The 7 Best Vehicles for Towing Campers in 2023

Avatar photo

So you’ve decided to buy a travel trailer. But now you need to figure out how to tow it.

Unless you’re buying a vehicle specifically for towing, your towing vehicle will need to a) meet the necessary towing capacity requirements to pull your camper when it’s loaded and b) fit your family’s needs when you’re not towing your travel trailer. (And you wouldn’t mind if it gets good gas mileage). 

Here are some key questions you need to answer before buying:

  • What towing capabilities do I need? What’s the maximum capacity?
  • Do I plan to drive my towing vehicle, even when not using my RV?
  • Will I need four-wheel drive (4WD) for off-roading?
  • What kind of fuel economy do I need?
  • Is the SUV I already own properly equipped to pull my camper?

For answers to your questions, keep reading. Let’s find the best vehicle for towing your camper.

    What’s Your Towing Capacity?

    When shopping for towing vehicles, the first thing to check is how much your camper weighs when loaded. That way, you’ll know what towing capacity your tow vehicle needs.

    Let’s take a moment to review some key ratings that help you decide how much gear you can carry and, therefore, which vehicle would be best for you.

    Tow Rating

    The maximum tow rating of a vehicle, also known as its “tow capacity,” is the maximum weight it can tow – not including the vehicle weight.

    Remember, you’ll pull your RV loaded – that’s the gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR), so you won’t want to use the RV travel trailer’s dry weight to calculate the maximum tow rating you need. 

    Cargo Carrying Capacity

    The cargo carrying capacity (CCC) is the combined gross vehicle weight rating minus the combined unloaded weight rating — which translates to the amount of cargo you can pack into your camper (gear, clothing, food, passengers, etc.) 

    By contrast, the gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) is the maximum weight your vehicle can hold, including the weight of the vehicle itself. (Note that GVWR is separate from the maximum tow rating).

    For a real-life example, consider the cargo carrying capacity (CCC) of the Jeep Grand Cherokee’s GVWR: 6,050 lbs.

    This value means that the total weight shouldn’t exceed 6,050 lbs after you’ve packed cargo into your Jeep. Exceed this amount, and the vehicle won’t be drivable.

    However, when “properly equipped” — when you install the heaviest duty engine in the vehicle — the Grand Cherokee can tow up to 7,200 lbs. In this case, you’d be able to drive with a maximum combined gross vehicle weight rating of 13,250 lbs.

    For the record, if you ever max out your combined gross vehicle weight rating, your gas mileage will be terrible. 

    To find your CCC, subtract the unloaded vehicle weight rating (UVWR) from its gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR)

    Tongue Weight

    Tongue weight refers to the weight exerted on the vehicle’s hitch ball or fifth-wheel hitch. Travel trailer manufacturers typically do not exceed a tongue weight of 10% of the trailer’s total weight.

    A vehicle not properly equipped to manage the tongue weight results in trailer sway, making it hard to control while driving and can lead to accidents.

    Best Vehicle for Towing Small Campers

    SUVs are great for towing small pop-up campers under 3,000 lbs. 

    The SUVs listed below tend to get better gas mileage than trucks — with the added benefit of being great family vehicles. By satisfying both your need for a daily driver and a reliable tow vehicle (that’s built to withstand the weight of your Class A or Class C RV), you won’t have to purchase a separate SUV for the sole purpose of pulling your camper.

    Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk

    A go-to, this Jeep can take you just about anywhere. Both the V6 and the 4-cylinder can tow up to 4,000 lbs. Plus, with the 4×4 Trailhawk, you’ll not only be able to off-road, but you’ll also be prepared to traverse any terrain in any weather.

    With these additional features, the Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk is an easy sell:

    • 4,000 lbs. tow capacity
    • 22 mpg
    • Five seats
    • 4WD 

    Toyota RAV4

    The Adventure and the TRD Off-Road models can tow up to 3,500 lbs. But the standard models can only tow 1,500 lbs, so be mindful of the model type when purchasing. If you’re looking for reasons to purchase the Toyota RAV4, look no further.

    • 3,500 lbs. tow capacity
    • 27 mpg
    • Five seats
    • 4WD optional

    Ford Escape

    Just like the RAV4, only one specific model of the Ford Escape can pull the promised 3,500 lbs, and that’s the 2-liter EcoBoast 4-cylinder, complete with the following features:  

    • 3,500 lbs. tow capacity
    • 23 mpg
    • Five seats
    • 4WD optional

    So remember: There’s no reason to purchase an overpowering, heavy-duty truck if your sole purpose for it is to tow a small camper a few months out of the year. There are far more cost-effective solutions.

    Save up to $1,200/year on RV storage & parking

    Best Vehicle for Towing Travel Trailers

    When it comes to towing travel trailers, you need a vehicle that has the power to tow your RV (and the power to endure the weight strain). These time-tested brands have proven they can last under these conditions.

    Jeep Grand Cherokee

    The Jeep Grand Cherokee is a noteworthy addition because of its versatility. Along with a towing capacity of 7,200 lbs, the Grand Cherokee also has the 4WD capabilities necessary to safely tow a modest RV through mountains (in almost any weather conditions). It also seats five, giving you more room for friends and family.

    Still not sold? Consider these other features:

    • 7,200 lbs. tow capacity
    • 19 mpg
    • 5-6 seats
    • 4WD optional

    Ford Ranger (2023-2024)

    In past years, the Ford Ranger had less than 3,000 lbs. of towing capacity, but the 2023 model Ford upped the ante. With a max tow capacity of 7,500 lbs and a decent 23mpg, the Ford Ranger can function as an everyday work truck and/or your tow vehicle.  

    • 7,500 lbs. tow capacity
    • 23 mpg
    • 4-5 seats
    • 4WD optional 

    Ford F-150

    Arguably the most popular truck in America, the F-150 comes stocked with different trim options that improve your towing capabilities. Without modification, the F-150 can haul at least 8,500 lbs and gets decent gas mileage, as far as heavy-duty pickup trucks go.

    Here are other details to note about the F-150:  

    • 8,500-14,000 lbs. tow capacity
    • 24 mpg
    • 3-6 seats
    • 4WD optional

    Best Truck for Towing a Fifth Wheel

    Since most fifth wheels weigh between 17,000 and 20,000 lbs when loaded — more if you’re also hauling your big-boy toys and/or pulling a toad behind that. With this in mind, you’ll need to bring out the big guns for this job.

    Among heavy-duty pickup trucks, there’s one truck that stands above the rest: 

    Dodge RAM 3500

    RAM has owned the heavy-duty pickup space because they make one workhorse of a truck. When fully equipped, the RAM 3500 can tow 37,000 lbs. With this type of truck, you’ll be able to tow just about anything, anywhere.

    And with two bench seats that can buckle up three each, you can anyone you want along for the ride.

    • 14,100-37,000 lbs. tow capacity
    • 12 mpg
    • 6 seats
    • 4WD standard

    Vehicles to Avoid When Towing Campers

    While there are cars that technically can tow recreational vehicles and other cargo, their tow capacities are very low, ranging anywhere from 1,200-1,500 pounds. Factor in wind resistance and other road hazards, and this towing capacity of between 1200-1500 lbs may be a stretch. 

    The truth is, while a small car can tow a 1,200-lb flatbed trailer just fine, doesn’t mean it should. In some cases, the tow vehicle in question may not be able to deal with a top-heavy travel trailer as easily – especially on windy days. If your vehicle is only capable of towing somewhere between 1200 and 1500 lbs, you won’t be able to tow anything more than a compact pop-up, teardrop RV camper, or other smaller-sized RVs.

    What Tow Vehicle Fits Your Needs?

    Towing heavy trailers isn’t for the faint of heart and requires the right tool for the job. There are plenty of tow vehicles out there to choose from, so here’s how to get started. 

    1. Determine your trailer weight loaded (GVWR)
    2. Find the vehicle with the tow rating you need to pull your camper.
    3. Think about what suits your lifestyle best.
    4. Weigh the pros and cons of fuel economy and other amenities. 

    It’s that simple. Once you have an appropriate towing vehicle secured, you’ll need to decide where to store your camper. But where do you store your RV when you’re not venturing out on grand adventures?

    That’s where Neighbor can help. Neighbor.com is a peer-to-peer storage marketplace where you can find safe, affordable storage for your vehicles and RV nearby. 

    Related Posts