tlc2454

Towing with mid-size SUV?

48 posts in this topic

Hello All,

 

I'm a recently retired woman eager to follow my RV'ing dream and currently shopping for a rig. I have lots of camping and RV'ing experience, but going it solo (just me and my pooch) is new to me.
I am considering a used mid-size SUV as a tow vehicle for a lightweight, up to 22 ft, travel trailer. My research says there are mid-size SUV's that will handle towing this load, but are the specs realistic, or am I being too optimistic about the capabilities of vehicles in this category? (V-6, 270-290 HP, 250-270 torque, towing capacity 5,000 lbs)
Whatever vehicle I get will be my only vehicle, and I really don't want to be driving a full-size SUV or big ol' truck
day-to-day if I can avoid it. But am I being realistic about a mid-size SUV being able to handle towing a trailer?
Any recommendations, advice or experiences to share about choosing a tow vehicle?

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Welcome to the Escapees Forum!!!

 

Towing capacity is only one of the ratings that needs to be considered. Make sure that the hitch is rated for the weight to be towed. A travel trailer will put about 10% of its weight on the tongue of the vehicle. With the tongue weight, all the cargo, fuel, and passengers; the tow vehicle needs to be at or under its GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) Axle ratings and tire ratings. Use the GVWR of the trailer when calculating tongue weight unless you know the actual tongue weight of the trailer fully loaded and ready to travel. There are some folks that recommend a specific safety margin like 80%. The tow vehicle and fully loaded trailer should not exceed the GCWR (Gross combined weight rating) of the tow vehicle.

 

The shorter wheelbase SUVs often have problems with trailer sway. The longer the trailer, the greater the chance of sway. This article gives some basic guidelines about the relationship of tow vehicle wheelbase and trailer length. A premium weight distribution/sway control hitch can do a lot to help control sway issues.

 

Since it sounds like you will be buying both the trailer and the tow vehicle, I suggest deciding on the trailer that meets your needs first and then look for an appropriate tow vehicle.

 

Here are links to the websites of a couple of forum members that travel with small trailers towed by SUVs. http://traveldolphin.blogspot.com/ http://vermilye.blogspot.com/

 

Here's another website you may find of interest http://rvsueandcrew.net/

 

Again, Welcome to the Escapees Forum!!!!

Edited by trailertraveler

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Thank you for your welcome and for some good reference links.

I also appreciate your suggestion that I pick a trailer first and the tow vehicle following the trailer decision. I've been perplexed with which to do first.

I'll check out your links, and follow up here with more questions.

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Welcome to the forums! Happy that you are here and we will do all we are able to support you.

 

I am one who has been towing a smaller travel trailer with an SUV so might be able to help you some. While I'm not the expert here, I do have a lot of RV experience and have done what you are contemplating for the past 3 years.We tow a 19' travel trailer that has a GVWR of 3600# with a Kia Borrego, 276 hp V6. The towing package was standard equipment and it is rated to tow 5000#. The Kia does a respectable job of towing but is a bit under powered on steeper grades. It has a good wide stance and so is not bad for sway or cross wind problems, but neither is it rated as great. The most negative part is that it isn't capable of passing on a two lane road under any but the most ideal circumstances. Fuel mileage running alone is typically around 22 mpg, but towing the best ever was 12 mpg and that was with declining altitude while in mountains it was about 9 mpg and over all averaged around 10/11 mpg. That was also towing at 55 mph most of the time.

 

Do I consider it sufficient for out trailer? Yes but there is no way that I would want to tow anything that was much larger or heavier. It might be rated to tow 5000# but I sure wouldn't want to do that for any great distance. In fact, we just upgraded our tow vehicle to a diesel truck. If you do choose one of the V6 powered tow vehicles, limit yourself to travel trailers that weigh no more than 4000#, in my opinion.

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Towing with an SUV can be done but you need to learn about towing ratings and tires.

Here is a basic video explaining towing ratings. Trucks are discussed but the ratings are the same for all tow vehicles.

 

The big deal with Maximum loaded Trailer Weight (MLTW) is that this number is a calculated number based on the base weight of a vehicle with no vehicle options, no towing equipment, and 1-150 lbs. passenger and the GCWR of the vehicle. (This may be changing in the future with some new standards currently being implemented b the automotive industry) And that number you see is the loaded trailer (so, think GVWR if you are going to full time). This means that any additional weight added to the SUV beyond the basic minimal assumed weight of the tow vehicle (SUV) must be removed from the MLTW. Meaning the trailer you can tow gets smaller when you add stuff to the SUV and there will be stuff added to the SUV. Therefore, You will probably need to get a tow vehicle a bit bigger than what you initially want to be under the ratings of the tow vehicle with some margin. You will most likely want to consider a weight distributing hitch, so you need to have an RV Dealer or someone with one of these show you how they hook up. Some work/strength with leverage is required to get them positioned correctly. Make sure you can do this.

 

So, the simple answer to the question "...am I being too optimistic about the capabilities of vehicles in this category?" is probably(yes). Only because those numbers do not clearly identify the assumptions. The towing guides are a little murky (some would say a lot murky). Also, for any tow vehicle (SUV) you get, you will want to make sure that it has LT tires and not passenger car tires. The LT tires are stronger than passenger car tires and will serve you better for safe towing. Often SUVs and small trucks come with passenger care tires, which are not the best when a substantial amount of time the vehicle will be towing.

 

This is not meant to be a dream killer. On the contrary, our desire is to help you enjoy the dream safely and with as little hassle as possible. A good friend on these forums (Jack Mayer) truly states there are concessions with this RV full time lifestyle. Your thoughtfulness in asking these questions demonstrates wisdom. It will take a little research and study. If you are in the Eastern part of the country in the spring, this conference is a great opportunity to learn about some of these technical aspects of living on the road.

Edited by TreyandSusan

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I'm certainly no expert and have done things way too haphazardly, but since I'm much like you, here are my newbie thoughts and experience.

 

I discovered there's different ways of referring to trailer length. Are you talking box length or trailer (hitch to bumper)? Makes a difference, trailer salesmen mostly talk box length.

 

First, my main hobby is photography. I learned early on that while everyone wants a lens that's fast, covers wide angle to extreme telephoto, weighs next to nothing and costs under $100, physics and the science of optics says that such a lens can't exist. RVing is the same, compromise is required.

 

I definitely agree that it's better to pick the trailer first, I did it the other way around because I hadn't been entirely committed to getting an RV/TT when I was shopping for a new 4x4. I wanted something that I could live with in case I decided that motels and timeshares would be how I would travel after retirement, instead of a trailer.

 

One thing I found is that many midsize SUVs are no longer capable of towing much, and others have gotten so big that they are almost as big as a full-sized one. My requirement of a 4x4 was also a limiting factor most wouldn't need.

 

I ended up buying a Grand Cherokee V6 (1st Cherokee, 3rd Jeep). That turned out to be a bigger compromise than I had expected, on paper it appears to be capable of towing most 19 foot (box) sized trailers. What I should have gotten was a diesel Grand Cherokee, which is a far more capable engine for towing up significant grades.

 

How much stuff are you going to take? This is my first RV and RV specific equipment turned out to be more than I had expected. I was originally thinking in minimalist/tent camping terms. Big difference. I still think in minimalist terms when it comes to everything else.

 

I now have the JGC and a 16 and a half foot (box) trailer with a slide. I'm planning a several month trip in it as soon as I retire. I've already taken a couple of short trips and am living in it weekdays. For my purposes it is fine, but while I'm planning on trips lasting several months at a time, I'm not planning on selling my house. If I were going to do that I would definitely move up to a 19 foot (box) trailer (perhaps larger) and a diesel JGC (minimum). My rig has no trouble with the I-5 Grapevine doing 50, but struggled going up the western 190 pass into Death Valley. I would NOT want to tow anything larger or heavier with it.

 

Another thing to think about is how fit are you? I'm small and in reasonable shape, but my size limits what I can lift. Keep says a weight distribution hitch is required for a trailer over 5,000 lbs. mine doesn't weigh that much as I have it loaded, but there's no way I would be able to tow without one since the front end would be so much higher than the back end. I can't manage a 50 lb plus hitch head, so I have an Anderson WDH about the lightest WDH at the moment. It seems to work fine, all my weights and heights are within spec but I don't have any experience with anything else. I've towed when the wind warning signs have been activated and haven't noticed any sway.

 

Make sure you get the factory tow package when buying an SUV for a tow vehicle. My JGC is rated for 6200 lbs with the tow package, and 3500 without it. One car salesman I talked to tried to talk me into a V6 without the package by saying they could put on a receiver and that would be all I need (uh, NOT).

 

Anyway, those are this newbie's thoughts and experience. I make no claim of expertise, I'm still learning how to back up with a trailer!

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I am considering a used mid-size SUV as a tow vehicle for a lightweight, up to 22 ft, travel trailer.

 

Here is a link to a forum all about people using small, often 16 ft and less, fiberglass trailers: http://www.fiberglassrv.com/forums/

These folks are super friendly.

 

Notice the thread topic titled: Fulltiming in a Molded Fiberglass Trailer http://www.fiberglassrv.com/forums/f69/

 

Good luck.

 

K and J

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You may want to read a forum by another solo traveler. It is called rvsueandcrew you can do a web search to find the link. She posts really beautiful travel pictures.

Might be helpful.

 

Safe Travels!

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Thanks, everyone, for your input. I feel like I'm really leaning a lot!

 

OK, so for towing capacities of mid-size SUV's, this is what I'm finding: specific models of Honda Pilot, Nissan Pathfinder, Kia Borrega, Hundai Santa Fe and Ford Explorer with v-6 engines are rated 5,000 lb tow capacity. Jeep Grand Cherokee and Dodge Durango are rated at 6,200 lb. Get into diesel and v-8's and the capacities exceed 7,000 lbs.

 

Shouldn't any one of these vehicles, appropriately outfitted for towing, be able to handle a travel trailer with overall length (not box) of under 23 feet and a gvwr under 5,000 lb?

Edited by tlc2454

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They might, depending upon the weight of the trailer. Most of that length will be about the weight you could tow but actual weight is the key. Check the GVWR of any trailer you consider. If you get much over 4000# you are going to want the V-8 version.

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I wish I could post some pics here of what my father used to use as tow vehicles many years ago. I can remember an old 1948 Dodge panel truck that I'm sure was a 6cyl. and a three speed towing an 18' trailer. He didn't think he would make it up Sonora pass. But we did and had a great time. This was about 1954. Around the same time another tow vehicle he used was a 4cyl. Austin pulling a 16ft., and I swear going into a headwind across the Mojave desert he had to gear down. Back then the trailers didn't have braking so it was more than a vacation...it was an adventure!! And now here I am with a diesel pusher with no worries going up or down mtns., Sat. W/42' HDTV & Surround Sound, Res. Fridge, Solar Panels, 8KW gen., Queen Bed, Washer/Dryer, Ice Maker, Two Recliners, Loveseat, Full Sized Shower and Toilet. Yep, I'm really roughing it!!!

Edited by Mariner

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...OK, so for towing capacities of mid-size SUV's, this is what I'm finding: specific models of Honda Pilot, Nissan Pathfinder, Kia Borrega, Hundai Santa Fe and Ford Explorer with v-6 engines are rated 5,000 lb tow capacity. Jeep Grand Cherokee and Dodge Durango are rated at 6,200 lb. Get into diesel and v-8's and the capacities exceed 7,000 lbs.

 

Shouldn't any one of these vehicles, appropriately outfitted for towing, be able to handle a travel trailer with overall length (not box) of under 23 feet and a gvwr under 5,000 lb?...

One of the trade offs of a low GVWR is often carrying capacity. A 22' trailer with a 19' box (GVWR 3500#) has a carrying capacity of 760#. Another 22' exterior length trailer(model 2106) has a GVWR of 7000# and a carrying capacity of 3295#.

 

Something that I don't think has been mentioned yet is that the maximum tow ratings are often determined using a 60 sq. ft. frontal area (think utility/horse trailer). The resistance of a box style RV with a much larger frontal area is significant. The aerodynamics of the egg trailers makes them easier to tow. Another type of trailer that tows easier are the folding trailers like Trailmanor and Hi Lo which claims to be coming back into business.

 

Once you decide on a make/model of trailer, see if they have an owners club/forum and see what vehicles real owners of those trailers are towing with.

Edited by trailertraveler

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To repeat one piece of advice from above, to make sure it doesn't get overlooked: make sure you check the rating of your hitch. My V8 Expedition is rated to tow over 7,000 pounds, but my hitch is only rated for 4,000.

Edited by earlvillestu

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Hi All,

Following the suggestions given here, I set out to find my ideal trailer, and 3 months later, I'm a proud new owner of a 2011 Wildwood 20RBXL by Forest River. I think the suggestion to get the trailer first and then decide on a tow vehicle was wise. Although with just me and my dog, I don't think I'll be maxing out the cargo capacity of over 3,000, but if I did, I think a mid-size V6 might not have the umph. Now the search is on for the ideal tow vehicle. Hopefully I'll be road ready before the end of the summer.

 

Terrie

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Hi All,

Following the suggestions given here, I set out to find my ideal trailer, and 3 months later, I'm a proud new owner of a 2011 Wildwood 20RBXL by Forest River. I think the suggestion to get the trailer first and then decide on a tow vehicle was wise. Although with just me and my dog, I don't think I'll be maxing out the cargo capacity of over 3,000, but if I did, I think a mid-size V6 might not have the umph. Now the search is on for the ideal tow vehicle. Hopefully I'll be road ready before the end of the summer.

 

Terrie

 

Terrie,

 

If you're willing to think outside the SUV box (and gain some capacity and space), the Ford F150 with the EcoBoost V6 (turbocharged gas) - properly equipped - has turned out to be a very capable tow vehicle for those using them. The turbochargers give you an advantage at altitude, also, if you plan on visiting places like the Rocky Mountains. With the Max Tow and Max Payload options, many are even towing the lighter fifth wheel RVs with this truck. From a size perspective, they're bigger than a mid-size SUV but smaller than the rolling houses... er, I mean oversized SUVs. You could put a tonneau cover or bed cap on the back and have quite a bit of extra space, too. I use a GMC diesel to tow, so I'm not putting in a plug for something I own...

 

Rob

 

Rob

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Quite a few years ago I towed a trailer with a 1/2 ton pickup that would be pretty close to what you are now looking at with more modern equipment. I towed all the way to Cabo San Lucas in MX, over very steep Rocky Mt passes and put on at least 30,000 miles. At that time I accepted the limitations. The truck would shift down and slow down when going over over-passes on the freeways, semi's would pass me going up the mt. passes (meaning more than once I was going 15-20 mph), and when I got onto two lane roads there was probably no passing (just no power to do so). There was never any driving in overdrive and 55 was pretty much max. I loved that truck and at that time, that was all we could afford so I loved the combo and my wife and I had some great adventures. Are you willing to accept those limitations? I did for years and don't regret one minute. Now I love my diesel!

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I don't think I'll be maxing out the cargo capacity of over 3,000, but if I did, I think a mid-size V6 might not have the umph.

There are several things that are important to remember about this trailer. If you are taking the GVWR that is listed and subtracting the dry weight to find your capacity, you are failing to recognize the added weight of full tanks. Water will weigh 8.3# per gallon so full potable and waste tanks deduct nearly 1000# from that capacity. Be sure that you take the trailer to a scale and at least get a total weight before you start to travel. On the V6 engine, I doubt that you will be very happy with one so think bigger. I towed a travel trailer that has a GVWR of 3800# with a V6 powered SUV for 3 years and there were times it was pushing it's capability, even though the SUV is rated to tow up to 5000# and has a hitch receiver that is rated at 5k. I found that mine would get 22 mpg when not towing but averaged only 11 mpg with the trailer and your trailer is much heavier than ours.

 

I recently moved up to a 3/4 ton (250/2500) truck to tow our trailer and this one is also a diesel. I suggest that you should look for something larger rather than smaller and check the tow ratings of anything you consider. I would not even look twice if the tow rating isn't at least 10,000# as you don't want to be towing at maximum ratings all of the time. With a quad cab truck, short bed you will have more cargo capacity and just as much seating as you would with a larger SUV. Even in a gasoline powered vehicle, you will find that the larger engine loosed much less in fuel efficiency when towing than do the smaller ones.

 

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...I'm a proud new owner of a 2011 Wildwood 20RBXL by Forest River...

Terrie,

 

Congratulations on finding your trailer!!!

 

 

If you are taking the GVWR that is listed and subtracting the dry weight to find your capacity, you are failing to recognize the added weight of full tanks. Water will weigh 8.3# per gallon so full potable and waste tanks deduct nearly 1000# from that capacity.

While I don't disagree with the math, I question how likely it is to have all three tanks completely full. Starting with a full fresh water tank, this would require two refills of the fresh tank without dumping the waste tanks. I suppose if one were boondocking for an extended period it is possible. If this was common practice, some small trailers would have virtually no carrying capacity. For example: 760# ccc minus 84 gal. x 8.3(697) = 63# of ccc remaining. Even in the unlikely situation that you end up with all three tanks full, the 2000# carrying capacity remaining should be adequate for a single traveler.

 

Again, congratulations on the new trailer and good luck in your search for the right tow vehicle.

Edited by trailertraveler

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OK, I've been working on the math....and trying to narrow the prospective tow vehicle field...

 

The Dry Weight (according to the yellow label on the trailer) is 3649. Total Cargo Capacity is 3638.

Round up a full black tank (35 gal) and full fresh water tank (46 gals) weight to 700, for ease of calculating.

Two full propane tanks and two batteries I'll estimate at 200. That accounts for about 1000, leaving over 2600 Cargo Capacity. Being that it's just me and my 60 lb dog and that I'm already used to traveling light, I find it very doubtful that EVERYTHING else I packed into the trailer would exceed another 1000, so that brings my estimated GVW to under 6000.

 

With that in mind, wouldn't a vehicle with a tow package and rated to tow 7000 be acceptable?

 

Terrie

Proud new owner of a 2011 Wildwood T20RBXL

Edited by TravelGypsy

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That will be another significant factor in making the tow vehicle decision.

Keep us posted as you move forward and join into conversations at any time! Welcome to the RV community. :)

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OK, doing some math....

 

 

The "label" on the trailer states: Dry Weight: 3649 lbs

The weight of Cargo should not exceed 3638 lbs

That makes the GVWR 7287 lbs

 

Full Propane Tanks = ~100 lbs

Batteries = ~100 lbs

Full Black Tank, 35 gal = 292 lbs

Full Fresh Tank, 46 gal = 384 gals

For ease of calculating I'm rounding that up to 700 lbs.

I don't see any likelihood that both the fresh and grey tanks would both be full at the same time, so didn't include the weight of the 35 gal grey tank.

 

Those necessities add up to less than 1000 lbs, leaving more than 2600 lbs cargo capacity. Since I'm already used to traveling light and we're talking about myself and just my 60 lb dog, I can't imagine ever packing in more than another 1000 lbs. bringing the GVW to the neighborhood of 6000 lbs.


I'm trying to narrow down my tow vehicle market....Wouldn't a vehicle with tow package designed to handle up to 7000 lbs be sufficient based on my calculations?

 

Terrie

Edited by TravelGypsy

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OK, doing some math....

 

Wouldn't a vehicle with tow package designed to handle up to 7000 lbs be sufficient based on my calculations?

 

I think you're right in the ballpark with your math as far as a "base" load. You might be a little light in the battery department. Dual 30lb LP tanks.. looks fine. If most of your camping will be in CG's, you should be fine (consider that you likely won't travel with a full fresh water tank). A Wildwood is a capable little rig and you're particular model has the heavier trailer frame so ya done good there.

 

Part of what I generally consider a "base" load included a few more pounds you might consider. Tools, chocks, hoses, cords, etc. that can add up pretty quickly, but as a general rule of thumb, 1000 lbs in base load and 500 lbs per person additional is a pretty safe guesstimation. Casual weekenders would generally carry less and full timers, of course, would be a bit heavier, but regardless of how many people your "base load" will always be with you.

 

One thing I would mention on your rig is that your axles, tires, and suspension will be MAX'd if loaded to full GVWR so that is something to keep in mind.

 

Personally, and since you're buying your TV to fit your Wildwood, I would go with a minimum 9000lb tow capacity. Could you do it with a 7k? Sure.. but in terms of control, comfort, mileage, etc.. I think you would be much happier with a little more capable TV. Earlier there were some posts mentioning a little 150 ecoboost. Something in that class would fit the bill nicely as an occasional TV/daily driver, but also realize that while a capable little truck in terms of towing capacity, mileage might be very disappointing.

 

If you tow often you would probably be happier with a good V-8 or even an "ecodiesel". As was also mentioned.. the more capable your TV.. the better mileage you'll see (and less wear and tear on your drivetrain) with you're relatively "light" trailer.

 

You'll have to decide how you intend to use your rig most often, what fit's your budget, and what your comfort level is under tow. You're already ahead of the curve by doing your research 'before' you buy (and in the right order) so I think you're well on your way!

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You're already ahead of the curve by doing your research 'before' you buy (and in the right order) so I think you're well on your way!

 

So true! I would not be able to pull this trailer if I'd bought the "horse" before the "cart" had I purchased what I thought was the vehicle I wanted...

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OK, I've got the official actual weight of the trailer, with basics packed, 2 full propane tanks, 1 battery and empty water/waste tanks. No clothing or food packed. Came in at 3560 lbs. So I think my GVW when fully loaded is likely to remain under 5000. This is significant when determining a satisfactory tow vehicle.

 

Terrie

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This is significant when determining a satisfactory tow vehicle.

 

Quite! 5k sounds very doable. When looking at TV's, be sure that no capacity ratings are exceeded (including Gross Combined Vehicle Weight) and you should be good to go.

 

If towing regularly, I generally like to leave a 15-20% under max as a safety cushion. That, generally, will ensure your TV is "well suited" for your load and helps minimize excessive wear on your TV's engine, drivetrain, brakes, etc.

 

Good hunting!!

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