Choosing a tow vehicle, also known as a toad, is a big decision you have to make when becoming a Fulltime RVer. It is important to think about all of the different options you have and how you will be using your toad. Some of the items we considered are:
- Towing Setup (how you will tow the vehicle)
- How will it be used?
- Gas Mileage
- Supplemental Braking System
The weight of your toad can a be a make or break reason for going with one vehicle over another. You must make sure that you do not go over the tow capacity of your RV. Meaning, if the tow capacity for your RV is 6,000 lbs then your car must weigh less than 6,000 lbs in order to be able to tow it safely. You can easily google the weight of a particular model in order to make sure you are not making a huge safety mistake. Towing Setup (how you will tow the vehicle)
Before moving on to the type of transmission lets describe the types of towing setups.
- Flat Towing or 4 wheels down - this means you will be towing the vehicle directly hooked to your RV and with all four of the toad's wheels on the ground. A Base Plate will have to be professionally installed to the vehicle and a tow bar will be used to connect the RV to the vehicle. My brother-in-law is a master mechanic so we were lucky when he helped us install ours. Thanks, Kenneth!
- Tow Dolly - A tow dolly is a small trailer that is directly hooked to your RV that holds the two front wheels of your toad's tires and pulls the vehicle with only two of its tires touching the ground. So, if you choose this option you will have to buy an extra tow dolly besides the vehicle. You will also have to deal with hooking up and unhooking the tow dolly at campsites.
- Flatbed Trailer - You could also pull a full-length trailer that you would drive your toad up on and would be pulled with only the trailers wheels touching the ground. I don't know a lot about this nor would we recommend it unless you really have to. It sounds like such a headache.
The type of transmission you desire and your towing setup go hand in hand. If you want to tow a vehicle with an automatic transmission AND 4 wheels down, then your choices of the type of toad you can use are drastically reduced. Most car manufacturers do not recommend towing their vehicles 4 wheels down and will void the warranty if done. So, in this case, if you want to Flat tow a vehicle that the manufacture will NOT stand behind, then you will have to use a tow dolly. The same thing applies to vehicles with manual transmissions, but there are a greater number of choices that the manufacture will stand behind. This really was personal preference for us. Neither of us wanted to have to drive a stick shift so we decided on an automatic transmission.
How will the toad be used?
How you will use the toad can also seriously impact the type you are able to get. Take into account the following to help make your decision:
Supplemental Braking System
- How many people will you normally be riding with? If you have a family of 4 you would probably want something a little bigger than if it is just you and your spouse
- Do you want to go off road with your toad? Many people get Jeeps for this very reason. They are basically, perfect for flat towing and can go anywhere. Though there are other SUV's to pick from too.
- What gear may you be carrying? Do you have kayaks or bikes or a bunch of camping equipment? You will have to consider where you put these items.
Some states and Canada require you to have a Supplemental Braking System if you are dinghy towing. Since the toad is going to be a few thousand pounds, the distance it will take to brake will be much greater. Supplemental Braking Systems help with this. They apply the brake to the toad when the brake of the RV is applied. They come in a few different options; completely portable, semi-portable, and permanent. Completely portable and Semi-Portable systems can be moved from vehicle to vehicle (some exceptions) but require you to set them up each time you are going to tow. A permanent system is directly installed into your toad and are always ready to go. These, however, will require the installation which is recommended to be done by a certified mechanic.
A great guide that is well known and helped us to pick the perfect toad is the 2017 Dinghy Guide that is published every year.
In the end, we chose a 2015 Ford C-Max because it was one of the few cars with automatic transmission that you can flat tow, and it was in our price range. We feel we made a great decision and it even gets awesome gas mileage.
It definitely helps to do as much research as possible before choosing your toad. Please let us know if you have any questions or anything else to add to help others.