What’s The Best Option for Toad Towing?
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.
Let’s Compare RV Tow Bars and Tow Dolly Systems
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.
You need strength to raise the tongue of the tow dolly. Consider another towing option if you have physical limitations. In some states, you need a license 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.
Is the trailer is long enough for your vehicle? Are the axles rated for 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. Call first to confirm the best trailer parking spot.
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 three years with their Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Newton, and their Mini Aussie puppy Remi. They are currently wintering in Arizona with plans to continue their travels next summer. Writing is Terri’s passion but she also loves hiking, kayaking and anything she can do outside.
Mark Aswad says
We have a Jeep Grand Cherokee that we flat tow behind our Class “A”. Our tow bar and all the necessary attachments were purchased from Etrailer.com. They were great to deal with and the system was fairly simple to wire up.
Simple and quick to hook up and unhook and gives us the flexibility to leave our RV parked while we travel and explore. Also gives us that little more storage room when antique shopping.
Steven E Blue says
I have towed an Equinox for some 20 thousand trouble free mile on a car tote. I keep wheel bearings greased and tires at 45 pounds. Takes no longer to hook up than a tow bar. Have been happy with this choice.
Mike Zimmer says
When you can’t back up your motorhome because of your toad flat 4 or dolly, you limit yourself so much.
You never know when you might get into a tight spot and have to back up. Why limit yourself, get a trailer.
Over the years I’ve seen too many RV’ers that can’t back up because of the towed vehicle and get into a real pickle. A trailer solves all the problems and you get some nice benefits such as not wearing out your tow vehicle’s tires, no modifications for a tow bar installation and if you change vehicles most likely the trailer will still work.
Ben Neil says
I have flat towed a JL Wrangler for over 25K. Other than not being able to back up, no issues. I like not having to deal with a dolly or trailer.
Paul Dobbin says
After 32 years of Class A motorhome travel, we tried it all and can say with certainty that the Blue Ox aluminum tow bar is our favorite.
We started with a tow dolly, which was OK but not the best answer. Then bought a 66 VW and a VW only tow bar. At 1800 lbs, we didn’t require any expense for break away brakes. Stick shift was not a favorite for my wife.
Because we often tow other antique cars to various tours around the country, we bought a few car hauler trailers,
both open an enclosed. Both of which had advantages but I prefered the all aluminum open car trailer.
When we needed a car with automatic transmisson and A/C, we bought a new 2006 Saturn Vue. It came.with a Honda V6 engine and automatic with A/C, it is flat towable with the aluminum Blue OX tow bar. No transmission pump required. Easy off & on. Now 15 years later we’re thinking of retiring from RVing and selling both the Airstream DP and the Vue as a set. Towing was easy and mileage was 11 MPG.
We had to try all the methids because what we were towing was to varied for one answer. Goof Luck.
at 70 MPH.
RVrs will periodically find themselves in a predicament where the only way out is to back up. If you have a toad, and a copilot, you can unhook quickly, and the copilot can turn around and drive out. If you have a tow dolly, you must unload it, and then unhitch. What do you do with the tow dolly. If you thought ahead, you installed a hitch on your car, and tow the dolly back to where everyone can have a reunion. If there is no hitch on the road, and no place to park the dolly, we’ll, you get the picture. I’ve used both, and I keep the tow dolly in case I need it to tow a car that can’t be flat towed
My preference would be a trailer. That is if I were going to tow a spare vehicle, of any type. You can get a lot more use out of a trailer other than just carrying a spare vehicle. Be hard to tow a boat with a tow bar or dolly for example. Or move things, even be a float in a parade. For me a trailer would be the top choice.
Tow dolly is best, you can buy any front wheel drive vehicle and be on your way. Or even tow a friends, or rental, front wheel drive car.
BTW you can back up with a good tow dolly. I have done it many times no worse than backing up with any trailer you just have to lock the dolly wheels from steering and lock out the surge brakes which can be done on my Kar Kaddy with 2 pins. I have never backed up far but have done 15 to 25 ft. with no problems.
David Reich says
I now tow our newer car via a tow bar but prior to that I used a tow dolly to pull the prior car we owned. The tow dolly always leaves you with the problem of where to store the tow dolly once you get to your destination or always having to make sure the tire straps holding your vehicle to the dolly have not loosened up while in transit. I do have to differ with you about the inability to back up with a car on the tow dolly. I have backed ours up plenty of times it just takes a different skill set. You are correct about backing up a vehicle connected with a tow bar as the front wheels will turn to the side and you could ultimately damage your toad as you continue to push it backward.
I’m new to RV ownership, but not to towing. My RV (01 Coachmen Mirada) has handily towed two trailers already in the short time I’ve owned it. One was a 14′ enclosed trailer, and the other was a 20′ open car trailer, with a car on it.
Wanted to clarify something a bit confusing in this article… towing a trailer, in most if not all states, does NOT require a special license. The trailer itself needs a license plate (I recommend getting Maine trailer plates; available to you even if you’re not from Maine).
I’d also recommend checking your hitch and tow wiring long before any towing journey. To safely tow with mine, I needed a hitch extender to allow my adjustable ball to clear the bumper. I also needed a pin converter to connect the smaller trailer, which uses a 4 pin plug.
Walmart is a great resource for basic towing supplies. Etrailer.com has more towing supplies than you even knew existed.
Never have I had problems storing the dolly at a camp site and if thing are that tight and close together I would rather find another site wit more room an privacy. If you winch the straps down tight with the toad in neutral before you start your trip they stay tight. I had a blow out on one of my dolly tires on one trip and even then the straps stayed tight and it was barely felt in the DP.
Larry Dickman says
From many years of observing while driving, about 90% of RV’s with toads are towing them 4-down, and 10% use dollies. That says a LOT!
Your toad is going to need a wash and you should be aware that the front breaks get covered in debris and grit. I always try to wash the garbage off because it grinds the rotors faces leaving scratches.
Can’t believe people tow full size SUVs and trucks vs efficient and light small cars.
Must be horrible on mpg.
Thank you for your wonderful contribution on how , what, where to find information on towing and equipment
Mike Smith says
I have to say tow bar is the best. Towed VW convertible from CA to MX. The backing up of a toad is possible. I have done it to many times. The trick is do not move the MH steering wheel when you are not moving. Backed up a 1/4 mile in the Black Hills on a dead-end forest service road in the dark. Not fun.
When we bought our first motor home I purchased a tow dolly and used it for several years because we towed my wife’s Toyota. As I got older it got to be a hassle to unhook and store the dolly at any camp ground that required us to back in to the site. It also took more time to put the car on the dolly and secure the car. After five years I bought a F-150 4X4 that can be flat towed and have enjoyed the ease of connecting the F-150 to the motor home. I have never been in a situation that I needed to back up with either means of towing so cannot address that situation. I also rarely go anywhere without a tow vehicle so cannot say anything about mileage with or without towing. Currently we have a 2007 Holiday Rambler Neptune Diesel Pusher and will not go back to using a tow dolly, flat towing is just too easy.
Ken Perkins says
I have never had a problem backing up with a (?) “Toad”. I wouldn’t even try with a vehicle being TOWED behind me. I actually like toads and would be afraid of squishing one! Does anyone proof read or edit these articles? I do enjoy rvlife.com but could not resist the power of the “Toad.”
Len Perkins says
You can add a 3rd wheel (bolt on trailer jack with wheel) to your dolly. Fold up for travel, down to hitch/unhitch. The jack allows you to raise the tongue over the ball, and let it down slowly. On 3 wheels, the dolly is a breeze to move. Very easy on the back!
Robert Sander says
I have been using roadmaster 576 all terrain tow bar for 15+ years and I must say the Roadmaster 576 is the best gift I’ve ever given myself! If you are using an older tow bar assembly I highly suggest upgrading. I wish I had done this sooner. This tow bar has an 8,000-pound towing capacity. It is made of stainless steel and aluminum. This particular model of Roadmaster really impressed me. As its name suggests, it works well with any kind of terrain.
Robert Sander says
I can say that the Roadmaster All Terrain Tow Bar is a dependable product. It is made of tough materials, very easy to maintain, and can be safely operated on steep terrain. If you need to switch to a trustworthy tow bar, this one from Roadmaster can really put your mind at ease.
Brennen Thomas says
Smittybilt rightly deserves its place on my list with its handy adjustable hitch kit. I particularly liked the 2″ hitch coupled with the universal brackets used to release and secure the vehicle to the hitch.
I like the fact that the hitch can be adjusted to fit different types of bumper widths.