Towing a car behind your RV gives you the freedom to explore easily around your destination. But getting your car or truck “toad” to your campsite isn’t always simple – especially if you’re traveling across the country.
While there are multiple ways to tow a vehicle behind an RV. Here are the safest and cheapest ways to tow a car long distance.
There are two main factors that will determine the additional cost to tow a vehicle behind your RV. Assuming the RV and the vehicle you are towing stay the same these two things will be the big factors:
- Extra weight – The weight of the vehicle and any trailer or dolly used to tow.
- Rolling resistance of the vehicle being towed – The surface area of tires contacting the road and how straight it tracks behind your RV.
Now let’s look at 3 common ways to tow your vehicle and which is the safest and cheapest option.
Vehicle Carrier Trailer
A vehicle carrier trailer is a trailer that supports the entire vehicle. This is great for your vehicle as there is no wear on the vehicle but rather the trailer does all the hard work.
Trailers can be either open or enclosed, however, most will be the open style. The vehicle is driven onto the trailer and secured in place for the ride.
Although the vehicle does still move a little while on the trailer, like when on a rough road, the majority of the suspension work is handled by the trailer along with all of the tire wear.
Having the vehicle free from wear (and no extra miles put on it) does come at a cost though. A vehicle carrier trailer is not one of the cheapest ways to tow a car long distance. In fact, all things considered, it may be the most expensive.
Vehicle Carrier Savings
There is no wear on your vehicle’s tires, steering, braking, and little movement of the suspension. This is the big draw of a carrier trailer. Plus, trailers with brakes can reduce the wear on your RV brakes by doing some of the work for them.
Vehicle Carrier Costs
Carrier trailers are not cheap! Of course, once paid for the trailer is yours but there will always be the maintenance of tires, suspension, and brakes.
Although not as available as dolly-style units, you can rent vehicle carriers. They are more expensive by about 20% and for a long-distance haul, the cost can be significant.
Towing the extra weight is another cost that can add up. The average carrier trailer will be 2000 pounds and as high as 3000 pounds. This can be like hauling a second small vehicle.
Securing a vehicle to a carrier trailer is an important step that has to be done carefully. The process involves multiple straps and/or chains that will have to be purchased and maintained.
A tow dolly is less money, less work, and less maintenance than a full-size car trailer. It is essentially a trailer for the front wheels of a vehicle.
Ideal for smaller front-wheel drive vehicles, tow dollys are not intended for larger, heavier vehicles. Although rear-wheel drive vehicles can be towed it is more of a process and generally not permitted by rental companies.
Front-wheel and four-wheel drive vehicles are also tricky and with a rental likely won’t be allowed. If you own your dolly there are ways with certain rear-wheel and four-wheel vehicles to tow them. Care must be taken and vehicle manufacturing recommendations should be followed.
Tow Dolly Savings
From a rental standpoint, a dolly will be cheaper to rent than a full-car carrier trailer. If you own one, there is a bit less maintenance to worry about as there are no brakes and only two tires.
The weight of a dolly is a fraction of a full trailer at approximately 500 pounds. These weight savings also mean less strain on your RV (and less gas guzzled).
Tow Dolly Costs
Although cheaper than a trailer, you still need to rent or buy a dolly. If you choose the latter, this means continued maintenance. A rental will cost about $50 a day and depending on the rental company additional charges may apply on top of that.
A dolly removes the front tires (in most cases) from the road but the rear is still in contact. Any miles you travel are added to the wear of the rear tires and suspension. Some extra wear can be considered due to the fact that the rear tires now are dealing with any swaying from towing.
Dinghy towing is the towing of a vehicle behind your RV with no trailer involved. Sometimes called flat towing, the vehicle is attached directly to your RV and towed flat with all tires in contact with the road.
There is no trailer involved, however, there is a special flat towing hitch required for dinghy towing. The RV side is a ball mount the same as any trailer, but the vehicle side is designed to mount to the vehicle being towed.
The hitches can be as cheap as a couple of hundred bucks for a used unit to a couple thousand for higher-end units.
Dinghy Tow Savings
Aside from the weight of the hitch, there is no additional weight being towed by your RV. This form of towing will have the least impact on your RV from a weight standpoint.
Towing your vehicle will add to the fuel used by your RV, however, with no additional weight beyond the car, it will have the smallest effect on fuel usage.
Dingy Tow Costs
Rental of the equipment to dingy tow your vehicle with your RV is more likely to be purchased than rented. Although the purchase cost is lower than a trailer or dolly, you will probably be buying it rather than renting it. An add-on you’ll want to consider is a tow shield to protect your car as well.
This type of towing has the highest amount of wear on your vehicle. The tires and suspension of your vehicle will essentially be exposed to the same amount of wear as driving.
So, What’s the Cheapest Way to Tow a Car Behind Your RV?
Assuming you don’t already own any of the above types of trailers or hitches, the cheapest to buy will likely be a dinghy hitch. If you travel a lot one of these hitches makes sense. Fuel savings, along with no need for maintenance over the years will save you money.
If you are renting, a dolly is your best bet. They’re cheaper than a full trailer and have less weight to pull, so the daily travel cost compared to a car carrier trailer will be noticeable.
Carrier trailers are expensive to buy, rent, maintain, and tow. If you have a vehicle like a classic car, something not easily towed, or something you prefer to not put any additional wear on then these trailers may be worth it to you.
Regardless of which way you decide to tow your vehicle behind your RV, having it with you is a huge plus. The cost of fuel and wear on a vehicle along with the additional risk of a second driver makes towing your vehicle a smart move.