You’ve made the decision to travel by RV for your next getaway! However, will you need to take along a car for day trips? Many RVers see the need to park their motorhomes at a travel destination and use another vehicle to travel around the area. If you fall into this group, you will have 3 different options to consider if you tow a car (a “toad” or “dinghy” in RV lingo).
Necessary Equipment Needed to Tow a Car
No matter how you tow your accessory vehicle, the RV will require several items to connect the car:
- Hitch – considered a permanent fixture on your RV. It will have a receptor in which a hitch ball can be mounted. Most RVs come from the factory with a hitch, but for those that don’t, a trailer hitch can sometimes be added. For more info, take a look at U-Haul’s Towing Glossary. Different hitches are rated by the amount of weight they can pull. Class 1 – up to 2,000 lbs, Class 2 – up to 3,500 lbs, Class 3 – up to 5,000 lbs, Class 4 – up to 10,000 lbs
- Receiver – part of the hitch that will hold different sizes of hitch balls.
- Hitch Ball – comes in different sizes and towing weights.
- Lighting Receptacle Plug
“Four Down” refers to how many tires of the “toad” are on the road when pulling it behind your motorhome. Many vehicle transmissions allow for this option, but if you are not sure, refer to the Dinghy Towing Guides, a list of vehicles that can be “flat towed” or “towed with four down.” The guides are listed by year of your vehicle’s manufacturer.
If your toad can be pulled behind the RV, you will need a few items to connect and brake the car:
- Tow bar
- Base plate kit installed on the toad
- Wiring kit
- Safety cables
- Supplemental braking system
Plan on spending anywhere from $1,500 to $2,500 for these items, depending on the amount of work you can do yourself versus the work you hire out (installation of the base plate, wiring, and the braking system may require a professional).
One detriment to towing a vehicle “four down” is that you cannot back up your motorhome while the vehicle is attached. However, it doesn’t require much time to unhook the toad and back up the RV if needed.
If you have checked the Dinghy Towing Guides and find that your toad cannot be pulled four down, then you have two options: Tow Dolly or Car Hauler.
A tow dolly is used mainly for vehicles with front-wheel drive transmissions, although rear wheel drive cars can be placed in a tow dolly if their transmissions are disconnected. Less equipment is required, but the major reason to use a tow dolly is if your RV cannot pull the weight of a toad plus the car hauler it is loaded on.
The equipment needed to attach your car to the tow dolly:
- Ratchet Straps
- Security Chains
- Safety Chains
Most dollies come with attached ramps, so loading is usually straight forward. As with all towing, be sure your motorhome is attached securely to the dolly at the hitch ball, and that the motorhome’s parking brake is on while loading.
A couple of things to consider with towing using a dolly: most states require a license for the dolly (a little added expense), and you cannot back up the motorhome while the dolly and toad are attached.
Car Hauler (Trailer)
If your toad is an all-wheel drive or 4 wheel drive vehicle, chances are that you will have to put it on a trailer to pull it behind your motorhome (check the Dinghy Towing Guides). Commonly known as a car hauler, the trailers normally have two axles for stability and low (or no) rails along the edges.
When purchasing a trailer, look for car haulers that are long enough for your vehicle, and make sure the axles on the trailer are rated at least 3,500 lbs. per axle. Many trailers come with hidden ramps and one of two different braking systems: surge brakes do not require a separate brake controller for the RV, but electric brakes do. The latter system gives you the capability to control the brakes on the trailer from within your motorhome, rather than depending upon the pressure of the trailer against a hydraulic cylinder (surge brake).
The equipment needed to use a car hauler:
- Ramps (if the trailer does not include them)
- Ratchet straps for tie down
- Brake Controller (if the trailer has electric brakes)
If your RV did not come with a brake controller, purchase and installation will cost about $300. Your car hauler will require its own licensing, as well. In a pinch (and with talented driver skills) you can back up your motorhome while the trailer/toad is attached.
Another consideration is that once you reach your destination: you may need to detach the trailer and store it somewhere within the campground. If that is a concern, consider finding a “pull-through” campsite.
A very big plus for using a car hauler is saving the wear and tear on your toad’s engine and transmission while you haul it. I travel frequently from my campsites to capture pictures and explore areas where I have “temporarily” settled, and bringing my car along for these adventures has been well worth the effort.
Take Your Pick
Any way you look at it, bringing a “toad” along can be a great plan! No one relishes the thought of unhooking water and electric at the campsite just to run some errands in town or take a side trip in the area. Taking a car with you can save you money in the long run and sanity on a daily basis! Figure out which plan will work best for you if you decide to tow a car, and check with Outdoorsy for suggestions on great road trips.
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