What Can and Can’t I Tow with My RV?

Many RV owners discover early on that driving their RV or motorhome isn’t practical once they arrive at a destination. Whether you want to pop into town for some groceries, see a show in the city or simply go for a long drive in the country without having to pull up stakes from your parking site, towing a vehicle behind your RV may be the solution. There are restrictions, however, on what you can and can’t tow. If you don’t pay attention to the restrictions and guidelines on how to tow properly with your motorhome, you could destroy the towed vehicle’s transmission, damage your RV or cause an accident.

Can I Tow My Current Car?

In most cases, you can tow your car or SUV with your motorhome. There may be exceptions or limitations based on the gross weight of the towed vehicle or the maximum capacity of the hitch or dolly being used to tow, so you need to read your owner’s manual carefully. You also need to understand the type of transmission in your car so you know how to tow it safely.

Flat Towing, Tow Bars or Tow Dollies

Using a tow bar or dolly or flat towing means towing your vehicle with its own wheels on the road surface. In general, it’s easier to tow this way if the vehicle has either 4WD that can be put in neutral or rear wheel drive to protect the transmission. Flat towing leaves all four wheels on the ground while tow dollies lift the front wheels off the ground and leave the rear wheels touching the road. In either case, the transmission will be in use and you will be racking up miles on your towed vehicle.

An automatic transmission will quickly burn out because the wheels are turning but the transmission isn’t being lubricated unless you have an expensive drive line disconnect or aftermarket lube pump installed, but this will add thousands of dollars to the cost. It may be less expensive to trade your current vehicle in for one that is more appropriate for flat towing.

Towing Using a Trailer

This is the most popular way to tow a car for a few reasons. Most importantly, it’s the only safe way to tow a vehicle with an automatic transmission. Loading your car onto a trailer means none of the wheels will touch the road, the tires won’t turn and you won’t burn out your transmission. It is, however, a bit more involved when you want to load and unload our vehicle and the equipment is more expensive.

Things to Consider Before Towing

The most critical sources of information you need to consult before deciding whether to tow and what to tow are your RV Owner’s Manual and your Vehicle Owner’s Manual. Both of these will clearly indicate what you can and can’t do in terms of towing. Things to consider include:

  •         Towed vehicle weight, including anything stored in the vehicle and fuel.
  •         Type of transmission.
  •         RV towing capacity.
  •         Hitch capacity.
  •         Type of hitch, tow bar or trailer being used.
  •         Total weight of the towed vehicle. Lots to consider here – a diesel engine is several hundred pounds heavier than a gasoline engine. Luxury details and optional extras can also add considerable weight to your car or SUV. Be sure you have an accurate weight before proceeding.

You also need to consider where you’ll be parking your RV. In some RV parks, you will have to disconnect the trailer or hitch and store it out of the way rather than leaving it attached to the back of your motorhome where it will obstruct traffic flow and interfere with other campers.

If you are unsure whether you can tow the vehicle you currently own or are considering buying, refer to your Owner’s Manual, weight your vehicle and, if necessary, contact both your RV dealer and automobile manufacturer for more information. Towing a vehicle gives your great flexibility and convenience when traveling, but not doing it properly or ignoring restrictions can lead to costly consequences.

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