They are simply two different ways of towing a trailer that managed to become popular due to personal preference.
A typical gooseneck (ball) has a capacity of 25,000 pounds. A typical gooseneck ball can be released from the truck bed by simply pulling a single lever. Then it can be lifted out and dropped back into its socket upside down. This allows the truck bed to be used, unobstructed, for cargo.
A gooseneck coupler (the part of the hitch that is attached to the trailer) is easily replaced if you desire to have:
- A cushioned ride with rubber pads built into the coupler
- A cushioned ride with air bags built into the coupler
- An extended reach to provide additional room between the truck cab and the trailer for tight turning or maneuvering.
A gooseneck coupler can be easily adjusted up or down if connecting to a truck that is taller or shorter than what the coupler was previously set for. Just loosen the two set screws (pinch bolts) and slide up or down.
Gooseneck trailers can be difficult to connect to the truck because the coupler has to be lined up directly above the ball inside the truck bed.
Gooseneck hitches have a lot of room for movement on the ball when the truck tilts side to side or up and down due to uneven roads.
Gooseneck hitches cost less than a fifth wheel hitch.
A typical RV fifth wheel hitch has a capacity of 16,000 pounds but some models have capacities in the lower 20,000 LB range.
Fifth wheel hitches can be removed from the truck bed (usually by removing 4 pins). The hitch is heavy and the mounting rails typically remain in the bed and can get in the way of cargo.
Fifth wheel hitches can be upgraded to include air bags or extended reach designs by replacing the entire pin box. The pin box is the steel structure that extends out from beneath the front of the camper and holds the king pin.
The pin box height can be adjusted by removing the mounting bolts and moving the pin box to a different set of holes. The hitch inside the truck bed can be adjusted in a similar manner.
Until the early 1990’s fifth wheel hitches did not pivot to allow for uneven roads when the truck is tilting side to side. Current models do pivot.
It is much easier to connect a trailer to a fifth wheel hitch. Simply make sure the pin box is at or just above the height of the hitch and back up. As long as you are lined up fairly straight, the hitch will align the king pin Into its latch.
Which is better: Fifth wheel or gooseneck? It depends. Traditionally, horse trailers and flat bed utility trailers have used a gooseneck design while camping trailers have used a fifth wheel hitch. Adapters exist to convert fifth wheel to gooseneck and vice versa. It comes down to personal preference.