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How Do I Choose the Right Tow Vehicle?

What vehicle do you need to tow with?  Diesel?  Petrol? Gas? Manual? Automatic?


What vehicle do I need to tow with?

Tow vehicle - Lets make sure we ‘put the horse before the cart’

When considering what type and size of accommodation trailer you need, some thought must be given to your tow vehicle.  Will the vehicle you own tow a caravan, fifth wheeler or camper trailerVehicle manufacturers will have towing recommendations set out in the Owner’s Manual and it is important to not exceed that limit.  If your vehicle will not be able to tow the RV you choose it will likely affect your overall budget as you will either have to compromise or purchase a larger tow vehicle.  You don’t want to be in a situation owning a lovely new RV and be unable to tow it safely. 



The following is a guide only and you should make enquires with the manufacturer of your tow vehicle and/or check the Owner’s Manual:-

Toyota Camry Grande 4 cyl – (Max Torque 218Nm @ 4000 rpm) tow capacity 1200 kg braked & 500 kg unbraked.

Holden Commodore Executive Wagon VZ 3.6 litre V6 – (Max Torque 320Nm @ 2800 rpm) – 1200kg, 1600 kg & 2100 kg towing equipment available.

Subaru Outback 2.5i (automatic) – (Max Torque 226Nm @ 4400rpm) tow capacity 1500 kg braked 750kg unbraked.

Ford Territory TX AWD – (Max Torque 383Nm @ 2500 rpm) – standard towpack 1600 braked, heavy duty towpack 2300 kg braked and 750kg unbraked.

Mitsubishi Pajero 3.2 TD (automatic) – (Max Torque 358Nm @ 2000 rpm) tow capacity 2500kg braked 750 kg unbraked.

Toyota Prado GXL TD – (Max Torque 410Nm @ 1600 rpm) tow capacity 2500 kg braked 750 kg unbraked.

Toyota Prado SX/ZR TD 3 Door – (Max Torque 410Nm @ 1600rpm) tow capacity 3,000 kg braked 750 kg unbraked

Toyota Landcruiser GXL TD (automatic) – (Max Torque 430Nm @ 1400 rpm) tow capacity 3500 kg braked 750g unbraked.

Toyota LandCruiser 200 – (Max Torque 410 Nm @ 3400 rpm) tow capacity 3500 kg braked 750 kg unbraked.  (The LC200 GXL TD does not come standard with KDSS.  KDSS uses linked hydraulic cylinders on both stabilizer bars to counteract body roll when cornering.  If you are upgrading the LC200 suspension for towing it may be wise to not have KDSS.  We know of two caravan owners who own off-road vans around 3 ton weight who found the KDSS ‘worked against’ the upgraded suspension making towing the caravan unstable. So, ensure you make enquiries whether any proposed suspension upgrade is compatible with the KDSS).

Ford F-250 Super Cab Pick-Up XLT – (Max Torque 475Nm @ 2500 rpm) – conventional towing capacity 3500 kg.


Vehicle manufacturers recommend you do not tow a trailer with a new vehicle or a vehicle with a new power train component (transmission, differential, engine, wheel bearing etc.) for about the first 800 km (500 miles).  Your vehicle will also most likely require more frequent maintenance if you tow regularly. 

Most larger modern cars make excellent tow vehicles but you may want to take your RV off the beaten track so you will need to consider a 4WD or the mid-size recreational (SUV) tow vehicle.   

For safety reasons the tow vehicle should be one that is heavier than the (loaded) caravan, 5th wheeler or camper trailer it tows.  Larger 4WD vehicles are often better suited for heavy caravans.

If buying a second hand vehicle with a tow bar attached you will need to ensure that the tow bar and tow ball are adequate for what you intend towing.  The vehicle tow bar and the tow ball may only be rated to tow a small box trailer. See related article - Towbars & Towballs

For fifth wheelers, a tray back, utility/pick-up truck type vehicle is necessary to accommodate the hitch.  Generally, a larger tow vehicle will be required for the fifth wheelers for example a Toyota Landcruiser would allow you to pull up to a 30 ft unit. See related article - Compliance Plates and Trailer Weights


Towbars & Towballs
What exactly is a tow bar and tow ball and what type do you need? Australian Standards explained.


Compliance Plates and Trailer Weights
What does Ball Weight, ATM and GTM mean in reference to your caravan or camper trailer. Explained in easy to understand diagrams and language.

Diesel/LPG gas, petrol or petrol/LPG gas  – this is a matter of choice for you.  Diesel is said to be more economical when towing larger heavy caravans or 5th wheelers and is often more readily available in remote areas of Australia.  If you are driving a dual fuel vehicle and have it on LPG auto gas it does not seem to have the power for towing but it does give you the option to switch over from petrol once you are at your destination and have unhitched your trailer.  This can then prove economical for touring around your holiday destination.

Petrol driven vehicles generally have more power and response but usually consume more fuel when towing than a turbo diesel vehicle.  There is another very good argument for the petrol vehicle - Diesel vehicles can require a service or at least a change of oil every 5,000 klms if you are towing so this additional service cost should be considered.

If you are looking at using your vehicle in out of the way places where there may be tall grasses then some consideration should be given to a diesel fuelled vehicle as diesel fuel has a lower combustion point.  Unless you clear grasses caught under the vehicle they can catch fire from the heat of the engine and if you were without a fire extinguisher or fire blanket it could mean the loss your vehicle.

Automatic or manual transmission – this also is a matter of choice although towing an RV can take a lot of concentration and an automatic transmission simply makes life easier by enabling you to concentrate more on driving conditions.  An automatic transmission can also take the guesswork out of when to change gear whilst towing and the transition between the gear change is smooth and quick, enabling you to avoid losing speed or traction during gear changes.

With a manual transmission, there can be a lot of ‘riding’ of the clutch whilst reversing particularly with a heavy weight behind. Reversing into those tight caravan park sites is also easier with an automatic especially as just the sight of someone attempting to do so always seems to create an audience.

An interesting point here is the Toyota Owner’s Manual for GXL TD 100 (2004) states:-

Trailer Towing Tips - ‘In order to maintain engine braking and electrical charging performance, do not use fifth gear (manual transmission) or overdrive (automatic transmission).

Aftermarket Products - A turbo diesel vehicle will provide that extra ‘grunt’ for towing larger RV units.  If you are still not satisfied you could further consider the addition of a Safari DTronic which is an aftermarket electronic diesel performance chip .  This device fits in easily behind the glove box neatly out of sight. The manufacturer claims it can increase torque by 20-30% and increase the power by 15-20%.  The beauty of this chip is that it can be unplugged and removed if you want to sell the vehicle or to return the vehicle to standard power.  There are other brands of diesel performance chips such as ‘chipit’ , Steinbauer  power chips, Tunit and Roo Systems 4wdchip to name a few.

To add further performance to the tow vehicle consider the installation of an aftermarket exhaust system. One traveller with a Toyota Landcruiser LC100 TD, with a Safari DTronic diesel performance chip already installed, opted to have the 3 inch stainless steel Taipan XP Exhaust System fitted by Berrima Diesel and was astounded by the difference in the vehicle performance especially when towing a 3 ton caravan.

These aftermarket exhaust systems minimize the resistance of the exhaust gases flowing from your engine by the constant diameter of the system. The Taipan XP is a mandrel bent exhaust system and the process of mandrel bending is a newer technology whereby the pipe diameter is not reduced on every bend made in the exhaust system.  One tip is to opt for a side-exit tailpipe if you have mudflaps on your tow vehicle or to keep your camper trailer soot free.

Taipan are at Burleigh Heads Qld or other diesel specialists such as Berrima Diesel NSW or Beaudesert Diesel Qld can arrange ordering, fitting, installation and dyno testing.

Another option to get more power out of diesel fuelled vehicles is to investigate an LPG injection system.  This works with a small amount of LPG injected under pressure into the engine by way of the air intake system with the LPG gas acting as an accelerant to the unburnt diesel fuel to increase combustion efficiency.  Some installers claim a diesel/LPG injection system will improve the efficiency rate from the standard diesel engine efficiency rate of about 75-80% to around 95-98%.


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