Can You Count on a Small SUV to Tow Your Trailer?

December 25th, 2019 by

A small silver SUV is towing a used car on a trailer towards a sun set near Cincinnati, OH.

Drivers have increasingly made the SUV the most popular motor vehicle on the road today. One of the major reasons is that the SUV is extremely versatile. You can get the passenger space of a passenger van, the cargo space of a van, the ruggedness of a pickup truck, and the creature comforts of a luxury sedan, all combined into one vehicle. Each of the other four vehicles may excel in one area, such as the luxuriousness of a sedan, but there is only so much stuff you can fit in a car’s trunk. Similarly, vans have plenty of interior space, but they are probably the least enjoyable vehicle to drive. As for pickup trucks, automakers have been making their cabins more comfortable, but there is only so much space you can add to a crew cab without taking away from the payload bed. The SUV solves all of these issues, and adds the ability to tow trailers to the equation. This is certainly the case with respect to the midsize and full-size SUVs. But the question then arises, how much can a small SUV tow? The answer may surprise you. Small SUVs may not be able to tow the heavier trailers like their bigger siblings. Nevertheless, they can be used in this regard. At McCluskey Auto, we have the experience to answer your questions like these when you purchase a used car, truck, or SUV. We offer quality used cars that are low mileage, affordably priced, and recent model years. We have always put our customers first, so come in to see the difference for yourself. We are conveniently located at 9024 Colerain Avenue and 8525 Reading Road in Cincinnati, OH.

How Towing Capacities are Determined

When you are about to use your vehicle for towing, it is crucial to know the weight of the trailer as well as the limits of your vehicle’s capacity. This is especially so for a small SUV. While many manufacturers publish a maximum towing capacity for their vehicles, it is still important to do some of the math for yourself.

There are a number of factors that are used to determine towing capacity. For example the size, type, horsepower, and torque of your engine influence the ability to tow trailers. In general, low RPM (revolutions per minute) torque is more important than raw horsepower in determining towing capacity. In addition, frame design, axle ratio, tire and wheel load ratings, transmission type (manual versus automatic), brake size and type, the suspension system, and drive type (i.e., rear-wheel, front-wheel, and all-wheel) can also have an impact on the vehicle’s towing ability.

Finally, your vehicle will be able to tow a heavier load on a flat road than on a steep incline.

Within these factors are a number of key things to remember. All vehicles have a gross vehicle weight rating, which is the total amount of weight the vehicle can tolerate, consisting of passengers, cargo, components, and accessories. In addition, they have a gross combined weight rating, which combines the gross vehicle weight rating with the total weight of the trailer and its contents. In general, rear-wheel drive vehicles will have higher towing capacities than four-wheel drive versions of the same vehicle, because the latter tend to be heavier, increasing the gross vehicle weight while reducing the portion of the gross combined weight allocable to the trailer. Also, automatic transmissions tend to better for towing than manual transmissions, as they can be automatically downshifted to increase torque, which improves towing capacity. With this in mind, automatic transmissions with more gear speeds are better suited to the task of towing. This is why many pickup trucks will feature 10-speed automatic transmissions. In addition, manufacturers often offer special trailering packages for an added expense that can boost the towing capacity of a specific vehicle.

Choosing the Right Trailer

A standard size moving trailer is parked in front of an office building.

One other factor is crucial in towing: make sure you choose the right trailer for the task. An aluminum boat trailer may work for some crafts, but others may require a heavier fiberglass trailer. Also, gooseneck trailers increase the towing capacity, but can only be used for vehicles with high towing capacities and the ability to install the hitch, like full-size pickup trucks. Finally, you will need to know the gross weight of the trailer, as well as the item that will be placed upon the trailer. It is all well and good if you have a fiberglass boat trailer that weighs 570 pounds. However, do you know how much the boat that is being placed upon that trailer weighs? If you are not sure, you had better check before hitching it to the back of your vehicle. Sadly, the internet is filled with pictures of epic fails involving folks who simply hitched a loaded trailer to the back of their vehicle without first checking on the gross trailer weight, and then on the gross combined vehicle weight rating of their car, truck or SUV.

Small SUV Towing Capacity

Small SUVs can actually be pretty adept at towing trailers. For example, the Chevy Trax, the manufacturers compact SUV, can tow up to 3,500 pounds. This seems to be the standard for many small SUVs, including the Ford Escape, the GMC Terrain, and the Jeep Wrangler. One of the highest ratings is the all-wheel drive Kia Sorrento, which has been rated to tow up to 5,000 pounds. Not all were created equal when it comes to trailering. The popular Honda CR-V has only been rated to tow up to 1,500 pounds, making it a less appealing option for camping trips. That is why it is vital to check the manufacturer’s towing capacity rating for your compact SUV before you hitch up that trailer.

If you do not have the owner’s manual to your small SUV, then you can always go to the manufacturer’s website and download a copy. This may be the case if you are buying a used, pre-owned or certified pre-owned compact SUV, as the prior owner may have lost the original owner’s manual. Also, many owners are no longer giving printed copies of owner’s manuals but rather offering a link for a downloadable version in an effort to reduce printing costs, as well as the environmental impact associated with publishing manuals.

Many of the most popular compact SUVs do not come with a standard towing hitch. Instead, manufacturers tend to include them on an optional trailering package for an additional price. One of the advantages of buying a used, pre-owned or certified pre-owned small SUV is that it may already have the towing hitch and other items needed for trailering. In addition, you will probably not have to pay as great a premium for a used compact SUV with a trailering package as you would for a new one. This is fairly standard for buying a used vehicle, as you tend to get more for your money when you buy used. Furthermore, the used compact SUV has already been road tested for towing, and you can check reviews and driver comments online to see how these vehicles have faired when called upon to tow trailers.

As has been shown, small SUVs can pull a decent sized trailer, as long as you have the right vehicle with the correct setup. Always make sure you know your vehicle’s towing capacity and the weight of the trailer and its contents that you are planning to tow. If you’re ready to check out some small SUVs, give our knowledgeable sales department a call or visit today!

Posted in Used Cars