Hitching a trailer to a Chevy Prism

I am starting a small native landscaping company on a low budget. As such I will be using our own personal car, a Chevy Prism, for the work vehicle for at least the first year.

There are some things you just don’t want in, or that might be difficult to load on top of (roof rack!) our good old (2000) Prism, so I think the best answer would be to hook up a small trailer to it.

Is this even possible? If so what limitations will I meet?

maybe a craftsman yard trailer

heh You’re pretty close.

According to the research link here, your 2000 Chev Prism has a tow capacity of 1500 lbs.

Keep in mind this is a pretty light vehicle. (eg. frame strength, etc.)

Personally, I wouldn’t give them the benefit of doubt and suggest 1000 lbs as safe.
You’ll be limited to the size of a small utility trailer.

Also, add an aftermarket tranny cooler to the vehicle IF you go this route.

The smallest trailers are about $450 and are 4’ X 8’ at The Home Depot and some other places.

Once ya hook it up just don’t drive it. Think something built to pull0 think pickup or van… Keep that personal car for not hauling. Good luck with your new business. Oh some lumber places rent trucks by the hour…

This is NOT a good idea…1000lbs I think is even pushing it.

The 1000lbs includes the weight of the trailer. Even a small cheap utility trailer is going to weigh a few hundred lbs. Start putting land scape equipment and materials in there and you’ll not only exceed the weight of the trailer…but probably weigh more then the car does.

Sell the Prism and buy a small pickup truck. Even a 4-cylinder pickup can tow 2500lbs.

I have to agree with those who suggest that this is not a good idea. You’ll quickly find that you’ll need much more equipment than you envision, and you’ll quickly destroy your Prism. At that point in order to maintain your accounts on a reliable basis you’ll have no choice but to find a truck fast, and IMHO you’re better off to get one up front while you have time to look.

Besides, you won’t be able to maintain any serious landscape (take any decent size jobs) with the equipment you’ll be able to haul with a Prism. And you won’t even be considered for even small commercial jobs driving up in a Prism. Image really does count.

Business 101: always appear to be a larger company than you actually are.

Business 102: depending on where you live and what your buisiness is, you may find yourself unable to be considered for a contract by some (or even many) potential customers if you drive up in a riceburner.

Business 103: put together a good business plan and talk with a banker about financing the endeavor properly. The overwhelming majority of startup businesses fail due to insufficient capitalization.

Then don’t forget to deduct the weight of the trailer, etc. Yep, it’s all the same scenario.

Oh, I got it now. April fools day eh? Ha ha

Thanks for all the input folks.

I realize this is far from an ideal situation. But I see small cars towing U-Haul trailers on the highway all the time. When I was a kid we took a summer trip and our little VW Rabbit towed a trailer full of camping gear from Chicago to LA and back!

My company is going to be pretty small the first year. I will be the only employee and even I will be working half-time. Plus I won’t have any big equipment since I won’t be doing any lawn work (other then removing them), my largest equipment will probably be a chain saw, though I will be renting larger pieces at times. I’m sure by staying small my first year I will miss out on some opportunities for larger projects but I’m willing to accept that so I have some time to make small mistakes instead of big mistakes. If things go better then expected and I’m busy every day from May 1st to July 1st then maybe I’ll re-evaluate.

ANYWAY, I will look into options for a smaller trailer and keep the weight down to half a ton in back. I will probably want to get an enclosed trailer which will make this a bit more dicey. My other option is loading a lot of thing up on a (Yakima) roof rack, I’m guessing I can get up to about 400lbs of plants up there. Would having more mass on the roof of the car be better or worse when hauling a relatively heavy trailer?

I suggest you read the Prizm owner’s manual VERY carefully.

You may see people driving Prizms with small trailers hooked to them, but these are TEMPORARY hook-ups. Attaching a trailer to your Prizm on a a semi-permanent basis will KILL your car in no time. A Prizm is not a heavy-duty tow vehicle.

If you want to start a business, buy a more substantial vehicle. It might save your marriage.

What you will do with your car is your choice, but, again, the posts above are offering wise advice with a solid basis in logic. Your Prizm simply isn’t meant for towing anything on a regular basis. Especially an enclosed trailer, in which case even the smallest models would get you dangerously close to the rated capacity of the car. Throw in a power tool or two, or a few flats of planting material, and you’ll be over a weight limit that’s only meant for temporary use anyway.

You’ll be endangering other people on the road by attaching a heavy trailer, without brakes, to a lightweight car, not designed to handle the weight. You’ll lose acceleration, braking ability, handling, and substantial gas mileage. You’ll be taxing your brakes, radiator, and transmission well beyond what they were designed for when they were new, and now they’re already eight years old.

I’m also unsure how you figure on being able to load 400 pounds onto a roof rack. Even the factory equipped roof racks on sturdy full frame SUVs, like Tahoes, and seldom rated for even half that weight. Just because it will fit up there, doesn’t me it can be done without consequence.

I’m not trying to be harsh, but, honestly, what you’re proposing is an imminent safety risk to others on the road around you. It’s especially worth considering that a cheap four cylinder compact pickup truck, something like a Ford Ranger, could be had used for only a few thousand dollars, and is far more suited to your needs than a compact car, in addition to presenting a far more professional image.

We went through this about a year ago…Go to the U-Haul sight…Their SMALLEST open utility trailer weighs 700lbs. So that means you can only put 300lbs of stuff in the trailer before you exceed the limit.

You can do this if you don’t go over the car’s rated towing weight too often. You can cheat once in a while. I have pulled a ton of gravel for a few miles several times with a lightweight trailer and with no problem for the manual shift VW. The car’s brakes were inadequate to stop the load, however, but I did this hauling in a rural area. I have a $250 folding trailer kit that weighs around 250 lbs that is rated at about 750 lbs load. Yes, I loaded it up to 2000 lbs of gravel a few times! Check at Northern Hydraulics, Harbor Freight, Menards or Home Depot for such a trailer.

Regarding car abuse, on a vacation many years ago we pulled a 700 lb tent trailer from the midwest to the New England area with a 1900 cc Opel. The camper was also used around our home and nearby states for at least several thousand more miles with no effect on the car. I looked into the engine’s spark plug holes after the car had well over 100,000 miles and you could still see the honing marks on the cylinder walls. The clutch had a normal life and the remainder of the driveline had no problems other than a failed wheel bearing but that was after overloading the car with firewood.

Another story: When I had a summer job working for a masonry construction business, the owner hauled his equipment with a full size Ford station wagon that pulled a heavy duty trailer. The whole outfit was a little spattered with cement; was not pretty at all. He took along shovels, masonry tools, wooden forms, buckets, two wheelbarrows and a mud mixer that must have weighed several hundred pounds. He did not advertise and had to turn away work as the quality of his work was outstanding. A couple of years later when he could afford it, he got a pickup.

For every opinion that you can get, you will find someone who believes the exact opposite and there you have it!

Having towed lots with all combinations, I can say that what you propose (less than 1000 ibs. ) works. The problems will be handling. Be careful of your tongue weight, as too much will really unsettle handling. I went excessive once and couldn’t enven make it out of a steep dirt drive. Too little is dangerous too. FWD are much less forgiving for towing abuses…esp balanced loads. Good luck otherwise,

Limit yourself to 1000# and perhaps 45 MPH and you should be able to get away with it, as long as you understand the effects of towing on vehicle handling. Be sure to balance the load in the trailer properly (approximately 15% of the total trailer weight on the tongue), and tie it down securely to prevent shifting.

Make sure your brakes are in top shape, and change your oil and transmission fluid.

As already stated, you can only put light loads on the roof. The limit is probably listed in your owner’s manual; I’ll bet it’s 100 or fewer pounds.

I have hauled many loads with my 96 prizm…I built a reciever hitch for it and I tow my 750 4x4 quad (865# dry wt) around on a trailer. I have hauled over 1500# of flooring 52 mls. I have a 5 speed man. I just reached the 200k mile mark and am still going…just balance your load…maintain your vehicle very well…and keep your distances …common sense my friend

With all due respect, and without intent to criticize your ways, the vehicle weight and braking systems are only sufficient for towing these weights until you need to make an emergency evasive maneuver or emergency stop. The towed weight could easily throw the vehicle + trailer out of control (the tail-wagging-dog scenerio) and the brakes could be unable to stop the vehicle safely. Especially if the driving environment includes curvy and/or hilly terrain.

I still strongly recommend against this. Simply for safety reasons.

Think about buying a used Crown Victoria or Grand Marquis. Best with rear air suspension. '98 and up have bigger brakes. If no air suspension get air lift coil inserts for the rear. You can to a lot with these. An HPP model has dual exhaust, rear air suspension, lower axle ratio, bigger antisway bars. They are a very cost-effective way to tow.

Posted by a person reputed to be a Ford suspension engineer. This is an HPP model:


That was posted in this discussion:

He has also posted with a pic towing a big boat between, IIRC, Michigan and Florida.

I see people pulling rental trailers with small cars all the time too. It is just plain dangerous in some cases. You can kill yourself or innocent bystanders.


You want a cheap tow vehicle that will handle 1000 ibs saftly and still be economical to run…bet you could trade even up for a 4 dr Sidekick/Tracker. Exc. towing loads, strong frame and solid braking…55 mph max is safest towing or not with one. Good seating and you can throw more on top, making it even more insecure. I loved mine for around town towing and dirt jobs.