Gooseneck vs 5th Wheel: Which Is the Better Pickup Truck Trailer Hitch?

Have you noticed pickup trucks cruising down the road with heavy trailers attached to the center of their bed? These trucks are modified with either a “gooseneck” or “5th wheel” hitch setup and are towing a compatible trailer. Both systems give the truck improved towing characteristics–you could even think of them as a mini semi truck. But there are several key differences between a gooseneck vs 5th wheel trailer setup, and I’ll explain them all below. The style you choose may simply come down to which one you can afford or the trailer you’re considering.

What’s the difference between a gooseneck vs 5th wheel?

A gooseneck setup is essentially a trailer hitch ball attached to the center of your pickup truck’s bed. A 5th wheel is a tower installed in the bed of your truck to move this axis point up higher, creating a smoother, quieter, and more stable ride.

GMC Sierra towing a gooseneck trailer down a driveway, houses visible in the background.
Heavy-duty GMC Sierra pulling a gooseneck trailer | EBY Trailers

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A 5th wheel also features a kingpin and clamping jaws hitch mechanism–similar to a semi truck. Modern 5th-wheels are nearly as strong as a simple gooseneck but can cost several thousand more.

Both hitch types work from the same principle: moving the hitch point up between your axles better balances the tongue weight of your trailer. This is because a trailer’s tongue can place hundreds or thousands of pounds of weight on your truck. Would you rather load thousands of pounds on your truck’s bumper or in its bed? Yeah, that’s what I thought.

Placing that much weight on the bumper of your truck reduces the weight on your front wheels. This makes it harder to brake and steer.

Both 5th wheel and gooseneck systems will increase the amount of weight many trucks can pull. It will make towing heavy trailers safer and smoother in any pickup truck. Finally, it dramatically decreases your turning radius–according to HowStuffWorks.com.

Which is stronger 5th wheel or gooseneck?

A gooseneck hitch is simpler than a 5th wheel and thus slightly stronger. But I’ll be honest: few truck owners will have to worry about the difference. This is because the strongest gooseneck can haul 30,000 pounds, while a 5th wheel can pull a respectable 27,000 pounds.

5th wheel hitch installed in the bed of a heavy-duty Ram truck.
2020 Ram Heavy Duty – 5th wheel gooseneck prep

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When towing heavy trailers, you should definitely consider how top-heavy your load is. A tall gooseneck trailer can be tippy, especially with a heavy crosswind. A 5th wheel effectively improves your control over a tall trailer by raising its axis point. In addition, a 5th wheel’s semi-truck-style kingpin and clamping jaws setup offers a bit more lateral control than a gooseneck’s standard trailer ball.

But if you are not worried about top-heavy loads, a regular gooseneck setup is just as strong–or stronger. A gooseneck is simple and durable. This is because it is a regular trailer hitch ball mounted in your pickup bed. The result is fewer parts to wear out. It can also be a cheaper option.

Is a 5th wheel worth the money?

The price of a 5th wheel setup is simple to calculate: just decide how much you want to haul and know you’ll pay more for a higher tow rating. The top-of-the-line hitches will run you $3,500, while you may find a budget setup for $500. According to rvtroop.com, you can expect to pay $1,500 for 20,000 to 25,000 pounds towing capacity.

Product photo of a black gooseneck trailer with a woodplank flatbed built by American Trailers.
Gooseneck flatbed trailer | American Trailers

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To be honest, many truck owners choose a trailer before a hitch setup. If there’s a specific RV or car hauler you are considering, its hitch type may dictate what you install on your truck. But be aware that a 5th wheel can be cumbersome to uninstall every time you want to use your pickup truck’s bed.

For 5th wheel money, you can also have a gooseneck ball installed beneath a trapdoor in your truck’s bed. This is often the best of both worlds: Going from pulling a heavy gooseneck trailer to a hauling bed-full of materials is as simple as closing a door.

Next, read about the half-ton pickup truck that can tow the most or see the difference between a gooseneck trailer vs 5th wheel in the video below:

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