Is pulling a car behind a travel trailer even legal? Specifically, can you pull a car behind a fifth wheel? The answer is yes, depending on your location. Let’s take a closer look.
Fifth wheel campers are luxury apartments on wheels. As travel trailers go, they’re hard to beat in terms of comfort and class.
The problem is, you need a specific type of vehicle to tow a fifth wheel. Some half-ton trucks might be up to the job, but it goes much more smoothly with a 3/4 truck—or something even mightier. Unless you want to drive a huge rig like that around the whole time your camper is parked at the site, your only option would be to pull a second car behind a fifth wheel.
About Triple Towing
The act of pulling a car—or boat, or anything loaded onto a second trailer—behind a camper is referred to as triple towing.
Although triple towing is permissible in some states, there are many others that have outlawed the practice. As a result, you’ll need to pay close attention to the local regulations if you’re towing a car behind a fifth wheel.
There are some places that allow triple towing only if the first trailer in question is a fifth wheel. Since the high hitch point of the mechanism cuts down on sway, this type of trailer has a better safety record than most campers. Nevertheless, we don’t recommend this practice unless you’ve had plenty of experience towing the trailer itself first.
In Which States Can You Pull A Car Behind A Fifth Wheel?
The table below will give you the short answer on whether it’s legal to pull a second vehicle behind your camper.
Be aware, however, that there may be additional safety regulations in place for the state in question. Make sure to research every state you’ll be visiting in order to avoid confrontation with the law. For more information, see Additional Considerations, below.
|State||Is It Legal?|
Keeping track of the laws and terminology for each state can be a tricky and time-consuming process. For example, in some states, you need a commercial driver’s license if you want to haul more than one load behind your truck. Others may require you to pass a special test beforehand.
In many places, you’ll hear the process referred to as “double towing.” The “triple” designation enters the mix when you want to include the towing vehicle in the equation. Know that these terms are interchangeable—it’s a regional distinction at best.
Also, check the regulations on convoy length. Whether you’re towing a single trailer or a double load, there will probably be limits in place. The maximum convoy length in Hawaii is just 65 feet. In South Dakota, it’s permissible to tow a 75-foot convoy, but the second load cannot exceed 24 feet in length. The Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) websites for each state should tell you what you need to know.
Finally, know that the maximum speed limit may be slightly lower when you’re hauling a trailer. This is usually true whether you’re pulling a car behind the trailer or not.
A Word About Weight
First and foremost, you won’t be able to pull a car behind a fifth wheel if the total load exceeds your vehicle’s towing capacity. That’s why we recommend checking the Gross Vehicle Weight (GVW) of the fifth wheel and the second car before you even consider the practice.
The unloaded vehicle weight (UVW) of your second trailer—or car, in this case—cannot exceed the weight of the fifth wheel itself. This isn’t likely to be an issue unless you’re attempting to haul an SUV or heavy-duty truck, but it’s still something to be aware of.
Once you know the combined GVW, check the owner’s manual for your towing vehicle. If the numbers don’t align properly, you’ll either need to forget the idea or invest in a new truck.
Don’t forget that manufacturers suggest keeping your total load weight at or below 80 percent of the vehicle’s towing capacity. Fortunately, most 3/4 ton trucks are capable of hauling loads in excess of 10,000 pounds. Depending on the size of the fifth wheel and the curb weight of the second car, it’s possible that the combined weight will be in the proper range.
Preparing For The Trip
Take a look at your camper to determine whether it’s fitted with the proper attachments. While some are set up to haul additional loads, this isn’t the case with every model. If it doesn’t have the right setup, you’ll need to talk to your mechanic or RV dealer to find out what your options are.
Once you’ve attached both the trailer and the second car, we would suggest taking the convoy on a test drive or two. It’s a good idea to get a feel for the extra length in a familiar environment before you head out on the highway. Pay close attention to how quickly you’re able to stop and start, and look in the mirrors frequently to check for sway.
Encourage every driver in your party to get comfortable towing the entire convoy. This will make it easier for you to switch off when driving long distances. Fatigue prevention is important no matter what you’re driving, but when it comes to towing oversized loads, it’s critical.
As we mentioned, you should plan your route so you can be sure to stay within the law in each state you’ll be visiting. Take a look at the maximum weight limits for your chosen roads while you’re at it, since the second car will represent a significant increase.
Keep in mind that you can’t back up the convoy while the extra car is still attached. That means any RV parks or gas stations you stop at will need to have a pull-through option. With a bit of research, you should be able to find a few of these along your chosen route.
Finally, keep a close eye on the weather forecast—not just before you leave home, but every day of the trip. Wet or slippery roads will make it that much harder to safely haul the convoy. Even excess winds can make the journey more hazardous. If you run into a storm, you should head to the nearest RV park or rest station and wait for the weather to clear.
- Perform a routine maintenance check on all parts of the convoy.
- Make sure the tow hitch has been properly installed by a professional.
- Check the turn signals and brake lights.
- Make sure your towing rig, camper, and second car are all registered and that the license plates are clearly visible when the convoy is in motion.
- Invest in safety chains and breakaway brakes. These will help keep all components of your convoy secure if either of the hitches should detach in transit.
- Check all fluids and tire pressure.
- Attach reflective strips or panels to each component of the convoy, placing them at eye level. These help keep other drivers from coming too close, especially at night.
- Pack along road flares so you can signal other drivers when you need extra space. They’ll also come in handy if you have some sort of malfunction and need to mark the surrounding area as a warning.
The Toy Hauler Alternative
Let’s say you’ve weighed all the risks against the benefits and decided that triple towing isn’t for you. Is there any other way to transport your second vehicle?
If your fifth wheel is an oversized toy hauler and the second car is small enough, the answer is yes. While most toy haulers are designed to hold smaller vehicles like jet skis and ATVs, some of the larger ones can accommodate sports cars as well.
The Mazda Miata, Porsche Cayman,, Ford Fiesta Hatch, and Fiat 500 are all small enough to fit inside some cargo areas. Of the fifth wheels that are capable of holding a second vehicle, the Keystone Raptor 398TS and Dutchmen Voltage 3805 are both good bets. Remember that you’ll still need an exceptionally heavy-duty towing rig if you want to pull this off.
Although you’ll need to take certain precautions, pulling a car behind a travel trailer or fifth wheel is a feasible goal. As long as you and your towing rig are both up to the challenge, you can bring a second car along for those afternoon joyrides.
Be safe, and happy camping!
Check out our article on: 9 Easy Tips For Towing A Travel Trailer