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Important RV Question: Towing a car with an RV

| Updated Jan 23, 2024

A common question has to do with towing a car with an RV and what mileage and wear and tear it may rack up on the “toad.” 

But we're also going to talk about some other important stuff, like how much weight your RV should carry and how heavy a tow vehicle you can pull.

Lots of RVers with motorhomes have “toads,” or towed vehicles. Some RVers call them dinghies, though toads seem to be the most possible term used these days.

The advantages, of course, are many. But the number 1 reason is you don't have to break camp to run errands, go shopping, do sightseeing, or go out to dinner.

You can leave the RV back at the campsite when you are towing a car with an RV. 

That is very convenient!

Here's a question we recently fielded on the RV Podcast:

 “From a newbie- When you tow a car behind your motorhome, does it put miles on your car, too? – Fred

ANSWER – Assuming you mean flat towed, with all wheels down. No, it doesn’t, as you are towing in neutral with the transmission disabled.

But it does add wear and tear…on the brakes and especially the tires. We’re talking about cars made since 1991 or so, with newer odometers. It will add to the odometer on really old cars with the old-style cable-driven speedometer

It's important to know that not all cars can be flat towed. If it has a manual transmission, it can. But not all cars with automatic transmissions can be flat towed.

CLICK HERE for a guide from Car and Driver on the best cars to flat tow behind an RV

A company called Blue Ox makes very popular tow kits for towing a car with an RV.

CLICK HERE for the Blue OX guide on towing a car with an RV

But don't just rely on those resources. Be sure to check the owner's manual of the vehicle you'd like to flat tow. 

Here are some of the most popular “toads” for RVers who are interested in towing a car with an RV:

  • Jeep Wrangler
  • Jeep Grand Cherokee
  • Dodge Durango
  • Chevrolet Colorado
  • Chevrolet Equinox
  • Ford F-150
  • Honda CR-V
  • Chevrolet Sonic

One more critical thing: Know your RV's Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR).

The dealer should have put a sticker on the door frame of your motorhome chassis somewhere for you to easily see. Below is the one we have for our current Class C RV. This number is the maximum weight limit of your RV, including you, all passengers, pets, clothing, and gear, including water.

In my case, for one of my RVs, that is 1,853 pounds.

Now, here's where something called tongue weight comes into play. Your user manual or the manufacturer's website should have that info.  As the sticker says, tongue weight counts as cargo. When you are towing a car,  a portion of the RV's weight is transferred to the tow vehicle through the hitch.

That is not on the sticker. I had to go to the manufacturer's website (in my case Leisure Travel Vans), where under specifications for my model at the time (the Wonder with the RTB, or rear twin bed, floor plan) I see it listed as 200 / 2000 lb.

That means I have a tongue weight limit of 200 pounds, which corresponds to a 2,000-pound weight limit on the vehicle that I would be towing. Included in that 2,000-pound towing limit is whatever towing equipment is necessary between the bumper hitch on my RV and the car itself.

In the personal case of this RV, that means I should NOT tow a car because our unit does not give me enough towing capacity. Most cars sold today weigh considerably over 2,000 pounds. Even these tiny Smart cars weigh very close to that limit.

We knew that this particular RV shouldn't tow a car and originally chose it because it has an extra-large, covered storage space in the rear, which was more important to us than towing a car. Other Wonder models without that “garage” storage space we chose can tow 3,000 pounds, and RVs on the Sprinter 3,500 chassis can handle 5,000 pounds.

 

GVWR tag is important when towing a car with an RV
GVWR tag is important when towing a car with an RV

While we're talking about this, a good idea is to load up your RV, without towing anything and take it. What you need is a CAT scale and there are 1,950 locations throughout the U.S. and Canada, usually on or near interstates and at many of the big truck stops like Loves.

CLICK HERE for a locator service on finding CAT scales.

We have always chosen small Class, B, and B+ (A B+ is really a Class C) RVs (until just recently…) and have used them to run our errands and doing our exploring. We have Lectric e-bikes and often bring them for getting around when we don't want to move the RV.

But really, breaking camp takes a minute or two. So for us, for many years, it wasn't worth the hassle of towing a car with an RV.

We all have different needs and wants.

Whatever you choose, I hope this article helps! You also might want to read through this post on how to buy an RV.

Share your comments below. We love getting other perspectives!

Mike Wendland

Published on 2024-01-22

Mike Wendland is a multiple Emmy-award-winning Journalist, Podcaster, YouTuber, and Blogger, who has traveled with his wife, Jennifer, all over North America in an RV, sharing adventures and reviewing RV, Camping, Outdoor, Travel and Tech Gear for the past 12 years. They are leading industry experts in RV living and have written 18 travel books.

One Response to “Important RV Question: Towing a car with an RV”

June 17, 2021at4:41 pm, Stephanie said:

Any vehicle with a CVT continuous variable transmission such as the Honda CR-V cannot be towed.

Reply

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