Since we recently covered the topic of hooking up and disconnecting an RV tow bar, today we’re taking a look at the best vehicle to tow behind your RV. Because we know that most RVers enjoy exploring well beyond the campground as we do, bringing along a towed vehicle is a given.
When your home-on-wheels is a large motorhome like ours is, you’ve gotta have a more nimble way to get around. No one wants to break camp and prepare the RV for travel mode just to go to a trailhead, or a movie, or for a quick trip to the nearest market. We don’t want to fire up the Class A (or even a Class C for that matter) to explore a small town or nearby natural wonder, or to navigate tight city streets. And if we did, where would we park this big thing when we get there?
So, we’ve done some research and narrowed down five of the best options for maximizing exploration. First, let’s take a quick look at how we can tow a vehicle behind an RV.
How Do You Tow a Vehicle Behind Your RV?
There are three primary ways to tow a vehicle behind an RV. You can flat tow (4 wheels down), tow on a dolly (front wheels up), or pull a trailer carrying the entire vehicle (either open or enclosed). You’ll want to do some research based on your RV and tow vehicle, and be sure to prioritize safety.
With flat towing, the vehicle you’re towing behind your RV has all four wheels on the ground.
The front of the tow vehicle, commonly referred to as a “toad” or “dinghy”, attaches to the RV’s hitch receiver with a tow bar. This also requires that the front of your car has a tow package installed, including a base plate.
This is the way we’ve been towing during the entire time we’ve been on the road (going on two decades!) and we think it’s the simplest, easiest way to bring a car along. But not all vehicles can be towed with all four wheels on the ground. You’ll want to consult a dinghy towing guide for a list of cars that are capable of safely being flat-towed.
You can check out our other articles on this topic, including:
Dolly towing is when the two front tires of your towed vehicle are on a two-wheel dolly, and the back tires are on the road. The dolly attaches to your RV’s hitch like a trailer, and you secure the car’s front wheels with straps.
More time is required to hook up your vehicle this way, and you’ll need to have space in your campsite for it. But dolly towing provides additional options for the types of vehicles you can safely tow. And it works well if you have more than one car that you want to be able to bring with you (one at a time, of course), since it doesn’t require anything to be permanently installed in the car, like with flat towing. It’s also usually less expensive than a tow bar and baseplate, and the installation required to install it.
For more information, you can read our more in-depth post: How to Choose and Use an RV Tow Dolly.
With trailer towing, you drive your tow vehicle onto, or into, an open or enclosed cargo trailer, strap it down, and pull the trailer behind your RV. This makes it possible to bring virtually ANY vehicle along, assuming (1) it fits in/on the trailer and (2) The weight of it and the trailer don’t exceed your towing capacity or take your rig above its maximum gross combined weight rating (GCWR).
Similar to dolly towing, even more consideration needs to be taken for where you’ll store the trailer when it’s not in use. Not all campsites will have enough space for your RV, your towed car, AND a trailer. And some may not allow it even if there IS space.
What to Look for in a Tow-Behind Vehicle to Maximize Exploration
Bringing a toad along is all about maximizing convenience, and opportunities for exploration. This could be anything from off-roading in the desert, to making day trips to big cities, or simply having a smaller car to run errands after parking your RV and setting up camp. Knowing what kinds of adventures you and your family enjoy will help to steer you toward the best vehicle to tow behind your RV.
Towing Method Preference
The first step in looking for a vehicle is determining how you want to tow. If you’re looking for a quick, easy, and low-maintenance towing method, flat towing is ideal. Depending on your tow bar system, it will likely take you no more than a couple of minutes to connect or disconnect your vehicle. For some people, the biggest drawback to flat-towing may be the limitations it places on car choice since most cars can’t be flat-towed without damaging their driveline. But if you’re happy with a vehicle that can be flat-towed, that drawback is eliminated.
As previously noted, dolly towing can be a little more time-consuming than flat towing. Getting the front of the vehicle onto the dolly may take practice. Having a dolly also means caring for two more tires (the ones on the dolly itself). You may also need a place to store your dolly when it’s not in use. Keep this in mind when booking a campsite to make sure you have enough room for your RV, tow vehicle, and dolly.
Trailer towing gives you the most flexibility in terms of the vehicles you can bring along. For example, if you’re planning to travel with both a car and a motorcycle, trailer towing may a great option, especially if it’s enclosed, which offers the added benefit of both security, and complete protection from the elements. The downside is that it can potentially double the tow weight. Be sure you know how much weight your RV and trailer hitch can handle.
Comfort is a vital factor for choosing the best vehicle to tow behind your RV. If you enjoy making lots of day trips, consider the creature comforts you enjoy in a vehicle.
A small gas saver might be best if you’re planning lots of miles, while an all-wheel-drive or off-road-capable vehicle can be ideal for backcountry exploration.
If you’re off-roading, choose a vehicle that maximizes your ability to seek adventure as well as your RV’s towing ability. Jeeps are the most common tow vehicles for off-roaders.
Carrying Your Gear
You can utilize your tow vehicle for carrying gear that doesn’t fit in your RV, and you’ll also want to consider what types of items you’re likely to carry regularly. For example, our Honda CR-V is perfect for large grocery runs to keep our fridge, pantry, and cupboards well stocked throughout our lengthy boondocking trips.
Besides gear, there’s of course the consideration for how many people normally, or occasionally, travel with you. A family of five will have considerably different needs than a couple. Even though there are only two of us, one of the primary reasons we chose our CR-V is because it’s capable of carrying five people, plus cargo. That way, when we have guests on board, we can pick them and their luggage up at the airport.
Know your weight limits for towing and carrying gear in your tow vehicle, though. A small or midsize SUV means more cargo capacity, which means you could exceed the GCWR (Gross Combined Weight Rating) for your RV and/or the capacity of the hitch receiver on the back of your motorhome.
The 5 Best Vehicles to Tow Behind Your RV
We’ve put together a list of vehicles that fit into one or more of the categories discussed above. These are five of the best cars to tow behind an RV:
1. Honda CR-V
The Honda CR-V has to be first on our list because, well… we’ve towed the very same one behind our RV for nearly 2 decades, and it’s been the perfect tow vehicle for us. We bought it brand new specifically to go full-time RVing, and we still love it.
Why They’re Great: This midsize SUV offers a decent amount of room (for cargo and/or passengers), comfort, good gas mileage, and easy maneuverability on city streets or over more challenging terrain. It’s excellent for day trips and everyday errands. You can flat, dolly, or trailer tow the Honda CR-V, depending on the year and drivetrain (all-wheel-drive models need to be flat towed or trailer towed, while front-wheel-drive models can use all three options… be sure to check tow guides and the specific model year’s owner’s manual to be sure.)
They are relatively inexpensive, practical, and practically indestructible. Ours has never let us down. Anywhere. Ever. Not once. And when equipped with all-wheel-drive are a surprisingly competent all-weather and off-road vehicle (you’d be amazed … or horrified… at some of the places we’ve taken ours!), though they clearly have their limits.
ONE BIG, SAD, CAVEAT — Be aware that, due to drivetrain changes (CVT – Continuously Variable Transmissions), Honda CR-Vs after the 2014 model year are NOT flat-towable. Come on Honda… we’d love to get a new CR-V as our toad, but non-flat-towable is a non-starter for us. But they’re still great cars, so if you can find a nice pre-2015 model, or you don’t plan to flat tow, a CR-V might be right for you!
Average Curb Weight of Vehicle: 3,500 pounds
2. Jeep Wrangler
Why They’re Great: The Jeep Wrangler is off-road magic. If you plan to go off-roading on your RV trips, Jeeps can handle some wild terrain. They’re built for extremely rugged adventures, while still providing comfortable (and fun!) transportation for everyday tasks. Just about any Jeep Wrangler can be flat-towed, but dolly and trailer towing are options as well. As with all vehicles, be sure to check the owner’s manual for the model year & transmission combination you plan to tow to be sure it’s allowed (and what procedures to follow).
Average Curb Weight of Vehicle: 4,200 pounds
3. Ford F-150
Why They’re Great: The Ford F-150 is excellent for going off the beaten path, while also providing comfort for everyday use. The four-wheel-drive versions can be flat-towed, and you’ll have extra storage space in the truck bed when towing this truck behind your RV. And when you’re not using it as a towed vehicle, you have all the convenience and versatility that a pickup truck offers, which may be a necessity for your “non-RVing” life!
Average Curb Weight of Vehicle: 4,000-5,600 pounds
4. Honda Civic
Why They’re Great: The Honda Civic is a lightweight economy car with fantastic gas mileage and a very comfortable ride. It’s a great car for everyday driving at home… AND for coming along for the ride to your next RV adventure.
You can dolly tow any Civic (they’re all front-wheel-drive) and you can flat-tow some of the manual transmission models in certain model years. Check the car’s manual to determine the towing capability. And yes, Peter is particularly partial to Hondas, having owned SEVEN of them, including two beautiful motorcycles, and never having a bit of trouble with any of them.
Average Curb Weight of Vehicle: 2,900 pounds
5. Mini Cooper
Why They’re Great: If you’re looking for a sporty, fun, and fuel-efficient tow vehicle, the Mini Cooper is an excellent choice. This car could be the perfect companion to your RV travels… making you REALLY look forward to getting where you’re going, so you can get out and explore in this fun car! No model years that we know of are officially approved for flat towing, so we recommend dolly towing the Mini Cooper.
Average Curb Weight of Vehicle: 2,700 pounds
Which Is Your Favorite Vehicle To Tow Behind An RV?
These five options provide something for every kind of explorer. We hope we’ve helped you to narrow down the search for the best vehicle to tow behind your RV.
Find something that checks your boxes and enjoy the road!
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