By on February 23, 2008

“Scion does not recommend towing a trailer… your vehicle was not designed for towing.” Welcome to the great American anti-towing conspiracy. Manufacturers of anything less than a big SUV or pick-up are trying to take away our God-given right to tow with our cars. For a guy who’s towed everything from a Radio Flyer wagon behind a pedal-powered John Deere sidewalk tractor, to a three-bedroom house, I feel like I’m being singled out. Of course, there’s a possibility that I’m the cause as well as the target of this jihad. A lot of lawyers do drive the Ventura Freeway, and one of them may well have seen my spectacular stunt with a trailer.

Before I recount the creative maneuver with which I simultaneously occupied all four lanes of “the world’s busiest freeway” at sixty-five mph, let’s look at the prejudice American would-be towers are up against …

On Toyota’s UK website, the Yaris is credited with a towing capacity of 1050kg/2315lbs. That’s right in line with the old rule of thumb that a car can safely tow an amount equal to its own weight.

But here in the land of the (not so) free, the Yaris’ owner’s manual admonishes: “Toyota does not recommend towing a trailer with your vehicle.” The unnamed author goes on to give a partial pass to our northern neighbors: “In Canada only, total weight of cargo and trailer not to exceed 700lbs.” Please leave your trailers at the border? Perhaps this partial exemption reflects Canada’s status as being somewhere between English and American. But the logic is lost on me.

Maybe it’s a blatant tactic by Toyota to meet Tundra sales goals, by forcing us tow-heads into buying that over-achieving tug (rated for 10,000+lbs). But Honda is in on the conspiracy too. The CRV weighs 3600lbs and offers 166hp, about the same as an old gen Explorer. In Europe, where folks often buy CUV’s specifically for their towing capacity, the CRV is rated to tow 2000kg/4400lbs. And in the tow-aphobic US? A measly 1500lbs!

It wasn’t always like this. In the sixties, you’d see 40hp VW Beetles pulling a trailer. In 1976, my VW Beetle died in Ohio heading back to Iowa, so we left it and hitch-hiked the rest of the way. My girlfriend’s Mom was driving a 70hp Corolla, which was rated to tow 1800lbs, exactly the weight of my VW. She generously offered it. Towing the Bug home, the Corolla never broke a sweat.

Which I can’t say for myself when I nearly shut down the 101.

It was 1986. We had just bought our first house, in Woodland Hills. I rented a big double-axle twelve-foot trailer to haul debris and junk to the dump. My Mexican helper was a zealous worker, loading lots of broken concrete into the back end of the trailer. I remember glancing at the warning sign about having 60 percent of the weight ahead of the axles. But any fleeting thought of relevancy or concern was quickly overpowered by the testosterone-fueled urge to PULL!

That trailer must have weighed about three times as much as the Jeep Cherokee tug. I managed to squeeze into the perpetually crowded Ventura freeway.

When our rig (finally) hit 65 in the right lane, the trailer began oscillating, which escalated exponentially. The next thing I knew, the Jeep was being swung wildly from side to side, like the tail on a dog. One moment, we were facing towards the shoulder, then across all the lanes facing the center divider. The Jeep was utterly out of control; there was nothing to do but hang on for dear life, waiting for the fishtailing trailer to roll and/or get creamed by the four lanes of traffic behind us.

Fortunately, the other drivers (and that corporate attorney) were on the ball and held back, in awe of our mad gyrations. When enough speed was scrubbed off and stability resumed, we found ourselves in the narrow left shoulder, where we sat bathed in sweat.

I had no choice but to steel myself, get back in the traffic, and fight my way across four lanes while keeping the speed below fifty. When we finally pulled off on the right shoulder, my ashen-faced helper tumbled out, got on his knees and crossed himself, before we started re-arranging the trailer’s load.

Having learned that cardinal lesson of towing, I’m a hair more cautious now. But I still believe that cars, by their nature, are “designed for towing.” So I always carry a tow rope in the old Ford pick-up instead of an AAA card. More than once, Stephanie has schlepped me home with the Forester. I don’t even want to know what its tow rating is; it’s survived just fine. And I’ve found an after-market hitch for the xB, rated for 2000lbs.

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84 Comments on “The Great American Anti-Towing Conspiracy...”

  • avatar

    You should NEVER tow anything with a CVT. This, I know for sure. It’s a $5000 gamble.

    • 0 avatar

      This is total bunk. I have a 2008 Toyota 4 dr sedan and it will tow 2000 lbs. without any effort. I have a 2000 lb. Curt tow bar and the little bugger is sprite and strong and capable. It is a conspiracy. You don’t need an SUV or pickup truck to tow. I’ve turned my little sweetheart into a little workhorse. I have a 4′ x 10′ homemade trailer and have hauled anywhere from woodstoves to bricks in the trailer. And you barely know you are towing anything.

      • 0 avatar

        I do agree that most any car will have the power and braking capability to tow that much. At the same time i would not use a CVT powered vehicle for regular towing duties unless it was specifically designed for the task. I have towed around 2000 pounds numerous times with a civic hybrid. But it has a manual transmission, which is pretty hard to break. Cvt’s on the same car are barely strong enough to move the <3000lb car around for 200,000 miles.

  • avatar

    Last year just north of Pittsburgh, a father and two of his 3 children were crushed by a run-away wood chipper that freed itself from a landscape truck’s tow hook and crossed into oncoming traffic. One of the workers in the truck was eventually charged with 3 counts of involuntary manslaughter for failing to notify the company owner that the safety chains were broken, thus unusable.
    For a while, police in this area actually started enforcing laws (already on the books) and wrote many citations for improperly loaded/secured trailers.
    I welcome the lack of trailer hitches on vehicles, for this reason alone. I think that people should actually need a license (much like a motorcycle endorsement) to be able to tow ANYTHING behind the primary vehicle; just to show that some training in properly securing and maneuvering the trailer-car combo has been certified.

    • 0 avatar

      I agree with this. Most americans expect to be able to drive like normal when towing. When equipped with a large 4wd suv, they think they are invincible until the laws of physics and inertia catch up with them and their high center of gravity.

  • avatar

    Does anyone know if the US has stricter standards for tow-capable vehicles than other jurisdictions?

  • avatar

    I would like to buy a tow rig sooner or later so that I can load my track car onto a trailer for an adventure in towing on the way to a road course somewhere several states away, whilst burning copious sums of fuel unless I manage to buy a turbo-diesel truck. Given my situation I will have to wait a few years to indulge in full scale towing as I’m prohibited from storing a trailer where I live. The advantages of having a tow rig are well appreciated when tracking. If I break down I can fix it or get a tow. Anybody know what a tow from Mont Tremblant to New Jersey costs?

    For the interim I am thinking a 48″x48″ trailer loaded with tools, wheels, tires and supplies will suffice. A simple trailer hitch can be affixed to the rear end of my track toy A4 without too much difficulty. A positive side effect of adding a few lbs of rear mass (tow hitch) is a ever so slightly improved overall weight distribution on track. The cost associated with such a setup is pretty small. I know the car can easily pull the weight, I doubt I’ll even notice the presence of a trailer.

    I believe that some manufacturers make towing possible but make the towing retrofit parts prohibitively expensive. The cost of a trailer + hitch + wiring for my A4 costs a fraction of the cost of adding a hitch to an allroad or Q7. The allroad hitch is a coveted item in the allroad community.

  • avatar

    It is a strange thing. One of my cars was built in Australia. As a Holden Monaro, it can tow 3500lbs according to the owner’s manual. When it gets here, it’s a Pontiac GTO and the owner’s manual says “you cannot tow with this vehicle”.

    The hard points are all still on the car for the tow package when it comes here, and you could order the Holden tow package as well as a few locally produced ones and tow away. So what’s the problem?

    I think that the car companies are so afraid of legal liability that they will not sell that capability to prevent people from doing dumb things. Of course as Paul said, they are happy to sell you a pickup truck…

    As a final note, I do like the picture that was picked out of the house moving down the road. Growing up on Long Island (NY), I lived across the street from a house moving company, and the house I grew up in was moved there in the mid-50s from 20 miles away! They rolled it down the street to the bay, put it on a barge, towed it the 20 miles or so down the bay, and then rolled it the two blocks up from the beach to where it still stands today.

  • avatar

    Some 30 years ago, I was towing a shotgun stock trailer with my 73 Blazer with a big bull in the forward pen. The latch on the middle gate was broken and I had used some fence wire to tie it closed. Along the way, the gate came open and the bull took a stroll to the rear of the trailer. I used two lanes, two paved shoulders, and quite a bit of scenic hillside before I managed to stop. Fortunately,it was on a rural Texas road with no traffic.

    I don’t know who was the more shaken; me or the bull.

  • avatar

    “Does anyone know if the US has stricter standards for tow-capable vehicles than other jurisdictions?”

    Nope, the ratings are assigned by the manufacturers only. The explanation is much simpler: The US has a lot of corporate and personal injury lawyers and for some reason consumers are willing to buy trucks when they need to tow anything, so all passenger cars are rated at “don’t bother”.

    It’s the same story for all brands, the US tow rating is usually some arbitrary number like 1000lb.

  • avatar

    It has to be related to product liability and the American legal system. Granted, towing requires proper equipment and common sense, as indicated in the article.

    But stupid towing stunts are stupid and dangerous whether I’m using my CR-V (rated for 1500 lbs towing capacity) or my TBSS (rated for 6800 lbs). So what’s the difference?

    Would Mr. Berkowitz care to comment?

  • avatar

    The only thing that seemed to change on the Ford Crown Victoria over the years was its tow rating. From a full bass boat capability at its inception, Ford (and its lawyers) has it down to a Camry-like 1000 lbs. at the end.

    I am more afraid of debris and ladders falling off trailers and vans than I am run away trailers.

    The real test of trailer pulling is whether or not the vehicle can STOP safely with the trailer. If in doubt the answer is usually’ “No”. I cannot imagine a Corolla passing that test.

    Among the tow vehicles for my boats I have used over the years, the best was the 1974 Oldsmobile I inherited and used until it started to dump rust piles. It out weighed anything I could hook up to it and that lime green vinyl top made it virtually theft proof.

  • avatar

    It doesn’t end with faux zero towing capacities. The manual in my ’07 Miata says passengers and trappings cannot exceed 350 lb. Two people of absolutely average proportions could exceed that.

    I would guess the Firestone Wilderness AT 15″ tire debacle influences these statements in some way. As bal00 said, here in the US we are blessed with talented and motivated attorneys.

  • avatar
    Pete Gravell

    Personally, I would not tow with any of todays cars.
    I don’t care what brand it is. there is not a sub frame strong enough to take the abuse in the rear. Big reason: Crumple zones!!. Another reason, after about 5 years of being used in the northern climates where the salt trucks roam freely in winter, I have used the standard t-hook slots for tie downs during flat bed operations rip right out when I would engage the binders on the straps. Those T-hook slots on many vehicles are right in the sub-frame where a trailer package would be mounted. The other obvious problem is I’ve yet to see a car or small SUV made today with a Real Rear bumper!! a small stamped beam covered with Styrofoam then a cheap plastic cover is a far cry from the big chrome covered steel bumper that my friend Matt and I removed a bolted on ball hitch from on a 1968 Dodge Polara for the Demolition derby last August. My way of thinking. If its small stuff, find a small P/U in good shape. Little Rangers can do alot. Or a Nissan, or a Dakota, Etc, Etc.

  • avatar

    When I was in high school I worked for a marina in the summer. We had this old rusted out Toyota pickup that must have had some sort of 4 cylinder engine and a 50lb clutch. They made me use that to tow 24′ boats precariously loaded onto 16′ trailers all over northern NJ…

  • avatar

    It’s one thing to pull these heavy loads with your passenger cars, but has anybody given a thought about trying to stop that load? With the brakes that passenger cars have?

  • avatar
    Paul Niedermeyer

    quasimondo: in Europe, I believe there are pretty strong regulations about trailer brakes. It’s a state-by-state thing here, and I’m sure there are requirements above a certain sized load. I’ve rented trailers that have a built-in brake system that senses when the the tow vehicle is (attempting) to brake. I do always pick my route and leave extra space in front of me, especially when towing with my ’66 Ford pickup with its feeble drum brakes.

  • avatar

    I had a Safari with a 4.3 V6 equiped with a class 4 hitch to pull a travel trailer. It was rated at 8,000lbs and my trailer was about that fully loaded. As a tow vehicle it was absolutely useless in spite of it being a body on frame vehicle. I had plans to tour Canada with this setup and I had so little confidence in it as a tow vehicle, I never ventured more than 300KM from home. Yet I have seen Intrepids pulling 3 axle Airstreams with ease, Accords pulling boats and Caravans pulling large pop-up trailers.

  • avatar
    Steven Lang

    Hmmm… I thought a Safari AWD has a tow rating of 5500 lbs?

    I’ve actually used that along with a wide variety of RWD body-on-frame vehicles to tow with. I know that Roadmasters in particular are among the favorite tows for folks who have trailers in my neck of the woods.

    Honestly, I would only use an older vehicle (preferably body on frame) for towing. Then again I’m one of those strange fellows who prefers to not use a pickup or SUV for that purpose. There are so many alternatives out there that are depreciated far more than either of those two. You can pretty much get an old Lincoln with low miles for $1500 in these parts while any pickup or SUV that’s even halfway decent starts off near $2500.

    The older cars also have a better ride, better fuel economy (in most cases), and have a more durable powertrain over the long run. A Town Car, Roadmaster or Crown Vic (non-Interceptor) are also good family vehicles as well.

  • avatar

    It’s one thing to pull these heavy loads with your passenger cars, but has anybody given a thought about trying to stop that load? With the brakes that passenger cars have?

    There are usually two different ratings for trailes with brakes and for ones without brakes. They typically use simple overrun-brakes, by the way. For a Mercedes E350 for example the ratings are:
    1650lb without brakes
    4200lb with brakes

    And as far as passenger car brakes are concerned…do the math. A Malibu has 60% of the weight of a Silverado, 60% of the power/torque, 65% of the brakes (swept area). Yet it’s tow rating is only 8% of the Silverado’s. In fact a Malibu pulling 4000lb would still have more brake area per ton than the Silverado, so that’s obviously not the reason.

  • avatar

    crackers: Does anyone know if the US has stricter standards for tow-capable vehicles than other jurisdictions?

    Paul Niedermeyer: It’s a state-by-state thing here, and I’m sure there are requirements above a certain sized load.

    Yeah, it’s a state-by-state thing in the U.S. I remember an incident where a woman was killed when she lost control of her Jeep CJ while pulling a large trailer with it. According to the highway patrol she needed a 3/4-ton pickup or similar vehicle to pull a trailer that size.

  • avatar

    Speaking of the dangers of towing, I strongly recommend this LA Times investigative article in to U-Haul and accidents with their equipment. The gist of the article is that they allow cars to tow too heavy of loads, they don’t maintain their equipment, and when accidents happen, they somehow “loose” the evidence. It will scare the hell out of you. [I think LA Times requires instant and free registration to read.]

    Another point: I was talking to a mechanic (with 35+ years of experience) about towing. He told me that the problem with modern cars is that their monocoque bodies can’t handle towing strain like the older body-on-frame cars. Hence, this is the reason why newer cars say “no tow” and your old 1960-70’s era cars can tow.

    He also mentioned to me that the front-wheel drive automatic tranny on my Volvo V70 wagon will be toast if I try to tow 1500lbs any long distance. Even though the manual says I can tow 1 ton. He said that will allow Volvo to sell me a new tranny.

  • avatar
    Sid Vicious

    In a former life I worked for Ford and ended up researching technical quesitons from customers. With god as my witness, according to Ford literature, a 1977 Lincoln with the 460 was rated to tow almost 10,000 lbs.

  • avatar
    Paul Niedermeyer

    Sid Vicious: I totally believe it. Check out this picture from the Lucille Ball Movie “The Long, Long Trailer” The tow vehicle is a 1953 Mercury, and it had a 125hp 255 cubic inch flathead V8.

    In the fifties, sixties and seventies, big cars were the tow rigs of choice.

  • avatar

    Hmmm… I thought a Safari AWD has a tow rating of 5500 lbs?

    You’re right but the RWD has a higher rating. Something to do with the transaxle rating.

  • avatar

    Shaker: great post!

  • avatar

    Paul, you’re correct a ’53 Mercury pulled “The Long, Long Trailer”–except in the mountain-climbing scenes, for which a Lincoln was used. But I agree that it’s pretty impressive for a Merc flathead to pull such a big trailer even when on an absolutely level road.

  • avatar

    So my 166hp CRV can tow 4400lbs and they weren’t telling me?

  • avatar

    The Yaris’ towing capacity of 2315 pounds is for the DIESEL. You know, those torquey little passenger car engines that we will probably never have in America?

    Honda Lover: NO. The 44oo pound capacity is for the diesel model. Your 166hp petrol can’t handle that much (this refers to a newer model but trust me, the model years don’t change much here).

    You might as well disregard the legalities behind it all, the fact is that most Americans would still misinterpret their vehicles’ towing capacities anyways so that’s all a moot point. Does anyone even bother to look anything up anymore? Seriously! THIS is why there’s a so-called “towing conspiracy” in this country, lawyers have been given a free-for-all to sue for things like this by Americans who can’t be bothered to do their f***ing homework.


  • avatar

    Yeah Paul that’s one thing that pissed me off about my Xb was the “No Towing” recommendation from Scion

    If you read this may I ask where did you find the after market towing hitch, what barnd is it, and how does it work so far?

  • avatar
    Paul Niedermeyer

    kovachian: There is no 1.5 liter gas engine available for the Yaris in the UK, the closest one in power is the diesel. The 1.3 gas engine is tow rated for 900kg/1985lbs, slightly less. That’s still 1985lbs more than the US. And the gas CRV is rated for 1500kg/3300lbs in the UK; still more than twice as much as in the US.

    “GASOLINE VERSUS DIESEL PEOPLE, THEY’RE NOT THE SAME” Thanks for pointing that out for us(as if we didn’t know it), but the difference in the towing ratings is miniscule.

    Sherman Lin: Actually, I haven’t yet bought one yet, but I found several on the net via Google.

  • avatar

    Right on Paul,

    In Europe people don’t have SUVs or pick-up trucks. So how do you think they tow their travel trailers and boats?
    With cars, of course.

  • avatar

    “In the fifties, sixties and seventies, big cars were the tow rigs of choice.”

    They sure were. I can remember as a kid seeing lots of big Airstream trailers being pulled by full sized sedans.

  • avatar

    Great article and wonderful comments. I was wondering the same thing, mostly because tow ratings for older trucks are inferior to their modern equivalent, but they do the job just as well. Or better in the case of a 4.9L I-6 Ford and its 4.2L V6 replacement.

    The only thing I really like about modern tow rigs are their huge brakes and stiffer frames. If you tow on a regular basis, these trucks are better/more durable/safer.

    Otherwise just get a body-on-frame car and be done with it. A new Panther with load leveling air suspension will set you back all of $22,000 and its pretty nice on the highway just on its own.

  • avatar

    An exciting story! Thanks for sharing.

    If Stephanie has to tow your Ford home on a regular basis with her Subaru, maybe you should reconsider your choice in trucks…

  • avatar
    Paul Niedermeyer

    ZoomZoom: The Ford is an all-original ’66, and in the twenty years I’ve owned it, it’s needed to be towed home twice: a little pin sheared in the distributor shaft, and a broken fiber cam gear. Not bad for a $500 truck. It’s a keeper.

  • avatar

    Paul, I want to be sure that you’re not misunderstanding my point here. You support the whole point of your article by using examples of specific capacities for engines which aren’t even available here. Then other readers will misinterpret the towing capacities for other vehicles, then they pass that erroneous to information on to so-and-so and before long, someone ends up cooking their (for example) CR-V’s transmission because they exceeded the true towing capacity by over a thousand pounds. This “I don’t feel like looking it up” mentality is one small reason why we have such a tangled mess of lawyers and legal restrictions in this country.

    “Thanks for pointing that out for us(as if we didn’t know it),” I wasn’t pointing that out to TTAC readers, that was one of those “shake your fists in the sky” general remarks directed towards the general public. In a day and age where owners manuals are never being taken out of the plastic, where there the typical car buyer has no idea where the dipstick is or even how to put air in their tires, I truly believe that most people don’t know the difference between gas and diesel. But my viewpoint stems from having worked at a few car dealers, so of course I’m going to be biased one way or another.

    Your article nonetheless brings up a good point about country-specific towing that I’m sure alot of us weren’t aware of. Some tasty food for thought.

  • avatar
    Paul Niedermeyer

    kovachian: I do understand your point (read your owner’s manual; because there’s a couple of hundred pounds difference in the towing capacity of the Yaris depending on the engine), and it’s a valid addition to the commentary, if you like splitting hairs, as if a couple of hundred pounds is really going to make a difference. In reality, it’s not; whether you have one person or four in the car, or whether you’re driving on flat land or in mountains is what’s really going to make the difference.

    Which brings me back to my point: my owner’s manual says “my vehicle wasn’t designed for towing”. Common sense tells me if the (technical similar) Yaris can tow 2k lbs in England, it’s ok to tow 2k lbs with my xB, despite what the owner’s manual says. Common sense always trumps legal hedging.

  • avatar

    Kind of reminds me of the saying “Just because you can, doesn’t mean you SHOULD…” tow with a modern passenger car.

  • avatar

    My 74 MG Midget is rated to tow 1500 lbs, more than a new Crown Vic. For many years I towed a 1800 lb fishing boat behind a 91 Pontiac Firebird 3.4 V6 with out it ever breaking a sweat. As mentioned in an earlier post, it is really about how well you can stop. You have to understand how much distance you need to leave with all that extra weight behind you.

  • avatar

    My Saab 9-5 wagon is rated at 2000 lbs, if memory serves.

    When I buy a house next year I have every intention of picking up a small trailer to increase load carrying when making hardware store runs for DIY home renovations. They tow all the time with these cars in Europe, why not here? A modest trailer will run me a few hundred bucks used, whereas the cheapest, nastiest pickup truck and insurance will probably cost me over $2k the first year. My co-worker’s husband is buying a new Tacoma to handle Home Depot runs – insane.

    The reason US makers don’t recommend towing with small cars is because they want you to buy their much higher profit margin trucks and SUVs if you want to tow something.

  • avatar

    The unibody vs. frame deal makes great sense. I’ve never tried towing with a unibody, nor would I.

    Also, there is no way that a FWD transaxle has the heft that a RWD trans/diff, does.

    The one thing about tow ratings, even on an RWD frame vehicle, is the torque converter. The Caprice/Impala’s 700R4 trans was well-known for having a feeble lockup converter that was barely able to bear the load of the car, let alone the tranny. The extra power from the Impala’s LT1 engine all but guaraneed a tranny failure by 120k miles.

    Can anyone shed light on the trans and converters use on the Panthers?

    • 0 avatar

      funkyd the frame mount versus unibody should not make a difference as I owned a 1970 nova and towed a eighteen ft travel trailer . only thing I did was to mount hitch through trunk , through frame. also had power glide trannie rebuilt with an additional tranny cooler used car for four years towing around new jersey and Pennsylvania . believe it has more too do with lawyers then anything else

    • 0 avatar

      I’ve installed a “frame” mounted Curt hitch on our unibody ’99 CRV. It works just fine. Towing with a unibody is the same as towing with a body on frame vehicle. The question is can you pull it, can you stop it and will the hitch stay attached?

      My first hitch on this car years ago was a Valley hitch that bolted through the spare tire tub in the back of the CR-V. Those things ought to be illegal. It wiggled and flexed until it cracked the steel all around the bolt holes. I removed it eventually and welded the holes and cracks shut. I was younger and dumber when i bought that.

      The Curt hitch utilized existing holes in the rear subframe and is much better than even the factory Honda hitch. No flex, no cracks, no guessing.

      278K miles by the way, original clutch. Nobody else may be amazed but I am. ;)

      I tow mostly sub-1000 lbs these days with the ‘V. At work I have a ~1.5 ton International Terrastar turbo diesel and a 20ft enclosed trailer. Have dragged that combo all over the eastern USA. Got to love those trailer brakes.

      Be careful out there. Crazies all over the place that don’t fear pulling out in front of a very heavy truck.

  • avatar

    None of this will end until a sensible judge rules that because the manufacturer provided such unrealistic guidance they left the owner without the information necessary to safely use the vehicle in a reasonable manner.

    Something like this: “Had the plaintiff been properly informed of the real capabilities, he could have only put 2,000 lbs. on the tow hook. As is it is, he was not given the guidance that X motors provides to it’s UK customers. He estimated the car could tow 2,200 lbs. A reasonable estimate by a reasonable driver who could tell that the car was clearly more capable than the bogus 1,000 lbs. limit stated in the US manual as an unabashed liability shield.”

    Any comments from the Bar?

    Personally, I am getting really tired of this whole game. Companies are constantly transferring hassles and costs to others in the name of liability protection. So much so, that we now end up causing hundreds of dollars of pain to our customers to avoid pennies of liability for ourselves.

  • avatar

    Excellent article. As others have said, I think the best explanation for the low tow ratings is to reduce liability…since the average person has no clue how to tow a trailer, the automakers are protecting themselves from warranty claims and/or lawsuits.

    Another cause is the switch to FWD vehicles, even more than the switch to unibody from body-on-frame. It’s possible to build a unibody vehicle strong enough to tow 10,000 pounds (some of the full-size vans are unibody and have high tow ratings), but it’s tough to change the laws of physics. With a FWD car you’re actually unloading the driven wheels when you attach a properly weighted trailer – unless you use a weight-distributing hitch, which most people don’t do. Without a W-D hitch, a heavy trailer on a FWD car just doesn’t work out very well – traction is an issue, and the brakes are not designed for that much weight on the rear end. You could argue that people carry a lot of weight in FWD cars and minivans, but that weight is generally not positioned 6″ behind the rear bumper.

    Unfortunately, I think that another reason cars in the U.S. have low tow ratings is that our driver education isn’t as good – other countries have higher tow ratings because they’re better drivers, and understand things like GCWR, GVWR, axle weight ratings, and the need for weight-distributing hitches. In this country we just look at a vehicle rated to tow 5,000 pounds and think we can still tow that even if we have 1,000 pounds of passengers and cargo in the tow vehicle.

    Out of curiosity, how do warranties in the U.S. compare to those in other countries? If cars sold here have a longer warranty, that’s another reason that the automakers would reduce the tow ratings.

    Another issue is that vehicles sold in Europe generally handle quite a bit better than the equivalent vehicles sold in the United States, and better handling usually means better control when pulling a trailer. Many of the larger sedans sold here have extremely soft suspensions, which would be a major problem when trying to tow. The previous-generation Impala immediately comes to mind…I can’t imagine trying to keep one on the road with a 2000 pound trailer behind it, as the handling was downright scary without one!

  • avatar

    One thing to remember is that torque really is king when towing. My Ford F250 with the 360 only has about 160hp but lots of torque, and can tow quite a bit.

  • avatar

    Perhaps some of the hesistation on the part of car companies to sanction towing in the US has to do with speed limits and the dangers of trailer sway. Another commenter here mentioned the LA Times article on U-Haul and some of the incidents that have occurred because Uh-Haul allows renters to tow trailers weighing as much as (or more) than the tow vehicle. Obviously, the heavier the trailer in relation to the tow vehicle, the more likely sway is to occur, and this danger rises exponentially with increased speed. I can’t speak to the UK specifically, but I know that in much of continental Europe, vehicles towing trailers are limited to 80 km/h, which, if my internal mathematical apparatus is functioning properly, works out to somewhere around 50 MPH. Now, while some state limit the speed of vehicles towing trailers, many don’t, so that a Yaris towing a 2000lb trailer might legally be able to drive 75 MPH (if it could). In less-than-perfect conditions, you’d probably get some trailer sway there, and maybe enough to be deadly.

  • avatar

    My ’77 Corolla, less than 2000 lbs and a 1.2 liter engine, came with a tow hitch, which the brother of the former owner installed, unbeknownst to the former owner, to tow his stuff from NYC to DC.

    There is actually a reason for the difference in towing capabilities in the three countries. The earth’s iron core bulges significantly under Canada, and even more so under UK, and not at all under the US. The slight increase in gravity causes cars in Canada and especially UK to handle much better than in the US. This is why Jeremy Clarkson can get away with such crazy s–t. Right Katie?

  • avatar

    Pedantic correction: the busiest highway/freeway in North America (and probably the world) is Highway 401 through the Toronto, Ontario area. Daily traffic volume > 500,000 vehicles in places. The widest sections are 21 lanes wide (both sides combined). Quite impressive.

    I was behind somebody driving such a trailer once, on US 97 in central Washington. Not a fun experience.

    I assume the fear in the US is of litigation. The only reason why stating towing is viable in Canada and not in the US is that a carm aker is more likely to be sued for the act in the US than in Canada.

  • avatar
    Paul Niedermeyer

    PhotoJim: You may well be right. But the 101 tries harder.

  • avatar

    I remember taking long trips here in Finland with my parents, my brother and usually a friend too, with the boot full of stuff, and a trailer full of stuff, with bikes on the roof, driving a 1988 Fiat Tipo with a 1.0 46hp engine from the Uno.

    Worked perfectly fine, though the car itself was rubbish and probably not very safe. And it was quite slow even without the trailer, 0-100kph about 18secs with one person and a top speed somewhere around 140kph, but pulling a trailer you are limited to 80kph anyway. And i think the max you are normally allowed to tow is about 700kg without brakes, more if the trailer has brakes, but it really depends on the car.

    A large RWD or 4WD car would obviously be better, but for occasional towing a normal FWD car works just fine. Pretty much the only people i see towing with any kind of SUV are people with horse trailers, but they probably tow quite a lot. And some of them just get something like a Subaru/Audi 4WD.

    All semis, some buses and vans/trucks are only allowed to be driven at 80kph, and as far as i know semis are physically restricted to 90kph, which is interesting when one semi decides to pass another and you are stuck behind them for ten minutes..

  • avatar

    I tow often. Too often.

    The fictional low tow ratings of modern cars is just fine with me b/c I see too many folks who are not qualified to tow anything heavier than 500 lbs. Substandard equipment, driving entirely too fast, recklessness while towing. I’ll never forget being passed by two $250K motorhomes towing fullsized SUVs at 80+ mph on I-40. They couldn’t stop in a half-mile if something went wrong and they couldn’t swerve to miss anything either. Anything that big (commerical or private) ought to be restricted to 65 or slower. Any other vehicle towing anything – boat, camper or utility trailer ought to be limited to at least 10 mph below the posted speed limit as well.

    One of our daily drivers is a ’99 CR-V we bought new and it does fine up to the 1,500 lbs limit in the book. I generally use it to pull our $400 utility trailer to the hardware or appliance store. That’s maybe 500-600 lbs all together. I have hauled 500 lb motorcycles across the mountains to Chattanooga as well. I have pulled my stripped down ’65 Beetle to ‘nooga and back (800 lbs tops on the Beetle). I even “rescued” a single mother we are freinds with who couldn’t afford a tow truck when her Chrysler Acclaim (what a POS!) broke down. I towed it on my tow-dolly for 50 miles at 50 mph with 5 people in the CR-V. It had plenty of power but like always the brakes are the main concern. They fade much two quickly. The hitch is the other. It is a heavy bracket bolted to a unibody panel (not frame). It’s not gone anywhere but I need to beef it up jsut for more safety margin.

    Am anxious to get my ’78 VW van back on the road. It has a REAL hitch and 110 Corvair HP.

    When I got out of the Navy in VA in 1995 I owned a ’65 Beetle (warmed over with a 2.0L engine, dual carbs, and 4 wheel disc brakes, lowered just slightly) and a ’91 Hyundai.

    I had traded for the a CR-X for the Hyundai just a month or so before and did not have the title yet so I could flip the Hyundai and make some cash.

    Needed to get both cars home. Prob should have driven one car to TN, rode Greyhoud back up and driven the other car to TN. But no, that wouldn’t be exciting enough. I have a Euro-spec hitch for the Beetle that attaches to the rear torsion bar housing, the transmission forks, and the rear bumper. It would pull a house if a Beetle could pull a house. I also had a generic towbar that I mounted on the Hyundai. And 500 lbs of tools. And me. And 100 lbs personal items. And another 300 lbs of car parts. And a couple of cases of oil…

    4000 lbs? 4500 lbs?

    I was young and invincible, right?

    I started south around dark. Beetle pulled the Hyundai just fine up to 60 mph with good cool engine temps, good oil pressure, and I actually got 25 mpg.

    Brakes were good but b/c the Hyundai was heavier than the Beetle it quickly became obvious panic stops were not an option this night.

    My plan was to miss the July heat and the other kind of Heat too. The kind that drives black and white Crown Vics. All was well until I reached Salem, VA on highway 58.

    As I came over a hill I was greated by a DUI roadblock with at least 5 police cars and all their flashing blue lights. OH **** ****! ****! ****! ****! A lone police office was swinging his flash light this way and that to indicate I should slow down. If I could. The hill was steep.

    With a firm foot on the brake, the other working the clutch and shifting down, I got stopped right in their hive -‘er right in the middle of them and turned the engine off. A nice oily cloud mixed with the smell of hot brakes encircled us all. I should mention that somewhere along the way an unneeded (?) bolt fell out of the engine case that allowed oil to pour out onto the exhaust during acceleration and left turns. I used a bit more than a case of oil that night…

    Anyhow, the officers began to circle the cars mumbling to each other and calling out violations. First the Hyundai had out of date plates. Then they noticed that the Beetle had Italian plates. Then my insurance was – well they quickly backed away from that one b/c it is was in Italian too. I had recently recieved the car from Italy where I was previously stationed. Went all the way to Italy and bought a former TN car!

    The hitch was firmly attached to both cars but it looked bad. The Hyundai had running lights only (parking lights really with a single wire running from the Beetle to the Hyundai to keep the Hyundai battery charged). Jail would be my next stop I was certain. They wouldn’t even bother to list the violations. Who had that much time?

    (marginal seatbelts in the Beetle, no horn, oil covered Hyundai, loose rear bumper, dubious safety chains, no brake lights on the Hyundai, interiors, full of apparent junk, loose tools..)

    Finally the senior man came to my window and asked for my license. Not registration or insurance. He asked if I had been drinking. No sir I replied. I’m just a little touched in the head. (Didn’t really say that part). He told me to get on out of there and out of VA and not to come back with either of those cars.

    (5 different brands of tires on the two cars, cracked tail light, gapping rust holes in non-structural parts of the Beetle, dubious seat belts, non-US spec headlights, noisy exhaust, bailing wire electrical system, no turn signals on the Hyundai, dubious windshield wipers….)

    I thanked the officer, recieved my license, and mentally crossed my fingers before twisting the Beetle’s key. It roared (literally) to life instantly and I thanked all the heaven’s deities. Into first gear it went and began the long climb straight up and out of the valley. I imagined the officers swearing to each other they’d never mention me or my cars again.

    I ran the engine up to what I imagined was max torque and shifted making enough noise for two or maybe three Beetles. The old girl had dual carbs, dual turbo muffler exhaust and no soundproofing and sounded much more impressive than she was. What did that engine have – 80 horsepower? 70 horsepower? 60 horsepower?

    With nervous glances in the cracked side mirror I reassured myself that they weren’t chasing me to nail me with a list of moving violations as well as the violations they had on me when they inspected the car up close moments before.

    The trip after that was long and uneventful until I got within 10 miles of my parent’s house around 6AM. This was the climb up Signal Mountain. Let’s just say that VW Beetle constant velocity joints are rated at something like 75 HP and about 4,000 lbs because mine started to seize and pop as I rounded some of those curves on the old road. A full sized conversion van started to pass me at one point where the road widens to two lanes. The van dropped back apparently to see if I could make the climb. I did (pop! snap! ruh-ruh-ruh pop!) and at the top they passed me with a half dozen thumbs up and cheering faces pressed near the glass. I was finally home.

    20 minutes later I pulled into my parents’ driveway and my tired parents walked out to greet a weary newly minted civilian. The look on my mother’s face clearly told me she was considering sending me and my old cars back to the Navy.

    I have visions of that old Hyundai sitting in someone’s back 40 acres – worn out and still rust free, it’s crevices and underside still coated with two cases of Havoline 10W-40 sprayed on with a 1965 Beetle. The Beetle is still with us, patiently sitting out in the shed, hopefully rejoining the traffic of Tennessee after a thorough restoration.

  • avatar
    Paul Niedermeyer

    Busbodger: what a story! Under simialr circumstances, I would have done the same. Welcome to the club.

  • avatar

    You should try to rent a tow dolly from Uhaul. Now that’s an adventure in frustration. You have a car you say? Not a Ford Expidition with towing package? Sorry you can’t have this tow dolly, it’s only meant for real men.

  • avatar


    They are when it comes to steering and breaking. Either one is going to take a week and a half to 60 with a trailer in tow.

  • avatar

    There’s more to towing than whether an engine and transmission will get the load up to speed. Rest assured, an OEM’s General Counsel weigh in with more clout than its engineers.

  • avatar


    Just don’t try that again! Great story

  • avatar

    One of my stray interests is the small fiberglass oval travel trailers, like the Scamp, Boler and Casita. On those owners’ boards ( is the best) the question of towing capacity comes up over and over again. These lightweight 13 and 16-foot trailers weigh between 1500 and 3000 lbs. They were designed in the ’70s to be towed by the family car. Nevertheless, the general consensus among old web hands is to discount the US tow ratings by 25%, though they’re already around one-third lower than Euro ratings.

    England’s Practical gave the Subaru Forester XS it’s “Tow Car of the Year Award,” while over here, the whole idea of a tow car is out of fashion. Techs from both Subaru and Scamp warned me not to hitch them together, though the trailer weighs only 80% of my car’s 2,400-lb tow rating.

    I didn’t listen, and now my trailer has ridden almost 4,000 miles in two years. It’s crossed the Continental Divide four times and roamed deepest Dixie during August. The car’s towing just over half its weight, but the temp needle has never risen a tick. I still don’t know what trailer sway feels like. I get a steady 18 mpg under tow, and my knuckles have remained pink all the way. And my 4-cylinder engine isn’t even a turbo! For me, that proves the British trailer site is right, but try to tell that to a man who’s finally found a use for his jumbo pickup truck.

    This is a funny, rare case of a manufacturer sandbagging its own product, hiding its abilities in order to direct ustowards more profitable pickups and jumbo SUVs.

  • avatar

    And I was wondering who it the world would need trailer sway stabilization in an A4. Seems the four rings people know something I don’t.

  • avatar

    Nice work Paul. I think you immortalized the definition of the phrase “wag the dog”.

  • avatar

    “jackc10 :
    February 23rd, 2008 at 11:40 am
    The only thing that seemed to change on the Ford Crown Victoria over the years was its tow rating. From a full bass boat capability at its inception, Ford (and its lawyers) has it down to a Camry-like 1000 lbs. at the end.”

    Yeah, the Panther’s tow rating mysteriously changed with the 1998 restyle at the height of SUV sales, was around 5,000 lbs towing and got downgraded to 1500 lbs at most IIRC. Although a handful of Panther fans over at have towed in excess of that with better rear shocks and common sense. Anything to peddle a few more SUVs and a few less Panthers, eh?

  • avatar

    Boy, you hit the nail on the head. I have just purchased a new 2008 Volvo V70, and this was one of THE main reasons for buying the car. (There were others like the best seats I have found, and a weird love of wagons, but the tow thing was important.) Volvo was the only premium brand, (and non premium for that matter) that I could find that had the same tow rating for its cars both in the US, and the rest-of-the-world. I was very close to buying a BMW 3 series wagon, but for some absolutely bizarre reason, none of its “cars” have tow ratings in the US, despite, as you point out, them having one every where else they are sold. All I needed to pull was a motorcycle trailer with 3 dirt-bikes on it, all in, probably around 1000lbs. I am certainly the black sheep among our group of riders, all of whom are contractors, and have big trucks. None the less, they all think I am crazy for wanting to pull this little trailer with a “car”! Having just returned from taking “European delivery” of the car I was just thrilled to see that I was hardly alone in this world, in my thinking. First of all, nearly half the cars on the road in Sweden are Volvo Wagons, (if that is an exageration, it isnt much of one) and easily half to 2/3’s of those cars have tow hooks on them. I saw everything from horse trailers to cars being towed by, yup, CARS!

    I just don’t get it, but I am glad to have found the Volvo. I love the car, and I love that they have not fallen in with the rest of the conspirators. I damn sure did not want to buy a BMW, use it as it should be, then have somehting go wrong with the car. I know damn well the dealer would try and blame the towing. Just too much hassle.

    Thanks for writing the article.

  • avatar

    Thanks for the very informative link about U-Haul, very scary reading. It also goes to show that there is nothing like a bit of training. Now do not get me wrong I hate the over emphasis there is here in the U.K for having a licence for everything but one I will agree with is you cannot now tow anything if you have just passed your driving licence. You must do a seperate test. Another thing in the U.K. it is the drivers responsibilty for the vehicle, so it is quite simple if the vehicle is wrong you are wrong. How does that help, well do what I do when confronted with a dodgy vehicle and walk back into the hire office and ask for the manager to write you a waiver form stating that he/she takes ALL responsibilty for all prosecutions etc should you be stopped by the police. It works wonders, usually a bit of an arguement but you have covered your ass and get a better vehicle.
    If you drive right you should have no problem towing. Try towing a 21′ caravan, about 1800 kgs, with a 1998 Renault Laguna with 110 bhp. No problem so long as you are careful and load it right. If a car was so dangerous to tow with Europe should be carnage. Look how many Dutch alone flood the roads with caravans.
    As for the maintenence system for commercial vehicles in the USA that leaves me scratching my head. In the UK any commercial vehicle should by law have a daily defect book, many LCV’s dont and beware you could get prosecuted for not having it, and if they are over 7500 kgs must have an inspection every 4 – 6 weeks regardless ofthe mileage. This inspection is the same as the yearly one done by the government but done by a private firm.
    Anyway keep up the good work.

  • avatar

    I just installed a hitch on my xB.

    It was strong enough to drag my Cabrio (which outweighs it by 500 lbs) home from the shop after an A/C job went sideways.

  • avatar
    Stein X Leikanger

    Towing capacity is not reliable, and changes wildly.
    The Cherokee Jeep, for instance, in the XJ version, has towing capacities from the car’s weight to double that. The one I have now is rated for 3.500kg, if the trailer has brakes.

    Manufacturers don’t like tows now, because it tends to ruin engines and gearboxes – people shoot along at high speeds, overloading the drivetrain, chewing up gears. And for this reason they’ll discourage tows, or state very low loads.

    But here’s a nice tow:

  • avatar
    Stein X Leikanger

    Tried to edit the above comment. The tow in the picture is a total of 1700kgs for the sailboat, and 550kgs for the trailer (steel).
    I would have to go easy up long slopes, and stop at intervals in case of such long uphill hauls to check the transmission oil, had a tendency to boil.

    People who didn’t pay attention to that would do interesting things to their transmissions, causing the dealers to rate the allowed load much lower.

  • avatar

    In the early 1980s, I towed a 5×8 U-Haul trailer with my 1980 Toyota Corolla. That trailer was stuffed, and probably weight as much as the car. I didn’t have any trouble towing from Chicago to Boston. It cruised fine at 65 mph, with no sway. Performance was reduced as expected, but that just required extra planning.

  • avatar

    The vehicle in the picture is a Clubman and if you look on page 88 of the 09 Manual paragraph 6:

    If your vehicle will be towing a trailer, part of the load from your trailer will be transferred to your vehicle. Consult the manual for transporting a trailer to determine how this will reduce the available cargo and luggage load capacity of your vehicle.

    The Cooper manual has the same info on page 87.

    So, apparently hooking up a trailer is ok for a MINI. Actually, some of their dealers do sell and install trailer hitches.

    I looked at the Airstream site and they sell lightweight trailers that are probably light enough like the “Basecamp”. It seems to be as light as the Clubman if I’m reading the specs correctly. Just don’t load it up to the GVWR. Supercharged engines have enough torque that you wouldn’t necessarily need the diesel.

    Personally, I wouldn’t want to stress the car and would buy a tent and a roofbox instead. Besides, in a couple of months they’ll probably have a “Buy an Airstream, get a free Ram pickup” deal.

  • avatar

    One problem with towing with small vehicles is tongue weight of US trailers vs European trailers. As an example, Airstream is now building several 7′ wide models in Europe. The axles were moved forward, resulting in a very low tongue weight. At the low trailer speed limits in Europe, they get away with having very little stability. I note that the initial picture is apparently a European Airstream.

    Airstream now builds the same trailers in the US with the axles moved back to put about 12% on the hitch and making them less suitable for small tow vehicles.

  • avatar

    One thing very few trailer towers know is that the “Special Trailer” (ST) tires supplied on virtually all trailers are rated for a maximum speed of 65 mph. Over that speed, you are on your own. That is why I tow my Airstream at 62-63 mph.

    I am the safety chairman for my Airstream club unit, so I am very aware of trailering safety. I see plenty of trailers pass me at well above the tire rating speeds. A good number of them have either no sway controls installed or have the hitches set up wrong. Worst of all are those with a heavy trailer without a equalizer hitch, with their front tow vehicle tires barely on the ground or with an obviously inadequate tow vehicle.

  • avatar

    Saw a big fullsize 4Wd yesterday pulling a dinky 4×8 utility trailer with tiny tires loaded down with light weight stuff that would have looked dinky behind a Corolla…

    Physics were definitely in favor of the truck… Like 300 to 1.

  • avatar

    Towing is an art form… Just read an interesting article regarding RV/car tandems in Europe. Apparently most folks weld some stuff together and hope for the best. Tow bars are a new thing over there….

    I like the confidence of solid rig… Mainly tow with my 2002 Tahoe LT.. Full towing package including coolers.

    Getting ready to install the tow behind rig on the RV. Going with a Roadmaster non-binding setup.

    Also going with the US Gear active braking system to engage the power brakes on the towed vehicle. RV also has a tranny brake.

    One thing to be young/dumb and see what works… Putting your whole family in an RV for a couple weeks and crossing a mountain here or there..
    If something happens, I want to know that I didn’t go cheap…

    Factoid.. My first car.. 1972 Sedan Deville.. 7.7L V8… could have towed a house…

  • avatar

    “Apparently most folks weld some stuff together and hope for the best. Tow bars are a new thing over there….”

    Get real…

    Tow bars come manufacturer-provided in Europe, or with strict instruction for aftermarket conversions on how to weld or bolt the tow point to the body hard points of the car. If it’s not done right, the car won’t pass the yearly inspections.

    Also, there are strict regulations on how much you can tow with a regular driving license. In Sweden, the limit is a total weight of 3500 kg between car and trailer, and the trailer can not weigh more than the car. Pass that limit, and you need a special license for heavy trucks. You get caught with overloading, your license may be revoked on the spot.

  • avatar

    Informative article. Two weeks ago I bought a secondhand 12 foot jon boat and trailer. I have no idea how much it weighs. But I’m guessing it’s not much, probably a few hundred lbs. even with a 4.5 hp Mercury, trolling motor, battery, gas tank, etc. Surely not more that 1,000 lbs. I called UHaul, and they scheduled an appointment to have a class III hitch installed. They simply looked up my vehicle’s maximum towing capacity in their database, and matched it to the class III. That would be fine if I were towing a 6,000 lb trailer. I have a Frontier with the 4.0L V6, and according to the owner’s manual, I can tow up to 6,300 lbs. with the class III. But it also says,
    “The maximum towing capacity when using the genuine NISSAN step bumper as a ball mount is 3,500 lb. (1,588 kg) and 350 lb. (158 kg) tongue load.”

    The boat and trailer do not exceed 3,500 lbs, I’m sure, nor is the tongue weight anywhere near 350 lbs. So I had them install just the wiring harness and hitch ball, and I saved nearly $200.00. Knowledge is power. When I buy a camper, I’ll have the class III hitch installed then.

    I read the owner’s manual front to back for every vehicle I own. As you know, owner’s manuals contain everything you need to know about the vehicle, to include towing specs and bumper ratings. In fact, I’ve had to show the service writers at the dealership a few things in the manual. Again, knowledge is power.

    Now if I can just get some time off of work to pull that boat to the lake!

  • avatar

    07Frontier: I would really be worried by that dealer. They are supposed to be the experts… Check and double check their work… VBG!

  • avatar

    This is a subject that I talk about on a near daily basis. Every car I have owned has had a trailer hitch. Everything from my first Mercedes 240D (67 horsepower) to a VW Golf TDI (90 horsepower) to my current Scion xD (128 horsepower). The Golf TDI was certainly the best non-truck tow vehicle I have owned. After a few modifications, it was pushing 200 pounds of torque at 1,900 RPM. However, even the Scion is a good tow vehicle. In the US, it is rated to tow ZERO (not even a bike rack)… but in the UK (sold as the Toyota Urban Cruiser) it is rated to tow nearly 2,000 pounds… and that is with a less powerful engine than the US models have.

    Approximately 10-15% of the miles on my Scion have included towing. I have towed a few Uhaul 4×8 enclosed trailers (up to about 1,600 pounds), my own 4×8 cargo trailer (up to about 1,500 pounds), and a teardrop camper (about 900 pounds). It moves quite easily, handles well, and brakes well. With my heaviest load (about 1,600 pounds worth of trailer, two people, and about 400 pounds of cargo in the car), I got 31 MPG!

    I run all synthetic fluids in the car, both in the engine and the manual transmission. I keep my speeds in a safe zone, usually 50-60 MPH, depending on the load and the road conditions. I would not hesitate to tow a <2,000 pound caravan with my car… if we could even get something similar to what you Europeans have available to you. Here in the US, camper manufacturers use workds like "ultra-light" and "feather weight" to describe 8,000 pound trailers.

    There is something wrong if you have trouble towing a 1,500 pound trailer with a small car. My old Mercedes had a class III hitch installed, and I regularly towed other Mercedes sedans on a car dolly (about a 4,000 pound load). No brakes… no problems. This included trips over 500 miles. Looking back, it would have been great if that 1983 Benz had a modern braking system and stability control… but I never had any issues with towing.

  • avatar

    I may be late to this party, but I’m glad I ran across this article and replies. I live in the US and want to buy a 6×12 enclosed utitlity trailer. I own a 2010 chrysler sebring and it actually states inthe owners manual that I can tow 2000LBS. the only caveat is that the frontal area cannot exceed 22sq’. so the trailer I want is 6’6″ tall so this is over 37sq’ roughly. I plan on getting electric trailer brakes and adding it to my car and a trans cooler, My question is this, the trailer has a 30″ v-nose so how much of the 37sq’ is actually visible to the wind and what adverse affects will I see? After reading about European cars and the tow rating, I’m not concerned about pulling the weight……1800lbs, and I am the only tow vehicle occupant. Any help would be appreciated. I’m concerned that I may need to go and purchase a small light duty truck to compensate for the frontal area issue.

    • 0 avatar

      Trans temps and thus longevity will likely be your biggest challenge.

      As a long time FWD (AWD) driver also consider that the more weight you put on the back bumper the more the front end my be unloaded and the more wheel spin you way experience. Anytime I tow up a gravel driveway that belongs to my parents I need AWD to get up the hill. No big deal as the AWD transistion is automatic.

      Also consider that in a FWD car most of your braking power is in the front and if the trailer is loaded such that alot of weight is added to the rear and weight is removed from the front – the car may not stop as well depending on whether your car has a proportioning valve in the braking system that senses how far the rear end is squatting.

      What are you carrying? I would not consider this car to be unsuitable – just give it a try and see if you are satisfied.

      Am curious if the trailer you are going to buy is the only option. I use a Brenderup 1205S with a top and it is light. The trailer is rated for 1200 lbs. I know they have larger trailers too.

      Am upgrading my trailer floor to diamond plate this summer. It is the only real short coming to the trailer. I’ve owned mine about 3 years now.

  • avatar

    I’ve seen many, many sites and posts where people say you shouldn’t tow anything that weighs more than your tow vehicle. Complete crap. If you’ve got a properly set up vehicle, and the correct training, you can safely pull some quite hefty loads.

    For example, the average semi tractor weighs 15,000 to 20,000 pounds, but has a combined weight that can reach or even exceed 80,000 pounds when loaded.

    Almost all body-on-frame pickup trucks have a tow rating higher than the vehicle weight as well, but nearly all of them require a W-D hitch to tow that much weight correctly.

  • avatar

    ive understood physics, and the math required to go along, for much longer then ive had the ability or opportunity to actually apply the knowledge in the rear world. my partner and i have been into cars for over a decade, and we have done some gnarly stuff together. lots of stupid stuff, but have matured out of MOST of the dangerous driving.

    please forgive this ranting description, anyone into the 7 world, will understand the need for the level of descriptiveness im using.

    towards the end of 2010, i was daily driving an sa22 rx7, the motor itself was unported, but had a racing beat 4 barrel intake manifold, a carter 500 cfm 4 barrel, mazdatrix header kit, and pretty much open exhaust minus a fartcan.

    hp unknown, tq unknown. it did have full gsl-se running gear, which was a more heavy duty rear axle, 4.07:1 rear end gears instead of 3.90:1, limited slip, racing beat red springs, and blue unknown shocks. i drove this thing EVERYWHERE.

    swapped the trans out 4 or 5 times, mainly just dicking around, as the ramp-on/ramp-off times were under an hour.

    at this time i was living north of burnside and about 5 blocks west of I-205 in portland, oregon. i put a post up about being a mobile welder, mainly exhaust systems, and got a response from a fellow 7 guy. He was in Everett washington, which is north of Seattle. any trip taking less then 3 hours to get to that area from portland is asking for trouble from the man. anyways…

    i got up there with all my welding equipment loaded into the hatch, and we talked for a while. he was looking for a custom rear strut tower brace, which ended up not happening. but he had a very clean red 1gn 7 chassis, so we worked out a deal that allowed me to take the red car with me when i left. but i needed a way to get BOTH cars back at the same time. so him and i started fishing around his yard for metal i could use. i needed a horizontal/vertical pivot on my car, and two vertical only pivots space apart on the red car. we ended up finding a kids bike frame, a couple front bike wheels, and some galvanized fence post. and i got to work

    as the shield gas pressure gauge bottomed out, and i ran out of wire for the welder, i finished up the hitch.

    used a piece of 3 inch square stock welded directly to the rear bumper, the neck of the bike frame was hacked down and welded to the piece of square stock, giving me my front horizontal pivot.

    for the front vertical pivot i used the chunk of the frame where the pedals go (lucky me EVERYTHING on this bike was steel) and welded that to the cutdown fork, using old dodge neon headbolts.

    to link the actual tow bars to that pedal assembly, i just welded them straight to the pedal crank. one side lined up great, the other side was about inches to short. so more scrap rod stock came out of the tool box, and got welded onto the pedal crank and the fence post i was using for link bars.

    the red car had two closed loop tow hooks, so i used some flat stock to create support on one side of each front wheel hub, and the other side of each hub axle was welded into the tow hooks themselves. i notched the ends of each of the two fence posts at an angle, welded them to the hubs, and bent a piece of thin flat stock and used them to wrap around the backs of the hubs, then welded all that together, just for security.

    honestly it LOOKED terrifying, and i believe i got pulled over three times on the way home, 200 ish miles one way, o and it was raining the trip home.

    1 time getting pulled over for the cops thinking someone was following me to close, then the pulled up next to the red car, and saw no one was in it.

    the other two times was because the battery in the red car running the hazards and keeping the running lights on, was almost dead.

    no tickets, no citations, no arrest, no cars towed away, one cop actually offered (directed me to drive and he followed) to lead me to a gas station so i could fix it.

    the scariest moment of the entire trip was getting back onto i5 south, on a steeply banked inward turning onramp. other then that, the ride was fine, i estimated the total rolling weight of both cars, the material used to build the tow hitch, all my welding equipment, all the other crap in the car, and myself was roughly 4,000 pounds. the gsl-se conversion significantly increased the braking power of my sa22, and also converted the rear axle from drum to disc brakes.

    this was all possible because i understood the physics and math needed to make it happen.

    4,000 pounds, with the tow vehicle riding on 195 series 280 treadwear street tires, disc brakes and better springs and shocks. a 1.1 litre in STOCK internal form, with minimal intake exhaust upgrades, an s4 5 speed transmission, a stock clutch, and running on arco 92 octane (only because it was the ONLY station open) and no trailer brakes.

    again if you understand how things work, you can adjust and fine tune the size and location of your “buffer” between getting the job done and disaster.

    that whole setup got a tad over 18 mpg for the return trip, on a non-mpg friendly engine design, with a very old fuel system design, shorter gearing, heavier drivetrain components, and an all around setup that made all three cops that pulled me over sort of giggle when they realized what i was doing.

    basically, and ill shut up after this, the more you understand about how something works and operates, the more efficient you can be with it, including shrinking the buffer zone between rated capability and having the setup come apart. done

  • avatar
    In the knoe

    I used to tow with a 1998 for escort. Teeny tiny little car would haul huge loads of scrap metal to the junk yard when it was my only form of transport and my sole income.
    The largest load I ever got, was the front combine off of a hay harvester that was rusting out in a field. I had it shoved in the trunk, just barely holding onto a corner of the machinery, it was strapped with ratchet straps and looked bigger then the car was sticking out from a crazy angle straight up into the air too! I didn’t think we would make it but we made it all the way there safely and got paid a whopping 39 dollars.

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