When my family wanted to buy a new camper, we browsed fifth wheel buyers guides. We assumed removable fifth wheel hitches existed, and we could take the hitch out of our truck whenever we wanted. What I learned surprised me, and will probably surprise you too.
Can you take a fifth wheel hitch out of a truck bed whenever you want?
All fifth wheel hitches are technically removable. But in traditional hitches, the rails holding the hitch inside the truck bed sometimes need to remain for safety reasons. I’ll share an explanation later. For now, the good news is that newer removable fifth wheel hitches are coming into the marketplace. These fifth wheel hitches are removable. They also leave no left-over parts to take up space in the truck bed.
When it comes to installing a fifth wheel hitch, many different hitch types call for installation specific to their model. Don’t pick a fifth wheel hitch until you imagine how you will use the truck. Using your truck when the hitch is NOT in place may not always be an option. Hitch styles determine how much room is left inside the truck bed once the hitch is removed.
A fifth wheel hitch is not a gooseneck hitch
Keep in mind we are only talking about fifth wheel hitches, not gooseneck trailer hitches. A gooseneck hitch is similar in installation to a fifth wheel hitch. But a gooseneck hitch connects to the trailer with a call and coupler. A fifth wheel hitch utilizes a hinged plate to connect the truck and trailer.
Removable Fifth Wheel Hitches Styles and Price Considerations
At first glance, a potential fifth wheel RVer might think there is only one hitch style. However, this is not true. Two different fifth wheel hitch styles allow full or partial use of the truck bed when the hitch is detached.
The most common fifth wheel hitch: bed rails.
Bolted in bed rails hold the hitch in a safe, sturdy position for towing. The rails are installed perpendicular to the bed and get bolted directly into the frame of the truck. The hitch is attached to the bed rails with pins. You can remove pins when you want to take the hitch out. But once the hitch is removed, the bed rails should remain. In other words, you will never have a completely empty, flat truck bed with this fifth wheel hitch style. Bed rails obstruct objects that you need to haul and lay flat. But there are other removable fifth wheel options.
The second type of fifth wheel hitch: under bed fifth wheel mounts
Under bed fifth wheel mount hitches have tons of advantages. Made by companies like Curt Towing and Reese, an under-bed rail system attaches hitch bed rails underneath the truck bed. This allows the truck’s bed to be flat and empty once the hitch is removed. Then your truck can haul whatever fits without a problem.
Each fifth wheel hitch style has a different price tag. The cost ranges from $200 to $2000 dollars and up, before installation. These prices may or may not include the price of a bed rail kit. At that point, you may be looking at another $200 to $300 dollars. One of the cheapest removable fifth wheel hitches costs even less, but leaves the pesky bed rails behind. Your final cost depends on how much room you want left in your truck bed once the hitch is out. If you want a completely empty, flat truck bed, go with the more expensive removable fifth wheel hitch.
What to know about fifth wheel hitch installations.
So your fifth wheel hitch style is decided. Now, consider how you want that hitch to be installed.
Many RV dealerships, camper lots, and trailer companies install fifth wheel hitches. The easiest thing to do is get one of these businesses to install your fifth wheel hitch. If you are handy with a wrench, consider installing it yourself.
However, before installing the hitch yourself there are some things to consider:
- Can your truck safely haul the weight you want to haul?
- The “Gross Vehicle Weight Rating” (GVWR) for trailers and towables is probably in your fifth wheel owner’s manual. Read the book. You might even learn more about how your fifth wheel hitch was installed on your trailer. It is very important to know your fifth wheel’s GVWR. Hitches are directly attached to the truck frame, and too much load can damage to the entire structure.
- If you want a bed rail kit, here’s what to do.
- Different kinds of bed rail kits that make fifth wheel hitch installation easier. For the best fit on your hitch, get one made for your exact truck model. Universal kits are available, but can be more technical to install. For example, you may need to drill holes into the truck frame or weld brackets to it.
- You might need to remove the truck bed liner.
- Plastic truck bed liners can create too much gap between the rails and the truck frame. Since the rails hold your hitch fifth wheel in place, you want the most secure attachment. Removing the bed liner is the safest option.
- IF you have a spray on bed liner, it will NOT impact your hitching system. The liner is already “part” of the truck bed. You don’t need to remove a spray on bed liner to install a fifth wheel hitch.
Professional fifth wheel hitch installation is ideal if you are not confident about installing the fifth wheel hitch. Yes, it costs more, but that extra price gives peace of mind when the installation is done right.
Why removing fifth wheel hitch bed rails is dumb.
Removing fifth wheel hitch rails when you want an empty truck bed is a dumb idea. Remember, the bed rails attach directly to the frame of your truck. These brackets are tightened to a specific torque level that holds your trailer firmly in place. Constant untightening and retightening of those bolts and brackets weakens the bed rails and even your truck frame over time. Removing fifth wheel bed rails may also break the bed rails. That’s not ideal when you’re driving down the road.
Now get ready to go RVing and camping!
If you don’t care about a completely empty truck bed, fifth wheel hitch design doesn’t matter. Your choice might just come down to pricing. But if you want a perfectly empty truck bed, get an under bed rail kit. They are the only kinds of rails that give total access to the truck bed. Plus, they are safer than repeatedly removing and re-installing rails. And cheaper. Because if your hitch endures extreme damage, rusts or weakens, the only safe thing to do is replace the entire hitch system. Use care when selecting using a fifth wheel hitch and you should be set for years of camping fun.