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Old 10-19-2020, 08:18 AM   #1
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Join Date: Oct 2020
Posts: 14
Favorite tow vehicle for small trailer??

Newbie here.
Wife and I are looking into a small trailer (Aliner, Scamp, teardrop, etc) for maybe next year. We want something small so we can tow it with a car/SUV.
I am thinking <3500lb total weight.

My current car is a 2009 Pilot which is very long in the tooth. I relly need a new car so, I am shopping for that first. It will also be my daily drive car so, gas mileage is important, as is driving comfort. It will also be our tow vehicle in the future. I'd prefer a compact SUV or something like that.

My Pilot is chunky and gas mileage isn't great (< 20mpg highway, towing nothing). Plus, it has blind spots which bother me. I want to replace it soon. Budget is <$35K so high end vehicles are out of the picture.

Some cars I am considering:
Subaru Outback
Honda Passport
Toyota Highlander

I was wondering what folks use (and like) for towing their small trailers.
Whatcha got??
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Old 10-20-2020, 08:00 AM   #2
Join Date: Sep 2010
Location: London, Ontario
Posts: 91
Tow vehicle, exceed your need... be safe

You can shorten your list by looking at the towing capacity of each... I was surprised how low some of them are for towing capacity... case in point is our Subaru Forester, mid sized SUV, 1500 lb max. That's a lightweight utility trailer or small tent trailer at best. We bought a 3500 lb travel trailer this year and needed a suitable tow vehicle. Our budget was limited, so we looked for a suitable used SUV with enough capacity, finally settling on a Chev. Tahoe. More than enough to tow our unit safely, but we now have something that will also handle any future TT upgrades, and is absolutely safe. Happy trails!
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Old 10-20-2020, 11:51 AM   #3
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Our problem is we have a really tight garage. Plus, I don't think I'd want something as large as a Tahoe as my daily drive.

The best Outback (turbo) is rated for 3500lbs. Not sure on max tongue weight though.
Same for best Rav4.
Pilot, Passport, or Highlander bump it up to 5000lbs.
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Old 10-22-2020, 10:53 PM   #4
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Favorite tow vehicle for small trailer??

Lots of variables to consider. Suggest you download a few of the towing calculators at the beginning of the TT Towing forum. For CUVs (not SUVs) like Pilot, Passport, and Highlander, which are light duty car-based, suggest you limit your TT “dry” weight to only 60% of vehicle tow rating. Limiting factors will be your tow vehicle (TV) payload and rear axle ratings. Case in point...I had an old ‘06 body-on-frame Ford Explorer with 5,400 lb tow rating and only 1,260 lb payload. After adding up all the passenger weights plus dogs, cargo, and WD hitch, the remaining payload was only enough for a TT of about 3,300 lbs “dry”. To TT dry weight, you need to add options, option packages, cargo, propane and tanks, batteries, and fresh water if you plan on traveling with full water tank. For proper tow stability you need between 10-15% of total TT weight (most people use gross vehicle weight rating, GVWR) on the tongue (figure 1/8 or 12.5%) which then loads the hitch and, hence, your rear axle. Plus, many car mfrs do not allow WD hitches, which could deform the unibody, and limit hitch to only 500 lbs.

As you can see, lots to consider. For typical CUV with 5,000 lb tow rating, I would recommend max 3,000 lb dry TT max. That gets you a teardrop type TT or popup or small TT like Scamp/Casita. Be careful with large popups like high-wall type that can be over 3,500 lbs and even approach 4,000 lbs! For what you are looking at for just you and your wife, Pilot, Passport, Highlander should work fine as long as you have the towing package with 5k towing. But watch rear axle and payload ratings. Cadillac XT5 (3,500 lbs), GMC Acadia (4,000 lbs) look like good small TT tow vehicles with payloads of 1,700-1,800 lbs! I would trust the domestics as they have been making excellent tow vehicles and packages for decades.

We used to have a minivan with 3,500 lb tow rating with 3 kids, lots of stuff, Clampett-like bikes on roof, towing a 2,000 lb popup plus cargo. Mostly made it. Burned out a transmission. Started travelling lighter until buying a Suburban! If you want to tow, you need the proper tools with the proper tow package for peace of mind and “happy camping”!
2000 Coleman Tacoma Pop-Up
2006 Ford Explorer XLT, 4.0L-V6, 4x2
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Old 10-25-2020, 06:01 PM   #5
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2019 Little Guy Mini Max Teardrop TT (17'2") towed with a 2017 Tacoma SR5: access cab, V6, w/ Tow Package.

The Mini Max comes in under 2000 lbs. dry weight; less than 3000lbs. fully loaded. Tacoma can pull 6500lbs. and has a payload capacity of 1150 lbs.

Good luck in your search!
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Old 05-05-2021, 08:56 PM   #6
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We just bought a used SUV in Dec. We settled on a Navigator but we needed to tow a lot more than you. We got a TT. We drove EVERYTHING in your towing range. You might check out the Nissan Pathfinder. It tows a lot for the price you pay. We seriously considered the Pilot but it had too many blind spots. I really wanted the Expedition but the price was higher than we wanted to pay.
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Old 05-06-2021, 07:20 AM   #7
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In 2014-2015, I was pretty much looking for same thing. None of the CUVs met the tow capacity I wanted. Obviously, this could have changed in the last 6 years, but doesn't sound like it. I had to go up to a Tahoe or similar in the SUV style to get enough tow capacity to be comfortable towing a popup like I was considering. I just could not see myself stepping up into that expensive of a vehicle.

About that time, GM re-introduced the Colorado/Canyon model, and I decided on a Canyon. With a tonneau cover, it met most all of my needs and had a tow rating of 7K. My popup was a larger popup with a slideout even, still well under the 3K weight dry.

I will say this, most of the CUVs and even my Canyon did not have mirrors that were great for seeing around the trailer. The trailer was also pretty tall and with the roof mounted AC unit, you could not see over the top of the trailer to see behind you. There are some aftermarket mirrors for the Colorado/Canyon and perhaps others, but make sure that is not an issue before you settle on a set of wheels.

From a visibility standpoint, I am more comfortable towing my current 32 foot travel trailer behind my Silverado than I was towing a popup behind my Canyon.

Lot more to it than just weights to consider.
2020 Chevy Silverado 1500
Forest River Wildwood XLite 263BHXL
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Old 06-04-2021, 02:51 AM   #8
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We tow an Aliner Ascape Plus with a Subaru Outback. It's fine on the flats and small hills but you have to drop speed (usually 55 instead of 65) on mountains or extended grades. That's just something to be aware of when driving. These are east coast mountains too. I'm not sure how it would do on west coast mountains.

We geared our purchase to the car, which we already had, and found the biggest limiting factor besides trailer weight was hitch. There were several other trailers we could tow by dry weight but they were over on the hitch so i would consider it a 2 part formula for the Outback.

It's more expensive but consider also the Subaru Ascent. All but the base model have a 5000 towing and 500 hitch limit.
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Old 06-06-2021, 02:17 PM   #9
Join Date: Jan 2021
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I pull a Braxton Creek Bushwhacker 17BH with a 2010 Toyota Highlander (4WD with tow package). The Highlander is rated for 5,000 lbs, but I would not go anywhere near that. The Bushwhacker is 2,400 dry and 3,300 GVWR, and it's as much as I want to pull. I lose speed on modest hills and crawl like a tractor trailer on steep grades. Biggest issue is wind resistance; any kind of headwind and I'm struggling to maintain 60 mph on the highway. But it's what I've got, and as long as I'm not in a hurry, it does the job.
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Old 06-06-2021, 04:55 PM   #10
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I don't have any input as far as one vehicle to the other, I just want to add whatever you get make dang sure it's up to the task. Advertised towing ratings are one thing, but is the engine/transmission up for the task?

Our recent road trip (AZ-CO-UT-WY-UT-AZ, ~2400miles) I saw multiple small setups like you're thinking broken down on the side of the road hood up and a puddle underneath, usually at the end of a 7-8% climb.

My truck almost never goes over 175 when towing my trailer up hill. Some of these hills through UT had me spiking up in the 185 range, so just make sure whatever it is has the cooling capacity to keep coolant/transmission temps down.
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Old 06-16-2021, 07:01 AM   #11
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Thanks. We are looking into an ALiner, possibly the Expedition.
Listed at 1850 dry weight. Hitch weight 240lb. 18ft long.
Still looking ....
I currently drive a 2009 Pilot, no tow package, with 250K miles on it.
Unfortunately, we have no vehicle which can tow so we can't rent a camper to try out first.

I figure I want to get through this year and get my replacement vehicle, with towing in mind. It will be my everyday drive as well.
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