Although deciding whether to invest in a travel trailer or fifth wheel is a big decision, it’s equally important to consider whether you have a vehicle that can tow one. If you currently own something smaller than a midsize car, you’ll need to look into buying a car that can actually tow your home away from home.
Although many mid-sized cars, SUVs, and even minivans on the market can tow a trailer, not every make and model will be right for you and your rig. To help you purchase the right vehicle to tow your RV, we’ve gathered some tips to help you throughout the process.
6+ Best Tow Vehicles For Travel Trailers and Buying Guide
The best tow vehicles for travel trailers will protect you against accidents. They should be built with sturdy materials, easy maneuverability, and high class technology that would reduce the need for repairs after a while.
Among these technologies are steering wheel controls, automatic transmission, anti-lock braking systems (ABS) and electronic stability control (ESC).
1. Subaru Outback
The Subaru Outback is another alternative to bigger, bulkier SUVs and CUVs with a station wagon design, 8.7 inches of ground clearance and an impressive towing capacity for a mid-size vehicle.
The 2020 Subaru Outback offers two engine options, and the 2.5-liter Boxer four-cylinder engine delivers 182 horsepower, which allows this station wagon to tow up to 2,700 pounds. The Outback XT models upgrade to a 2.4-liter turbocharged Boxer four-cylinder that produces 260 hp and improves maximum towing capacity to 3,500 pounds.
Like pretty much the entirety of Subaru’s current lineup, the Subaru Outback also comes standard with all-wheel drive, making it even better for hauling a small travel trailer. Station wagons are an icon of American family road trips, and the Subaru Outback is ready to hit the road.
2. CHEVROLET SILVERADO 3500HD
The Silverado 3500 HD comes in various configurations and offers a cabin with best-in-class leg and headroom. Available safety features include active cruise control, lane departure and forward collision alerts, and automatic emergency braking. The pickup comes in standard and Crew Cab versions, with either an 80.2-inch or extended 96.3-inch bed.
A 6.6-liter V8 gas engine with a six-speed automatic transmission is standard. That motor produces 401 horsepower and 464 pound-feet of torque. Upgrading to the optional Duramax 6.6-liter V8 turbo diesel bumps those specs to 445 horsepower and 910 pound-feet of torque—the more powerful engine pairs with a 10-speed automatic Allison transmission.
In terms of payload capacity, the 3500 HD can tow 4390 pounds under diesel power and up to 5518 pounds with the gas engine. Maximum towing capacities using a standard hitch range from 14,500 to 20,000 pounds for the 3500 HD, depending on the configuration.
The 3500 HD has towing specs, especially when towing with a gooseneck hitch. Under those conditions, the truck can pull between 16,700 and 36,000 pounds, with the V8 turbo diesel offering the highest towing capacities.
3. FORD F-150
If you’re traveling with a conventional camper trailer that uses a traditional hitch, a light-duty pickup often can get the job done. The F-150 is the complete package, offering an excellent selection of engine options, a spacious interior, and the latest tech features. If you want a do-it-all vehicle, few can match the F-150.
As one would expect, the F-150 has incredible towing capacity, allowing to haul up to 13,200 pounds. While the F-150 is offered with everything from a V8 to a turbocharged V6 diesel engine, the available turbocharged 3.5-liter V6 engine is the one to get for maximum towing capacity.
The engine is rated at 375 horsepower and 470 pound-feet of torque. Rear-wheel drive, the Max Trailer Tow Package, and 20-inch wheels are required to get the most out of the F-150.
4. Chevrolet Colorado
The Colorado can do everything from off-road exploring and hefty towing to running school carpools. Highly configurable and aptly skilled, it offers a trim for every occasion, as well as the rugged-and-ready ZR2.
It can tow a class-leading 7700 pounds with the optional diesel four-cylinder engine—as can its corporate cousin, the GMC Canyon.
The Colorado has two cab and cargo-bed styles that pair with several powertrain choices. A base 200-hp four-cylinder has a standard six-speed manual, a 308-hp V-6 is the quickest of the bunch, and a fuel-efficient diesel produces 369 lb-ft of torque.
Its handsome looks and excellent infotainment system are undermined by a cheap-looking interior and limited driver-assistance technology. Still, the Colorado is a multipurpose pickup truck that is clever and capable.
These make great trucks to tow long distances, as they have no restrictions for speed or distance.
5. Ram 1500
As a full size pickup truck, the Ram 1500 regularly tows large cargo. Compared to the Ford F-150 and Chevrolet Silverado 1500, the Ram 1500 has less outright towing capacity with a rating of 12,750 pounds.
That might not match figures from Ford or Chevrolet, but it’s still plenty. To get that kind of towing capacity out of the Ram 1500, you have to get the Quad Cab with the available 5.7-liter eTorque-assisted V8 engine that’s rated at 395 horsepower and 410 pound-feet of torque.
While the Ram 1500 may not be as capable as other full-size pickup trucks, it’s far more luxurious. A handsome, well-equipped cabin and comfortable seats make the Ram 1500 feel like a cut above other competitors.
Full size pickup trucks rarely feel upscale, as they’re meant to be bare-bones pickup trucks, but the Ram 1500 comes with top-notch leather upholstery, wood, and metal on higher trims. Pair the upscale interior with the pickup truck’s excellent ride, and the Ram 1500 hardly feels like a regular work vehicle.
6. Chevrolet Spark
If you want a lightweight car to tow behind your RV, the Chevrolet Spark is one of the lightest options available. It’s a hatchback, so you’ll have room to bring what you need for a day at the beach or a picnic somewhere special. When you don’t want to be completely off the grid, Blue Ox tells us that this car has a built-in 4G LTE Wi-Fi hot spot. It also gets great gas mileage, making it perfect for longer trips away from the RV.
Bring your “home” along with you on your next vacation, and hook up your tow vehicle so you can go out and explore as much as you like. You can go sightseeing, run errands, or anything else that makes your adventure a fun, memorable experience.
7. Ford Expedition
The Ford Expedition offers an impressive amount of towing capacity. However, the Expedition is even more capable of hauling large cargo, as it can weigh up to 9,300 pounds when properly equipped. That figure leads the segment.
To get that kind of towing capacity from the Expedition, you have to get a rear-wheel-drive model with the Heavy Duty Trailer Tow package. It adds a trailer brake controller, a heavy-duty radiator, an electronic limited-slip differential, and trailer backup assist.
The Expedition continues to impress in other areas outside of towing capacity. The large SUV has seating for up to eight over three expansive rows of seating. If you need to carry everyone’s gear inside, the Expedition answers the call with up to 104.6 cubic feet of cargo space.
Passengers enjoy a high-end cabin, which comes filled with premium materials. Standard features on the base Expedition include tri-zone automatic climate control, a Wi-Fi hot spot, an eight-way power spot, an eight driver’s seat, four USB ports, and a six-speaker audio system.
8. Dodge Durango
The Dodge Durango is a muscle car in a midsize SUV body. Not only does the Durango have a muscular car design, but the SUV also has potent power trains. If you’re interested in doing some serious towing, the top-ranging 6.4-liter V8 engine that makes 475 horsepower in the SRT trim is the one to get.
With that engine, the Durango can tow up to 8,700 pounds, which is an excellent amount for midsize SUVs. Beyond towing, the available 6.4-liter V8 engine provides the Durango with incredible acceleration for a vehicle of its size, with a zero-to-60 mph time of 4.4 seconds.
Like many other available midsize SUVs, the Durango offers spacious accommodations for up to seven people and has a maximum cargo capacity of 85.1 cubic feet. Where the Durango stands out from the competition is its user-friendly infotainment features.
The sporty SRT trim also comes with Brembo performance brakes and high-performance adaptive damping suspension, making it one of the few high-performance midsize SUVs on the market.
9. 2020 Lincoln Aviator
The all-new 2020 Lincoln Aviator is a luxury vehicle. While few people will look at an Aviator and think it’s a competent towing vehicle, the luxury midsize SUV can towing up to 6,700 pounds when properly equipped. The impressive towing capacity comes from a twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter V6 engine that produces 400 horsepower.
Since the Aviator is a pure luxury vehicle, it boasts a stylish and well-built cabin with incredibly comfortable seats. The comfy ride is also sublime. Standard features on the Aviator include a 10.1-inch touch screen, Apple CarPlay, a Wi-Fi hot spot, a 10-speaker audio system, four USB ports, a 5.8-inch second-row touch screen, and Android Auto.
Factors To Consider Before Buying Tow Vehicles For Travel Trailers
When traveling with a travel trailer, finding the best tow vehicle for your rig becomes essential. In fact, it can be difficult to find one that’s durable enough to hold up to the task of towing your trailer.
However, there are still some powerful options out there. This buying guide will help you choose the right one, as well as ensure that you inspect any potential purchase before making it.
1. Towing capacity
Any truck, car, or SUV capable of towing a travel trailer will have a maximum towing capacity you’ll need to know in order to figure out the best SUV to tow a camper.
It’s also important to note that travel trailers have an unloaded weight rating aka “dry weight rating” and a loaded weight rating aka “gross weight rating”.
Because you’ll almost always be towing a travel trailer with some weight added e.g. water, clothes, gear, etc. The best SUV to pull a travel trailer will be one that can easily handle the fully loaded weight rating of your trailer.
2. Payload rating
The payload rating is how much weight a vehicle can handle inside it. The payload rating also includes any weight allowed on the SUV’s roof, such as a cargo box. The SUV will have a separate roof weight rating listed in your owner’s manual.
When considering the best SUV to tow your travel trailer, it’s also important to consider how much gear and how many people you might haul inside it/on it.
3. Four-Wheel Drive
You’ll also want to consider if you need four-wheel drive, or if two-wheel drive will suffice. Nearly all pickups are based on rear-wheel drive platforms, designed to move heavy loads.
Traditional four-wheel drive (often called 4×4 or 4WD) is a part-time system that you turn on with a rotary switch, button, or lever when you need it. You can also select a low-range setting for challenging off-road conditions.
Full-time four-wheel drive is more versatile and optional on some pickups. It kicks in as needed to enhance your traction, and your truck can run indefinitely in that mode without harming the drivetrain.
4. Gas vs. Diesel Trucks
Another consideration to find the best truck to tow a travel trailer is if you want a gas or diesel truck. The most significant difference is the type of fuel used. Gas engines use gas, and diesel engines use diesel. No surprises there.
However, diesel engines generally tow heavier weights than gas engines. This isn’t always the case, but it is often true. If you want a large travel trailer, a diesel engine may provide the extra oomph needed to get from point A to point B.
5. Truck Beds
Here’s another truck decision you’ll need to make: long- or short-bed pickup? If you choose a short-bed pickup, it will be easier to drive and park when you’re not towing. Parking your trailer at the campground should be easier.
However, a shorter bed truck also means a shorter wheelbase (the space between the front and rear wheels). The longer the wheelbase of the truck, the better it will be at holding trailer sway steady when towing.
6. Trailer Brake Controller
Most trucks with a towing option will also come with a trailer brake controller. This system applies the brakes to the camper when the driver uses the brakes on the truck. This allows both the camper and the truck to use their own brakes to slow down or stop safely.
7. Blind Spot Monitoring
This feature alerts the driver when another vehicle is in its blind spot. Most vehicles come with this feature standard, as part of a package of safety features. Now some trucks can also alert the driver when there is a vehicle in the blind spot of the camper.
Getting a vehicle for an entry-level travel trailer is a great option. Now that you know what the best trucks for towing a travel trailer are, take your pick. They build these trucks tough to handle the challenge.
Just be sure to get the exact specifications of your trim package and any add-ons before purchasing a travel trailer. This will ensure your truck is up to the task.