If you enjoy long road trips to the lake or plan on hauling a camper for outdoor excursions, a vehicle with a good gross trailer weight, also known as towing capacity, is in order. Trucks are often the first place shoppers look for a strong tow vehicle, but what if a truck isn’t the right vehicle for you?
Fortunately, there are plenty of other vehicles with respectable towing capacities. In this tow guide, you’ll discover the best non-truck towing vehicles that just might surprise you.
SUVs are typically the next best thing to a pickup truck for towing. Many larger SUVs are based on pickup trucks, so they come close in terms of maximum towing capacity. Keep in mind that there are three main SUVs classes — full-size, mid-size, and compact — and their towing capacities drop as you decrease the vehicle size. Here are 12 options for you to consider.
Full-size SUVs are often closely related to an automaker's pickup trucks, providing comparable towing capacity while offering room for the whole family, plus cargo. Here are some full-size SUVs with healthy towing capacities.
The Chevy Tahoe, which shares some DNA with the Silverado pickup, uses its potent V8 engine and rugged chassis to handle just about all the towing the average person throws its way. For example, the 2020 Tahoe can tow up to 8,600 pounds, which means it can easily tow up to an 11-meter tow-behind camper, an 11-meter moving trailer, a trailer loaded with a few dirt bikes, or even another vehicle.
The Ford Expedition, which shares much of its construction with the Ford F-150, is a leader in full-size SUV towing. For example, the 2019 Expedition equipped with a 3.5-liter twin-turbo V6 engine and rugged structure can tow up to 9,300 pounds. This makes it the perfect tow vehicle for an 11-meter (or longer) travel trailer, an 11-meter moving trailer, a medium-sized boat, or even a large vehicle.
If you're looking for a little luxury to go with your towing, the Lincoln Navigator does well in both departments. Like the Expedition, the Navigator shares many mechanic similarities with the Ford F-150, making it an excellent tow vehicle. For example, the 2019 Navigator can haul up to 8,600 pounds, making it the perfect option for towing an 11-meter (or longer) travel trailer, an 11-meter moving trailer, or even a large vehicle.
Midsize SUVs come in two- and three-row options to accommodate families of all sizes. Some are based on car chassis instead of trucks, making them even easier to drive but reducing towing capabilities. Below are three great midsize SUVs for towing.
The Toyota 4Runner, which is based on the capable Toyota Tacoma, offers five- and seven-passenger capacities, a roomy cargo area with the third row folded or in the five-passenger configuration, and respectable towing capacity. For example, the 2019 4Runner offers up to a 5,000-pound towing capacity. This will allow it to tow a sub-7.6-meter camper with relative ease.
For many years, the Dodge Durango has offered buyers a wide range of powertrain options. Within these options come variable tow ratings, all of which are quite capable. For example, the 2019 Durango offers a 293-horsepower 3.6-liter V6, a 360-horsepower 5.7-liter V8, and a 475-horsepower 6.4-liter V8. The 2019 Durango with these engines can tow up to 6,200 pounds, 7,400 pounds, and 8,700 pounds, respectively.
This means that with the V6 engine, it can tow a 7.6-meter camper with ease or a midsize car, while the 6.4-liter model can tug an 11-meter camper or large car.
The Ford Explorer is another midsize SUV with a few engine options and varying towing capacities. With its base 2.3-liter turbo four-cylinder engine, the 2019 Explorer can tow up to 3,000 pounds, which translates to a small popup camper, small trailer for jet skis, or small fishing boat.
Buyers looking to tow a larger camper will want to move into the 3.5-liter V6 engine, which bumps its max towing to 5,000 pounds — enough to tow a sub-7.6-meter-long camper or moving trailer. It can also tow a compact car on a trailer.
Compact SUVs may specialize in delivering a family-friendly ride with a small footprint, but that doesn't mean they can't tow a loaded trailer. Here are a few compact SUVs with impressive towing capacity.
The Jeep Cherokee is a unicorn in the compact SUV segment, as it offers something for everyone, including luxurious appointments in higher trims and off-road prowess in its Trailhawk model. Adding to this is its surprising towing capacity.
With its base 2.4-liter engine, 2019 Cherokee's maximum towing capacity rings in at a pedestrian 2,000 pounds, which is enough for a tiny popup camper or a few jet skis. With its 2.0-liter turbo engine, the Cherokee’s capacity jumps to 4,000 pounds, which is plenty for a 5.2-meter camper or a medium-sized fishing boat. Topping the range is the 4,500-pound towing capacity with the 3.2-liter V6, which can tackle some 7-meter campers.
Want a dose of luxury with that compact SUV towing power? The Audi Q5 offers just that with its small footprint, luxurious appointments, and surprising towing capacity.
The 2019 Audi Q5 equipped with the 2.0-liter turbo four-cylinder can tow up to 4,400 pounds, which is plenty to haul a 5.2-meter camper or a midsize fishing boat. You could even tow a subcompact car, like a Honda Fit, on a trailer or tow dolly.
The Toyota RAV4 has been around just about as long as the compact SUV segment has existed. Throughout the years, it’s always been a top seller. With plenty of room for a family, a small footprint, and loads of safety features, it's no wonder it's so popular.
Adding to this, the latest-generation RAV4 has a surprising max towing capacity. For example, the 2019 RAV4 Trail AWD can tow up to 3,500 pounds, which is enough for a popup camper, jet skis, or even a small boat. All other 2019 RAV4 models can tow 1,500 pounds, which is just enough for the smallest of pop-up campers.
Subcompact SUVs sometimes get dubbed "lifted hatchbacks" or "glorified hatchbacks" because many lack any towing capabilities. There are, however, some subcompact SUVs that can handle light towing without issue.
The Fiat 500X may be cute and tiny, but don't let its modest stature fool you. It has a tough side that allows it to do a little towing too. For example, the 2019 Fiat 500X, which features a 1.3-liter turbocharged three-cylinder engine that pumps out 177 horsepower, can tow up to 2,000 pounds.
That's not a lot compared to larger SUVs, but for its size, that's huge. The petite Fiat 500X can tow a small pop-up camper or even a trailer with a few jet skis on it.
The Ford EcoSport is another cute-looking subcompact crossover that has spent a little time in the weight room. With its extra strength, this tiny people hauler not only zigs and zags through traffic with ease, but it can do a little towing if needed.
The 2019 Ford EcoSport has two powertrains available, a 1.0-liter turbo three-cylinder, and a 2.0-liter turbo four-cylinder. With the 1.0-liter, the EcoSport can haul up to 1,400 pounds, which is enough for a tiny popup camper, a jet ski, or hitch-mounted bike rack.
Move up to the 2.0 liter engine, and the vehicle's towing capacity rises to 2,000 pounds, which will allow you to tote around a larger popup camper or a few jet skis.
The subcompact SUV class is not only known for cute-looking vehicles but it's also known for funkier designs. Enter the boxy Jeep Renegade. The Renegade is another Jeep with a few personalities, including a trail-ready Trailhawk trim that features a lifted suspension and other off-road-ready bits.
As for hauling, the Renegade does well too. The 2019 Renegade with the 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine and four-wheel drive can tow up to 2,000 pounds. Like others in its class, this capacity allows the Renegade to tow a small popup camper or a pair of jet skis. Jeep doesn’t recommend towing with any front-wheel drive Renegades. Still, you can add a non-towing hitch receiver to haul a small bike rack.
Electric SUVs may be an afterthought when it comes to towing, but some are more than capable of light towing.
The Tesla Model X gets plenty of accolades for its impressive EV range and wild performance in its higher trims. However, it’s a capable tow vehicle too with up to a 4,960-pounds tow capacity. That could easily tow a 5.2-meter camper or a midsize fishing boat.
If the Tesla Model X is too large for you, the smaller Model Y may be a better fit. Don’t let its smaller stature fool you. It’s also a capable tow vehicle with up to a 3,500-pound towing capacity. That’s enough to haul a popup camper, jet skis, or even a small boat.
While towing capacity is a great way to gauge if a vehicle can handle the towing you plan to do, there’s more to it than that. You must also consider other weight limits.
The gross combination weight rating GCWR is the gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) — the maximum weight the vehicle can be when you add together the weight of the vehicle, passengers, and their cargo — plus the towing capacity.
If you're planning to haul the whole family, luggage, and a trailer, you'll want to estimate that weight and verify it doesn't exceed the GCWR. This is especially important in subcompact models, as their lighter-duty chassis may not hold up to the combined weight of a trailer and a fully loaded cabin.
Another weight to consider before towing a trailer is the vehicle's gross axle weight rating (GAWR). This is the maximum weight each axle can handle. When loading a trailer, you want to evenly distribute the weight so it all doesn't go in front of the trailer's axle. If the entire load is near the front of the trailer, it puts the total weight of the trailer on the vehicle's axle. This unbalanced loading can end up exceeding the GAWR, even if you're still under the towing capacity.
Tongue weight is the maximum allowable weight at the coupling point between the ball hitch and trailer. Like GAWR, this is mostly focused on balancing the load on the trailer so there's not too much weight near the front. If you put too much weight near the front of the trailer, it will mostly fall on the tongue.
When checking towing capacities, also make sure to review the owner's manual to verify what equipment the vehicle needs to attain its maximum capacity. Manufacturers often list these ratings, but it's only valid with a specific class of hitch receiver or with a transmission cooler installed.
Without this optional equipment, the tow rating could be significantly lower, or the vehicle may not be rated to tow at all without it.
You can put a hitch receiver on just about any vehicle with enough effort and ingenuity, but this doesn't mean every vehicle can tow. This becomes critical when shopping for a pre-owned vehicle, as you may find one with a hitch and assume it's a capable tow vehicle.
Many times, vehicle owners put hitch receivers on vehicles for reasons other than towing — like hauling a mobility scooter or for a hitch-mounted bike rack. These are generally referred to as "lifestyle hitches" instead of tow hitches.
Attempting to tow with a vehicle not rated for it can cause serious damage to the vehicle and can cause an accident, so don’t do it.
If you're in the market for a pre-owned tow vehicle that's not a pickup truck, Clutch has a wide selection of alternatives. Whether you need a full-size SUV to haul a big family and hulking trailer or a subcompact SUV to tote around a popup camper, we have them all for you at great prices.
Plus, we take the stress out of shopping for a preowned tow vehicle by allowing you to complete the entire process online. No salespeople following you around and no crazy haggling to get a better price.
All of Clutch’s pre-owned tow vehicles have been put through a 210-point inspection to ensure they're ready to take your trailer out on the open road. If you aren't satisfied with your Clutch vehicle for any reason within the first 10 days, you can exchange it for a different vehicle or return it for a no-hassle refund. Even better, when you choose to keep your Clutch vehicle, you're protected by our 90-day or 6,000-mile limited warranty.
If you're trading in your old car, we can handle that too. You can get a trade-in estimate immediately through our website. If the estimate looks good, you can submit a few pictures and other information and get an official estimate for your trade-in vehicle. So ahead and give it a try — it’s never been easier.