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?
Over the course of this article you’ll learn the difference between a gooseneck hitch and a bumper pull hitch, along with the advantages and compromises of owning each type. By the end, you’ll have enough information to figure out the right type of hitch for you and your tow vehicle.
The most common type of hitch is the bumper pull, also known as a drag or tagalong trailer. The name is slightly misleading because the trailer doesn’t actually connect to the tow vehicle’s bumper. Instead, the trailer’s tongue fits over a ball hitch that juts out from the vehicle’s frame at the rear of the vehicle.
Bumper pull trailers have a lot of advantages. Most of these advantages are because bumper pulls are smaller than goosenecks. This means a bumper pull trailer usually costs less than a gooseneck. It also means you may not have to buy a pickup truck in order to tow a bumper pull. Depending on the trailer, a motorhome, SUV or CUV may be suitable for hauling one.
Another advantage is the combined weight of a bumper pull trailer and vehicle is unlikely to exceed 10,001 lbs. This is usually the weight at which a trailer is declared commercial and requires a special license to haul, but you’ll want to check with your state’s Department of Motor Vehicles in case your state has lower limits.
A bumper pull hitch is also an advantage for a first-time trailer owner. It is a more common style of hitch than a gooseneck, and as a result it’s less intimidating. In addition, a first-time trailer owner is more likely to have a bumper pull hitch on his or her SUV or pickup truck than a gooseneck hitch. First-time trailer owners will also appreciate that a bumper pull trailer has a normal turn radius, so the trailer will follow the towing vehicle as it makes a turn.
However, a bumper pull trailer does have some disadvantages. A smaller trailer means less space for living quarters or a dressing room in your trailer, and if you’re hauling horses or livestock it also limits the number of animals you can transport. If you want to haul more than two horses for instance, you may want a gooseneck trailer instead.
In fact, you’ll want to be careful when hauling heavier loads overall. You’ll need to make sure your truck 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.
These are not problems most beginning trailer owners consider. Since more novice trailer owners have bumper pulls, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that bumper pull trailers are involved in more trailer accidents.
A gooseneck trailer, on the other hand, is often owned by a trailering veteran. A gooseneck can easily be confused with a fifth-wheel trailer because the two hitch types are quite similar. The difference is a gooseneck trailer slides over a ball hitch in the bed of a pickup truck, while a fifth wheel trailer attaches to a pickup truck using a hinged plate hitch; the same type of hitch is used by semi trucks.
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 more room for living quarters if you want them, as well as more room for any cargo you 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 take off the trailer’s fender, to say nothing of damaging street signs 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 less than a pickup truck, and unlike bumper pull trailers, several goosenecks are heavy enough to be classified as commercial. Gooseneck trailers also require a special hitching system, installed in the bed of a pickup truck.
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. You’ll need a mechanic (and some additional money) to do this.
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.
When considering whether to purchase a gooseneck or a bumper pull trailer, you want to figure out how much trailer you need. If you plan on transporting several horses, livestock, ATVs, etc., you’ll want to consider getting a gooseneck. You’ll also want to consider getting a gooseneck if you’re planning on camping in your trailer, because you’ll have more living space. A bumper pull trailer, on the other hand, fits better with hobby farmers.
Gooseneck and bumper pull trailers both have their own advantages. Choosing the hitch that’s right for you will give you a better ride and optimize your trailering experience.