When it comes to picking out the right RV, a fifth wheel hauler is sometimes the best option. If you already have a pickup truck, why buy something that has a cab? Not only can it be more affordable in the long run, but this way you don’t have to worry about traveling around outside of the RV since you already have a smaller vehicle handy.
However, if you are going to go with an RV trailer, then you have to be sure that you get the right kind of hitch. Since these vehicles can weigh a lot and towing presents its own set of challenges, you have to be sure that you’re getting the best hitch for your needs.
Today I’m going to be talking to you about fifth wheel hitches for short bed trucks. If you don’t have a full-size pickup, then you’ll have to pick out a hitch that accommodates the shorter stature of your vehicle. I’m going to discuss the ins and outs of fifth wheel hitches, as well as show you some of the models I like best.
Fifth Wheel vs. Bumper Pull
Although you could pick out an RV that tows directly behind your truck like any other kind of trailer, fifth wheel options can be a lot better because they offer more room for living accommodations. However, because the RV hangs over your truck bed, it presents some new challenges that you have to consider.
For the most part, your biggest concerns are going to be hitting the RV trailer into your truck. In some cases, the front will hit the back of your cab when you stop (if you’re not careful). In other instances, you may have to worry about jackknifing on semi-tight corners. With a standard pull trailer, these are not issues that come up.
Overall, I recommend practicing with a fifth wheel once you get it hitched up so that you know what to expect. Also, be sure that you’re not getting one that’s too big for your truck. When you have a shorter bed, the risk of hitting the trailer against your cab is much higher.
How to Choose a Fifth Wheel Hitch for Short Bed Trucks
When talking about fifth wheel hitches, there are three primary options from which to choose. Let’s look at the pros and cons of each one.
If you’re on a budget, then a fixed hitch may be a great option for you. However, these models are usually designed for long-bed trucks since you have more room for the trailer to maneuver when making tight turns. Fixed hitches install to the bottom of your truck bed and don’t move at all. As such, you have to be sure that you have sufficient space between the RV and your cab so that you don’t smash a corner into your truck whenever you have to take a turn.
For the most part, sliding hitches are going to be your best option for fifth wheel haulers in a short bed truck. The reason for this is that they allow the trailer to slide back and forth on turns to avoid hitting or scraping. Manual slide hitches are perfect if you’re trying to save money, but they can be a bit of a pain.
One thing that I hate about manual slide hitches is that you have to pull over to the side of the road every time you are going to be making turns. Since the front of the trailer will be close to your cab, skipping this step can result in some hefty damage. Also, it’s really easy to forget to adjust the hitch, especially when you’ve been on the road for a while. For my money, I would suggest upgrading to an automatic slide instead.
This hitch type operates the same way as the manual version, except it works automatically. This means that you don’t have to stop and get out every time you are going to make a turn that could damage your truck or your RV.
The downside is that these models can be expensive. However, they are much less costly than repairing your truck and your trailer, so take that into account. Also, there are fewer models to choose from, so you should consider that as well. Nonetheless, the convenience and peace of mind that these hitches offer is substantial. If you plan on taking your RV out a lot, it could be a really great choice.
Because you’ll be hauling thousands of pounds of RV, it’s imperative that you get a hitch that is rated for the size of your trailer. Also, you should pay attention to the tow rating of your truck to ensure that you won’t run into any problems, such as if you have to drive up or down an incline.
Hitches will usually be listed with a max weight rating, which can range from 12,000 to 30,000 pounds. If your trailer is less than what it shows, you’re in the clear. However, if you’re not sure, then I always suggest that you err on the side of caution. If you get a hitch with a lower rating than what you’re hauling, it could lead to disaster out on the road. Don’t put yourself in that position.
Another thing to pay attention to is the tongue weight rating. This measurement refers to the amount of weight that will be applied to the ball itself. According to experts, the tongue weight should be between 10-15 percent of the total weight of the trailer. For the most part, if the gross trailer weight rating (GTWR) matches the size of your RV, the tongue should also be properly rated. However, it helps to double check, just in case.
Although there are benefits to using a fifth wheel trailer, the installation process is a lot more involved. With a standard pull-behind RV, you just have to hook the trailer up to the ball at the back of your truck. With fifth wheel models, however, you have to mount your hitch to the truck bed. The installation method you choose is crucial, especially when talking about short bed vehicles. There are two primary options available.
If you don’t use your pickup for hauling a lot of stuff when you’re not towing a trailer, then an above bed set of rails is an excellent choice. Not only is it easier to mount (in my opinion), but many of these sets can be more affordable overall.
The way this system works is that you mount a couple of rails to the top of your bed. When doing so, it helps to find a model that will fit both your particular truck and the hitch you will be using. Although there are industry standard rails, not all hitches can work with them, so you have to double check before getting started.
Also, making sure that your rails match your truck means that you don’t have to worry about drilling extra holes. Instead, the system will attach to holes that are already in the truck bed.
I highly recommend this mounting system if you use your pickup for other things besides RVing. Since the bed will be empty when you’re not towing, you don’t have to worry about removing and reinstalling the rails every time you head out.
Below bed systems are a bit trickier to install, but they can be well worth the extra effort for the convenience that they offer in exchange. In this case, the hitch will mount to brackets that come up through the truck bed, rather than attaching to the rails directly.
Built-In Puck Systems
If you have a Ford, GM, or Dodge Ram truck, newer models may include fifth wheel puck sets that install to the truck bed directly. In this case, you don’t have to worry about rails or installing anything because the work has already been done for you. However, if your short bed truck doesn’t have this setup already, it’s not worth it to buy a brand-new vehicle just to get this upgrade.
Recommended Fifth Wheel Hitches for Short Bed Trucks
As I mentioned above, fixed hitches can be something of a mixed bag when working with a short bed truck. Since you can’t adjust the position of the trailer for turning, you have to be sure that you have a sufficient turn radius to avoid damaging your RV or your truck.
That being said, if you’ve measured everything and a fixed hitch will work fine in your situation, then you can’t do much better than the Andersen 3200 model.
What I like most about this unit is that it’s super easy to install. Whether you have above or below bed rails, this will fit any industry standard system, which makes it easier to find a rail set that fits your truck. Also, mounting it in and pulling it off is super easy. In many cases, you can be done in a couple of minutes.
The other thing that’s really cool about this hitch is that it uses a ball for the coupler. This means that you get more swivel action when turning. As long as your trailer isn’t too long, you can make much tighter turns without any problems.
When looking at the coupler, there are a few key features that make the 3200 such an excellent hitch. First, it doesn’t use grease to stay mobile, which means that you don’t have to worry about getting your hands dirty every time you use the hitch. Second, it has three height settings so that it can fit a wider variety of fifth wheel trailers.
Another impressive thing about the coupler is that it comes with a ball funnel. This allows you to mount it much more easily since you don’t have to be precise when backing in. You have about three inches of leeway on all sides, making it much more efficient, especially when attaching the trailer by yourself.
Finally, this system comes with a remote release cable. No longer will you have to climb in and out of the truck to release the coupler. Instead, you can pull the trigger, and you’re ready to go. Overall, Andersen has made this hitch as convenient and easy to use as possible.
The only potential drawback is that you may have a limited turning radius, but that depends on the size of your bed, the size of your trailer, and the position of the hitch itself. As long as all of those elements are in sync, you’re ready to hit the road.
Relatively lightweight design (40 pounds)
Easy to install – takes minutes (with rails already present)
20,000 lbs Gross Trailer Weight Ratio (GTWR)
4,500 lb tongue weight
Three height adjustments for convenience
Greaseless coupler means less mess
Ball funnel makes it easier to hook into place
Fits all standard size rails
Remote release cable assembly included
More swivel action
In rare cases, this model may start to rust over time
Ball funnel is not as durable as other parts
If you have a newer Ford truck that came with a built-in fifth wheel mounting puck set, then you are eligible to use this OEM companion hitch from B&W Hitches. However, if you don’t have that particular make and model, then you’re out of luck. Nonetheless, if you are eligible, this hitch has a lot of excellent features that make it a great choice for RVing.
One thing that I like about this unit is that it has locking jaws for holding on. The jaws provide 360-degree contact to the trailer hitch, ensuring that you don’t have to worry about bucking and chucking during your ride. To make it even easier, the jaws are connected to a cam handle so that you can lock and unlock the system without any problems.
The other thing that I appreciate about this hitch is that it has a bit of a funnel guide to get the ball into the jaws. When backing up your truck by yourself, having this bit of leeway makes the job so much more efficient.
When comparing strength and stability, this hitch is rated for up to 20,000 pounds of gross trailer weight ratio, and it has 5,000 pounds of tongue weight. It offers three height positions, and it provides you with an additional two inches of clearance. This added height allows you to swivel more easily.
Because this hitch mounts to an internal puck system, installation and removal is a snap. I like that it frees up your truck bed for hauling anything else when you’re not RVing, and it doesn’t require any additional installation parts. Overall, as long as you’re eligible to use it and you have a trailer that won’t smash into your cab, this is a fantastic hitch.
Durable powder coated steel construction
Locking jaw mechanism for stability
Fits Ford Puck systems
Easy installation and removal
Lockable design for security
20,000 lb GTWR
5,000 lb tongue weight
Articulating head for easier hookup and less chucking
Dual jaws offer 360-degree contact
Three height settings
Additional two inches of clearance for convenience
Latch handle for efficiency
Five-year limited warranty (from manufacturer)
Not built for any other truck model
In rare cases, internal components may start to rust over time
If you liked everything that the Andersen 3200 fixed hitch had to offer, then you will love this upgraded version. The 3220 is a lighter and easier to use hitch, making it a viable option for anyone who appreciates speed and efficiency.
As with all fixed hitches, you still have to measure the space between the trailer and your cab to ensure that you won’t jackknife on any turns. However, as with the 3200, this hitch mounts to any standard rail system, so installation is a breeze.
Overall, the 3220 comes with all of the same excellent features as the 3200, but it weighs less and can haul more. It’s only 35 pounds instead of 40, and it can tow up to 24,000 pounds instead of 20. The lighter weight is a great thing because installing and removing it is so much easier when you don’t have to lug a massive hitch by hand. Also, the better GTWR rating is excellent, especially if you’re worried about the size of your trailer.
The coupler is the other awesome thing about this hitch. Since it attaches to a ball joint, you get a lot of swivel action when turning. The coupler itself is not lubricated with grease, so there’s no mess to worry about, and no cleanup required. As with the 3200, you get three height adjustments, ensuring that this hitch can fit a wider variety of fifth wheel haulers.
My favorite component is the ball funnel, which makes it easier to hook up your trailer by yourself. With three inches of clearance on each side, you don’t have to spend a ton of time repositioning yourself to get it just right.
Finally, the remote latching system is incredible. However, the length of the wire can be a bit limiting, so make sure that you can install it so that it’s still accessible without having to get out of the truck. Otherwise, what’s the point of having it at all?
Durable and lightweight
Weighs just 35 pounds
Fits all industry standard rails
Greaseless coupler for less mess
24,000 lbs GTWR
4,500 lbs tongue weight
Three height adjustments for convenience
Install or remove in less than five minutes
Ball allows for more swivel action
Ball funnel for easier hookup
Remote latch for coupling and uncoupling
In rare cases, the ball may start to rust
Latching system cable is relatively short
Our final hitch model is a manual slider from Curt. This brand is one of the better known in the RV industry, and I am always impressed by the level of quality and attention to detail that the company provides.
In this case, we have a rolling slider. This means that the hitch is on ball bearings to provide smoother movement. What I like about this system is that the handles on the side lock and unlock with ease, meaning that you don’t have to force it for it to work. In fact, the company boasts that it’s a “single-handed” mechanism.
The other thing that I like about this hitch is the construction. While it’s not rated to tow as much weight as other models we’ve seen, it’s built to last. Not only is the powder-coated steel weather resistant, but it automatically locks when coupling to provide extra stability and security. To make things even easier, it has a wide opening so that backing in is a breeze. You don’t have to be precise to get it locked into place.
You can adjust the height of this hitch in four different ways, which allows you to connect a wider variety of fifth wheel trailers to it. However, be aware that you only get 12 inches of slide and 10 degrees of pivoting, so it’s imperative that your trailer fits within those parameters.
Finally, this hitch comes with a remarkable five-year warranty.
Manual slide hitch
12-inch sliding mechanism
Durable steel construction
Fits most standard rail systems
Tows up to 16,000 pounds
Tongue weight of 4000 pounds
Pivots up to 10 degrees for tighter turning
Automatically locks when coupling
Wide opening for easier connection
Powder coated materials are weather-resistant
Four height adjustment positions
Single-handed operation for efficiency
Five-year limited warranty
Really heavy (over 200 pounds)
Pivot ratio is not as significant as other models
When comparing these fifth wheel trailer hitches, I have to say that the 3220 is my top pick. Even if you have a compatible truck for the B&W hitch, the 3220 has some incredible features. Since they are both fixed models, I highly recommend Andersen over anything else. Not only that, but you can reposition your rails as needed to ensure that your trailer doesn’t smash into the back of your cab.
Overall, I love the convenience offered by the 3220, as well as the lightweight design and remote latching system. As far as fixed trailer hitches go, this is one of my favorite for any truck, short bed or otherwise.