How to Tow a Car With an RV

How to Tow a Car With an RV

You’ve decided to rent an RV for your next adventure. That’s a great choice! Next comes the logistics. How do you plan to get around once you park your motorhome? 

Many RVers and renters hitch a car to the back of the motorhome. That way, you don’t have to break down your camping setup whenever you visit another location. 

Ready to explore more of some of our beautiful national parks? Want to get food that’s a little more elaborate than you have the energy to make? Towing a car gives you more freedom to hit the road. 

But, how does an RV-car towing situation even work? There are a few different options to weigh. Once you have a good idea of each, you can decide what works for you. 

couple enjoying an RV car hitched in back

What RV Towing Equipment Do I Need?

Before we get into your options, it’s a good idea to be familiar with the equipment. No matter what method you choose, there are several pieces required to safely tow a car. 

Trailer Hitch

The trailer hitch is a permanent fixture on an RV. Most models leave the factory with one. If it doesn’t, you can usually add one. 

There are a few different types of hitches. The most common version has two core pieces: 

  • Receiver
  • Ball hitch

Manufacturers rate hitches by pull capacity, the amount of weight they can pull. Check your vehicle weight and the towing capacity before you hitch a car to your RV.

U-Haul has a handy towing glossary that provides more information on hitches and general terminology. 

Electrical Connections 

Every towing method requires an electrical connection between the trailer and the coach. This connection controls brake lights, turn signals, and the license plate light. 

More importantly, it makes the tow street legal and safe. Trying to tow a car behind an RV without lights and signals is incredibly dangerous. 

Three Ways to Tow a Car Behind an RV

You have three ways to tow a car behind an RV: 

  • Car hauler
  • Tow dolly 
  • Four down

Finding the right method for you boils down to two main factors: 

  • Personal preference
  • Whether your car model’s design allows for towing

Car Hauler

If your car is 4-wheel drive or all-wheel drive, there’s a good chance you’ll need a car hauler. A car hauler is a trailer with two axles and low or no rails on the edges. 

There are a couple of things to consider when you look at these trailers: whether it’s long enough for your vehicle and the rating of the axles (min. 3,500 lbs.).

Generally, these trailers have hidden ramps and use one of two brake systems: surge brakes or electric brakes.  Surge brakes don’t need a separate brake controller. Electric brakes have you control the trailer brakes from the motorhome. 

What Equipment Do I Need? 

If you tow a car with a car hauler, you need a few extra pieces of equipment:

  • Ratchet straps to tie the vehicle down
  • Brake controller (if it has electric brakes)
  • Ramp (if it doesn’t have one)

If an RV doesn’t have a brake controller, buying and installing one costs around $300. Car haulers also require separate licensing. 

It’s also important to take your destination into consideration. You may need to detach the trailer and store it elsewhere. A better option may be “pull-through” campsites.

A car hauler may sound like a handful, but it saves on the wear and tear of the towed vehicle. 

Tow Dolly

A tow dolly is a different type of trailer. You load the two front wheels of the car and leave the rear tires on the ground. Then, it rolls along as you tow the car with the RV. 

Generally, RVers use tow dollies for vehicles with front-wheel drive. However, it’s possible to tow a rear-wheel-drive vehicle if you disconnect the transmission. 

Tow dollies also require less equipment. The main reason people use them, though, is when an RV can’t pull the hitched car plus the weight of a car hauler. 

What Equipment Do I Need?

You only need two additional items with a tow dolly: 

  • Safety chains
  • Ratchet straps

Most tow dollies have an attached ramp. That makes loading a simple process. The most important thing is to ensure the dolly is attached securely to the RV. While loading, you should also make sure the RV’s parking brake is on. 

Two other things to consider: 

  • Most states require a license for a tow dolly
  • You cannot back up the RV with the dolly and car attached

Four Down

four-down towing a car with a motorhome

Four down gets its name because the tires are on the ground as you tow the car behind the RV. Unlike the other options, four-down tows require less equipment.  

The main issue RVers encounter is that many vehicles don’t allow for this option. If your isn’t designed for this option, it can cost you in transmission repairs. This Dinghy Towing Guide from 2022 has a list of vehicles that work with a four-down tow. 

What Equipment Do I Need?

If your car works with this method, you only need a few pieces of equipment to connect the vehicles. 

  • Tow bar
  • Base plate kit (installed on the car)
  • Safety cables
  • Wiring connections
  • Supplemental braking system

These items can cost anywhere from $1500-2500. It depends on the amount of DIY work you plan to do. One disadvantage to four-down towing is that you cannot backup the RV with the car attached. However, it doesn’t take much to unhook if you need to. 

Ready to Tow Your Car With an RV?

Despite the effort involved, rowing a car behind an RV is a great plan. You can leave the motorhome connected to electricity and water at an RV campsite and run a few errands or take a quick trip easily. 

Towing a car can save time and money, not to mention your sanity. If you have questions about towing your car with one of our RVs, give us a call! TX RV Adventures is always happy to ensure our renters have everything they need for their next adventure.

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