What Size Truck Do You Need To Pull A 40 Foot Camper?


What Size Truck Do You Need To Pull A 40 Foot Camper?

In the world of luxury camping, or “glamping” as some may call it, bigger is better. With every passing year, the RV industry increases both the size and luxury of its offerings. So, the bigger the camper, the bigger the truck needed to tow it.

Pulling a 40-foot camper will require the need of at least a full-size, medium-duty (e.g., F-250, 2500, etc.) truck. Luckily, today’s trucks have significantly improved their towing capacity payload compared to past models, allowing for heavier loads to be pulled while improving fuel economy.

Given that the average weight of a 40-foot camper is roughly 8,000 lbs. dry, we recommend having a medium-duty, full-sized truck to do the job safely and comfortably.

While it is true that newer trucks such as the F-150 with the 2.7L turbo V-6 engine have a maximum towing capacity of 9,000 lbs. when properly equipped, you might not want to push its absolute limit if you want it to last.

This article is intended to help provide you with more information on towing your 40-foot home away from home. Let’s have a look at some of the most common questions and concerns one might have when it comes time to pull a 40-foot camper or 5th wheel trailer.

What is the difference between a regular and heavy-duty truck?

There are many reasons that one may opt for a truck. Originally, the mighty truck was intended to be a bare-bones work vehicle and nothing more. Oh my, how the times have changed. Today’s modern trucks have become luxury vehicles and even regarded as status symbols by some owners.

Having the right tool for the job will make everything that much easier, and that is especially true in the truck market. A heavy-duty truck may look like its smaller, regular-duty brother, but under the surface, it is a hardened beast that will take substantially more abuse and look good while doing it.

Common differences between regular and heavy-duty trucks

  • Heavy-duty trucks usually come with a more robust frame, which allows them to carry and tow more.
  • The engines often used in heavy-duty trucks are diesel-powered, as they can take more of a beating.
  • An improved suspension system such as added leaf springs and optional airbags allow heavy-duty trucks to have a higher payload.
  • A dually (four rear wheels) is usually a good sign that the truck a dedicated, heavy-duty workhorse.
  • Another subtle difference on a heavy-duty truck one might not notice upon first glance are the added lug nuts. Having six or ever eight lugs on each wheel will significantly improve the capacity of a truck compared to the five lugs that most regular trucks come with.

What is a travel trailer?

Simply put, a travel trailer is a camper that hooks on to the rear hitch of a truck. Each travel trailer starts life as a regular trailer frame, which is then outfitted to any degree of luxury the customer or manufacturer calls for.

Having a travel trailer poses its unique set of positive features that help it become the more popular choice compared to a 5th wheel. One big advantage is that it can be towed by any truck with a regular hitch. Of course, the trailer has to be under the maximum towing capacity set out by the truck’s manufacturer.

Due to its largely square shape, a travel trailer has a larger interior footprint, giving the owner an overall roomier feel. On top of that, its box-like design gives the manufacturer more freedom on the design layout.

What is a 5th wheel camper?

5th wheel campers are connected to the truck via a gooseneck hitch mounted in the truck’s bed. By doing this, the overall weight that a truck can pull is increased, which in turn allows for more creature comforts to be added to the trailer without going over a certain weight.

Spreading the tongue weight over the rear axle of a truck as opposed to it being on the bumper will also improve handling and shorten the overall combined length of the two when driving down the road. A few feet in overall length may not seem like much, but it can be the needed difference to navigate down some tight, narrow roads.

Backing up a 5th wheel is another beneficial perk that owners can benefit from. The jackknife angle on a travel trailer is much higher, allowing you to get in or out of tight situations that much easier.

Unfortunately, having a 5th wheel will significantly lower the overall interior space when compared to the same length travel trailer since a significant portion of the 5th wheel will be over the truck’s bed. 

What style of trailer is better for fuel mileage?

As you might know by now, both camper styles have their specific pros and cons. What is important to you will greatly influence your decision-making process. Some want more space, while others want to spend less at the pump.

If you do lots of miles each year going from campsite to campsite, a few extra MPG’s will make a difference in the long run. But what camper style is better for achieving optimal fuel efficiency?

This issue has been debated for years, but the consensus is that 5th wheel campers are slightly worse on fuel due to their taller profile. The use of a wind deflector, like ones found on most 18-wheelers, will help even out that number.

Should I choose a gas or diesel-powered truck to tow my 40-foot camper?

Diesel trucks have always been regarded as superior when it comes to heavy-duty work, such as towing. When pulling a camper, a diesel-powered rig will come out on top in most categories.

For starters, diesel engines are much more durable due to the higher compression the motor needs to achieve combustion. Therefore, the diesel engine is engineered to resist much more pressure than a gasoline engine.

Additionally, manufacturers know that a diesel-powered truck will likely be put to work, so many components, including the engine, are made to withstand more abuse.

Another benefit of having a coal-rolling truck (not that we endorse that) is a lower MPG number. Adding to that the fact that you will likely be using the truck to rack up those highway miles and diesel starts to make sense.

However, like with anything else, there are downsides to having a diesel truck. The asking price of a diesel-powered truck is always considerably higher than that of its gasoline counterpart. Sure, it may last longer, but if buying new, the price difference can be upwards of $10,000!

Overall, gasoline engines will be more silent and provide less vibration in a vehicle, but chances once it gets up there in age, the chances of mechanical failures are greatly increased. That’s not to say that gasoline engines are bad. In general, the gasoline engine is preferred by many people over a diesel.

What is the difference between a ½ ton, ¾ ton, and 1-ton trucks?

This method of identifying the “toughness” and weight capability of a truck has been carried over from the olden times. Back then, a ½ ton truck would be able to carry a ½ ton of material in its bed. A ¾ ton could carry ¾ tons of material, and so on.

Nowadays, this nomenclature is mostly based on tradition. A modern ½ ton truck will have a much higher payload capacity than its classification will have you believe.

For the general public, a ½ ton is enough to take care of anything an owner may encounter. Alternatively, a 1-ton truck is purpose-built to take any punishment one might throw at it, such as heavy towing, and going over extremely rough terrain, just to name a few.

If you would like to know more about towing the ability of your favorite truck pulling a camper, check out our entire list on towing here!

Kern Campbell

I've had a passion for four-wheel-drive vehicles since I was a kid riding in the back seat of my Grandfather's Jeep Grand Wagoneer. I have owned a lot of vehicles over the years. They each have their pros and cons and I look forward to sharing my knowledge with you so you can find the vehicle that's just right for your needs.

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