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So, you’re thinking about buying a travel trailer and taking to the open road. There is a lot to consider when making this decision, including what you are going to use to tow your new camper. You’ve decided that you want to use an SUV for your towable travel trailer because it is a practical vehicle that you can also use it for everyday life.

But which SUV is the best SUV for hauling a towable travel trailer? To answer this question we took a look at full and mid-sized SUVs to help narrow down your options to the very best choices. What is the best SUV for a towable travel trailer? The best SUVs in order of towing capacity are:

Mid-Size SUV

  • Jeep Grand Cherokee – 6,500 lbs.
  • Ford Explorer – 6,200 lbs.
  • Nissan Pathfinder – 6,000 lbs.
  • Toyota 4Runner – 5,000 lbs.
  • Hyundai Santa Fe SE – 3,500 lbs.

Full-Size SUV

  • Ford Expedition – 9,300 lbs.
  • Chevrolet Tahoe – 8,600 lbs.
  • Nissan Armada – 8,500 lbs.
  • GMC Yukon – 8,500 lbs.
  • Chevrolet Suburban – 8,300 lbs.
  • Toyota Sequoia – 7,400 lbs.

The Best Full-Sized SUVs for Towing a Travel Trailer

Towing a travel trailer with an SUV has become a common choice. A full-size SUV makes a great all-purpose family vehicle, and it can pull a good-sized travel trailer when you do take to the open road. A full-sized SUV will have a towing capacity of between 7,000 and 8,000 lbs. However, it is essential to understand that this does not mean you can buy a camper that weighs 7,500 lbs. and head out cross-country with it.

There are two critical points to understand about towing capacity. The manufacturers rated towing capacity is the maximum your vehicle can safely tow under optimal conditions. You will want to include a margin of safety between the SUV’s towing capacity and the total trailer weight. Your travel trailer’s declared weight is its “dry weight,” meaning all tanks are empty. It does not consider the added weight of a proper hitch and all your gear.

For example, full water and propane tanks will add several hundred pounds to your travel trailer’s total weight. The weight of your gear can add a great deal – anywhere between 1,000 and 2,000 lbs. The key is to remember that whatever you put in the trailer adds to its weight and your tow vehicle must safely handle it.

Even considering all this, you should easily be able to find a full-sized SUV rated to pull a travel trailer with the capacity to sleep four people and a total weight of 6,000 lbs. This total weight will meet the top recommended towing capacity for most full-sized SUVs with a comfortable margin of safety. We will look at six full-sized SUVs in a moment.

Can You Use Mid-Sized SUVs to Tow a Travel Trailer?

If you choose to, you can certainly tow a camper with smaller SUVs. The same guidelines will apply. You will have to pick a smaller trailer based on that vehicles recommended towing capacity and the margin of safety you still need to maintain. Mid-sized SUVs do vary a great deal in towing capacity. Below are a few sample towing capacities for popular models:

  • Jeep Grand Cherokee – 6,500 lbs.
  • Ford Explorer – 6,200 lbs.
  • Nissan Pathfinder – 6,000 lbs.
  • Toyota 4Runner – 5,000 lbs.
  • Hyundai Santa Fe SE – 3,500 lbs.

As you can see, depending on the make and model, the towing capacities do vary significantly. And, the larger mid-sized SUVs do approach the towing capacity of full-sized SUVs. A Ford Explorer, Nissan Pathfinder, or Jeep Grand Cherokee could safely tow a travel trailer with a rated dry weight of up to 4,500 or possibly 5,000 lbs. and still maintain a satisfactory safety margin.

However, there is one more thing to consider. The size of the towing vehicle does matter. Towing a full-size travel trailer with a mid-sized SUV can create a dangerous situation, especially in a case involving emergency breaking or high winds. To ensure the safest and most stable towing conditions, considered it a best practice to use a full-sized SUV to tow a full-sized travel trailer.

Choosing the Best Full-Sized SUV

Now that you understand some of the basics, let’s look at six of the popular full-sized SUVs and see what they can do.

1. Ford Expedition Boasting a towing capacity of 9,300 lbs., the Expedition has some serious towing muscle. If you are looking for the best full-sized SUV to tow a travel trailer, you need to look no further. The 2018 Ford Expedition produces a massive 365 horsepower from a 3.5-liter twin-turbocharged V6 engine, generating an impressive 470 lb.-ft. of torque. The Expedition’s Blind-Spot Information System (BLIS) alerts the driver whenever the system detects a vehicle within your blind spot or alongside your trailer. This safety feature can be beneficial in towing situations.

2. Chevrolet Tahoe With a towing capacity of 8,600 lbs., the Chevrolet Tahoe comes in at a secure second place. Its 355-horsepower V8 has plenty of power to get you up and over those distant mountain tops. Also, the Tahoe comes loaded with amenities to keep your passengers comfortable and entertained on even the longest rides.

3. Nissan Armada The Armada offers an impressive towing capacity of 8,500 lbs. while being the lowest-cost full-sized SUV. It features an independent rear suspension and a full-length box frame for increased rigidity, as well as being the most powerful in its class for horsepower – generating 390HP from its 5.6-liter V8 engine. You will experience a decent fuel economy with enhanced throttle response, and with its Tow/Haul mode, it is ideal for towing your travel trailer as you set off on your latest adventure.

4. GMC Yukon The GMC Yukon matches the Armada’s 8,500 lbs. towing capacity. Every Yukon comes with a standard heavy-duty towing package that includes a hitch platform as well as a 7-wire harness equipped with independent trailering circuits. This is paired with a 2″ trailering receiver and a 7-way sealed connector. Due to the difference in wheelbase, the Yukon XL does come with a slightly lower towing capacity of 8,300 lbs.

5. Chevrolet Suburban Another popular choice is the Chevrolet Suburban with a towing capacity of 8,300 lbs. It is powered by the same 355-horsepower engine generating 383 lb.-ft. torque found in the Tahoe. The Suburban offers a significant number of extra features including many USB ports for charging phones and other devices. It also comes with a larger screen TV in both the second and third-row seats; with HDMI ports to connect to your favorite devices. Finally, there is an option for 4G LTE Wi-Fi (also available in the Tahoe) to connect to the internet whenever coverage is available.

6. Toyota Sequoia Offering a towing capacity of 7,400 lbs., the Sequoia is no slouch when it comes to pulling the family camper to the lake or cross-country. While slightly lower in towing capacity, the Sequoia takes horsepower to the next level, generating 381HP from its 5.7-liter V8. The multi-mode 4WD system is a very nice feature. The Sequoia offers a roomy interior with real 8-person seating, and passengers in the third row will love the reclining seats. There is also a multi-function center console giving your passengers all the entertainment they need on those long drives.

Is a V8 Better Than a V6 for Towing an SUV?

Many look at the power and torque of the new turbocharged V6 engines and are immediately won over. Others still think that the V8 is the better engine for towing. Because of the recent advances in turbocharged V6 engines, the question of which is better is not as easy to answer as it was a few years ago.

For instance, Ford’s twin-turbocharged EcoBoost V6 is rated to tow up to 11,300 lbs. while their 5.0-liter V8 can’t tow 10,000 lbs. Ford’s powerful 6.2-liter V8 which generates 411HP and 434 lb.-ft. of torque can only match the EcoBoost V6. The turbocharged V6 is an excellent choice for the buyer focused on fuel economy, city driving, and light-duty use with occasional heavy-duty towing such as the family summer vacation.

If you tow your travel trailer regularly, for example taking grand tours around the country, the V8 is probably the better choice, especially if the SUV you are considering does not come with a turbocharged V6 option.

How to Calculate Your Travel Trailer’s Weight

When choosing the best SUV to tow your travel trailer, one of the vital safety factors is knowing the actual gross weight of the load you are expecting your SUV to pull safely. Remember that your SUV’s tow rating is the maximum it can safely tow under ideal conditions and that the weight of your travel trailer is dry weight. The actual load you will be pulling can be much more substantial.

Every towing vehicle and trailer will have its Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR). The GVWR is the maximum legally allowed weight of the vehicle and all its contents, passengers, and cargo. Be aware that you can easily add 1000 to 2000 lbs. of extra cargo before towing your trailer. Let’s look and see how this can quickly add up.

Your water tank might hold between 50 and 100 gallons of fresh water. At 8 lbs. per gallon, that adds 400 to 800 extra pounds alone. Typically, you can add another 150 to 300 lbs. for miscellaneous canned goods, pantry items, and all the perishable food packed into your refrigerator. You can add another 100 to 200 lbs. for clothing and linens.

Last, add all the folding chairs, the grill, charcoal, needed tools, a folding table, lights, and water and sewage hoses and connectors. These items can quickly add up to another 250 to 500 lbs. These items listed could add over 1,500 pounds to the dry weight of a travel trailer.

The SUV you choose to tow your travel trailer must be able to handle this total trailer weight and still provide a margin of safety to compensate for any less than “optimal conditions” you might encounter. And, the total weight of your trailer and gear cannot exceed the GVWR for the vehicle. For a better understanding of your travel trailer weight check out our article RV Weight Explained – Travel Trailers, Motorhomes, and 5th Wheels

Calculating Tongue Weight

It is also a good idea to mention another factor called tongue weight. Tongue weight is the downward force of the tongue of the trailer measured at the hitch of the towing vehicle. A safe tongue weight for any travel trailer is somewhere between 9 and 15 percent of the gross trailer weight.

For example, if you are pulling a camper with a total weight of 6,000 lbs., the tongue weight should be between 585 and 910 lbs. Tongue weight is another critical factor in safe towing. The key to tongue weight is to ensure the load added to your travel trailer is properly balanced. Etrailer.com has a detailed article on how to determine your tongue weight if you want to learn more.

Full-Sized SUV Towing Capacity Chart

This chart provides a handy, easy to compare look at the vital statistics of the full-sized SUVs discussed above. It does not cover all criteria but does offer a great place to start.

Make / Model Engine Fuel Economy Seating Capacity Towing Capacity
Ford Expedition 3.5L V6, 375HP, 470T 24 MPG 8 9,300 lbs.
Chevrolet Tahoe 5.3L V8, 355HP, 383T 23 MPG 8 8,600 lbs.
Nissan Armada 5.6L V8, 390HP, 394T 19 MPG 8 8,500 lbs.
GMC Yukon 5.3L V8, 355HP, 383T 23 MPG 9 8,500 lbs.
Chevrolet Suburban 5.3L V8, 355HP, 383T 23 MPG 9 8,300 lbs.
Toyota Sequoia 5.7L V8, 381HP, 401T 17 MPG 8 7,400 lbs.

Conclusion

So, take your time, do your research, and have fun selecting the best SUV to tow your travel trailer. If you factor all the information in the above post into your considerations, you will go a long ways toward ensuring that the choice you make will be the right one. Choosing the best SUV to tow your travel trailer will ensure that your open road adventures are both fun and safe. And if you are buying a new travel trailer to pull behind you SUV check out our article called 25 Beginner Tips for Travel Trailer Camping. We actually have a series of articles about Travel Trailers covering a wide variety of topics, such as:

Do you have an SUV that you think is best for hauling a towable travel trailer? Please share your comment below!

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