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Old 10-23-2015, 02:03 AM   #1
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Flat Tow 4WD/AWD Light SUV Options - Mixed Answers

We are trying to find the right SUV to use as a toad for our Class A 34' Winnie. We have a V10 so we are trying to find the right balance in terms of capability and price that ideally is the lowest weight. We have Class III hitch, so anything we would even consider should be fine since we want to be as close to 3,000 lbs curb weight as possible and probably no higher 3,500.

I've been reading all the tow guides and searching off and on for what seems like months and still haven't determined what model would be most ideal. The problem I am facing is I get mixed answers on what can be towed. In some tow guides certain models are listed as flat towable and others they say no. The Remco site gives conflicting info too on some searches. On top of all of this quite frankly it is pretty tedious to try to search for all the years and configurations of all the models trying to even figure out what should be on the list. I'm hoping some of you can steer me in the right direction on what is towable and also perhaps any recommendations on the cars themselves.

Since this will be a dedicated toad that will not get many miles put on it each year (1,000 maybe?) we are looking for something used, cheap and light. To narrow the candidates I am really only looking for 1998 to 2005 since I'm looking to spend around $3 to $5k.

It needs to be a compact SUV (sub 3,500 lbs) and it needs 4WD or AWD. Auto is ideal, but manual is not out of the question. I know manuals are much more likely to be able to be flat towed, but manuals aren't a given in all the models either. 4WD (or AWD) is needed not because we want to do extreme rock crawling, lol, but the places we need to take the toad are going to require more than 2WD sometimes. It will never touch snow, but it will see it share of dirt roads, forest roads, OHV trails, occasional muddy rutted out roads... stuff like that. An actual 4WD would be preferred to AWD but that seems to be a rarity in a compact SUV.

My initial pick was a Tracker/GV, but all of them I find are super high mileage and none of them have the timing chain replaced and from what I understand it is a matter of time before those need replaced on cars with 150k, 200k+ and it costs nearly as much as I would be paying for the car to have that replaced. I'm just concerned with the reliability on these enough to consider other options.

Then there is the CRV... which everyone seems to like. I'm just not sure if the AWD would perform well enough, but it probably would... so it is contender.

From what I gather both of the ones I've mentioned will tow 4 down in Auto or Manual trans which is good because I prefer auto.

But here's what I am wondering... what other 1998 to 2005 model 4x4/AWD compact SUVs can be towed 4 flat?

For example, I was looking at a 2003 Escape Auto trans and the 2003 tow guide said it was towable in Auto or Manual. On the Remco site it says it cannot be. I've read a lot of mixed stuff about the Escape because some seem to be towing theirs 4 flat without problem with no mods, some are using a pump mod to do it, and others are having issues. Can anyone shed some light on the Escape on what years you can tow it 4 flat with Auto or Manual, even if that means adding a pump setup to it?

I see quite a few nice Escapes for good prices, along with Tributes and Mariners. I figure whatever applies on the Escape applies to those as well?

So far I've got the Tracker/GV, CRV, Escape/Tribute I'm looking hardest at... is there anything other sub 3,500lb 4wd SUVs that could fit the bill, especially those with Auto trans? I think a Wrangler and older Cherokee might work also, but with a manual only I think. I know there is the older Sidekicks and Samuris and such but we prefer the 4 doors.

If anyone can add other models they can think of that would be great. If you could offer some insight into the Escape/Tribute situation that would be helpful also so I can either rule them out or in. Also, if you have any experience with any these in terms of towing, driving, off roading, issues, etc feel free to chime in. I'm looking for all the advice I can get since I don't want to buy the wrong toad.

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Old 10-23-2015, 05:48 AM   #2
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I will be following this thread closely as we are in the exact same position. It is very frustrating trying to sort through information to make a good decision. unfortunately none of our existing cars can be towed 4 down. Escape seems very attractive, but like you unable to get definitive information from what we have read. Nothing like personal experience, so hoping so of the experienced members will chime in!

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Old 10-23-2015, 06:15 AM   #3
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Look at a used Subaru Forester with a manual transmission. Pretty much any Subi with a manual tranny can be towed 4 down with no modifications and no special requirements as to speed or milage towed.
Basically same size as an Escape, very reliable, all wheel drive, and same or more ground clearence than a stock Jeep.
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Old 10-23-2015, 07:15 AM   #4
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I'm not sure why a CR-V AWD doesn't seem to work well enough. Perhaps a tad more info on your 4WD goals/needs are might help narrow things down. I can't imagine any other "light" AWD vehicle being much more capable for general use than a CR-V but if you plan on some more challenging terrain then I can see your point.

No slighting some other suggestions but I just don't see them as more or less capable for general needs.
Don, Sandee & GSD Zeus. Guardian GSDs Gunny (7/11/15) & Thor (5/5/15)
2006 2015 DSDP 4320 4369, 2013 CR-V, Blue Ox Avail, SMI AF1.
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Old 10-23-2015, 07:25 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by IlliniCathy View Post
... Escape seems very attractive, but like you unable to get definitive information from what we have read. Nothing like personal experience, so hoping so of the experienced members will chime in!
We looked at Ford Escapes a couple years ago when we were toad hunting. Lots of mixed messages from Ford and some strange requirements turned us off to them. Since Sandee is dead set about having an automatic tranny, our choices seem somewhat limited when considering "light weight" toad options in a price range we want to stay in.

Until Honda changed transmissions in 2015 CR-V it remained our best choice of price, weight, capabilities & overall ease of operation. As a full timer we found that was best for us since we aren't 4-wheelers and don't see that changing.

OTOH and the point of my question to the OP, if none of what was important to us is important to them, there are lots of options.
Don, Sandee & GSD Zeus. Guardian GSDs Gunny (7/11/15) & Thor (5/5/15)
2006 2015 DSDP 4320 4369, 2013 CR-V, Blue Ox Avail, SMI AF1.
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Old 10-23-2015, 07:32 AM   #6
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Jeep Wrangler 4x4 or Cherokee 4x4. They are flat towable with automatic. A good clean ~2000 year Cherokee would fit the target price range, whereas the Wrangler may not.

Whatever toad chosen, suggest to try to find one already setup for towing. Will save money and endure flat towable.
Vince and Susan
2011 Tiffin Phaeton 40QTH (Cummins ISC/Freightliner)
Flat towing a modified 2005 Jeep (Rubicon Wrangler)
Previously a 2002 Fleetwood Pace Arrow 37A and a 1995 Safari Trek 2830.
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Old 10-23-2015, 01:41 PM   #7
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I wasn't trying to imply the CRV's AWD would not be capable, just suggesting it may not be as capable compared to some of the others. I've watched all the videos I can find on a CRV off road and it can definitely handle your run of the mill of the forest roads, dirt trails, etc, but so can a lot of 2WDs. I was impressed with how it did in the mud, but we probably won't see a bunch of it. It was mainly the ground clearance and trying to navigate off camber situations with some incline that concerned me. It looked as though if more than one wheel lost some traction that it could be a problem. Whatever we choose we don't expect it to go everywhere a Jeep can go, but we do end up on the kind of roads/trails you see Jeeps and Side by Sides and other 4WDs on, and most of the trails are usually pretty tame but sometime you have navigate around some obstacles or come across rutted out mud sections along the way.

The Forester is another one I had on my list I forgot to mention here so it is good you brought it up because I hadn't found many people talking about them as a toad.

I'd like to get a better concensus on the Escape/Tribute, particularly the older ones (2005 and older). We like those and my initial impression is it could be one of the more reliable options and have low costs involved in repairs. Scratching it off the list or adding it to it once and for all would help us pull the trigger.

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Old 10-23-2015, 02:28 PM   #8
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Before I got my DP and Jeep we had (2) Fords - a 34' (Georgy Boy) and a 38' (Forest River). The first had a 460 and the second a V10. With both of them I towed Suzuki's. The first was a stick Sidekick (about 2,800 lbs)and the second was a automatic Grand Vitara (about 3,200 lbs). Both were towed at least 50,000 miles and I never had a problem with either. The manual on both indicated the top speed was 55 mph and they should be started every 200 miles. I followed the book. They towed well and did not require fuses be pulled etc. You might give them a look.
Ed and Barb Burgess
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Old 10-23-2015, 02:34 PM   #9
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A magazine tested the CR-V as well as some other 4wd rigs. At one hill the passengers had to get out and walk up since the CR-V didn't have a low range in the transmission. It's not really for off roading, the CR-V AWD is for stability in bad on road conditions like light snow.
We tow a '05 Honda Odyssey but it's too heavy at about 4,400#'s empty. Naturally our DP doesn't even notice it.
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Old 10-23-2015, 02:42 PM   #10
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We arw towing a Honda Element standard tranny. Draw back. Only 4 passengers. We drove it on lots of service roads in, near and around the Tetons and Yellowstone last year. We did take it on a highway trip back to PA in the snow last winter and it handled the roads fine. It is not super comfortable ride for long trips. It has a ton of space. Up until 2011(??) They were built on the same chassis as the CRV so I think the auto tranny tows 4 down too.
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Old 10-23-2015, 04:14 PM   #11
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Hi Bizee and Welcome to the Forum!

If you are willing to up your weight requirements a bit it will open up more options for a toad. Since you have the Ford chassis with the V10 you probably have a 5000 lbs towing capacity and the V10 will pull that without much issue. Please verify your hitch and towing capacity.

If you are willing to go up to 4000 lbs, the Jeep Liberty and the older Grand Cherokee (up to 1998) will get you there. They MUST be 4X4 models as Jeep did produce some 2WD versions which are NOT flat towable.

Best of luck and have fun shopping!
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Ford F53/460 chassis, 1997 Jeep Grand Cherokee "toad"
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Old 10-24-2015, 01:04 PM   #12
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Possibly one simplifying assumption you can use to avoid the "mixed answers" is to use the online owners' manual as the single source of truth. Some people have success towing cars in spite of contrary advice from the manual, but I think generally they have a car in mind already and they do what it takes to get it towable.

The straightforward decision path is to start with the popular choices (CRV pre-2015, or Jeep), and deviate from those if there is some pressing reason. Between those, the CRV is going to suffer on deep muddy rutted roads, so a Jeep is better there. Statistically, the Jeeps are some of the least reliable cars on the road, so the CRV would be the better choice if that is important.

For us, we are leaning toward a Honda Fit, mainly because they are cheaper. Using a $10,000 budget, we can get a newer Fit with many less miles than a CRV for that same money. But we give up 4WD, and in fact we will stick to paved roads and campground loops.
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Old 11-01-2015, 04:10 AM   #13
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No matter what people say, you need to check the individual cars' manual to determine if it 4 flat towable. There were certain years and combinations of Escapes that were 4 flat towable.
A lot of SUV 4 wheel drives are not towable due to not being able to disconnect the driveline. Most Jeep 4X4 are as long as they have "N" position in the transfer case. That is a button or penhole to disconnect the transfer case.
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Old 11-01-2015, 08:20 AM   #14
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We towed a Susuki Grand Vitara 4X4 with no issues. Light weight and has a transfer case so 4 low is available if you need to crawl around. Transfer to neutral for towing.

V6 has a timing chain so no belt replacement necessary.

2006 Gulfstream Friendship G7, Cat C7 and Allison 6 spd
Honda VTX and Crusier Lift on the back
Blue Ox Aladdin, Brake Buddy, 2014 Chevy Equinox toad
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light, tow

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