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Towing Large Trailer With Small Truck

I am moving from Oregon to Northern California at the end of the month. The plan is to fill my 94 toyota 2wd 4cly Pickup and tow an enclosed 6 x 12 trailer behind. I do have to go over some mountains to get there. Is this a horribly bad idea?

The truck has been well maintained and runs well. It is alot cheaper to do it this way than to rent a Uhaul and then put the truck on a flatbed to tow this down there.

I wouldn’t do it. Especially in the mountains. If you absolutely must follow this dubious plan to save money, make sure you get a trailer with brakes. Assuming you make it up the mountain (which I have doubts), you don’t want the trailer pushing you down the other side.

I agree, very easy to overload with that big of a trailer. How about several trips with just the loaded pickup?

I would say go for it, if you can skip the mountains, though I doubt you can. I had a 91 and a 17’ fiberglass boat with a 90 horse I towed 530 miles to mn, with a manual trans, if it is automatic I would check your towing capacities and at least put in a transmission fluid cooler. If you can spare the days it is significantly cheaper if you return the truck to the place you rented it. I would look at deadheading (return to place of rental) with the uhaul, then driving the Toyota back

Towing a ton and carrying half a ton up a mountain might require driving wide open in 2nd gear for miles at 25 mph. It may be impossible to get that much weight moving if you stop on a steep grade. And on the down hill that trailer can get very squirrelly in a curve. Ricky and Lucy made a movie about towing a trailer. It was funny seeing them struggle with all the problems. It is far from funny when facing those problems for real.

Personally, I would take the time and spend the money to use a uhaul or budjet truck to do the work and drive back to get the pickup truck.

Do you have a friend with a truck large enough to carry the rest of your stuff? If you pay their gas and buy the food and beer, you will still have money left over compared to renting the truck and auto trailer.

I would not tow a 6X12 trailer behind a small pickup truck. It’s one thing to get the weight moving but it’s a whole new animal when it comes to stopping safely. I just don’t think the risk is worth it.

I think you can do it. You should be good to tow up to 3500 lbs with the right hitch, only 2000 if you use the bumper. Timing is important when you are driving on the edge of the envelope. Try for daytime when traffic will be light and if you need to stop along the way, make sure you are pointed downhill.

I don’t think a 6X12 U-haul trailer is that large and heavy of a trailer. If you do it start off gently, accelerate gradually, and give yourself lots off extra distance between you and the car in front for more braking time. Keep your speed down to 50-55 mph and stay in the right lane. Make believe you are driving a big truck. Take it slow uphill and use the downhill grades to pick up speed.

Before the trip make sure your cooling system is working perfectly. I’d get new fluid in the transmission and rear differential. This will be a tough trip on your truck, but is just might be able to handle it.

Upon further reflection and research I have decided that the 6 x 12 is too large. Though this trailer does have brakes, dry weight is 1920 lbs. This means I can put 80llbs in there before I am technically “overweight”. While this might be fine for a short trip I am going from Portland, OR to Oakland, CA, with a full load of stuff in the bed of the truck.

If I were hauling styrofoam or insulation I might go for it, but that is not the case. They rent a smaller trailer that is around 900 lbs empty. This seems a bit more appropriate. If it does not fit in that it stays in Oregon.

With that little truck I doubt whether you can even haul 1500 to 2000# max. In the mountains, I’d be as concerned about the trailer pushing the truck into a jack knife as I would about brakes or trying to pull the trailer up the hills. Just picture going down a long hill with a little curve and the trailer lifting and pushing the rear end. Wouldn’t matter how good the brakes were, you’re going where the trailer decides to take you. Rent a truck and pull the pick up behind it.

Technically, your vehicle is rated to tow 3500 lbs…perhaps. The truck is nearly 20 years old. It’s no longer safe to tow 3500lbs. A 2000 lb trailer empty is already unsafe IMO. Get a bigger, newer and more capable truck. I had a 4 cylinder Toyota Tacoma pick up. It was much newer. I would never think to tow much over 2 k lbs any distance. IMO, you are still unsafe with the 900 lb trailer if you load it up.

Just remember - every time I’ve moved, I left a number of boxes unpacked…for years. A ruthless review of what you have will likely reduce your load by a large amount.


I noticed you asked if this is “a horribly bad idea.” You didn’t ask if this is a good idea, so something is telling you “don’t do this!” Listen to that voice. This is a horribly bad idea.

One time when I moved from Dallas, TX to Hollywood, FL, I did it in two trips. On the first trip I only took things I would need right away. Then, a few months later, I made another trip to get the rest of my stuff. If money is really tight, I suggest you do something like this. Take only what you will need in the next few months, and then make another trip this holiday season to combine a nice visit with your friends and family in the old location with a trip to haul the rest of your gear.

“Whitey”. Great observation and alternative !

Some U-haul trucks can tow your car behind them. Maybe talk to them about it.

Back in my college years my best friend moved away and then back a few years later. His economical solution was to pack his stuff up and ship it via Amtrak. Each box had to be less than 50lbs. and max of 3 feet per side. The cost was quite reasonable then. Maybe they still do it?

There are also freight services (truck) that will ship to Oakland from Portland. You could use a service like Pods, but I’m sure it costs more for door to door service. If you can package and deliver your stuff to a depot and pick it up on the other end, you can save the most. If you haven’t looked into it yet, check it out. Do a web search for “truck freight shipping” and see what turns up.

It would be better to rent a LARGE U-Haul truck and then tow your little pickup truck behind it.