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There are several things that set apart a fifth-wheel trailer from a travel trailer. While at first glance the two seem to have a lot of similar features, a side-by-side comparison can highlight the differences.
The hitch defines the most basic difference between a travel trailer and a fifth-wheel trailer. A travel trailer attaches to the bumper of the towing vehicle with a ball-and-coupler hitch; a fifth-wheel trailer connects to the bed of a truck using a jaw hitch. Because of this set-up, the fifth-wheel trailer is more stable. Load-bearing hitches improve the stability of the travel trailer. A fifth-wheel trailer hitch is easier for one person to manipulate. Each type of hitch presents its own challenge when a driver is backing up, but practice will make the process easier.
Levels and Space
A fifth-wheel trailer offers more square footage of living space and quite a bit more storage, making it a bit more expensive than a travel trailer. The travel trailer is closer to the ground, and because everything is on one level, it offers easier access for people with disabilities. The lower roof height lessens the chance of catching on overhead objects while driving.
The SUV often used to pull a travel trailer offers more space for passengers, while traveling. A 5th wheel requires a pickup truck as a tow vehicle. Because of this, fewer people can travel, but the bed of the truck offers more hauling space than an SUV.
Weight and Length
A travel trailer is lighter, which causes less strain on the tow vehicle than the fifth-wheel trailer. This also leads to a lower fuel cost. The fifth-wheel trailer, because it goes over the truck bed, has less length, which can give the tow vehicle better control.
The fifth-wheel trailer has larger waste and fresh water tanks, which enables longer camping excursions away from facilities. It also has extra space for batteries.
Renee Winship is a published author and has worked in the family restaurant and catering business and has also worked in a medical lab facility. She's an adoptive parent and has worked in daycare. Winship has written more than 200 articles for Suite 101 and other online publications. She attended Southwest Missouri State University in Missouri with a nursing major.