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Travel Trailer - and Vehicle - How Old Can a Vehicle Be and Still Tow Safely?


J1955
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Hi, I'm looking at several options for a vehicle that can pull a travel trailer primarily. My question revolves around how old is too old to safely pull a trailer? How would I know? Some SUV's for example have tow hitches installed already. Others obviously don't. I'm concerned about rust for example, and how would you know if it's safe? Is it a 5 year old vehicle? 10? Vehicles to stay away from?

Thanks!

John

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I think it would depend on how many miles the older vehicle has and how well maintained.  I know that when I sold my 5 year old Grand Cherokee, with 95,000 miles on it, it was just as capable of towing a trailer within its capability (under all of the weight ratings) as it was the day I bought it.  I couldn’t say that for all 5 year old Grand Cherokees.  I also know that it was no longer capable of towing my particular trailer any more, because I had added a second battery and the tongue weight was now over what that Grand Cherokee was rated for.  The combined rig was not over the Grand Cherokee’s combined weight rating, the Grand Cherokee itself, when hooked up to the trailer, might not have been over its GVWR, and it might not have been over the rear axle rating (I never actually hitched it up and visited a CAT scale once I added the second battery, I just checked the tongue weight and said forget it).

Stay away from any vehicle that doesn’t have the payload, tongue weight rating, axle rating, tow rating or combined weight rating of the vehicle in question.  If I want to tow a 30 foot 10,000 lb travel trailer, I would stay away from ALL half ton trucks.  If I want to tow a 21 foot 5500 lb travel trailer and have a lot of weight in the truck (i.e., shell cap, generator, extra propane tank, extra spare tire, several tables, chairs, two large dogs, two people, 100 lbs of photography equipment, two electric bikes, firewood, 6 gallons of water, large cooler of beer and other beverages, and so on) then I probably should skip the half ton trucks also.

On the other hand, if I wanted to tow that same 5500 lb. trailer as a solo and without much extra stuff, then most - but not all - of the half ton trucks would work well.

As far as SUVs go - if the SUV doesn’t have the factory tow package, forget it.  The Grand Cherokee with the factory tow package I had (2015) was rated at 6200/6400 for a V6 and 7200/7400 for a V8 or diesel.  Without the tow package, the same Grand Cherokee was rated at 3500 lbs.  The same sort of thing applies to all of the SUVs, though the amounts vary from model to model.

The other thing about SUVs - the towing weight rating is probably not the limiting factor for the vehicle - often the limiting factor is the tongue weight and/or the payload.  That was the case with my Grand Cherokee - it was rated at 6200 lbs for a trailer but the tongue weight was limited to 620 lbs.  After I added the second battery, my 5500 lb. trailer had a tongue weight of 750 lbs. 

Best way of going about things is to choose the trailer and then choose a vehicle that can tow it.  Otherwise you could find yourself being forced to buy a smaller trailer than you would like because your tow vehicle is too limiting.

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I tow our travel trailer with a 2003, Dodge, 2500, crew cab, diesel truck. If the vehicle is mechanically sound and has the weight capacity, there is no reason that it would not work. On the other hand, if worn out it will not be reliable. My 2003 has 135k miles. 

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  • 1 month later...

Yes you can tow with anything as long as it's well-maintained, reliable, and suited to the task.  I currently tow with a 2003 3/4 ton gas truck, but if I still had my 1979 half-ton I would be towing with that, albeit a smaller camper.

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As long as you maintain the equipment, running gear , etc.  You can tow older rigs.  Back in the 1990s, we had a 1979 Silverstreak that we refurbished.  After that we refurbished an 1989 Avion.

The key is maintenance.

Ken

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We tow with a 1999 Volvo, with almost two million miles on it. Yes, maintenance is key. Rust is likely to be a problem only with older vehicles from the north. It's pretty easy to see and avoid. Jay

Edited by Jaydrvr
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  • 2 months later...

We bought about five years ago a good minivan with which we always went on various trips or went to rest on the nature. Back then, when I needed to go fishing or hunting, I'd always take it, attach a trailer to it, and tow everything well without any problems. Of course, on long trips, such as in Germany, I can't go on it, but I know that with https://www.dbfahrplan.com/de/ I can travel around the country by train and enjoy the trip. Moreover, if I were to go there by car, I'd spend more time traveling there and back. I'm sure I'd have had entirely different emotions from the trip.

Edited by Dolbin
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