Towing a vehicle behind a motorhome is common and easy to do—with practice. The most obvious advantage is that you have your normal vehicle to use when you arrive at your destination. Another advantage is that by driving your “normal” vehicle some of the time, rather than your motorhome, your mileage is better, you cut down on driving miles in the big rig, and, of course, the normal vehicle is easier to park.
The towed vehicle goes by several slang names in the RV industry. Most common is the “toad.” Another is the “dinghy.” Your dinghy can be towed using three different methods including:
On a flatbed trailer… with all four of the dinghy wheels off the ground. All vehicles can be towed on a trailer. (Observe RV weight limitations.)
On a two-wheeled dolly… Leaving two dinghy wheels on the ground. Most front-wheel-drive vehicles can be towed on a two-wheeled dolly.
Four down… Your dinghy can possibly be towed with all four of its wheels on the ground. RVers commonly refer to this last method as “flat towing” or towing “four down.”
To ensure any potential problems caused or enhanced by towing are covered by warranty, some manufacturers test and approve their vehicles for towing behind a motorhome. Towing a vehicle not approved for towing, for long distances, may result in serious damage to the transmission, transaxle/differential, or transfer case. The engine is not running during the tow so the drive train may not be properly lubricated.
What Can You Tow?
Do your research to find which brands and models of vehicles can be towed and in what manner. Take a drive through a campground and see which vehicles are being towed. Talk with some RVers, check with RV groups, read magazines, and search websites for “Dinghy Towing Guides” or similar topics. Entities publishing these guides are typically not manufacturers, so it is a good place to start.
Then follow up with a review of the vehicle’s Owner’s Manual. The reference will be entitled “RV Towing” or “Flat Towing Behind a Motorhome”. If there is a reference then the recommendations shown will be the manufacturer’s approved method of towing. It is possible that the manual was written prior to the vehicle being approved for flat towing, so if you think the vehicle might be towable, check with a dealer or the Manufacturer’s Customer Care Center. It is strongly suggested that you not base the purchase of your toad solely on the word of sales staff. Verify your research.
Safety in towing is paramount. Your total vehicle length is increased when a toad is attached to your coach. Additionally, this connection serves as a hinge point allowing each of the respective vehicle’s wheels to literally roll in different directions simultaneously during portions of a sharp turn. Your ability to park, even temporarily, is limited due to the size of the rig.
The braking ability of the motorhome is decreased with the added weight of the toad literally “pushing” the coach during a stop. Depending on engine size and gearing in the coach, the added toad weight may hamper the ability to maintain speed on hills and when passing, and it will reduce initial acceleration. Finally, your ability to back up (drive in reverse) is gone.
In addition to the obvious tow bar, some additional equipment is mandated. Check with your state or province to lean the local requirements. A supplemental braking system is required in over half the states and all the provinces. This apparatus is designed to apply the brakes in the toad when the brakes
are applied up front, while driving the RV. Without the supplemental braking system, you will be using only your RV brakes to stop both vehicles.
Check with your RV insurance company as to the requirements for a supplemental braking system and don’t get caught without it.