Blogs Car Info Our Show Deals Mechanics Files Vehicle Donation

Towing with a standard truck

Is it not recommended to tow a small, 18’ fishing boat in and out of the water with a standard 4 or 6 cylinder pickup? Have heard it does not work well due to gear ratio designed for fuel economy as opposed to towing strength.

Looking for the most fuel efficient vehicle that can carry construction materials during the week and launch my boat on the weekends.

What is the weight of boat, motor and trailer and how far do you anticipate towing on weekend trips ?

A small pickup like an S10 or Ranger with a trailer hitch should be able to handle an 18’ fishing boat. Those fishing boats are usually pretty light, barely over a ton with trailer. I wouldn’t suggest attaching the ball to the bumper, though. Install a trailer hitch instead. The bumpers on those trucks feel like they are going to break when I step on them. I worked on a Ford Taurus sedan once, and noticed a trailer hitch and spring blocks had been installed on it. I asked them if they tow with the car, and they said yes, an 18’ bass boat. If a Taurus can do it, a small pickup can.

One other thing: while the manual transmission will get you better fuel mileage, for towing it is probably better to go with an automatic. The clutches in those trucks are rather light duty, and you may fry it in short order using it to launch and recover a boat, especially with a small engine in the truck. Even a ten year old F-150 with a five speed is only rated to tow 2,000 lbs because of the clutch. Not sure about newer ones.

The boat, motor and trailer are 1200 lbs.

Most trips are to the launch 1/2 mile away, but their will be several adventures every year 250 miles away from home.

My main fear is burning out the clutch pulling the boat out of the water on a steep launch.

Sounds like the best option is automatic even though standard would save a ton on gas, since I drive over 20,000 miles per year.

Diesels sound like they have more pulling power and great MPG but I understand they are expensive to purchase, maintain and hard to pass the emission inspection.

1200 lbs. It must be an aluminum boat and a small motor W/o much gear. ANY pick up that I can think of, standard or auto, 4 or 6 can do the job with ease. All PU are capable of towing, and if it’s 4wd even more so with the gearing and traction on boat ramps. For a 18 foot boat and gear though, I would assume wiggle room above 1.5k and for the distances you give for any compact truck, all good ones rated for 3500k, you are still fine Though some standard bumper hitches are perfectly capable, it’s cheap and easy insurance to mount a dedicated hitch. Many newer trucks are set up with hitches that are fine too. The only concern is resistance at higher speeds with a 4. Drive within the speed limits.

Any PU would be fine for towing, launching, and pulling out your fishing boat. Auto trans would be easier. You’ll have to slip the clutch a bit on a steep ramp when pulling out the boat, but its really the same as starting up on any steep hill. Now if you got a bigger boat that was 2,200 lbs then things get dicier.

If you are looking at a new (or very recent) PU the auto trans with a lock up torque converter shouldn’t hurt your mpg that much. I’d prefer a manual trans also, but still don’t think an auto uses that much more gas in a new PU.

For a 4 cylinder Ranger with the 2.3L I4 and manual, the trailer weight limit is 1200-1500 pounds (depending on cab and wheelbase). It’s rated at 24 MPG overall. For the same truck, but with an automatic the trailer weight limit is 2200 pounds and fuel economy is rated 21 MPG overall.

The V6 model is rated to tow 5900 pounds with the automatic (18 MPG) or 3340 pounds with the manual (17 MPG)

Seems you best bet would be the I4 with the automatic. Though most people I know who are in construction are much happier with full sized trucks

It’s not the engine that would be a problem…There are 4 and 6 cylinders that can easily tow 3500 lbs… 1200 lbs is not much of problem for any pickup that I know of.

I’m not sure how much the boat weighed, but a guy at work was telling a story about how one of his buddies had an old stick shift 3cyl Isuzu pickup that he towed a boat with. The only problem he really had was getting the truck back up the boat ramp. Said you could really hear him riding the clutch on that.

I agree. Just having a dedicated frame, a solid rear axle, rwd and greater load capacity in the rear all work in favor of those vehicles regardless of the some some higher official ratings of fwd, unibody cars and minivans. They have much more capability pound for pound than these fwd wannabes. A compact PU rated for 3500 lbs or a minivan rated for the same. Your choice, but remember, ratings don’t tell the whole story and even the anemic Ranger is better qualified in this faux paux manufacturer’s tow rating scheme to tow 1200 lbs or greater.

An important key for me is when to incorporate trailer brakes in your plan. That’s the life saving feature to consider as tow weights relative to vehicle weight increase, car or truck. In a light PU, you fast approach the time when these
may be needed. 1200 lbs may ok for short hops at low speeds, bur consider them for much larger loads and longer 250 mile trips at higher speeds with the smaller trucks. It doesn’t take too many full brake stops with 1000 lbs in tow (or loaded) to toast the pads in compact pick ups.