Bringing a car along with you on an RV trip is a great way to increase mobility. That way, you can easily navigate towns and cities while leaving the RV safely parked elsewhere. There are 3 different ways to tow a car behind an RV, each with some pros and cons.
How to Tow a Car Behind an RV
How does towing a car behind an RV work? It depends on the method you use. The best method for you will depend on your towed car (aka a “dinghy” or a “toad”), plus a couple of other factors. The three methods are:
- Flat towing
- Tow dollies
Let’s take a look at each one.
Method 1: Flat Towing
Flat towing is also known as “four down” or “dinghy towing”. With this method, your car is pulled by your RV using a tow bar with all four wheels “down” on the road. The RV pulling the smaller tow car behind it resembles a boat pulling a small dinghy.
Flat towing has a lot of advantages and is considered by many to be the “gold standard” for ways to tow a car behind an RV. It might be the best way to tow a small car behind an RV. But, it also has the most considerations of any towing method. Plus, not all cars can be flat towed.
Pros of Flating Towing
One of the biggest advantages of flat towing is how easy it is. Once set up, attaching and detaching your car for towing is a breeze. Simply detach the tow bar and you’re ready to start driving!
Because it doesn’t require a trailer, flat towing is one of the most lightweight ways to tow a car behind an RV. This method only requires a tow bar, so you’ll be able to tow more weight. Plus, you won’t need the extra parking space for a bulky trailer.
Flat towing also places even wear on the tow vehicle. This is an advantage over tow dollies which unevenly wear out the back two tires of your towed vehicle.
Cons for Dinghy Towing
The biggest downside of flat towing is that it’s more complicated than other methods. If you don’t know how to flat tow a car behind an RV and pick the wrong car, you could permanently damage it. In general, most automatic vehicles can’t be flat towed – at least not without some kind of modification.
Generally speaking, most vehicles with a manual transmission and rear-wheel drive can be flat towed. For other vehicles, you’ll need to make some aftermarket additions to your vehicle such as a transmission lubrication pump or a drivetrain decoupler.
Flat towing can be hard on a car, especially if it has to be modified. Not only that but those required modifications can (in some cases) void your vehicle’s warranty.
Finally, you can’t back up your RV if you are flat towing a car. If you need to put your RV in reverse, you’ll have to detach your tow car. This can be a hassle.
Method 2: Tow Dollies
Next on the list of ways to tow a car behind an RV are tow dollies. Tow dollies are small trailers that support the front two wheels of your car while the back wheels remain on the road.
These trailers are a great “in-between” solution for how to tow a car behind a camper. They don’t have quite as many requirements as flat towing and are smaller and cheaper than full-size trailers. However, this method does have a few downsides.
Pros to Tow Dollies
Because they lift the front two wheels up and off the road, tow dollies are great for cars with front-wheel drive. You won’t have to make any special adjustments to tow an FWD car. Plus, you won’t put any miles on the odometer.
Tow dollies are also easy to use. You simply drive your car onto them, then secure the vehicle in place with chains and ratchet straps, then you’re ready to start driving!
Cons of Using a Tow Dolly
One of the biggest downsides of using a tow dolly is that they place uneven wear on your car. This is because only the rear tires are in contact with the payment and they’ll wear down faster than the front tires.
If your tow car has rear-wheel drive, you’ll likely have to make some adjustments to use a tow dolly. You’ll need to detach the drivetrain and possibly install other accessories. Because of these modifications, tow dollies aren’t recommended for rear-wheel-drive vehicles.
Finally, just like with tow bars, you can’t reverse with a tow dolly. If you need to back up, you’ll have to detach everything first.
Method 3: Car Haulers
Last on the list of ways to tow a car behind an RV are full-size flatbed trailers – AKA car haulers. These are large, flat trailers with (usually) four wheels. The tow car is loaded completely onto the trailer with all four wheels off the road.
While they’re larger and more expensive than other options, car haulers also have some distinct advantages. For one, they’re the best solution for how to tow a car behind an RV for those with all-wheel or four-wheel drive cars. But like the other two ways to tow a car behind an RV, there are of course some downsides.
Pros of a Car Hauler
One of the best things about car haulers: they can be used to tow pretty much any vehicle. If you’re wondering how to tow an automatic car behind an RV, this is a great option. Because the vehicle’s wheels aren’t moving, there’s no chance of inadvertently damaging your tow car.
Car haulers are also great if you’re worried about extra wear and tear on your car. Because they don’t wear down the car or require you to make any mechanical adjustments, this is the safest way to tow a car behind an RV. Especially if you have an older or more valuable vehicle, car haulers are a great choice.
Another huge advantage that car haulers have over the other 2 ways to tow a car behind an RV: they can be backed up. While it’s not always the easiest maneuver, it’s 100% possible to reverse with a trailer. Compare this with tow bars and tow dollies, which absolutely cannot be backed up.
Cons of a Flat-bed Trailer
The biggest con with car haulers? They’re very expensive.
A tow bar can be bought and installed for around $2,000 (at the high end). A tow dolly will top out around $4,5000. Meanwhile, a car hauler can cost up to $10,000 for an open trailer and up to $20,000 for one that’s enclosed! Because of this, a car hauler is a much bigger investment than other towing options. And in more sense than one: a car hauler is much bigger in size than other options!
If you want a car hauler, you’ll also need somewhere to put it and extra space to park it on your RV site. Due to their size, car haulers are really heavy. That extra weight reduces gas mileage and eats into your vehicle’s towing capacity.
With so Many Ways to Tow a Car Behind an RV, There’s Sure to be One That’s Right for You!
There’s plenty of options for how to tow a car with a motorhome. Each one has its pros and cons and some are better for certain kinds of cars than others.
- Have a manual rear-wheel-drive car and want to easily attach and detach your car? Flat towing is a great option. With all four wheels on the ground, you can easily drive away without dealing with a trailer.
- Have a front-wheel drive car (most common)? A tow dolly is a great, fairly simple option. Plus you don’t have to make any adjustments or additions to your vehicle to use a tow dolly.
- Have a more expensive, luxury car or just want to keep it protected? A car hauler is your best investment. Maybe your transmission or drivetrain aren’t compitable with other options or you just don’t want extra wear on your car. Either way, the safety and security of a car hauler is hard to beat.
Whatever method you use, you’ll be glad you brought your tow car along for the ride. Exploring and finding your next adventure just got a little easier!