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Towing or Van?

I have a 1997 Toyota Avalon, paid for. It is in good shape for a 15 year old car. Research says the most I can tow with this car is about 1000 pounds.

Here is the question/issue. I have a side business where I go to about 2 trade shows a month, not very far, maybe 20 miles. I have been renting a truck for $90 per event or about $180 per month.

I am looking to save money…not as easy as it sounds. Also, if I can go farther, there are other show opportunities.

Here are the options:

  1. Buy a used van, maybe $6,000 max
  2. Get a small trailer and towing hitch for the car.
  3. Get a newer vehicle with more towing capacity and then get the hitch and trailer.


  1. This is “simplist” and most expensive, money out of pocket and more insurance.
  2. The trailer/hitch is least expensive and then I am probably going to kill the transmission on the 15 year old car and I have limited towing capacity even after the new transmission.
    3, This might be the best compromise. Spend the money on the vehicle to “freshen” my ride then get the trailer.

Have I missed any options? Any other suggestions besides a little red wagon?

Thanks for the help.

Any vehicle you buy you can tow with isn’t going to be cheap. I take it what you want to tow can’t be in a open trailer. I’ve yet to see a closed trailer (except those micro ones that are smaller then your car trunk) that weighs less then 1000lbs. So you’ll need a minimum of a Class I…probably a Class II.

A small to mid-size SUV will do fine (depending on load). Not too many cars are rated for Class II towing.

Can you write off the rental as a business expense?

I know that many small businesses lease vehicles so they become an expense (not taxable), rather than buy a vehicle that becomes a capital investment (taxable).

Talk to a CPA.

Keep the weight well under 800 because of age… And try it.

+1 for dagosa.

Where can you get an enclosed trailer that weighs less then 800lbs…not to mention his cargo.

If you’re absolutely sure the trailer and cargo will never exceed 1,000 pounds, I’ve noticed Lowe’s and Home Depot have a nice selection of light weight enclosed trailers. Just don’t let U-Haul install your trailer hitch. They do a notoriously sloppy job with the electrical connection. You might be better off finding an RV dealership or boat trailer specialist to install your hitch for you, and it might even be cheaper than U-Haul.

If your cargo is in weatherproof containers, or can’t be damaged by moisture, you might be better off with an open utility trailer, but you’ll have to strap down your cargo. An open utility trailer will be lighter and more aerodynamic, which is a good thing when you’re towing with a car.

If you’re going to exceed that 1,000 pound limit, but you’re pretty sure you’re not going to go over 2,000 pounds, I think you should look at midsize pickup trucks with four cylinder engines, like the Toyota Tacoma and the Nissan Frontier. You can get a cover for the cargo bed, keeping your cargo safe and dry, and it would be safer to get a larger enclosed trailer. I believe the four cylinder Tacoma has a towing capacity of 3,500 pounds, but if you will be doing a lot of uphill driving, you might want to consider a V6 model.

If you’re only going to use this vehicle for work, you might consider a Ford Transit Connect. I don’t think it can tow, but with the cargo space it provides, you might not need a trailer.

Those enclosed trailers at Lowes and Home Depot are NOT very big. Really need to know what kind of hauling requirements the OP has. Says it’s for a side business. Well if’s is a band and is hauling around sound equipment…then those trailers are worthless. You’ll need a small u-haul size enclosed trailer.

The trailers I see at Lowe’s and Home Depot have about the same cargo capacity as the U-Haul trailers. Sometimes the hardware store trailers are slightly larger. The important distinction is that the hardware store trailers are made of light weight aluminum and plastic, while U-Haul’s trailers are made of heavier materials.

At the Lowe’s in my neighborhood, there is a large selection of trailers to choose from at various sizes.

in all, you’re only spending about $2200 a year on the truck rentals. Other vehicles will require maintenance, insurance and repairs on top of purchase price.

I vote for towing.
My side business that had that choice too, over thirty years of trying both, Towing the trailer was best.
We could leave gear in, and park the trailer both at the venue and at practice room. We could choose as much or as little equipment and leave the rest in there.

If in a van, we’d be forced to unload between gigs or haul the lot around town all week.
The van load floor was higher . the lower trailer flood much easier.
The van would relegate a single driver all the times, the trailer could be towed by any of the crew.

When renting, you’re forced to always unload and reload.
Owning a trailer it could remain loaded.

If you don’t mind an open trailer and some plastic wrap here they rent for $18 a day. I think an enclosed was $24. Uhaul can install a hitch probably $150 or so. you do the math.