Questions about my big move

Hello Everyone,
I am moving from Chicago to Santa Fe in May…I drive a 2000 saturn SL1 with 130K miles. It is is good condition and I want to pull a uhaul trailer 4x4x8. Is this a good idea? Will this car make it?? Please send my your advice, but please be nice. I will also check with my mechanic when I take it in for a final oil change and check-up in my hometown. thanks…

The SL1 can tow 1000#, including the trailer. If you have more than that, it might make sense to rent a truck just large enough to carry your stuff and then tow the SL1. I think the front wheels have to be off the ground. This information is in your owner’s manual if you still have it.

You need to check with a U-Haul office or online because they may not rent a trailer to you based on the vehicle you drive. If you follow the prompts on their site as to the car and trailer desired it will let you know whether or not they will even rent it to you.
There are legalities involved so U-Haul has to rightfully cover themselves.

That may be a lot of load for a small car. Assuming you can pull the trailer I would advise changing the transmission fluid (assuming it’s an automatic) and use extreme care in the mountains as the car could struggle going uphill and become a lot of mass to stop going downhill.

Nope. Wouldn’t do it. It would probably be ok, but the added load might just be enough to cause your 15 year old car to develop some troubles. Instead, rent a U-Haul truck, fill it with your stuff, and rent a dolly to pull your car behind it. Safer, easier, and much less wear on the car.

I’ve hauled that size trailer with a rear drive V8 car and it went well. Your car is definitely not capable of towing a loaded unit like that and as mentioned, U-Haul may not even want to rent you one.

Rent a truck or pack all your belongings in one of those containers and have it shipped to your new destination. You’ll be surprised how cheap that is since you are doing all the work, except for the shipping.

In addition to worrying about mechanical damage to her aged car, I think that the OP should consider that its brakes were not designed for that type of load.

Stopping distances will be increased to a great extent by the added weight, as will brake wear, and if the car is driven in mountainous terrain, it could well wind up with overheated brakes that will not stop the car.

Too much trailer for not enough car. You can flat tow an automatic Saturn SL1 because of the transmission design behind a rental truck but don’t. I would suggest a box truck and a car trailer, not a tow dolly, instead. It is safer and more reliable for a 130K mile car.

A look at the U Haul site shows they will allow some trailer rentals for your car with a limited load weight of around a half ton.

Even if allowable I would be very antsy about the distance, warm weather coming on, potential engine overheating, hills and mountains, and the potential loss of a 15 year old automatic transmission; especially so if the transmission has never been serviced in the past on a regular basis.

Compare the price of a remanufactured transmission and installation against the cost of a small truck and tow bar rental. The latter is not only a better financial option but a much safer one.

That’s a little much for your car. Rent a truck instead with a car hauler.

Empty weight is 850 lb. Chicago to St. Louis - OK. If you make it to Santa Fe (7,200 ft elev.) you will truly live up to your screen name.

Way too little car for towing.

I concur w/asemaster and texases, while it might be possible, not recommended. The amount you’ll save won’t be enough to fix a damaged transmission, or worse.

So what should you do, given you are going to make the move? I’d price out how much it would cost to rent a small truck from U-Haul, budget, penskie, etc. They’ll rent one way, no problem.

Easiest if you have help, a friend could drive the truck and you drive your own car. Or if by yourself, drive the truck first, then hop on a plane back to Chicago and drive your car back to Santa Fe. Me, I wouldn’t tow the car behind the truck though. Driving the truck alone is enough for a beginner.

I rented a 16 foot panel truck to move home items from Denver to San Francisco and had no problem at all. The price for renting trucks varies greatly, and depends a lot of when you want to rent it, and how far in advance you book the truck. So suggest to start pricing them out asap.

Good idea? Nope.
Will it make it? Maybe. But maybe not in healthy shape.

Suggestions? Rent a UHaul and a car dolly. USE the dolly to put the Saturn’s drive wheels on. DO NOT try to save money and use a tow bar. You do NOT want to be spinning the tranny’s internals down the highway without the benefit of the tranny’s internal pump running and providing lubrication.

Oh, and I seriously doubt if your Saturn’s brakes could stop the load safely in an emergency situation.

Even if you could make it and not damage your car, I’d not do this. Santa Fe is way up in the mountains and you’d have to climb significant grades. Even if your car could make it up those grades, it will only be at low speeds and it will be stressful. No fun whatsoever.

I also suspect you’ll find you have more stuff than that. What will you do if you start loading the trailer and find not everything fits or it weighs too much? Are you going to be thorough and weigh things as you load them? Doubt it. I can recall seeing too many cars barely pulling badly overloaded trailers down the highway at 30 mph and threatening to tip over every few feet. If you’ve been living in a dorm room with essentially no furniture this might work, but if that isn’t you, rent a proper truck or pay someone to move your things. It will be much less stressful for everyone and you can be sure all your stuff will make it.

I wouldn’t tow that far with the car you have.

If you could find a driver for a rental truck, unemployed or retired relative etc… You could drive your car out while they drive the truck. Then you would have someone to help unload the truck…return it and then just fly them home. You could also swap off driving the truck while they rode in comfort for awhile driving your car.


You could also swap off driving the truck while they rode in comfort for awhile driving your car.

I think you’ve got that backwards. I think a couple year old F350 would be far more comfortable than a 15 year old Saturn coupe. We don’t even know if the Saturn has A/C or power steering.

That depends on the truck she rents. I have road in a few that I think the seat was stuffed with sharp pointy rocks and the ride felt like they filled the tires with cement. Either way…one is going to have a nicer ride than the other.


A good friend, female, who had never driven anything larger than a Caprice station wagon faced the same situation and opted to rent a U-Haul. The drive was apparently challenging getting out of Chicago towing a car but otherwise pleasant. And U-Haul let her carry the truck to load it leaving her car on the tow dolly which they hooked up when the truck was ready to go and when she arrived the U-Haul people were quite helpful also it seems. They are accustomed to customers who can’t back trucks with a trailer attached.

The modern era U-Haul trucks are a lot more comfortable and pleasant to drive than they used to be. Most seats and seating positions are tolerable, cold A/C, decent stereo, and in most cases move in a straight line.

In the old days hard as a rock, stuffy, and wrestling a greasy pig with both hands were the operative words. The newer smaller trucks are no more difficult to drive than a van.

The part that would bother me is being in a dinky Saturn halfway across OK, TX, or KS and discovering the transmission has given up. The Monday morning quarterbacking that starts will then make the truck option look pretty good.

OR rent a truck big enough to put the little Saturn inside of. It wouldn’t even have to be U-HAUL or Penske’s biggest truck. Then all you need to find is a loading dock to drive it in and out, chains or straps to tie it down, and load all your other stuff on top of it. Docks are everywhere you see semi trucks parked. The truck rental place can tell you where to go. I gave a guy a six pack to use his once.

An acquaintance of mine BOUGHT a used Penske truck for $4000, drove it to Florida for his move, and sold it at a profit once he was there. You might not be that lucky all the time Debby, but it’s a thought if you have (or can borrow) some extra cash. Even if you sell it at a loss, you might save money.

No? Rent the truck and a tow dolly. Most rental outfits won’t let you use your own trailer or dolly, but it ain’t cheap.

Another thought: Sell your rusted frame Chicago Saturn, send your dab of stuff to Santa Fe by palletized motor freight, PODS or whatever, and buy a rust free car in Santa Fe.

I-80 to Cheyenne, hang a left and you’re practically there.