Freedom to travel anywhere. Ability to be 100% self-sufficient. The allure for unlimited adventure. These are just a few reasons you may want to bring your car with you on your next RV trip.
But how exactly do you tow a vehicle safely and without breaking the rules and laws your state has set regarding RV triple towing- many states permit it but with certain restrictions.
Take a closer look to find out how to pull a car behind an RV the right way, so you enjoy more freedom to explore or run errands once your recreational vehicle is parked.
How to Pull a Car Behind an RV
If you’re new to this, it’s important to note that a vehicle pulled behind a motorhome is technically called a toad or a dinghy (never mind that the RV community has its way of crafting new vocabulary).
Let’s jump into the tips and steps of towing your Chevy HHR, Jeep Wrangler, Ford ranger, or any other vehicle behind your 5er.
How do mobile homes pull cars behind them?
Now, there are three options, and each has its pros and cons;
- On a trailer (or a flatbed)- all 4 wheels are kept off the ground.
- With a small tow dolly- two wheels kept off the ground
- Dinghy/flat towing (the vehicle rolls along behind the RV With its own 4 wheels ‘flat’ on the ground)
Let’s dig a little deeper so that you can understand each approach. You naturally want to choose the best and most practical method for you.
How to pull a car behind an RV on a trailer (trailering)
Our first choice means carrying the car on an enclosed trailer or a flatbed.
The biggest advantage of this technique is that you can tow any vehicle you want- all you’re required to do is invest in a rightly-sized flatbed/enclosed trailer, and you’re good to go.
To put it into perspective, it’s not possible to tow some vehicles on a tow dolly because it is intended to haul specific weights of chassis. Likewise, towing bigger cars on all fours is unrealistic due to safety fears- stability and safe braking are some of the things you’re not guaranteed if you take this path.
The most worrying downside of the trailer towing method is the extra investment needed to purchase the flatbed trailer.
On the other hand, with this technique, you’ll not be stressed about potential transmission damage- just load up your truck or car and go.
Tip: You may need essentials like a set of quality loading ramps and ratchet straps (to secure the car) if you want to use a trailer to tow your auto.
How to pull a car behind an RV with a tow dolly
If you’re uncomfortable taking the trailering route, consider using a conventional car tow dolly to bring your vehicle along. Here, the 2 rear wheels are placed on the road while the front wheels go on the dolly.
Needless to say, you’ll have to fork out on a suitable tow dolly (plus ratchet straps and probably safety chains), so your budget will again have a big say in your final decision.
Apart from that, you should keep a couple of other points in mind. For example, most car tow dollies are built for front-wheel drive autos, weighing not more than 5000 pounds. Besides, your dinghy vehicle can easily be damaged or scraped – on the body, bumper, etc.- particularly when driving over unexpected road hazards.
Even your class A/B/C RV is itself not safe from being scratched or suffering other damage when towing a car behind it with a two-wheeled dolly.
The other notable drawback- and you also encounter this with a trailer- is that it takes significantly more effort to get your car on/off the ‘hauler’. Lastly, backward steering geometry is not likely to work correctly on the dolly, so towing backward would be ill-advised.
Flat towing – the most popular course of action
It turns out that letting your car roll on all its fours behind your RV is perhaps the simplest solution. The major attraction for most people is that you’ll not be spending a lot- the only major expense is on a tow bar, and the cost is nowhere close to what you pay for a flatbed/enclosed trailer.
In addition, attaching and detaching the toad to and from the RV is not difficult. That said, I want to draw your attention to two crucial concerns about flat towing.
To begin with, not all cars will be successfully towed on all fours for a long distance without causing damage to the transmission system…The damage starts at the tires and slowly spreads to the sensitive links between the wheels, and eventually, the transmission breaks down.
Secondly, you cannot tow your car this way if its weight exceeds your RV’s weight limit as spelled out by the manufacturer- each model has a weight cap for items you may want to tow behind it. You can confirm your unit’s actual ceiling from your owners’ manual.
Tip: To be sure if this is a viable bet, check if your vehicle is among the flat-towing models from the towing guide this year.
How to pull an outback behind a RV
If you own a Subaru Outback and are part of the swelling toad crowd, you have a reason to smile. You see, in general, you can tow your outback without any issues using any of the alternatives I have listed above.
In short, you can load it on a flatbed trailer and drive off with it behind or tow it to your destination with the front wheels on a tow dolly. You can also opt to flat-tow it, but, as mentioned before, you must be careful about your RV’s towing capacity.
Of course, all the previously stated advantages and disadvantages apply, and I expect you to weigh them up when choosing the best way forward.
There are two key determinants to the approach you’ll ultimately take- the RV towing regulations in the state(s) you will be driving through and the towing precautions and instructions of your RV and vehicle’s manufacturer.
Go through them first, then take another look at the positives and negatives of each method, including the cost of the necessary RV car towing equipment, before deciding what’s right for you.
References and Citations:
1. Action Donation Services: State by State RV and Towing Laws- https://actiondonation.org/state-by-state-rv-and-towing-law/
2. State of California; Department of Motor Vehicles(DMV): Recreational Vehicles and Trailers Handbook- https://www.dmv.ca.gov/portal/file/recreational-vehicles-trailers-handbook-pdf/