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Picking The Best Travel Trailer For Your SUV Towing Capacity

How To Pick The Right Trailer For Your 2023 Small/Midsize SUV Towing Capacity

Matching the right size trailer to tow behind your small or midsize 2023 SUV is very important for safety reasons. Towing a trailer that’s too heavy will adversely affect the vehicle’s handling and braking abilities, putting you, your passengers, and those you are sharing the road with at risk. So let’s discuss how to match your SUV towing capacity to the RV you will pull it with.

How heavy of a trailer can your vehicle safely pull? You can find that information in either the vehicle owner’s manual and/or on the vehicle manufacturer’s website—usually under the “trailering/towing” section of the owner’s manual under the “specifications” tab for your make/model, or in the towing guide that can be found on many manufacturer’s websites.   

Bronco towing a small camping trailer.
It’s important to know how heaver your trailer will be fully loaded (GVWR) to ensure your vehicle will pull it to the campsite.

When you start shopping for a tow-behind trailer for your vehicle, pay close attention to two numbers:  The trailer tongue weight (TW) and its gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR). Both of those should be closely adhered to when it comes to choosing the right size trailer to tow behind your vehicle: Neither of those trailer weights should exceed the maximum number listed on the vehicle’s tow capacities or tow ratings

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Pay Attention To Trailer Weights

Too much weight pressing down on the trailer hitch can:

  • Damage the hitch and whatever it’s attached to.
  • Take too much weight off the front tires, causing the rear of the vehicle to sag and the front to rise, resulting in steering and handling problems.

A trailer’s “dry weight” that might weigh less than your SUV’s maximum trailer tow capacity can easily exceed the tow vehicle’s maximum towing capacity when the trailer is loaded with water, supplies, outdoor gear, and camping equipment. The maximum loaded weight of the trailer is its GVWR, and that’s the number you should always use when matching a trailer to the vehicle pulling it.

So when it comes time to shop for a camping trailer of any type, always be sure the trailer’s GVWR number is less than the maximum towing capacity of your vehicle. It’s even better to choose a trailer that’s 20 percent lighter than what your vehicle can tow. Towing a trailer that exceeds your tow vehicle’s maximum tow rating is an unnerving experience for both driver and passengers. 

Small SUV towing a travel trailer.
There are a lot of different types of lightweight trailers out there.

Towing Upgrades For A Safer Drive

While you can’t do anything that will legally increase your SUV towing capacity, you can get some upgrades that will give you a smoother and safer towing experience. Make sure you talk to the trailer salesperson about any special equipment that might be needed to make the towing experience even safer and more pleasurable, such as the use and installation of a weight-distributing hitch system or air helper springs if the trailer’s tongue weight is approaching the maximum limits for your vehicle. 

Air helper springs or other suspension upgrades can improve vehicle stability and improve the ride and handling when pulling a trailer. However, no aftermarket suspension upgrades increase the vehicle’s tow rating. The listed maximum tow rating is the limit set in stone by every vehicle manufacturer, the same as its VIN, and it relates to insurance and liability issues.  Weight-distribution systems, on the other hand, help level the vehicle and control trailer sway. They can be very beneficial on trailers that weigh more than 4,000 pounds.   

Toyota SUV towing a small travel trailer down the road.
The right towing upgrades won’t increase your SUV towing capacity, but they may make the ride more comfortable and easy to handle.

Tow Ratings For 2023 Small/Midsize SUVs

This list is the maximum trailer towing capacity of popular small and midsize 2023 SUVs when equipped with the factory towing package and highest horsepower engine. (The maximum trailer pulling capacity of earlier models may be less.) Check the owner’s manual or manufacturer’s website for your vehicle’s maximum tow rating:

Make / ModelMax Tow Rating
Chevrolet Blazer4,500 lbs.
Chevrolet Trailblazer1,000 lbs.
Chevrolet Equinox1,500 lbs.
Ford Bronco3,500 lbs.
Ford Bronco Sport2,200 lbs.
Ford Edge3,500 lbs.
Ford Escape3,500 lbs.
Ford Explorer5,600 lbs.
Ford Explorer Hybrid5,300 lbs.
Honda CR-V1,500 lbs.
Honda Passport5,000 lbs.
Honda Pilot5,000 lbs.
Hyundai Palisade5,000 lbs.
Hyundai Santa Fe3,500 lbs.
Hyundai Tuscon2,000 lbs.
Jeep Renegade2,000 lbs.
Jeep Cherokee2,000 lbs.
Kia Sorento3,500 lbs.
Kia Sorento Hybrid2,000 lbs.
Kia Telluride5,500 lbs.
Mazda CX-52,000 lbs.
Mazda CX-503,500 lbs.
Nissan Pathfinder6,000 lbs.
Subaru Ascent5,000 lbs.
Subaru Forester3,000 lbs.
Subaru Outback3,500 lbs.
Toyota 4Runner5,000 lbs.
Toyota Highlander Hybrid3,500 lbs.
Toyota Highlander V65,000 lbs.
Toyota RAV43,500 lbs.
Toyota RAV4 Hybrid1,750 lbs.

Turn Your Phone Into An RV Safe GPS While Towing With Your SUV

Now that you know how to look for a travel trailer that fits your SUV towing capacity, plan the ultimate road trip with an RV LIFE Pro subscription to enhance your travel adventures. Pro members get access to the number one RV trip planner, RV LIFE Trip Wizard, coupled with full access to the RV LIFE App which turns your phone into an RV-safe GPS unit. No more worrying about steep mountain passes, low clearances, bridge weight limits, or propane-restricted tunnels. Subscribers enjoy turn-by-turn navigation, including voice- and lane guidance, that even works offline.

About the Author:

4 thoughts on “Picking The Best Travel Trailer For Your SUV Towing Capacity”

  1. Hehe…Ford Escape 3,500 lbs. tow… on flat land NOT on any steep mountains … traded my Ford Escape large large 2.0L 4 cylinder Turbo with factory hitch and radiator cooler for a Dodge Durango 6,200 lbs GVWR in 2022.

    I tow a Aliner Grand ST 1800 lbs dry and max weight of 2500 lbs.

    Add the 600 lbs people and cargo in the SUV and 2200 lb for the camper (1800 plus 400 lbs cargo) and I was at 2800 lbs which was 80% of the Escapes 3,500lb GVWR.

    The 2021 bet made by a friend was that the engine or transmission would fail on a 2 month trip from SE USA to Colorado Loveland Pass and Rocky Mountain NP, thru UT ascent Vernal UT to Flaming Gorge, into UT150 with 10,000 peak to Mirror Lake, Jackson WY and Yellowstone to Cody WY then returning to SE USA.

    I got lucky and returned home safe. I had to make several travel adjustment that were not to my liking

    1. Had to tow with AC off and not fluids in camper.
    It was 106 degrees the beginning of August near Cody WY.
    The electronics in the Ford Escape issued a warning that the transmission was over heating on 1000ft climbs.

    2. Had to pull over for 45 minutes ever 3 hrs to cool engine and transmission
    I had to pull over, pop the engine hood and wait until I could lay my hand on the engine comfortably.

    3. Had to stop after 5 miles and cool the engine for steep climb.

    4. Had to travel behind the slow moving tractor trailers at 35 to 40mps on steep interstates.

    That is a whole lot of babying a vehicle to not blow the engine or transmission. And extremely uncomfortable in 100 plus heat. I had multiple good Samaritans pull over and ask if I was in trouble because I had the engine hood open. I thanked them and explained the tow challenge.

    I traded for a Dodge Durango 6-cylinder 6,200 lbs GVWR and had no problem towing mountains this summer. A larger engine V6 Durango runs on regular gas vs having to run premium gas in the Ford Escape when towing. I spent the same amount of money towing this summer with the Durango V6 as last summer with the Ford Escape. And I owner the Ford Escape V6 model prior to this the downsized 4-cylender. The Ford Edge had at one point a 6-cylinder.

    Bottom line — a 4–cylinder rated at 3,500 lbs GVWR won’t tow 2200 lbs plus 600lbs people and cargo in the SUV on mountain roads.

    Get a V6 with at leadt 5,000 GVWR rating. Always include people and cargo in the SUV in your total tow weigh. Find a CAT scape and weigh your setup.

    Happy camping and safe towing!


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