Is It Better to Tow With a Long Bed or Short Bed?

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A short bed truck parked outside during sunset after a buyer purchased a short bed after deciding on long bed vs short bed

When shopping around for a truck, there are so many options: four doors versus two doors, leather versus upholstery, long bed versus short bed, gas versus diesel.

The questions and decisions are endless. Basically, you’ll have to decide what you like (moon roof or panoramic roof) and what your needs are (towing or daily driving).

If you’re going to be towing with your new truck, the wheelbase is important to consider.

Let’s look at the long bed vs. short bed debate, and then you can choose which option is best for your needs.

Different Types of Truck Bed Lengths 

There are three basic types of truck bed lengths.

If you have a truck camper, you’ll need to get the bed length that fits your camper.

If you’re looking at truck campers, they’re built for different size truck beds, so this is critical information to know when shopping for trucks.

On the other hand, if you’re looking to tow a camper or fifth wheel, understanding the difference between short bed, regular bed, and long bed trucks is important to ensure safe driving.

You’ll hear the words towing capacity and payload capacity thrown around when in the RV world.

Those numbers are significant.

But you might not hear much in the long bed vs. short bed debate about wheelbase numbers.

These are also important to understand.

The examples below come from this Ford truck, van, and SUV wheelbase chart.

Other brands like Dodge, Ram, and Toyota will differ slightly in the numbers, but this will give you an idea of how the truck bed length affects the wheelbase.

Long Bed 

A long bed will be between 7 feet to 8 feet in length.

This means the wheels on a long bed truck will be farther apart. The cab size also makes a difference in the location of the axles.

For example, a 2008 Ford F-150 long bed regular cab will have a wheelbase of approximately 144 inches.

A 2010 F-250/350 Super Duty crew cab 8-foot bed will have a wheelbase of approximately 172 inches.

With a longer bed, the drive axle is positioned farther away from the steer axle.

If you have both a long bed and crew cab, the distance will be even farther.

A long bed truck parked outside after the buyer had to decide between a long bed vs short bed truck

Regular Bed 

A regular bed will be 6.5 feet in length. The axles will be slightly closer together on a regular bed truck.

For example, a 2020 F-150 super crew 6.5-foot bed has a wheelbase of 163.7 inches, whereas a 2016 F-150 regular cab 6.5-foot bed has a wheelbase of 122.4 inches.

The difference in the cab size also affects how far apart the truck’s axles (and wheels) are.

Short Bed 

A short bed will be 5 feet in length. The cab size and bed length both affect the wheelbase.

Examples of short beds are a 2012 F-150 short bed regular cab with a wheelbase of 125.8 inches and a 2020 F-150 super crew 5.5-foot bed with a wheelbase of 156.8 inches.

It’s important to note the year of the model also affects the wheelbase.

Don’t assume every F-150 super crew short bed has a wheelbase of 156.8 inches.

In fact, the 2009-2014 models have a smaller wheelbase at 144.5 inches.

A Ford short bed truck parked outside. Ford has both long bed vs short bed trucks to pick from.

Is It Better to Tow With a Long Bed or Short Bed?

In the long bed vs. short bed debate, this question is really about wheelbase.

Is having the wheels positioned farther apart more beneficial than having the wheels closer together?

If you think about overall balance, strength, and stability, wheels positioned farther apart will be able to tow heavier loads and haul heavier equipment in the truck bed.

But is it necessary? Is it actually better? This can only be answered individually.

If you have a 42-foot fifth wheel, a long bed truck will make driving the RV easier, and you won’t have to buy a slider hitch to protect your back window.

If you have a 20-foot fifth wheel, a long bed truck might be overkill and unnecessary unless that’s the only vehicle you have.

Benefits of Towing With a Long Bed

One of the most obvious benefits is being able to haul more stuff in the truck bed.

If you’re towing a travel trailer and have access to the storage of the truck bed, you can haul bicycles, dirt bikes, an ATV, bags of tools, and more.

In addition, putting a toolbox in the truck bed doesn’t take away much of the space as it does in a short bed truck.

Another benefit is increased stability.

Because of the longer wheelbase, long bed trucks handle better on the road.

Uneven pavement doesn’t affect the drive as much as it does on a short bed truck.

Plus, a longer truck has better control over a longer travel trailer.

Because of the increased stability, this usually means a higher towing and payload capacity. A longer truck can handle a heavier weight.

Pro Tip: If you’re unsure what truck is best for towing, these are hands down the best options!

Disadvantages of Towing With a Long Bed 

Turning, backing up, and maneuvering around a tight space are easier when the wheels are closer.

The turning radius is smaller.

Plus, a short bed truck can fit more easily in parking spaces, especially when street parking or garage parking.

The back end of the truck isn’t sticking out as far. If you just want a daily driver, a short bed truck is the way to go.

Sometimes a short bed truck will be cheaper than a long bed truck. This certainly depends on the make, model, year, and trim.

But in general, when comparing similar trucks, a short bed truck will save you some money.

This is why someone towing a pop-up camper usually won’t have a long bed dually.

It’s unnecessary, and there’s no need to fork out that much money.

A Ram short bed outside. Ram has both long bed vs short bed trucks to pick from.

Does Trailer Length Affect Towing? 

When thinking of long bed vs. short bed, trailer weight isn’t the only factor to consider when towing.

Yes, staying under the gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) is crucial to maintaining a safe weight inside the trailer.

And yes, ensuring your truck has a towing capacity that exceeds the GVWR is very important.

That ensures safe driving and protects your tow vehicle from wear and tear.

However, it’s also important to note the length of the trailer. As already mentioned, a shorter travel trailer doesn’t require a heavy-duty long bed truck.

This is because short bed trucks or even SUVs can handle the weight and length of the trailer.

Longer trailers will have more sway. A short bed truck will struggle to control that sway even with the addition of sway bars.

If you’re planning on towing a long travel trailer(over 30 feet), you’ll want to consider a long bed for the added stability because of the longer wheelbase.

Is a Longer Wheelbase Better for Towing?

Again, this is on a case-by-case basis.

A longer wheelbase is better for towing longer and heavier trailers. It’s just safer.

But there’s no need to spend the extra money or take up time searching for a long bed truck if a smaller F-150 super crew 5.5-foot bed will safely tow your Rockwood Mini Lite camper.

If you want to tow a fifth wheel, a long bed truck is easier and simpler to drive.

Short bed trucks require a special sliding hitch so the fifth wheel doesn’t crash into the back window when turning.

Short bed trucks don’t have the space for tight turns when towing a fifth wheel. These hitches can be expensive.

Also, remember, short bed trucks will usually have a lower payload capacity, which means you can put less weight in the truck’s bed.

Towing a fifth wheel means being able to safely haul over 2,000 pounds in the truck bed.

So pay attention to not only the towing capacity of a short bed truck but also the payload capacity.

Keep in Mind: Do you know how tall your truck camper is off your truck? It’s something ever owner should know!

A Ford-150 short bed. Ford has both long bed vs short bed trucks to pick from.

Make Sure to Tow With the Right Truck 

If you’re looking for the right truck, make sure to do your homework on what you need. If you already have a camper, know the exact length, tongue weight, and GVWR.

Knowing these numbers will give you a starting place when searching for the right truck. The long bed vs. short bed debate is only relevant when you get into longer, heavier campers.

Ignore the debate if you simply want a truck to get you and your Casita from Point A to Point B on the weekends.

Get a truck you can afford that meets your needs.

But as your camper gets longer and heavier, it’s time to start paying attention to the advantages of a longer wheelbase and the added safety and security it provides. 

Which type of truck bed do you own?

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