Of all the choices you’ll make when selecting a trailer, none will affect your driving more than the choice between a bumper pull trailer and gooseneck trailer. Each option has its own advantages, but the differences between a gooseneck and a bumper pull hitch sometimes aren’t apparent. How do you decide which hitch to choose? Now, for our purposes, we’ll also be considering the “real” fifth wheel hitch in the same category as a gooseneck, because even though the two use different means of hooking the trailer, the functionality is the same in terms of efficiency.
It’s no surprise that the most common type of hitch is the bumper pull. Most of the major vehicle manufacturers include this type of hitch – or at least the basis for this hitch – in SUVs, cargo vans, and pickup trucks.
Bumper pull trailers have a lot of advantages, most of which stem from the smaller size trailer they are designed to haul. Another advantage is the combined weight of a bumper pull trailer and vehicle is unlikely to exceed 10,001 lbs.
A bumper pull hitch is also an advantage for operators who aren’t as familiar with towing. Since bumper-pulls are a more common style of hitch than a gooseneck, it can be less challenging for drivers who aren’t as experienced. Additionally, for employees, they are much more likely to be familiar with driving a bumper pull than a gooseneck or fifth wheel, so if they’ve towed with their own vehicle, they can make the transition to towing with a work truck easier with a traditional hitch.
However, a bumper pull trailer does have some disadvantages. That same size and maneuverability that makes them easier to drive means that you simply can’t make them that large. For many companies, this isn’t a huge factor, but if you are contemplating a fully enclosed office and workspace for your team in the hinterlands, a gooseneck may be the only option. Goosenecks and fifth wheels, by their very nature, require bigger trucks to haul. In fact, you’ll want to be careful when hauling heavier loads overall. You or your employees need to make sure that any truck with a fifth wheel is rated properly for the weight. If not, you are likely to encounter several problems while on the road, such as lack of stability and loss of control, including trailer swaying.
The biggest advantage of a gooseneck trailer over a bumper pull is its stability. Since the tongue weight of the trailer is over the truck’s rear axle instead of at the back of the frame, the potential of the trailer to sway is minimized. This increased stability also means gooseneck trailers can accommodate more weight and be larger than a bumper pull trailer. Goosenecks have exponentially more room for any cargo you can haul.
Gooseneck trailers also have a tighter turn radius. This lets you cut corners tighter than a bumper pull trailer and lets you maneuver the trailer in tighter spaces. This tight turn radius can be a double-edged sword, though. It takes a few tries to learn, and if you mess up you can damage your trailer or tow vehicle, to say nothing of damaging property and other cars on the road.
A gooseneck trailer has limitations, though. One is its size. You won’t be able to haul one with anything but a pickup truck, and unlike bumper pull trailers, several goosenecks are heavy enough to be classified as commercial. In the end, gooseneck trailers are less common than bumper pull trailers. This means most pickup trucks don’t come equipped with a gooseneck trailer ball in their truck beds.
Another gooseneck trailer issue is storage of the trailer itself. Since gooseneck trailers are generally larger than bumper pull trailers, storing one is a little more complicated than storing a bumper pull for some contractors who will be taking them home or have a facility to park the entire rig in overnight.
When considering whether to purchase a gooseneck or a bumper pull trailer, you want to figure out how much trailer you need – perhaps even before you’ve purchased a tow vehicle. If you’ll be towing in traffic or in city streets, then a smaller trailer will allow you to get to a location and easily find parking. At the same time, if you’ll be using smaller “Sprinter-type” vehicles, then the size of the trailer is the limiting factor – without a truck, you can never use a gooseneck or a fifth wheel.
The key in all this is to understand how you are going to use a trailer, the vehicle(s) that your company is going to use, and how those uses might change. We’re here to help and with over a decade of experience, we know what works and what doesn’t.