Towing capacity: 2008 Honda Ridgeline vs 2021 toyota sienna

I am wondering why the towing capacity is so different between a 2008 Honda Ridgeline truck (5,000 lb) and our 2021 toyota sienna (3,500 lb). The vehicles are about the same weight (4,500 vs 4,600 curb weight) and have almost identical horsepower listed (247 vs 245 HP). Does anyone know the answer to this?

Who knows. But a seldom mentioned issue is radiator cooling capacity. The vehicle has to be able to tow the rated load at freeway speed in high temperature situations, worst case, and that might dictate a lower max for the Sienna.

It could also be body/chassis design, the Sienna can’t handle more than 3500 lbs.

Or it could be a limitation of the transmission…on and on…


thanks for the help we were looking to buy a camper but we needed to know if we needed a truck or we could use our minivan

Pay careful attention to the manufacturer’s recommendations and ratings for any towing. You made very naive assumptions about towing capacity based on horsepower and weight. As @texases posted, that is not all there is to consider.

Search for “trailering guide 2021” for tow ratings for every vehicle sold in 2021. It is compiled by an RVing magazine.

Make sure you know the details of your van to compare with the listings. Things like towing packages, engine size, extra cooling, ect.

Use the unloaded trailer weight plus the weight of your gear, water, fuel, luggage and such. A 3500 lb empty trailer may grow to 4500 lbs when loaded exceeding the capacity of your van.

Don’t forget trailer brakes and the controller required to apply them. Generally, more that 1500 to 1900 lb trailers must have brakes.

edit… check here for towing capacity for your vehicle and any you might purchase


If you just have to tow a camper… the very best vehicle to use is a body on frame vehicle. Such as a full size pickup truck, large SUV, something of that nature. Minivans don’t have a “frame” per se, and while they can tow lighter things, where you run into trouble is braking.

OK, PSA moment over.


A stronger structure to connect the trailer hitch to. Heavier brakes. Heavier duty transmission, possibly with a cooler. Enough capacity in the rear to hold the trailer weight (stolen from FoDaddy). Rear wheel drive or AWD versus front wheel drive. Stuff like that.

Payload is the bigger issue most of the time on everything up to and including 1/2 ton trucks.

For example. My 1/2 ton truck is rated to tow over 10k pounds however in the real world I’m going to run out of payload before I get to that point. The payload capacity on my truck is just under 1900 pounds (which is on the high side for a non-HD payload, non-max-tow truck). Let’s say I buy a travel trailer that has a towing weight of 9000 pounds, sounds good on paper right? Well below the max rated towing capacity. But in reality, it’s too heavy; here’s why

You want between 10% and 15% of the trailer’s weight on the tongue. We’ll split that, and say 1125 pounds. But we’re going to need a weight distributing hitch for something that heavy, so add another 125 pounds for that. We need propane for our trailer, and they are going to be located near the tongue, two 33 pound tanks will weigh about100 pounds, and we’re going to need some batteries so another 100 pounds there. We’re currently at about 1500 pounds of payload, and nobody has even gotten in the truck yet. So I climb aboard (we’ll call it 200 pounds), and now with the driver aboard we have less than 200 pounds of payload left for luggage/supplies and other people/pets. You can kinda see where this is going. Realistically a 9,000 pound trailer is too heavy for a truck that’s rated to tow 10,500 pounds.

On 3/4 ton and 1 ton trucks, with significantly higher payload capacities this sort of thing is less common, but on 1/2 tons and everything under that, the stated towing capacity is only happening if you have the unicorn half-ton ( Typically a single cab, long bed, lowest trim level, with the top engine, and the HD payload package and the max tow package (which isn’t the regular factory tow package).

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What’s the transmission configuration of the Ridgeline vs the Sienna? 70’s era, my dad liked to tow stuff on family vacations, and quickly discovered his pickup’s manual transmission was much more agreeable to towing than his other similar-size vehicle’s automatic transmission.

One time he was towing a house trailer to a summer campground and somehow got the trailer stuck fast between two trees … lol . .but that’s another story.

The Sienna is a hybrid, with gas/electric on the front axle and an electric on the rear. The Ridgeline has a V6, FWD biased AWD, better set up for towing.

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Good explanation. Given that configuration, I’d be pretty cautious about using the Sienna to tow anything at all myself.

Ridgeline starts out on the same platform as the Pilot and Odyssey but with a few changes to allow a higher tow rating and payload. Otherwise it would have been given a tow rating similar to the Sienna or Odyssey of the same year.

I’d also note that an engine’s horsepower is kind of meaningless when talking about towing. Engine torque is a much more important number, as it refers to “pulling power”.

As an example…a gas and a diesel engine might have the same horsepower, but I’d bet a dozen donuts that the diesel engine will have 2x as much torque. And this is why you see diesel trucks pulling really heavy loads.

Or blowing out clouds of black smoke while speeding down the highway with no load or trailer. But that’s another topic…

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I happened upon a tv show last night titled “America’s Truck Hour”, something like that. 5 individually owned, owner-modified trucks and their owners compete against each other, negotiating various types of courses, towing stuff up steep hills, driving through mud, deep water, rock-crawling through winding ravines barely wide enough for the truck to fit, etc. Jeeps, Toyotas … One of the trucks was a Ford Ranger, so of course I took to rooting for that one. For that episode anyway, it seemed like engine power wasn’t quite as important as torque. Being able for the truck to move forward from a dead stop. when moving forward required a lot of force , but not spinning the tires, was important. Next in line was the wheelbase, bigger was better than smaller.

We used to tow a 2000lbs boat with a 1988 Plymouth Grand Voyager V6 rated for 4,000lbs which has less HP and torque than the 2019 Honda CRV dad uses to pull the utility trailer that didn’t seem to care that t had 1,500lbs of utility trailer and gravel which is exactly what the CRV’s rated for. Tows at least as well as his previous 2007 CRV.

Towing tests at the time rated the Grand Voyager at closer to 3,500lbs max.

There’s a huge spread on tow ratings for the F150 from about 6,000lbs for the basic truck up to 12,000 or more depending on how it’s equipped.

I’ve said this before in this forum…I’m NOT a big fan of towing with a FWD vehicle. AWD is acceptable if not too heavy. The hitch is a pivot point between the trailer and vehicle. With a FWD vehicle you don’t have a lot of control of that pivot point. If the trailer starts swaying…FWD vehicle will have much more difficult getting it under control.


Toyota is a lot better/stronger built than [after 2000] honda. Especially transmission. I would rather take my chances with Sienna. But face it: none of these is really something you want to tow with on a regular basis. Get a 4Runner.

One other thing that might factor in is the gearing. For example, if the transmission as a first gear ratio of 4:1 and the axle ratio is 4:1, the final drive ratio is 16:1. However, if the final drive ratio is 3:1 then the final drive ratio is 12:1. The higher the final drive ratio for first gear, the better it would be for towing. In addition, the more gears in the transmission (say 9 speed vs. 6 speed), would be better because there would a lower drop in engine speed with each shift. But this would probably not be as important as the other factors noted here, such as torque and body on frame construction.