Towing An RV: What You Need To Know

Whether you already own an RV that you would like to take traveling with you in addition to the family car or are considering purchasing a new RV to enjoy, it is important to understand the ins and outs of what goes into towing an RV. 

From figuring out an RV’s total gross weight and learning how to safely connect a hitch to proper driving techniques, and choosing the right car, towing an RV can be a complex task to manage.

To learn more about towing your RV using a regular vehicle, continue reading below.

What Kinds of RVs Can Be Towed?

While there are many different RVs and campers available to choose from on the market, including Campervans and Class C Motorhomes, there are only four primary different types of towable RVs available.

These include:

  • Fifth-wheel trailers
  • Travel trailers
  • Sport-utility trailers
  • Truck campers

suv towing a camper

Even though all of these RVs are towable, they differ significantly from each other in weight, height, and how they hitch to a vehicle.

Before towing, it is essential to figure out which one is right for you.

Luxurious Fifth-Wheel Trailers

Fifth-wheel trailers are massive, luxurious towable trailers.

They might appear to look like a typical Class C Motorhome, but they are incapable of driving themselves around.

To become mobile, they must be hitched and towed.

Fifth-wheel trailers are some of the most expensive towable RVs, ranging from prices starting at just over $50,000.

At 20 feet to 40 feet long, this RV has a feature called a “gooseneck,” which allows it to hitch to a strong puller vehicle.

Due to this ball and hitch connection, only heavy-duty trucks can haul a fifth-wheel trailer.

Affordable Travel Trailers

Travel trailers, while still large, are considered the less expensive version of their fifth-wheel trailer counterparts.

Ranging anywhere from a tiny 4-foot teardrop trailer to a wide 35-foot travel trailer, reversing in these RVs is nearly impossible.

Since they’re hooked in with a regular hitch and ball mechanism, they are roomy but more difficult to maneuver than fifth-wheel trailers.

Convenient Sport-Utility Trailers

Sport-utility trailers are a common RV choice for those wanting to tow not only their accommodations but also their sporting vehicles.

Sport-utility trailers range from 20 feet to 20 feet and are typically used to tow along jet skis, ATVs, motorcycles, or large numbers of mountain bikes for professional racers. 

Though passenger space is limited while towing and their hitch type often results in a wide turn radius, they offer an outdoor deck or patio space when parked, which is an enormous incentive to some buyers.

Space-Saving Truck Campers

Truck campers are a prevalent option when it comes to preferred towing vehicles due to their ease and size.

With slide-on covers and an average length of around only 19 feet, truck campers are easy to maneuver, relatively simple to hitch, and can sleep up to four people depending on the trailer model.

Due to their size, however, truck campers won’t offer the same amenities as the other towable RV options, including a lack of kitchen and bathroom.

What Size RV Can I Tow?

The biggest factor when it comes to which RV you can tow includes the size and strength of your towing vehicle.

If you already have an RV that you plan on towing, you might need to adjust or purchase a vehicle per your RV.

If you already have a reliable car that you’d like to use as your towing vehicle, then make sure your RV is small enough to hitch to it safely and properly.

Since most small cars like sedans and manual transmission vehicles lack strength and stability, towing an RV with them is not recommended.

Instead, consider an SUV with a lot of horsepower or a truck capable of towing over 5,000 pounds.

Mid-Size Trucks

Mid-sized trucks are excellent for towing average-size RVs that range anywhere from 5,000 to 7,700 pounds.

Company brands and names of some reliable mid-size trucks include:

  • Chevrolet, Colorado
  • Ford, Range
  • Honda, Ridgeline
  • Nissan, Frontier
  • Toyota, Tacoma

Full-Size Trucks

Full-size trucks can tow from around 9,800 pounds to 13,500 pounds depending on their torque.

Some of the best full-size trucks for towing an RV include:

  • Chevrolet, Silverado 1500
  • Ford, F-150
  • GMC, Sierra 1500
  • Nissan, Titan
  • Ram, 1500
  • Toyota, Tundra

Heavy-Duty Trucks

For any type of fifth-wheel trailer RV towing, heavy-duty trucks work best.

They can tow anywhere from 12,760 pounds to 18,500 pounds and little to no added effort.

Heavy-duty trucks often used for heavy RV towing are:

  • Chevrolet, Silverado 2500HD
  • Ford, Super Duty F-250
  • GMC, Sierra 2500HD
  • Ram, 2500

Ultra-Duty Trucks

For the heaviest RV towing on the market, ultra-duty trucks will get the job done.

With a towing capacity of 20,000 pounds to nearly 33,000 pounds, the ultra-duty trucks for RV towing are:

  • Chevrolet, Silverado 3500HD
  • Ford, Super Duty F-350
  • GMC, Sierra 3500HD

RV Towing Terms to Understand

For experienced drivers and those new to towing alike, understanding the following terms will help you ensure that once you hitch your RV, you are prepared and ready to travel:

    • A gooseneck hitch: a connecting mechanism that attaches a truck’s bed with custom rails that go into the RV for towing
    • A weight-carrying hitch: a hitch used to tow smaller RVs with evenly distributed weight
    • A weight-distributing hitch: a hitch that comes with a platform to distribute your RV’s weight 
    • Combined gross vehicle weight: the entire weight of your car, your RV, your towing accessories, your belongings, and the passengers
    • Curb weight: your car’s weight without any passengers or belongings
    • Dry weight: the weight of your RV or camper without any gas, water, or oil
    • Max trailer payload: the highest amount of belongings, water, and gas that can be safely transported in your RV 
    • Max trailer weight: the total amount that your car can safely tow
    • Payload: the total weight of luggage or belonging plus the overall weight of the trailer, minus the weight of your car
    • Rear swing/sway: the large turn radius that your vehicle and towed RV will have due to its size and the hitch being used

Safe Driving While Towing

There are many nuances involved with driving a vehicle safely while towing an RV.

While some large vehicles like Class A, B, or C motorhomes might require a special driver’s license depending on the state they’re being driven in, towing an RV with a regular vehicle usually does not.

Some important rules to keep in mind for safe driving while RV towing include:

  • Do not overload your tow
  • Keep your foot on the brake slightly when turning as not to maintain excess momentum.
  • Never exceed the top speed marked on the RV
  • Never go faster than the speed limit
  • Never go faster than your car’s top speed
  • Never leave ropes, chains, or hook-up materials dangling
  • Pack light when possible as not to overload the brakes

If you follow these rules and properly connect your RV to its hitch before driving, you will ensure that your RV and vehicle have a long lifespan in addition to the health and safety of your family.

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