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Everything You Need to Know About Towing a Car Behind an RV

Everything You Need to Know About Towing a Car Behind an RV

RVs are a great way to explore the country without sacrificing luxury or comfort. One thing motorhomes are not great for, though, is driving around residential or city streets and finding parking spaces! That’s why many of us choose to tow a car behind our motorhomes. Towing a car behind an RV gives you more freedom for day-tripping, doing errands, or visiting a restaurant. Let’s consider whether towing a vehicle might be right for you.

Can You Tow Any Kind of Car Behind an RV?

The important factors to consider here are the weight of the vehicle you want to tow and whether your RV has enough power and capacity to tow it. How you tow may also look a little different depending on your vehicle specs. For example, you can’t flat tow (4 wheels down) all vehicles behind an RV. Let’s look into the various ways to tow a car behind a motorhome:

3 Ways to Tow a Car Behind an RV

There are three methods of towing a car behind an RV. The option you choose will depend in large part on two factors: your RV’s capabilities and your towed car’s capabilities. But personal preference comes into play as well. Regardless of how you tow your car, your RV will need to have a trailer hitch receiver and some electrical connections.

Flat Towing (4-Wheels Down)

The first way to tow your car while RVing is called flat towing. With this type of towing, the car has all 4 wheels on the ground. While this is the type of towing people are most familiar with, it won’t work for all vehicles. This is because not all transmissions can safely accommodate flat towing. And if you flat tow a vehicle that isn’t capable of being towed with all four wheels down, you can cause serious (and expensive) damage.

Towing a car behind an RV using the flat tow method

Flat towing a car behind an RV is a method that leaves all four wheels of the “toad” on the ground.

If you can flat tow your car (we’ll help you find this out in a later section) you’ll need to make some modifications. You’ll need a tow bar and you’ll need to have a “base plate” installed into the front of the car to connect that tow bar to. You’ll also need some electrical wiring and safety cables installed. Additionally, it’s a good idea to have a supplemental braking system to make stopping safer. No one wants to drive down a mountain with their RV and tow vehicle and experience failing brakes (it’s also required by law in many places, often depending on the weight of the car)!

NOTE: For more information on what’s needed to get a vehicle setup to be flat-towed behind your motorhome, check out this article: The Complete Guide to Setting Up a Car for Flat Towing Behind a Motorhome. And for options to keep your towed car protected back there, read: The Ultimate Guide to Towed Vehicle Protection: Mudflaps to Shields.

As many people (especially full-timers, including us) consider flat towing to be the gold standard, it’s probably not surprising that it’s more expensive than dolly towing. While it isn’t cheap, you’ll definitely appreciate having your tow vehicle along for daily driving, and the ease and speed at which you can connect and disconnect it (even one person by themselves). It also takes up the least amount of additional space when getting set up at a campsite.

And if you’re interested in flat towing your car behind your motorhome, we’re thrilled with both our RoadMaster Nighthawk towbar and Roadmaster Invisibrake Auxilliary Braking System. If you want the same towbar, you can save using the following deal.

SPECIAL DEAL ON NIGHTHAWK FOR RVGEEKS VIEWERS:
FREE TOW BAR COVER & FREE HITCH RECEIVER LOCK!

Roadmaster has agreed to offer our viewers an exclusive package when they buy a Nighthawk direct from the factory. To take advantage of this deal, call Roadmaster at (800) 669-9690 then select option 2 for Sales. When you order a Nighthawk, just tell them you’d like the “RVGEEKS PACKAGE” and they’ll include a free heavy-duty tow bar cover and a free hitch receiver lock, too! This $89 value will keep your beautiful new Nighthawk secure and protected, like we keep ours. And FREE SHIPPING is included, too!

ORDER YOUR NEW NIGHTHAWK FACTORY DIRECT
(800) 669-9690 – then select option “2” for Sales
TELL THEM YOU WANT THE “RVGEEKS PACKAGE”!

Dolly Towing

If you can’t flat tow your car, don’t panic. There are two other ways to tow a car behind your RV, including using a tow dolly.

A tow dolly is a suitable solution for vehicles with front-wheel drive. When using a tow dolly, the front two wheels of your vehicle are on the dolly while the rear wheels roll along the ground.

Using a tow dolly is a pretty easy process. You’ll simply drive the car up onto the included ramps and strap your vehicle in using heavy-duty ratchet straps.

A tow dolly may have a lower up-front cost than flat towing, but there are several drawbacks.

First, tow dollies are heavy. When you use a tow dolly, you need to make sure your RV can tow not only the weight of the vehicle but the weight of the tow dolly as well. The added weight also impacts your fuel mileage which is already relatively poor if you’re driving a large RV.

Your tow dolly will also require regular maintenance to ensure that it’s in good working order. If nothing else, it’s two extra tires to monitor and maintain. So not only do you have a motorhome and a tow vehicle to maintain, but the tow dolly as well. You also may need to register the tow dolly and pay associated fees in many states.

Finally, you’ll need to have room to store a tow dolly at your campsite, which can limit your options a bit.

Trailer Towing (Flatbed or Enclosed)

The last option for towing your vehicle behind an RV is by using a car hauler such as a flatbed or an enclosed trailer. Many 4-wheel or all-wheel drive vehicles require this method of towing (in order to avoid any potential damage to the transmission).

To use a car hauler, you’ll need a ramp and ratchet straps. If your trailer has electric brakes, you’ll also need a brake controller.

The downsides of using a car hauler to tow your car behind your RV are similar to those of the tow dolly, especially added weight. But with a car hauler, the added weight can be substantially more significant. Before going this route, ensure that your RV is up to the task.

You’ll also need to have a place to store the car hauler while parked at your site. While it may fit in your site, some RV parks will make you pay a small fee to store it elsewhere during your stay. There are also registration and maintenance costs to consider (again, among other things, an additional set of tires).

How to Find Out What Ways You Can Safely Tow Your Car

If we concerned you earlier with our note about the potential to destroy your transmission if towing the wrong way, you’re probably wondering what your options are.

You can tow almost any vehicle on a car hauler or in an enclosed trailer. If choosing the option of an enclosed trailer, make sure the height and length of your vehicle will fit inside the trailer being considered.

To determine whether you should flat tow or get a dolly, you have a couple of options.

First, you can check the manufacturer’s website for your vehicle as they will usually provide towing information there.

If you’re not able to find an answer, you can also check the Dinghy Towing Guides (like the Roadmaster Dinghy Towing Guides). If you can’t find a guide at Roadmaster for your vehicle year, you can find older versions of these guides that go all the way back to 1990 by Googling. So even if you have, or are buying, an older vehicle, you can find out if you can safely flat tow it.

Tips for Towing a Car Behind an RV (Dinghy Towing)

Towing a car behind your RV is a great way to get around when staying somewhere for a while. But it also makes things a little more complicated. Here are a few tips to make the experience safer and more enjoyable.

Towing our SUV behind our RV

Having a car available to you once you’ve reached your campsite has many benefits. Towing it safely is the first order of business.

1. Make sure the method of towing will work for your vehicle before investing any money. These options can be costly, and you don’t want to spend money only to find out you won’t or can’t use the towing method of choice.

2. Make sure you properly connect everything before hitting the road. Double-check straps, electrical connections, and safety cables. Also, check your brake, tail, and turn signal lights.

3. Give yourself extra time and space when turning. The added length means it will take you just a bit longer to get through an intersection. And even though a towed car tracks about the same as the motorhome towing it, be sure to monitor your mirrors until you’ve completely cleared a turn.

4. Leave more space between you and the vehicle ahead of you. Added weight means increased stopping distance. Avoiding travel during adverse weather is also a good rule of thumb.

5. If you choose to tow using a trailer/car hauler, having a car that can move it around in your campsite is a huge bonus. That way you don’t have to use your motorhome to maneuver it.

What Vehicles Make the Perfect RV Tow Car?

A perfect tow vehicle is one your motorhome can tow and that meets your needs on the road. Your perfect tow vehicle might be a tiny Smart Car if you want to save weight and be able to park almost anywhere.

On the other hand, a four-wheel-drive vehicle such as our Honda CR-V or a pickup truck may be more desirable depending on where you may be driving and in what types of weather.

Towing our car behind our RV

Our 2003 Honda CRV is the perfect “toad” for us, but a different vehicle may suit your needs better.

There are several popular vehicles for flat towing in addition to ours. These include the Jeep Wrangler, Ford F-150, Chevy Tahoe, Ford Escape, or for something smaller, the Honda Fit.

But again, the perfect tow car for you might not be the perfect tow car for someone else. It’s all about what works best in your situation.

Conclusion

When you travel in an RV, it’s easy to feel limited without a towed car. Towing a car behind an RV lets you explore so many more places while you’re on the road. It’s also a great way to save money on gas while you’re taking day trips. With three options to choose from, you’ll be able to tow almost any vehicle so nothing can hold you back!

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Cat Thompson

Tuesday 5th of March 2024

Hi guys! Long-time follower here! You have made our transition into full-time so much easier with all of your content. Thank you for that. I have a question about towing. I have a 2003 Damon Daybreak 35' Motorhome and am flat towing my 2009 Honda CRV. We've only gone on a few short trips with it. (It's so easy!) Our next trip is an 8hr drive, but we are doing it over 2-3 days. My question is this. How often should I stop to give the car a break? Thank you for your time and awesomeness!

TheRVgeeks

Tuesday 5th of March 2024

Hi Cat! Thanks so much for the kind words. We're glad that we've been helpful as you make this transition into full-timing. It can be intimidating/scary... but from our experience, the benefits FAR outweigh the risks. We know you're gonna love it!

As for the towing, we always defer to the owner's manual for these things. The manuals for your 2009 Honda CR-V are available here (https://owners.honda.com/vehicle-information/information/2009/CR-V/manuals). Page 266 of the Owner's Manual is where the "Towing Behind A Motorhome" section starts. And on page 267, they state:

Extended Towing If you tow more than 8 hours in one day, you should repeat the above procedure (check transmission fluid level, start the engine, press on the brake pedal, move the shift lever through all its positions, shift to D position & hold for 5 seconds, then to N and let the engine run for 3 minutes, then turn it off, release the parking brake, leave the ignition switch in the ACCESSORY (I) position so the steering wheel does not lock) at least every 8 hours (when you stop for fuel, etc.)

So, with your plans, it sounds like you're going to be golden.

Timothy Ryan

Monday 25th of September 2023

If I wanted to tow a 2014 Nissan Altima behind my rv what would be the recommended method?

TheRVgeeks

Monday 25th of September 2023

Hi Timothy! We just checked the 2014 Motorhome Magazine dinghy towing guide, and see that the 2014 Nissan Altima is not listed as being flat towable.

https://www.roadmasterinc.com/pdf/dtg_2014.pdf

While we recommend carefully reviewing your owners manual to confirm, those listings are usually pretty accurate. If so, that leaves you only two methods to safely tow your car. Dolly towing it, or trailer towing it.

Randy Springer

Saturday 15th of July 2023

I want to tow a 1991 Ranger 4X4 already set up with a tow bush guard. I don't know what steering setting to tow the Ranger, maybe set the auto transmission in neutral? Does the steering sysem just be left loose to follow the tow vehicle?

TheRVgeeks

Saturday 15th of July 2023

Typically, Randy, the towed vehicle is left with the steering column unlocked so that the front wheels can turn along with the RV towing it. HOW that's accomplished varies by year, make and model of vehicle being towed. We'd suggest that the best way to determine the correct flat-towing procedure for a '91 Ford Ranger would be to get a copy of the owner's manual and see what it says. You may need to contact Ford or a Ford dealer to locate one, though... Ford's online page with owner's manuals for their products (https://www.ford.com/support/owner-manuals/) only seems to go back to 2014.

annie

Wednesday 24th of May 2023

We have a 35 Ft Winnebago 2014, I am concern about pulling a Acura RDX which is a front wheel drive on a dolly, will it be safe and not do damage to my transmission?

TheRVgeeks

Friday 26th of May 2023

Hi Annie. Our first suggestion would be to 100% confirm that your RDX is only front-wheel drive. We know that most of them are all-wheel drive... and Acura absolutely says NO FLAT TOWING (and, of course, AWD can't be put on a two-wheel dolly... you have to use a flatbed).

So... if you've 100% confirmed the FWD situation, you shouldn't have any issue dolly towing it safely.

Ron Rosenlof

Monday 15th of May 2023

We have a 30 ft Winnebago pulling a Jeep Wrangler. Our 1st trip was terrible just trying to keep it on the road. Every truck that passed almost through us off the road every time. My husband fought this thing all 850 miles. He also added an additional steering stabilizer. Any suggestions. It was not fun. 2018 Winnebago.

TheRVgeeks

Tuesday 16th of May 2023

Oh boy, Ron. So sorry to hear about your experience. We'd suggest getting a hold of a place like Roadmaster and tell them about your troubles to see what they'd suggest. They may not have anything any different than your existing steering stabilizer... but not all stabilizers are created equal, so it's possible that what you have isn't sufficient for the task.

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