Blogs Car Info Our Show Deals Mechanics Files Vehicle Donation

Pull a trailer with a Chevy HHR?

I’m in the market for a new vehicle, and I have a question about the Chevy HHR. My wife and I have 3 sons, ages 5,4, and 3 and we have a 16 foot fishing boat that weighs somewhere between 600 and 800 pounds (I’m guessing). We have a 1999 Chevy Suburban, but I’m interested in the HHR due to its ability to transport the family along with the car seats and all the stuff that goes along with traveling with three young children as well as its fuel economy (30 mpg, twice what the Suburban gets). Here’s my question: Is it a good idea (or at least not a horrible idea) to pull the boat behind the HHR with its 2.2 liter engine? Would the 5-speed manual transmission be a better option than the 4-speed automatic for such a task?

With a light duty vehicle, an automatic transmission is better for towing. But check the HHR specs to see what the towing limits are.

An auxiliary transmission cooler is a good thing to install.

I’m not convince that you can put your kids in the back seat comfortably. The lack of room will lead to fights. If not now, surely as they age. What’s brother or sister for but to annoy and slap around? C’mon, think like a child. We all did it if we had sibs. Keep the Suburban for a while until you find a car or truck with 3 rows that you like. It really is worth it. I have 3 children and the best thing we ever did for travel was to get a minivan. I don’t know if that would work for you, but if you can tow with and HHR, you can tow with a minivan.

The automotive section at lists the maximum towing for the HHR to be 1000 pounds. Not good. I am in agreement with JT: a minivan will keep everyone much happier int he long run, and have a much higher towing capacity. Decent fuel economy, too, if you buy the right one.

First, you should never guess about the weight of your payload. Second, the HHR doesn’t appear on the Chevrolet trailering guide at so it probably isn’t designed for towing. The Equinox looks like Chevy’s smallest tow vehicle. To tow something this size and weight, I recommend a small pick-up truck or a small truck-based SUV as a minimum.

It sounds to me like a minivan might be a better alternative. The Toyota Sienna and the Honda Odyssey both get pretty good fuel economy and will easily tow that much.

According to the Chevrolet web site, the HHR is only rated at 1000 lbs Towing with either the 2.2 or 2.4 engines. Are you including the weight of the boat and the trailer in your estimate? If you still want the HHR (I’m considering one to replace my 2000 Blazer in a few years), make sure you can fit the two or three booster/car seats in the back. If gas mileage is your primary concern, a minivan will give you a lot more room and towing capacity. Both our 98 Windstar and its replacement, a 2006 Sienna are rated at 3500 lbs towing capacity. Both vehicles got about 20 mpg local driving and about 26 highway mpg.

I did a quick search on the internet to get some weight estimates, a 16 ft aluminum fishing boat - 600 to 800 lbs, an outboard motor (25 hp) - 105 lbs, and a trailer - 250 to 500 lbs. These are only rough estimates, but I don’t think the HHR could handle it.

Ed B.

I don’t have a wife and I don’t have 3 kids, but I frequently tow a trailer with a gross weight of +1200 pounds behind my Morris Minor with around 70 bhp without any problems, so how should You be able to get in trouble?. Oh, I forgot to mention - I am not able to keep a steady speed of 80 mph uphill on the highway (oh - well, the speedlimit is 50, I’ll survive).

It’s NOT just the towing weight you need to worry about it’s the Gross weight which includes towing weight and cargo weight. I think with 3 kids and all the gear and the boat it will be way too much for the HHR.

If horsepower was the only consideration, we would not need to worry about frame strength and suspension components. Unfortunately, adequate horsepower does not a tow vehicle make.

I just read recently, I think not here, about a man who towed a 3,000 pound trailer several miles with a small motorcycle. I betcha that wasn’t in an urban area. And,I’d like to see what happened when he wanted to slow down. That sounded to me like finals for the Darwin Award.

Back in the 1970s we pulled a camper trailer of about that weight from the midwest to the New England states and back with a 1.9 liter car with a manual transmission and it did just fine. For the sake of your family’s safety, you might want to equip your trailer with brakes. I would not know if an automatic would do better or worse. With an automatic, however, you don’t want to drive so that the trans “hunts” between the final gear and lockup. Too much of that will ruin an automatic trans.

Try considering something totally differant. I own 3 vehciles for just me and the new wife. We both have cars. But I picked up a 20 year old regular cab Dodge Dakota 4x4 with a 5.9L V8. I pulls my boat, gets me around in bad weather and gives me a truck to work that I don’t care if it gets banged up. I only get 8 MPG, but who cares! I drove less than 3000 miles the last 18 months. Sure, I looked for nearly a year to find the right deal, but I only have $2,500 in it and I plan on keeping it till it falls apart. Oh…It replaced a truck I had for similar reasons, a 92 F250 with over 200,000 miles on it. I gave it to my son so I could get a 4x4.

We used to pull a Sunfish sailboat with a 1 liter 3 cylinder '91 Geo Metro 5 speed manual.

No trailer at a steady 55 mph resulted in about 51 mpg or 1.08 gallons of fuel per hour.

Pulling the boat at a steady 55 mph resulted in 45 mpg or 1.22 gallons per hour.

Driving 70 mph without a trailer resulted in about 38 mpg or 1.84 gallons per hour.

My conclusion is that pulling a trailer at 55-65 mph is easier on the machinery than going 70-80 without a trailer. Automatics make it easier to back the trailer into the water but I would think that manuals would hold up better on the highway if you can drive without abusing the clutch. It’s not all about horsepower though. Sometimes it’s the vehicle’s brakes that determine maximum towing capacity.

For what it’s worth, that Geo Metro lasted over 280,000 miles and it still has the original clutch in it.

Dont buy an HHR. Im a small guy so I fit in it but when my bigger brother sits in the front or rear, he looks like a tuna in a can. Not a great car. Shouldnt have bought it.

My concern with towing isn’t the engine and drivetrain, it’s the brakes and handling. If you fry the engine or tranny it’ll ruin your day, but if you need to make an emergency stop or evasive maneuver and are unable to because you’ve pushed the limits, it may ruin the rest of your life.

Failure to go can put you in a bad mood. Failure to stop can put you in a morgue.

Holy smokes-a Morris Minor again? We need pics. I used to have a 1960 MM back in 65. Fun car but mine was shot when I bought it. Made a VW bug look like a monster though.

I thought it might be fun to have one of those until I saw the towing capacity. I think it could do it but I’d want to be able to tow more like 1500 to 2000#.

Back in 1975 I bought 3 Morris Minors for 75 bucks. One was a semi-complete parts car, one a complete non-runner, and a straight, complete car running well. Black with a large yellow daisy painted on the roof and an engine that measured about 18" long. Was really stylin’ in that one! It was kind of a fun little car to dink around in and was actually pretty reliable.

Whatever you decide to do, get brakes installed on your boat trailer. Pulling a trailer with any vehicle is less safe than not pulling a trailer. Auto or manual trans will work. If you use an auto trans, don’t let the trans cycle into and out of lockup. There should be a selector position to keep it out of lockup. Follow the vehicle mfr’s recommendation regarding weight. We towed a trailer loaded with lumber to around 700 or so lbs on many 110 mile trips with a 2 liter car with never a problem in mostly flat terrain.

If you want a picture, then here you have it. My old faithfull since -91, she was born in 1968 so she’s still a young lady. I’ve done a few mods here and there and have done around 370k miles since I got her, including a trip from Hoboken, NJ to Chico, Ca. Oh, how I would love to do that trip again. Well, no work permit possible so we are back in Denmark. Btw. Legal towing limit is 1850 pounds with brakes and 1100 without.

Thanks fpr the pics. That’s a neat little rig. Now I wasn’t aware that Morris made trucks so is that a converted sedan or was it actually a truck?