It’s not a breaking news flash that you need some serious power to tow a camper. Even lighter camper models require a hefty vehicle to safely get them where you want to be – and not every vehicle is up to the job. If you’re in the market for a new auto purchase and want something that can get your camper from place to place, there’s a few things you need to keep in mind.
The towing capacity is a pound rating system of just how much weight a vehicle can haul. The highest ratings belong to trucks, with the Dodge Ram 3500 topping the list with an impressive 16,000-pound towing capacity.
SUVs, sedans and wagons can also haul some heft. The Nissan Armada, a full size SUV, can haul just over 9,000 pounds of camper. If your lifestyle requires a smaller SUV, the Dodge Durango comes in just under the Armada with a none-too-shabby 8,950-pound tow rating.
Smaller vehicles worth noting are the Chrysler Pacifica, with a 3,500-pound towing capacity — enough for most lightweight campers, and startling for a vehicle of its size. And if you need a budget-priced compact sedan, take a look at the Hyundai Elantra, which can handle a surprising 3,086 pounds when trailer brakes are used.
The Weight of the Vehicle Itself
Sure, the maximum tow rating is important but calculating how much RV, camper or trailer you can haul isn’t as simple as knowing how much your camper weighs. The maximum tow rating requires you to take into consideration the weight of the tow vehicle itself, any gear you’re hauling, fuel and other fluids and the weight of the passengers. While it might take a little math to figure it all out – and a trip to a truck stop weigh station if you’re unsure of your camper or vehicle weight – it’s worth knowing the figures to ensure you can safely tow your camper.
Aftermarket Additions and Add-On Packages
If you know you’ll need to tow and are purchasing a new vehicle, ask your auto sales group if they offer special towing packages. These might cost you a little more out of pocket, but it can save you the trouble of installing any aftermarket additions (and the possibility of voiding a warranty by DIYing it.)
If you’re not quite ready for a brand new vehicle and no tow packages are available for your vehicle, there are aftermarket additions that can make traveling a breeze. Everything from specialty transmission fluid and oil coolers to heavy duty batteries and alternators to help compensate for the extra weight are available via aftermarket retailers. If you’re looking at decking out a lightweight sedan or compact SUV, consider high-capacity rear springs to take some of the strain off your vehicle.
Arguably as important as towing capacity is the equipment used to do so: the tow hitch. Hitches are classed from I to V, with class I hitches handling the least weight. For hauling a camper, you’ll likely need a class III or greater hitch capable of towing 10,000 pounds or more.
Picking a Vehicle for Towing Your Camper
You need a good vehicle to haul your camper. If you’re looking at a new auto purchase, consider the maximum towing capacity of the vehicle and ask about any special towing packages available with your car, truck or SUV of choice. If you’re outfitting your current vehicle, there are a variety of aftermarket add-ons to make towing your camper easier and safer.