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Can You Pull a Fifth Wheel Trailer with a Van or SUV?

Published on January 16th, 2019 by Jim Harmer
This post was updated on April 19th, 2021

Technically, a special tool will let you pull a fifth wheel trailer with a van or SUV. But if you just bought the trailer of your dreams and don’t own the best fifth wheel truck to pull it, here’s some ideas that can get it safely moved.

Can you pull a fifth wheel trailer with a van or SUV?

Let’s get one thing straight. The average weight of fifth wheels are almost always above the towing capacity of a van or SUV. Fifth Wheel RVs should only be towed by trucks with suitable towing ratings. But if you’re in a pinch you can buy a specialized tool called an Automated Safety Hitch to get an emergency towing job done. This hitch technically makes it possible to pull a fifth wheel trailer with a van or SUV with a gooseneck trailer hitch.

This article goes into depth about the tow ratings for vans and SUVs. You will learn which hitches to buy to pull a fifth wheel with a van or SUV. I will also tell you about some hauling trucks that can take your family on a trip with the fifth wheel.

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First, Know the Tow Ratings for Your Van or SUV

There are a few things to consider before you buy that Automated Safety Hitch tool. Keep reading before you hook up your trailer, truck camper, motor home, RV, or fifth wheel to your van, SUV, or truck tow hitch.

First, you have to know the towing capacity of whatever vehicle will tow the trailer. Different trucks have different weight ratings. Different tow hitches have different weight ratings. Check both to find out the tow limitations of your vehicle. This is determined by a few factors.

The GVWR: this 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. The initial weight of your towing vehicle is also included.

The GAWR: this is the Gross Axle Weight Rating.

The gross axle weight rating tells how much weight you can put on your rear axle and your front axle. There will be different gross axle weight rating for each axle. Get the right number by factoring in the weight of everything you will put in the trailer and tow vehicle.

The GTW: this 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: this 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 on how you position the cargo or the load on the trailer or fifth wheel. Any RV owner must pay 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 if your tow 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 lost your owner’s manual then you can Google the specs for your specific towing vehicle to get the figures.

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 an appropriate tow vehicle.

How Vans and SUVs Can Tow Fifth Wheels

The automated safety hitch allows you to pull a fifth wheel with a van or SUV. This is a hitch you can install onto your towing setup to connect to your tow vehicle to trailer. Basically it adds another axle to your tow vehicle to give it more towing power. You can then hitch up to gooseneck fifth wheel hitches outside of the truck bed. This gives you more room for cargo or a sleeper cab (we’ll talk about sleeper cabs in a bit). Of course, you want to make sure that your van or SUV has the right towing capacity. A medium or heavy duty truck is still the safest best.

The hitch is easy to use. It attaches almost automatically, hence the name. All you have to do is attach the chains to your towing vehicle, and flip a switch. The hitch literally pulls itself towards you towing vehicle, aligning perfectly.

With an automated safety hitch, your total RV length is longer, but maneuverability is better. You will be located far away from the bumper of the towing vehicle. This makes backing up and tight turns relatively easy. Also, since the hitch rides further away from the towing vehicle, you can jackknife your vehicle even 120 degrees. You’ll never have to worry about damaging your towing vehicle or fifth wheel.

Many people believe that the pros of the automated safety hitch outweigh the cons. This, despite the high cost of an automated safety hitch, typically between $10k and $11k. You cannot buy the automated safety hitch online. You’ll need to work with an automated safety hitch dealer directly. Ask your nearest RV repair shop for references.

Other Fifth Wheel Towing Options

Most people ask if a van or SUV can tow a fifth wheel because they have a large family with additional cargo. It’s tough to fit all of that into on truck. Luckily there are a few solutions without having to buy an automated safety hitch.

By a truck with bench seats. Many trucks can 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). The downside is you will be a little squished. There also 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.

Install a sleeper cab in the back of your truck. This will decrease the amount of bed space you can use in your truck. But it increases the amount of passenger seating. A sleeper cab is just an attachment you slide in on the end of you truck cab that includes 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. Sleeper cabs cost around $2,500 dollars, and you’ll have to pay for professional installation.

Buy a six-door truck. 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.

Get two vehicles. The truck (seating only four) could tow the fifth wheel. Another vehicle (most likely a van or an SUV) could follow behind with the remaining family and extra cargo.


Technically you can pull a fifth wheel with a van or SUV if you have an automated safety hitch. But 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!

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