CarTalk.com Blogs Car Info Our Show Deals Mechanics Files Vehicle Donation

Towing - up to capacity okay?

I am thinking of buying a Toyota RAV4, 6 cyl. 4WD with tow prep package installed so rated towing capacity is 3500 lbs (I’m told). Is it okay to tow my boat & trailer which is 2900 lbs? Or do I need to stay at a lower safety factor like just two-thirds of the capacity (or ~2300 lbs)? I am assuming I am okay to tow my 2900 lb boat/trailer with a capacity of 3500 lbs, yes?

How far do you plan on towing this boat? Like 15-20 miles to the lake, or like 100-200 miles to the lake? And how often do plan on doing so?

Distances - usually towing 15-20 miles, maybe 3-4 times per year. And longer distances like 100 miles maybe 1-2 times per year.

You should be okay, assuming the 2900 pound figure is accurate.

Your OK to tow 2900 lbs. Even at 3500, there is a safety factor there.

Just as important, is the GVWR. This includes what ever load you carry within. When vehicles like yours are used for towing, they are perfectly capable but not as often as a full frame truck that is more dedicated. Yours is a car first and a work vehical as an after thought. If you plan to tow at this weight a lot, get a truck.
Your vehicle is plenty strong enough, but not durable enough to make this a regular, weekly endeavor.

Your vehicle is plenty strong enough, but not durable enough to make this a regular, weekly endeavor.

As with most vehicles of this type…it’s uni-body construction. Doing a lot of towing and it’s better to have a body-on-frame. I’d stick to towing under 10 times a year.

Just as important, is the GVWR. This includes what ever load you carry within.

You also have to include the tongue weight of the trailer.

Assuming you’re in Florida = flat = OK. If you were “Allan in Denver” there might be an issue.

I’d recommend having the boat and trailer weighed. Be sure to top off the boat’s gas tank, and load it with whatever you put in it for a day on the lake that would be in the boat as you’re driving down the road (beer, fishing gear, etc). People are often surprised at how much the stuff they put in the trailer adds to its weight.

@shadowfax
Well said. That little light weight aluminum boat gets pretty obese filled with gear for the day. I see lot’s of little 16 foot aluminum fishing boats putting it at our public landing loaded with gear and people for the day…You wonder if they’re legal, let alone too heavy to tow by anything but a semi.

I do have a friend with just such a set up; RAV4 V6 with tow package and used to tow a substantial fiberglass boat. But, it gets towed to the lake for the summer and taken out in the fall. Twice a year and though the boat must be close to it’s limit, it’s well within it’s capability with the infrequent use.

IMO, that infrequent use of 6 times per year, if you keep an eye on the weight, you should be fine. But don’t exceed your 2900 lbs by much ! I would be really concerned about the 100 mile trips. But that’s just me.

Pulling is probably not going to be the biggest issue- stopping is. One of my boats is an 18’ glass bass boat. No trailer brakes. About as heavy as your rig but I tow with RWD (4WD) full frame truck with almost 2x your capacity. Been a few times people surprised me or a stop sign suddenly appeared and the rig pushing from behind made for some tense moments…

If you’re going to be towing something over 2500lbs…then get trailer brakes. it’s safer for you and everyone around you.

The trailer weighing 2500 lbs is not an automatic reason to have trailer brakes. Many rigs are fully capable of towing such a load safely. There will always be situations where one could have avoided a particular situation if they had the best of everything money can buy. In many cases the probability is not sufficient to warrant the additional expense. That being said, when you tow 2500 lbs with a dinky SUV, then the vehicle is probably not very well suited to handling the additional load on its brakes and trailer brakes are warranted.

In order to tow 2500lbs without trailer brakes SAFELY…you need a substantial vehicle. I wouldn’t tow 2500lbs with ANY mid-size SUV you can buy today. Sure you can do it…but braking is going to be drastically reduced. You need a FULL-SIZE pickup or SUV to safely tow. 2500lbs to a mid-size SUV increases the stopping weight by over 50%.

I see we agree. I thought you were replying to my post just prior but it appears you were directing your response to the OP. As I was alluding to in a prior post, that’s a heavy load for that vehicle and stopping may be more hair raising than they expect. The tail wagging the dog comes to mind…

I’ll expand further on Fodaddy’s response and say get the trailer, with all your equipment in it, weighed before you decide on a vehicle

Don’t forget, the brakes have to stop the vehicle and the load within. When I said, “I worry more about going 100 miles while towing”, it has as much to do with carrying much more gear and or people. Everything counts ! So, just saying you may not need trailer brakes for 2500 lbs because you may be towing with a full size SUV or truck has got to be put in perspective. A full size SUV may also be carrying 5 people and gear…you may still need trailer brakes

Check the GVWR of any vehicle along with the tow weight. It does not mean you are only concerned with the weight added to the hitch. It’s everything that must be stopped. GCWR, "specific weight determined by the manufacturer to be the maximum weight of a loaded tow vehicle AND its attached loaded trailer. "

So I add to @bscar2 "get the trailer, with all your equipment in it, weighed before you decide on a vehicle " and include the car and weight you plan to carry inside BEFORE you decide if your vehicle can handle it, brakes and all. The motor and trans are pulling the GCWR, and the brakes are stopping it.

Under the right circumstances, the RAV can safely handle OPs 2500 lb weight towed, under others, it can’t.

The other thing I like with trailer-brakes…is if the trailer starts wobbling…I just apply the trailer brake and it straightens right out.