2011 Toyota Highlander - Towing

Have an old 17’ Boston Whaler redo… Want to pull behind my car 2.7 4 cylinder? Boat & trailer is about 1500lbs with gear…can tow without considerable damage on tranny? usually about 4 persons in car only 3 miles from dock

Hello ICU2. I’m a fellow long-time Highlander owner and fan. Your question is a good one. First the “No argument.” The tow rating for that engine and vehicle is 1500 pounds, and I think that is if it is equipped with the optional towing package that includes a transmission cooler and higher capacity alternator (consult your manual and your purchase paperwork to be certain). If you don’t have the vehicle already equipped for towing you will incur an expense to add the hitch, wiring, ball etc. My advice would be not to do so if it is not already set up. If I had a Whaler (and I wish I did!), and if I only needed the boat to be moved to my camp in spring and home on Columbus Day, I’d enlist a person with a bigger vehicle who tows a lot, and pay them to do it. Then you need not worry the beloved Highlander will suffer any damage.

If your Highlander is set for towing, is AWD, and you have maintained the transmission according to its schedule of fluid changes, and you are confident the load is around 1500 pounds, and if your towing is going to be occasional, you can go for it. Toyota is a conservative company. If the manual says 1500, I’d bet it is down-rated to be fine with a load around that number.

Hope that was helpful. A good condition used Highlander is worth its weight in gold today. If you plan to start towing the Whaler to a new location each weekend, maybe step up to a vehicle that is purpose-built built to tow, like a Honda Ridgeline, Nissan Frontier, Chevy Colorado, Ford Bronco Sport, or even a Highlander with the V6 and towing package. Something with a real geared transmission (not a CVT like in a Subaru Forester or Nissan Rogue) and a “factory” towing package rated well above your needs.

Tell us how you make out, and feel free to show us some images. Cheers

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1500 lbs is the tow limit for the vehicle. I would add an extra trans cooler for sure… but…

As for a Boston Whaler, trailer and engine being 1500 lbs… I very seriously doubt that. Weigh the boat, motor and trailer unhitched on a public scale to make sure. Many states require trailer brakes if the towed load is 1900 lbs and above. And don’t forget the weight of your gear since you won’t put it in the car… be honest with yourself!

Since you will need 200 to 300 lbs tongue weight for safe towing with a 2000 lb trailer, measure just the front pad of the trailer at the same time. That load is likely too high for the hitch on your vehicle.

You are at the ragged edge at best and 800+ lbs over most likely. Don’t do it with this Highlander.


Wow!! Insightful advice… thank you for caring.

Best Regards,

Herman R. Coston Jr.

I appreciate the guidance suggested here. Thank you for your input. I’m glad I took the time to ask…

Best Regards,

Herman R. Coston Jr.

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Three miles? When I tow my little trailer, I always do a manual shift and avoid 4th gear to reduce any clutch slippage. It was always interesting seeing the little buzz boxes in England pulling big trailers for the holiday. 4 cyl but manual transmissions.

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And they were diesels, most likely.


3 blocks ? I have a friend that does about 1/2 mile from cabin to launch ramp with his riding mower so you should be just fine.

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You folks don’t have to read this. I used to use my mower to pull my camper around the yard. I have since upgraded but I was hauling a load of landscape blocks with it and drove down a slight hill to my destination. The trailer tongue lifted my rear wheels off the ground and with no brakes or traction the thing started to jack knife. Having over 1000# on the trailer, I jumped off and let it go unrestrained. The moral is don’t wear a seat belt if pulling stuff around with your lawn mower. Momma didn’t raise no fool (It’s Mother’s Day).

I wouldn’t be concerned if only going 3 miles, assuming that weight of 1500 lbs is correct.

I wonder if the transmission is different for the 4 cyl vs the 6 cylinder Highlander? If the transmissions were the same and the engine was the limiting factor, I’d be even less concerned. They may be different, though.

From your owners manual


A few things you said in your opening post make me less worried about this.

Given your car’s tow capacity is at or close to your combined trailer+boat weight, and given each trip is only 3 miles, I’m not convinced that’s enough to get your transmission fluid hot enough to cause damage.
[If others have data to convince me otherwise, I’m happy to listen & learn.]

If it were me, I would drive slowly with the transmission in a lower gear, and would stay current with my transmission fluid changes.

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If you want to play it safe you can always rent a uhaul pick up truck for a pretty minimal cost and no worries! What is the speed limit for the roads you will be taking?

I’m surprised that the excerpt from the owner’s manual doesn’t mention trailer brakes. The safe maximum trailer weight without trailer brakes is usually around half of the weight of the tow vehicle.

These things are usually one size fits all. The maximum trailer weight is for all kinds of roads and traffic and steep hills. I wonder if the tow package includes heavier brakes? Towing 3 miles on flat roads likely wouldn’t stress things to the point where the tow package would make a difference.

With all the uhaul stories of flipped vehicles etc. I understand peoples apprehensions. But I have just never had a problem pulling 2000# with rwd or fwd through the hills, rain, and snow. You just have to load properly with more weight on the front, drive reasonably, and avoid over correcting. 4000# plus is another matter.

Pulled an old fiberglass boat to MN with my 03 2.3 4 cyl Ranger, only needed more space to the floor going up the hill after St. Croix River on I 94. The 93 Toyota pickup, 2.4 engine was fine for the boat around town and 55 mph speed limit. Both Trucks were manual transmission.

18’ boat no trailer brakes. Doubtful he has them on his trailer.

Boston Whalers are light for their size but I highly doubt the entire rig only weighs 1500 pounds. It will certainly be under 3500, though.

Would be better if you could confirm the weight, although we never weighed our 16ft fiberglass runabout which weighed around 1,600lbs for the combo according to the previous owner. Our car with a 2,000lb tow rating did Ok for the 6-7mi drive to the launch ramp but struggled on the ramp itself. For us it’s the terrain on the way to the launch ramp, think rolling hills and a steep hill to get out of the marina. Could work just fine for you.

Trailer brake requirements are dependent upon state.

Towing Capacity Guide (Without Trailer Breaks) Family Travel Fever

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