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North American Vehicle Tow rating

I belong to a user group site for a type of camper that weighs less than 2,000 lbs. A reccuring tread is what vehicle makes a good tow vehicle and it often leads a thread that US vehicles have a substantially lower tow rating (capacity) than the identical models sold overseas. The point being, they insist they can tow a 1,900 lb trailer with a vehicle that has US tow rating of 1,000 lbs because in Europe it has a 1,900+ lb tow rating. They go on to say that the legal “consequences” of towing above the “limit” that courts

long ago ruled that insurance companies can’t get out of paying claims

merely by pointing to some arbitrary limit.

Is there some facts I can quote or is it just speculation or opinion on towing above stated US limits and that the disparity of tow ratings are just about marketing and cya here in the US?

I can just anecdotally contribute to this:

  • Have you ever seen a sedan tow a trailer in the US? Advice on these message boards and general perception seems to imply you need an SUV or Truck

  • Go to Europe and you’ll see vehicles that are comparable to Impalas, Passats, E-Classes etc. (say: substantial sedans) pulling camper & boat trailers with seeming ease.

If the reason for this discrepancy are legal requirements, consumer perceptions about power and safety or different vehicle architectures I am not qualified to answer. I would be surprised if it was unsafe what the Europeans did though. Usually they are regulating things more and not less than the Americans (in Germany the government checks your car every 2 years for roadworthiness and if you ahve a chip in the windshield it won’t pass - why would they allow a Passat to tow a boat if it was unsafe).

I towed our 1700lb boat with a ranger 4 cyl engine, manual transmission 2wd, it was a problem in some bad boat launches, but if there were enough people in the bar to sit in the back of the truck to get the boat out it was ok. Had a 500 mile drive towing the boat with the ranger and needed an extra inch to the floorboard at times on hills but not too bad, I have upgraded to a trailblazer, 6 cyl 4wd on demand and enough power to tow the boat to and fro and out of any mess, let me look at the book, worst max trailer weight depending on axle ratio 5300 lbs, I don’t see tongue weight but it was well above anything I would tow, I seem to recall 2k lbs but don’t quote me on that.

First off, if you use the search function, there was a lengthy thread about this a month or two ago.

I’ve always sort of viewed the tow ratings as being sort of like the EPA gas mileage estimates in that they’re useful for comparing one model to another but aren’t necessarily the absolutely correct number.

I will also point out a sort of cultural observation which might help explain it a little. I think a lot of North American rating assumes the ability to tow at regular interstate speeds, wheras in Europe it’s just kind of assumed that if you’re towing you’re going to be taking it a lot slower than usual, often because the speed limit for cars towing trailers is itself pretty low.