A pickup truck is needed to pull a 5th wheel trailer. But there's the age-old question of which truck engine is better when it comes to towing - diesel or gas? That's what we asked the experts, and here's what they have to say.
A diesel truck is recommended when towing a 5th wheel camper. It produces more torque output which makes it able to perform more work and better tow heavier loads such as this type of RV. However, this is not to say that only a diesel-powered truck can tow a 5th wheel. Gas engines can do the job, too, but diesel engines do the job more efficiently.
Keep reading so we can explain further why diesel-powered trucks are better suited for towing 5th wheel campers. We'll also tell you if you can use a half-ton and a 3/4-ton truck for towing these trailers. We'll also answer in this article if 1500 trucks come in diesel engines. Let's begin!
Is gas or diesel better for towing?
Fifth-wheels have gained popularity among the RV community because they offer the space, comfort, and luxury of Class A motorhomes at a more affordable price. You get to enjoy all the amenities from a king-sized bed to a full bathroom, complete kitchen, an entertainment center with lots of living space. As long as you have the right vehicle for towing, of course.
When it comes to towing a 5th wheel camper, you would specifically need a pickup truck. This type of RV is hitched on the truck's bed, making them easier to maneuver and safer to tow.
However, not all pickup trucks are created equal. For example, diesel and gas engines fare differently when it comes to towing. With all the amenities that 5th wheels offer, expect them to be on the heavier side. You would need an engine that's up for this kind of task.
When towing heavy loads, the truck's engine has a big part in determining its performance and efficiency. The crucial factor here is the torque output of each type of engine.
Diesel Engines Have Higher Torque Output
Diesel-powered trucks have a very remarkable torque output compared to their gas counterpart. Put simply, torque is the truck's ability to perform work. The more torque an engine has, the greater is its ability to perform work. This makes them capable of towing heavier loads. And we all know that trucks towing 5th wheels have a lot of work to do!
A diesel engine generates more torque because of the compression process that happens to be able to achieve ignition and propel the vehicle forward. The main component that's responsible for this is the engine's piston. It compresses the fuel-air mixture to enable combustion.
As more air enters the engine, more compression happens. Consequently, there is higher pressure inside the cylinder, which results in more torque output.
Comparison: Diesel Vs. Gas Models
This is evident when you compare the towing capacities of both engines. Let's take the 2021 Ford F-150, for example. Its 3.3L Ti-VCT V6 has a torque of 265 lb-ft at 4,000 rpms. It has a maximum towing capacity of 8,200 lbs.
Meanwhile, its 3.0L Turbo-Diesel V6 engine has a torque of 440 lb-ft at 1,750 rpms, and it can tow up to 12,100 lbs. More torque, more towing capacity.
This is why diesel trucks are better to use for towing 5th wheel campers. Since diesel-powered engines have higher torque output, they can pull more weight.
Do 1500 trucks come in diesel?
Light-duty or 1500 trucks were originally available in gas-powered engines only. Manufacturers didn't see the need nor incentive for the much heavier and more expensive diesel engines. Diesel is mostly used for heavy-duty work, and 1500 trucks weren't designed for that kind of job.
Whereas bigger trucks had diesel engines as far back as 1908, 1500 trucks only came with diesel engines in the 1980s when General Motors started producing diesel V8 engines for their C/K pickup trucks.
But today, buyers of full-size light-duty trucks have the option to choose between a gas-powered and a diesel-powered engine. Popular pickup truck brands such as the Ford F-150, Ram 1500, and Chevrolet Silverado 1500 now come with diesel engines.
When you choose a diesel-powered 1500 truck, expect it to cost a lot more than its gas counterpart. But having a diesel engine gives you an opportunity to enjoy improved fuel mileage and better towing capacity.
For example, the 2020 Ram 1500 V6 engine is priced at $35,790, while its diesel counterpart costs $38,585. You'll have to pay $2,795 more for a diesel engine.
But here are the gains in the long run. You get 26 mpg on a diesel-powered engine and only 22 mpg on the V6 engine. The towing capacity for the gas engine is 7,710 lbs. For the diesel engine, you can tow 4,850 lbs more because its maximum capacity is 12,560 lbs.
You can see significant differences in these two aspects alone. You cover more distance for a gallon of fuel, and that means more savings for you. Its higher towing capacity makes it a real workhorse for its size. We've not yet factored in the longevity of the engines and resale value that also go in favor of diesel engines.
This is why having 1500 trucks available in diesel engines is good news for buyers and gives them the power to choose which engine would satisfy their driving needs.
Can a half-ton truck pull a 5th wheel?
Fifth-wheel trailers have traditionally been massive. These trailers were designed to offer RVers the comforts and luxury provided by Class A motorhomes, hence the size. But 5th wheels nowadays are available in a wide range of sizes and weights, making them suitable to be towed by different pickup trucks.
Half-ton trucks have an average towing capacity of 9,000 to 10,000 lbs. Of course, it will still depend on the particular make and model of the pickup truck. The engine, transmission, cab sizes, and bed lengths will also play a big part in determining how much a particular 1500 truck can tow.
Here are examples of 1500 trucks and their towing capacities:
- 2021 GMC Sierra 1500 6.2L EcoTec3 V8 with Max Trailering Package has a GCWR of 17,800 lbs.
- 2021 Ford F-150 3.5L EcoBoost V6 engine has a maximum towing capacity of 14,000 lbs.
- 2021 Silverado 1500 6.2L V8 engine can tow up to 13,300 lbs.
- 2021 Ram 1500 5.7L HEMI V8 engine has a maximum towing capacity of 12,750 lbs.
- 2021 Toyota Tundra SR5 5.7L V8 engine can tow up to 10,100 lbs.
And here are examples of 5th wheel trailers that can be towed by half-ton trucks:
- Jayco Eagle HT 25.5 REOK has a GVWR of 9,995 lbs.
- Grand Design Reflection Series 226RK also with a GVWR of 9,995 lbs.
- Rockwood Ultra Lite 2441WS with a GVWR of 9,165 lbs.
- Forest River Flagstaff Super Lite 524LWS also has a GVWR of 9,165 lbs.
- KZ Durango Half-Ton D250RES with a GVWR of 9,000 lbs.
These half-ton 5th wheels may be lightweight, but they'll still let you enjoy luxurious and complete amenities on the road. Gone were the days when you had to have a heavy-duty full-size truck to be able to tow a 5th wheel camper!
Can I tow a 5th wheel with a 3/4-ton truck?
Since the 3/4-ton trucks weigh more than the half-ton trucks, they are capable of towing heavier loads. In fact, most 5th wheel manufacturers recommend having at least this truck class for towing their RVs. The average towing capacity of this type of truck is between 13,000 to 14,000 lbs.
Let's take a look at some examples of 3/4-ton trucks and their maximum towing capacity:
- 2021 GMC Sierra 2500HD 6.6L Duramax Turbo-Diesel V8 engine can tow up to 18,500 lbs.
- 2021 Chevrolet Silverado 2500HD 6.6L Duramax Turbo-Diesel V8 engine offers a maximum trailering of 18,500 lbs.
- 2021 Ford F-250 6.2L V8 engine has a maximum towing capacity of 18,200 lbs.
- 2021 Ram 2500 Big Horn 6.4L V8 engine has a towing capacity of up to 14,970 lbs.
- 2021 Nissan Titan XD Crew Cab 5.6L V8 engine's maximum towing capacity is 11,040 lbs.
Find below some models of 5th wheel trailers that can be towed by these 2500 pickup trucks:
- Jayco Pinnacle 32RLTS has a GVWR of 15,500 lbs.
- Grand Design Solitude 280RK with a GVWR of 15,000 lbs.
- Winnebago Voyage V2380RK has a GVWR of 14,000 lbs.
- Palomino Puma 383DSS with a GVWR of 13,895 lbs. (and it's a toy hauler, too!)
- Heartland Elkridge 32RLS has a weight of 11,010 lbs.
With a 3/4-ton truck, you have more options to choose from since you have more allowance for the maximum towing capacity.
A diesel engine can tow a 5th wheel camper more efficiently than its gas counterpart. But you don't need one to be able to tow this type of RV. A gas-powered truck engine can get the job done, too. A diesel engine is more of a recommendation and not really a requirement when towing these trailers.
For some related reading, you may visit the following posts:
Can An F350 Pull A Fifth Wheel?
Can A Toyota Tundra Pull A 5th Wheel?