Considering the RV lifestyle? Welcome to a future with endless fantastic journeys on the road, but be prepared for a lot of research to make a multitude of wise investments to get the best out of RV-ing. After nailing the towing vehicle and the travel trailer, next on your list to deal with is to get the right hitch and figuring out trailer hitch installation cost.
With the rising popularity of RVs in the last decades, when it comes to this type of vehicle, you have plenty of options to choose from, including its accessories and gadgets.
This is also true for trailer hitches, which are available in not only many sizes and types but also many classes and designs. Therefore, trailer hitch installation cost and the cost of the hitch itself can vary widely with these factors.
If you’re considering a hitch for your travel trailer, this ultimate guide to trailer hitch installation cost will be your one-stop shop to get everything you need to know.
Learn about different types of hitches and what they are most suitable for, the parts of each type, the various hitch classes, how these factors affect trailer hitch installation cost, plus helpful maintenance tips.
What is a Trailer Hitch?
A hitch is the component that attaches the trailer camper to a towing vehicle. The type of hitch you use to tow your trailer will affect a number of important factors, including the weight your car can tow and your towing experience on the road, for example how the trailer follows the towing vehicle when turning.
Therefore, if you are a first-time trailer owner, you should find out the advantages and disadvantages of gooseneck vs 5th wheel hitch before settling on one.
Trailer Hitch Installation Cost: At A Glance
Trailer hitch installation cost is separate from the cost of the tow hitch itself and its accessories.
In general, trailer hitch installation cost starts around $100 and goes up to as much as $800. Keep in mind that you’ll also have to buy the tow hitch and other parts separately, which will add another $150–$200 to your bill.
Below are the accessories associated with trailer hitch installation:
- Class 3 hitch
- Hitch ball mount
- Pin and clip
- Wiring harness
Trailer hitch installation cost depends on the make and model of your car, the type of tow hitch, and how much extra work the installation requires. For instance, some cars have no-drill installation, while others require drilling to make room for the tow hitch.
Different Types of Trailer Hitches and Installation Cost
As mentioned above, trailer hitch installation cost also depends on the type of hitch used. Learn about the different types below to find the most suitable hitch for your vehicles.
Each type of trailer hitch has a unique purpose, as well as its own set of capacities and sizes.
In general, receiver hitches are the most common, which consists of many sub-categories. Another major category is heavy-duty hitches, which also comprises many hitch types.
1. Receiver hitches
A receiver hitch is the most common type of trailer hitch.
Receiver hitch at a glance:
- Weight rating: Up to 20,000 lbs.
- Provides a tube for hitch accessories
- Available for most vehicles
- Installation cost: Prices for the receiver hitch itself start at $50 to $250. The installation would cost at least an extra $50.
This hitching system includes a receiver that mounts to the truck frame, a ball mount, a hitch ball, a hitch pin & clip, and a wiring system .
- Receiver: mounts to the frame of the vehicle and provides a receiver tube to accept a ball mount.
- Ball mount: A ball mount is a removable metal tube that slides into the receiver opening and provides the support for a trailer ball.
- Hitch ball: Attached to the ball mount, the hitch ball comes in different sizes which include 1-7/8″, 2″, 2-5/16″ and 3″.
- Pin & clip: A steel pin which locks the ball mount to the hitch tube.
- Wiring: The wiring connects your trailer’s lights to the tow vehicle. They mainly serve brake light functions.
Note on hitch sizes
There are four standard trailer hitch sizes: 1-1/4″, 2″, 2-1/2″ and 3″. The hitch size refers to the inside dimensions of the hitch receiver.
It is safest to use a standard hitch size, which allows for more versatile towing options. It enables you to attach a variety of towing accessories to your vehicle, without the need for an adapter or modifications.
Receiver hitches are further divided into many sub categories, including rear mount hitches, front hitches.
Rear Mount Hitch
This type of receiver hitch attaches to the rear of a tow vehicle, providing a standard receiver tube for hooking up and pulling a trailer.
This type of receiver hitch attaches to the front of the vehicle and provides a standard receiver tube for a snow plow, winch mount, bicycles and more.
A bumper hitch is a lightweight alternative among receiver hitches. As its name suggests, this type of receiver hitch attaches to a vehicle’s bumper, and provides a standard receiver tube.
Its weight capacity is limited to the bumper. It is designed to carry less weight compared to the receivers attached to the vehicle’s chassis.
An RV receiver hitch is specifically designed to mount at the rear of an RV to tow a compact vehicle.
A multi-fit trailer hitch is designed to fit as many vehicles as possible, while providing a standard hitch receiver and on-par weight capacity.
A custom hitch is designed for a specific vehicle to provide the best fit, easiest installation and optimal weight capacity for that particular make and model.
2. Heavy-duty hitches
Compared to the more lightweight receiver hitches, these hitches are designed for heavier towing and commonly used for towing travel trailers, livestock trailers, flatbed and equipment trailers.
Below are the various types of heavy-duty trailer hitches and their installation cost. Gooseneck hitch and 5th wheel hitch are the two types that you come across more often when researching trailer hitches.
Gooseneck Hitches at a glance:
- Weight rating: Up to 30,000 lbs.
- Couples to a gooseneck trailer
- Pickup trucks only
- Installation cost: Prices for the gooseneck hitch itself start from $100 to around $400. The installation would cost at least an extra $100 to $300.
A gooseneck hitch is mounted in the bed of the towing vehicle instead of the rear bumper like some other types of hitches, such as the bumper pull hitch commonly used to tow lighter RVs.
A gooseneck hitch uses a ball mount at the same level with the bed of the trailer. This ball engages with a coupler on the trailer for attachment.
The first major advantage of a gooseneck hitch over other types like the bumper pull hitch is that you can tow a heavier trailer. Since the attachment point is over the towing vehicle’s rear axle instead of at the back of the frame, the majority of the trailer’s weight rests directly on the towing car’s rear axle. The rear axle is the component that turns the rear wheels.
This distribution of weight means your car can tow more weight. It also minimizes the swaying when you tow a trailer on the road. This increased stability is the second major advantage of using a gooseneck hitch.
Apart from gooseneck towing capacity, another plus for gooseneck hitches is they have a tighter turn radius, which means they allow you to make sharper turns and let you maneuver the trailer in a smaller space. This will be useful when you are travelling off-road.
Compared to other hitches attached to a car’s rear end, the main disadvantages of gooseneck trailers are its size, weight and complexity.
Due to its size and weight, you will need at least a pick up truck to install gooseneck hitches. They also require a special hitching system including a gooseneck trailer ball, installed in the bed of the pickup truck.
Since gooseneck hitches are less common than, say, bumper pull hitches, and are more commonly used by veteran trailer owners, most pick up trucks won’t likely have the gooseneck hitching system installed in the bed of the truck.
5th wheel hitch
5th wheel hitch at a glance:
- Weight rating: Up to 30,000 lbs.
- Couples to a 5th wheel kingpin
- Pickup trucks only
- Installation cost: Prices for the 5th wheel hitch start from $200 to around $700. 5th wheel hitch installation cost will add at least $250 to $500 to your bill.
Also mounted in the bed of the towing vehicle, fifth wheel hitches are designed so that the towing vehicle can carry heavier weights.
With a 5th wheel hitch, the weight of the trailer also presses down almost directly over the rear axle of the towing car, thereby allowing the towing car to tow more weight. Therefore, 5th wheel hitches are similar to gooseneck hitches in terms of large towing capacity, effective weight distribution and more stability.
While a gooseneck hitch uses a ball that engages with a coupler on the trailer, a 5th wheel hitch uses a king pin on the trailer to attach to a U-shaped king pin receiver on the bed of the towing vehicle.
In comparison, while gooseneck trailers are more typically used for industrial trailers, fifth wheel trailers are more common for recreational purposes. According to experts, a 5th wheel trailer towed with a 5th wheel hitch will generally provide a smoother ride.
A pintle hitch is a simple yet strong coupling mechanism, consisting of a hook and a ring. Pintle hitches are commonly used in agriculture and industrial settings.
With a towing capacity of up to 60,000lbs, the pintle hitch can be mounted directly to the frame of a vehicle. At the same time, it can be mounted on slides which go into the receiver hitch.
One downside is pintle hitches tend to be noisier when compared to ball mount alternatives, due to their lighter weight.
Pintle Hitches at a glance:
- Weight rating: Up to 60,000 lbs.
- Couples to a lunette ring
- Available for heavy-duty vehicles
- Installation cost: Prices for a pintle hitch start from $100 to around $400. The installation would cost at least an extra $100 to $250.
Weight Distribution Hitch
A weight distribution hitch is a receiver hitch attachment. Every truck manufacturer, whether it is for a midsize, 1/2-ton, or heavy-duty, requires a weight-distributing hitch when using a bumper trailer hitch ball.
It is designed to distribute the tongue weight of a trailer across the vehicle and trailer for increased control. Therefore, they help ensure a smooth, level ride, improve steering and stopping, and correct trailer sway when used with sway control.
Weight distribution hitches at a glance:
- Weight rating: Up to 15,000 lbs.
- Helps level vehicle and trailer
- Requires hitch receiver
- Installation cost: Prices for a weight distribution hitch start from $200 to around $750. The installation would cost at least an extra $300 to $400.
Different Hitch Classes
Even within the same type of hitch, there are different classes to choose from. Depending on the load they are designed to tow, the price will vary accordingly.
There are 5 classes of hitches (I–V) based on towing capacity. The greater the weight capacity, the higher the class.
In short, the heavier load they can carry and the higher their class, the more extra dollars you will need to spend to enjoy the extra strength and functionality of the hitch.
Class I hitches are made to handle up to 2,000 lbs trailer weight plus the 200 lbs of the tongue. They can be attached to the vehicle’s chassis but since they are designed to handle lighter weights, they are most commonly used for hitches attached to the bumper of the vehicle.
Class II hitches have a higher towing capacity of up to 3,500 lbs trailer weight and a maximum of 300 lbs of trailer’s tongue weight.
Class III hitches have a carrying capacity of up to 6,000lbs plus a maximum trailer tongue weight of 600 lbs.
Class IV hitches can also be used for weight distribution. It can tow up to 10,000lbs trailer weight plus a maximum trailer tongue weight of 1,400lbs. Class IV hitches have a weight distribution capacity of 14,000lbs.
Class V hitches are the most robust and are the top choice for heavy loads. They can handle weights of up to 12,000lbs and can only be attached to the chassis of the vehicle.
Like Class IV, Class V hitches which are used for weight distribution purposes have a capacity of up to 17,000lbs.
In summary, trailer hitch installation cost and the cost of a hitch itself vary widely according to the type and class of hitch.
Remember to carefully consider the following factors when deciding which hitch to go for and figuring out installation cost: the make and model of your car, the amount of weight you’re planning to tow, and whether your vehicle is compatible with standard hitches.
It’s best to consult with sales representatives to make sure you’re buying the right hitch for your particular towing vehicle and motorhome.