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Commuter, fuel efficient, towing once

Hey everyone,
We are looking for a good commuter car (used) that is fuel efficient. However, we are also hoping we might find one that we can use to tow our 1 bedroom apartment from SLC, Utah to Sacramento, California, just once.

We’ve looked at a 2014 Chevy Spark that is in our budget, but I’m worried about towing a Uhaul trailer with it. Would it be okay to do this just the one time? Or do we risk damaging the car?

Does anyone have any suggestions on a reliable car with good mpg, but that we could get away with towing a uhaul trailer once?

Thanks for any input!

I don’t think the Spark is designed for towing any trailer. It makes more sense to ship your possessions or sell them and replace them at your destination. There are moving companies that will ship a partial load. However, they wait until several partial loads can be assembled to make up a full load.
Unfortunately, many cars made within the last 15 years aren’t designed to pull trailers. In fact, U-HAUL has guides that specify what trailers can be towed with a specific vehicle. I would bet that U-HAUL wouldn’t even hook up a trailer to a Chevy Spark.

You won’t be able to tow anything with a Spark or a similar vehicle.

Buy the commuter vehicle you want, then rent a U-Haul truck and tow your Spark to your new destination.

Or rent a U-Haul van for your furniture and just drive 2 vehicles.


If you have books, books may often be shipped by freight as educational materials. I don’t know what items you intend to move. Appliances such as stoves, refrigerators, washers and dryers aren’t worth moving. Unless you have furniture that has some value to you, sell it and replace it with furniture from second hand stores when you get to Sacramento.

I actually like the Spark but the price for a new Spark is low enough that used does not make sense. Towing with a Spark , no way. The advice about a Uhaul truck is the best you will get.

This is my vote as well.

Thanks for the input. I’m thinking it might make sense to buy it used for us, as we only have a budget of 8,000 max :blush: we got lucky and found one with only 10,000 miles and another newer one for 20,000 miles.

For a one time tow I would have my stuff shipped; it can’t cost that much.

Then buy the perfect commuter car to carry your 160 lb frame for the next 10 years!

Your stated needs just are incompatible.

I am sure that Mr. DB from California will know this better than me . But I suspect that any used vehicle you buy in Utah might pass California inspection but it might be a good idea to see if it will.

I wouldn’t recommend it. . You might make it, but the wear on tear on a small car like that will likely result in a lot of problems in the future. Not worth the risk. Instead, price out Budget, Penske etc ‘Rent a Truck’. A 12 footer would easily handle a one bedroom apartment. You might could even fit everything into a pick-up-truck. The price to rent trucks in these modern, computerized days varies a lot from week to week. If you happen to live in a place that has a lot of trucks parked and waiting to be rented at the current time, the rental rate can be surprisingly low. If you have two adults you can convoy, one can drive the smaller car, the other the truck. Gamble and enjoy the buffets at the casinos along the way, make it a short holiday.

The other problem you’ll have to deal with is that when you import a car from another state into California, getting it registered with California plates can be somewhat expensive. They do that to dissuade folks who live in California from buying a car in another state to save some money. Suggest you phone up the Calif DMV or at least search their website to see what you’d be looking at. I’d guess it probably makes more sense $$-wise to defer buying a car until you get to California. No problem, you’ll be driving the rental truck. I’ve heard on the radio the California DMV is swamped right now with people trying to get some sort of ID they need to fly on an airplane, so expect some difficulty if you try to phone them.

I have moved one bedroom apartment worth of furniture pulling a U-Haul trailer with a Ford Aerostar extended van with a 4.0 liter engine and with a U-Haul truck. While the Aerostar did handle the load (I locked it out of overdrive), I felt more comfortable using a truck. Now the Aerostar was a rear wheel drive on a full frame, the minivans I have owned since the Aerostar (Ford Windstar, Chevrolet Uplander, and two Toyota Siennas) are unit construction with front wheel drive, and I would never consider pulling a trailer with these vans and they are larger and more powerful than a Chevy Spark.
Really think about what you are moving and why. Are the things of real value to you? If the value of the objects is less than the cost of moving them, and you don’t have a sentimental attachment to these objects, maybe you want to sell the furniture and visit thrift shops or a Goodwill store in Sacramento.
I remember my first move which was 120 miles. We moved our one bedroom apartment furniture with a U-HAUL truck. We moved into a 5th floor one bedroom apartment in married student housing in a building with no elevator. My back still hurts when I think about that move. I think I would rather have rather taken sleeping bags and hunted suitable furniture in thrift stores at our liesure. We could have transported our clothes and dishes in the car. We had a new faculty member join my department and was staying in a hotel until he could find an apartment. I helped him find an apartment and told him.I would help.him move. When I showed up at the hotel to help him move, he was carrying two suitcases. That was all he had to move. I carried one and he carried the other. He acquired furniture from thrift stores as he needed it and bought a car from a faculty member who was going on leave.

Personally, I think a better option might be to sell whatever car you have now, load up a rental truck with your stuff and drive it to Sacramento, then buy a commuter car here (I actually live in Sacramento). I appreciate the props from Volvo_V70, but I was born and raised in California so I’ve never had to deal with registering a car imported from out of state. I believe something like 18 other states have the same emissions laws as does California, but I don’t know which ones. On new car sticker here you pay several hundred dollars for the California Emissions Package; I don’t know if any other states use the exact same equipment for this option. If not, retrofitting emissions equipment may be problematic. Re selling your car, you won’t get the top price but I’ve had good luck with Car Max. It’s easy and no fuss. I sold 2 vehicles there; both times got several thousand dollars less than if it had been sold privately (but without the worry of getting robbed or carjacked) and several thousand dollars more than I would have gotten as a trade in for a new vehicle. I just mention this as an option. I’m sure others that post here will have varying opinions.


I think the rule for importing used vehicles into Calif is they must have the manufacturer’s emissions equipment for whatever state the car was sold in initially. I doubt Calif requires a car sold in Utah to be retrofitted with Calif emissions equipment. But Calif does charge a pretty hefty fee to register an out of state car, probably to discourage bringing out of state cars into the state. Either way, Dakotaboy makes an excellent point, best to bring the stuff in a rental truck and buy the next car in Calif. Driving those rental trucks is sort of fun anyway :slight_smile:

No. I agree with the others. Just rent a truck. If two drivers no problem, if one driver, rent a tow dolly too and pull the Spark (yeah if it will be able to be licensed in Kaliforny).

I remember some years ago talking to the Buick dealer about pulling a trailer with my Park Ave. It was OK as long as I stayed out of overdrive but he relayed a story about a guy pulling a light snow mobile trailer that burned out his transmission in a few hundred miles in high gear. Doesn’t take much.

Maybe things have changed but back in the '80s and '90s there was a big hassle in that the CARB (California Air Resources Board) required that an out of state car could not be registered in California until/unless the emissions met California standards. With cars so much cleaner now than then, maybe it’s not the same. I know that hotrodders used to have issues because (at least at one time) the federal emission rules applied to the year the engine was made engine was made but California rules applied to the year the frame was made. I knew several people who bought newer cars that had been wrecked and installed an older engine with fewer emission goodies. The CHP frowned upon that in a major way.

California discontinued the 49 state emission system import penalty years ago. A used car with more than 7,500 miles can be brought into California without penalty.

Also there is no separate registration fee based on the vehicles emission package.

There is no way a Chevy Spark is going to tow any kind of trailer over Donner Pass, that’s at 7,000 foot elevation

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It’s kind of a joke for me to post this but you could buy a 10 year old minivan and load it with what you really need, mail a few boxes if you run heavy and sell the van later. It has to be bought on the low side.

or get u haul and drive spark in box of truck and load up and move