If you’ve decided to take the plunge and finally buy that fifth wheel, your wife has probably asked how you plan to pull that darn thing! You look into your driveway and you see your 2017 SUV and a moped from the 70s that is slowly rusting away to nothing. So, the question remains:
Can you pull a fifth wheel with a van or an SUV? Fifth Wheel RVs should only be towed by trucks. There is a specialized tool that technically makes it possible for a Van or SUV to pull a gooseneck style trailer called an Automated Safety Hitch, but because fifth wheels are very heavy, they are likely above the tow capacity of a van or SUV anyway.
I’m going to go more in depth about the tow ratings for vans and SUVs and the hitches you need to buy, and then I will tell you about some hauling trucks that are pretty good deals if you want to take your family on a trip with the fifth wheel.
Tow Ratings for Vans and SUVs
There are a few things to consider before you get all set up to start hooking up your trailer, camper, motor home, RV, or
First and foremost, you have to know the towing capacity. The towing capacity of whatever vehicle you own is determined by a few factors.
The GVWR is the Gross Vehicle Weight Rating. The gross vehicle weight rating is the measurement of how heavy your towing vehicle is when you include all of the cargo and people inside of the towing vehicle along with the initial weight of your towing vehicle.
The GAWR is the Gross Axle Weight Rating. The gross axle weight rating is the measurement of how much weight you can put on your rear axle and your front axle. There are going to be different gross axle weight rating for each axle.
You’re going to need to factor in the weight of everything you are going to be putting in the vehicle as well as the weight of everything you are going to be towing with the vehicle.
The GTW is the Gross Trailer Weight. The gross trailer weight is the measurement of how much your trailer can carry safely along with the original weight of the trailer itself.
The TW is the tongue weight. The tongue weight is the measurement of how much downward force you can exert on the back of your towing vehicle by the load that you are towing, like a trailer of a fifth wheeler.
This measurement depends a lot on how you position the cargo or the load on the trailer or fifth wheeler, and you need to pay a lot of attention to the tongue weight in order to maintain control of your towing vehicle.
Ideally, the tongue weight should be about 10% to 15% of the gross trailer weight.
If you know the gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR), the gross axle weight rating (GAWR), the gross trailer weight (GTW), and the tongue weight (TW), you can safely and accurately determine whether or not your towing vehicle can actually successfully tow your towing load.
The gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR), the gross axle weight rating (GAWR), the gross trailer weight (GTW), and the tongue weight (TW) can all be found in the owner’s manual of your towing vehicle.
If you have lost your owner’s manual (let’s be honest here, I have), then you can Google the specs for your specific towing vehicle and get all the answers right there.
When you buy a new vehicle, whether it be the towing vehicle of the towing load, you should ask for the gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR), the gross axle weight rating (GAWR), the gross trailer weight (GTW), and the tongue weight (TW) to make sure you are buying what you actually want and need.
The Automated Safety Hitch
The automated safety hitch is a hitch you can install onto your towing load to connect to your towing vehicle. In small words, it simply adds another axle to your towing vehicle to give it more towing power.
This allows you to be able to tow your trailer, fifth wheel, RV, camper, or motor home with only a van or an SUV instead of having to buy a truck too. Of course, you’re going to have to make sure that your van or SUV has the proper towing capacity. A truck is still the safest best.
Most people who buy the automated safety hitch to go along with their truck. Trucks typically have a much higher towing capacity because they typically have higher gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR), the gross axle weight rating (GAWR), the gross trailer weight (GTW), and the tongue weight (TW).
The automated safety hitch is quite expensive, with prices that stabilize at around $10,000 to around $11,000. You also cannot buy the automated safety hitch online, and much find a dealer in your local area.
Try places that sell RVs and auto parts stores. However, many people believe that the pros of the automated safety hitch quite outweigh the cons of the automated safety hitch.
With the automated safety hitch, you can hitch on gooseneck fifth wheels outside of the truck bed, giving you more room for cargo or a sleeper cab (we’ll talk about sleeper cabs in a bit).
The hitch also attaches almost automatically, hence the name. All you have to do is attach the chains to your towing vehicle, flip a switch, and the hitch literally pulls itself towards you towing vehicle, aligning perfectly.
With an automated safety hitch, located far away from the bumper of the towing vehicle, backing up and tight turns become pretty easy. With a regular hitch, if you were to jackknife, your cab would collide with the fifth wheeler, resulting in damage to both vehicles.
However, because the hitch is further away from the towing vehicle, you can jackknife your vehicle even passed 120 degrees without having to worry about causing damage to your towing vehicle of to your fifth wheeler.
You will be longer, but with the added maneuverability that the automated safety hitch provides, that should cause a problem at all.
The automated safety hitch, since it is essentially an extra axle, also adds stability to both your vehicles during towing. You won’t shake as much on the road, you won’t be buffeted as much with the winds that come off of those pesky semi trucks, you will be able to switch lanes with ease, and you can travel up to 70 miles an hour without any problem.
Most people ask whether they can tow a fifth wheel with a van or an SUV because they have a large family with additional cargo, and it’s tough to fit all of that into on truck. Well, luckily there are a few solutions for that.
You can buy a truck with bench seats, which will sit up to seven people (four in the back and three in the front, with one between the driver’s seat and the passenger’s seat). You will be a little squished, and there isn’t much room for extra cargo like day packs or coolers.
The upside is that you can fit your whole family, and trucks with bench seats are available commercially, which means you don’t have to expend any extra cost on customizing.
You could install a sleeper cab in the back of your truck. This will decrease the amount of bed space you can use in your truck (although if you get the automated safety hitch, you won’t have to worry so much about the gooseneck getting in the way), but it will increase the amount of seating you can have.
A sleeper cab is just an attachment you slide in on the end of you truck cab that can include three or four more seats. There is limited access to the sleeper cab, but there is more room for day packs, coolers, and kids, plus it helps free up space in the front.
A sleeper cab will likely cost you around $2,500 dollars, and you’ll have to pay for professional installation.
You could purchase a six-door truck as well. A six-door truck is essentially a minivan hidden inside the bottom of the truck. You will likely be able to seat 8 in a six-door truck.
Six-door trucks are more expensive, but they are available commercially, so there is no need for customizing. They are also bigger, so you will need more room to maneuver.
If your family is just too big, you could consider getting two vehicles. The truck (seating only four) could tow the load and another vehicle (most likely a van or an SUV) could follow behind with the remaining family and extra cargo.
Whatever you decide to do, make sure that you know the towing capacity of your vehicle as well as the gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR), the gross axle weight rating (GAWR), the gross trailer weight (GTW), and the tongue weight (TW). Be safe and have fun!
How much can a truck tow? A half-ton pickup truck (or a medium, all wheel drive SUV) can tow about 5,000 pounds. Different trucks have different weight ratings, and different tow hitches have different weight ratings, so check both to find out the tow limitations of your vehicle.
Will my SUV or van burn up more gasoline while towing a fifth wheel? Any vehicle towing or carrying a heavy load will burn up more fuel. Pulling a fifth wheel with an SUV or van, as opposed to a truck, will burn up more fuel only because it is working harder to pull the heavier weight it was not necessarily built for. Trucks are built to carry heavier weights.