How Much Can My Winnebago Motorhome Tow?

How Much Can My Winnebago Motorhome Tow?
Tips for safely towing a car with your RV.
By: Kenny & Sabrina Phillips

If you own a motorhome, most likely you have thought about towing a vehicle behind your RV. The first question that often comes to mind is: how much can my RV tow? 

In this article, I am going to share why we have a tow vehicle and how to calculate how much your RV can tow if you decide to do so as well. 

Why Did We Choose to Have a Tow Vehicle?

Sabrina and I tow a Ford C-max Hybrid car behind our Winnebago Vista and find great value in having a tow vehicle. Our main reason for towing our car is because of our small dog Belle. We like to explore the nearby areas and cities we are visiting with Belle - after all, she likes to explore just as much as we do. 

Having our own vehicle makes it easy to bring her along on day trips or get her help in case of an emergency. Even if there is transportation available that is dog friendly, Belle is not always transportation friendly. 

We also had an incident once where Belle swallowed a bee which stung her tongue and we had to rush her to a vet. Our stress level was incredibly high that day, but at least we were able to jump in the car and rush her to the vet without breaking down our campsite and taking our Class A. 

Pros & Cons of Towing a Vehicle Behind Your RV

There are several considerations to having a tow vehicle which include:

Pros of Towing a Vehicle

  • It is nice to be able to take a car into a town where the RV may not fit.
  • You can use a car to scout possible boondocking locations to make sure your RV will fit.
  • No need to break camp to run errands or explore.
  • It can also help offset fuel costs. For example, our car is a hybrid that gets over 40 mpg. Most people say towing a vehicle will add fuel costs, but I have not found this to be the case at all. Yes, it might lower my RV’s mpg, but only a small amount and nowhere near the gain we get from having the car.
  • Extra cargo space. If you tow a large vehicle, like a pickup truck, you may be able to bring along a golf cart or use the space for more cargo.

Ok, so now you are probably thinking that all sounds great, but surely there are downsides to having a tow vehicle otherwise everyone would have one. 

Cons of Towing a Vehicle

  • Cost is a big factor. You will now have the cost of an extra vehicle, need to purchase equipment to tow a vehicle, car insurance, and the cost of the vehicle itself.
  • Maintenance of the extra vehicle as well as your tow system is another cost and consideration.
  • Loss of maneuverability and possibly where you can camp because of the overall increase in size of your setup.

The Two Most Popular Ways to Tow a Vehicle: Flat Tow or Tow Dolly

We flat tow our car, that is where all four wheels of the tow vehicle are on the ground, and we are using an auxiliary brake system that is placed in the car to help bring the RV to a stop. However, not all vehicles are able to be flat towed. 

If you own a vehicle that is not able to be flat towed, the other method is using a tow dolly. You are able to place the front tires of the vehicle onto the dolly and only have the two rear wheels of the vehicle on the ground. 

To learn more about these two ways of towing check out this article, To Tow or Not to Tow, by Heath & Alyssa Padgett. 

How Much Can Your Winnebago Tow? 

If you are still with me, then most likely you have decided that towing is the right choice for you, and you want to know how much your Winnebago can tow. 

There are a few different factors that play into your tow capacity. I say this because there is no one number that fits all when it comes to what you can tow. 

Even when comparing two of the same model RVs, your tow capacity is going to be a calculation that is specific to how much cargo you bring with you on your trips. 

You will first need to know what your RV’s GCWR (Gross Combined Vehicle Weight Rating) is. This is the maximum weight your RV and tow vehicle can be combined. This weight can be found in your RV’s door jamb. Or if you have a Class A, you can usually find this info on the wall to the left of your steering wheel. Winnebago also lists this information on the ‘specifications’ tab for each model

You will also need to know the maximum tow rating of your hitch. Because, whatever your calculation comes out to be, you can never exceed your hitch rating. This can be found on the label of the hitch itself. 

Next, we will want to weigh your RV with all of your cargo loaded up in your RV, including water and fuel. Keep in mind when you weigh Your RV it cannot exceed your GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating). This is the maximum weight your RV can be when fully loaded. Once you have the total weight of your RV, you will be able to subtract it from your GCVWR and that will be the amount you can tow with a hard limit of your hitch rating. 

Formula to Calculate Your Max Tow Capacity:

GCWR - (GVWR - Cargo Capacity) = Max Tow Capacity 

Keep in mind you are still limited to your tow hitch rating!

Real-World Examples for Towing Calculations:

I know these are a lot of abbreviations and it can seem a bit confusing, so I am going to use our set up as an example:

Our Winnebago Vista 27N all loaded up weighs 17,300lbs. Our GCWR is 23,000lbs  Subtract the 17,300lbs from our 23,000lb GCWR and that gives us a total of 5,700lbs of towing, but our hitch is rated at 5,000lbs, so that is our true limit. 

Now, let’s use a Forza 36H as another example, which is a diesel Class A: 

A Forza 36H has a GCWR of 33,000lbs. If you loaded it up, let’s say it weighs in at 25,500lbs. Subtract the 25,500lbs from the it’s 33,000lb GCWR and you will have a tow capacity of 7,500lbs. The hitch rating on the Forza 36H is 10,000lbs, so you are all good. In fact, if you would like to tow more, you could lose some of your cargo and increase your tow capacity.

An Important Note Regarding Elevation Gain

Now that you have the calculations under control, I am going to throw one more variable at you: elevation. For every 1,000 feet of elevation, your RV loses 2% of its total tow capacity - at least this is what it says in my Ford F53 Chassis manual. 

You will want to check your chassis manufacturer manual to learn more about elevation changes and any additional considerations. 

If currently deciding on which motorhome to purchase, keep in mind what type of RVing you will be doing and where you will be traveling to make sure you will have enough tow capacity wherever you may go.

Alternatives to Towing 

Hopefully all of these complications did not scare you away from towing a vehicle. As I said before, there are definitely a lot of advantages to having a smaller vehicle on hand while traveling. 

But in case I did completely turn you off to the idea of towing, here are some alternative solutions to having a tow car.

  • Rent a vehicle when you want one. This will allow you to save on the cost of maintenance and insurance.
  • Use bikes, an e-bike can especially be a great alternative to a tow vehicle
  • Use ride share programs or taxis. Sabrina and I will sometimes use this option, because navigating through the big cities and not knowing the area can be stressful.
     

I hope you found this article helpful and I wish you safe travels!

Comments

User commented on October 18, 2021 12:05 PM
User commented on October 18, 2021 12:20 PM
User commented on October 18, 2021 12:21 PM
User commented on October 18, 2021 12:24 PM
User commented on October 30, 2021 11:07 AM
DO YOU HAVE WINNEBAGO MOTORHOME WITH SIDE WHEEL CHAIR ACCESS RAMP. wheelchair accessable
User commented on November 20, 2021 10:25 AM
This doesn't seem totally right. Isn't it the tongue weight of the towed vehicle that you add to the overall weight? For instance my jeep is 4500 pounds, don't I just add 450 (Tongue weight) to the weight of the RV not 4500?
User commented on November 20, 2021 3:26 PM
Yes this was helpful thank you
User commented on November 20, 2021 4:53 PM
Very helpful
User commented on November 21, 2021 11:34 AM
Great article. We have a 29ft sun star and carry 2 150cc scooters on a rack. Gives us great flexibility without towing.
User commented on November 21, 2021 4:11 PM
Thank you for this insight. We are new to this & this article is very helpful.
User commented on November 21, 2021 7:49 PM
Can you just drop it into neutral and go or do you have to drop the transmission?