Travel trailers and Fifth Wheels – A Look at the Vehicles that tow them…

And…A FIRST LOOK at my NEW 2022 Ford F350, now with a hitch installed!

In this post, we’re going to take a look at some tips and tricks for towing a travel trailer or a 5th wheel trailer. You’ll learn what to look for and how to prepare SAFELY for your “grand adventure.” THEN… I share my initial thoughts on my NEW 2022 Ford F350 “beast” designed specifically for towing my 15000 pound fifth wheel trailer.

First topic: Towable RV Campers (travel trailers AND fifth wheel trailers) – how much vehicle do REALLY you need?

This is a BIG topic of discussion among RV’ers and prospective campers. Lets start with travel trailers, then we’ll move onto 5th wheels.

Travel trailer towing tips and insights…

All trailers have a dry weight (the weight as they are built without your personal stuff or any fluids added) and a GVWR (gross or max weight that they can handle.) This information is easily identified in their “specs” section online. I often type into a search engine: year – make -model then the phrase “specs” following and that is my search.

When considering how much vehicle you need, I like to start with the trailers dry weight and then add about 2000 pounds (being generous, in many cases 1500 pounds is plenty.) This accounts for fluids (water, and grey/black tanks) and personal “stuff” that may be carried. Adding that figure to the dry weight helps to identify how much my vehicle will need to tow. I then add (ideally) at least another 1500 pounds to determine what my vehicles towing capacity needs to be. This gives me some breathing room between what I’m pulling and what the vehicle’s towing capacity is.

Note: With a smaller trailer, you may consider reducing the 2000 pounds to 1500, and the 1500 pounds to 1000 to arrive at a reasonable figure for your vehicle. On the other hand, if you’re going to live in it, you may need to increase the weight of what you may carry.

Towing Capacity: A specific example…

For example, if you’re looking at a 6000 pound trailer (dry weight), it will likely never exceed 8000 pounds fully loaded. Incidentally, the GVWR will likely be 8300 to 9000 pounds as this represents the trailers max capacity.

By adding 6000 (trailers dry wt.) + 2000 (personal stuff + fluids) + 1500 (to avoid overloading the tow vehicle), we arrive at 9500 pounds – and this should be your vehicle’s minimum towing capacity. You could cut that 9500 figure down to as low as about 8500, but you may regret making that choice when crossing the Rockies! The heavier duty a vehicle you buy, the less stress on its systems (brakes, transmission, engine) as you tow – and the SAFER the towing!

There is also a tongue weight issue you need to attend to with travel trailers. Typically, tongue weight is about 10% of the trailers dry weight – in my example it would be somewhere near 600 pounds. You need to check the capacity for your vehicle and in most cases for a travel trailer, you’ll want (NEED) an anti-sway weight distribution hitch. I highly recommend the Equalizer products for their ease of use and performance.

So… regarding your tow vehicle –

When you check your vehicle’s specs, you’ll want to locate the max tongue weight (which is sometimes two figures – one with and one without the use of a weight distribution hitch. In other words, a weight distribution hitch can raise the max tongue weight your vehicle can tow.

An IMPORTANT note about 1/2 ton trucks (150 (Ford) and 1500 (Chevy, RAM) series)…

Towing capacities for 1/2 ton trucks vary wildly

Most half-ton trucks can tow anywhere between 4000 and 12000 pounds – its a wide range and varies according to axle ratio, engine, body style and other factors. If you are buying a 1/2 ton truck, you NEED to assess this information in advance! If you have the VIN of a used vehicle, you can call the manufacturer and they can tell you how much THAT particular truck can tow. If you’re ordering a new one, be sure you know what you’re buying and that it has sufficient towing capacity!

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Let’s talk about the world of 5th Wheels and Fifth Wheel Towing

I LIKE 5th wheel trailers. I’d better, I live in one and have done so for 10+ years! They’re more stable than towing a travel trailer, they also offer more living and storage space – BUT – they demand more truck to tow them!

A quick note on “half-ton towable” fifth wheel trailers…

While most manufacturers claim they have “half ton towable” 5th wheel trailers for half-ton trucks, its a terrible (and often dangerous) burden to place upon ANY half-ton truck. Additionally, to make a 5th wheel light enough to call “half-ton towable”, ask yourself, what compromises is the manufacturer making with that trailer?!

Bottom line on towing ANY fifth wheel trailer – I generally recommend a 3/4 or 1 ton truck and preferably a long bed diesel. Please keep reading to learn why…

My recent Super Duty truck purchase – what I bought, who I chose to do business with and why I ordered it the way I did…

Lets start here: I LIKE Ford’s DIESEL trucks

And I’ve liked them since 2011 when Ford took the bold step of developing their own diesel engine and transmission for their super duty (250, 350) series.

A quick note: The only difference between a 250 (3/4 ton) and 350 (1 ton) truck is the leaf springs – and the cost when I ordered mine in 2021 was within $1000. between the two, so I’ve become a big fan of the F-350 Ford Super Duty.

Why Ford?

When I grew up in the 70’s I was told that FORD was an acronym for “fix or repair daily!” While it may have been true then, in my experience – now having owned 3 Ford trucks since 2011 – it is most definitely NOT true today – at least with their trucks. Having owned Ford trucks now for over a decade, I can attest to their reliability and quality of construction. This is NOT to take away from Chevy and Dodge RAM trucks as I believe they’re well made as well. In fact, the American truck market is truly a space where there’s no losers – a far different situation from the world of RV’s where finding one that’s well made is like searching for a needle in a mine field! My solution to help RV buyers with the state of affairs in the RV world is my Concierge RV Buying Service.

My 2011 Ford Super Duty truck was a big RISK

My first Ford super duty was a 2011 and I opted for it over the GM and Dodge/RAM products for two big reasons: it drove better (more like a car) and the diesel engine was FAR quieter when operating than the other two. The risk? It was Ford’s first year to employ their own 6.7L diesel engine.

I made one mistake with my 2011 (in my view), I bought a short bed (6.5 ft.) I fixed that error in 2015 with my next Ford, a long bed F250. Recently, I took possession of a 2022 Ford F350 at Goode Motors in Burley Idaho. I will explain shortly as to why I selected this dealership to do business with.

In 2011, Ford was in (in my view) a “do or die” situation as their two prior diesel engines built (I believe) by International were problematic (at best.) As I saw it, Ford made a “hail mary” move and developed their own in-house engine (the 6.7L diesel) and transmission to match it.

I never bought a first year vehicle before, but I took the chance as it was THAT much better than what Chevy or Dodge offered (in my opinion only.) It paid off! That 2011 was nearly flawless and served me well until 2016 when for business reasons I traded it.

The “Big 3” truck manufacturers

I must note again – ALL 3 heavy duty truck manufacturers make a superior product so, when folks confer with me as part of my Concierge RV Buying Service, I advise them that any of the “big 3” make a great truck – but – there are aspects (as mentioned earlier) of the Ford that I still prefer, even now in 2022. And in fairness to the “other 2”, I haven’t test driven a Chevy or RAM since 2011. Simply put, Ford has given me NO reason to leave them!

When purchasing a truck for a 5th wheel, here’s what IS really important…

While the truck manufacturer you choose is subjective, here’s what I recommend regarding trucks for all 5th wheel owners:

  • Buy a diesel – yes, they cost more, but they are a “beast of burden” and they hold their value FAR better than a gasser, and if maintained can last FAR longer. Yes, maintenance or repairs are more costly than a gasser, but are any of us doing this lifestyle to be frugal? AND, yes, as of this writing, diesel costs more than gasoline, but as with any commodity, prices will fluctuate.
  • Buy a long (8 ft) bed – the extra 18 inches will not impact (really) where you park it, but it will save you money on the hitch work as with a short bed, you need an (expensive) sliding hitch to keep the front cap of the 5th wheel from “kissing” the back of your cab in the truck. (Or at least an Andersen offset – see my HITCHES post HERE for additional thoughts on this issue.)
  • Consider the crew cab (body style) option – again for resale value.
  • Also – know this: If you buy a 1 ton diesel made anytime in the past 10 years or so, you can tow virtually anything! So, the “can I tow this” question is virtually moot. Yes, there are a few exceptions like SOME of the New Horizon and Space Craft trailers, but you’re talking gross weights EXCEEDING 25000 or 30000 pounds before you really have concerns.
  • SRW vs. Dually – I prefer SRW because I drive in snow and the dually tends to have issues with snow. The dually WILL be more stable, but I’ve never had an issue with my 15000 pound trailer attached to my SRW trucks.
  • 4×4 is really nice to have – not just for snow, but mud, sand, etc. If you’re adventurous like me, once you unhook your trailer, your truck can take you almost anywhere and with 4×4 capability, you can get out of almost anything you get yourself into! I know this from personal experience!!
  • Do NOT order the puck system OR a spray lining. Why? I explain it all here and introduce to Esquire RV who did a superior job installing a new hitch for my truck – one I will put to the ultimate test in a few days when I pull out of Vernal, Utah!
My truck bed after the after market Rhino spray lining is applied, the B&W turnover ball is installed (not seen) and the B&W Companion 5th Wheel Hitch is installed
  • Finally, as I noted in a prior article, if you go for the 1 ton, you will not have to ask yourself “will this truck pull this trailer” unless you’re looking at the extreme 0.1% of trailer buyers such as those who opt for a New Horizons or similar.

Why Goode Ford in Burley, Idaho?

As a traveler, I love the fact that the big 3 car manufacturers run “franchised stores.” To me this means that when I bring my truck to ANY Ford dealer for routine service (which often costs no more than what an independent mechanic charges), I’m treated as if I’m a local. This is a VERY different experience from what you’ll often find when you bring your trailer or camper to a RV dealer (who is an independent distributor and is not franchised) that you didn’t purchase from!

I rarely visit the Ford dealers I bought my two earlier trucks from, so, I appreciate the “white glove” treatment I receive at virtually ALL Ford service centers. The only one I’ve ever had an issue with is the one in Jackson, Wyoming.

It was TJ and Goode’s SUPERIOR service center that KEPT me here after I discovered them

Goode Ford’s SERVICE department stands above and beyond others

I discovered Goode Ford in Burley, Id. in my travels across Idaho. I spend lots of time in Idaho, along with Wyoming, Utah, and SD. It was during my first visit to Goode where I realized that TJ and his service department was a “cut above”, raising white glove treatment and quality of work to a entirely higher level!

Diesel trucks require (roughly) 5000 mile service intervals, so I timed my service out and when possible tried to ensure I was passing through Burley. Incidentally, Burley has several reasonably priced RV parks. I encourage you to use to check them out. Burley is near Twin Falls, and conveniently located between Pocatello/Idaho Falls in SE Idaho and Boise in SW Idaho. Its also not unreasonably far from Salt Lake City.

It took 11 months, but my new “toy” arrived and I love what Ford has done with the F-350 Super Duty diesels

After several visits over a period of 3 years or so to Goode Ford’s service department (mostly for routine maintenance), the time arrived for a new truck. It seemed only natural to ask TJ to connect me with a good salesperson. He introduced me to Jodi, and ultimately Graydon (Goode Fords General Manager.) Incidentally, to my benefit, Graydon also tracked my order and made some changes to the original build to ensure it would get built and delivered. I talk a bit about this in my hitches post.

Better handling, quieter, better mileage

I placed my order for my new Ford Super Duty F350 in May 2021 and it arrived in April 2022. From what I hear, its still tough to get truck delivery and the dealer has little influence on “Ford Corporate” to make the delivery. Incidentally, after 8 or 9 months, I took it upon myself to become an “itch” to Ford Corporate (NOT the dealer!) and made it known I expected a build date and wanted action! I was later informed that my actions with Ford Corporate did actually get my vehicle build expedited. (Be PERSISTENT but respectful if you pursue this path!)

Goode Ford – a dealership I will continue to recommend and service center I will go out of my way to return to.

The all new 2022 Ford F-350 – first impressions…

I’m barely over 700 miles and I can honestly say I love this truck! It is MUCH quieter inside than the 2015. They’ve improved the seating, and the 12″ screen is like having a premium tablet at your fingertips while you drive. I’m sure I’ve attempted about 5% of its capabilities thus far.

This truck appears to get better fuel mileage (marginally) than the ’15, and it’s turning radius is (somewhat) better. All around incremental improvements – and very worth the change, especially considering what I was able to garner for my ’15 upon trade-in. This truck also appears to be smoother in shifting (gotta love a 10 speed transmission), and faster.

I took this photo a few days ago when I did a “test connect” to ensure I knew how to use a B&W Companion hitch – and – to check the separation of the 5th wheel from the side-rail of the truck bed (it checks out just fine as you can see.) The B&W Companion was set to its highest position by the techs at Esquire RV.

Side note: A tip for effective use of the transmission…

Want to save your brakes? In my ’15, I made it to my trade-in date with 87,000 miles without ever doing any brake work! How? I use my transmission to control my speed on the downslope (along with the air brake Ford provides.) I was amazed to see people riding their brakes on Teton Pass (10% grade for a few miles) – and I often smelled the odor of burning brakes as I reached the valley.

Not on mine! I used the transmission to slow the vehicle, often (when towing) going downhill in 1st or 2nd and sometimes adding the air brake to keep speed in check. It also helps to anticipate in advance the need to slow down and again – use the transmission to accomplish that as much as possible. Now with a 10 speed transmission, the Ford Super Duty trucks offer outstanding speed control when slowing the vehicle on downslopes.

Final Thoughts on Goode Ford – Burley Idaho

Sales was more than fair with me when it came to trade in value offered and their selling price for the new truck. Paperwork was minimal, and the extra offers for protection were offered without pressure. I will continue to revisit their store for service as I’ve seen their service department go above and beyond to help me resolve any issues (and there were very few over the life of my 2015 truck.)

As an out of state buyer (my legal residence is South Dakota), their office people helped me to get paperwork done so titling and registration can be completed by my county in S.D. Just 4 weeks after purchase, the title has traveled from the dealer’s title clerk to my lender (in Wyoming) to the S.D. treasurers office and thanks to Americas Mailbox (ask me about them), I expect approval from S.D. to apply my old plates in the next few days. Goode’s finance manager, Mat was on top of this process from the get-go to ensure I could pay my S.D. sales tax within the 45 day window allowed to avoid any penalties.

Look for more updates soon – not only on towing impressions and performance with my F350, but on much more – including an analysis of using an electric vehicle to tow trailers, a final update from FreedomFest21, and other travel related topics for today’s RV’er.

Spring travel is just beginning – need any accessories? Here’s what I personally have found to be superior…

best rv accessories
Click the image to see my recommendations for important RV Accessories

Quick update on my first day of towing

Yesterday I traveled from Vernal to Rawlins, Wy. It was a very smooth drive and the scenery was surprisingly green. Bottom line: the truck performed like a champ. Powerful, smooth, as it easily towed my 5er to its destination. Fuel mileage was only about 10mpg, but there was a bit of climbing involved to get here.

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8 thoughts on “Travel trailers and Fifth Wheels – A Look at the Vehicles that tow them…”

  1. Al,

    I like that you provide the “whys” on your truck choice. Selecting a heavy duty truck (350/3500) model makes all the difference when towing. Very much appreciate the information. Thank you.


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