Tips for Choosing the Right Tow Vehicle for RVing
Plus, why we picked a Jeep to tow behind our motorhome.

By: Kenny & Sabrina Phillips

There are several reasons why we chose to travel with a tow vehicle. Tow vehicles can make exploring a city or town easier, by allowing us to set up camp with our RV and remain setup for the duration of a stay. A tow vehicle is also much smaller than our RV, allowing us to maneuver through narrow city streets and find parking easier. 

You can learn more about towing a vehicle with your Winnebago, including the pros and cons of towing, here

Choosing the Right Tow Vehicle for RVing

When Sabrina and I bought our Winnebago Vista, we were pleasantly surprised to find out that our Ford C-Max was flat towable (otherwise known as four wheels down). This is not the case for all vehicles. There are some vehicles that can only be towed on a car tow dolly where two of the wheels of the tow vehicle are on the ground. Some vehicles cannot be towed at all and need to be trailered. 

So, as you can imagine, we had it pretty easy because we did not need to search for a vehicle that could be towed. All in all, our C-Max has been a great tow vehicle and we have towed it behind our Winnebago for more than 100,000 miles. Is it perfect? No, it is not. 

It has one big flaw and that is ride height. Our C-Max is a hybrid, designed to get the most MPGs as possible, and because of this it sits low to the ground which means so does our tow bar. It sits so low that it occasionally has scraped the ground while entering driveways of gas stations and convenience stores. 

Honestly, other than that, the C-Max has been perfect and we would recommend it as a tow vehicle. Always be sure to check your owner’s manual to find out if your car can be towed and how to properly do so.

What to Look for in a Tow Vehicle

Other than ground clearance, what else should you look for in a tow vehicle? Sometimes a vehicle can be flat towed but needs a series of steps to put the vehicle in tow mode. This can be daunting if you move often, so you may want to look for a vehicle that has an easy setup.

The weight of a vehicle is also important, you need to know what your Winnebago can tow. A breakdown of how to find this out can also be found in this article. For your safety, you always want to be sure you are towing within your tow capacity. 

You should also consider where you will be traveling. This brings us to why Sabrina and I have now bought our new tow vehicle: a Jeep Wrangler. If you are mainly staying in campgrounds and touring cities, national parks, and state parks in fair weather, then a standard two-wheel drive vehicle will be perfect for your needs. If you want to explore off road or somewhere like Colorado in the winter, then you should be looking at AWD or 4X4 vehicles. 

Why We Chose a 4X4 for our Next Tow Vehicle

I have wanted to own a Jeep Wrangler since I was a teenager - or in other words, a very very long time. Most of my friends have owned Wranglers and I have always enjoyed going for a ride in them, or on the rare occasion driving. 

Now that Sabrina and I have a home base in Arizona, we felt this was the perfect time to finally purchase a Jeep. Our home is literally surrounded by off-road trails, and I always thought a Jeep would be a great tow vehicle for when we explore new locations with our RV. 

Exploring the Ruins of Alto Mining Camp in Patagonia Mountains.

With a Jeep Wrangler, we now have the ability to get off the paved road and reach hiking trails that others cannot. This not only means that the locations we visit with the Jeep are less crowded, but we also feel like we are exploring and seeing things we would have never been able to see before. A huge perk of having a 4X4 vehicle!

Recently, we took the Jeep to an area called Council Rock, in the Dragoon Mountains. This is a location that our C-Max could have never made it to. We parked the Jeep at the bottom of one of the trail areas in search for some petroglyphs, which we did find! It was a great little adventure for the two of us that was made possible by having an off-road-capable vehicle. 

I am now in the process of having the Jeep fitted to be flat towed behind our Winnebago. It will need a breakaway cable and a base plate, as it already had the wiring harness installed from the previous owner. We are guessing they took the base plate and cable off when they traded it into the dealer. 

What Will We Do with Our C-Max?

We are also keeping our Ford C-Max, mainly for two reasons. One because I had a very narrow window of what type of Wrangler I wanted and a five-speed and manual was a must. Unfortunately, Sabrina does not know how to drive a manual. So, I will be teaching her, but we’ll need the C-Max until she is comfortable with it. 

The second reason is because not all locations we travel to will have great off-road areas to explore and in these cases, we will take our C-Max since it gets more than 40 mpg. Compare that number to our Jeep Wrangler that only gets 14 mpg. This is another good example of what items may also be important to you when choosing a tow vehicle. 

Another reason for keeping both vehicles is because they are both paid off and the insurance to add the Jeep was ridiculously low. There really was no financial burden to keep both vehicles. Although, if you know anything about Wranglers, you know it is fun to add mods to them and I have been making slight changes to it over the course of ownership. In fact, as I type this, there is a new bumper for the Wrangler on its way.

Final Thoughts on Picking a Tow Vehicle to RV With

When shopping for your first or next tow vehicle, keep these things in mind:
  • Can it be towed and how easy is it to set up? 
  • How will you use the tow vehicle while traveling? 
  • Is the vehicle weight within the tow capacity of your RV? 
  • What will it cost me to tow a vehicle (including things like wiring kit, base plate, tow bar, safety chains, possibly a dolly, etc.)?
If you have any advice for towing a vehicle, please add it to the comments below.
Hope you found this article helpful, and we wish you safe travels! 


Comments on this post are moderated, so they will not appear instantly. All relevant questions and helpful notes are welcome! If you have a service inquiry or question related to your RV, please reach out to the customer care team directly using the phone numbers or contact form on this page .

User commented on April 16, 2023 11:40 AM
is our Ford F250 to large to tow with a vista 27n? Thanks Jim
User commented on April 18, 2023 2:48 PM
Hi Jim, There are multiple things to consider when looking into if you can tow a vehicle safely. This article goes into more detail on how to calculate if it will work: All the best, GoLife Editor
User commented on April 16, 2023 12:10 PM
I just bought a 2 door manual transmission Bronco. I’ve installed the tow bar kit and it tows like a dream compared to hauling our old AWD Ford Escape on a trailer.
User commented on April 16, 2023 12:22 PM
My wife and I tow a Smart Car behind our Winny and really have fun with it. Last summer we drove from Colorado to the Oregon coast with it. Of course, we hit all the tourist traps where parking is always at a premium and were able to find spots too small for others to fit in. Smart Cars are not for everyone, but I have owned mine for many years and still love it. Preparing to flat tow requires a bit of attention paid to the sequence of shifting into neutral, ignition off, battery disconnected, etc. If not done properly the on-board computer is not happy when you arrive at your destination and try to start the car. I have a simple written check list to ensure we have no problems with this. Pros: Vehicle is light and tows well. Parking and maneuverability are great. It’s fun to drive. Cons: No off roading. Limited to two people. Should you need drive train service while on the road you might as well plan on towing it home because Mercedes (the service centers) would rather not see or hear from you.
User commented on April 16, 2023 3:50 PM
My wife bought a 2021 Hyundai Tucson when I was still driving a Ford F250 Super Duty that enabled us to tow a fifth wheel. Now that we are driving a Winnebago Class A, we tow the Tucson on a tow dolly. The Tucson is front wheel drive and cannot be towed flat. All in all, that is fine with us - we did not have to find someone trustworthy to make the modifications needed to make a vehicle able to be towed flat to be ready to be towed flat. From what I have seen looking at components made and sold by the same company that made our two dolly, the cost of modifications can be as much or more than the cost of the tow dolly. Plus, we won't have to give up or remove anything when it comes time to replace the Tucson. The towing "equipment" was a one time purchase. Also, we only have all the "RV-ing" miles on two tires on the TOAD rather than on four tires. It initially probably took more time to get used to driving the car up onto the dolly and fastening the tires in place with the straps. But after a while, it's probably not much, if any, longer than it takes to unhook all the extra wiring for lights and brakes for a flat-tow vehicle.
User commented on April 16, 2023 6:11 PM
Cmax is a heavy toad and needs a diesel for mountain towing. Our Explorer is heavy, but with higher clearance and tow bar height. Our last car was a light Suzuki but it was an orphan since 2012, a a bit small for gear and dog. Jeep is ideal unless you live in the mountains at cold temps. Then it gets noisy at speed too.
User commented on April 16, 2023 6:14 PM
Tow gear for our Ford Explorer ran around $2500 for base plate, wiring, and install. We already had the Blue Ox system. We have a Winnebago Journey with 360 hp Cummins.
User commented on April 16, 2023 11:18 PM
Many Wranglers are more towable, because of the non-locking steering (if equipped), which makes the need to keep the key in the ignition unnecessary. Also, most Wranglers are more simple to flat tow, put the transmission in gear (Park works) and the transfer case in Neutral. We pull a 2016 Wrangler JKU Sahara with our 2018 Navion.
User commented on April 17, 2023 10:32 AM
We decided to pull our tow vehicle on a tilt deck trailer - 4 wheels up. If we pull into a fuel stop and cannot pull out, we easily back out of the fuel pump. No need to unhook the dolly or flat tow vehicle.
User commented on April 19, 2023 5:32 PM
We went with a tow dolly for our 2001 5 speed ford focus, as it was half the price of setting the car up for flat tow. Our 1989 Winnabago Superchief hae a tow cap. of 3500 lbs, We're at 3000 lbs