The best tow vehicle for any Recreational Vehicle touring task is the one which best fits the buyer’s needs. It is up to the tow vehicle buyer to be satisfied with the final decision.
It is no easy choice so GoSee, with a great deal of help from our informed friends, set out to make tow vehicle buyers wiser.
We think that better informed buyers will choose the best tow vehicle for their needs. The benefits of that outcome include improved road safety, security and touring pleasure under tow.
This Info Article is brand neutral. It is possible to identify some tow vehicle types in what is said here but as far as possible the information provided is general.
In the perfect GoSee towing world the caravan is always purchased first. Once this choice is made total caravan weight with the caravan’s water tank or tanks filled and the caravan loaded is known.
So to is the ball weight and it is the ball weight on the towbar which makes or breaks a tow vehicle choice. It is the benchmark on which warranty and insurance support depends. A tow vehicle warranted to 130kg ball weight should never find itself with 250 to 300kg pressing down. The reverse situation when there is too little weight on the ball can be dangerous too.
Either way there is a risk of major problems and perhaps the tail wagging the dog.
Despite some misguided folklore which appears from time to time a Weight Distribution Hitch cannot alter ball weight.
So the vehicle makers warranted ball weight must be adequate for the intended towing load plus a 10 percent safety margin.
Most tow vehicle buyers are not fortunate enough to be able to buy their Recreational Vehicle first so they can find themselves seriously disadvantaged by the ball weight limitations of the tow vehicle they have.
In a worst case it can be completely unsuitable, with major road safety, warranty and insurance shortfalls.
In the final crunch a police accident assessment will not be kind. The intended tow vehicle can be so unsafe for the job replacement is the only expensive towing option. When this happens to family caravan buyers they can find themselves without the resources to change the situation.
Here are general benchmarks for the Best Tow Vehicle –
The tow vehicle must be as heavy or (ideal) heavier than anything it tows.
Maximum torque (pulling power expresses as Nm) should be as low as possible in the rev. range of an engine capable of sustained pulling power under its warranted towing load regardless of the type of fuel being used.
The vehicle makers warranted ball weight must be adequate for the intended towing load plus a 10 percent safety margin.
Warranted towing capacity and the 10 percent safety margin must not vary with specific models within a vehicles model range nor depend on towing aids like Weight Distribution Hitches for warranty cover in terms of ball weight and total trailer mass.
The tow vehicles manufacturer warranted loaded carrying capacity must be considered in the total caravan towing capacity of the tow vehicle. Towing ability claims by vehicle makers must reflect this.
The tow vehicles braking system must be designed for safety under heavy towing loads and be effective when used in conjunction with electric and mechanical brakes on caravans and trailers.
The tow vehicle must have a cooling system designed to cope with extreme temperatures.
The tow vehicles transmission should be appropriately geared, cooled and designed to handle towing loads.
The tow vehicles structure must be designed to accept towbars and related towing aids like a Weight Distribution Hitch and related towing aids without risk of structural failure.
The tow vehicle must have a suspension designed for towing.
The tow vehicles accessory features (usually controlled by a computer chip) such as Active Height Control must not become confused when asked to handle ball weights to 350kg.
The tow vehicle must handle safely.
The tow vehicle must be efficient and must perform to its design parameters.
These benchmarks can only be effectively applied with an honest answer to these questions –
What is the loaded (ATM) total weight of the caravan?
What is the real ball weight, loaded of the caravan?
Other considerations –
The tow vehicle must retain its resale value.
The tow vehicle must be designed to be ecologically responsible.
The tow vehicle must be safe, acceptable daily transport when it is not towing.
The tow vehicle must be comfortable.
The tow vehicle cost must be value.
The industry focus group from which these benchmarks come cut the tow vehicle owners group into three segments:
This group often buy Recreational Vehicles in the $80,000 to $150,000 price range.
They often set-out to drive Around Australia.
Long distance travel is high on their agenda but the biggest and best is essential.
They demand high levels of comfort in their caravans and motorhomes.
Most of their equipment and the extras which add to the high level of home comforts is off-the-self. They are usually older, knowledgeable and research thoroughly every aspect of any RV or tow vehicle they buy.
The tow vehicle is often top of the range. This means that total investment in their touring rig could be up to $350,000. In the bigger motorhomes, which can tow a smaller commuter vehicle behind, this figure can double.
This is the most numerous group and they are the future for the RV, caravan and caravan park industry in Australia and New Zealand.
This is Family in the broadest context – extended, traditional and couples travelling together.
They can be financially stretched and are often time poor.
They are most likely to plan their towing with a traditional family vehicle in mind.
Fairly recent auto market shifts have introduced the cross-over Sport Utility Vehicle to this group. Many of these are designed as people-movers and they can be lacking in rated towing ability.
This group can least afford to make a mistake with their choice of tow vehicle.
If fact their vehicle choice is coloured when they ask themselves the question – how often do we tow?
Usually the answer is not often and their occasional towing tug is mostly a cooking variety vehicle which does plenty of work as dad or mum’s taxi.
Like the Heavy Group they rely on off-the-self products but often are new to the experience and short on time to research the pitfalls.
This makes them the group most in need of informed, neutral professional assistance.
The best advice they can have is from such a resource assisting them in setting up their tow vehicle and caravan.
They often regard quality towbars and towing aids like a Weight Distribution Hitch and Friction Sway Control as unnecessary expense.
With time and money pressures they are inclined to ask – do we need it?
The answer is – use it and you will never know that you did!
This section of the towing groups commits to their vehicles in both dollars and time.
They not only know what they want but they are prepared to invest big-time in their vehicles with customised equipment.
Both tow vehicle and trailer are often particularly well engineered and the owners develop their rigs and keep them a long time.
They are either long-term, highly experienced off-roaders or they are new but determined to go off-road.
They are demanding and expect that whatever they tow will go to most extremes behind the tow vehicle and they have done the numbers.
Many of the tow vehicles in the Adventure Group are highly modified and fully equipped.
Some enthusiast owners will order a new 4WD and send it to be customised before they take delivery. Customised work is expensive and the Adventure enthusiast will keep the tow vehicle a long time. A decade is not uncommon.
Editors Note: GoSee includes a range of photos from our towing experiences.
Links to related features from the GoSee Info Article library are also included.