Tow Vehicle Capacity

If you already have the vehicle that you plan to tow with, you need to find a trailer that is within the weight range of your vehicle. This was a common problem I ran into during my days as an RV Sales Manager. Customers would come in to purchase a travel trailer only to find out that their tow vehicle did not have a very good tow rating. It can be extremely frustrating to go out and find the perfect travel trailer or fifth wheel and then be told that you can’t tow it. On the other hand it can be worse if you go to a less reputable RV dealer and the sales person tells you that you can tow it! This happens every day, and this is why you need to be armed with the right information before you buy.

It is not my intention to upset any RV dealers, but if you go to a dealership and they don’t ask you for information about the tow vehicle it would be wise to go elsewhere. The first question my salespeople were required to ask was if you already had a tow vehicle. If so, they would look in our towing book and identify the tow capacity for your particular vehicle. Then we would inform you of your options. We lost many sales because the customer could not safely pull the camper they wanted, but we did not allow them to jeopardize themselves or their family.

If you don’t already have the tow vehicle, it’s a good idea to find the camper you want first and then buy a vehicle that is capable of safely towing it. I will caution you again, be careful if you listen to the salesperson at the auto dealership. They are only interested in selling you a vehicle, and a large percentage of salespeople do not understand vehicle tow ratings. Call a reputable RV dealer and ask them to check the vehicles tow rating before you buy it.

I once had a customer that found the camper they wanted and went to purchase a new truck. The salesperson told him the truck could tow 10,000 pounds. He went on to show my customer where 10,000 pounds was stamped into the hitch receiver on the back of the truck. The 10,000 pounds stamped in the receiver is what the receiver itself is rated for. It has absolutely nothing to do with the tow rating for the truck. My customer bought the truck and brought it to us to have the brake control and wiring done. I looked the truck up in my book and it was rated to tow 5,400 pounds. The camper weighed 6,000 pounds. I could write a book about stories like this, but our goal is to prevent this from happening to you.

There are many things to consider before you buy a tow vehicle. How often do you plan to tow? Where do you plan to tow? Is this vehicle going to be used strictly for towing, or will you be using it for everyday driving too? Are you interested in a pop-up, travel trailer or fifth wheel? How much does the camper you want weigh? Once you have answered these questions you can start looking for that perfect tow vehicle.

The manufacturer determines a vehicles tow rating. It is the maximum amount of weight that the vehicle can safely tow. The manufacturer takes many factors into consideration when determining a tow rating. They look at the vehicles engine size, transmission, axle ratio, chassis, suspension, brakes, tires, cooling capacity and many other things. Now this may all sound complicated, but the bottom line is how much can the vehicle safely tow. Do not assume that just because you’re buying a truck it can tow a lot of weight. Most manufacturers offer vehicles with tow packages. A tow package upgrades the vehicles suspension, brakes, tires, and cooling system. They also add items like engine and transmission oil coolers to protect the vehicles major components when you are towing.

Happy Camping,

Copyright 2006 by Mark J. Polk owner of RV Education 101

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