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Old 07-15-2016, 09:16 PM   #1
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Flat tow vs tow dolly

Newbie, I need some input on the pro's and con's of dolly towing. And if I flat tow how to pick a car, suv or van.

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Old 07-15-2016, 09:59 PM   #2
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Originally Posted by Cyclingpappy View Post
Newbie, I need some input on the pro's and con's of dolly towing. And if I flat tow how to pick a car, suv or van.
This site may be a good place to start:


Good luck & Safe Travels...

Jim & SherrySeward

2000 Residency 3790 v10 w/tags 5 Star tune & Banks system Suzuki XL7 toad
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Old 07-16-2016, 03:25 AM   #3
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I use an Acme tow dolly.
It has surge brakes and is light, which makes it easy to handle.
01 WINNEBAGO 35U W20.8.1L SW Wa, Hi. Good Sam, SKP. AMSOIL fluids. BANKS ecm program. SCAN GAUGE II w/ Ally temp. 2 LIFELINE GPL-6CT AGM Batts on their sides. TST tptts. K&N panel air filter. AERO mufflers. TAYLOR plug wires. ULTRA POWER track bar. KONI fsd shocks, toad '14 smart car
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Old 07-16-2016, 04:41 AM   #4
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Opinions on this topic are all over the place. What we did was watch the number of tow dollies versus 4 wheel down. The number of 4-down towing far out weights the use of a tow dolly. What do you do with the tow dolly once you are at a camp ground? Yes is can be stored near or around your MH. I just didn't want to have one more thing to fool with. Life is about choices. Consider as many options as you have.

Needless to say we prefer to tow with 4 wheels down. Either choice is OK. It just needs to be an informed choice.

Finding a vehicle to tow is another issue. Some of the more popular ones are the Honda CRV and the many varieties of Jeeps. Both of those can be expensive so how much $$$$ do you want to spend on the TOAD? Another important consideration is how versatile do you need that TOAD to be no matter how you tow it?? Do you plan to need room for guests once you get where you are going. Do you have pets that will travel with you after you get to a CG?? Will the pets stay in the MH?? Ours do and we don't take others with us once we get to a CG. We don't need a back seat.

We currently have a 2001 Honda CIVIC. It's light at about 3,200 lbs. The jeeps will go 4,000 +. The Honda is a stick shift which in the scheme of things can be very difficult to find. Most folks want the automatic so they just stopped wanting a manual. The big advantage is that most stick shifts can be towed 4 down without doing much if anything. And they will be cheaper to buy.

Our main transportation other than the MH is a 2012 Ford Fusion. It was supposed to be a 4 down TOAD. After we bought the MH we found out that Ford changed their minds. It will cost us $4,000 to set it up for towing. We don't have that kind of extra $$$$.

We just found a 2000 Ford Ranger 5-speed for $2,700. It's flat towable and only weighs 3,100 lbs. The best part it is much more versatile. I'll add a painted cap for $1500 and now we have covered lockable storage for bikes,lawn chairs, coolers, fishing rods, extra hanging clothes, storage boxes for extra clothes. We don't have that kind of room in the Honda.

Another point when you travel. Nobody ever mentioned this fact and it's more true when you retire. Summer traveling means usually warm or hot weather. So you bring the appropriate clothes.

After you retire you may leave MI in March and travel south to TX. There is a potential that you will experience all 4 seasons before you get back home. Yes those experiences with the season changes may be brief. Do you have room for 3 to 4 seasons of clothes??? We did that one spring.

We left home and had sleet, snow, then bad rain and finally in FL warm weather. Where do you put all the fall and winter clothes?? Storage can be at a premium along with wet hanging clothes. You could hang wet stuff on a bar across the back inside a small pickup with the side windows open as you travel and they will dry out. Most don't think of things like that until you are searching for places to dry stuff.

In the colder weather drying stuff inside a MH is not easy. In FL we had a moisture problem because of rain high moisture and cold weather causing condensation in the clothes closets in the rear of the MH.

Also consider this. The TOAD needs to be reliable but since you are towing it behind the MH is really only has to be good enough for you to tool around where ever you are camping. If something happens you can just tow it back home and get it fixed. Our CIVIC has 170,000 miles on it and I just don't worry about it breaking. Yes I do have good tires on it, as well as new brakes. The front end is in good condition with new struts and control arms so it can be pulled behind us and I don't worry. If the engine or stick shift craps out on us I'll just tow it home and fix it.

I'm also not concerned with an older used TOAD being dragged behind the MH. Some spend a lot of $$$$ to protect their TOAD from rocks etc. OK for them but life is about choices so we'll get a bit cheaper TOAD and just not worry about the occasional rock into the grill.

Something else that nobody told us. With these newer vehicles if you pull the TOAD 5,000 miles it is not added to the odometer. We have probably added 10,000 miles to the CIVIC but it's not on the odometer. Some may be concerned about that I'm not.

One more point. The owners manual is the best source of information as to the ability of a vehicle to be 4 down towed. All you have to do if you find a vehicle to be towed is google like this: "2000 Ford Ranger Owners Manual." That will pull up the OM and you can find out what you;ll need to know under the index.

Things change from year to year. One year vehicle can be towed but not the next. So it is advisable to check. The Honda CRV is a great TOAD but even the used ones are expensive. Honda stopped allowing that to be flat towed I think in 2012 or 2013. That's also why the older ones are higher in price.

TeJay Auto Instructor/4-yrs USAF/ Liz: RN/ WBGO 2014 Vista 30T/ F-53/CHF/5-Star/Koni * Bella & Izzy * Golden /Cocker mix/ Louie The Cat* All Retired
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Old 07-16-2016, 05:01 AM   #5
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One other thing to consider the tow dollies weight is part of your capacity.
2007 Fleetwood Revolution LE 40V
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Old 07-16-2016, 05:11 AM   #6
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If you google dingy towing guide...you can usually find a pdf file of a late FMCA guide that is comes out annually. It lists the vehicles that can be towed 4 down...and the restrictions.

Generally, front wheel drive vehicles without some form of transfer case to allow disconnect will need to be trailered or dolly towed. Some manual transmission or 4wd vehicles with a disconnect for the transfer case can be towed 4 down...but it is very important for the manufacturer to state this in the owners manual and provide the limitations and procedures required to prevent damage to the vehicle. Some of the limits you may see are...distance, requirements to run the vehicle periodically, speed limits for towing, pulling fuses, leaving keys in the ignition...etc Some may be adapted by adding an auxiliary transmission pump that runs continuously.

Towing with a dolly gives you the ability to tow ANY front wheel drive vehicle you have...you just have ti make sure the steering is unlocked. If you have the surge brakes built in...you're done...no brake controller needed. $2000 and you're done...tow many different cars. A bit longer to set up...and you have to store it somwhere when unhooked.

Four down...faster to connect...less footprint when storing...just a towbar. With an appropriately rated tow bar, you can pull many different vehicles...with additional extenders to get the height correct. The vehicles need to be wired for lighting, set up for supplemental brakes, and a base plate added. The cost for setting up for 4 down towing is generally more expensive than a tow dolly...and the expense is multiplied by each car.

We have done both...each have thier pluses and minuses.

There are a few that avoid both and use a trailer...flat bed or stacker. They are all lifestyle choices.

Best wishes finding the setup that suits you. Either way...it is very nice to have your vehicle with you traveling for so many different reasons.
Charlie & Ronni plus the Sammies...Conner & Ginger.
2016 Ventana 4037
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Old 07-16-2016, 05:55 AM   #7
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IMHO the answer is easy to come by in four simple steps:

1. Stand around a campsite and watch someone with a dolly load up and strap down and unload their tow car.

2. Stand around a campsite and watch someone towing 4-down hook up and unhook their car using a tow bar system.

3. Imagine yourself doing each of these in a pouring rainstorm or in an emergency, alongside a busy freeway.

4. Get a copy of the Downloadable Motorhome Magazine Dinghy Guide and choose a 4-wheel down compatible tow car.

Whichever way you go, make sure you have a good supplemental breaking system.
Retired and livin' the RV dream!
2005 Newmar 43 ft. MADP, Cummins ISL 400HP, 2008 Honda CR-V toad
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Old 07-16-2016, 06:00 AM   #8
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IMHO - If I don't use the car while traveling, but am towing the the car mainly so I'll have it at my destination, then dolly may be a better option.

If I like to use the car every night, at every stop, then flat tow would be the better option.

Dolly tow

Advantage - Lower cost, almost any vehicle can be towed with no special additional equipment required. Having a dolly makes more towing options available. (Dad's automotive repair and broken vehicle towing)

Disadvantage - A little more time consuming to load / unload vehicle, its a pain in the butt compared to flat towing. (With that statement, watch the discussion pick up)

Flat towing

Advantage - quick and easy to load / unload

Disadvantage - Initial cost is substantially higher. Tow bar, base plate, brakes. Some of this special equipment is dedicated to vehicle and cannot be used on other vehicles - i.e. base plate.

I do both, flat tow and dolly tow. The decision is usually based on the question: "Do we plan on using the car while traveling?" If the answer is no, then we dolly and usually take our daily driver. If the answer is yes, then we flat tow and take our Saturn or Civic.

While traveling, we'll pull in for an overnight stop and might like to drive into town or something with the car. Usually with the dolly the answer is " I don't fell like unloading the car, maybe next time". With the 4 down, we just unhook and go.

Sometimes, if we think we need both cars, we'll tow one and drive the other..
1999 Fleetwood Southwind 35S (Ford F53 6.8L V10) - Toad 2003 Saturn Vue.

It won't do MACH 2, but I can get a sandwich and take a pee.
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Old 07-16-2016, 06:10 AM   #9
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You will really appreciate a four-down tow if you ever have to backup. You can't with either. With a dolly,it is unload the car, unhook the dolly and move it out of the way, backup, hookup the dolly, load the car. And don't believe you will never have to back up.

With four down, you unhook the car, backup, hook up the car.

Four down does limit vehicle choices but for us that is the only option.
Dale & Mark Bruss
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Old 07-16-2016, 07:08 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by Dale & Mark Bruss View Post
You will really appreciate a four-down tow if you ever have to backup. You can't with either. With a dolly,it is unload the car, unhook the dolly and move it out of the way, backup, hookup the dolly, load the car. And don't believe you will never have to back up.
So, I've been doing it wrong. I take the car off the dolly and back up the MH and dolly.
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Old 07-16-2016, 10:12 AM   #11
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It's a personal choice, but I would not use a tow dolly under any circumstances!

My neighbor bought one for his vehicle that could not be flat-towed, took a trip to Michigan, and when he got up there, traded the toad AND the dolly on a toad that could be towed 4-down! He was totally frustrated by the time he got up there!
Joe & Annette

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Old 07-16-2016, 10:19 AM   #12
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There are pros and cons for each. I can load and strap down our VW Passat on our Demco Dolly just as quickly as someone using a tow bar. That car cannot be towed four down. Using a dolly with surge brakes and a light bar negates the need to disrupt the electrical system of the vehicle and no need for a brake buddy. I can literally tow whatever vehicle I choose with a dolly.

The only thing I hate is fastening the safety chains underneath.
Jim and Carol Cooper with Oreo the Kitty
2002 Journey DL 36, 3126 Cat 330hp
2015 Ford Explorer Blue Ox tow bar, AF1
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Old 07-16-2016, 11:32 AM   #13
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Originally Posted by Cooperhawk View Post

The only thing I hate is fastening the safety chains underneath.
I use plastic coated cables, that I push thru the wheel slots.

The outboard end is clamped to the dolly frame and the inboard loop goes on a snap hook, linked to the frame.

Now I can do it without kneeling.
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Old 07-16-2016, 11:50 AM   #14
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Since the OP is buying a car just for their new Class A shopping...this is an easy answer:
Buy a flat towable car and outfit it for towing.

We dolly tow because like the great majority of cars, our car is not towable...Ford said it was, then changed to not towable after a bunch of Escapes melted the transaxle
This has become too common. And our car is safe from rock strikes, up on the dolly, and free of miles acquired on the car's lower driveline.

Whatever each of us does...PLEASE get brakes on the toad, with a break-away device. Maybe not legally required in some places, but smart and safer.


Kim and Steve, Mustang LCDR (USCG Ret), Outlaw #1193
"I have seen gross intolerance shown in support of tolerance", S.Coleridge 1797
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dolly, tow, tow dolly

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