Best 2021 Trucks for Towing a 5th Wheel | etrailer.com

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BEST 2021 TRUCKS FOR TOWING A 5TH WHEEL

My dad, a Ford guy through and through, has a favorite truck joke:How do you improve a Chevy? Put a Ford engine in it.Ba-dum-tss!Before any Chevy fans grab their pitchforks and come for me, just let me say that I've owned a GM vehicle myself and don't share my dad's baseless bias against Chevy. But whether you're like him and drive one manufacturer through and through, or if you're like me and go wherever the best specs take you, finding the right truck to tow your fifth wheel is crucial.And unfortunately, the dealerships don't always make this process the fun, stress-free experience it should be. Although most salespeople are perfectly knowledgeable about the trucks in their lots, this doesn't always translate into knowledge about towing massive trailers down the road. Case in point, when I hit my local dealerships in search of the best 2021 truck to tow a 15,000-lb fifth-wheel trailer, I received conflicting advice and some straight-up wrong information. So — what do all those specs about horsepower and torque actually mean for towing your camper? What's really important to look for when shopping? And what's the best truck out there for the job — specifically, your job?
You can also check out past years' truck reviews here: 2020 HD Trucks | 2020 Half-Ton Trucks | 2019 Trucks | 2018 Trucks | 2017 Trucks First, a quick disclaimer: The following opinions are based on research, test drives, speaking to dealers, and talking with various truck owners. That said, you may be a loyal RAM driver through and through, or you might fall in love with a Chevy Silverado the first time you sit in one. There's no substitute for test driving a truck yourself before you buy it. But hopefully the information below can steer you (pun very much intended) in the right direction.

1. Best Overall / Favorite for Daily Driving

Ram 2500
Tradesman | Big Horn | Laramie | Power Wagon® | Limited Longhorn™ | Limited
White Ram Pickup Truck by Big Truck, Big RV
Photo courtesy of Big Truck, Big RV
For you, if you want:
  • A super smooth ride on a heavy-duty truck
  • Impressive technology unrivaled in the segment
Not for you, if you want:
  • A heavy-duty truck that can handle the heftiest of fifth wheels
YOU'LL LOVE THIS TRUCK IF:If you can safely get away with a 3/4-ton truck, the RAM 2500 is my first choice in the heavy-duty lineup. Why? It combines extraordinary capability with the comfortable ride you'd want from a daily driver. Out of all 2021 HD trucks I test drove, this was the only one I seriously look forward to driving again. First, let's go over capability to determine whether or not this truck is for you.The 2500 has a max towing capacity of 20,000 lbs and payload of 3,060 lbs when equipped with the available 6.7L I6 Cummins Turbo Diesel, provided you go with the Regular cab, 8' bed, 4X2, and standard 3.73 axle ratio options. This truck won't be right for everyone, but it will tow most fifth wheels. You can use RAM's VIN lookup tool to check the towing capacity on your specific truck and make sure your trailer falls in line with it.So, what makes this my top choice? One: The coil suspension. For someone like me, whose daily driver is a coupe, this was the heavy-duty truck that came closest to matching the smooth driving experience I'm used to. For those wondering if that coil suspension (vs leaf spring suspension in the 3500 and other HD trucks) really makes a difference in ride quality — the answer is yes. No, it won't make the truck drive like a Honda Civic, but it's a noticeable difference compared to the rocky rides you'll experience in other HD trucks.Two: I love the massive 12" Uconnect® infotainment system with split-screen capability and pinch-and-zoom technology. It basically feels like a tablet in your car. No more shoving your phone on a dash mount or pulling up Maps on its tiny screen; instead, you can dedicate an entire half screen to navigation and pull up your favorite podcasts on the other half. You can even play movies on it, making it your personal drive-in theater. So far, no other manufacturer has matched this sleek screen in a heavy-duty truck. For a tech geek who loves gadgets and technological convenience, this is more than I could ever want in my vehicle. Does anyone really need a functioning iPad in their cab? Of course not. But it's sure fun and convenient to have, especially on long road trips across the country— even if it is only available on the Power Wagon trim and up. Like most trucks in 2021, the RAM 2500 also offers plenty of trailer-towing tech, including a 360° Surround View Camera with Trailer Reverse Guidance View and a bed camera.SKIP THIS TRUCK IF:Of course, if you can't get the weight capacity you need to safely tow your fifth wheel, you'll need to go with a 1-ton truck like a Ram 3500 or another in its class. And if you're not looking to this truck to be your daily driver, you might prefer the buffer of a hefty 1-ton right off the bat.Also, if the best and brightest tech isn't a concern for you, it may not be worth splurging on that lovely big screen.
Awards & Accolades
  • Best Towing Technology - Texas Auto Writers Association: Ram Heavy Duty 360-degree Surround View Camera
  • Best Infotainment System - Texas Auto Writers Association: FCA Uconnect®

2. Best Truck For Huge Fifth Wheels

Ford F-450XL | XLT | Lariat | King Ranch® | Platinum | Limited
Ford F-450 - Photo by Big Truck, Big RV
Photo courtesy of Big Truck, Big RV
For you, if you want:
  • A truck that can tow the biggest camper you can find
Not for you, if you want:
  • A smooth ride you'll want to drive to work every day
YOU'LL LOVE THIS TRUCK IF: If you have a camper with big bones, or if you don't want to be limited by your truck's capability, the F-450 DRW (dual-rear wheel) model is a great "no-compromise" option that will allow you to safely tow almost anything.This beast can handle up to 32,500 lbs of fifth wheel with its 6.7L V8 Turbo Diesel engine. It's got the highest fifth-wheel-specific capacity on the market, as well as best-in-class horsepower (475). Plus, the feature-rich interior is designed to make your time behind the wheel comfortable and stress-free, particularly when it comes to towing. Towing technology includes an array of cameras to help you do everything from reverse to hitch up your fifth wheel to glimpse a bird's eye view of your entire truck. It's even got an on-screen checklist for hooking up your fifth wheel, just to make sure you don't miss a step.My favorite towing feature, however, has to be Ford's Pro Trailer Backup Assist knob. This handy little knob makes it easier to back up with your trailer attached. If you've ever done this, you know it's counterintuitive: your trailer goes opposite of the way you turn your wheel. But the Pro Trailer Backup Assist knob works like a miniature steering wheel for your trailer; just turn it to "steer" your trailer, and your truck will move accordingly. Yes, you'll still need to use your mirrors and pay attention to what you're doing. The knob won't magically help you avoid obstacles in your path. But if you've never backed up a trailer, or if you're one of those people who have to do the parking dance at campgrounds — pull forward, back up, repeat ad nauseum — and hate people watching you struggle, you can make life a little easier on yourself with this feature.
2021 Ford Pickup Cameras
The view provided by two of Ford's many available cameras
So which trim level should you go for? Even the base trims offer helpful available towing features, including the Pro Trailer Backup Assist, Trailer Reverse Guidance, and an array of cameras. So it's really a matter of how much luxury you want to pay for. You won't see features like heated/ventilated leather seats or wireless charging pads available until the Lariat trim level, which starts at about $17k higher than the base trim model, the XL. And the "Active Motion" (massaging) seats don't kick in until the King Ranch level.I sat inside several models, but personally I was most drawn to the King Ranch® interior. Although I'm normally more a fan of sharp black interiors, there's something about the unique brown and black leather-and-wood look of this truck that just feels classic. The rugged look paired with the high-end tech makes this truck feel capable of doing anything and belonging anywhere, from the farm to the road to the campsite to your driveway. As for those torn between splurging on the F-450 or sticking with its more affordable little brother, the F-350, both are great trucks. However, one of the biggest differences is that the F-450's unique Wide Track Front Suspension with Extended axle means a tight turning radius, which will make maneuvering a giant fifth wheel much easier.SKIP THIS TRUCK IF: While I'd recommend this truck in a heartbeat to anyone with a massive fifth wheel, I'd be just as quick to warn someone off it if they didn't really need it. Especially if you're not used to driving a truck. Why? Because everything they say about big trucks is true: they kind of suck to drive when you're not towing. There's something to be said for being the biggest, baddest truck on the road, but unfortunately you'll also feel every bump in that road. Even if you have experience towing a mid-size truck or even a half-ton like an F-150, the F-350 is rougher, the steering less responsive. Even slow, wide turns make you feel a bit top-heavy. Parking in tight spaces is a pain in the a**, even with the giant trailering mirrors. And you'll bounce around like you're riding a wooden roller coaster. If you're used to driving a big truck, this is nothing new to you. And if you're planning on using this truck primarily to tow your camper, you'll enjoy a much smoother ride with all that weight in back. But if you plan on frequently driving without your camper attached, just be aware that you're sacrificing ride quality for brute strength. All the luxury features in the world don't change the fact that it's a huge truck, and it drives like one.

3. Best Truck for Small Fifth Wheels (Under 10k-11k lbs)

Ford F-150XL | XLT | Lariat | King Ranch® | Platinum | Limited
Ford F-150 - Photo by Big Truck, Big RV
Photo courtesy of Big Truck, Big RV
For you, if you want:
  • Just enough truck to tow your small camper
  • A smooth, responsive, luxurious daily driver with plenty of tech
Not for you, if you want:
  • To tow a fifth wheel over about 11k lbs
YOU'LL LOVE THIS TRUCK IF:If you have a "small" fifth wheel with a loaded weight under about 10k-11k lbs, you may be able to tow with a half-ton truck, which will provide a smooth, car-like ride compared to a heavy-duty model. Just make sure to include a margin of a couple thousand lbs when determining if you can get away with the half ton.Although I have to hand the RAM 1500 the edge when it comes to families due to its added roominess and superior safety (see below), no list would be truly complete without America's favorite truck. The F-150 easily tops the charts when it comes to sheer towing capacity — a staggering best-in-class 14,000 lbs fifth-wheel towing. (Note, this is specifically with the 4x2 SuperCab with 164.1" wheelbase and 3.73 gear ratio. The Max Trailer Tow Package and Heavy Duty Payload Package are also required. Getting the options right is important when it comes to maxing out a half-ton's capability.)In addition to the Max Trailer Tow Package and Heavy Duty Payload Package, which will get you the 14,000-lb capacity and Pro Trailer Backup Assist, I also recommend the Tow Technology Package, which comes with Trailer Reverse Guidance, a 360-degree camera view, a brake controller, and more. Ford knows plenty of people tow fifth wheels with their F-150, so they've built in top-of-the-line towing aids to make this job easier.The F-150 also shines in a way its Super-Duty brothers don't by offering more features on lower trim levels, and there are plenty of fun features to make long drives with your camper more relaxing. In particular, I recommend going with at least the Lariat trim level to get the most bang for your buck. This is where options like the heated and ventilated seats and the power tailgate come in. The Lariat trim (and above) offers not one but two 12" screens — one called a "digital instrument cluster" for alerts and gauges, and the other an impressive infotainment system comparable to RAM's 12" Uconnect system. The Lariat also offers an optional 18 speakers (including one in the headrest) so you can crank up the radio and turn your truck into a concert hall. Another thing to appreciate is the effort Ford has put into making this a truck you'll love for years to come. New F-150s offer "over-the-air" updates to improve capability and performance, so you don't have to miss out on that cool feature that popped up six months after you bought your truck. You always have access to the latest and greatest.SKIP THIS TRUCK IF:If you have a camper that weighs more than 10k-11k lbs loaded, you'll want to stick with a 3/4-ton or 1-ton truck. Although the F-150 can technically tow 14k lbs, you want to leave some "wiggle room" in that figure for safety, and to avoid stress on the drivetrain and suspension.
Awards & Accolades
  • Best Buy Award - Kelley Blue Book (Full-Size Pickup): 2021 Ford F-150
  • Truck of the Year - NACTOY Awards™: 2021 Ford F-150

4. Best Trailer Camera Setup

GMC Sierra HD / Chevrolet Silverado HDWork Truck | Custom | LT | LTZ | High Country
GMC Pickup Truck
For you, if you want:
  • The best camera setup on the market dedicated to trailer towing
Not for you, if you want:
  • The biggest or smoothest truck
YOU'LL LOVE THIS TRUCK IF:First off, yes, we're going to lump both GM trucks in together. They're not exactly twins, but they're close enough. Both offer a 6.6L Duramax® Turbo-Diesel V8, 445 horsepower, and 910 lb-ft of torque. The 3500 diesels offer a fifth-wheel towing max capacity of 32,000 lbs for a properly equipped DRW model (it's 18,500 lbs max for the 2500 diesels). These numbers slide in just under Ford's and RAM's, but honestly, other than bragging rights, you're not sacrificing much. GM's HD trucks are more than capable.What sets the GM trucks apart is their innovative safety and towing technology. As the salesman at GMC put it: "You'd have to really try to hit something with this thing." Just this year GM has released several new features on their vehicles that have never been seen before. One is a Jackknife Alert system, which monitors your truck and trailer angles and lets you know when a collision between the two is imminent. Another is the bed view with zoom and hitch guidance; most trucks offer a bed camera these days, but GM goes a step further and includes the Cargo Bed Zoom View to make hooking up your fifth wheel even easier.
These trucks can be equipped with a total of 15 cameras — more than any other on the market — for pretty much every view you can think of, including a bird's-eye view. If you've ever towed a fifth wheel before, you know the camper renders your back windows essentially useless — once you're hitched up, you can't see out of them. GM resolves that issue with more camera views, including an industry-first "transparent trailer" camera view. This screen lets you "see through" your trailer by aggregating views from multiple cameras surrounding the truck. You can also pull up a handy hookup checklist on that screen.If you're worried about navigating around with a giant truck and a trailer in tow, you'll appreciate the efforts GM has made to make this easier. And it offers all the expected luxury (in 2021) of heated and ventilated seats, wireless charging, and safe-driving tech.A few points in favor of GMC over Chevy: For one, the GMC offers the Six-Function MultiPro Tailgate, which turns your tailgate into a step, a workstation, a load stop, and more. This flexible tailgate is perfect for hardware store runs, moving furniture or lawn equipment, and just about anything else. If you're carrying a long lumber load, just lower the tailgate and put up the load stop. If you've got bad knees, turn the tailgate into a step and hop right up in the bed. If you're going to employ your truck for other purposes besides just towing, you'll get a lot of use out of this innovative tailgate, which is available on all trim levels and standard on the SLE and up. (Chevy offers a similar "Multiflex" tailgate, but only on its half-ton model, the Silverado 1500.) The second thing GMC has going for it is the Denali trim's superior driving experience due to the suspension's adaptive dampeners, which make for a smoother ride if you're willing to shell out the big bucks.
Bed view provided by GMC Sierra 2500 truck bed camera
Bed view provided by GMC Sierra 2500 truck bed camera
SKIP THIS TRUCK IF: Frankly, it's hard to imagine anyone not liking one of these trucks. However, the main reason I'd suggest passing on this year's GM vehicles is simply if your priorities don't line up with what they offer. That is, if you don't need the most killer camera setup to tow your trailer or a swiss-army-knife tailgate, or if you really want that 12" RAM touchscreen, or if you're just more comfortable sitting in a Ford. The Sierra Denali has typically been synonymous with luxury — and to be sure, it's a really nice truck — but it no longer has the market cornered on superfluous luxury (or prices).
Awards & Accolades
  • JD Power Best Resale for Large Vehicles (Large Heavy Duty Pickup): 2021 Chevy Silverado 2500 HD
  • Vincentric Best Value in America (Full-Ton): 2021 GMC Sierra 3500
  • Vincentric Best Value in America (3/4-Ton): 2021 GMC Sierra 2500

5. Best Truck for Families

RAM 1500Tradesman® | Big Horn® | Laramie ® | Rebel® | Limited Longhorn™ | Limited
Ram 1500 - Photo by Big Truck, Big RV
Photo courtesy of Big Truck, Big RV
For you, if you want:
  • A roomy, comfortable truck with plenty of storage for the whole family
  • The most cutting-edge screen any truck has ever seen
Not for you, if you want:
  • To tow a fifth wheel over about 10k lbs
YOU'LL LOVE THIS TRUCK IF:The RAM 1500 is a star in its own right, but it's a particularly great pick for those bringing little ones along for the ride. Specifically, I'd recommend a RAM 1500 4x2 Crew Cab with a 5.7L V8 HEMI with seating for six. This is the model that will get you the most towing capacity while still balancing passenger space and comfort. The max towing capacity for this model is 11,500 lbs, so of course, it's crucial to make sure it will work for your camper. Safety is paramount when carrying around your most precious cargo — your family. The 2021 RAM 1500 was the only full-size truck to win IIHS's (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety) Top Safety Pick Award in 2020, specifically, those models equipped with front crash prevention and curve-adaptive LED projector headlights. (You'll need to look to the Limited Longhorn and Limited trims for these new LED lights.) Aside from being the safest truck on the market, the RAM 1500 also offers best-in-class rear legroom of 45.1" for the kiddos, so there's plenty of room for them to stretch their legs and get comfy on those long trips. (Plus, any parent knows extra space between bickering siblings is a good thing.) Overall, the RAM's interior is more comfortable than my living room, it looks sharper than a blade, and it cuts down on exterior noise so you can ride in a sleek, self-contained bubble (sorry, it does nothing to block the noise from the kids). There's also the tech factor. RAM's exclusive 12" Uconnect® touchscreen is great for handling navigation, music, and phone calls, but it's also perfect turning the campsite into your family's personal movie theater. The backseats fold down completely, making room for pillows and sleeping bags for a fun-filled night of watching Frozen for the hundredth time at the campsite.Extra people also mean extra gear, and this truck comes with all the storage you could hope for (151.1 liters worth of interior storage volume) to bring it all along. This includes:
  • Class-Exclusive available in-floor storage beneath the backseat, perfect for extra camping gear.
  • A reconfigurable center console, which comes with plenty of charging ports and can hold a 15" laptop. Great for storing and charging kids' tablets or handheld games.
  • Two glove compartments (one of which locks).
  • Spacious LED-lit door pockets that provide easy access to drinks, toys, blankets, and more.
  • Class-Exclusive in-floor storage bins with removable liners. Many RAM owners choose to turn these bins into coolers because they're so easy to clean. (Whether you store sodas and juice boxes or your favorite beer is up to you.)
SKIP THIS TRUCK IF:If you have a camper that weighs more than 9k-10k lbs loaded, you'll want to stick with a 3/4-ton or 1-ton truck. Although the RAM 1500 can technically tow 11,500 lbs, you want to leave some "wiggle room" in that figure for safety, and to avoid stress on the drivetrain and suspension.
Awards & Accolades
  • Top Safety Pick - IIHS (Large Pickup/Crew Cab Pickup): 2021 Ram 1500 w. optional front crash prevention and specific headlights required
  • Truck of Texas - Texas Auto Writers Association: Ram 1500
  • Luxury Pickup - Texas Auto Writers Association: Ram 1500 Limited Longhorn 10th Anniversary Edition
  • Best Infotainment System - Texas Auto Writers Association: FCA Uconnect®
  • Best Buy Award - Consumer Guide (Large Pickup Category): 2021 Ram 1500
  • 10 Best Cars and Trucks - Car and Driver: 2021 Ram 1500
Still have questions?Give our experts a call at 800-298-8924, or contact us online. We're happy to assist any way we can!
Amber S.
Amber S.
About the AuthorAs a content writer for etrailer, I might spend my morning loading and unloading a bike on five different bike racks to figure out which is easiest to use. I might be in the parking lot, taking pictures of an impressive RV battery setup our techs came across in the shop and discussing the benefits of the setup with the owner. I might spend an afternoon in a manufacturer training class for some hands-on experience with new products, and then sit down to assemble all this information into a coherent article.At etrailer, one of our core values is that we are always learning, and I learn something new every day. I start each morning with the goal in mind of taking all of this information and figuring out the best way to answer the questions people ask us (and the ones they don’t know to ask yet), and helping people get the solutions they need to make their lives easier, safer, and more fun. I’m a DIYer at heart, so it brings me great joy to help a fellow DIYer find what they’re looking for, whether that’s a product, an answer, or a community.
Related ArticlesRelated ProductsWritten by: Amber S.Updated: 3/4/21

Questions and Comments about this Article

Rich

When it comes to towing heavy 5 th wheels why did you leave out the freightliner F.L. Series’s and m2 they are a medium duty truck designed to haul such heavy loads much safer then a 450 bigger brakes bigger chassis drivetrain and I’ll stop my 35 K load before it does so in my opinion you should include those as well when making your reviews and those are all considered pick ups not trucks I’ve had a 1 ton pick dully and have a freightliner now and I would never consider going back and I can still park it in a regular parking space I’m not disrespecting your review just thought you might add the medium duty trucks in there

Craig P.

Excellent article. Well written, apparently well-researched. Absolutely agree. Do you own research, explore and confirm. Some dealer advice is good, some not so much. There is an inherent bias of course, but often that is combined with poor or incomplete knowledge. Kudos to the (as far as I can see) un-named author.

Wendell D.

I have a Curt Q20 fifth wheel hitch with slider as my truck bed is 6 1/2 '. Curt does not make covers for their hitches. Any idea where I could find a cover for this hitch?

Etrailer Expert
Reply from Jon G.

If you're just looking for a cover for the head unit then you should be able to use the Reese Cover # RP30055 . For something more than that the Classic Accessories Cover # CA80116 should work great. Please note that these aren't custom fit so there might be some extra material or they might not cover everything exactly.



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