When buying a camper, you shouldn’t go through with the purchase until you know what kind of vehicle you’ll use to tow it. What kind of towing vehicles are best for campers?
Depending on the weight of the camper, many towing vehicles are appropriate. For example, cars might be able to tow very lightweight trailers like teardrops whereas a class A RV is only towable by a sturdy pickup truck with a tremendous towing capacity.
This guide to towing vehicles and campers will cover every type of trailer, from fifth-wheels to pop-ups, and discuss what kind of vehicle it takes to pull these trailers around. We’ll also provide some towing safety tips, so keep reading!
RV Weight Terms to Know
What is Gross Vehicle Weight Rating, GVWR?
GVWR stands for Gross Vehicle Weight Rating and refers to the maximum weight allowed of both your RV and cargo. Cargo needs to include the weight of your belonging, camping gear, passengers, and anything in your tanks (fresh water tank, grey tank, black tank). I always recommend traveling with near empty, if not empty, tanks.
What is Unloaded Vehicle Weight, or UVW?
Dry weight is also referred to as UVW, which refers to the weight of the trailer or RV alone. This does not include cargo, propane tanks, or another upgraded accessories.
What it Cargo Carrying Capacity (CCC)
Cargo Carrying Capacity refers to the most weight that you can pack into your RV. This includes all your personal items and any water in your tanks. The CCC is determined by subtracting the UVW from the GVWR.
What is Tongue Weight (TW)
Tongue weight or TW is the amount of weight an RV puts on the towing vehicles’s trailer ball. It is calculated by subtracting the weight of the towing vehicle from the weight of your vehicle and the trailer combined.
Related Reading: Choosing the Proper Weight Distribution Hitch for Your RV
How Much Weight Can Different Vehicle Tow
Below is a simple table with five different types of vehicles with their average maximum towing capacities:
|Vehicle Type||Average Max Towing Capacity (lbs)|
|Small (Quarter-Ton) Trucks||6,500|
Which Vehicles Can Tow a Travel Trailer?
Let’s start by discussing travel trailers, which are among the most popular types of campers. Smaller travel trailers are 13 feet long while the biggest are 40 feet. These trailers have room for up to 10 passengers including the driver.
Travel trailers are the closest you’ll get to RV living outside of owning an RV. They feature luxe amenities and plenty of floor space and headroom. They’re also weighty vehicles, clocking in at 1,200 pounds on the lighter side and up to 9,000 pounds.
Related Reading: The average weight of travel trailers
Some cars can tow travel trailers. Models such as the Dodge Durango, Toyota Land Cruiser, Mercedes Benz GLE, and BMW X7 have towing capacities of around 7,500 pounds apiece. The exception is the GLE, which can tow up to 8,000 pounds.
If your travel trailer is on the heavier side, then you can rely on an SUV or pickup truck to get you where you need to go. From the Chrysler Pacifica to the Hyundai Santa Fe, Nissan Titan XD, Chevrolet Silverado, Ford F-150, Ford F-450, or Ram 3500 Heavy-Duty, you have your pick of options!
Related Reading: Choosing the proper weight distribution hitch for your travel trailer
Which Vehicles Can Tow a Fifth-Wheel Trailer?
Fifth-wheel trailers are designed for long-term camper living. The overhang these trailers are known for can double as a kitchen, living room, or extra sleeping quarters depending on the layout of your trailer.
Although most people don’t think so, fifth wheels are indeed larger than standard travel trailers. These vehicles measure 25 to 40 feet long on average. Due to the unique shape though, there’s usually only room for up to nine passengers.
For their extended length, fifth wheels are heavy, weighing between 13,000 and 20,000 pounds.
That disqualifies lightweight vehicles from being able to tow a fifth-wheel. We’d recommend a pickup truck instead. Fifth-wheel trailers complement pickup trucks especially, as the overhang of the trailer slots in above the truck bed.
The Ford F-350 Heavy-Duty has a towing capacity of 21,000 to 32,500 pounds, the latter of which is attainable with a gooseneck hitch. That’s more than enough of a weight capacity to easily pull a fully-loaded fifth wheel.
The GMC Sierra 3500HD has a towing capacity of 17,200 pounds. If you need more pure towing power, the Ford F-450 can tow up to 24,000 pounds, which gives you about 4,000 pounds of leeway to work with (which is never a bad thing!).
We’d also again recommend the Chevy Silverado 3500HD. Its towing capacity is 36,000 pounds, so it’s more than you need. The Dodge Ram 3500 can tow over 18,000 pounds, so it too is a suitable towing vehicle for a fifth wheel.
Related Reading: 9 Important Things to Prepare Your Truck for Towing an RV
Which Vehicles Can Tow a Toy Hauler?
Do you like to play in this wild world whenever you go adventuring in a trailer? Toy haulers are the ideal type of trailer for you, as they have room for bikes, motorcycles, ATVs, and all the other toys that make your outdoor time feel complete.
Outside of storage space, toy haulers also offer plenty of living space, often with room for 11 people in all. These too are larger trailers, measuring between 21 and 40 feet on average. An unloaded toy hauler can weigh 3,600 pounds on the lighter side to 11,400 pounds.
As was the case with the fifth wheels, it’s mostly trucks and SUVs that are suitable for toy haulers, especially once they’re loaded with equipment, people, and cargo.
If you’re looking for a mid-sized SUV for hauling, the Dodge Durango can handle most toy haulers. Bigger SUVs such as the Ford Expedition can also make easy work of pulling one of these trailers around.
Trucks such as the Ford Ranger, the Ford F-150, and the Ford F-Series Super Duty are great picks as well. The Ranger can tow 7,500 pounds and the F-Series Super Duty has a generous towing capacity of 7,400 pounds.
Which Vehicles Can Tow a Teardrop Trailer?
From two very heavyweight campers to one much lighter one, let’s shift our focus to the teardrop trailer.
Teardrop trailers are small vehicles for two to three people. As the name implies, these campers are shaped like teardrops. The shape means this camper sheds much of the weight of its trailer brethren, but you usually get far fewer amenities as well.
Teeny-tiny teardrops are four feet long, and bigger ones can be up to 10 feet, with an average of between four and five feet. Teardrop campers weigh as little as 500 pounds, but more are somewhere in the ballpark of 1,000 to 3,000 pounds.
Since they’re so featherweight, you have a huge variety of towing vehicles at your disposal for pulling along a teardrop trailer. Cars like the classic Dodge Challenger that can only tow 1,000 pounds are certainly in contention, as is the Honda Accord or Chevy Malibu with that same towing capacity.
If you’re one of those RVers who prefers your towing setup to have extra towing pounds to work with, then a Jeep Wrangler can tow up to 3,000 pounds, a Toyota RAV4 up to 3,500 pounds, and a Kia Sorrento 5,000 pounds.
That’s more than generous enough for even the biggest teardrop you can imagine!
Which Vehicles Can Tow a Pop-Up Camper?
Pop-up campers are a type of expandable trailer that is named such because their walls and/or ceilings can pop up. The walls may be hard slide-out walls or soft vinyl material.
Either way, pop-ups might not look like they afford that much room at first glance, then you open them up and suddenly they’re a lot roomier. You can sleep between four and eight people in them.
Even still, these are considered smaller campers. Pop-ups are about seven feet to maybe eight feet wide and up to 16 feet long when closed or collapsed.
The weight of a pop-up camper is variable. Softer-sided pop-ups weigh around 1,180 to 2,700 pounds while the hard-walled versions are 3,700 pounds and up.
Finding a towing vehicle for a pop-up camper is not difficult. The Subaru Outback is one option, as it can tow an average of 3,000 pounds. The Volvo S60 has a towing capacity of around 3,500 pounds that’s perfect for hard-walled pop-ups.
Other towing vehicles to consider are the Ford Fusion, Buick Verano, Chevrolet Impala, Dodge Dart, Ford Mustang, Dodge Challenger, Chevy Camaro, or the Cadillac CTS.
Of course, if you have an SUV or pick-up truck that you use for towing, you already know these vehicles have more than enough towing capacity to handle a pop-up camper of any size.
Which Vehicles Can Tow a Class A Motorhome?
Let’s discuss RVs, which are the heaviest vehicle class of their kind on the road.
Motorhomes are categorized into three groups or classes, and we’ll begin with class A RVs.
It doesn’t get weightier than a class A. None of the trailers we wrote about to this point can touch a class A’s supreme weight class, and no other RV class is quite as close either. Class A motorhomes are the kings of the road, weighing 13,000 to 30,000 pounds.
Measuring 26 to 45 feet long, inside a class A RV is room for nearly any and every amenity you can ask for, from full bathrooms with showers and toilets to multiple sleeping quarters and generously sized kitchens. It’s like having a home on wheels!
Cars need not apply for towing, as they cannot handle the weight of a class A motorhome. It would take a truly gargantuan towing vehicle to pull one of these bad boys around! The Chevrolet Silverado HD3500 can do it, as its towing capacity is 36,000 pounds.
The GMC Sierra 3500 has the same weight capacity, while the Ford F-350 can tow 37,000 pounds and the Ram 3500 can pull up to 37,090 pounds. Accept no substitutes!
Which Vehicles Can Tow a Class B Motorhome?
Of the three RV classes, the lightest vehicle is the class B, which is technically categorized as a camper van. These streamlined campers have room for two to three passengers on average. They’re still sizable though, with average lengths of 21 to 24 feet.
Smaller and easier to drive than a class A (by a huge margin), a class B motorhome weighs 6,000 to 11,000 pounds. It’s not overly lightweight, but it’s far from heavy either.
Any of the above vehicles can tow a class B motorhome and have extra weight to spare. If you want a towing vehicle that can tow closer to 10,000 pounds, you can always shop for an SUV.
The Ford Expedition can tow 9,300 pounds, making it an excellent choice for a class B RV. Both the Lincoln Navigator and Dodge Durango SRT or R/T can tow 8,700 pounds. The Land Rover Discovery has a towing capacity of 8,200 pounds, so it too is a good towing vehicle.
Camper Towing Safety Tips
Now that you’ve matched a suitable towing vehicle to one of these exceptional campers, it’s time to hit the road! Here are some tips that will ensure your experience is a safe, enjoyable one.
Practice Makes Perfect
It doesn’t matter if you’re hauling a small teardrop trailer or a class C RV, the first time you haul any camper behind you, it’s going to take some getting used to.
You must learn how to take turns with the weight and length of the trailer behind you. You’ll have to time your braking, as you can’t stop on a dime anymore. Parking can be a challenge, especially if you must do tricky maneuvers such as parallel parking.
That’s why we recommend practicing as much as you can before your camping adventures. Find an empty parking lot and do K-turns and even a few rotations. Try parking in the spots.
Then, once you’re used to all that, do a bit of residential or highway driving. You don’t need to go far, but you must get used to things like stopping distance as well as maintaining your speed. Those are techniques you cannot practice in an empty lot.
Know Where You’re Going
Once you own an RV or camper, you have to accept that certain routes and locations might be off-limits to you. If you can’t fit through an overpass or under a bridge, then you have to find an alternate route.
You don’t want to discover this information when you’re stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic and can’t switch lanes to get to the exit turnpike.
To prevent these kinds of unfortunate scenarios, plan your route ahead of time. Use GPS or even a good, old-fashioned map to discover what kinds of obstacles might befall you. Then go a different way.
Slow and Steady Wins the Race
Getting back to the speed of your driving, it shouldn’t be fast at all. You won’t be able to accelerate your towing vehicle to the same degree that you can when it’s unhitched, so that’s something you must adjust to.
The rule of thumb is to keep four to six seconds of distance between yourself and the motorist who’s closest to you. These few extra seconds are enough leeway that if you have to make a sudden stop (well, as sudden as you can stop with your setup), you have enough time with less risk of crashing into someone.
Stick to the Right
The right lane is your best friend when doing highway and freeway driving and towing a camper.
We recommend this for several reasons. For one, most commercial drivers stay in the right lane. Although you’re not technically a commercial driver yourself, you have a rig that’s as large as one a commercial driver would use, so it helps to emulate them.
Further, you’re closer to the exit lanes so that if you need to make a swift exit, you don’t have to awkwardly cross three or four lanes of traffic to get there.
Watch Your Weather
What kind of weather is on the forecast for today? If the day is going to be blustery, you might want to reconsider heading out. Strong winds can cause your trailer to wobble back and forth, leading to a terrifying situation known as trailer sway.
Trailer sway, if you’re not familiar, causes your trailer to move out of alignment with your towing vehicle. Controlling your camper can feel impossible, and your rate of accidents is a lot higher.
Besides bad weather, the rush of motorists on either side of you on a major highway or freeway can also cause trailer sway. That’s another great reason to stick to the right lane!
Inclement weather can also contribute to trailer jackknifing, especially if it’s rainy. Jackknifing is when your camper twists towards your towing vehicle, forming a shape like a pocketknife. Your trailer can crash into your towing vehicle, causing a big commotion!
Use the 2/2/2 Rule
Our last tip for safe trailering is this: abide by the 2/2/2 rule.
What is the 2/2/2 rule, you ask? It’s a rule designed to prevent burnout and exhaustion in drivers. You’re only supposed to drive 200 miles or two hours daily to get to your destination before 2 p.m.
There’s a variation of the 2/2/2 rule known as the 3/3/3 rule that might better suit your schedule.
Remember, it’s all about the journey, not the destination. When you plan to leave early and give yourself plenty of time to get somewhere, driving is less stressful!
Campers come in all shapes and sizes, and with towing vehicles of many sorts to match. Cars can pull lightweight trailers such as teardrops and soft-sided pop-ups. SUVs and pickups will tow nearly anything else, from travel trailers to RVs of all classes.
Stay safe out there!