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SUV/Crossover that can tow 3000 lbs

I got such great feedback re: my hybrid towing question (thanks again) that I should come back for more ideas!

OK - so the hybrid is out. I am looking for a Used - vehicle (car/suv/crossover) to meet the following criteria:

  1. tow roughly 3000 lbs - I will be buying a very small camper but don’t know the weight yet - though from what I’ve read so far - 2500 lbs seems in the ball park
  2. best possible gas mileage!! 90% of my driving will not be towing anything - mostly highway as I live in rural colorado
  3. cargo space for my dogs and to haul stuff - would be nice to fit 1/2 sheet of plywood.
  4. toyota, subaru, honda (?), Mazda (?); ford escape; all considered
  5. Highly Unlikely to buy a chevy, dodge, VW, Kia, . . . lots of others - see #4
  6. Preferably < $15k

any ideas to help narrow my choices would be greatly appreciated - this is just too much to juggle and I don’t know where to start



Kelly, you have too many things on your list for anyone to make suggestions. Since you are buying used take your time and if you see something you might like just find the manual and see what the towing capacity is. Also you will have to except that towing and good fuel mileage are not compatible terms.

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You might want to raise your towing capacity it won’t take long for that 2500# to add up to a lot more by the time you get all your gear plus water tank filled.Also don’ forget propane tanks weiight.


What @Renegade said. Clothes are heavy. So is beer. Unless you’re planning to be naked and thirsty on your camping trips, up your tow ratings… :wink:

Also, your budget might work if you’re really lucky, but you’re going to have to look around a lot to find a vehicle that checks all your boxes and comes in under 15k.

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You are in the same quandary as a friend of mine. He wanted a small RV and had a Jeep Liberty that limited his towing to 5000 lbs. No problem, right? He could buy a small RV at around 3000 lbs empty - hard sides, single axle, hard sides, toilet and kitchen - but once loaded it was pushing 4500 lbs. Water and gear are heavy.

The Liberty could pull it BUT only got 21 mpg highway. It needed every bit of the V6 power it had to pull the trailer but that hurts mileage.

Lesson 1: like others here suggest, trailer weights grow faster than you think and Lesson 2: the ability to tow 3000 lbs will hurt your mileage

But an article that is right in your wheelhouse is here:

Yes it talks about 2017 vehicles but many have been around a while, like the Ford Escape.or Subaru Forester.or Mazda CX-9. Note that none of them cracks the 30 mpg point for highway mpg’s.

If I were going to be pulling a trailer/camper/boat, etc. on a regular basis… personally I’d get some kind of truck/full size SUV. I’m talking like a Chevy Silverado, Tahoe, that sort of thing. I know they tend to drink a little more gas… but those body on frame vehicles are designed for heavier loads than the average crossover/small SUV. It eliminates all the question marks in a situation such as yours.

Just my two cents. Good luck.

I was going to mention that the Forester has a max trailer weight of 1500 lbs, but that is for the 2015 model. The link above lists the 2017 model as 2500 lbs capacity, so apparently they made some changes. But I’d check the owner’s manual first.

I get 30-35 MPG highway (smallest engine with CVT)

Staying under 3000lbs for towing is very doable.

A small 8’ box pop-up by Jayco weighs under 2000lbs.

Or you can get something like a Livin-Lite (True Tent trailer) that weighs under 1000lbs.

Besides weight of the trailer you also have to consider the Max Gross Vehicle weight. That’s the weight of the vehicle+trailer+gear. That information is available on-line or at the dealer for any vehicle you’re looking to buy.

I tow a 1900lb Coleman pop-up. I put as much gear in the trailer as I can which brings the weight up to 2300lbs. Then another 100lbs of gear in the truck, but 3-4 people. I have no problem towing this with my 14 Highlander AWD V6. I’m sure there are plenty of vehicles that meet the criteria you’re looking for.

I’d stick with AWD or RWD. I’m not a big fan of towing with a FWD vehicle. Too hard to keep trailer under control if there’s a problem.

I’m a fan of teardrop campers. They have everything a normal camper has except unnecessary hallway space and a bathroom, which is OK by me because if I’m trailer-camping, I’m doing it in a campground and the campground will have its own bathroom that I don’t have to clean or worry about enzymatic levels in black tanks with. Plus, let’s be honest, close-quarter bathroom use after eating junk food and drinking beer isn’t exactly the greatest experience for anyone.

If I wanted something bigger I’d be looking at Scamps and, again, choosing the option to delete the bathroom.

And storage. Little too small for a family of 4-5. But they are cute.

I would not recommend a USED hybrid of any kind.

As mentioned your shopping list looks like a kid’s Xmas list. If your budget is limited skip the hybrid and buy a regular vehicle with a good repair record.

If possible, I would look into a used truck or full size suv that is used for towing and camping. It doesnt have to be the nicest thing around. Chances are that you would only tow a couple thousand miles per year. So get your fuel efficient car for daily driving and a truck for camping. Liability insurance will be minimal and you don’t have to worry about tearing up a crossover that is not designed to pull significant weight.

Something just as important to consider about towing is how un aerodynamic the camper is. It will act as a massive wind sail behind a small suv. Even though you maybe in the weight rating, you will have problems pulling a hill or towing into a headwind.

I am building a camper myself. I bought a e350 shuttle bus that I am in process of converting. Its not huge but will have the basics and be able to tow a car behind the bus.

It’s still 1500lbs, the link mentions new features for 2010 and the interior shot is obviously of an older generation Forester.

Thanks for the link! and takin’ the time to comment - good points

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LOL!!! I’m still chuckling! Hey - if you’re gonna ask for anything - might as well shoot the moon - you’ll always fall back to Earth (reality) eventually . . .

Wow! Once again I’m amazed at all the folks who have taken time to reply to my ‘wishful thinking’ post! Thanks Everyone

So - a little clarification:
I lived - full time - in a Rialta (Winnebago) for a year - so I’m well versed on the weight of things - but you all didn’t know that - so - again - thanks for all the tips.

Also - there’s just me, the dog(s? - future) and a cat that will be camping - so, no 2-legged kids and all their stuff. I appreciate the idea of 2 vehicles - but financially - buying 2 vehicles just doesn’t seem practical. I have other things I want to do with my limited $$. I’ll be selling the Rialta to pay for this. Kindof a swap.

As for the ‘trailer’ - @shadowfax and @MikeInNH - you’ve got the idea! I will be looking for a small/tiny camper - probably ‘pop-up’; no bathroom, but a shower is nice. I generally boondock (even w/ my Rialta - it has been many many places!) - on Forest or BLM lands - so at least 1 shower every 2-3 days is nice w/o having to move. the 15 gallon tank in my Rialta generally lasted 5 days w/ 2 ‘showers’ (if you could call them that!). Or I’ll take the ‘car’ and drive to a campground and buy a shower.

Anyway - I really appreciate all the replies - I’ll come back when I’ve narrowed the choices a bit

Happy Travels


It sound’s as if you got it together with the know how of camping. Good luck in you search.

I’d have hated to get rid of that Rialta. Those things were great!

Yes - the Rialta has been Wonderful - and still is - mine only has 70k! - barely a teenager (in miles anyway!)! But I found that I could not take it where I wanted to go. I’m done ‘full-timing’ (I think!) - so my needs have changed.
Take Care