SUVs have grown in popularity with drivers, and as a result, there are more choices than even when it comes to shopping for a vehicle for RV towing. With so many options, it can be tough to decide which model to buy. But what you’re towing and how much it weighs may significantly narrow down your options for a new rig.
Towing capacity is just one of the factors you should consider when selecting a vehicle for pulling a trailer. RVs are particularly susceptible to wind resistance and have a higher tongue weight than other types of trailers, which means you’ll need to pay attention to the hitch rating. In addition to passengers, you should know the weight of the onboard gear you may be hauling.
These important specifications will vary between trim levels, and will often be found on the driver’s side door jamb. For the safety of you and everyone else in the vehicle and on the road, these numbers should never be exceeded.
After finding a vehicle that can meet the mechanical minimum requirements, look for additional technology that could improve the driving experience, including sway stability, hitch cameras, and electronic integration packages.
RVing continues to grow in popularity, and automakers are keeping up with integrated features and comforts that make towing your RV not just easier, but more comfortable and enjoyable. We like these options that make the joys of RVing more accessible and less intimidating, even for newbies.
Choosing the Right Type of Tow Vehicle for You
If you’re still deciding on which type of tow vehicle is best for your lifestyle, here are a few pros and cons of minivans, SUVs, and trucks in relation to towing.
Reasons to Consider a Truck as Your Tow Vehicle:
- Trucks don’t have to be strictly utilitarian—many brands offer luxury-grade interiors while still offering flexibility to haul and tow.
- Cabin sizes can accommodate families of five or fewer comfortably.
- Trucks tow RVs and carry cargo better than other options.
Reasons to Consider an SUV as Your Tow Vehicle:
- SUVs can typically carry more people than trucks.
- The comfort of the ride and fuel efficiency are better than trucks.
- Your cargo isn’t exposed to the elements as it would be in the bed of a truck.
Reasons to Consider a Minivan as Your Tow Vehicle:
- Minivans offer the highest capacity to carry people, while also providing more cargo room than SUVs.
- They offer comfortable rides and some models are more fuel-efficient compared to similar-sized pickup trucks and SUVs.
Other Important Features to Consider When Purchasing a Tow Vehicle:
Does your vehicle have a towing option? Typically, this means your tow vehicle has advantageous features like a 7-pin trailer wiring harness, trailer brake controllers, and additional cooling for the engine and transmission. If this is offered as an option on your vehicle, we highly recommend you opt for it. Buying a version of your vehicle without it is a disadvantage, as it can be pricey to install in the aftermarket. In a truck, a towing option could also mean a better rear end ratio for a smoother towing experience.
Many new trucks have camera connectivity or features like blind-spot monitoring for the trailer. Make sure to check whether this is an option with the vehicle you’re considering.
The Best 2023 Tow Vehicles for Towing a Travel Trailer or Fifth Wheel
These are our recommendations for tow vehicles that stand out in 2023, as well as any notable updates to the vehicle categories.
The Best 2023 Trucks for Towing
While trucks aren’t the only way to tow, it’s a growing segment with many versatile options, and this is just a short list of options to consider. However, buyers don’t need to finance the biggest truck they can afford to ensure they can tow their trailer. While some shoppers may get hung up on size, it’s not the most important factor to consider.
The revitalized compact truck segment is capable of towing a wide range of campers, and with starting prices of less than $30,000, a compact truck could be a wise choice for buyers looking for an affordable way to get started RVing.
2023 Jeep Gladiator
Jeep released the Gladiator in 2020 into the compact truck segment that had been dormant for some time. The competition in the space is heating up, but the versatility, impressive specifications, and durability of the Gladiator are why it remains a top choice for 2023. In addition to the EcoDiesel engine, the recent plug-in hybrid 4xe powertrain is another fuel-efficient option with high-torque and selectable drive modes for off-road adventures.
- Max. towing capacity: 7,700 pounds
- Max. payload: 1,710 pounds
With more configurations than the compact segment, midsize trucks offer drivers increased flexibility for finding the right-sized vehicle that can be used for work and play at a reasonable price.
2023 Ford Ranger
Reintroduced to North America in 2019, the Ford Ranger continues to lead its segment in affordability, fuel economy, and towing capability. Equipped with a 2.3-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that produces 270 and 310 pound-feet of torque, it’s available with a four-seater SuperCab or five-seater SuperCrew configuration, and a 5- or 6-foot bed.
- Max. towing capacity: 7,500 pounds
- Max. payload: 1,905 pounds
2023 Nissan Frontier
Redesigned last model year and equipped with a 3.8-liter V6 engine that produces 310 horsepower and 281 pound-feet of torque, the Frontier is the most powerful option in the segment. The midsize truck is available with either a four-seater King cab with a 73.3-inch bed or a five-seater Crew cab with a 59.5- or 73.3-inch bed.
- Max. towing capacity: 6,720 pounds
- Max. payload: up to 1,600 pounds
With high ride heights, increasingly luxurious cabins, and the ability to haul a lot of gear, full-size trucks are gaining popularity with buyers as daily drivers. These workhorses are often offered with a wide range of mechanical configurations, cabin options, and available equipment to build the perfect adventuring rig while providing comfort typically found in premium SUVs.
2023 Ford F150
With six powertrains (seven if you count the all-electric Lightning), three cabs, three bed lengths, and nearly all models available with standard 4×2 and available 4×4 (except the 3.0-liter V2 engine, which is 4×4 only), there’s a Ford F150 that will suit your needs. The most capable model of the line is equipped with the 3.5-liter turbocharged engine, which can tow up to 14,00 pounds. The runner-up is the more fuel-efficient 3.5-liter V6 turbocharged hybrid powertrain, which adds the generator-like capability to power small appliances from the bed of your truck.
- Max. towing capacity, conventional: 14,000 pounds
- Max. towing capacity, hybrid: 12,700 pounds
- Max. payload, conventional: 3,325 pounds
- Max. payload, hybrid: 2,100 pounds
2023 Chevrolet Silverado 1500
Although it doesn’t have the highest towing capacity, the Silverado 1500 is available with hands-free, semi-autonomous Super Cruise technology that can be used while towing, which makes it a good option for buyers prioritizing ease when shopping for a rig. Buyers can choose from four engine options (five, including the upcoming all-electric Silverado EV), three cabs, three beds, and nine trims to find the right configuration for their trailering needs.
- Max. towing capacity: 13,300 pounds
- Max. payload: 2,260 pounds
With some RVs, only a heavy-duty pickup truck will suffice. The battle for the most capable heavy-duty truck is tight, but you can’t go wrong with any of the major truck manufacturers in this category for towing. However, the weight of the trailer typically dictates the short list of pickups that will work. In addition to maximum capacities, heavy-duty trucks will offer the latest trailer integration technology, such as tire pressure monitoring systems for RV tires, surround-trailer cameras, and auto-hitching options.
2023 Ram 2500 and 3500
It’s considered one of the most highly awarded heavy-duty pickup trucks due to its range of powerful engines, including a 6.7-liter Cummins turbo diesel engine with 1,075 pound-feet of torque and a 6.4-liter HEMI V8 engine with 410 horsepower and 429 pound-feet of torque.
- Max. towing capacity Ram 3500: 37,090 pounds
- Max. payload Ram 3500: 7,680 pounds
- Max. towing capacity Ram 2500: 19,980 pounds
- Max. payload Ram 2500: 4,000 pounds
The Best 2023 SUVs for Towing
With a growing appetite for adventure-ready vehicles that can fit a lot of people and gear, SUVs have overtaken passenger cars in new vehicle sales in the U.S. Auto manufacturers are catering to this shift in preference by releasing more SUVs and crossovers each year equipped with adventure and towing capabilities that rival trucks.
Most SUVs are categorized as light-duty vehicles, which primarily means that they’re designed for hauling people more than they are for towing trailers. While there are many SUVs with unibody frames that can tow nearly as much as trucks (and sometimes more), it’s more capable than most buyers will need for 95 percent of their daily driving.
If a pop-up or teardrop trailer is all you’re towing, it’s reasonable to limit the shopping list to vehicles with a minimum of 1,200 pounds and a maximum of 3,500 pounds of towing capacity. That way, you shift the priority list toward features more prized by commuters, such as fuel economy, interior design, and ride quality.
2023 Toyota Rav4 Adventure and TRD Off-Road
Practical, reliable, and fuel-efficient, the world’s best-selling crossover is also a jack-of-all-trades. While most of the five-seater trims max out at 1,500 pounds of towing capability, the Adventure and TRD models are designed to suit the needs of weekend adventurers without sacrificing any of the comfort and convenience qualities that the vehicle is known for.
- Max. tow capacity: 3,500 pounds
- Max. payload: 1,025 pounds
Medium-duty SUVs typically range in payload capacity from 1,200 to 1,400 pounds and have towing maximums of around 5,000 pounds. While there are a few compact SUVs that can tow similar weights, most vehicles with this capability are mid-size SUVs that share platforms and mechanical components with trucks under the same brand.
2023 Kia Telluride X-Pro
This relatively new midsize SUV continues to impress consumers with its refinement and affordability—the 2023 model year is available with a new trim level targeting drivers seeking more adventure-capability from their family car. Equipped with a standard 3.8-liter V6 with 291 horsepower and 262 pound-feet of torque, the X-Pro has a slightly higher towing capacity than other trims and includes a 110-volt outlet in the cargo area.
- Max. towing capacity: 5,500 pounds
- Max. payload: NA
These SUVs traditionally use body-on-frame platforms derived from their truck counterparts under the same brand. In addition to offering interior storage and up to three rows of seating, they’re often available with trailering options such as integrated brake controllers and the necessary hardware to make for a safe towing experience.
2023 Cadillac Escalade
This luxury full-size SUV has the brawn to back up its famous good looks. Like the Silverado 1500, it will be available with hands-free semi-autonomous Super Cruise technology for easier towing. But unlike a truck, it has the capacity to seat up to eight and fit up to 121 cubic feet of cargo with the second and third rows folded flat.
- Max. towing capacity: NA (estimated to be approximately 8,000 pounds)
- Max. payload: NA
Other Types of Towing Vehicles
Minivans are typically limited to 3,500 pounds of towing capacity and are often compared to light-duty SUVs. If you have a camper that’s less than 3,000 pounds, a minivan is a solid option for a tow vehicle because it may offer a smoother ride experience and roomier cabin than an SUV.
A Note on Electric Vehicles as Tow Vehicles
The new GMC Hummer EV, Ford Lightning, and Rivian’s R1T and R1S are fully electric vehicles that are in high demand for buyers interested in the new powertrain technology. They offer impressive towing capabilities and long driving ranges, but those specifications drop considerably when used to haul around adventure gear, especially in cold weather.
The combined improvements in battery technology and increased availability of charging stations across the U.S.—especially in rural areas—will dictate how well they can be used as tow vehicles in 2023 and beyond.