Cars, Cultures, Towing Capacity, and Customer Service

My family?s never had trucks ? we?ve always had cars that were rated to tow a small utility trailer full of pine straw, load to the dump, or whatnot a couple times a year. I?m not talking about a jalopy dragging a mobile home with one frayed bungee cord ? rather a good car with a good trailer behind a professionally installed hitch driven by someone who?s done plenty of towing over the decades.

It?s getting harder to find cars that are rated by the manufacturer to tow anything, and I?ve been digging into this a little. I?ve got family in Germany, and I?ve spent time over there and seen all sorts of cars towing all sorts of trailers, and they get along fine and the continent of Europe miraculously seems to exist without SUVs the size of Panzers.

In America, however, there seems to be a prejudice that nothing smaller than an Excursion has any business towing a jetski, to use a little hyperbole.

One of the common reasons I hear being bantered about is that the engines or transmissions are different. But, for example, when I compare the humble Canadian Yaris (rated to tow 700 pounds - http://www…woa/16/wo/


5.11?v124040e%2ehtml) and the American Yaris (rated to tow nothing, all the hardware looks the same. The British Yaris is rated to tow more than 1200 pounds, even with its smallest gas engine (http://www…orial.jsp?

BV_SessionID=@@@@1319304561.1224440165@@@@&BV_Engi neID=

cccgadefhhgmlfjcfngcfkmdfkidffh.0&deepLink=YA3_Spe cification_new&

nodiv=TRUE&fullwidth=TRUE&edname=specSheet_YA3&car Model=Yaris&img


I contacted Toyota USA and they said they couldn?t comment on what Toyota?s branches in other nations did. I contacted Toyota Canada and they said they couldn?t comment on what Toyota?s branches in other nations did.

I’m going to withhold some of the comments that come to mind praising customer service and cue cards.

So what?s the deal here? Is the Yaris sold in Buffalo really that different from the one sold in Toronto? Is it the distances involved in the countries (umm? Canada?s pretty big)? Or the hardware (I haven?t crawled all over them, but the websites make them look like genetic twins except for some slick marketing)? Environmental (since when are we more environmentally tight than the Germans)? Personally, I hate to be cynical, but I?m wondering if the real factor in play is how many SUVs and trucks the companies think they can sell in each nation (No, your Prius can’t tow a kayak. May we interest you in a Land Cruiser?).

And that?s part of where I wind up caring. Do we have a lot of folks driving around in vehicles they don?t need? If you put a hitch on your Camry anyways, will someone say the warranty was voided?

What?s the deal?

Must be a dislike of the court system.

If you could say what you want to tow with what and how the tow vehicle will be equipped you will get some reasonable advice.

“Tow Capacity” isn’t really a technical term-- it’s a very subjective measurement of safe and comfortable towing capacity. The US is a land of high speed highways, steep mountains and armies of lawyers so the figure tends on the conservative side. I think Canada is generally closer with their towing estimates, but in this case I think a sub-700lb trailer is probably considered too dinky for US Interstate speeds.

As for the very high tow rating in the UK, I refer you to the Top Gear Caravan Challenge:

Just because it’s possible to tow a full-size travel trailer with a small diesel KIA hatchback doesn’t mean you should. Note also when they arrive at the campsite, most of the other Caravans are being towed by Land Rovers.

Also, the general design philosophy of the Japanese carmakers has been using a smaller engine that breathes better with well-designed gearing that makes good use of what power is available. This makes for great cars that get good gas mileage and are reasonably zippy on their own, but it doesn’t make for much low-end power and they typically run fairly close to their maximum power output, leaving little left over for towing. This is compared to a typical American-style car with a bigger than necessary engine that’s less well utilized for around-town driving, but has no problem towing a modestly sized trailer. A lot of domestic mid-size and larger cars are still designed along these lines, but they’re becoming rarer as fuel economy standards tighten which, like you say, may have the unintended consequence of putting more people into SUV’s.

Believe it or not, the US does do some things more safely than other countries. We’re good at some things, you know? Requiring tow vehicles to be large enough to handle a trailer in tow and some passengers is one of them.

I’m guessing this is a response by the manufacturers to the propensity of Americans to sue someone when we do something stupid.

If the Yaris sold in the US was rated to tow 700 pounds, as the one in Canada is, some moron would try to tow a trailer weighing as much as, or more than, the car, and when the inevitable crash occurred, he’d sue Toyota.

Besides, how many people do you know that you’d actually trust to drive correctly with a trailer hooked to their car?

Yes, lots of Americans drive vehicles that are much larger than they really need, but I don’t blame the manufacturers for minimizing the towing capacity of the vehicles they sell in the US. They’re protecting themselves from frivolous lawsuits.

Thanks for all the responses! I’m thinking there may be some cred to the manufacturers covering themselves for when someone in a worn out Geo Metro tries towing a 53 foot trailer over the Rockies on the interstate.

But to take the dinky Japanese subcompact factor out, how about the American Mercedes E Class, which is not rated to tow anything, vs. the German Mercedes E-Klasse, from the land of Autobahns and Alps, which is rated to tow 750 kg unbraked, 1900 braked (did find one engine variant where that’s only 1700…)?

Maybe the manufacturers don’t want their luxury vehicles being associated with towing horse trailers?

There are many more diesel Benz over in Europe than are here. Many cars that can tow a fair amount of weight that are sold in Europe are the turbo diesel versions which have tons of low end torque. In comparison the number of diesel cars sold in the U.S. can be counted on one hand.

Absolutely right, and the Germans certainly seem to have an affinity for diesels. Rudolf Diesel was even German.

But all of the German E-Klasses I’ve cited (and the British Yaris in my first post) are gas-powered, so I think we can weed out that variable.

BTW, thanks for the replies and all. I’ve been trying to get some answers and coming up blank…

You do know that 700lbs is barely the weight of the trailer. You get a covered trailer it’s over 1000lbs.

Depends some on the trailer – these ones like my family’s, , for example are 220-250lbs., but all you need for a load to the dump… This, , would be a different story. Maybe you could fit your Yaris inside it…

I’ll give you corollary. I have a 95 Ford Ranger, 5 speed. It’s rated to tow about 1500 pounds. The automatic version is rated at like 2700 pounds. It’s really because Americans can’t drive. The 5 speed transmission is much more capable than an automatic for towing - if you know what you are doing.

The Mazda-sourced transmissions in the Rangers and F-150’s are not that strong. The ZF units in the F-250/350’s were much more stout. The low towing rating has to do with the light-duty clutches in those trucks.

The answer as was described in another way on another reply is the legal climate here in the US. Hungry lawyers and consumers who can smell a quick easy dollar are responsible, in my view, for the lack of a trailer towing rating for your car and for my older VW. My owner’s manual says nothing about trailer towing although I have towed 2000 lbs total including the trailer weight for short distances on flat terrain without incident. It’s quite easy to get going but very difficult to stop such a weight and a violent, evasive steering move is out of the question.

My VW’s owner’s manual warranty section, interestingly enough, does not address trailer towing as grounds for disallowing warranty work.

By the way, I have a lightweight trailer that I put together from a kit that cost me about $200 about 10 years ago. I estimate that the trailer weighs about 250 lbs.

It’s easier for a car mfr. or vendor here in the US to either say no, or else limit trailer towing to small weights than to risk a lawsuit as you are in a small minority by wanting to pull a trailer with a small vehicle. Another way of saying it is that most people do not have trailer towing in mind when shopping for a car.

If enough people here in the US did shop for a car with camping or other trailering in mind, then US mfrs. and vendors would have to cave in to demand, address trailer towing, eat or pass along the legal costs or lose sales.

Hmmm… it’s sounding like my inquiry may be shifting from a mechanical line of questions to a legal one…

With regards to warranties, are there many cars warranties that specify that they will be voided if the car is used to tow?

My little 6’ utility trailer I use to go to the dump and haul dirt weighs 600lbs. The smallest trailer U-Haul rents is over 700lbs. That leaves 300lbs for stuff to put in the trailer.

One thing to consider too is most of the cars in the US are fwd vehicles. You start adding too much weight to the back of the vehicle and you start to loose traction…not to mention steering and control. The towing capacity of my wifes Lexus is 1000lbs…and that’s a LOT bigger then the Yaris.

I think that you have it right here:

"(No, your Prius can’t tow a kayak. May we interest you in a Land Cruiser?). "

At least a part of it is marketing strategy. The automakers want to sell you a truck or SUV.

Is there anything to the idea that the US has different environmental regulations that could affect these things?

Check out a Crown Vic…

The automatic version is rated at like 2700 pounds. It’s really because Americans can’t drive. The 5 speed transmission is much more capable than an automatic for towing - if you know what you are doing.

Has nothing to do with how you drive. The reason the automatic can haul more is the CLUTCH. In a standard the Clutch is the weakest link. Your clutch is not capable is handling nearly 3000lbs.

A classic example. The Crown Vic’s tow rating has decreased over the years from 5000 lbs to 2000 lbs. If you look here: you’ll see the '95 Crown Vic with 4.6L V8 is rated at 5000, but the '96 and newer with the same engine is rated at 2000. By 2003 the Crown Vic’s tow rating is down to 1500 lbs, and after that it doesn’t list any tow rating (which may be a lack of info on that particular web page).

I suspect Ford marketing wanted to sell more Explorers.