Towing an RV: A Starter Guide for Buying a Tow Vehicle

If you’re buying your first RV or upgrading to a larger size, you may be coming to the realization that your vehicle isn’t cut out for towing an RV. That means it’s time to look at new RV towing vehicles. But before you drive off the lot with your used or new tow vehicle, it’s critical that it meets the minimum for towing the RV of your choice. 

Read on to learn tips for choosing the right vehicle for towing an RV, including what ratings to look for and the types of tow vehicles you can choose from! 

First Things First: What Do You Need? 

Choosing the vehicle you plan to use for towing an RV starts with knowing what you actually need. Every RV is different, and so is your tow vehicle. It’s important to note a few things before you even think of signing on the dotted line for purchasing a vehicle to tow your RV! 

What RV Will You Be Towing? 

The type of RV you’ll be hauling is the most important factor when it comes to choosing the right vehicle to tow it. A small truck can’t always tow a large RV, and a small RV doesn’t necessarily need a big vehicle to tow it.  

RVs come in all shapes and sizes, including different ways they connect to your vehicle. Travel trailers are a commonly known type of RV trailer, and they can be anything from small toy haulers to larger trailers like bunkhouse models. These connect, like many other types of trailers, to a hitch on your tow vehicle. But not all RVs are trailers! Fifth wheel RVs connect through a different pin mechanism that require you to tow it with a truck. 

If you’re shopping for a new RV and a new tow vehicle, remember that whichever you buy first will limit your options for the other. If you purchase a large, luxury destination RV, you’ll need a vehicle with the towing capacity to match it. That’s why it’s a good idea to get to know the type of RV you’ll want before you purchase your tow vehicle! 

Are You Planning to Upgrade? 

Another big consideration with buying a vehicle for RV towing is your long-term plans. Many new RVers may think of buying a smaller RV to dip their toes in the RV lifestyle, with plans to upgrade later. If that sounds like you, your tow vehicle will determine what type of upgrading you can do! 

If you want to keep your options open, it may be beneficial to opt for a tow vehicle that can handle an RV of the size you think you’d end up with after upgrading, instead of the one you have now. This can save you a lot in the future, when you upgrade your RV and can keep using the same towing vehicle. 

That said, if you’re new to the world of RVs, you’ll be surprised at the options available across many different sizes and weights. No matter what you get, your RV options will still be vast when you consider the different floor plans and types to choose from. 

Must-Knowfor Towing an RV 

Determining the best vehicle for towing your RV means knowing a few important ways RVs and tow vehicles are classified. There are a lot of acronyms out there, but these are the ones to focus on: 

Tow Vehicle Ratings 

Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) – This rating describes the maximum allowed weight for your tow vehicle (but not your RV.) This includes passengers, fluids, options, cargo and everything else regarding the vehicle itself. 

Gross Combined Weight Rating (GCWR) – Similar to GVWR, this rating describes the maximum allowed weight for your tow vehicle and your RV combined. It factors in everything, from passengers to cargo, so this is an important number to know to stay safe! 

Trailer Ratings 

Unloaded Vehicle Weight (UVW) – Also known as dry weight, this is the weight of just the trailer when it’s empty of cargo, dealer options, water and fuel. This is an okay starting point for determining if a vehicle is within your towing capacity needs, but not the number you should refer to; it’s the lightest your trailer will ever be and unlikely to apply to real towing scenarios! 

Gross Trailer Weight Rating (GTWR) – The maximum allowed weight for your trailer when it’s completely packed. Fuel, fluids, cargo, dealer options and occupants are all included in this weight. 

When planning your tow vehicle and RV combinations, choosing a vehicle that has a gross combined weight rating that can handle a fully-loaded RV with some headroom for packing people and luggage into the tow vehicle is the best way to plan. This ensures you’ll always be able to tow your trailer, even when it’s packed to the brim for a long trip. 

Common Types of RV Tow Vehicles 

There are a lot of options when it comes to choosing the right tow vehicle. What works best for you is often based on the combination of the type of RV you have and how many people you plan to travel with: 

Crossover SUVs – A reasonable option for those that want a general-purpose tow vehicle and plan to tow lighter RVs. Pay attention to the maximum towing capacity and try to avoid towing near the maximum limit as often as possible! 

Minivans – Like crossovers, minivans are an option for towing RVs that are smaller and lighter than most. However, unlike crossovers, minivans typically lack some of the additional drive options that make crossovers better suited for camp life, like all-wheel drive. 

SUVs – A full-sized SUV is a favorite for RVers. These all-purpose vehicles maintain interior space for several passengers, can reach a commendable towing capacity and many models are designed for rugged travel conditions. 

Pickup Truck – The variety of pickup trucks means there’s almost always an ideal model for your needs, whether you’re towing light or want to bring a full-sized luxury trailer with all the options. Pick-up trucks can range in tow capacity from 2,500 pounds to 25,000! 

Picking the Right Type of RV Tow Vehicle 

With all these options, which one is best for you? Here are some questions to ask yourself: 

How big is your RV? The bigger the RV, the more likely you are to lean into the SUV or pickup truck side of the tow vehicle spectrum. Crossovers and minivans often max out on towing capacity near where a pickup truck starts, so the weight and size of your RV is a significant factor. 

How many people do you plan to bring? If you plan to travel solo or with one passenger, a pickup truck is an easy choice. While bigger pickup trucks have plenty of room for several passengers, many are designed with a two-seater cab. If you plan to bring the whole family along, an SUV may be the better option! 

Is your tow vehicle just for towing? Sometimes you buy a tow vehicle exclusively to tow your RV. But many RVers want a tow vehicle that doubles as a standard vehicle for getting around town and non-RV travel. If you plan to drive your new tow vehicle around without your RV, you may be just as concerned with gas mileage, safety and interior options as you are with tow rating. In these instances, minivans or crossovers may be a better option, assuming they’re enough to tow the RV you have! 


Contact RV Wholesale Superstore 

The professionals at RV Wholesale Superstore are ready to help you find the perfect RV for you and your family. Visit us in-person at 5080 W. Alexis Road, in Sylvania, OH or call us at (866) 640-9871 

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