One of the best parts of owning a motorhome or camping trailer is having your home (or second home) on the road. Still, the choice between drivable coaches and towable campers can be tough because of this very question: can you ride in a travel trailer or fifth wheel?
Perhaps surprisingly, there are quite a few states that allow riding in a towable camper. But many have restrictions or conditions that must be met to do so legally. To stay on the right side of the law, follow these recommendations when considering riding in a travel trailer or fifth wheel.
Can You and Should You Ride in a Travel Trailer or Fifth Wheel?
This is a tricky situation because every state is different and the rules change depending on the type of RV you’re traveling in. Many states have different rules for travel trailers and fifth-wheels, for example.
Besides that, there’s the question of safety. Even if something is legal, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a safe or smart thing to do.
Most towable campers lack seat belts, which means getting into an accident with passengers riding in a trailer could result in significant injury or death. Few travel trailers or fifth wheels are equipped with airbags and other safety features that reduce the likelihood of serious injury in the event of an accident.
Because of their lack of safety features, riding in a travel trailer or fifth wheel is strongly discouraged. Unless your trailer is equipped with proper seat belts and safety features, carrying passengers back there can, and should, be avoided.
With that said, if you bought it and it is “technically” legal in your state, it is within your right to ride in a travel trailer or fifth wheel. You’ll just need to operate within the confines of the law when traveling to new states and take precautions to make things as safe as possible.
Where Can You Ride in a Travel Trailer or Fifth Wheel?
Multiple states allow passengers to ride in a travel trailer or fifth wheel while it’s traveling down the road.
Always double-check the laws in your state before riding in a travel trailer or fifth wheel. Laws change and staying up-to-date on those changes are important to keep you legal.
Also, keep in mind that you’ll need to abide by the laws for the states you’re traveling in. When you cross state lines, new laws for that state apply.
States That Allow Riding in a Travel Trailer or Fifth Wheel
According to this report from the RV Industry Association (RVIA), the following states allow you to ride in a travel trailer. However, some states have detailed descriptions of the trailer types that qualify and the conditions for legal passengers (i.e. age minimums and required safety equipment).
Laws also change frequently. So check your local laws before carrying passengers in a travel trailer or fifth wheel.
- California (fifth wheels only)
- District of Columbia
- Montana (fifth wheels only)
- New Jersey
- New York (fifth wheels only)
- North Carolina
- North Dakota (fifth wheels only)
- Oregon (fifth wheels only)
- Pennsylvania (fifth wheels only)
- South Dakota (fifth wheels only)
- West Virginia
- Wisconsin (fifth wheels only)
Tips for Carrying Passengers Safely in a Travel Trailer or Fifth Wheel
Most states that only allow passengers in fifth wheels typically require a two-way communication device between the driver and passengers in the fifth wheel. Other requirements include, but aren’t limited to, having approved safety glass windows and maintaining an unobstructed entryway at all times.
Not all states specify these requirements, but they are recommended to ensure the safety of your passengers. Keeping in communication is one of the best ways to stay aware of issues so you can pull over and address them quickly before they become more dangerous.
You should reduce your driving speed (55 to 60 mph) and increase your following distance to allow for plenty of time to stop or slow down without slamming on your brakes. There are also several towing accessories, such as sway bars and electronic brake controllers, that can provide safer towing conditions if you’re carrying passengers. Regardless, passengers should remain seated or lie down at all times when riding in a travel trailer or fifth wheel.
Also, make sure your trailer is loaded properly and secure all items to minimize the risk associated with falling objects. And, finally, consider installing seat belts in your trailer. Seat belts save lives, but installing them should always be done by professionals to ensure they are up to acceptable safety standards.
A Final Word
Please note that, while some states allow it, carrying passengers in a travel trailer or fifth wheel carries considerable risk and is not recommended. If an accident does occur, these towable campers don’t have the safety features found in motorhomes and passenger vehicles.
If you do intend to accept this risk, please double-check the laws in your area and the areas you’ll be traveling to and through. Laws change regularly, so even if it used to be legal in the state you’re heading to, make sure that’s still the case before making the assumption.
Do you know the laws in your state? Leave a comment below!
Wade divides his time among various outdoor activities in both urban and rural environments. An adventurer by nature, he is always up for a challenging hike, fun hunt, or day out on the water with friends and family. When he isn’t enjoying the outdoors, he’s writing, reading, or tinkering with motorcycles and cars.