Open Road

Here's what to look for in a towing vehicle

Whether you tow a trailer around for work daily or occasionally transport something like a boat, having the right vehicle can make all the difference in the world. But if you don't know what you're looking for, things can get a bit confusing.

What to Look For

Trying to load and transport a boat without the proper vehicle can be a nightmare. Not only do you put your boat at risk, but you could also damage your vehicle and put those around you at risk. The same goes for hauling heavy equipment and machinery on a trailer. If you want to purchase a good towing vehicle, there are some things you need to look for:
  • Towing capacity. This is an obvious one, but make sure you take it into account. Every vehicle is rated to tow a maximum weight limit and you don't want to exceed that number under any circumstances. This number is different than the gross vehicle weight rating and may be referred to in a vehicle's manual as the gross trailer weight rating.
  • Wheelbase. The wheelbase is the measurement from the front axle to rear axle of the vehicle. The longer the wheelbase, the less likely that the weight of the trailer/boat will push down on the rear axle and lift the front end. A longer wheelbase also has the added effect of providing more control over the rig. As a general rule of thumb, the first 110 inches of wheelbase allow for a 20-foot trailer. For each additional four inches of wheelbase length, you get one foot more in trailer length.
  • Curb weight. The curb weight of a vehicle is the weight when fully fueled and not carrying any passengers. Generally speaking, you want the curb weight of the vehicle to be more than the size of the load, but some newer vehicles are engineered in ways that mean this rule no longer applies across the board.
  • Axle system. Road surfaces have a limited strength and your vehicle must stay within certain limits in order to satisfy legal standards. The bigger the tire contact surface, the more the weight is spread out across the road. If you plan on hauling really heavy loads, you may need a dually axle – which contains two tires on either side of the axle – to improve performance and meet road safety standards.
  • Drive system. Pay attention to the drive system of any vehicle you're considering. If you'll be towing boats or equipment off-road, such as on a worksite or gravel road, four-wheel or all-wheel drive is a must. These systems also provide superior performance in wet conditions. But if you primarily plan to stay on dry road surfaces, two-wheel drive is just fine.
There are obviously other things to consider as well, but these are a few of the most important factors. They play a huge role in determining how much you can safely tow without putting yourself, others, and the trailing load at risk.

3 Towing Vehicles (That Aren't Trucks)

Everyone knows that trucks make for great towing vehicles – and you can always compare the different options – but what if you don't want a truck? Here are some of the top SUVs and alternatives:
  • Chevrolet Tahoe. While the Silverado may be Chevy's king of towing, the Tahoe is also pretty powerful. Starting with the redesign in 2007, full-size Tahoes are considered one of the strongest non-truck vehicles on the road.
  • Jeep Cherokee. The Jeep Cherokee is powerful, yet refined. It makes for a great "run around town" vehicle and can be used to tow a load on the weekend.
  • GMC Yukon XL. The GMC Yukon XL is totally underrated as far as towing goes. New models can haul anywhere between 6,000 and 8,100 pounds. Not bad, eh?
There are plenty of options, but these three rank right near the top. Definitely take a look if you need some towing power but aren't interested in a truck.

Make Towing a Breeze

Towing a boat or trailer can be a pain in the rear if you don't have a vehicle that's suited for the job. On the other hand, it can be easy breezy if you've got a vehicle that's designed for hauling heavy loads. Most of today's popular truck models will do the job, as will the SUVs mentioned in this article.

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