Selecting the right tow vehicle to haul your travel trailer is the most critical part of owning an RV. You need a vehicle that is not only dependable, but can also safely handle the addition of a loaded trailer.
Many accidents with travel trailers have occurred due to improperly matching the towing vehicle with a trailer that is heavier than it is rated for. This is termed overloading and is not only unsafe, but is also illegal.
On this page we will examine many of the considerations that go into purchasing a tow vehicle. We will also talk about the different weights that are related to towing, along with their definitions.
Choosing the right tow vehicle involves more time and research than the average "family car". Although there are many similarities between the two, a vehicle that will be used to tow with has more considerations that must be looked at.
For most people, their budget is at the top of the list. Today, new trucks, vans and, SUVs can cost over $75,000, depending on the model and options. Add to that, most "truck type" vehicles often have a higher resale value, which makes the purchase of them more costly. Taking some extra time researching prices online, in your local area, can give you a good idea what you will need to spend.
One hint we found is to check the used car lots of economy
car dealers. You can often get a very good deal on a heavy duty truck here. Many times people will trade in their trucks for a
smaller vehicle when they are moving up to a motorhome or "hanging up
Knowing what type of vehicle you want to tow with is often a good idea. Do you prefer a pickup, van or SUV? Many times family dynamics will help determine this and make the choice easier. If you are unsure about which would be best for you, talking to owners that tow with different types of vehicles can often give you some insight into what might be right for you.
Think about what kind of trailer you plan to tow. Don't think short term on this. If you think you want to work up to a larger unit, plan the vehicle for that. Too many people have been forced to trade in their current towing vehicle, during a new camper purchase, because their current one was too light. I personally prefer to buy a heavier vehicle than I currently need, whenever possible.
You might also want to consider how often you will be driving and towing with this. If you plan to only tow a few times a year and not drive it much, you could get away with a slightly higher mileage vehicle . However, if you plan to drive it and tow more frequently, a newer one might be might more beneficial.
Almost any car, truck, van, or SUV can be equipped to tow some form of
trailer. Even though they can, it doesn't mean they should be. Many times a well meaning salesman will give improper information on the
towing weight of the vehicle they are showing you.
As a result, many people have unknowingly overloaded their tow vehicle because they misunderstood how all the different weight are calculated. Knowing and understanding what contributes to the different weights and how they all work together can help you prevent any problems in the future.
Below is a list of the various weight ratings and their definitions. This is intended to give you a basic understanding of what each weight means and how it can help you choose the right combination of tow vehicle and trailer. You can find the weight ratings for your towing vehicle on the door frame and owners manual. The weight ratings for your travel trailer are on the exterior front left side and in one of the upper kitchen cupboards.
These weights ratings should NEVER be exceeded.
Overloading your rig will increase stopping distance, wear out tires faster, destroy your suspension, and seriously affects the handling of your vehicle.
Having a vehicle that is properly rated for the load it will carry is not just an issue of safety, it is the law. Certain states routinely check weights on camping rigs, just like tractor trailers. Knowing how much weight you're carrying on your rig is not an option.
It is a good practice to know the weight of what you will be carrying in both your camper and tow vehicle. The easiest way to do this, if you own a trailer already, is to pack it with everything you will carry, including water. Then take it to a local truck scale and weigh it.
You can make a list of each item and calculate the total weight that way. A quick tip for our friends who love to figure it out mathematically; water weighs approximately eight pounds a gallon and bicycles are usually calculated at 40 pounds each.
When choosing a tow vehicle, there are several additional options you will need to decide on. These will affect the amount of weight you can safely tow with it and need to be considered carefully when you are planning your purchase.
Below are some of the other factors that will influence the amount a vehicle can tow.
Haulers are not your typical tow vehicle. These are specialized trucks, used to tow larger and heavier trailers. Many full timers prefer these, due to the size of trailers they tend to own. Haulers can be used to tow fifth wheels and conventional travel trailers.
As you can see there is a lot that goes into choosing the proper tow vehicle. Every spring Trailer Life Magazine profiles all the tow ratings for the new vehicle models in their annual towing guide. Not only do they detail the tow ratings, but they also give good quality tips on everything related to towing and choosing the proper tow vehicle. These can be found online, as well as archived towing guides going back several years. It would be worth your time to check out the information listed in these, as well.
Written By: Scott