When it comes to towing behind a motorhome, there are a lot of questions involved. The main question we hear is, 'what kind of trailer should one use?' Here we will take a look at a Dolly vs. Toad vs. Flat towing to help you learn the difference. Knowing how to pick the right method begins with knowing what the different methods are!
The Towing Differences
When looking at towing, you want to ensure your picking the right method for both the driver and the towed vehicle. Some vehicles need to be towed with all 4 wheels on the ground and some actually shouldn’t be. This is going to be the biggest deciding factor in how you plan to tow.
A dolly trailer is one where the front wheels of your vehicle rest off the ground and on the trailer. Most vehicles these days are front wheel drive and towing this way keeps from moving the drive shaft. This not only prevents unnecessary wear & tear on the drive train, it will also keep you from racking up miles on your vehicle. This is one of the most versatile towing methods, but there are a few downfalls to it. You cannot tow a rear wheel drive vehicle on a dolly. The trailers themselves are somewhat expensive to purchase and, depending on the state, you will most likely have to register and plate the trailer separately. These trailers can be hard to back in as well, and you then have to find a place at the site to store the trailer once your vehicle is off of it.
The last method is the flat trailer! Any vehicle can be towed on a flat trailer as you just drive it up on the platform and anchor it down. With this towing method you don’t have to worry about wear and tear on the drive train or the tires, and there’s no added mileage either! With a flat trailer you can back up effortlessly, and if you have a big enough trailer and the capacity to pull it, you can pull multiple vehicles. This is also the way to go for things like motorcycles, ATVs, and golf carts. The main disadvantage here is that it can take a bit of effort to load up, the trailer itself is heavier and will take up some of your towing capacity, and you have to find somewhere to store it when you get to your destination.
The toad method using a tow bar. This method requires modification to the towed vehicle by adding a plate with connectors to the chassis. The bars then connect here and to the motorhome hitch. This will tow the vehicle with all wheels down on the ground. This is the easiest and cheapest way to tow a vehicle, and since the bars just come off, there’s no need for space at the campsite to store a trailer. However, the downfall is that the only vehicle you can tow is the one on which you have added the connectors. So if you get a new vehicle or want to take someone else’s with you, you'll have to modify it as well. Some vehicles are not meant to be towed with all wheels on the ground and it can actually cause damage to them. This towing method can also add mileage to the towed vehicle unless there are modifications to the speedometer. Backing up with a vehicle with a tow bar is also typically not possible as it can also cause damage. You would have to disconnect the toad back up, and then reconnect when you’re ready.
The Towing Capability
Before you even think about towing, you need to know about your hitch, as well as your motorhome’s towing capacity. There are some numbers and figures you are going to need to gather about the rig, the hitch, and then eventually the vehicle you’re towing and the type of trailer used to tow it. Let’s first take a look at the numbers you need from your rig itself!
Near the door of your RV's exterior is where you’re going to find two weights. You’re looking for Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) and Gross Combined Weight Rating (GCWR). These numbers tell you what your engine and chassis can handle.
Next you need to check your hitch itself! The hitch will say how many lbs it can handle. You may find that these two numbers aren’t in line.
Here is an example of the numbers we found on a Georgetown XL:
GVWR: 24,000 lbs
GCWR: 30,000 lbs
Hitch Weight: 5,000 lbs
Now that we have our numbers gathered, we need to do some calculations on what we can handle with this rig.
Subtracting the GVWR from the GCWR will let you know how much the motorhome itself can handle! So for our Georgetown XL:
30,000 – 24,000 = 6,000 lbs
We now know that the motorhome can pull up to 6,000. However, when looking at our hitch, the hitch itself can only handle 5,000lbs. Loading that extra 1,000 will spell disaster. It can do damage to the hitch itself and cause difficulty towing. We’ve now found the “weakest link” here and need to use that amount of weight as our max!
The Towed Vehicle
Finding out the weight of the vehicle you’re planning to tow may require an actual scale and a little bit of detective work! Getting the car weighed is always the best way to go, however it’s not always an option. If you don’t have this option, then you can look up what is called the curb weight of your vehicle. The curb weight is how much the vehicle weighs as it rolls off the assembly line, with all tanks and fluids full. For example, by looking at the manufacturer’s website, we can see that the cub weight of the 2015 Chevy Impala we want to tow is 3,800 lbs.
We now know that our hitch and our motorhome can handle the weight of our car. It’s important to note that you will need to add in any additional weight for the cargo you have in the car. So if you have anything in the trunk or inside, weigh it and add it in.
The next step is going to involve your trailer. Check the amount of weight your trailer or tow bars are meant to handle. This will be specific to the trailer so check it out before you purchase it and ensure that you get a trailer that can handle what you want to tow. If you are planning to use a flat trailer, you will need to add in the weight of the trailer to the weight of the vehicle and make sure you’re not going over your max towing capacity.
Getting to the campsite, getting your rig all set up, level, and plugged in, just to realize you need to make a quick trip down the road can be pretty frustrating. Bringing along a towed vehicle will make those quick trips easy. Ensuring the proper tow method beforehand will make a huge difference on your towing experience. Evaluating the dolly vs. toad vs. flat trailer and learning the towing difference will help you choose which is best for you!