RV Tow Bars vs Tow Dolly: What’s The Best Option?
Any kind of towing system will allow you to bring an extra vehicle on your RV adventures. You won’t need to drive that cumbersome RV for sightseeing or just heading out to the grocery store.
There are several towing options you can choose from, depending on the car you want to tow.
Advantages of RV tow bars
When deciding if an RV tow bar is the best option for towing your vehicle behind your RV, there are several questions you need to answer first. Can your vehicle be towed with all four wheels down? If so, this might be your best option.
There is very little bulky equipment needed, however, you do need to assess whether the transmission in the vehicle you are towing allows this. Check with the manufacturer’s instructions to determine if your vehicle can be towed with a tow bar with four wheels down.
Also, attaching a tow bar may require some modification to your car which could cause an issue with the car’s warranty. Make sure you clarify what you can do under the car’s warranty. If you plan on attaching and detaching often, a tow bar is the easier way to go. A tow bar is also easy to stow and disassemble.
If you decide on an RV tow bar, you will need a few pieces of equipment including:
- Tow bar for motorhome use
- Base plate kit installed on the toad (the term often used for the car being towed)
- Wiring kit – The tow bar will likely come with a wiring kit. If not, you will need to purchase a universal wiring kit with a four or six-wire electrical cord.
- Safety cable – These are required by law and keep the towed vehicle from coming loose if the tow bar fails.
- Supplemental braking system
Other things to consider
RV tow bars have a limited towing capacity. To find your vehicle’s weight, check the car’s manual and decide from there what tow bar capacity you will need.
You can also purchase a tow bar with an all-terrain upgrade. This feature allows you to unhook the tow vehicle at uncertain angles and unlevel surfaces if you are setting up on rocky terrain or where regular tow bars won’t unlatch.
The cost for this method of towing could range from $1,500 to $2,000 depending on how much of the work you are able to do yourself. The actual tow bar can range in price from $200 to $1,000 depending on the brand.
One negative to using a tow bar and “flat towing” is you cannot back up the RV with the toad attached.
“I purchased the Curt Tow Bar with Adjustable-Width Arms – Car Mount – 2″ Ball – 5,000 lbs. Initially I was Leary of the product because of its low price compared to other tow bars. I now can say my concerns were needless because after flat towing my Wrangler over 5,000 trouble-free miles I have nothing negative but only positives to report. The best thing I like about the tow bar is that it only takes 5 minutes to attach and unhook.” Dave S. via etrailer.com.
A tow dolly is another option for towing your vehicle behind your motorhome. This method of towing props your vehicle on the front two wheels with the back wheels on the ground. It is used primarily for vehicles with front wheel drive transmissions. It can be used on rear wheel drive cars if the transmission is disconnected.
Pulling the tongue of the tow dolly up requires some strength so those who are physically limited may want to choose another towing option. Depending on the state, a license may be required for the dolly. Also, you cannot back up the motorhome while the dolly and toad are attached.
- Tow dolly
- Ratchet straps
- Safety chains
You might need a trailer, or car hauler, to tow your vehicle if it is an all-wheel drive or four-wheel drive. A car hauler generally has two axles for stability and low or no rails along the edges.
Make sure that the trailer is long enough for your vehicle and the axles are rated at least 3,500 pounds per axle.
A trailer will require its own licensing and you can back up the motorhome with the trailer attached. A car trailer could cost anywhere from $2,000 to $10,000.
You might also want to consider whether you will be able to park your trailer at your campsite. Be sure and check prior to arriving to confirm where the trailer can be parked.
Whatever you choose, make sure you take the time to research your options for the safest RV towing experience. To learn more about RV towing, check out our previous guide on RV Towing: Important Things To Consider.
RVers looking for valuable how-to information have learned to go to the experts. Forums such as iRV2.com and blog sites like RV LIFE, Do It Yourself RV, and Camper Report provide all the information you need to enjoy your RV. You’ll also find brand-specific information on additional forums like Air Forums, Forest River Forums, and Jayco Owners Forum.
Terri and her husband, Todd, are full time RVers and work campers. They have been living full time in their RV for nearly two years with their Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Newton, and currently reside in South Texas on the Gulf Coast. They hope to head west for the summer season. Writing is Terri’s passion but she also loves hiking, kayaking and anything she can do outside.