fifth wheel hitches for short bed trucks

5 Best Fifth Wheel Hitches For Short Bed Trucks

I’m sure that you have heard of the terms fifth wheel RV, fifth wheel trailer or camper. We are all familiar with the pros and cons of a fifth wheel trailer. To put it briefly, with this type of trailer, you need to attach it to a tow vehicle in order to bring it to the campsite. 

This obviously is cumbersome to attach and then drive around, however, that is perhaps one of the only major downsides to the travel trailers compared to motorhomes. Aside from that, all the benefits and accommodations granted to motorhomes, the fifth wheel RV has them all. Even more so, your tow vehicle can be utilized to do additional tasks that just aren’t convenient with a large motorhome. 

Everyone who has a fifth wheel RV in their garage needs to know a thing or two about fifth wheel hitches. Why don’t we just bring our truck and travel trailer to the vehicle repair shop’s expert and let him do all the work for us? Well, there is no need for such things when you can technically do it yourself. Sounds fun? In this article, we will discuss the topic of fifth wheel hitches for short bed trucks.

5th Wheel Hitches For Short Bed Trucks: Quick Recommendations

If you’re in a hurry, take a look at this quick list of our top picks for the best fifth wheel hitches for short bed trucks or continue scrolling to check on our full list with in-depth reviews.

NoBest Fifth Wheel HitchesPricesOur Ratings
1B&W Companion RVK3500$$$*****
2Reese 30047 16K$$****
3CURT 16516 E16$$$***
4Pulliam Enterprises 2900 Superglide$$$$$*****
5CURT PowerRide 16320$$$$****
6ANDERSEN HITCHES Fifth Wheel Hitch Connection$$$*****

The Basics About Fifth Wheel Hitch

Before we – RVing Trends advance to the more technical stuff, you should understand the basics of fifth wheel hitches.

What it is – Why do we need one?

Just what is a fifth wheel hitch? A hitch is a device attached to the chassis of a vehicle for towing, which connects your tow vehicle and the travel trailer together so that your tow vehicle can effectively tow your travel trailer without the travel trailer swerving around. 

Most of the cars on the market come with a default trailer hitch (yes, even trucks). The majority of the time, these hitches are precisely designed to adequately tow the amount of weight that is recommended by the manufacturer. This is true especially for smaller automobiles. 

However, there is no guarantee that the default hitches of the trucks are strong or durable enough for the amount of weight that the truck itself can possibly tow. For example,  With that in mind, you might have to turn to the tow packages, by which I mean you might have to install a different hitch to your truck, in this case, short-bed trucks. 

Another reason we are even trying to convince you to install one at all is that people use this all the time, so you don’t really have much to worry about.

Sometimes, a fifth wheel hitch is referred to as a truck bed hitch (designed for trucks only).

fifth wheel hitches for short bed trucks
Photo: Jim Cole / Alamy

Fifth wheel hitch components

There are a lot of mechanical parts that go into the making of a fifth wheel hitch, however, we can break it down into four main sections: the head, the leg, the base, the rails.

The hitch head section has a jaw that funnels the trailers’ king pin so that the connection between the truck and the trailer through the fifth wheel hitch.

The base is what the head rests on. Fifth wheel hitches can either have fore-and-aft pivots or side-to-side pivots.

The legs attach the base/hitch head combination to the rails.

The rails attach the Fifth Wheel Hitch to the pickup bed.

There are some components that I feel like you should definitely get a grasp on before moving on:

  1. A hitch coupler: The flat part of the hitch that interfaces directly with the fifth wheel trailer. It is usually located in the box of your pickup truck.
  2. The kingpin: this is located on your fifth wheel trailer yet is part of the hitch system. It is used to connect the hitch coupler and is able to turn flexibly when the truck turns left or right.
  3. Hitch locking leveler: locks down on the bar and plays the role of releasing the receiver from the wheel pin box
  4. Slider: A feature exclusive to slider fifth wheel hitches. It helps to switch modes to accommodate different driving maneuvers. It is especially crucial for towing using short bed trucks.
  5. Extended pin box: Prevent the trailer from hitting the rear cab windows
  6. Mounting rails: Used to attach the hitch to the truck’s bed.

How does it works?

I assume you are familiar with semi trailers. After all, we have all seen plenty of those on the highway, where they boast incredible length, height and weight. The part that stands out should be obvious: How are the rigs capable of towing that much weight so effectively? Of course, if you take a look at your ball hitch, there’s no way a small hitch like that can take on the weight that the trailer will put on it.

The reason is simple, basically the ball hitch (or other types of non heavy-duty hitches) supports the weight mainly by itself. This problem can be easily remedied using the fifth wheel hitches or other types of heavy duty hitches. Just like the case with semi trucks towing their cargo, where the front edge (the head) of the trailer extends over the rear bumper of the truck. After that an attachment is made in the bed of the truck. If properly installed, the weight that the trailer exerts will be pushing down on the space between the cab and the rear axle of the truck, hence it can handle much more weight.

With the hitch in the bed of the truck, the rails of the hitch are attached to the frames of the truck to ensure that the whole towing system relies on the truck as well for strength. We have mentioned before that there is a part called the kingpin. This kingpin should be on the trailer that you will be towing, it is a round steel shaft that is on the front of the trailer and is usually mounted beforehand. This kingpin is attached to the hitch on your truck. With the king pin secured in the position (but still able to pivot), you can safely tow and swerve around.       

Types Of Fifth Wheel Hitches For A Short Bed Truck

One of the predicaments that many people face when choosing a fifth wheel hitch is whether or not to buy a slider fifth wheel hitch for their short bed trucks. This is a rather reasonable struggle. We will be reviewing some of the types of hitches so that you can aptly decide which type you are going for.

First, let’s discuss short bed trucks. Why are they called short bed trucks? There are many ways you can categorize trucks, since there are so many of them out there on the market. One of these ways is to classify using bed length. There are three categories: Short, Standard or Long. The Standard beds are around 6’5” and Long beds are 8’ in length (give or take a few inches depending on the manufacturer), while short beds are below 6’5” in length. Let’s see the possible fits for your favorite truck.

Fixed

Fixed hitches are the cheapest among the three types, since there is nothing to be done after installing it. You can move around easily. Many people would suggest that you buy a slider hitch, but then there are still a great many people who would advise you not to waste your money on a slider and buy a fixed fifth wheel hitch instead.

These two groups are both right in their own ways. In the fixed hitches’ defense, many of today’s hitches allow for up to 80 degrees of turning before the camper comes in contact with the cab of the truck, so you don’t have to worry too much about taking corner turns. This argument can be refuted once we get to short bed trucks. You will see why sliders are better in some ways as well.  

Manual Slider 

A manual slider hitch is functionally similar to an automatic slider. However, given its name, you will have to do extra work yourself whenever there’s a difficult road ahead, as well as when you are parking. In order to make the changes to the towing system, you have to make sure the instructions manual is well-read and that you are familiar with the controls and handling, or else you can mess up in the middle of the road and things can get complicated.

Some sliders of this type are rather cumbersome to handle, so you must be extra careful. Also, sometimes you might forget to switch the modes between maneuvering, towing, parking and end up with a dented truck cabin and broken windows. The good news is that some of the manual slider hitch’s disadvantages are negated with an automated slider.

Automatic Slider

Just like its name suggests, the automatic slider allows the owner to control the hitch system from where they sit inside the cabin. With this, you don’t have to get out of the truck on every sharp turn. How convenient, right?

You should also understand why we need sliders on hitches at all. The slider hitches usually have three configurations: parking or maneuvering, towing, and the unlocked mode. The parking mode is the furthest down the slider so as to give more clearance. The towing mode which is the furthest up the slider helps your trailer and truck system be compact on the road and more importantly, to make towing easier for your tow vehicle. Setting the lever to unlocked mode grants the freedom of sliding and toggling between the above configurations. There might be more complicated ones to use out there, but this is generally what you need for most of your towing journeys.  

The only drawbacks with having an automatically sliding fifth wheel hitch compared to a fixed hitch is that the users (usually first time users) are prone to make mistakes toggling around the modes of the hitch, and furthermore, they cost a bit more. Not to mention, the heavier the weight, the heavier the financial burden on the buyers.

Generally, if you have a short bed truck (anything below 6’5”), I would definitely recommend using a slider hitch for your truck since having clearance is important if you want to take sharp turns and still have your vehicles scratch free.

5 Best Fifth Wheel Hitches For Short Bed Trucks: In-Depth Reviews

To give you a more in-depth view of fifth wheel hitches, let’s take a look at 5 products in detail. Don’t worry if you still haven’t found one that you like, after all, nothing is flawless. Catch the most intriguing features to you, and let that help you find the one that fits your needs. That is one way to choose these types of aftermarket automobile products.

1. B&W Companion RVK3500 Fifth Wheel Hitch

B&W Trailer Hitches Companion Fifth Wheel Hitch - RVK3500
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Specs:

  • Brand: B&W
  • Item weight: 70 pounds
  • Vehicle service type: trucks
  • Material: Polyurethane
  • Finish type: Powder coated
  • Gross trailer weight: 20,000lbs
  • Vertical tow weight: 5,000lbs

Why we love it:

Many people consider this the best bang for your buck and also the best fifth wheel hitch ever. It is also among the most popular hitches among RVers.  If you have been using gooseneck hitches with an adapter to tow these fifth wheel RVs, then the B&W will certainly surprise you. Compared to gooseneck hitches, B&W Companion is quieter, you won’t even hear the rattling when hooking up the kingpin. It is easy to install and operate as well. When the fifth wheel is hooked up, just apply the safety pin and you can be on your way.

Many owners have been using it and claim that it is very well built. The Companion is capable of towing up to 20,000 pounds, so it can clearly handle rigs both small and big. One of the captivating features of this hitch is that it doesn’t have rails the way hitches usually do. Instead, owners can (with effort) add on or remove based on their needs. This is highly justified since they take up a lot of space. The hitch has dual-jaw and provides 360 degrees of jaw-to-kingpin contact.

Pros:

  • The handles are smooth and easy to operate
  • The comprehensive instruction makes it easy to install
  • Very sturdy due to its manufacturing process and should make towing any kind of fifth wheel RV really smooth and effortless. You can even go uphill with a heavy fifth wheel RV, provided your truck can take the weight as well.
  • Really powerful with only little noise coming out of it when on duty.
  • Can be removed when needed.
  • It has a wide stance for stability.
  • Height can be adjusted for bed clearance

Cons:

  • Like many king pin hitches, this fifth wheel hitch is heavy to lift up and down the truck bed.
  • This hitch has poor bed clearance.

2. Reese 30047 16K Fifth Wheel

Reese 30047 16K Fifth Wheel
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Specs:

  • Brand: Reese
  • Weight: 107.7 lbs
  • Gross trailer weight: 16,000lbs
  • Vertical tow weight: 4,000lbs
  • Vehicle service type: trucks

Review content:

Another very easy-to-use yet powerful hitch on our list is the Reese 30047 16K hitch. This hitch certainly looks very sleek. Many hitch owners love Reese’s products for their straightforward assembling process. Despite its aptitude for towing large weights, short bed truck owners often have their products returned due to their fixed design. As a matter of fact, with only a few additional attachments, you can completely transform the Reese 30047 16K hitch into a slider hitch. 

This unit will weigh around 107 so it is going to be tough to get this hitch on top of the truck bed. Installing it is going to be a breeze, however, maybe you can invite your family to join in and spend a good time together. More about the hitch, this hitch has locking jaws just like the B&W Companion which come with a locking handle. Do not let the looks fool you. This product is very strong and can hold up well. Tow as much within the limit as you like, this hitch can really take it as it is advertised.

Pros:

  • Easy to assemble.
  • Easy-to-use handles
  • It has a wide stance for stability.
  • Height can be adjusted for bed clearance
  • Smooth, effortless towing.

Cons:

  • Items might arrive separately, so be patient.
  • Some of the individual products might have some problems such as bracket not fitting, missing handle (poor product management from the manufacturer)
  • One of the customer’s reviews pointed out that it might be hard to see the jaws locking, so the owner should paint the jaws in vibrant colors for interpretation of the locking process.

3. CURT 16516 E16

CURT 16516 E16 5th Wheel Slider Hitch for Short Bed Trucks
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Specs:

  • Brand: CURT
  • Item weight: 102.8 lbs
  • Vehicle service type: trucks, pickup trucks, trailer
  • Material: Carbide
  • Finish type: Powder coated
  • Gross trailer weight: 16,000lbs
  • Vertical tow weight: 4,000lbs
  • Dimensions: 20x48x48 inches

Review:

The CURT E series is one of three series (A, Q, E) that are currently advertised by CURT. Obviously, there are discrepancies between these three series, but overall, I think they are all great options for those in need of a hitch. The E-series is pretty much the economical version of the Q-series. The E-series only comes with the 16K version, which includes some of the following features: 10-degree dual pivot, a single handle to operate, self-aligning head opening, locking bar jaw type, etc. It is also compatible with Sidewinder pin box if you decide to use those.

Customers have said that it is quite easy to install, but lifting it isn’t much so. However, the most important part is towing itself. Many have commented that this hitch helps make towing smooth, it is easy to hitch and uncouple. At 16,000 lbs, the hitch is strong enough for some heavy fifth wheel RVs. There is a drawback with the E16. The locking latch is loose since it is not claw-like in shape, so there might be some clanging sound due to the king pin being loose. This drawback becomes clear especially when alternating between stopping and moving.

Pros:

  • Very sturdy due to its manufacturing process and should make towing any kind of fifth wheel RV really smooth and effortless.
  • Moderately heavy duty.
  • RVs can be hitched and uncoupled easily.

Cons:

  • 16,000 lbs of GTW might not be enough for some. If that is the case, choose products in the Q-series or A-series.
  • The instruction manual only has a single page, so internet reference is crucial
  • The bed rail and mounting hardware are not provided by the manufacturer. An installation kit is therefore necessary.

4. Pulliam Enterprises 2900 Superglide

Pulliam Enterprises 2900 Superglide 20,000
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Specs

  • Brand: Pulliam Enterprises
  • Item weight: 183 lbs
  • Vehicle service type: trucks, trailer
  • Material: Carbide
  • Finish type: Powder coated
  • Gross trailer weight: 20,000lbs
  • Vertical tow weight: 4,000lbs
  • Dimensions: ‎40 x 24 x 18 inches

Review:

The Pulliam Enterprises 2900 is quite a heavy one for sure. Of course, there must be tons of other selling points to this system. The 2900 is a slider hitch, and as we have discussed before, slider hitches save you the time to get out of the truck and do the mode switching manually, so that is a big help. You get a 14-inches of fully automatic slide so you and your truck are spared from having to do the dirty work. This is probably one of the best fifth wheel hitches for short bed trucks   

Pros:

  • Installation instructions are clear enough to understand easily
  • Slider rail is fully automatic, you only have to push buttons
  • Works great for short bed trucks (after all, it is a slider hitch)

Cons:

  • This item is quite heavy so people might not be able to get it on and off the bed very often.
  • The handle is kind of dispensable, but there is no way to remove it.

5. CURT PowerRide 16320

CURT 16320 PowerRide 30K 5th Wheel Hitch
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Specs

  • Brand: CURT
  • Item weight: 152 lbs
  • Vehicle service type: pickup trucks
  • Gross trailer weight: 30,000lbs
  • Vertical load weight: 7,500 lbs

Review:

This hitch is the heavy hitter among the hitches we have seen on the list. It can tow an impressive load of 30,000 lbs. It was rated as 2021’s best new product by RV Pro magazine. Like many others on this list, this 30K fifth wheel hitch strives to give its customers flawless experience, and I think they did a really great job. This hitch is easy to install and remove, not to mention, it really has a very futuristic design. 

Every part of the hitch is optimized for maximal performance, and some new features are presented, from the handle, the cast yoke head to the three-position coupling indicator, this hitch is a force to be reckoned with. While it is relatively new on the market, people have given it plenty of positive reviews. On top of providing various advanced features, this hitch has been tested for durability and ease of maneuverability.

Pros:

  • There is no welding or fabrication needed to install
  • It is intuitive to use, agile and ergonomic in design.
  • Multidirectional cast-yoke head for smooth ride.
  • Height is adjustable by 6” to provide bed clearance
  • Three position coupling status indicator
  • Integrated wear plates for extended longevity
  • One pin head removal

Cons:

  • We haven’t found any yet

Buying Fifth Wheel Hitches For Short Bed Trucks: Things to Consider

What should you consider when buying fifth wheel hitches for short bed trucks? A lot of things, as you have probably guessed. Although we have discussed plenty of relevant topics already, I think it is time we wrapped it all up.

Capacity

The B&W Companion fifth wheel hitch above is undoubtedly one of the strongest we have ever seen. That doesn’t mean you have to buy it ASAP, though. One size fits all is a poor choice especially since the higher the towing capacity, the higher the price. Towing is akin to boxing in that they have weight classes, where the boundaries are clearly defined. You should stick to the weight limit recommended by the manufacturer. 

Not only do you have to know the limits of your towing hitch, but you have to beware of your tow vehicle’s tow weight as well. Find out your trailers’ gross weight (the weight put on the truck when hitched up), the towing capacity and finally, your fifth wheel hitch’s capacity and it is best that each of these three are lower than the next.

Type

There are three types of fifth wheel hitches: fixed, manual slider, automatic slider. I will keep it simple. If you already have or are planning to buy a truck that has a bed that is over 6’5” in length, then buying the fixed fifth wheel hitch saves you some money since that is already enough for all kinds of driving maneuvers. High speeds, slow speeds, parking, you name it. Cab clearance isn’t an issue at all.

When it comes to short bed trucks (from 5’8” to 6’5”), if you really wish to tow a trailer with it, consider buying a slider hitch. You might be wondering, why would anyone buy a manual-type slider hitch at all, when you can keep everything in check in the cabin. The difference is in the price. 

Sometimes, you don’t need to make tight turns, or park in tight spots (this is definitely possible), then just keep the whole tow mechanism in the tow mode. You can even settle with a fixed fifth wheel hitch for these short bed trucks in some rare cases. If your driving need is anything other than that, then the automatic slider version is the way to go.

We can also classify hitches into two groups: gooseneck and fifth wheel hitches. The difference is very clear, since goosenecks operate with a ball and coupler connection while fifth wheel hitches operate with a connection between kingpin and jaws. Goosenecks are mostly used for farming practices and towing flatbed trailers, while fifth wheel hitches, as their name suggests, are more suited to recreational towing. That is not to say goosenecks aren’t fit for towing fifth wheel RVs. It is strong, requires minimal bed space, and is relatively cheaper than fifth wheel hitches.

So shouldn’t goosenecks be more popular than fifth wheel hitches? In fifth wheel hitches defense, they offer smoother, more stable towing experience while keeping noise level to a minimum. Also, manufacturers offer a wide range of products for all kinds of trucks.

Installation

best fifth wheel hitch for short bed truck
Photo: GMC

A lot of people love to install newly bought devices to their rigs, the same goes with installing hitches on their favorite trucks. However, your truck may suffer unwanted damage if you don’t do it the right way. Not only that, you can risk damaging the device as well. 

As you can see, it is risky, there are tons of heavy duty hitch brands out there and you don’t want to blindly pick them, since some may be too hard to install. Some of the best brands that we have below will ensure that you have the best experiences right out of the box.

One note though, if you want peace of mind, then having a professional take care of the installation is a wise choice.   

Usage 

The majority of the time, you don’t really have to have experience dealing with fifth wheel hitches since there are only two modes to switch back and forth between. Still, there exist a lot of products that aren’t very user-friendly. I will advise you against buying products from this brand: the Anderson Ultimate. 

This is not because it is hard to operate, but the product quality on the road which is out of any driver’s control. If you make an emergency stop, then both your tow vehicle and the trailer might not be intact if you decide to use their products. It might look like something, but it turns out to be quite a disappointment.

Price

A hitch manufacturer can charge you some outrageous amount for a hitch, so beware of the scammers. These devices are really big and sturdy, so their hefty prices are understandable. 

However, like any other parts of your RV and trucks, a hitch can wear out over time and needs to be replaced. For the best value in the long run, hitches made from the strongest materials are preferred. This way you don’t have to replace or repair hitches very often.   

Popular Fifth Wheel Hitch Brands

I’m sure you are all too familiar with some of the most popular fifth wheel brands like Jayco, Forest River, Keystone, Thor. Here we will discuss what I think are the top 4 manufacturers of fifth wheel hitches.

B&W 

We have been recommending that you buy products from the B&W company, but it is important for you to know why we hold them in such high regards. The most popular hitch product from B&W, the Companion, can tow up to 20,000 lbs of weight. When coupled with the right truck, it is possible to set your truck up to tow heavyweight fifth wheel trailers.

CURT

The CURT hitches are full of features, especially the new 30K hitches. CURT has always delivered the best looking products we have ever seen. The most important part is of course their performance. CURT products have flaws but all the mechanisms are refined to the best of their abilities. The best thing about CURT is that they are innovative and aren’t afraid to dish out new ideas to aid RV owners’ trucks on their towing journey.

PullRite

Pullrite/Pullman Enterprises have surprised us with their Superglide products. The 2900, for example, is proof that Pullrite can pull it off just as well as the big names like B&W or CURT. The 2900 model is an example of a good automated slider hitch and you can feel the ease of using these hitches.

Reese

Reese is one of the powerhouses in terms of popularity when it comes to their hitches. If I can only tell you one thing to convince you to buy a Reese product, then it is that no matter what kind of vehicle you are using or what kind of load you are towing, Reese gets you covered. Besides fifth wheel hitches, Reese also offers locking hitch pins, trailer jacks, versatile adjustable ball mounts, etc.

How To Install A Fifth Wheel Hitch On A Short Bed Truck

As I have mentioned before, you should get a professional to do the job for you. However, I never said there is no way to go DIY. Let’s jump right into it. I will break it down into steps for you to follow. Here we will be discussing king pin hitch setups, since it is more popular than gooseneck hitches. You can use this formula to install a fifth wheel hitch for a short bed truck.

1. Place the front base rail in the correct position.

2. Make sure drilling locations are marked.

3. inspect the pilot hole underneath the bed.

4. Increase the size of bolt holes.

5. Bolt in the under bed brackets.

6. Bolt down the 5th wheel rail.

7. Measure the height of the fifth wheel hitch.

8. Attach the 5th wheel legs. 

9. Connect the fifth wheel legs

10. Drill holes and bolts down the rear base rail

11. All hardware should be torqued

12. Install the fifth wheel hitch again 

5th Wheel Hitches: Best Seller List

[amazon bestseller=”5th wheel hitch” items=”3″]

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