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I was just at the Toyota dealer, looking at a V6 RAV4 with the intention of towing my boat (about 2200 lbs with trailer) a few times a year. He said that since I only tow it 5 miles a few times a year, that I could probably do OK with a 4 cyl engine. He also said that the specs are there in case you want to tow something across the country and up large inclines. If one wanted to only bring the boat to the local boat ramp, you could use virtually anything for that.

That got me thinking that perhaps I could just use my wife’s '03 CRV, even though the owner’s manual says the towing capacity is only 1500 lbs. I’m sure that the Honda dealer would tell me no, but could anyone else provide advise about pushing the towing limits on this vehicle?

Get a towing prep package whatever you get. It’s always better to have more towing capacity than you need than to try and haul 4000 pounds with a 2500 or 3500 pound limit.

It is [i][u]NEVER[/i][/u] a good idea to exceed the towing capacity listed in the owner’s manual. It is unsafe, it will damage your vehicle, and, if there is any outstanding warranty (like a 100,000 mile drivetrain warranty), you will void it.

Never trust a salesperson to have your safety in mind. Do you own research and make sure whatever vehicle you buy has adequate towing capacity. It would be even better if it has a little towing capacity to spare.

Car salespersons may have NO idea what they’re talking about. They will tell you anything if it makes a sale. Believe them at your peril.

2,200 pounds is more than 1,500 pounds. WAY more.

Don’t even think about it. You’ll kill your wife’s CR-V, and incur her wrath. It’s not worth it.

You’re asking for trouble.

Not a good idea to try towing with a 4 cylinder small SUV, either the Rav4 or CRV. Some boat ramps are steep. Pulling a 2,200 lb boat out of the water on steep launch can but a huge strain on the transmision. If these small SUV’s have a low gear range in 4WD that would be the gears to use coming up the ramp.

On the road you would find yourself creeping up any medium sized hill. You could be dangerously slow and find it very difficult to get up to speed on the highway.

Once you have a hitch on the car you’ll find yourself moving aunt Tilley’s piano. In other words once you have a hitch you’ll be using the car to haul stuff more often than the few times a year you tow the boat. You may also find yourself towing the boat for repairs, for vacation, etc.

2,200 lbs of boat and trailer is usually higher when you add gas and gear. I think you’d be over stretching the small SUV’s. Perhaps you should be looking at a Highlander, 4 Runner, Tacoma, or Sequoia.

Don’t exceed that weight. Downhill braking can jacknife you. Be sure that the trailer is level by adjusting the hitch height. Too high will lose rear traction while braking, too low lightens the front end while braking.

No, you most definitely should NOT “push the towing limits” on that vehicle or any other.
For just a small sample of what you would be dealing with, take a look at:

These are great replies! Thanks to all!

The question that still remains is that this was a new car dealer, and the salesman could have steered me towards a V6 CRV or even a Highlander. Any thoughts on why he recommended a less expensive vehicle than the one I went originally went to the showroom to look at?

Perhaps there is a bigger overstock of 4-cylinder RAVs, as compared to the V-6 RAVs and the Highlanders. In a situation like that, there could be additional commissions for salesmen who help to reduce the overstock on a particular model. Remember that Toyota’s sales figures are down substantially, just like almost all car manufacturers, and they do want to move excess iron off of those storage lots!

Or, alternatively, this salesman could be just as badly informed about the products that he is selling (and about automotive knowledge in general) as most car salesmen are. What these guys don’t know would fill several volumes.

I am a salesman, not of autos, and people buy what they want over what they need. If your interest is primarily a 4 cylinder Rav 4 that’s where the discussion will focus.

Another factor in car sales is they want to sell what is on the lot. If that dealer had a bunch of 4 cylinder Rav4’s and few V6’s that would lead the salesperson to discuss the 4 cylinder version.

I live in a lake area and have ski boat. It is a heavy boat for only 19.5 ft, fiberglass V8 motor and comes in at just under 3,000 lbs and the trailer is heavy too. I had a Volvo wagon that said it could tow 3,500 lbs. Well it could tow it but I was sure the transmission was going to blow apart someday. Pulling the boat up the launch ramp was lots of motor noise and little forward movement, and that means all that stress was going on the tranny. Once up the ramp I could get the boat home or to the marina for storage but there were a few hills to do even that. To get on the interstate meant even bigger hills to climb. I only used the car to put the boat in the water and take it out. Anymore would mean a new very expensive Volvo tranny which was not in the budget. I sold the Volvo and got a Toyota Sequoia which tows the boat with relative ease.

Since most people once they have a vehicle that can tow trailers tend to use that feature you should consider a larger vehicle. If the max tow weight is 1,500 lbs for the 4 cylinder Rav4 your trailer is way too heavy and the sales person is out of bounds in saying the trailering is OK. You need a minium of 2,500 lbs towing capacity to consider towing your boat.

Francis, Uncle Turbo Is Running At Maximum Boost. He’s Giving Excellent Advice And Anecdotes.

I would strongly consider what he is saying. Towing only a few times a year, maybe you can pay a marina or a truck owner to tow it.

Hey Unc, what have you got . . . outboard, inboard or inboard-outboard?


Lots of good info…let me add that most tow limits are very optimistic and under ideal conditions. This assumes you have experience and have prepared vehicle and what ever you tow appropriate. I’ve towed at or near weight limits and it does shorten the life of mechanics. You may try to stretch the envelope with your CRV, but make sure there are NO hills of consequence involved, it’s infrequent and of short duration. Realistically a CRV is not a tow vehicle and is just for trash day and bike racks. Whenever at the limits, and I feel 2200 is too much for a 1500 cap., swap load the vehicle and NOT the boat with as weight as possible. Weight between the wheel base is safer and easier for vehicle to deal with.

My boat is a 1987 Ski Centurion (which is very similar Mastercraft and Ski Natuiques). It is a direct drive inboard with a Pleasurecraft (Ford 351) motor, Holly 4bbl carb, and Borq Warner Velvet Drive transmission. It was designed prior to wakeboarding and is built for competitive skiing events. The bottom is very flat to give a small wake at 32 mph. It is built for torque rather than top end speed. Max speed is 43 mph, which is enough for barefoot skiing.