How To Find the Best Vehicle for Towing a Camper

Contributor

Tucker Ballister

Favorite Trip

5 Months Solo on the Road

Home Base

Hendersonville, NC

Favorite RV

2008 Fleetwood Bounder

About Contributor

Tucker Ballister is our Content Strategist. He’s a lover of the open road and the proud owner of a 2021 Sunlite Classic travel trailer (his 3rd RV to date). Check out more of his RV adventures, gear reviews, and outdoor advice at thebackpackguide.com.

Travel trailers and fifth wheels come in many sizes. Some can be pulled by SUVs or mid-size trucks. Others need a heavy-duty pickup truck. 

Before you head to your local Camping World dealership to shop around, find out how much your vehicle can tow with Camping World’s tow calculator.

Let’s talk towing and help you find the best vehicle for towing a camper.

Know Your Trailer’s Weight Ratings

Every RV has a vehicle identification sticker to give you basic information about your trailer, including weight ratings, tire size, and more. Here are a few key terms to know.

Gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) = This is the total weight the RV can handle based on its axles and tire ratings.

Gross combined weight rating (GCWR) = The maximum weight allowed for the tow vehicle and the trailer when fully loaded. 

Unloaded vehicle weight (UVW) = How much the trailer weighs as it rolls off the assembly line. 

UVW includes any of the basic amenities inside – like the dinette, sleeper sofa, theater seating, and kitchen appliances – as well as the weight of batteries and LP containers. It does not include the weight of the passengers or cargo you’ll add, nor does it factor in the liquid weight you may carry with full holding tanks.

Cargo Carrying Capacity (CCC) = The maximum amount of weight you can load into your RV. Calculate it by subtracting the unloaded vehicle weight from the gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR – UVW = CCC).

As an example, let’s say the GVWR is 3,500 pounds, and the UVW is 2,500 pounds. 

3,500 – 2,500 = 1,000 pounds of cargo carrying capacity

Any accessories added as part of a dramatic RV renovation, plus your camping gear, will reduce your RV’s cargo carrying capacity. This is why we often preach the importance of lightweight materials and packing only what you truly need.

Hitch weight – also known as tongue weight – or pin weight (for 5th wheels) = The amount of weight exerted on your tow vehicle’s hitch ball or fifth wheel hitch.

Payload capacity = The amount of cargo weight your tow vehicle can hold. This includes the weight of all passengers and cargo inside the vehicle and the hitch weight of your trailer or fifth wheel.

Rear axle weight rating (RAWR) = The amount of weight your vehicle’s rear suspension is rated to handle. 

The bottom line: Understanding all RV weight ratings is important, but you can find the best vehicle for towing your desired camper by looking closely at a trailer’s GVWR and hitch weight. 

Sample Calculation

Let’s take the 2023 Keystone Cougar Sport 2100RK, for example. The trailer’s GVWR is 8,500 pounds, and the hitch weight is 1,120 pounds. 

In order to avoid making the tow vehicle work to its maximum capacity at all times, it is recommended to have a towing capacity that is at least 125% of the RV’s GVWR. Since the Cougar has a GVWR of 8,500 pounds, times 1.25 means we want a tow vehicle with a towing capacity of more than 10,625 pounds.

For example, the 2023 Ford F-150 offers an average towing capacity of up to 11,300 pounds and a payload capacity of up to 2,238 pounds, which would be sufficient for towing the Cougar Sport and handling its hitch weight, provided you don’t load more than another 1,118 pounds on the truck’s rear axle.

In short, your tow vehicle should be rated to tow more than your trailer’s GVWR, and the whole combination – when fully loaded – must not exceed either vehicle’s GCWR. Your tow vehicle’s RAWR must also exceed the trailer’s hitch weight, plus any cargo in the truck bed or trunk that rests directly on the rear suspension.

Input a tow vehicle’s year, make, model, and trim (or VIN) into Camping World’s towing guide to view its maximum towing capacity and find RVs your vehicle can tow.

Find a Compatible Tow Vehicle

compatible-best-vehicle-for-towing-a-camper-04-2023
Photo by Camping World

Smaller travel trailers, like pop-up campers, teardrop trailers, and lightweight towables, can sometimes be pulled by smaller vehicles. Family SUVs, minivans, and mid-size trucks are great options because they offer additional packing space inside the vehicle or truck bed. 

With larger trailers and fifth wheels, you’ll need a full-size or heavy-duty pickup truck to handle the extra weight placed on the rear suspension. You need to know the pin weight of the fifth wheel and ensure it doesn’t exceed your tow vehicle’s RAWR. 

Most heavy-duty trucks have a RAWR somewhere between 5,000 and 10,000 pounds. The pin weight of most larger fifth wheel trailers averages around 3,500 pounds. So there’s usually more than enough capacity to handle the weight.

With that said, let’s look at some of the best vehicles for towing a camper and their weight ratings:

The listed weights below are for 2023 models only. Actual ratings vary based on year, make, model, and trim. Please consult vehicle manufacturers for the most up-to-date tow vehicle weight ratings. 

SUVs for Towing a Camper

SUVTowing Capacity (lbs)Payload Capacity (lbs)
Jeep Grand Cherokee SummitUp to 6,200Up to 1,575
Dodge Durango SRT 392Up to 8,700Up to 1,722
Ford ExpeditionUp to 9,300Up to 1,827
Chevrolet TahoeUp to 8,400Up to 1,927
GMC YukonUp to 7,900Up to 1,910
Nissan ArmadaUp to 8,500Up to 1,649
Toyota SequoiaUp to 9,520 Up to 1,730
Audi Q8Up to 7,700Up to 1,500

Compact and Mid-Size Trucks for Towing a Camper

compact-best-vehicle-for-towing-a-camper-04-2023
Photo by Camping World
Mid-Size TruckTowing Capacity (lbs)Payload Capacity (lbs)
Jeep Gladiator OverlandUp to 4,500Up to 1,200
Ford MaverickUp to 4,000Up to 1,564
Hyundai Santa CruzUp to 5,000Up to 1,749
Honda RidgelineUp to 5,000 Up to 1,583
Ford RangerUp to 7,500Up to 1,905
Nissan FrontierUp to 6,720Up to 1,697
Toyota TacomaUp to 6,800Up to 1,685
Chevrolet ColoradoUp to 6,000Up to 1,610
GMC CanyonUp to 6,000Up to 1,670
GMC Hummer EVUp to 7,500Up to 1,487

Full-Size Trucks for Towing a Camper

full-size-best-vehicle-for-towing-a-camper-04-2023
Photo by Camping World
Full-Size TruckTowing Capacity (lbs)Payload Capacity (lbs)
Ford F-150Up to 11,300Up to 2,238
Ford F-150 LightningUp to 10,000Up to 2,235
Chevrolet Silverado 1500Up to 9,500Up to 2,300
GMC Sierra 1500Up to 9,400Up to 2,270
RAM 1500Up to 8,320Up to 2,335
Toyota TundraUp to 12,000Up to 1,940
Rivian R1TUp to 11,000Up to 1,384
Nissan Titan XDUp to 10,900Up to 2,406

Heavy-Duty Trucks for Towing a Camper

heavy-duty-best-vehicle-for-towing-a-camper-04-2023
Photo by Camping World
Full-Size TruckTowing Capacity (lbs)Payload Capacity (lbs)
Ford F-250Up to 22,000Up to 4,323
Ford F-350Up to 23,900Up to 4,713
Ford F-450Up to 30,000Up to 6,288
Chevy Silverado 2500Up to 14,500Up to 3,900
Chevy Silverado 3500Up to 14,500Up to 4,572
GMC Sierra 2500Up to 14,500Up to 3,900
GMC Sierra 3500Up to 14,500Up to 4,572
RAM 2500Up to 15,530Up to 3,999
RAM 3500Up to 15,130Up to 4,644

Diesel or Gas?

diesel-gas-best-vehicle-for-towing-a-camper-04-2023
Photo by Camping World

There’s a lot of heat in the gas versus diesel debate. Diesel engines offer excellent towing power, and they’re geared to handle big tow loads. You can take inclines with a loaded fifth wheel while hardly slowing down.

It was once true that diesel tow vehicles had much higher maintenance costs, but newer gasoline models can be just as expensive. 

Newer gas engines also still pack plenty of power. Their gear ratios may mean you slow down more on steep inclines, but many see nothing wrong with that. For some, it simply comes down to the difference in their region’s gas and diesel fuel prices.

It also comes down to what you’re most comfortable driving. Find a tow vehicle that will pull your RV and one you’re comfortable driving. The last thing anyone wants is an unsafe (and uncomfortable) RVer on the road.

How to Safely Load a Travel Trailer

Want to get more out of your RV? Subscribe to the Camping World YouTube channel, and never miss a video.

Here are a few tips to help you load your trailer for safe towing: 

  • Follow the 60/40 rule. Place 60% of the loaded weight in front of your trailer’s center axle and the remaining 40% behind it.
  • Travel with empty holding tanks. One gallon of water weighs over eight pounds. Most RV freshwater tanks hold anywhere from 20-100 gallons. Depending on your model, that means you’ll carry an extra 160-800 pounds, just in freshwater weight. Alternatively, you can carry extra water in a portable water container.
  • Pack efficiently. Carry only what you absolutely need for your trip. The more weight you tow, the more it will affect your gas mileage.

Read more trailer-loading tips. 


Ensuring the safety of your towable RV starts by choosing the right tow vehicle. So here are a few more helpful resources:

Have questions about what kind of vehicle you should get to tow your RV? Drop them in the comments below! 

  • Comment (13)
  • Devon says:

    What would you recommend for the 2024 HEARTLAND EDDIE BAUER 34BHS? We were considering an Expedition or Tahoe, but after reading and watching this, we are thinking truck such as the Tundra or even larger (F250) might be the way to go.

    • Hi Devon,

      The GVWR for the 2024 Heartland Eddie Bauer 34BHS is listed at 11,302 pounds. That’s the maximum weight the trailer (plus cargo, full holding tanks, etc.) should weigh, and thus the maximum weight you should be towing with it. That said, if you adhere to the 75-80% rule to minimize stress on your tow vehicle, you’d be looking for a truck with a tow rating of 14,200 to 15,100 pounds, depending on whether you shoot for the 75 or 80% threshold (14,200 x .8 = 11360); (15,100 x .75 = 11325).

      If you’re curious about the towing capacities of different vehicle’s you’re considering, you can input their year, make, model, and trim in our Towing Guide: https://rv.campingworld.com/towguide

      Let us know if you have any additional questions!

  • Kathy says:

    I am buying my first RV – 2019 Flagstaff Micro 21DS. (It has a sway bar, trailer brakes, good hitch). I’m looking to purchase a vehicle that will handle this trailer. It will be my every day vehicle so I don’t want a drastically oversized one. What is the minimum tow capacity that I should be looking for? Would an SUV with tow capacity of 8400 lbs easily pull it?
    Dry weight: 4,816 lbs
    Payload capacity: 1,744 lbs

    • Hi Kathy,

      With the weights you’ve given, that means the maximum loaded weight of your trailer shouldn’t exceed 6,560 pounds (4816 + 1744), which is the gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) for that trailer. That falls below 80% of the tow capacity of the SUV mentioned, which is a smart threshold to shoot for. Still, I’d recommend consulting the vehicle manufacturer before finalizing a purchase. You’ll also need to ensure the sway bar and hitch components are rated for the proper weight. You can find more hitch & tow resources here: https://blog.campingworld.com/tag/hitch-tow/

  • Scotty Bear says:

    I had a Honda Ridgeline. DO not tow over 2800lbs. The transmission will overheat and probably have to be replaced. It is also Front wheel drive or AWD, but this vehicle has not been engineered to tow.

  • PAULA BRANSON says:

    Hi Sir, I am 60yrs old have not got my vehicle nor travel trailer I will be doing this all by myself.
    I do have a CDL Class B so I can drive rigs also. I would like your advice on what I should get
    a travel trailer or a Class C about 25ft. I am ex military so am pretty worn out physically have had neck surgery,
    knee and shoulder surgery. Sooooo what would you suggest on my RV adventure or just get a car and stay in
    a hotel to see the United States, Canada and Alaska:) Thank you Sir.

    • Hi Paula!

      I’d highly recommend visiting your local Camping World dealership and speaking with one of our sales representatives. They can show you multiple motorhomes and travel trailers and discuss your personal preferences, as well as the pros and cons of living and traveling with each type. Here’s a link to help you find a dealership near you: https://rv.campingworld.com/locations

  • James Geddes says:

    My towing capacity is 8200 and Im looking at a traielr that weighs 9000 and I sould probbaly assume another 1000 for people and supplies. Would upgrade hitch the non sway type and have trailer breaks installed. Just trying to determine if this would be okay. Wanting to make sure I dont void the manufacturer waranty of my vehicle but not sure how they woud know if I pull more weight than recomended.

  • Alan Pothuisje says:

    I have a F250 diesel 2917 I would like too buy a fifth wheel toy hauler just not sure about weight

  • Gary Ludwig says:

    We currently tow a 21 ft travel trailer with a 2016 Tundra 5.7 4×4 SR5. The dry weightg of the trailer is 5400 lbs. Thinking of jumping up to a 25 ft. trailer with a dry weight of 7400 lbs. Will the Tundra handle the increase of weight?

  • Hi James!

    I would recommend checking with your vehicle’s manufacturer about the question of whether towing too much would void the warranty. That said, I’d also caution against towing more than your vehicle’s rated capacity. It sounds like you might need a lighter trailer…or a truck with more towing capability.

  • Wade Thiel says:

    It should be able to handle 7,400 pounds as long as you have the right hitch.

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