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5 Types of Trailer Hitches, Receivers, and Classes for Trucks

Andrew Cilio

Andrew Cilio

 / Dec 2 2022
5 Types of Trailer Hitches, Receivers, and Classes for Trucks

Whether you're pulling a trailer to a jobsite, pushing a snowplow after a storm, adding cargo for a road trip, or towing a camper to a campsite, trailer hitches have countless uses for just about every kind of truck. But not all of them are right for your needs.

Not sure which type—or even which class—you need for what you're pulling? We've broken down all the types of trailer hitches and receivers so you can get the job done or kick off the weekend safely and effectively.

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Why Are There Different Types of Trailer Hitches?

The type of hitch you need depends on what you're towing, what (if any) kind of added utility you want, and what your vehicle's towing capacity is. For example, you might need a heavy-duty option to reliably tow a house-size camper with an F-250, or you may only need a basic hitch ball to pull your boat a few miles to your secret fishing spot. Even sedans can use some hitches for lightweight towing.

Trailer hitches connect to your vehicle either by slotting into a tube on a hitch receiver or by affixing directly to some part of the vehicle, like a truck bed or bumper. You can use these hitches to pull a certain amount of weight that varies by your hitch's towing capacity, your truck's towing capacity, and your truck's recommendations for tongue weight—the force the trailer applies to the hitch (typically 10%-15% of the total payload).

5 Types of Trailer Hitches

There are many ways you can use your truck—whether it's for work or play—and so there are many types of trailer hitches to match. These options can be used for adding towing, storage (if your bed storage isn't enough), and other applications to suit your individual truck and driving activities.

Graphic including five types of trailer hitches including drop hitch, pintle hitch and gooseneck hitch

Drop Hitch

Drop hitch

A drop hitch—as you might have guessed—drops the height of the hitch ball so you can safely tow lower-to-the-ground trailers. It's basically a downward curved or slanted extension you insert into the hitch receiver, allowing you to keep the trailer vertically level as you drive.

Let's say your truck's receiver tube sits about 21" off the ground. An average trailer coupler (the part that fits onto the hitch ball) is around 16" high. That few inches may not sound like much, but in this case, your trailer would have to tilt backward to reach the ball, causing the rear of the trailer to draw closer to the road, backloading the weight and potentially increasing trailer sway.

Best for: Trailers that are lower than the truck's standard hitch

Towing capacity: Up to 22,000 lbs.

Weight Distribution Hitch

Weight distribution hitch

Weight distribution hitches (also called weight distributing, load-equalizing, and load leveler hitches) fit into hitch receivers to improve control by redistributing some of the tongue weight more evenly.

To do this, these hitches use two long spring bars to create counterpressure. The tension adds leverage to push up against the truck as the trailer weighs down on the hitch. This helps keep both the truck and the trailer level at the hitch point for dramatically better handling.

Best for: Campers and travel trailers that may reduce handling

Towing capacity: Up to 15,000 lbs.

Pintle Hitch

Pintle hitch

Pintle hitches use a latch-and-ring design for exceptionally heavy-duty applications. The latching hook component (called the pintle) attaches through the hitch receiver for pickups or directly to the frame for industrial trucks. The trailer is secured to the pintle by a mounted ring, called a lunette or an eye.

Don't be fooled by this seemingly simplistic option—it's the hitch of choice for commercial use. For everyone else, it can likely handle far more weight than your truck is rated for.

Best for: Massive payloads, especially for commercial and industrial use

Towing capacity: Up to 60,000 lbs.

Gooseneck Hitch

Gooseneck hitch

These heavy-duty hitches affix a hitch ball in the truck bed so trucks can pull gooseneck trailers and campers. These hitch balls help maintain control and maximize towing potential by shifting the tongue weight from the rear of the truck to above the rear axle.

These hitches come in a variety of layouts depending on the design of the truck. Some pickups come with towing prep packages like a puck system or a fifth wheel base. If you have a truck without a stock towing setup, you should be able to install a traditional gooseneck hitch kit without too much trouble.

Best for: Gooseneck trailers and campers

Towing capacity: Up to 30,000 lbs.

Fifth Wheel Hitch

Fifth wheel hitch

Similar to a gooseneck hitch, a fifth wheel hitch shifts the hitch point from the back end of the truck to the bed above the rear axle. The difference is that these hitches have the coupling piece built in and are designed specifically to connect to fifth wheel campers and trailers by accepting and locking in their kingpin. 

Fifth wheel and gooseneck hitches are closely related, and you can easily install adapters to switch from one to the other. 

Best for: Fifth wheel campers and trailers

Towing capacity: Up to 30,000 lbs.

5 Types of Hitch Receivers

Most of your general hitches for everyday use will require a hitch receiver to attach to the bumper or the frame beneath the bumper or tailgate. Unless you're installing a specialty hitch for major payloads, you can usually expect to slot a hitch into a receiver tube. 

Hitch receivers often come stock on most vehicles, but that doesn't mean you don't have other options. Below are five types of hitch receivers you can install to broaden your storage and towing capabilities. 

Rear Mount Receiver

Rear mount receiver

Rear mount receivers are what you probably have in mind when you think about a trailer hitch, as this is the most common hitch receiver type. Rear mounts attach to the vehicle's frame, providing a square tube opening that accepts hitches and accessories. 

Best for: General use towing

Bumper Hitch Receiver

Bumper hitch receiver

Bumper hitch receivers—as you probably guessed—mount to the bumper instead of the frame. These are usually smaller than traditional rear mount receivers but work the same, giving drivers a square tube for receiving various towing and utility mechanisms.

Keep in mind that bumper hitch receivers can be a more convenient installation option than other receiver types, but since the bumper isn't part of the frame itself, they aren't rated for as much weight. The last thing you want is to have whatever you're towing rip your bumper off in the middle of the highway.

Best for: Light towing and general use accessories

Front Mount Hitch Receiver

Front mount hitch receiver

Front mount hitch receivers attach to the front of a vehicle's frame and are otherwise essentially the same as rear mounts, but with their weight ratings (check your owner's manual for the specific number). You can use these receivers to mount a winch, add storage, attach a snowplow, install a bike rack, or perform more delicate towing maneuvers.

Best for: Specialty accessories, cargo carriers, snowplows, and intricate towing

RV Hitch Receiver

RV hitch receiver

An RV hitch receiver is similar to a rear mount receiver on a truck, but designed specifically to mount on the back of an RV. These allow you to add external storage or tow a trailer or separate vehicle behind a drivable RV.

Best for: Towing with an RV

Custom Hitch Receiver

Custom hitch receivers fill the towing needs that slip between the cracks, as they can be designed to attach to specific body sizes and accommodate any level of payload. If your towing needs can't be filled with an off-the-shelf receiver, a custom solution will have you covered.

Best for: Specialty towing needs

The 5 Hitch Classes

Hitch receivers are separated into five numbered classes based on size and weight ratings, with Class 1 being the lowest and Class 5 being the highest. Here's how those classes break down.

Class 1 Hitch

This standard hitch class provides the lowest towing capacity and smallest receiver tube for smaller vehicles—typically sedans and crossover SUVs. Hitches in this class are designed for small tow jobs and recreational use.

Receiver size: 1 ¼"

Weight rating: 2,000 lbs.

Class 2 Hitch

Class 2 hitches have the same receiver size as Class 1s and provide only a slightly higher max towing capacity. These may come stock from the manufacturer on full-size cars, small SUVs, and minivans.

Receiver size: 1 ¼"

Weight rating: 3,500 lbs.

Class 3 Hitch

Class 3 hitches step up to a slightly bigger receiver tube and equip trucks, SUVs, and vans with enough towing capacity to handle most of your average-size trailers and campers.

Receiver size: 2"

Weight rating: 8,000-12,000 lbs.

Class 4 Hitch

The tow capacity jump between a Class 3 and Class 4 hitch doesn't seem as big as the one between Class 2 and Class 3, but this is the highest hitch class most noncommercial vehicles will get. These hitches will set up your truck for just about any domestic application.

Receiver size: 2"

Weight rating: 10,000-12,000 lbs.

Class 5 Hitch

Most hobbyists probably won't need Class 5 hitches—these hitches are designed to handle the heaviest payloads. Some Class 5 hitches are intended for commercial use only.

Receiver size: 2"-2 ½"

Weight rating: 17,000-20,000 lbs.

Trailer Hitch Class Chart


Best For

Receiver Size

Weight Rating

Tongue Weight

Class 1

Small cars & crossovers

1 ¼"

2,000 lbs.

200 lbs.

Class 2

Larger cars, crossovers, small suvs, & minivans

1 ¼"

3,500 lbs.

350 lbs.

Class 3

Mid-size trucks, suvs,
& vans


8,000 lbs.

(12,000 lbs. w/ WD)

800 lbs.

(1,200 lbs. w/ WD)

Class 4

Full-size trucks, suvs,
& vans


10,000 lbs.

(12,000 lbs. w/ WD)

1,000 lbs.

(1,200 lbs. w/ WD)

Class 5

Heavy-duty trucks

2"-2 ½"

17,000 lbs.

(20,000 lbs. commercial)

1,700 lbs.

(2,700 lbs. commercial)

*Figures represent maximum ratings by class; actual performance may vary by product, vehicle, application, etc.

Parts of a Trailer Hitch

When you think of a hitch, you might only picture the part that connects to a trailer. But these mechanisms are a little more complicated than that. Here are the basic components of most standard trailer hitches.

  • Receiver: The receiver mounts to the towing vehicle, providing a tube for the ball mount.
  • Receiver Tube: This opening can be used to attach a ball mount or other accessory.
  • Hitch Pin: This little piece of metal secures the ball mount or other accessory inside the receiver tube.
  • Ball Mount: The shank on one end of this piece slots into the receiver tube, leaving the hitch ball exposed on the other end.
  • Hitch Ball: This metal bulb connects to the trailer coupler and is the main point of contact between the tow vehicle and the trailer.
  • Coupler: Attached to the trailer, this housing fits over the hitch ball to secure the trailer to the tow vehicle.
  • Security Chains: In case of emergency, these chains will ensure the trailer doesn't completely disconnect from the truck if the coupler pops off the hitch ball.
  • Wiring Harness: This length of wire connects the trailer to the tow vehicle's electricity so the trailer's brake lights come on when the vehicle brakes.

Now that you know what separates all the different types of trailer hitches and receivers, it should be pretty clear which one is right for your truck if you know what you're going to tow.

Once you're ready to start towing, keep in mind that while a hitch may be rated for 10,000 lbs., your truck may not be. Consult your user manual for specific details about your model's towing capabilities and recommended tongue weight before you go out and install a commercial-grade Class 5 hitch.


What Are the Different Types of Hitches?

There are five different types of hitches: drop hitches, weight distribution hitches, gooseneck hitches, fifth wheel hitches, and pintle hitches. Each has its own unique towing capabilities and applications, so to pick the right one you'll want to know what you plan to use it for first.

What Are Different Classes of Trailer Hitches?

Trailer hitch receivers are broken up into five classes: Class 1 (for cars and small crossovers), Class 2 (for larger cars, small SUVs, and minivans), Class 3 (for trucks, SUVs, and vans), Class 4 (for heavy-duty trucks), and Class 5 (for specialty and commercial use).

What Is the Most Commonly Used Type of Hitch?

The most commonly used type of hitch is a rear mount hitch receiver with a ball mount. For trucks and SUVs this is usually a Class 3 hitch, and for smaller vehicles this is usually a Class 1 or Class 2.

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