Many RVers like to have a light-duty truck, or even a SUV, that they can tow their trailer. This gives them the flexibility to explore and run errands, without breaking camp.
One popular choice is a Smart Car (formerly known as the Fortwo). They’re only about 2,500 pounds, so they tow easily behind most smaller motorhomes.
1. Towing a Hybrid Car
With their instant torque and comparatively clean emissions, you’d expect hybrid and electric cars to be great at towing. But there are a few reasons why that isn’t always the case.
The main issue is that most EVs are not designed with towing in mind. This is because a trailer adds weight and changes the aerodynamics of the car, which can significantly reduce the driving range. Additionally, the power needed to drive the trailer can also drain the batteries quicker.
As a result, you’ll need to check whether an electric or hybrid vehicle can tow before buying one. A good place to start is by visiting a site like Tow Spec. There, you can find information about towing methods by make and model.
While it’s not the most comprehensive source, it’ll give you a good idea of whether an electric or hybrid car can tow a trailer. Additionally, you’ll want to consider the kerbweight of the trailer and how much it will weigh when fully loaded. This is because if the trailer is overloaded, it can lead to increased stress on the suspension and drivetrain.
Fortunately, there are quite a few hybrid and electric vehicles that can tow a trailer. In fact, some have even been engineered to do so, and they’re often capable of towing loads of up to 11,000 pounds or more.
This includes vehicles like the Ford Fusion Hybrid and Honda Clarity Plug-In Hybrid, both of which have maximum towing ratings of up to 3,300 lbs. The 2023 Ram 1500 Hybrid, on the other hand, has a maximum towing capacity of 12,750 lbs, which is enough for most travel trailers and ultra-lite fifth wheels.
If you’re looking for a more affordable way to tow a trailer, there are also plenty of towing-focused plug-in hybrids and electric models to choose from. These models typically have less battery capacity than the high-end EVs, but they can still tow heavy and large loads with ease.
Audi deserves a lot of praise for showing how well some hybrids and electric cars can tow, as demonstrated by their E-Tron pulling a 4,000-pound trailer containing the original GM EV1. Of course, such a test isn’t practical for most people, but it goes to show just how capable these types of vehicles can be when it comes to towing.
2. Towing a Lightweight Car
Despite popular perception, you don’t need a massive full-size SUV or pickup truck to tow a small trailer. In fact, many compact and mid-size cars with solid MPG numbers can do the trick. For example, the older two-door Jeep Wranglers towed by RVers have historically been a fairly lightweight option weighing only 3,200 pounds. These rugged vehicles provide a nice alternative to larger sedans and offer the extra benefit of high ground clearance that makes them forgiving of road imperfections, curbs and other obstructions.
When selecting a passenger car for towing, consider the manufacturer’s vehicle towing guide and other towing-assistance features. Also, look for a model with a manual transmission instead of an automatic. Automatic transmissions have a harder time maintaining proper gearing when towing and can stall. Also, opting for four-wheel drive will help you maintain traction on steep inclines and slippery boat launches.
Another important consideration is your car’s maximum towing weight rating. This number is based on the strength of your vehicle’s frame, suspension, axles and wheels, as well as its fuel economy. It’s important not to exceed this number as it can cause serious damage to your vehicle and its components.
Be sure to use a quality towing hitch and mounting system. You will also need a towing bar, which looks like a wishbone made of steel square tubing. Its single section fits the ball mount on your motorhome’s receiver, and its rear arms connect to the front chassis of the towed vehicle.
You may also want to invest in a set of towing mirrors for your towing vehicle. These are larger than your factory-installed mirrors and give you a much wider viewing angle so that you can better see what’s behind the trailer.
Remember, if you’re towing your vehicle without the proper equipment, it could void its warranty and damage the driveline. Replacing these parts can be extremely expensive, so tow safely and with caution.
3. Towing a Boat
After years of saving, fretting and self-justifying, you finally purchased your dream boat. Whether it’s a ski boat to tow your kids around the lake or a bass boat for spending weekends chasing devious fish, you’ll need to know how to safely tow your boat to and from the water.
Start by assessing your vehicle’s towing capacity. Not every truck is capable of towing a boat, so you’ll need to match the size and class of your boat with the capabilities of your towing vehicle. If you need to, purchase a trailer weight distribution hitch and stabilizer bars for a safer and more controlled towing experience.
If you’re new to towing, consider taking a trailering class. This will help you become familiar with the towing process and give you confidence in handling your boat. Invest in a pair of towing mirrors for your vehicle, too. These will allow you to see more of your trailer as you back it up. This will reduce your risk of making mistakes such as turning the wrong way.
One of the biggest errors people make when backing up is moving the steering wheel too far to one side or another. To avoid this, place your hand on the bottom of the steering wheel. If you move your hand to the left, the trailer will go left, and if you move it to the right, the trailer will go right. This will help you keep the vehicle and trailer properly aligned as you drive into a dock or ramp.
The most important thing to remember when towing a boat is to pay attention. You’ll need to slow down and take corners at a slower speed, and you’ll also need to give vehicles behind you more space. Make sure you have wired tow lights on your trailer, too. These will help other drivers see your boat and trailer better, especially if it’s dark out.
Some roads that lead to back inlets are narrow and difficult to navigate with a large 2-ton truck. If this is the case where you live, it might be wise to get a smaller SUV with plenty of towing power, such as a Jeep Wrangler or Ford Escape.
4. Towing a Trailer
It doesn’t matter what type of trailer you choose, or how big it is, towing a trailer will change the way you drive. You’ll need to plan your route carefully, account for extra space when parking, and remember that you will have reduced maneuverability at stops like gas stations.
If you’re new to towing, it’s a good idea to practice in an empty parking lot before heading out on the road. This will give you a chance to get used to how your vehicle responds when pulling a trailer, and will also help you figure out what the truck or SUV’s response time is like with just the trailer attached.
Another important factor to consider is the towing capacity of your truck or SUV. This is determined by the vehicle’s weight, its cargo and passengers, as well as the total load of the trailer. You’ll need to be sure your vehicle can handle both the rated and unrated weight of your trailer, and that it’s properly equipped with a hitch, a brake controller, and a breakaway switch.
You should also be familiar with the trailer’s overall height. Knowing this can help you avoid damaging your vehicle or trailer by driving under low bridges or overpasses. It may also help you determine what type of hitch and jack are needed to secure your trailer.
Some trucks and SUVs come with a towing system built in, but if yours doesn’t, you can buy additional accessories to make it easier to tow a trailer. Ford’s Pro Trailer Backup Assist, for example, uses a knob on the dashboard to steer your trailer when backing up, making it much easier than using just a regular steering wheel. GM’s new Silverado HD and Sierra HD vehicles also include a “transparent trailer view” that stitches together camera views to let you see the rear of your truck and trailer.
It’s always a good idea to check your vehicle and trailer brakes frequently, and to use a spotter when backing up. It’s also wise to slow down when traveling up or down hills, as excessive speed can cause trailer sway and make it harder for you to react to sudden situations on the road.