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Australian 5th wheelers

Updated on May 19, 2013

5th Wheelers

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What is a 5th Wheeler?

The term ‘fifth wheeler’ is derived from the 'wheel-like' turntable where the van is attached to your vehicle: hence it is the fifth wheel of your vehicle!

Most 5th wheelers are designed to extends over the tray back of the tow vehicle. The van is attached to your tow vehicle using a gooseneck hitch.

Fifth wheelers are very common in the United States, where RV'ers looking for the benefits of stable towing starting hitching converted caravans in the early 1960s. Fifth Wheelers are not as common in Australia, where local manufacturers have been operating for less than 20 years.

Why would you choose a 5th Wheeler over a Caravan or Motorhome?

If you plan to travel long distance, stop regularly, go off-road, and towing safety is a priority to you, then a 5th Wheeler van should be on your vehicle shopping list.

The main benefit of 5th wheelers is the easy of manoeuvring. Compared to traditional caravan,s the fifth-wheel hitch allows the van to reverse easier, within a smaller turning circle.

This advantage is even more important for off-road travel - where manoeuvrability gives you access to tight camping spots and rocky terrain.

Tips to Choose the right 5th Wheeler for your needs

Here are some tips to help select a 5th wheel van:

  • length of van - small vans are easier to tow and reverse
  • off-road capability - better for Australian gravel road conditions
  • interior - is it durable and solidly built to withstand all road conditions?
  • interior layout - has the available space been well designed to maximise all available floor space? ie. all space is well utilized
  • plenty of storage area - with quality door latches that are durable
  • solar-capability - in case you need to 'free camp'
  • maintenance and spare parts - are they easy to obtain?
  • what tow vehicle you have (or will purchase) will determine the maximum weight of the 5th wheeler you can purchase
  • towing load - how much weight will you be towing? GCM (gross combined mass) can not exceed the manufacturers specifications
  • the hitch must comply with the Vehicle Standard ADR (Australian Design Rule) 62/01 (2006) and ADR 62/02 (2007)

For more information about caravanning tips and touring ideas visit the Experience Caravanning and Camping website.

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