Smackdown: Fifth-Wheel and Gooseneck RV Hitches

Which hitch type is better? And which one is right for you?
There’s so much information out there on RV hitches, and some of the product descriptions seem to require an engineering degree to decode! To help you decide which hitch is right for you, we’ve identified the six key differences between fifth-wheel and gooseneck hitches. See which hitch type wins our head-to-head smackdown.

Differences between gooseneck and fifth-wheel hitches.

Before we dive in, we need to cover a few tidbits so we’re clear on what we’re comparing. Both the fifth-wheel hitch and the gooseneck hitch attach in the middle of a heavy-duty truck bed. A gooseneck uses a ball hitch, with the hookup resembling a goose’s neck, while a fifth-wheel hitch attaches to a downward-facing pin called a kingpin, locking on with more of a claw or vice-grip style. Gooseneck hitches are more commonly used for farm or industrial-style purposes, such as towing a horse trailer.

If you’ve purchased a vehicle that already has a hitch, there’s no need to reinvent the wheel. Simply look to see whether you are working with a tongue-mounted coupler, a kingpin arm and box, or a gooseneck coupler, and go from there.

So, how much do you know about fifth-wheel hitches and how they compare to gooseneck hitches? Good news—you don’t need to know anything (yet) except for these six points in order to make the best choice for your needs.

1. Compatibility

Trailers are often built specifically for certain types of hitches. You really don’t want to get too fancy with adapters without referencing your trailer’s specs, or you could risk voiding the trailer’s manufacturer warranty. Aren’t sure what your trailer’s frame was built to handle? A fifth-wheel hitch is a safer bet, as more RVs pair with fifth-wheel hitches without the need for modification. And, if you change your mind, you can always get an adapter to transform it to a gooseneck later on.

The Convert-a-Ball Coupler Adapter from Reese RV Hitches is a great option. If you need a gooseneck adapter for a fifth-wheel hitch, you can use this to convert your trailer's kingpin to function as a gooseneck hitch.

WINNER: Fifth-wheel hitch

 

2. Ride

Never underestimate the value of a smooth ride. This key feature will reduce strain on your trailer, your RV, your vehicle, your bodypretty much the whole rig.

A fifth-wheel hitch generally gets a smoother ride on its own (without any bells and whistles) compared to a gooseneck hitch. And you could make that ride even smoother with an Air-Ride Pin Box. Be careful, though: adding the extra feature can be pricey, and it makes it challenging to switch between vehicles if you want to share the hitch with your small fleet.

WINNER: Fifth-wheel hitch

 

3. Capacity

Gooseneck hitches are known for their ability to haul like a boss, which is why many people with fifth-wheel hitches end up in the checkout line with a gooseneck adapter in-hand.

While the specs and reviews on the Curt Gooseneck hitch are exciting, you will not want to exceed your tow vehicle’s towing capacity. Regardless of which hitch you choose, you’re still limited by the capabilities of your own vehicle and trailer.

WINNER: Gooseneck hitch

 

4. Versatility

If you often use the bed of your truck for non-towing tasks and activities, you will probably appreciate how little space the gooseneck hitch takes up. You can even hide it away.

If the ball in the center is irritating you or gets in your way for some reason, there are some versions of gooseneck hitches that can be completely removed quite easily. Some above-bed gooseneck hitches will even allow you to switch between the two styles (gooseneck to fifth-wheel hitch, and back again) because they use the same rail system.

No matter what you do with a fifth-wheel hitch, it’s always going to take up valuable truck-bed real estate and get in your way.

WINNER: Gooseneck hitch

 

5. Cost

While you can find hitches at a variety of price points based on the maker, gooseneck hitches tend to run much cheaper than fifth-wheel hitches.

Average gooseneck hitch price: $130–$800

Average fifth-wheel hitch price: $500–$2,500

If you’re looking for the more economical choice, go with the goose.

WINNER: Gooseneck hitch

 

6. Utility

Precious cargo? How precious, exactly? In some states, you’ll have to use a fifth-wheel hitch if you want your RV to carry passengers.

If you’re okay with carrying everyone in your tow vehicle rather than letting passengers enjoy the RV space on the road, then you’re still good to go with a gooseneck hitch. Since you’re all about RVing, we’re assuming you’d prefer to keep your options open.

WINNER: Fifth-wheel hitch

 

End your wild-goose chase, possibly with a fifth-wheel hitch.

Tallying up our points, we actually have a 3-3 tie, with the gooseneck winning for cost, versatility, and capacity. Meanwhile, the fifth wheel takes the crown for trailer compatibility, utility, and ride.

So, here’s the tiebreaker. While there are many benefits to having a gooseneck hitch, most of us are likely to appreciate the straight-forward nature of the fifth-wheel hitch. Although it’s on the expensive side, you get what you pay for. And because adapter options abound, there’s really nothing to lose here.

Hungry for more information about hitches? Check out our How to Hitch a Fifth-Wheel Hitch video for everything you ever wanted to know about getting hitched.

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