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Old 10-16-2020, 06:37 PM   #1
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Tow Vehicle Q

Hey all,

So we are looking into getting into camping a bit more and hoping to buy a travel trailer. First step we need to upgrade our vehicle since I'll be using this vehicle as a daily driver I want something sorta comfy and with seats to haul the family around. We were looking at VW Atlas, Highlander or Telluride. The max tow is 5000lb (with tow package and all). (Not looking at pick-ups)

We were hoping to get a small hybrid trailer like the Jayco Jayfeather X17Z or Surveyor 191T.

These are both around 3300lb. We'd be carrying 4-5 people max in the car + gear. Longest drive would be 4-5 hrs, mostly flat.

So I just want to see how realistic this setup would be. We would get all the necessary safety mods like weight distribution, electronic trailer brakes.

Anyone else using an SUV to tow a small trailer? Thank you all for the feedback and help in this decision.
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Old 10-16-2020, 09:19 PM   #2
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You see SUVs towing trailers all the time. I’m sure others will chime in soon.
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Old 10-16-2020, 11:52 PM   #3
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Tow Vehicle Q

With 4-5 people and 5,000 lb tow capacity...short answer is that I would not exceed about 3,000 lb “dry” or UVW. There are Towing Calculators at the beginning of this forum. I suggest you download a couple and start playing around. Do some reading here and learn the lingo. GVW, GVWR, UVW, RAWR, GCWR, CCC, payload, ad nauseum. I used to have an ‘06 Ford Explorer with 5,400 lb tow capacity but only 1,260 lb payload capacity. When I figured the weights of passengers (fam of 4 plus 2 big dogs), cargo, hitch weight, and TT tongue weight (12.5% of TT) on the hitch, the most TT weight I could reasonable get was 3,300 lbs. The limiting factor was the SUVs rear axle weight limit and its payload capacity. And that is for a body-on-frame true SUV, not a unibody CUV like most car-based SUVs today like Highlander or Pilot. For any CUV with only 5,000 lb tow rating, I would recommend the very lightest TT, teardrop, or popup. But be careful with popups as many of the larger ones are heavier than 3,000 lbs and the high wall variants can approach 4,000 lbs! Today’s car-based SUVs are not what you think.

All that being said, a more rugged CUV like Jeep GC or Dodge Durango with 6,000-7,000 tow capacity might do the trick but check the rear axle and payload capacity.

And with 5 people on board plus a little more space in the TT, a true SUV like Expedition, Tahoe/Suburban, Sequoia, or Armada would make an excellent choice. Even then, watch payload capacity. A fully loaded Expedition Platinum (lots of options and weight) can have a payload capacity reduced down to only 1,500 lbs!
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Old 10-17-2020, 08:06 AM   #4
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Thanks for the reply.

I've been doing a ton of reading, a little overwhelming at first with all these different acronyms. But trying to do my research before purchasing a vehicle and trailer of course.

I was mostly leaning towards the VW Atlas and Subaru Ascent, but I hear the Ascent is CVT which kinda sucks but has transmission cooler.
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Old 10-17-2020, 08:06 AM   #5
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This is going to be a first for me. I often suggest an upgrade from an SUV, but here I'm also going to suggest an upgrade for the trailer. With 4-5 people you may need a bigger trailer and also a 3/4 ton truck to pull it, unless maybe 2-3 of those people are going to be tent camping next to the trailer. Not sure of the weight limits from the passengers on the SUV, but I think they will likely push you into 3/4 ton with a truck.
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Old 10-17-2020, 08:34 AM   #6
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One misconception is trucks are not comfortable, they are very comfortable. Especially the 150/1500 series trucks to carry 5 people easy. As a daily driver I would recommend a Ford F-150 with the 2.7 litre eco-boost. But even this truck will only have a payload of 1,525 lbs.

As a daily driver maybe even the F-150 with the F-150 with the 3.5 Eco-Boost with a payload of 1,750lbs probably.

At least look at trucks...there is a reason they out sell cars and SUV's.

The Ram 1500 has the nicest interior that I think can compete with Lexus.

You could buy the Ram 1500 with the V6 3.6 pentastar engine maybe. At least that would give you the payload but probably not enough power that you would need.

The 2019 and newer GM 1500 trucks are probably the best at carrying weight as they might have the highest payload now. It is easy to find a GM 1500 series truck with over 1,800lbs.

Again, go look at trucks to see how the drive and feel. They will drive just like a SUV.
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Old 10-17-2020, 08:47 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by tuffr2 View Post
One misconception is trucks are not comfortable, they are very comfortable. Especially the 150/1500 series trucks to carry 5 people easy. As a daily driver I would recommend a Ford F-150 with the 2.7 litre eco-boost. But even this truck will only have a payload of 1,525 lbs..
Which is why I was suggesting a 3/4 ton. 4-5 people plus the added tongue weight of a larger trailer would eat that payload up really quickly. But yeah you would get a harsher ride with a 3/4 ton, particularly when not towing with 5 people. Also I'm not sure any of the manufacturers offer their 3.0 diesel in the 3/4 ton, and that's a very nice towing engine.

Pickup trucks can be appointed really well now--too well IMHO. The thing to keep in mind is some of those options also add significant weight and/or reduce headroom (e.g. sunroofs). But you can appoint a truck to a luxury level that would far surpass a 1970s Lincoln Continental.
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Old 10-17-2020, 08:55 AM   #8
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Remember that the towing capacity or tow rating does not include cargo or passengers in the vehicle. You have to deduct the people and cargo from the tow rating. Also, remember that for a travel trailer, the hitch will be carrying about 12% of the trailer GVWR.

Five people at 120# each is 600 # less towing and payload capacity.

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Old 10-17-2020, 08:59 AM   #9
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Remember that the towing capacity or tow rating does not include cargo or passengers in the vehicle. You have to deduct the people and cargo from the tow rating. Also, remember that for a travel trailer, the hitch will be carrying about 12% of the trailer GVWR.
I don't agree with either of those statements.

Passengers and cargo in the tow vehicle get deducted from GVWR and GCVW, but not max tow which is just the loaded trailer weight. (That said, max tow is BS when it comes to travel trailers, so you might as well deduct passengers and the close family members you are going to visit upon your arrival).

Also, tongue weight is a percentage of the actual trailer weight, not the GVWR. My loaded trailer weight is just over 4,500, but the GVWR is 7,000 pounds. Huge difference.
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Old 10-17-2020, 10:08 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by Goodspike View Post
This is going to be a first for me. I often suggest an upgrade from an SUV, but here I'm also going to suggest an upgrade for the trailer. With 4-5 people you may need a bigger trailer and also a 3/4 ton truck to pull it, unless maybe 2-3 of those people are going to be tent camping next to the trailer. Not sure of the weight limits from the passengers on the SUV, but I think they will likely push you into 3/4 ton with a truck.
Why would they need a bigger trailer for 4-5 ppl if they can fit.
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Old 10-17-2020, 10:08 AM   #11
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Good advice above!

I looked at the Jayco website for the Jayco Jayfeather X17Z. It looks nice for 4 people and outdoor centered summer camping. Great for shelter in bad weather and sleeping in bad weather. The website did not have weight specifications posted yet, so must be a new addition to the Jayco line.

Always use the MGVW (Maximum Gross Vehicle Weight) for the TT when evaluating towing capacity. Get the MGVW from the sticker on the front driver's side of the TT.

Dealers promote unloaded weight or dry weight. Actual weight while towing are what matter. Most TT's on the road today are close to MGVW.

As noted above, payload is going to be a problem. After subtracting weight of 5 people and their luggage, there will be very little left for the travel trailer tongue weight and weight distribution hitch.

Tongue weight must be at least 10% of TT actual weight for safe towing. Weight distribution hitches weigh between 40 and 80 pounds. The two TT's I bought had tongue weights that were twice the published weight.

Get the payload weight from the stickers on the driver's door frame. This value changes significantly even in the same models. The sticker is the definitive value when it left the factory. Anything added after shipping is part of payload.

The closer you are to maximum towing capacity, the slower you must drive and the greater the following distance you must leave. You may be limited to 55 mph on freeways.

I hope you stay safe and I wish you good luck and happy trails ahead!
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Old 10-17-2020, 10:18 AM   #12
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Why would they need a bigger trailer for 4-5 ppl if they can fit.
There's fitting and there's being comfortable. I'm not typically one to suggest larger trailers, and my wife and I "get by" with "just" a 21 foot trailer. I could go smaller, but I think it would be very uncomfortable if we had the daughter and SIL with us in the 21 foot trailer. Just too small of space.

Now it's possible 2-3 of those other people are kids, but kids grow.

But anyway the concern is more about buying something that doesn't work well and then having the cost of upgrading. In this case it might be upgrading two vehicles. Better to buy what you need the first time.
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Old 10-17-2020, 07:44 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by aquariafly View Post
Hey all,

So we are looking into getting into camping a bit more and hoping to buy a travel trailer. First step we need to upgrade our vehicle since I'll be using this vehicle as a daily driver I want something sorta comfy and with seats to haul the family around. We were looking at VW Atlas, Highlander or Telluride. The max tow is 5000lb (with tow package and all). (Not looking at pick-ups)

We were hoping to get a small hybrid trailer like the Jayco Jayfeather X17Z or Surveyor 191T.

These are both around 3300lb. We'd be carrying 4-5 people max in the car + gear. Longest drive would be 4-5 hrs, mostly flat.

So I just want to see how realistic this setup would be. We would get all the necessary safety mods like weight distribution, electronic trailer brakes.

Anyone else using an SUV to tow a small trailer? Thank you all for the feedback and help in this decision.
Used to, but then reality set in and I came to, and I got a vehicle that is designed for towing versus grocery retrieval and soccer taxi service. The SUV suspensions aren't generally built specifically for towing, and while towing stopping. If you want to be in this rv game, you gotta have the right equipment and not hang out in the margins of safety or performance. CAN you do it, probably.... SHOULD you do it, no. Just my opinion
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Old 10-17-2020, 08:09 PM   #14
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Reevesfamily is right, there can be a big difference between something you can da and something you should do.

Certainly look at a truck. A “Cowboy Cadillac” can be a nice ride.

My wife and I have an SUV, a big sedan, and a pickup. If we could have only one vehicle it would be the truck.

My 2018 Ford F-350 Limited has a nicer interior, is quieter, and rides more smoothly than my 2016 BMW X5 (SUV). The back seat is roomier, too. It does take a bit of getting used to driving and parking, but visibility is great.

Even with a half-ton truck you will have to run the numbers to assess trailering capacity.

When we had kids with us the back of the truck was always full of gear when we went camping.
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