Steps To Choosing The Best Vehicle For Towing A Travel Trailer

Choosing the right tow vehicle is a pain because most dealers won't allow you to test the combination at the point of purchase. Instead, they will only let you estimate the tow capacity based on the vehicle's specifications, the towing capacity as well as driving impressions. So here’s how to go about it if you’re a first-timer.

How to choose a vehicle to tow a travel trailer: The steps you can take

1) The Trailer Weight

You should know the gross vehicle weight rating as well as the total weight of your travel trailer. The weight placard should contain all the details you need. Don't use the dry weight found in brochures because this value doesn't take into account the total weight of your travel trailer when it's fully loaded. You can also visit a public scale and have that travel trailer weighed.

2) Vehicle loading capacity

Every vehicle should have its own gross vehicle weight. This is also the total weight that the vehicle can contain, including cargo, fuel, and occupants riding in it.

You need to estimate the total weight of all your camping gear, passengers, cargo and everything else. Don't forget to factor in the pin weight of the vehicle as it can easily go beyond the maximum permissible GVWR when other towing conditions are included.

When towing near the maximum permissible towing weight or close to the GVWR, you should pick a vehicle with more load and towing capacity.

3) Vehicle Type

If you have a 5 wheel trailer to tow, you should do well with the power of a heavy-duty truck (large-capacity diesel engine). These are no-nonsense trucks that do the job very well. But on the other hand, if you're towing a pop-up camper or a small travel trailer, then you don't necessarily need these trucks. In fact, you may get by using a large sedan, a SUV or just a passenger vehicle.

This means you have to check the vehicle's manual to have a clue about its towing capacity. However, don't be fooled by the seemingly similar tow vehicles in size. These can vary in power, size and weight. Consequently, their ability to tow also vary.

4) Type of Frame

Tow vehicles come in two different types of frames. These are unit-body and full frame. The unit-body model doesn't have a traditional rail frame. The bumper or the body of the vehicle has a tow hitch attached to it. So when you frequently tow heavy loads on a unit-body vehicle, you'll most likely find body integrity issues after some time. However, if you just do the towing occasionally, there's nothing to worry about.

On the other hand, if you don’t want to be bothered by a vehicle whose towing capacity puts restriction on how frequent you can tow, then it’s advisable that you go with traditional trucks or full-frame vehicles. That’s because these vehicles have a tow hitch attached directly to the frame, thus minimizing the strain on the vehicle itself.

5) Drive Train

Rear-wheel drive offers better traction and stability than front-wheel drive. However, you should never use a 4-wheel drive all-activated while towing as this is not advisable, unless you’re on an emergency situation.

In fact, all-wheel drive terrain vehicles are just a mixed bag. Some can handle towing, while others tend to have limited towing capacity.

So if you’re considering a 4-wheel drive vehicle, make sure the tow capacity is similar to that of a 2-wheel vehicle.

If you’re willing to pay more, then go for the sophisticated all-wheel drive vehicles which automatically change the proportion of torque in the front and rear to compensate for any instability during towing.

6) Transmission

It is said that automatic transmission is the best when it comes to towing. But on the other hand, a manual is okay for experienced gear-shifters.

So if you’re going with the automatic option, ensure the vehicle has a transmission cooler, plus make sure you disable overdrive feature to prevent excessive wear and tear.

7) Engine type

You have to go for more torque rather than horsepower. If you can test it on a terrain, see how well the vehicle can perform from a stop position up a steep hill.

A vehicle’s torque is what pulls the load, so the more the torque, the better it is for you.

8) Brakes

Ensure the tow vehicle you go for has ABS brakes. These breaks are ideal when towing larger trailers. You can also incorporate an electronic trailer brake to the braking system of the vehicle so as to control the travel trailer breaking in relation to the force applied on the original breaks.


These are the most basic things you should consider when looking for a tow vehicle to handle your travel trailer. Once you have them covered, you should be safe towing on the roads.

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