Ten of the best cars to tow a caravan

Four wheel drive towing a caravan on a dirt road.

Tim Nicholson

Posted February 24, 2021


Dreaming of a caravan adventure? These are 10 of the best vehicles to tow your wheels.

With hemisphere-hopping travel still firmly off the itinerary and interstate flights at the mercy of coronavirus outbreaks and border closures, Victorians are eyeing up the humble caravan as a safe bet for their next escape from home.

“There’s been a shift in people’s behaviour,” says CEO of the Caravan Industry Association of Australia, Stuart Lamont. “Having been cooped up for months, Australians are now turning their attention to travelling within their own backyard.” 

Sales enquiries and foot traffic at caravan dealerships around the country have surged, according to the association, while Caravancampingsales.com.au reported an 80 per cent spike in their online editorial views in September, compared with a year earlier. 

Packing up your gear, hitching a van to a car and heading off on the wide open road is an appealing proposition, but there’s a lot to think about. Once you’ve decided to spend your hard-earned on a caravan, you need to consider how you’re going to tow it. If your existing car isn’t capable of towing, you’ll need to invest in one that can.  

So, do you buy the van or the car first? It’s a chicken-and-egg situation and the answer lies in doing your research. You need to work out what sort of caravan you want – and with so much choice around that can be tricky. You should research how you’re going to use your van too. Then you can shop for a vehicle that’s suitable to tow it.

What do all the weights and capacities mean? 

Cost and fuel economy are factors to keep in mind when looking for a tow vehicle, but the three biggest considerations are:  

  • Towing capacity, or maximum braked towing capacity, which is the maximum weight your vehicle is capable of towing.
  • The maximum towball weight, which refers to the weight the trailer exerts directly onto the towball itself, and it is usually about 10 per cent of the towing capacity.
  • Gross combination mass, which is the weight of the car and the caravan combined and whether the car can manage it. 

These are critical points. If you buy a fancy van but the towbar can’t cope, or the combined weight is too much, you’ve wasted a lot of money. Not only can you be fined for exceeding the stated weights in Victoria, it can be extremely dangerous and can result in a crash. 

Towing capacity is easy to find on car makers’ websites, but if you can’t find the towball weight and gross combination mass, call your local dealer for this information. 

Some people make the mistake of buying a car with the correct towing capacity for their van, but then add accessories such as a bullbar, or a canopy or tray drawers for a dual-cab ute, which increases the weight to exceed the gross combination mass. 

Get confident before you tow 

If you’ve never towed anything before and you lack confidence, ask a professional for help. Towing a three-tonne van can be daunting, especially if you’re new to it.  

It’s a good idea to sign up for a towing course to build your skills – there are many offered throughout Victoria. It’s also important to make sure you know how to set up your van correctly. Even if you have the best tow vehicle in the world, it will be dangerous to tow if it’s not set up properly. 

Four wheel drive towing a caravan across a river.

The ute-based Isuzu MU-X has a loyal following in the caravanning community.


 

Top 10 picks for tow vehicles 

While most of our top picks are larger 4x4 diesel vehicles, we have also included some more-than-capable petrol offerings and a smaller SUV for those wanting to tow a smaller trailer or light caravan. In alphabetical order, here are some of the best towing vehicles on the Australian market. 

 

Ford Ranger XLT dual-cab 3.2L 4x4 auto 

The Ranger is the second-bestselling vehicle in Australia (after the Toyota HiLux) and has a solid reputation. It’s also one of many dual-cab utes on offer that are capable towing vehicles. Dual-cab utes are considered a popular family car these days and are fitted with decent safety gear too. The Ranger’s torquey engine makes it great for towing.  

Price: From $59,440 before on-road costs
Engine: 147kW/470Nm 3.2-litre five-cylinder turbo diesel
Kerb weight: 2085kg
Towing capacity: 3500kg
Tow ball capacity: 350kg
Gross combination mass: 6000kg 
Fuel consumption: 8.7L/100km 

Isuzu MU-X LS-U 4x4 auto 

Ute-based off-road wagons like the MU-X are popular because they have real off-road cred, towing ability and most of them are offered with a third seating row. The MU-X is getting on but it has a loyal following in the caravanning community, and for good reason. It’s also exceptional value for money.  

Price: From $52,600 before on-road costs
Engine: 130kW/430Nm 3.0-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel 
Kerb weight: 2142kg 
Towing capacity: 3000kg  
Tow ball capacity: 300kg 
Gross combination mass:  5750kg 
Fuel consumption: 7.9L/100km 

Jeep Grand Cherokee Night Eagle 4x4 auto 

The big Jeep has a strong reputation as a towing vehicle and has a pretty luxe interior. You can pay quite a lot for a Grand Cherokee these days depending how high up the range you go, so choose wisely. 

Price: From $65,950 before on-road costs 
Engine: 184kW/570Nm 3.0-litre V6 turbo diesel 
Kerb weight: 2281kg 
Towing capacity: 3500kg  
Tow ball capacity: 350kg 
Gross combination mass: 6099kg 
Fuel consumption: 7.5L/100km 

Mitsubishi Outlander LS AWD diesel auto 

The Outlander is the pick for people looking to tow small vans. Its diesel engine has decent torque and it’s one of the larger offerings in the busy medium-SUV segment. It comes with a third seating row as standard and it has value for money on its side. 

Price: From $41,490 before on-road costs 
Engine: 110kW/360Nm 2.2-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel 
Kerb weight: 1620kg 
Towing capacity: 2000kg  
Tow ball capacity: 200kg 
Gross combination mass: 4290kg 
Fuel consumption: 6.2L/100km 

Mitsubishi Pajero GLX 4x4 auto 

One of the elders of the towing line-up, the Pajero is set to be put out to pasture by Mitsubishi in the coming years, but it’s just as capable as ever. 

Price: From $54,490 before on-road costs 
Engine: 141kW/441Nm 3.2-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel 
Kerb weight: 2302kg 
Towing capacity: 3000kg  
Tow ball capacity: 180kg 
Gross combination mass: 6030kg 
Fuel consumption: 9.1L/100km 

Nissan Patrol Ti AWD auto 

Nissan updated the Patrol late last year with a bold new front-end design, but it’s still the same capable caravan-hauler underneath. The powerful V8 petrol engine offers great pulling power and it’s a big, comfy cruiser. 

Price: From $77,760 before on-road costs 
Engine: 298kW/560Nm 5.6-litre V8 petrol 
Kerb weight: 2812kg 
Towing capacity: 3500kg 
Tow ball capacity: 350kg 
Gross combination mass: 7000kg 
Fuel consumption: 14.4L/100km 

Woman sits down on chair in front of caravan.

There are many factors to consider when selecting a car to tow your caravan.


 

RAM 1500 Express crew-cab V8 4x4 auto  

The Americans have arrived! The RAM 1500 is built in North America but is remanufactured in Melbourne to right-hand-drive configuration. It’s a massive beast of a thing and has acres of space. Towing is not a problem with this behemoth, but it isn’t cheap.  

Price: From $89,950 before on-road costs 
Engine: 291kW/556Nm 5.7-litre V8 petrol 
Kerb weight: 2620kg 
Towing capacity: 4500kg  
Tow ball capacity: 450kg 
Gross combination mass: 7237kg 
Fuel consumption: 12.2L/100km 

Toyota LandCruiser 200 Series GXL 4x4 auto 

Few vehicles have a reputation for reliability and toughness anywhere near that of the Toyota LandCruiser 200 Series. The big off-roader is now available only with the V8 diesel engine, after Toyota dropped the V8 petrol last year. It will go just about anywhere, and is widely regarded as one of the best towing vehicles on the market.  

Price: From $92,696 before on-road costs 
Engine: 200kW/650Nm 4.5-litre V8 turbo diesel 
Kerb weight: 2740kg 
Towing capacity: 3500kg  
Tow ball capacity: 350kg 
Gross combination mass: 6850kg 
Fuel consumption: 9.5L/100km 

Toyota LandCruiser 70 Series GXL 4x4 manual  

Talk about old school. It’s huge, it’s cumbersome and it only comes with a manual gearbox, but the 70 Series LandCruiser is as tough as they get. Just don’t expect the niceties of the LandCruiser 200 Series.  

Price: From $71,500 before on-road costs 
Engine: 151kW/430Nm 4.5-litre V8 turbo diesel 
Kerb weight: 2265kg 
Towing capacity: 3500kg  
Tow ball capacity: 350kg 
Gross combination mass: 6560kg 
Fuel consumption: 10.7L/100km 

Volkswagen Amarok dual-cab TDI550 Sportline 4x4 auto 

The Amarok is one of the best dual-cab utes on the market – it’s certainly the most car-like to drive – and it does a decent job of towing thanks to the meaty V6 diesel. 

Price: From $56,590 before on-road costs 
Engine: 165kW/550Nm 3.0-litre V6 turbo diesel 
Kerb weight: 2104kg 
Towing capacity: 3500kg  
Tow ball capacity: 300kg 
Gross combination mass: 6000kg 
Fuel consumption: 9.1L/100km 

Keep your vehicle in tow

Love a coastal drive or weekend trip? Get emergency roadside assistance for your caravan with RACV Extra Care, and be covered for mishaps on the road.


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