What Can My Car Or Truck Tow?

2011 Ford F-150 towing a trailer

It isn’t practical or possible for us all to have dedicated vehicles for towing our toys, and renting a tow vehicle regularly isn’t much of a solution either.  But with the right setup, you could safely pull more than you might think.

It’s worth knowing what your car or truck can tow.  Your owner’s manual will advise on allowable gross trailer weight and trailer tongue weight, although they don’t translate to exactly what those weights mean.  While there are exceptions, here are some general points to get you started.

Small cars.  Even with a compact front-wheel-drive car, you can tow.  It won’t be much, but you can still get in the game.  Your car will probably accept a Class I hitch, allowing you to tow small trailers and a single ATV, motorcycle, personal watercraft or snowmobile.  If you have work to do, a modest enclosed utility trailer can fall within the category.

Mid-size cars.  Here you can tow whatever a small car can, plus a little more.  Class I or II hitches expand your range to double up on the aforementioned toys.  What’s more, a small boat or pop-up tent camper can make the trip.  A few Class I units have them, but supplemental electrically-operated trailer brakes will appear on many of these Class II trailers.

Minivans/medium SUVs/trucks.  A lot of folks are driving these vehicles already, so why not use them for more than storming the outlet malls?  They can literally pull their own weight and then some.  Class I and II hitches are fine for towing what small and mid-size cars can manage, but here you open the option of a Class III.  So possibilities expand for modest travel trailers, slightly bigger boats and dual-axle utility trailers.

Full-size cars/SUVs/trucks/vans.  With the likely exception of newer cars in this class, a lot of these vehicles are going to have traditional body-on-frame construction.  For these, your hitch will bolt directly to the frame.  Serious stuff.  Class I through III hitches will do, but so will Class IV.  Properly equipped, you can tow tons without breaking a sweat.  Cabin cruiser boats and well-stocked campers the size of your college apartment can all come along.


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