SUV vs. Truck: The Best for Towing a Camper Trailer?
On the subject of RV tow vehicles, there’s a great debate: SUV vs. truck. There are good arguments for and against both, and most people have a clear favorite.
So, which is the better choice for you? It usually comes down to the one that fits your situation. SUVs have their pros and cons, and so do pickup trucks.
In this article, we’ll take a hard look at them both. We’re not necessarily trying to change your mind, but hopefully, we can help you make a more informed decision.
In terms of towing capability, trucks will pretty much always have the edge over SUVs.
They’re simply more powerful so they can pull more weight. SUVs have plenty to offer, however.
Read on to find out more about their benefits and why they may be the better option for you.
What Kind of Campers Can You Tow With an SUV?
Today’s SUVs are surprisingly strong. The larger full-size models have towing capacities of around 8,000 lbs, which means they can handle decent-sized jobs.
Even the smaller ones, known as mid-size crossover SUVs, can pull certain kinds of RV trailers.
SUVs would only be able to tow travel trailers connected with a standard ball hitch, but there are many trailers with this connection. There are even more on the market now because of a trend toward lightweight campers.
Teardrop trailers, which sleep one or two people, are a breeze for SUVs.
Other lightweight travel trailers include pop-up campers. Sometimes called tent campers, they have heavy-duty fabric walls. They’re easy to tow because they fold into a compact shape that doesn’t create a lot of wind resistance.
What Kind of Campers Can You Tow with a Truck?
Because of their higher towing capacity, trucks can pull heavier trailers.
Travel trailers weigh an average of 5,000 lbs, so many will be too much for mid-size or even some full-size SUVs. Many trucks can take on these larger travel trailers–including some toy haulers–with no problems.
You’ll also need a truck to tow a fifth wheel because a fifth wheel doesn’t use a typical ball hitch.
This type of trailer requires a special hitch that sits inside the bed of a truck. The connection is similar to a semi-truck but on a smaller scale.
Pro Tip: Here are the 5 best half-ton trucks for towing.
Benefits of Towing a Camper With an SUV
As you can imagine, a truck’s towing capacity is larger, and certain amenities make it a better fit for some. However, many situations call for the size and convenience of an SUV.
Here are some advantages to making an SUV your tow vehicle.
Some SUVs Can Pull Large Travel Trailers
Larger SUVs such as the Chevy Tahoe, the GMC Yukon, and the Ford Expedition have a truck chassis.
These are known as crossovers because they have truck frames and passenger car bodies. As you can imagine, these heavy-duty passenger cars can tow a lot more weight than the SUVs with a car platform.
More Room for Cargo and Family in Vehicle
A big plus for SUVs is they can carry more people and more stuff. If you’re camping with your whole family, you can all ride more comfortably in an SUV.
If you’re traveling without passengers, you can fold down the back seats for ample protected cargo space.
You may find this to be one of the most persuasive arguments in the debate of SUV vs. truck.
Disadvantages of Towing With an SUV
There are downsides to every decision in life, and when you’re towing with an SUV, here are some notable ones.
Can’t Tow 5th Wheels
Many RVers prefer a fifth-wheel trailer because of its additional living space. Unfortunately, you have to have a truck to tow a fifth wheel. It’s a deal-breaker for some who might otherwise be leaning toward an SUV.
Limited Towing Capacity
Despite their advantages, SUVs just don’t have a truck’s massive towing capacity. They’re usually front-wheel-drive, and towing puts much more weight on the rear wheels. SUVs with four-wheel drive do better than those without, but there are still limitations.
Furthermore, many SUVs don’t have the necessary framework to tow much weight. Trying to tow too much weight in an SUV could lead to the vehicle’s transmission going out or even damage to the frame.
Benefits of Towing a Camper Trailer with a Truck
A truck seems like the more natural way to tow an RV. Here are some of the key reasons people love their trucks for towing.
Can Tow Any Kind of Trailer Depending on Truck Size
Unlike an SUV, a truck’s frame can easily handle heavy loads. Trucks are usually rear-wheel-drive or all-wheel-drive, and they can handle all kinds of trailers. This includes toy haulers as well as fifth wheels.
Increased Towing Capacity
It’s a given that many trucks have a greater towing capacity than SUVs, but sometimes it’s dramatically so. Smaller trucks, known as midsize trucks or compacts, have capacities in line with more powerful SUVs. Heavy-duty full-size trucks are beasts, however. Many of them have a towing capacity of 35,000 lbs or more.
Also, many trucks have diesel engines, which are better for towing because they provide more torque. Many new diesel trucks also have an exhaust brake, which slows down the vehicle using back pressure.
That means you not only get a smoother ride while towing, but your brakes will last longer.
Disadvantages of Towing With a Truck
No vehicle is perfect for recreation, and trucks are no different. There are downsides to owning a truck too. Here are some things to keep in mind.
Less Room for Family or Cargo in Truck
Unlike an SUV, your space for passengers and cargo is limited in a truck. An extended cab or club cab version gives you more seating, but it still can’t compete with a three-row SUV.
Trucks Can Be Expensive
We suspect that if money were no object, a lot more RVers would be driving powerful heavy-duty trucks. Trucks aren’t cheap, though. A new one runs around $30,000 on the low end, and prices can climb over $80,000. Sticker shock no doubt steers some toward the more economical SUVs.
What’s Better for Towing an RV: Truck or SUV?
If you’ve got your eye on a bigger rig, a truck is probably the way to go. The same goes if you plan to be a full-time RVer with a travel trailer.
SUVs have their places in our community too. Weekenders love them, for example, because they’re more practical as a daily driver during the week. And for RVers with families in tow, they’re pretty much a necessity.
Which Will You Choose?
We may never settle the age-old question of SUV vs. truck. As you can see, there’s a lot to love about both. That’s why we see so many of each on the roads and at the campsites.
Hopefully, we’ve given you some new information to help you make a choice – or at least to join the discussion!
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