Need recomendations for a three row vehicle that has decent towing abilities

I am interested in buying a different vehicle for my wife. We currently have a 2003 Ford Taurus Station Wagon. It did well but we have three kids age 16, 14, and 10 and it just doesn’t fit all of us anymore. We would like a vehicle that allows us to be comfortable but I have some specific requirements that must be met. We travel frequently on camping trips so we need space to haul our gear. Also, I am thinking of purchasing a pop up camper to haul with us so we can camp more often despite bad weather. I haven’t narrowed down what size camper yet so I can’t give you weights. We also often pull a 16ft trailer with several kayaks and canoes when we want to hit the rapids. So hauling would be important. Second, would be fuel efficiency. And lastly, price needs to be below $20,000. Could you recommend three vehicles that would best fit our needs? Thanks.

Used Toyota Sequoia, '01 to 07.

I would say a crew/ex-cab pickup Chevy or Ford. If it were me I would go with a 2 wheel DR. Chevy 5.3L V8. This way you can tow the camper and carry the kayaks and canoes. You can also upgrade later to a small 5th wheel and tow the kayaks and canoes behind the 5th wheel.
If you can keep the your Ford for every day use that would help with the fuel costs. Also with a 16 year old he could drive it as needed. Remember too the 16 year old will be out of the house or doing his/her own thing soon.
I tow a 25ft 5th wheel and a small boat & motor with my Chevy at the same time. Its not as hard as one would think. Mine is a 97 4X4 Chevy 5L and I just got back from a 2500 round trip pulling my 5th wheel. It has 323xxx on it. It used no oil and I got 12 mpg. Strong winds both ways.

10-15 grand will get you a nice 4 to 6 year old pickup. You should get 18-20 pulling a pop-up camper with gear.

3rd row
towing capacity
fuel efficient

pick 2

bscar makes an excellent point. This combination of criteria is impossible to meet unless you consider good fuel economy to be better than ten miles per gallon. As far as three vehicles that have a third row and good towing abilities, the three that come to my mind are the Toyota Sequoia, Ford Expedition, and Chevy/GMC Suburban. The Suburban is best if you also need to carry cargo inside the vehicle with the third row of seating occupied and would be my first choice among the three because they are cheaper and easier to find, purchase, maintain, and repair than the Ford or Toyota in my experiences (I nix the Sequoia due to its relative scarcity, high price in the used car market (expected being a Toyota), timing belt (a several hundred dollar routine maintenance expense), and higher repair costs for comparable repairs to either of the other two. If this type of cargo capacity is not necessary and you want something that is easier to drive, the Tahoe/Yukon can be added to the list as well. If your towing will be light (less than 3000 lbs or so; smaller pop-up campers are this light), most any minivan can also be added to the list. They are easier to live with on a daily basis than any of the behemoth vehicles listed above and will net you gas mileage in the lower 20s.

The most efficient crew cabs are the compacts. Their tow capacities are less but ok if camper tow weight is under 5k. The best compact out there is the Tacoma. The best full size IMO is a Ford. You will not get a new one under 20k.
You cannot get a fuel efficient vehicle that meets all your requirements satisfacturally. You need to establish a few priorities. Bscar is right.

A used Toyota Highlander can tow up to 3000#. A used Honda Pilot can tow up to 3500#. Both get a little less than 20 MPG city and mid-20s on the highway. You won’t find a SUV that seats 7 and tows that much and gets better gas mileage.

Pilot would be my thought, too, as long as 3500 lbs is PLENTY for your needs. You do not want to be replacing a transmission, something the Hondas seem to have trouble with. If 3500 lbs isn’t enough, then a the Sequoia, if not big enough inside, then an Expedition XL.

I agree. It’s really tough to get long life out of a vehicle like a Pilot working near it’s capacity. I’m envisionining a car full of teens with all the gear, camper and kayaks in tow. 3500 lbs may be technically within the balancing act of towing, but the pay load capacity or gross vehicle weight vehicle capacity could be approached when loaded as well…I’d recommend a Sequoia, Expedition, Yukon type vehicle too, with of course it’s accompanying worse mileage. Bscar is still right…

I would NOT consider a pickup with 3 teen age kids…Maybe if you only take 10 mile trips…but an hour or 2 (or longer) then that gets really cramped.

I would definitely recommend a SUV with 3rd row seating.

What you’re towing doesn’t sound too heavy at all…Any vehicle rated a class II would do…but you also have to consider the people and gear.

A vehicle with a good V6 would be fine…but you need ROOM…That’s going to be the problem.

My recommendations is a larger SUV. My favorite in this range is the Nissan Armada…A bigger version of the Pathfinder.

As for gas mileage…FORGET IT…You’re asking way too much. Anything that can haul 5 people around and tow is NOT going to get good gas mileage. When you’re driving by yourself and keeping the speed and acceleration down don’t expect no more then 19…When towing and fully loaded…if you get 16 you’re doing GREAT.

Thanks so much for all your insight. I am sure the one I get is on your list of recomendations.

I need to disagree with those who feel all you need is room and tow capacity of car based SUVs and minivans. Please keep in mind that tow weights are on a continuum. It does not mean that a Pilot tow weight is fine and legal until you reach 3500 lbs, 5k or what ever, and suddenly it isn’t. The performance progressively deteriorates until IT becomes unacceptable. With a payload load capacity of only1400 lbs which further deteriorates the performance and safe handling, don’t expect a Pilot to perform well towing ANYTHING, fully loaded with 5 adult passengers and gear. You need a bigger vehicle and a v8…and it needs to be truck based for the safety of your loved ones.

The suspension and tires on a car based SUV and minivan are already compromised by the maximum load. They cannot in general safely deal with towing anything very substantial beyond a light trailer with just the kayaks. And to be realistic, Pilots and Highlanders are worked up minivans.