What Is a Gooseneck Trailer Hitch?

Modern pickup trucks are mean lean towing machines. Upgrading your truck with a gooseneck hitch in the center of its bed is an excellent way to increase its towing capacity and help it better handle those heavy loads. But don’t get a gooseneck trailer hitch mixed up with a 5th wheel. Here’s the difference between the two and the benefit of these aftermarket hitches.

What’s a gooseneck hitch?

A gooseneck hitch is simply a trailer ball bolted to the center of your pickup truck bed. A gooseneck trailer is named for its long, goose-like neck. This neck is engineered to curve up over a tailgate and down to bed level, ending with a trailer ball receiver.

Advertising photo of a black gooseneck trailer with a wood plank flatbed load floor.
Gooseneck flatbed | American Trailers

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A gooseneck hitch may look like an unobtrusive trailer hitch ball in the center of a pickup bed, but there’s often more going on. For example, gooseneck hitch ball must be affixed to load-bearing cross-members. Many are installed below the truck bed floor, complete with a hinged trapdoor to turns hide it away when you want a regular pickup bed.

When a truck is modified with a gooseneck hitch ball, its trailer wiring must also be modified. The truck must have a trailer outlet closer to the gooseneck ball, so the wiring doesn’t tangle while the truck’s cornering. Finally, it must have loops for the trailer’s safety chains welded into the truck bed.

What is the advantage of a gooseneck hitch?

A gooseneck hitch–just like a 5th wheel hitch–places the hitch point between your truck’s axles. Better weight distribution makes any truck more stable while trailering and may even increase its towing capacity. Finally, it allows tighter turns without jackknifing the trailer.

Red dualie pickup truck pulling a flatbed gooseneck EBY trailer through a gravel lot, blue sky visible in the background.
Flatbed gooseneck trailer | EBY Trailers

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If you were loading thousands of pounds into your pickup truck, would you stack it all on the back bumper? I certainly hope not. This much weight behind your rear wheel would stress the rear suspension. It would reduce the weight on your front wheels, making braking and cornering more difficult.

It would be a much better idea to load up your pickup bed, even pushing the weight forward to center it between your axles. But attaching a trailer hitch ball to the tail of your vehicle is akin to loading hundreds of pounds onto its bumper. Both Gooseneck and 5th wheel trailer hitches are engineered to better balance the load that is your trailer’s tongue weight.

What is the difference between a 5th wheel hitch and a gooseneck?

A 5th-wheel trailer is an evolution of gooseneck hitch technology. It’s essentially a tower installed in your pickup truck bed with a receiver for a trailer hitch’s kingpin. Thus a 5th-wheel trailer has a long tongue but doesn’t swoop down like a gooseneck.

Promo photo of a gray heavy-duty Ram pickup truck bed with a factory-installed 5th wheel trailer hitch.
Heavy-duty Ram truck with a 5th wheel | Stellantis

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Why bother installing a 5th wheel? One major benefit is that it moves your hitch point up higher, and this new axis improves your control over a tall trailer–especially in windy conditions. This new axis also means the entire rig will be quieter and smoother while hurtling down the road. Fifth-wheel trailer technology is similar to what you see on modern tractor-trailer semi trucks–according to HowStuffWorks.com.

Two major downsides to a 5th wheel include the price of installing one in your pickup and the amount of space it will take up in your bed. Some truck owners do remove their 5th wheel tower when they need a full pickup bed, but its not easy to do. A 5th wheel essentially turns your truck into a dedicated trailer hauler. But if you have your eyes on a specific trailer or RV, the type of trailer you buy may dictate which hitch you install in your truck bed.

Next, find out which half-ton pickup truck can tow the most or see the difference between a gooseneck trailer and a regular “bumper pull” demonstrated in the video below:

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