major damage to your fifth wheel camper and to your truck if not properly supervised. So do you have the right truck?

It's a sure thing when you have a pickup with an 8 foot bed. Maneuvering around the front of the fifth wheel trailer is easily accomplished. When you get down to the six and a half foot box size though, things start getting a little tricky. It all depends on your fifth wheel camper that you are towing and the placement of the fifth wheel hitch. 

Some manufacturers understand the dilemma of having a half ton pickup paired with the fifth wheel trailer. I mean, who wants to buy a larger truck just for hauling the camper. Luckily, Grand Design has come out with an entire line of half ton towable fifth wheel campers! They are called their Reflection 150 Series. These specialized fifth wheel campers for sale at Greeneway RV, have a smaller front overhang cabin and have their weight dispersed slightly different to the regular fifth wheel camper to accommodate a lower payload capacity in the truck. Definitely something to consider when shopping for a fifth wheel camper or fifth wheel toy hauler!

While we are on the subject of where a fifth wheel is available, many consumers ask, “how to buy a fifth wheel?”. This is quite the broad question, but in complete honesty it just takes the proper amount of research or the right guidance. First you must start by choosing the proper brand. You may be looking for something that will get you by on the occasional camping trip. These may come at a lower price, but what you may need to consider is the quality. Most often, you're not storing your camper inside a heated garage all winter when the subzero temperatures and the mass amounts of snow and ice won't affect them. No, most consumers end up plopping their camper in the back yard or an outdoor storage yard and letting it sit, subject to the elements. 

This is where the quality of a Grand Design will show through. Not only would you be able to use your camper for longer periods of time due to the thicker and better insulation, but you could also sleep a little easier at night knowing that your fifth wheel camper will weather the environment without question. Quality built products are a hard trait to come by in a company and that is why we only carry the highest quality brands at Greeneway.

Aside from the quality of the brand you may have chosen, now you must choose a dealer to purchase your next fight wheel trailer from. There too, quality and a sound track record will be of great value to you. Choose somewhere that has the services you will require now and in the future. Be sure they can assist you with repairs and that your salesperson knows all about your product. 

At Greeneway RV, we try to be less of salespeople and more guides. Our very knowledgeable sales staff have all the information to assist you in making the right decision that will suit you and your tow vehicle. We also have a fully certified shop with over 30 years of combined knowledge able to assist you after the purchase with anything you may need. From warranty claims to just chatting with Shawn about why your pilot light isnt starting, we are there for you. It is because of these traits that Greeneway RV was just nominated once again for our 9th RVDA Top 50 Dealer Award! Quite the honor.

So now you have chosen the brand, hopefully for the quality, you have chosen your dealer, because they will take care of you before and after the sale, now you just need to make the purchase. How do you do it? Do you finance it? Pay cash? Put a bunch of money down? Try for $0 down? There are a hundred questions that could be asked once you have said “yes” to purchasing a new or pre-loved fifth wheel camper or fifth wheel toy hauler. 

Once you have ironed out all of the details of the sale and the financing, you will have some options available to you. We would all love for our new fifth wheel toy hauler to be made to last forever, but unfortunately they arent and even the best builders are not the ones constructing the items like the air conditioner or the refrigerator. The options you will be provided with will include various ways to protect your recent purchase. These are important items to have for your financial future. One of the most popular items among them are the Route 66 vehicle service contracts. These are exclusionary coverages that pay for parts and labor of covered items within your camper. Many would caution you away from products like these, but keep in mind that when you have quality protection this could save you hundreds or even thousands in potential repairs! 

Now you sign and you are done! Easy peasy right? I wish it were that easy. Although you may have just completed the purchase, now it is time to own your camper. This means a few things. Such as, do you have all the accessories for your first trip? Have you gone over every part of your camper to ensure you know what every button and switch does. Let me tell you from experience, not having everything you need or not knowing how something works in your new toy hauler fifth wheel can make your first trip or first several trips un-enjoyable to say the least. In fact, just recently I discovered in my RV that there was a second switch for my water heater! I had it winterized and the switch was, of course, turned off and when I summerized it, I could not figure out how to get hot water! This went on for a month before my mother actually mentioned the switch hiding in the bathroom. 

Lastly, if you followed these instructions you would have picked a formidable dealership to purchase your camper from. I know that here at Greeneway RV, we are always happy to assist our customers. So, if you have something that comes up or you would like to ask, even the smallest questions, about how something works, give your trusted dealer a call. Ask them what they think or if they know. I know that this would have helped me in my scenario and I know it will help you too.