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Small Cars & Trailer Hitch Installation

I have been pulling a small motorcycle trailer (about 900 lbs fully loaded) with my 2003 Elantra. I’ve trailered my sport bike up to 850 mile (1700 mi. RT) with no issues, yet!

I have a couple of questions about towing a trailer with a small car as I am in the market for a new small car (Cruze, Elantra, Forte). 1) What factors dictate a car’s ability to tow a trailer? 2) Will towing void a manufacturer’s warranty (one car sales rep told me towing with a small car will void the warranty of every small car sold in America.

Read you manual. It should have all the information you need.

The best thing to look for is a car where you can easily install and remove the trailer hitch receiver on the car, with no remaining evidence of the install.

In this regards, the Toyota Corolla has always been one of the best choices.
You press the receiver into place, and screw in the 4 bolts, and tighten them to 68 ft-lbs.
You don’t need to move mufflers, remove heat shields, drill into the trunk, or fish nuts or bolts into the frame rails to mount the trailer hitch receiver.

The Elantra looks like you have to remove the muffler first to get the hitch into position, but also just needs 4 bolts to hold it to the sides of the frame rails.

The Cruze requires fishing bolts and spacers through the frame rails.

The Forte also requires removing the muffler, and possibly moving the rear bumper cover out of the way.


Towing won’t void a warranty if the owner’s manual allows it.

In a small fwd car it’s always an issue when it comes to towing. Along with the excellent advice given, I would suggest you check the weight distribution of the small fwd cars too. Anything that is better balanced for handling, closer to 50/50, would not be as advantageous for towing.

This might exclude better handling Civics and small Mazdas but might not be as much a factor in an intermediate. You might not have as much tongue weight safety margin which has to be enough for trailer stability. Small cars will have more problems with excessive tongue weights than tow weights overall. Obviously the maximum recommended tow weight has much to do with it, but IMO recommended tow weights are often misleading in small cars and I would always provide a safety margin because of the handling related tongue weight issue. So, a nice nose heavy, poor handling heavy front end bias for a small fwd car, plow horse.

For the size and weight of your payload, I recommend a four cylinder Toyota Tacoma or Ford Ranger. Today’s front wheel drive four cylinder cars are not made for towing.

I have a small motorcycle trailer and a light weight motorcycle too, but I would never tow it with a small economy car. Either get a small truck or a large sedan, like an old police cruiser.

Today’s owners manuals are not what they once were…Useful information can be hard to find…

“Please see your dealer with any additional questions…”

The automatic transmissions found in most 4-cylinder cars are just barely capable of handling the car itself…Adding a trailer, even a modest trailer, puts them into overload condition…Then there is the question of what to bolt the hitch to…

That’s the overall best advice for any person who tows much. But OP will have to give up some economy for all that safety, durability, handling, capacity etc… This tongue in cheek “opinion” article best represents how I feel about FWD cars used for anything, towing included.

Big American manufacturers (all heavily invested in front drive) like to say that for 99 percent of drivers, driving at normal speeds, FWD’s inherent understeer and better traction in the wet makes it preferable – both safer and easier to drive quickly. It’s only the 1 percent of speed freaks who enjoy breaking the rear end loose and then catching it with a bit of “reverse lock.”

I agree with the manufacturers. Taking corners fast, in any vehicle, is fun, but the public roads are not the place to get your jollies. The kind of driving where you can appreciate the handling characteristics of RWD are best left for the track.

Here is a guy who really enjoys his RWD.

FWD cars are less safe merging into traffic from a standstill while pulling out of a street, especially in less than ideal conditions. They are naturally incapable of both accelerating and turning in an optimal fashion. I know that fwd cars are relatively safe driven within their limits. Those limits are quite small. The safest cars made which include optimal handling in emergency situations would not include ANY fwd on my list.

I’ve owned and will at some point, own again a fwd car. Only because they are cheap, space efficient and in more fuel efficient cars. NOT for any other reason. It’s a sacrifice we all make. I believe, unless by some engineering turnabout, they will continue to handle poorly, wear tires excessively and counteract intuitive actions in routine driving, which is unsafe IMO.

Look for something with a towing package. If it does not come with one it is not worthy!

Subjecting any vehicle to uses other than those specifically authorized by the manufacturer will void the warranty under “abuse/failure to maintain” clauses.
Furthermore, at least according to my agent, it will VOID YOUR INSURANCE in the event of an accident while towing such an unauthorized load.