Can An F-350 Pull A Fifth Wheel?

If you're considering getting a fifth wheel or getting a new truck to pull yours, it's important to get the right match. Not all trucks are ideal for towing a trailer. Not all trailers are the same. Fifth wheels, in particular, are a unique kind of vehicle. But can an F350 pull a fifth wheel? We've taken a closer look at Ford F350 and found the answer for you.

Ford F350 trucks are a great choice for pulling a fifth wheel. Some of the things that are ideal for towing fifth wheels - and can be found on the F350 - include:

  • Adequate towing capacity
  • High enough payload capacity, as the fifth wheel adds weight to the truck itself.
  • Dual rear wheels, which help support the weight of the fifth wheel.
  • An extended truck bed, which makes it easier to support the weight and stop safely.
  • Good suspension that can handle the stress of towing.
  • While a matter of choice, many people prefer towing with diesel - available in the F350.

Keep reading to learn more. We'll cover how to tell just how big of a fifth wheel your truck can tow, and how to tell by the towing and cargo capacity. We'll also cover what to look for in a truck, and whether or not you should get a diesel. Finally, we'll cover that nasty rumor that keeps going around - do you need a CDL for the new F350s? Read and find out!

A Komfort brand Fifth Wheel Travel Trailer and Ford F350 Pickup are shown pulling out of the camping space, Can An F350 Pull A Fifth Wheel?


How Big Of A Fifth Wheel Can An F350 Tow?

The towing capacity of an F350 is 18,000 pounds. Just keep in mind, that's the total trailer weight or gross trailer weight. It includes everything inside the trailer, not just the weight of the empty trailer or curb weight. 
So you can't tow an 18,000-pound fifth wheel. You can tow a 10,000-pound trailer, and you can load it down with 8,000 pounds of stuff, in theory. But even that isn't really the best practice - avoid pulling anything near your maximum towing weight for the safety of you and your truck.
Towing anything adds stress to your truck suspension. CamperReport notes that fifth-wheel trailers are unique in that they hitch directly to the bed of your truck. This puts more of the pressure and weight on your back tires. Potentially, you can overload your truck's payload capacity or cargo capacity with this weight, even while being within your towing capacity.
In addition, the heavier the trailer, the harder it is to maneuver safely. This is true of any trailer, not just fifth wheels. But again, since the fifth wheel attaches to the truck's bed, it comes with its own unique set of challenges.
Ideally, you want to stay well below your maximum limit - but since the average fifth wheel only weighs about 2,000 pounds, that shouldn't be too hard. About 25% of the weight of your fifth wheel is carried on the bed of the truck.
This means you need to determine your cargo capacity through the payload weight of the car. Otherwise, you can overload the truck.  

The F350 Ford parked along the preserve park, Should You Buy A Used Pickup For Towing?

What Is My Cargo Capacity?

Your truck might be able to tow 18,000 pounds, but as already explained, fifth wheels carry some of that weight on the bed of the truck itself. This means that you can be within your towing capacity while the truck has exceeded its cargo capacity.

Every vehicle has a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR), which is the maximum weight that the truck can support. The payload weight is the weight of everything you add into it - including yourself, the tow hitch, suitcases, and more. In the case of a fifth wheel, it applies to that added weight from the trailer too.

The curb weight is the actual weight of the car. The curb weight and the payload weight can not exceed the gross weight (GVRW). The driver's side door jamb typically has an informational sticker with this information.

It may tell you what the payload weight is, or you can do the math by taking the GVRW, subtracting the curb weight, and getting the payload weight.

The payload weight varies even between vehicles of the same model, depending on trim options, extra features, or even differences in the engine. So be sure to check your specific vehicle.

Still confused? Try reading: What Does Payload Capacity Actually Mean In A Pickup Truck?

How To Calculate Cargo Capacity

For example, let's say the payload is 3,000 pounds. You are a 200-pound person, with 100 pounds of cargo in the truck, a 100-pound hitch, and a 100-pound passenger. You have already used 500 pounds of your total payload weight of 3,000. This leaves you with 2,500 pounds to go as your remaining cargo capacity. 

Since as much as 25% of your fifth wheel's weight can be extended onto the truck itself, take that cargo capacity of 2,500 x 4. This shows that your truck, safely, should never haul a fifth wheel larger than 10,000 pounds.

Anything heavier can overextend your truck's cargo capacity/payload/GVWR, causing long-term damage and potentially unsafe driving conditions. This is an example of why, with a fifth wheel, it's never a good idea to go by towing capacity alone - don't tow your maximum limit just because the numbers suggest you can!

Read more about towing here: 30+ 5th Wheel Towing Tips For Beginners

What Truck Is Best For Pulling A Fifth Wheel?

Because of the extra weight from a fifth wheel on the back tires, some vehicles are better than others. In particular, dual rear wheels offers greatly increased support.
Consider the suspension of the vehicle as well. You can pick a truck known for its suspension, or you can redo/improve your current system. Talk to a mechanic certified in suspension before making changes. There are options, including lifts and coilovers, but a trained professional can help you make the best choice.
closeup wheels and shock absorbers with repair the suspension on the car
The numbers might suggest you can tow with a half-ton truck, but it may not be smart. Sure, maybe you can pull it for a while - but you can also ruin a really nice truck that way. A full-ton truck is just better able to handle the demands of towing a fifth wheel. At the bare minimum, at least consider a 3/4 ton. 

With a Cummins Power Stroke engine, dual rear wheels, and TorqShift transmission, the Ford F-350 Super Duty DRW is an ideal choice. And it's a full ton, for maximum capability. Opt for the longer, 8-foot bed, to make towing and stopping easier. 

Why Can The F350 Tow More Than The F250?

It might sound a little trite, but the F350 can tow more than the F250 for one simple reason. It's what it was designed for!

While the two trucks are similar in many ways, Ford uses the F350 to meet the needs of people who need a lot of towing power. The 250 maxes out at 15,000 pounds towing capacity, while the 350 can handle as much as 20,000 pounds.

The payload capacity is also higher - around 2,500 pounds for the F250 compared to 4,000 in the F350. 

The suspension of the F350 offers a higher rear block, tighter rear spring, and a reinforced midsection. Numbers regarding towing and payload capacity can vary some, between vehicles, depending on the options and extras chosen.

There may be times where a specially designed F250 does a fine job towing. But there's just no arguing that the F350 was made as a vehicle for carrying heavy loads, including trailer towing.

Do I Need A Diesel To Pull A Fifth Wheel?

A Komfort brand Fifth Wheel Travel Trailer and Ford F350 Pickup are shown pulling out of the camping space, Can An F350 Pull A Fifth Wheel?

You don't need to have diesel to pull a fifth wheel. In the case of a fifth wheel, which is well beneath many vehicles' maximum towing capacity, diesel isn't necessary. Gas is gas - it doesn't take diesel to pull the weight of a fifth wheel.
But many people do select diesel if they plan on traveling a lot with their trailer. It's just more fuel-efficient - diesel costs more upfront, but in the long run, it offers 25% or greater fuel economy. And if you're towing something very heavy, diesel does provide more torque. 

Diesel vehicles also tend to be less expensive in maintenance - they don't require as much fixing, as often. But as soon as you need a repair, don't put it off. Diesel trucks run great for a long time, but delayed repairs can quickly inflate your bill. Diesel engines just don't put up with running off - it throws everything out of whack, in a hurry.

Do You Need A CDL For An F350?

The short answer is...maybe? Even with federal regulations in the US, there are variations between states. As a result, check your own state's rules.

Federal regulations require a CDL for any vehicle that weighs more than 26,000 pounds. This means everything, altogether. If an officer pulls you over for a weight check on the road, your cargo, trailer, truck, etc., cannot be more than 26,000 pounds.

The GVRW for the Ford F350 is 10,100-12,400 pounds. While this is under the limit, it may not be once you add the trailer. The average fifth wheel weighs somewhere around 2,000 pounds. You probably won't need a CDL - but it's up to you to make sure.

Officially, you could be in a 12,000 pound F350, towing 18,000 pounds, for a grand total of 30,000 pounds. This means, of course, that legally, you need a CDL to do so! Some states have exemptions, which can apply to RVs. Unfortunately, there's just no definitive answer besides checking with your local DMV.

In Closing

The Ford F350 is a great choice for pulling a fifth wheel. It has good suspension, and the Super Duty option has an engine that can't be beaten for towing. Plus, the weight limits are high enough to tow with ease. Get the extended bed and dual rear wheels for the best support, plus it makes stopping with a trailer safer and simpler!

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