Did you know you can safely take your car with you on your next RV trip? It’s a lot easier than you might think, and it’s possible to do it very safely. In this guide, we’ll explain just that. By the end of this piece, you’ll know exactly how to tow a car behind an RV safely.
Clarification: Towing a Car Behind Your RV
To clear up some confusion before getting started, we want to be very clear: this guide is for RV owners who want to drive their RV and tow their car behind it. This is not a guide for how to hook up and tow an RV to your vehicle.
For this article, the car will be behind the RV as you drive the RV.
A Matter of Weight
Every RV on the market has a weight rating for its towing. That means that the manufacturer specifies exactly how much weight it can safely tow.
Too much weight and the RV’s performance will fall apart. It won’t be able to control the load behind it, and it can lead to a disaster.
At the same time, every vehicle has a posted “curb weight”. This translates to the weight of a vehicle with nobody or nothing inside of it. It’s the weight of an empty car just parked by the curb. Once you load up the car or sit in it, you’ll have to add the additional weight to the curb weight to get the final value.
For example, a 2021 Honda Civic LX has a curb weight of 2,771. If a 200-pound man sits in the driver’s seat and puts a 20-pound package next to him, the total weight of the car is now 2,991 (2,771 + 200 + 20).
If your RV has a towing capacity of 2,800 pounds, you’re in danger.
As a safety note, it’s important to mention this: the weight rating isn’t a suggestion. This is a firm value that comes right from the smart folks at Winnebago, Coachmen, Airstream, and so on. Even one pound over their towing cap is a bad idea.
What Vehicles Can Be Towed Behind an RV?
Any vehicle on wheels can be safely towed behind an RV as long as the weight is under the RV’s rated weight cap. This means boats, ATVs, motorcycles, cars, SUVs, and even trucks have the potential to be towed.
It’s common to see a car or motorcycle towed behind an RV. Other vehicles are too heavy for most options.
Pros and Cons of Towing a Car Behind an RV
If you’re a little on the fence about towing behind your RV, let’s talk about some pros and cons.
Pro: Don’t Worry About Renting a Car
A huge headache and expense that comes with taking your RV on the road is renting a car. Without a car, you’re pretty much stuck on the campground and can’t do much. RVs are really hard to navigate through a typical parking lot.
By towing your own car, you are saving a lot of money on rentals.
Pro: More Flexibility During Your Trip
Some people don’t consider renting a car thanks to the added cash required. For these folks, you don’t have a ton of flexibility. You have to find campgrounds that offer everything you need, or you need to bring a lot of additional resources.
With a car, you can take trips around, see more sights, and have a much more flexible trip.
Con: Worse Gas Mileage
With the added weight behind your RV, you’ll enjoy even worse gas mileage. This means spending more money on gas and stopping for fill-ups more regularly.
Con: Expensive Tow Package
Whichever towing package you choose from, the following section has an associate cost. They’re not necessarily cheap. Granted, it’s only a one-time cost.
You have to do a little math and find out which saves you more money: renting a car every trip, or spending extra for the tow package.
Con: Learning Curve
Finally, there’s a learning curve that goes into driving an RV with a car behind it. We’ll talk more about this later.
3 Ways to Tow a Car Behind an RV
Ultimately, you have three options if you want to safely tow a car behind an RV. None of these options can be jerry-rigged, they all have to be bought from a reputable seller.
1. Use a Trailer
A car trailer, also called a car hauler, is one of the most common ways to tow a car behind an RV. It’s a trailer made specifically for putting and strapping a vehicle onto.
In a lot of cases, the trailer has no rails along the edges and also features a small ramp at the rear. It connects via the trailer hitch behind your RV.
Simply connect the trailer, drive your car onto the trailer, use some ratchet straps, and off you go.
Make sure the trailer is long enough for your specific vehicle, and it has the right weight rating. Also, note the weight of the trailer to ensure it meets the towing cap of your RV.
This method doesn’t add extra wear and tear to your car because its tires never meet the road during your trip. Be on the lookout for pull-through campsites so you don’t have to worry about disconnecting the trailer and moving it around.
The trailer might have its own electric brakes, so you’ll need to install a brake controller if your RV doesn’t have one.
2. Use a Tow Bar (Four Down)
Using a tow bar will result in what’s called “four-down towing”. The name is pretty obvious once you see the setup — all four wheels of your vehicle are driving on the road while your RV chugs along.
This method features a small tow bar that connects from your RV’s hitch to your vehicle.
Along with the tow bar, you’ll also need safety cables, supplemental brakes, and a wiring kit. Before considering this method, you need to make sure that your car’s transmission is compatible — some won’t let you tow it four down.
With this method, there’s no way to back your RV into a spot. The vehicle will need to be removed until you can attempt backing up.
3. Use a Tow Dolly
The final option is called a tow dolly. It’s a nice combination of the previous two methods. With a tow dolly, the front two wheels will be strapped onto a dolly, and the rear two wheels will be riding on the road.
If you have an FWD car, this option is viable. With RWD cars, you’ll need to first disconnect your transmission.
Tow dollies are less expensive than full trailers. Make sure you check with your state’s rules to see if you need a license for this dolly. Also, don’t forget your safety chains and ratchet straps when you load up your vehicle.
Safety Tips for Towing a Car Behind an RV
Now that you know the three different ways to tow your car behind an RV, it’s time for some safety tips. These tips will ensure that every trip is as safe as possible.
Don’t Cheap Out
A lot of people are tempted to cut corners when it comes to dropping thousands of dollars on a towing method. Don’t.
If you opt for a cheap option, you can be picking up a defective unit. If the deal seems too good to be true, it probably is.
If your dolly, trailer, or tow bar fails during your trip, your car can get totaled, and your RV can crash. Both of these options are much more expensive than even a top-of-the-line trailer.
Double Check the Lights
Almost every trailer has a hookup for lights. This tells drivers behind you when you’re braking so you don’t get rear-ended.
Before plugging in the wires to your trailer, make sure that all the lights on your RV are working. With a big vehicle like this, there are always safety concerns.
If any of the lights aren’t working, you’ll have to fix them before you can start your trip.
Have a passenger stand at the rear of the trailer and get on the phone with them. With you in the driver’s seat, test out the blinkers, brake lights, and hazards on the trailer.
Use Your RV’s Parking Brake While Loading
For pull-behind trailers, you’ll often be loading your vehicle while they’re attached to your RV. To avoid pushing your RV down a hill and crashing it, you should apply the parking brake in your camper.
Triple-check that the parking brake is on before starting. This quick check can save you a ton of money and many headaches.
Understand the Weight Rating
We keep talking about the weight rating, and we’re about to talk about it again. Before loading your car and hitting the open road, check the weight rating on your RV one more time.
Ensure that the allowed weight rating is higher than everything you’re attaching to the tow hitch. The weight of the car, anything in it, and the trailer itself need to be added up.
Check Your Hitch
Oddly enough, hitches wear down over time. It’s a good idea to check your hitch every trip before hooking up anything. A lot of accidents happen because a trailer slips off the hitch mid-transit.
After attaching the trailer or tow bar, make sure the connection is tight and everything looks perfect. The last thing you want is your car to come dislodged and take a detour off the side of the highway while you’re cruising along. You’ll pull up to the campsite and wonder where your car went.
Remember That You Have a Car Back There
Finally, don’t forget that you have a car back there. Turning radii will be larger, stopping distances will be longer, and your RV’s maneuverability will be even worse. If you forget about your ride back there and try taking a sharp turn, your car can hit something along the way.
This is something that takes a little practice. After a few trips, you’ll better understand how your RV handles with your vehicle attached to the back.
We just covered how to safely tow a car behind an RV. Safety is key if you want to have an enjoyable trip. For more car tips, tricks, and guides — explore our blog. Ensure you have the right products for the best experience behind the wheel.