OK to tow a trailer?

I own a 1999 Toyota Camry Solara SLE V6 with about 120,000 miles, and have had this car for just over a year now. I am moving from mid-Missouri to mid-Pennsylvania in the beginning of August (about 900 miles), and am having trouble deciding which method to use and could use some suggestions.
I need to move enough stuff that I can’t fit it all in my vehicle, but my biggest piece is a full-sized mattress. I have a lot of books that will be heavy and bags of clothes-but not too much else besides that. I have considered either 1. Towing a small trailer with the Solara, or 2. Renting a moving truck and a car trailer and towing my car along to PA. Of course, renting a small trailer would be less expensive than a truck-but I am concerned about the pressure this will put on my engine. I really need this car to last me as long as possible, so am trying to treat it well. I am a graduate student who is operating on a budget, which is why I can’t go with my first preference of hiring someone to deal with all of this for me! 
I would appreciate any thoughts, suggestions, and/or experience.

Personally, I’d be leery about towing much with this vehicle. Your owner’s manual should give information about how much it can tow…or whether it should tow at all. As for me, I’d rather get the truck and put the Solara on a trailer for the trip. It might cost, but blowing something out in the car will almost certainly end up costing more. A 13 year old Camry with 120K on the clock isn’t my first choice for towing anything except the tiniest of trailers.

Just my two cents.

Check your owners manual first, but I think you can tow a small trailer with this since you have the V6. The question would be the transmission. If you have an automatic, you should probably at least change the transmission fluid in it before you go.

You also need to check with the rental company. You may not be able to attach a temporary (bumper) hitch to this. If you have to buy and have a hitch and associated wiring installed, and get the transmission fluid changed, renting the truck might not seem as expensive.

Your cheapest alternative might be to use a shipping company, not FedEx or UPS but a regular shipping company. Pack everything yourself and take it to their location, a little at a time with your car, then drive to the new location and pick everything up, again at their terminal.

Thanks for the suggestions Keith (and budd2049). I see what you’re saying about price adding up when considering the hitch and transmission fluid change.
I am curious about this other option you mentioned-can you give me a better idea of what type of ‘regular shipping company’ you are thinking of? This seems like it would be the easiest for sure, and worth checking into to see how expensive it is. I’m only familiar with FedEx or UPS, which I know would be way too expensive.
Thanks again!

If you are willing to prepare the vehicle properly. If I checked correctly, it has a 2000 lb tow rating, so it’s no slouch. But, it’s older and you may be carrying lots of additional weight in the car which together with the trailer will definitly need good prep. I would keep the trailer weight under 1000 lbs, check the gross vehicle weight and drive under 65. Be willing to accept problems but theoretically, you can do it.

It might work better to sell most of your “stuff” before you move and buy “new” (to you) stuff when you get there…Especially things like mattresses…

If you can “palletize” your stuff, pack it securely on a standard shipping pallet and deliver it to your local truck freight terminal, they will ship it to your new city very reasonably, you pick it up at the terminal. They will charge you by the distance traveled and how many hundred pounds that pallet weighs…

Call and see what iPOD and ABF freight can do for you, for a small container. I think they offer your loading on site at your house, or at their terminal, depending on what is allowed in your neighborhood/apartment complex. I priced ABF on line (for reasons I don’t really remember), but the charge wasn’t as bad as I thought. Some regular moving companies also offer limited/ DIY services that are also reasonable. You need to call around and do some price comparisons.

The Postal Service offers a heavily discounted rate for shipping books and a few other things called ‘Media Mail.’ What’s also nice is that is a flat rate from anywhere in the US to anywhere else. There are some restrictions on content, but for shipping books it’s a competitive rate. Last time I used it the rate was about $6 for a ten pound box. Weigh some of your books, you may find it’s cheaper to ship them. The rest of your stuff is probably much lighter and could be handled by a small trailer, or you could ship through a freight company. The mattress and any furniture should be evaluated. If they are newish or suit you perfectly, take them, otherwise I’d consider selling and buying when you get there. If it is a major college town there will be a lively trade in household goods being passed downloads to the new students.

So that’s a 2-day trip of about 800 miles…entirely doable pulling a small trailer with your Camry.

You can either pay a local UHaul place to install a hitch, or buy one online from eTrailer.com and install it yourself. eTrailer is a great website for trailer hitches, and they even have videos showing how to install on your vehicle.

eTrailer sells two types of hitches that eill fit your Camry: one that has a tow capacity of 3500 lbs and requires drilling through the underside of the car, and one that has a tow capacity of 2000 but doesn’t require drilling. I’d go with the 2000 lb hitchnto avoid drilling, assuming your cargo plus trailer won’t exceed that weight. If you’re moderately handy with tools, you can install it yourself. Just be aware of the 2000 lb total weight/ 200 lb tongue weight limit.

As for the car, just make sure the cooling system is working well, and the transmission is full of fluid. If you haven’t had the transmission serviced (fluid changed and filter cleaned) in some time ( consult your manual for recommended interval), now would be a good time to have it done. Don’t let anyone sell you a transmission “flush,” which is a waste of $$ IMO, and not necessary. Tell them you want a drain and fill only, and clean or replace the filter. Also, now would be a good time to flush the cooling system and have new coolant put in, if you haven’t done that in last 2 years.

Just go easy on the speed, drive carefully, and you’ll be fine.

I’d say the V6 has plenty of power to tow if it is running good. The cost of a hitch is what you need to investigate, they aren’t cheap. Wiring the car for trailer lights can get pricey too. U-Haul’s smallest trailer would be fine to tow if all your stuff will fit. The next size up, 5X8 I think, is heavier but should be OK if not loaded with heavy stuff like appliances.

There is a shipping company that drops off moving “containers” like the storage Pods you’ve seen. When full you lock it up, call the company which picks it up and drops it off at your new location and then you unload it. Check for prices on this service before you make a decision on moving logistics.

Just last week I bought a class II hitch for my 03 Camry. This is an easier install than a 99 as it does not require drilling. Keep that in mind…

I watched all the videos. They make it look easy. I bought all the gear from thehitchstore. It was cheapeast and came with the best fit drawbar already included, something that might be difficult for a novice to figure out. Also bought the converter so the electrics were plug and play.

First hurdle was the existing bolts holding a muffler bracket and the heatshield. Rusted big time. I was concerned about snapping one off in the captive nuts inside the boxed “frame rail”. Due to muffler and curvature of body only wrenches could fit the heatshield bolt. The muffler hanger did not survive. Universal ones wouldn’t work and OEM was $35 and order only. Had to fabricate my own.

The fun was on the other side. Due to exposure ( only one was covered with tape from factory) the threads were toast. Spent hours trying to find unusual tap size 10m 1.25. Had to buy $40 set to get one. Chasing threads was not easy either.

Long stort short, after all those years it’ll be harder to install than you think and cost a couple hundred at least if you diy. Someone is going to charge at least another $100 to put it in. IMO, better to put it toward a rental truck if you’re not going to tow regularly.

BTW- the 4 cyl pulls nicely. As regularly mentioned, stopping is noticeably longer even with a light trailer.

I see you got some answers or recommendations on freight companies, but these are often localized, so you should search your yellow pages for one. The lowest cost for you will be to box it up and take it to the terminal yourself and pick up at the terminal on the other end.

BTW, about that mattress. If it is not an expensive mattress that is fairly new, then ditch it. At your new location, if you have or know someone with a Costco membership, you can get a pretty good replacement at a reasonable cost.

You might not have to tow the mattress if you get rid of it. The special fourth class rate for shipping books is really a good thing from the U.S.P.S. You don’t have to get a towbar or rental trailer because of the cost and the potential for flat tires. I had to mentio flat tires because I watched the Sister Wives episode that showed total tire failure on three cars and two trailers. Mattresses cost a lot less than trailers,towbars and repairs if you add things up the way I do. (Don’t go that crazy).

Drive happy and brake safely without all the extras that can trail behind you. We used to make fun of the farmers who did snow removal on the Air Force base. If they ran into something we’d say that he doesn’t know how to drive unless he’s towing something. Do tailgaters bother farmers or do they make farmers feel right at home?

I was like this at work too. My boss put it in writing on my performance report that I was unsympathetic (or something) toward the other workers. I would walk right into a room half full of farming people and ask if there were any other kind of potatoes than Northern Maine Blackhearts in the stores around there. The other half of the room started laughing but for some reason I got no answer from the farming guys.

What was the question again?

Ship the books, ditch the mattress, that should free up some room.
If the mattress is fairly new, ask a friend with a truck to take it to the post office or UPS shipping place and get a price on that, as well as your books. I doubt the USPS will ship a mattress, but you never know.

Let me give you one more piece of my experience. I still have many of my college text books and have shipped them all over the world. My wife still has all of hers and she was an art major so that is a LOT of books. Here’s the thing, I don’t know why we ever kept most of them, they have never been opened and they are out of date now anyway. They are about as useful as a 1949 set of Encyclopedia Britannica.

My point is, look at each book carefully and decide if it is really worth keeping. As with any possession, you do not own them, they own you. You have house and care for them, provide for all their needs. Do they serve you enough to be worth that cost and effort. Maybe they would be more useful at a library.


I don’t recommend shipping a mattress, even if it is new. On large oddly-shaped items, you pay what they call the “dimensional weight” which is a calculation of how much space will be required to ship the item. On an item like this, the dimensional weight will be higher than the actual weight.

Because mattresses are light and awkwardly shaped, I would move those in the trailer and ship the heavier stuff. I like @Caddyman’s idea to ship your heavy stuff on pallets. It allows you to load the pallet(s) yourself and get the best rate for shipping.