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Which vehicle to pull trailer?

Hi friends, We want to buy a used vehicle to pull a small camping trailer (teardrop-shaped, two-wheeler). We would like it to be a V6. Do you have any recommendations? Thanks for the advice! - Karen

How much does it weigh? Include any gear that you can stow in it while you are pulling it. And how much do you want to spend? It could be new or used; knowing the amount helps narrow the field.

I don’t have an exact recommendation for a particular model but the best vehicle for towing is a truck. It can be a 4WD or a 2WD model. A larger truck is recommended and I would not get anything smaller than a Dakota size one. That will exclude Chevy S-10’s, Ford Rangers and most smaller Toyota and Hondas. Make the V6 the smallest engine you would consider and a small V8 would be the best. A transmission cooler will also help extend the life of the transmission. Finding a truck with a tow package is even better. Depending on the number of passengers carried you can get either an extended cab or 4-door model of the truck you choose. Regular cab versions are quickly losing favor among a lot of used truck buyers.

Avoid any FWD vehicle. When you check the tow rating of a vehicle just remember that they are usually inflated by the manufacturer. I would use about 60-75% of the recommended tow rating to get to the actual figure. The weight of the trailer plus all the loaded equipment and the load of the truck including passengers needs to be taken into account. I would also recommend getting a 4-way sway system to tow with. It will make life a lot easier going down the road.

The small teardrop shaped campers I’ve ever seen are barely weigh 1000lbs. So a V6 would easily do it.

If you get an automatic (recommended for towing)…then get the external transmission cooler.

We really need to know the weight and size though. I’m just guessing here.

If it’s as small as MikeinNH says and just as importantly, aerodynamic, ANYTHING will do that has a tow rating of 1500 lbs. This may be many of the 4 cyls made, even in fwd. I have found that sailboats of greater weight are often easier on a car then a boxy utility trailer as the aerodynamics are good .

When you get to 1000 pounds or under, it’s not rocket science. Anything I have ever had with the manual"s approval will tow that weight…with ease. V6 is not necessary if the gearing is right. If you do it often or great distances, a 4 cyl compact pick up would be just the ticket with rwd. If only occasionally or vacations, anything that will take a hitch with the manual"s approval works !

The real question is; what else are you going to haul inside ? If you start including a gross vehicle weight greater then the car is designed to handle, then add a trailer, think about bigger cars/trucks, rwd and V6 motors. Question is WAY too incomplete…with all due respect.

The last time we had this discussion, the ‘lightweight’ teardrop the OP had was about 2,000 lbs. So we need some (real) numbers.

My apologies for the lack of information. Here is a list of information I found for our model R-Pod. We are hoping to keep the price of the used vehicle to around $16,000 (if realistic). We would like to have 4WD on the vehicle because we would use the vehicle in Wyoming winters as well. It’s nice to have 4WD around here!

R-Pod 151 floorplan
The Details:
Unloaded Weight: 1937
Hitch Weight: 241
Load Capacity: 1304
Exterior Length: 16’ 2”
Width: 8’ – pod is 6’ 5”
Exterior Height: 8’ 8”
Propane Cap 20lbs
Fresh Water Cap 36 gal
Grey Water cap 35 gal
Black Water cap 35 gal
Tire Size 205/75/R14
Hot Water Tank 6 gal
Wall thickness 2” laminated fiberglass

Thanks again for your feedback. Let me know if I left anything out!!! ~ Karen

So figure 3,000 - 3,500 pounds loaded. I think a Honda Pilot with the towing package might handle it.

Do you need an SUV kind of vehicle or a pickup? How many seats?

We could go either way. We’re just two but we also have two dogs we should probably plan to haul around with us.

Does this sound like a good deal for a 2005 Honda Pilot EX-L AWD?




135,451 miles


5-Speed Automatic Overdrive



Major Options:

Tow Package

I’ve been happy with my trailblazer, 6cyl engine for towing, auto 4wd option is nice also.

It depends on whether the truck is in excellent condition or not. A dealer in your area could get about $11,000 for an EX with the entertainment system and navigation system. Is that what you mean by EX-L? If it is a private sale, it is way overpriced. It should be less than $9900. The tow package is an aftermarket addition and could be worth a couple hundred dollars at this point. The Pilot is a very popular truck and will be priced higher than similar trucks. A loaded 2005 Eddy Bauer edition Ford Explorer with the V6 and under 90,000 miles would be about $1000 less. My neighbor has had two Explorers to tow his boat (27 foot speedboat) and has been very happy. I’d keep looking for a truck with under 100,000 miles.

At 135K miles, rebuilding or replacing the transmission can not be that far off…So ad that cost to your likely expenses…A 3000 pound outfit at high elevation…I would be looking at a V8…

At that mileage, vehicles are less capable then their rated loads when new. I would look at a compact pick up truck with a crew or extended cab with cap and v6 with full frame. A cap on the back for the dogs and gear, and everyone will be much more comfortable. The Nissan, Tacoma and Dakota are all capable and maintain their tow rating muh better then the car based Pilot. The Pilot will be more comfy but you can get a truck with fewer miles and in better shape for the same price. After that, any half ton in small 8 or 6 will fit the bill. They should all be equal or better when towing and wear longer then the Pilot.

Btw, I am a firm believer in separating dogs from people for long trips for a variety of reasons. PU with cap does that.

Today, dogs have become family surrogates for the Yuppie couple…

The trailer loaded and with all the fluids is going to run close to 3,500 lbs. Then you are likely to load up the tow vehicle with 500 lbs of gear too plus people and dogs. The whole package will be heavy when you are loaded up for your camping trip. All this could be a stretch for some V6 vehicles. I’d look for a used Ford Explorer with a tow package and the V8 motor. That should have the power you need and a beefy enough transmission and differentials.

Thanks, friends. You’ve given us good advice that we will definitely keep in mind as we search for a vehicle.

Many thanks! ~ Karen

This is bigger then the ones I’ve seen.

3500lbs is at the end of the Class II ratings. I wouldn’t tow it with anything that’s not Class III rated…and one that’s NOT FWD. A tranny cooler is a must…and I hope this has trailer brakes also.

Here’s the one’s I’ve seen…Much smaller then the 3500lbs loaded…

WyoKaren I pull a 5fifth wheel trailer. He is a tip… Don’t pull the trailer with water or waste water in the tanks very far. It is hard on the vehicle. Dump the waste water at the camp ground when you leave. As for the water tank fill it at the camp ground or just before you get there. I will leave about 5 gal. in my tanks so if I have to say in a rest area, I have some water to use. My pick for a vehicle would be a Chevy/GMC 1500 Ex cab short box. 2 or 4 wheel Drive. 5.3 V8. Put a cap on the bed for extra gear and it will pull your trailer just fine. Also when you upgrade to bigger trailer (and you will) it will sill be able to pull it.

" Don’t pull the trailer with water or waste water in the tanks very far. It is hard on the vehicle."

That’s great advice. 35 gallons of water weighs about 300 pounds. If you have a full load of clear, gray, black, and hot water you are carrying an extra 1000 pounds.