Pintle vs. Ball Mount Trailer Hitches: What’s the Difference?

Two common types of trailer hitches you’ll often see are pintle hitches and ball mount hitches. While visually very distinct, what are the functional differences between pintle and ball mount trailer hitches? Let’s take a look at the advantages and disadvantages both types of hitches have to offer so that you can decide what kind is best for your towing goals.

How Do Ball Hitches Work?

Ball hitches on tow vehicles work in conjunction with a socket coupler mounted to a trailer. This pairing forms a tow connection that transfers the force generated from the tow vehicle to the trailer. The rigid mounting of the ball hitch allows it to handle the stresses of towing and the tongue weight of your trailer. You start by mounting a socket coupler to the trailer tongue and use a safety pin to open and close the socket. Next, you will position the socket over the ball hitch and lower it until it sits under the ball. The safety pin then secures the socket in place, and the ball keeps it from slipping off.

How Do Pintle Hitches Work?

Rather than the two pieces necessary for the ball hitch, a pintle hitch handles both the horizontal stresses of towing and the vertical stress of the tongue weight. The loop mounts to the tongue of the trailer. This design, which removes the safety pin, pivots the safety latch of the hitch out of the way to open up the head of the pintle hitch. Finally, the loop sits over the hook of the pintle hitch, and the hook is the primary support for the tongue weight. Once the latch closes, you can reinsert the safety pin to secure the hitch.

Which Is Stronger?

While both types of hitch can suit higher or lower capacities, you’ll typically find ball hitches preferable for lighter capacities, while pintle hitches are preferable for heavier capacities. This added strength is why you’ll often see powered trailer movers, designed for heavier trailers, using pintle hitches.

For reference, a 2″ ball hitch can handle 2,000-3,500 lbs. while a 3″ ball hitch can handle upward of 30,000 lbs. It seems like a smaller difference, but this size difference vastly changes the performance of your hitch, which is why it’s important you consider how large your ball hitch is.

Pintle hitches, on the other hand, can also vary wildly but will reach load capacities upward of 150,000 lbs. with a tongue weight of 30,000 lbs. The strength differences are perhaps the most deceptive but vast differences between pintle and ball mount trailer hitches.

Which Is Noisier?

Something you may not have considered when looking at hitch options is noise. While a pintle hitch is a single item, it has multiple parts that interact with each other. When you’re on the road, these moving parts cause vibrations and rattle around, creating a lot of racket. Ball hitches, in comparison, will be much quieter. They experience less vibration on highways, less rattling on bumpy or uneven terrain, and less impact when accelerating and braking. Similarly, ball hitches experience less impact going up and down hilly terrain.

Which Is Better for Off-Road?

Many people consider the pintle hitch better for off-road applications. The loop connection of the pintle hitch is useful because it reduces the possibility of binding while the coupler system articulates itself. Ball hitches may be quieter, but they lack the ability to rotate in the ways that off-road conditions may demand. A pintle hitch and lunette ring also provide a greater range of movement both vertically and horizontally.

For general consideration, ball hitches are better for on-road travel, while pintle hitches are better for off-road travel.

What Do They Cost?

There are many factors to consider when calculating prices. When comparing a pintle hitch and a ball hitch of the same capacity, the pintle hitch will often be the more expensive option. However, if you consider entire systems—ball hitches and a ball socket coupler versus a pintle hitch with a lunette ring —you may find the pintle hitch much more economical.

Generally, when it comes to cost, you should consider what your capacity is. The higher the capacity, the more costs will favor pintle hitches. However, if your capacity is low, then ball hitches will be ideal. Consider what your towing needs are, as the best-suited option may also be the cheapest when factoring in towing capacity. That said, neither option is necessarily cheaper nor more economical than the other.

Can You Swap Between Them?

Of course, your decision isn’t necessarily permanent either. If you want to switch your pintle hitch to a ball hitch, the most common solution is to use a receiver to switch out the couplers as necessary. Alternatively, you can get a receiver-mounted pintle/ball combination coupler that gives you the best of both worlds.

With a receiver-mounted hitch, you’ll have possibly the most versatile hitch available. The receiver tube mounted to your tow vehicle will allow you to switch out couplers quickly and easily—simply remove the hairpin cotter and receiver pin from the receiver tube. You can then switch the coupler and install the new one by reversing the same process.


Because of varying factors, it’s impossible to confidently say one type of hitch is better than the other. The best option for your truck will often come down to your individual needs and preferences. The most important takeaway from this blog should be that you always need to know your weight capacity beforehand. This knowledge will help you determine whether a pintle or a ball hitch is better and guide you toward the most cost-effective solution.

Trailer dollies, which help maneuver and tow trailers shorter distances, operate much the same way. Take a look at our dollies today to learn more about these two hitches and how you can benefit from them! With so many different models, we’ll be happy to find the dolly that best suits your trailer and will help guide you in making a choice between trailer hitches.

Pintle vs. Ball Mount Trailer Hitches: What’s the Difference?