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Trailer Hitch Guide

"Today there are a lot of trailer hitch options for nearly every application. This guide can help you determine the best hitch for your needs"



Perhaps the most common type of trailer hitch is the receiver hitch. A receiver hitch is designed to mount onto the tow vehicle's frame and provide a receptacle or tube opening to accept the shank of a ball mount or other insert. Most receiver hitches are made to be vehicle-specific, meaning each one is uniquely designed to fit a different vehicle make and model. Receiver hitches are generally divided into five classes, based on their receiver tube size and weight capacity range.  Generally, as the rating of the hitch goes up so does the size of the receiver tube.  However, there are some hitches that do not follow this rule exactly, so it is always a good idea to double check.



A front mount hitch can be a useful addition to larger vehicles such as pickup trucks, full-size vans and SUVs. A front hitch allows you to place a cargo carrier at the front of your vehicle, freeing up your rear mount hitch for other types of towing. It can also be used for launching a boat or when parking a trailer in a tight spot, allowing you to maintain close control of your trailer.



A 5th wheel hitch is a heavy-duty hitch that mounts into the bed of a pickup truck, usually over or just forward of the rear axle. 5th wheel hitches are similar in design to those used by commercial tractor-trailer rigs. They typically range in capacity from 16,000 up to 25,000 lbs., depending on the design of the hitch, and are commonly used for towing large campers, travel trailers and car haulers.

Most 5th wheel hitches have some "pivot" capability to absorb bumps and contours of the road. They are also the only type of hitch where the coupling device is part of the hitch and not the trailer.



Like a 5th wheel hitch, a gooseneck hitch mounts into the bed of a pickup truck and usually places the trailer's tongue weight slightly forward of a vehicle's rear axle. Gooseneck hitches are designed to be less intrusive than 5th wheels, allowing full access to the truck bed when the trailer is not hooked up.

Typical applications for a gooseneck hitch include horse or livestock trailers, car haulers, large flatbeds and other commercial or industrial trailers. Gooseneck hitches are commonly rated to tow up to about 30,000 lbs. gross trailer weight.



A pintle hitch is a simple but strong coupling mechanism, consisting of a pintle hook and a lunette ring or eye. The pintle hook, mounted on the tow vehicle, latches onto the lunette eye attached to the trailer. Depending on the tow vehicle and specific model, pintle hitches can tow anywhere from 10,000 to 60,000 lbs. gross trailer weight.



A bumper hitch is a light-duty receiver hitch that bolts onto the vehicle's bumper and provides a 2" x 2" receiver tube opening. It is important to note that because a bumper hitch attaches directly to the bumper, it is always limited to the weight carrying capacity of the bumper rather than the vehicle overall. Bumper hitches are commonly found on pickup trucks, SUVs and other larger vehicles.



A weight distribution or weight distributing hitch is actually a receiver hitch attachment. It is designed to distribute the tongue weight of a trailer across all axles of the vehicle-trailer combination.

Weight distribution hitches are typically used with class 3, 4 and 5 hitches and use an adjustable shank to insert into the receiver tube opening like a ball mount. A weight distribution hitch uses long rods called "spring bars" to leverage the connection point of the combination, transferring some of the tongue weight to the axles of the tow vehicle and trailer. Without a weight distribution hitch, heavy tongue weight can unload the tow vehicle's front tires, leading to reduced steering sensitivity. The most advanced weight distribution hitches also integrate trailer sway control to limit unwanted lateral motion of the trailer.


The experts at USA Trailer Sales carry a huge selection of hitches, trailers and accessories. We are always here to help you negotiate the many options and possible customizations available when buying your trailer. Please contact us with any questions you may have or stop by one of our six Michigan locations to speak with a local trailer expert today.