What is the Best Fifth Wheel Hitch? – 2020 Reviews
Your truck is a powerful workhorse designed to handle the toughest jobs. But even the strongest trucks have limits on how much weight they can pull. This isn’t due to a lack of engine power but instead due to the limitations of the ball hitch.
Using the ball hitch on the bumper of your truck to pull a heavy load can cause a lot of problems. The truck can jackknife, the load can pull against the truck, the load can come loose and other calamities can occur.
However, there is a solution: a fifth-wheel hitch. This is a special type of hitch designed to carry heavy-duty loads such as a larger trailer or tractor trailer.
We’ve rounded up the best fifth wheel hitches for 2020. Plus, our complete buyer’s guide has all the info you need to know, and is suitable for both beginners and pros:
- Choosing A Fifth Wheel Hitch
- What Are Key Fifth Wheel Terms?
- Our #1 Pick – Curt 16245 5th Wheel Hitch
- Our #2 Pick – Anderson Hitches 3320 (Gooseneck Version)
- Our #3 Pick – Patriot 18K Slider from B&W Trailer Hitches
- Our #4 Pick – Reese Towpower 30047 16K Fifth Wheel Hitch
- Our #5 Pick – Curt 16055 Bent Plate 5th Wheel Rail Gooseneck Hitch
- Our #6 Pick – WiFi Magnetic Hitch Camera
- Our #7 Pick – B&W Companion RVK 3500 Fifth Wheel Hitch
- Our #8 Pick – Pulliam Enterprises, 2900 Superglide 18K for Std Base Rail
- Our #9 Pick – Pro Series 20K Fifth Wheel Hitch
- Our #10 Pick – Reese 30142 Elite Series
- Frequently Asked Questions About 5th Wheel Trailer Hitches
- How Does It Work?
- How Does It Connect to a Trailer?
- What’s Driving with a Fifth Wheel Hitch Like?
- What’s a Floating Hitch?
- Are There Different Types of Fifth Wheel Hitches?
- Single Jaw Hitches
- Double Jaw
- Sliding Bar Jaw
- What Kind of Truck Do You Have?
- What’s Your Capacity?
- What Kind Of Installation Do You Need?
- How Much Do They Cost?
- How Often Do You Tow Your Fifth Wheel?
- What Safety Info Do I Need to Know?
- Towing Capacity for Your Vehicle
- Gross Trailer Weight
- Towing Capacity for Hitch
- Final Thoughts
Choosing A Fifth Wheel Hitch
Knowing which hitch to choose is the first part of your process. It’s more complicated than merely getting a hitch and calling it a day. You’ll need to find a hitch that handles your needs safely and efficiently. Here’s what you should keep in mind.
What Are Key Fifth Wheel Terms?
Before you begin looking, let’s get familiar with some common fifth wheel vocabulary. These terms will come up as you’re making your decision.
- Extended Pin Box – A must for short bed trucks, this extension provides more length to prevent the trailer from hitting a cab on tight turns.
- Hitch coupler – This is the flat part that sits in your truck bed and provides the connection to your fifth wheel attachment. You can bolt or weld this piece to your truck for security.
- Hitch locking leveler – This piece locks down on the release bar. Get a locking mechanism for it, so you don’t accidentally detach the fifth wheel.
- King pin – This part is the fifth wheel attachment that fits into your hitch. This component is permanently attached to the fifth wheel. Certain hitches like single or dual jaw will create less noise on the king pin.
- Mounting rails – Required to mount the fifth wheel to the truck bed.
- Pucks – If you have an under-bed hitch prep mount (mounting rails located on the underside of the truck bed), the pucks will indicate its presence and location.
- Slider Fifth Wheel Hitch – This is a select type of hitch made for short bed trucks. It provides better length and angling for turning and maneuvering. Without it, you run the risk of your trailer hitting the cab when you make a tight turn.
Our Picks For Best 5th Wheel Hitch
Our #1 Pick – Curt 16245 5th Wheel Hitch
Dependable, durable and easy-to-attach, this 5th Wheel Hitch is a great choice if maneuverability is a must-have feature.
- Spherical axial bearing for smooth head movement
- Pulls up to 24,000 pounds
- Easy coupling with three-position indicator
- Simple packaging can result in dings and scratches during shipping
Capable of pulling up to 24,000 pounds, this hitch is definitely strong. But where it really shines is maneuverability. A spherical axial bearing allows the hitch head to tilt in any direction. The ride remains smooth and quiet at all times.
Dual jaws allow for 360-degree kingpin contact, which keeps the trailer under control and securely attached. Additionally, the secure fit keeps clunking and banging noises to a minimum.
All Q-Series hitches have self-aligning heads to allow for easy coupling. Plus, the three-position coupling indicator is easy to read through the back window of your vehicle. Overall, this hitch is a great choice if you frequently need to back your vehicle up at awkward angles in order to reach the trailer.
Our #2 Pick – Anderson Hitches 3320 (Gooseneck Version)
This lightweight aluminum fifth wheel hitch is incredibly easy to install and use. Great if a hitch is only needed occasionally.
- Can be installed and removed in just five minutes
- Lightweight and easy to store when not needed
- Easy to use by just one person
- Company can be difficult to reach
At just 25 pounds, this is one of the lightest hitches we’ve ever used. Plus, installation and removal can be completed in just five minutes. The 3320 version has an all-new ball-funnel for easy coupling up to three inches off ball center. One person can hook and unhook a trailer usually with no problem.
Versatility is another major feature here. The 3320 is designed for short, standard and long bed trucks. Compatible with major gooseneck hitch brands.
Don’t let the small size fool you. This hitch pulls up to 24,000 pounds with a tongue weight of 4,500 pounds. Additionally, height can be adjusted from 16-3/4, 17-7/8 and 19-1/8 inches.
Our #3 Pick – Patriot 18K Slider from B&W Trailer Hitches
The Patriot 18K is a heavy-duty (and extremely heavy) rail-mounted trailer hitch proudly made in the U.S.A.
- Rail-mounted, heavy-duty hitch suitable for big hauls
- Articulated head allows for a smooth ride
- Easy trailer release even on uneven ground
- Proudly made in the U.S.A.
- One of the heaviest hitches available
- Requires two people for installation
This rail-mounted fifth wheel hitch has a smooth, easy-to-use slide mechanism which reduces stress on both the trailer and the truck. Slide includes multi-directional automatic latching. Additionally, a fully articulated head lets the hitch pivot in any direction as appropriate.
Operation is easy. A positive engagement system provides easy reassurance the trailer is securely locked in. Plus, a Cam Action Handle allows for easy release even if you’re parked on a hill or other uneven terrain.
Durability is off-the-charts as this hitch is built like a tank. Perfect for heavy-duty jobs. However, this durability does have a slight downside: the hitch is very heavy. Installation is most likely a two-person job.
Our #4 Pick – Reese Towpower 30047 16K Fifth Wheel Hitch
A reliable, high-quality fifth wheel hitch with a secure and easy-to-use two-jaw locking system.
- Durable and strong
- Two-jaw locking system is easy to use
- Hitch is stable and well-made
- Jaws can be difficult to see in low light
- Not a rail system
Not every fifth wheel hitch needs to be packed with special features. What the 30047 from Reese lacks in frills it more than makes up for with craftsmanship and reliability. This is a strong, solid hitch rated to tow up to an impressive 16,000 pounds with a 4,000-pound pin weight capacity.
Coupling is usually pretty simple. The two-jaw locking system is operating by a handle. When backing your vehicle up to the trailer, you can hear when the jaws have locked into place. Additionally, the one-piece legs have a wide stance for extra stability, even on uneven terrain.
Every hitch is thoroughly tested by the manufacturer for quality and durability. Plus, the hitch includes a five-year warranty. Manufacturer Reese Towpower is generally considered easy to reach.
Our #5 Pick – Curt 16055 Bent Plate 5th Wheel Rail Gooseneck Hitch
This unique hitch allows pickup trucks equipped with fifth wheel rails to also tow gooseneck trailers. Cheaper than a traditional adapter but made from the high-quality you’d expect from Curt.
- Trust Curt brand name
- Allows fifth wheel rails to tow gooseneck trailers
- Affordable and safe
- Setup can be complicated
Expand your vehicle’s towing capabilities without spending a fortune or sacrificing safety. This hitch from Curt allows any pickup with fifth wheel rails to haul gooseneck trailers, too. Easily mounts to all industry-standard fifth wheel rails using four-pin installation.
Hitch features a welded two and 5/6-inch trailer ball with a three-inch rearward offset. Also includes built-in safety chain attachment slots. While you can spend more to buy a direct gooseneck adapter, this plate work just as well (and as safely) for a fraction of the cost:
Our #6 Pick – WiFi Magnetic Hitch Camera
A wireless, waterproof camera which displays a real-time rear view to help you easily guide your vehicle into proper coupling position with a trailer or other haul.
- Durable, waterproof rear-view camera
- Magnetic backing allows for plenty of placement options
- Superimposed yellow lines help vehicle navigation
- Images can only be displayed on one smart device at a time
- Multiple cameras can’t be networked together
Maneuvering your truck into the correct position to attach a trailer can be extremely frustrating. But this tiny camera can make a big difference. By providing a wireless video signal to your phone or other smart device, you can easily line your truck up for quick trailer coupling.
With an IP68 waterproof rating, camera works great in practically any weather conditions. Plus, six infra-red lights provide up to 30 feet of night vision even in total darkness. Great for providing coupling aid in less-than-ideal situations.
Attaching the camera is easy with a high-powered magnet. Simply stick the camera to any magnetic service and view the footage in real-time on any smart device you choose. Plug the camera into any USB port for quick charging.
Our #7 Pick – B&W Companion RVK 3500 Fifth Wheel Hitch
The B&W Companion is compatible with under-bed mounting, giving you a few different options for deciding on your mounting style.
- Heavy-duty option
- Polyurethane bushing for less road noise
- Straightforward installation
- Installation is a two-person job
- More significant investment than some other hitches
The B&W uses a four-way pivot system for simple maneuvering and a sure fit each time. It’s reliable and makes up for the lack of fancy features with straightforward operation.
It features a cam-action latching handle for quick releases and has polyurethane bushings to cut down on noise and rattling during operation. It has vertical adjustments for better coupling and has a load capacity of 20,000 pounds.
It’s durable, but it’s heavy. You’ll need some backup during installation because it weighs a lot more than most people can deadlift. Aside from that little detail, it’s certainly up to handling a lot from the environment and more than average usage. While installation isn’t a one-person job, the mechanics of attaching it are relatively simple.
Our #8 Pick – Pulliam Enterprises, 2900 Superglide 18K for Std Base Rail
The Pullium Enterprises hitch is a a great pick because it’s a durable option, even for heavy usage.
- High-performance sliding hitch
- Quiet operation with an automatic adjustment design
- Straightforward design and good for short truck beds
- More considerable investment than other options
- Challenging to install or remove (make sure you’ve got the right vehicle the first time)
The Pullium is a high-performance hitch offering 18,000 pounds of tow capacity. While that’s not the largest capacity around, it is a good rating for a sliding hitch option. It fits onto most standard rails for a highly versatile hitch with relatively quiet operation.
The hitch uses an automatic adjustment system to help save time over the manual operation. While this design of hitch can be a little expensive, it’s worth it if you don’t like manual adjustments. It uses sturdy materials designed to withstand a lot.
If you’ve got a short truck bed, this option works exceptionally well and provides long-lasting performance that makes the price point worth it in many cases. Plus, if you travel a lot, the noise reduction is an excellent addition.
While usage is simple, it’s challenging to install and remove. It’s best to make sure that you’re putting it on a spot that you know will stay for a while. Other than that, it’s straightforward and a dependable workhorse.
Our #9 Pick – Pro Series 20K Fifth Wheel Hitch
The Pro Series is another four-way pivoting model with a five-degree side tilt for straightforward installation and operation.
- A lightweight option for solo installation
- Four-way pivot with five-degree side tilt
- More affordable than some other options on the list
- Doesn’t come with a rail kit
- No special features with this design
The Pro Series uses a slide bar mechanism with a rounded outline, so you have the choice for automatic latching. If you travel full time, this can save you a lot of headaches over the life of your hitch.
Installation is straightforward and features vertical adjustments for accuracy. It has a wide stance with one-piece legs and offers a 20,000-pound load capacity. It’s not fancy, but it’s reliable and highly durable.
It doesn’t have some of the unique features of more expensive hitches, but it does have the reliability that’s rare for some tools. You’ve got easy pivoting, vertical adjustments, and the potential for self-latching. These outweigh the cost and can add up to some serious ease.
The downside is that it doesn’t come with a rail kit, which does help save you money if you’ve got one. However, it will be an extra expense if you’re just starting. The upside is that it’s a lighter weight option if you’re the only one responsible for installation, and it’s hard to mess up installation with this option.
Our #10 Pick – Reese 30142 Elite Series
The Reese Elite has an 18,000-pound load capacity, putting it on the lighter end, but the ease of installation makes this one a good option for smaller hitch needs.
- Super easy installation with a wide funnel area
- Uses Powder coated steel
- Four-way pivot system
- Lower weight rating than some others
- Packaging is sketchy
The Reese Elite is a highly user-friendly hitch that rarely disappoints. It has a wide funnel area for extremely smooth installations and a powder-coated steel frame that won’t chip or crack. It’s highly durable in a variety of weather and able to withstand heavy usage. It’s built for enduring elements, so if you travel in varied environmental conditions, this could be a good choice.
The Reese Elite uses a four-way pivot system to ensure easy maneuvering and offers straightforward attachments for a reliable hitch every time.
The company sometimes slacks on the packaging, so you might be a little surprised by what you find at delivery. However, the hitch itself is highly durable and won’t get damaged during shipping. You’ve got a lot of options here despite the lower capacity, and the straightforward installation makes this one a great choice.
Frequently Asked Questions About 5th Wheel Trailer Hitches
How Does It Work?
The fifth wheel hitch is a large, flat, metal plate which is housed in the bed of the truck. Metal rails running underneath the hitch attach to the frame of the pickup truck. The hitch itself is horseshoe-shaped.
When a trailer or similar is attached, the weight of the load presses down between the truck’s cab and rear axle. This provides more support and better weight distribution – especially when compared to a ball hitch. Your entire truck can help support the load, not just the bumper. Pretty much any standard pickup truck can be equipped with a fifth-wheel hitch.
How Does It Connect to a Trailer?
Coupling is usually pretty simple. The trailer and hitch connect with a special downward-facing pin called a kingpin. Additionally, a plate is set on top of the fifth wheel hitch plate.
Once the kingpin is locked into position, the trailer remains securely connected but can also pivot as the vehicle turns. The two flat plates (one from the trailer, the other from the hitch) slide one another constantly during travel. Both must remain well-lubricated.
The front of the trailer extends over the rear bumper beyond the rear axle. It connects to the access point in the middle of the truck bed. Large campers or trailers will look like they’re hovering over the truck bed.
What’s Driving with a Fifth Wheel Hitch Like?
Generally, you’ll feel much more in control when pulling a heavy trailer using a fifth wheel hitch than when pulling much lighter loads with a ball joint on the bumper.
The fifth wheel hitch allows the load to move with the truck. All fifth wheel hitches pivot both towards the front and back of the truck bed. This helps limit the stress placed on the kingpin when the vehicle is both going up or down a hill.
What’s a Floating Hitch?
But quality hitches go a step further. You’ll probably want a hitch with “four-way pivot.” In addition to moving forward and backward, this hitch also moves left and right in the truck bed. The trailer will remain hitched even if its leaning.
Also called floating hitches, these four-way pivots are well-suited for hauling across uneven terrain. Note that this doesn’t necessarily mean four-wheeling through off-road conditions. Even streets which are flat and simple for cars can be complicated for a large truck hauling a trailer. Floating hitches are often just as useful in the city as they are in the country.
Are There Different Types of Fifth Wheel Hitches?
There are three different types, each with pluses and minuses:
Single Jaw Hitches
This is a popular, reliable type of hitch. As the name implies, the locking jaw is just one piece. Basically, it acts as a wedge, connecting the trailer to the truck.
Although it’s the simplest type of hitch, it also provides the maximum amount of contact between the jaw and kingpin. This makes it very safe and reliable. Plus, the snug connection minimizes noise and jostling from the trailer, making for a quieter ride in the truck.
The double jaw surrounds the kingpin. When the kingpin hits the rear of the jaw, both jaws then snap closed. This securely locks the kingpin inside the fifth wheel.
Double jaws lock automatically when the kingpin is in the correct position. This makes attachment easy, especially in poor weather and light conditions. You can hear and feel that the connection is secure even if you can’t see the hitch very clearly.
Sliding Bar Jaw
This is usually the least secure and powerful type of hitch. A locking bar creates a barrier to contain the kingpin. With a sliding bar hitch, you’ll hear lots of knocking noises when driving. Generally, most people will have a much better experience with either a single or double jaw type.
What Kind of Truck Do You Have?
The type of truck will narrow down your choices as well because different setups may require different hitches.
Truck make and model: For some trucks, there’s a specific hitch made for the exact make and model. If nothing else, this gets you where you need to be without much fuss.
Truck length: Long truck beds (eight feet or more) use traditional fifth wheel hitches because there’s enough space between the connecting point and the cab to allow tight turns. Short truck beds need specialized hitches to provide length and angle to prevent the trailer from hitting the cab on tight turns.
Installation should be located right in front of the truck’s rear axle. With short bed trucks, there’s not enough space to ensure correct positioning, which could damage your cab or your trailer.
Truck liner type: If you don’t have a unique liner in your truck bed, you can use traditional and slider hitches without an issue. Plastic liners will have to be modified to accommodate a fifth-wheel hitch and won’t accommodate a slider hitch at all.
Pucks or base rails: If your truck has either pucks or metal base rails that go from left to right, you’ll have to use hitches that are designed to accommodate both types. This can narrow down your choices as well.
What’s Your Capacity?
If you haven’t bought a fifth wheel yet and you’re in the market, you’ll need to consider the towing capacity of your tow vehicle first. Fifth wheels range from around 15,000 pounds to upwards of 30,000 or so pounds, so your first goal is to figure out what your truck is capable of towing or the “weight rating.”
Once you’ve worked that out, you’ll need to choose a hitch capable of towing the trailer you have. If you misread this step, you’ll end up damaging your hitch and having to install a new one or potentially ruining your truck bed completely. Plus, if the hitch breaks while in use, you may cause a lot of damage.
What Kind Of Installation Do You Need?
Some hitches are too heavy to install on your own, so you’ll need backup or the added cost of professional installation. Other hitches are lighter and designed to fit into your truck’s existing system, whether it’s got base rails or an under-bed hitch mount.
For first-timers, getting a professional installation done ensures you’ve taken all the steps, and you won’t end up with a broken hitch or a poorly aligned fifth wheel. It’s always best to be sure, rather than taking a chance.
If you’ve done this before, you may not need professional installation, but it does help to have someone around who can back you up when you need it. Regardless, decide what kind of help you’ll need before you do anything.
How Much Do They Cost?
Your budget will determine the type of hitch you can get, but this is not a time to bargain shop to death. Your hitch keeps both your tow vehicle and your fifth wheel safe, so you’ll need to invest in a long-lasting kind that’s the right type for your truck.
For example, if you have a short bed truck and you decide not to spend the money on a slider type hitch because they can be more expensive, you’re going to regret it down the road. You won’t be able to maneuver around tight corners, and you run a grave risk of damaging your back glass on a turn. You can also damage your fifth wheel body.
If you decide to rig up a hitch that isn’t meant to work with your particular tow vehicle just to save on your budget, you may end up spending a lot more than you would have to fix a mistake and smoothing safety issues.
It’s best to build the budget for your hitch into the overall fifth wheel budget. Doing that part right the first time will save you a lot of headaches in the long run. As you get towing experience, you’ll appreciate those decisions.
In some cases, you can help your budget by getting simple hitches such as a traditional slide bar or getting a two-way pivot hitch. Consider these options carefully because hearing that extra noise can get old, and you could find yourself in situations where a two pivot just makes things a lot harder down the road.
How Often Do You Tow Your Fifth Wheel?
If you go out only a few weekends a year or don’t have much towing experience, you can get away with a budget hitch that makes noise and doesn’t offer the same freedom of movement that others do. You won’t build up resentment for the clanging around, and you shouldn’t have to maneuver in any exciting spaces.
If you’re the type to go out in your fifth wheel a lot or you live permanently in it, you’ll want to upgrade to the type of hitch that can make things easier for you. You’ll be able to attach a fifth wheel weighing between 15,000 to 30,000 pounds quickly and safely. A dual jaw or single jaw, for example, will cut down on a lot of your king pin noise.
Getting fancier hitches can ensure that you’re able to detach your fifth wheel safely and quickly. If you’re full time or close to it, you’ll need your truck to get around while your trailer is parked. A hitch that’s easy to detach can make all the difference for these little things.
What Safety Info Do I Need to Know?
Not every hitch is appropriate for every truck. Before buying any fifth wheel hitch, make sure it’s safe to use on your specific vehicle. Otherwise, your truck, trailer and even your life can be at risk.
Here are the three major ratings you’ll need to know:
Towing Capacity for Your Vehicle
Your owner’s manual will list your vehicle’s specific towing capacity. This is the most weight your vehicle can safely haul. Unfortunately, that’s a hard limit. Even if your fifth wheel hitch is capable of hauling more weight, your vehicle will seriously damaged (at the very least) if you try.
Gross Trailer Weight
This is the total weight of the trailer. It’s not just the weight of the trailer itself but also the additional weight of everything stored within. Gross Trailer Weight is also called True Weight.
Towing Capacity for Hitch
Each hitch will have a maximum towing capacity, with double jaw hitches typically able to handle more weight than single ones. This rating should be more than the True Weight of your trailer.
However, the hitch’s maximum towing capabilities shouldn’t exceed your vehicle’s total towing capacity. Of course, you can still safely use a hitch to tow less than its full capacity. But having such a hitch on your vehicle can result in you accidentally trying to pull more than your vehicle is capable of, which can result in serious damage.
A fifth wheel hitch is the easiest and safest way to haul trailers and other large loads. Plus, they can be fitted into almost any type of pick-up. If you’re looking for the best 5th wheel hitch for your vehicle, our complete guide will help hook you up!