How to shop for a vehicle to tow a pop up camper: The considerations
Tow vehicle specifications
A huge SUV or full-size truck can do the job really well. The problem is that it may not be suitable for that purpose especially if it was not meant for towing. But the good thing is that advancement in motor technology has seen small cars and vans having improved torque and horsepower capable of handling up to 3,500 pounds of weight.
In fact, some of the smallest cars available today are able to comfortably handle loads of up to 1000 pounds of weight. However, cars and vans of the same size may still have different towing capacities.
What you should look for
Every vehicle must have its own tow ratings. However, what most people don’t know is that the tow rating system may not be as simple as it looks on the surface. That’s because drivers must consider both the weight of the tow vehicle, that of the pop-up camper, as well as the gear they are hauling.
To know the total weight of the entire vehicle loaded up with passenger and fuel, you should look for its Gross Vehicle Weight Ratings.
On the other hand, the gross combination weight rating is the total weight of the tow vehicle with that of the camper being towed. Lastly, the maximum tow rating takes into account all the varying weights so as to display the permissible tow capacity that the vehicle can handle.
So before you even think of purchasing a tow vehicle to pull your pop up camper, ensure the vehicle has been purposefully rated for towing. This information is contained in the owner’s manual, and should tell you how heavy and large the weight being towed should be. If you exceed this limit and something goes wrong, you will not be compensated by your insurer.
To determine the accurate tow capacity for any load, a formula commonly used by RV-iers has emerged. They simply multiply the vehicle’s GVWR with GCWR by 75%. This is a simple formula that will quickly calculate the weight adjustments needed for any towing condition.
The engine of the vehicle is what powers the load you’re towing. So to get the most out of engine, go for diesel engines since they excel in towing, plus they boast of better mileage as well as durability.
You might be tempted to get a small economical engine for this purpose. However, if your pop-up camper is heavier than what the engine can contain, then chances are that the small engine will strain and use even more fuel compared to a large engine. This will inflate the cost of towing your camper, not to mention the accelerated effects of wear and tear on the engine.
Manufacturers of small SUVs and mini-vans state the maximum towing capacity allowed on their vehicles. However, other manufacturers explicitly state that towing is not advisable. The reason why they say so is because of the type of transmission installed in the vehicle, the brakes and suspension which don’t accommodate towing of any form.
But it is safe to assume that the more a vehicle is equipped with towing capabilities, the costly it becomes. So if you’re on a budget, you can get a standard SUV or van, and then invest in a special towing package.
A special towing package comprises of things like oil coolers, transmission fluid, barriers and alternators (heavy-duty), as well as high-performance rear springs.
A class I hitch can handle up to 2000 pounds of weight; class II up to 3,500 pounds and Class III up to 10,000.
Typically, you should do well with an automatic transmission powered by rear-wheel drive.
Choosing a tow vehicle for your camper comes with a lot of sacrifices. But since the main goal is to make sure the vehicle can do the job, you must be willing to relax the rules a little bit, or else you won’t find what you’re looking for. There’s no one-size-fits-it-all vehicle that can handle campers and 5th wheel trailers at the same time.
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