When it comes to serious touring with a sizable Class A motorhome, few will argue the virtues of towing a smaller vehicle behind the RV—for those special side trips where the big coach just wouldn’t quite fit in.
Commonly referred to as “dinghy” towing, the practice is a very practical one. The simple convenience and economical maneuverability should be enough to convince even the most skeptical RVer that the hassle of hooking, what amounts to a secondary runabout, up to your rolling home is well worth the effort.
But this is one subject that should be thoroughly investigated before you shell out the cash for that rusty old A-frame tow bar you found at the local swap meet.
Tow Bar Tech
While tow bar technology has removed many of the alignment and hitching problems of the past, the one thing that is of prime importance is choosing the proper combinations of vehicles. True, you can flat tow (all four wheels on the ground) a new Hummer H2 behind your Prevost coach, but that same “dinghy” might be a bit much behind a 24-foot Class C.
So think of how the vehicle you might tow behind your RV can affect your overall handling characteristics. Sure, hooking up a couple thousand pounds of mass behind your RV might be a little hard on your brakes, but have you considered any of the other transitional elements?
Take, for instance, the accelerated wear and tear that additional weight may put on the RV’s drivetrain—let alone on the brakes. Then there’s the transitional stability… going around corners at top speed or simply changing lanes. On motorhomes with extensive rear overhang, the force of the towed vehicle trying to maintain its present speed and direction can make steering very interesting.
However, proper planning and a realistic, balanced choice of dinghy will make these elements much less noticeable and your RV experience much more enjoyable.
Since most motorhomes already have a hitch receiver installed, you might think that all you have to do is find a good hitch/tow bar assembly. Not so fast. First, you’ve got to check your motorhome’s gross combination weight rating (gcwr), as listed on the manufacturer’s identification sticker (usually located near the driver’s seat or just inside the door) to make sure the combined weight of the loaded RV and dinghy are within specified limits.
These figures, established by the motorhome-chassis manufacturer, state the maximum amount of weight your motorhome’s chassis can safely handle. Don’t forget to factor in the RV’s total loaded weight or you will violate the most commonly broken law of RVing: Overloading.
Remember the talk about rear overhang? If you are in the market for a motorhome and plan on using it to tow a dinghy, look for an RV with minimal rear overhang. This will reduce the amount of leverage your dinghy can exert on your coach while on the road, making your chore as driver more relaxing.
Make sure that the vehicle you choose to pull around behind your coach is designed to be towed with all four wheels down and rolling. We’ve included a list of recent car, truck and SUVs that have recently carried the manufacturer’s approval, but even so, many manufacturers will stipulate specific ground rules that must be adhered to, or your warranty will be worthless. And yes, they will know if you cheat!
If you already own your “dinghy” candidate and it is not identified as being flat-towable, there are a number of aftermarket accessories—such as bolt-on free-wheeling hubs for front-wheel drive vehicles, driveshaft-disconnects, dollies or trailers—that will allow you to use your existing vehicle.
However, this is a good time to look into selecting a vehicle that is designed and engineered to meet your needs.
Check the owner’s manual of models you are considering as it will list any specific instructions on how to tow the vehicle behind an RV—if it is approved.
Look for a lightweight vehicle that has plenty of maneuverability and, if possible, one that offers excellent visibility. Some of our favorite dinghies are convertibles because they allow for maximum viewing pleasure.
You might want to add “number of seats” into your equation, as taking some friends out to a nice
sit-down dinner is a real hospitable thing to offer your fellow campers, and while you can flat-tow a Nissan 350Z-car behind your motorhome, seating for four is not very realistic.
The Tow Bar
There are a number of tow bar manufacturers out there, but only a few basic designs. First is the tow bar that remains mounted on the dinghy … usually a collapsible, self-centering model that is actually quite easy to use. The second design is the coach-mounted type—also collapsible— that folds away on the rear of the coach. No matter which bar you choose, make sure that it is rated to tow your specific vehicle. No swap meet purchases allowed here! Roadmaster offers both designs and is featured in the Camping World catalog.
Additional items that can make towing easier include auxiliary braking systems, transmission coolers, additional tail lights, safety cables and various gravel shields to protect the front of your dinghy.
Camping World offers a number of tow bar accessory kits that are specific to select manufacturer’s systems and include tow bar covers, safety cables, universal wiring kits, lock and come with a bag to keep everything neat and organized.
But the dinghy itself is the important element—and the one component of the operational combo that has to meet all of your needs. So choose carefully, and don’t be afraid to ask questions.
This is a basic listing of vehicles manufacturer-approved for “flat” towing without modifications. For specific options and requirements, consult with your local dealer.
Cavalier Coupe & Sedan
Alero GX Coupe
Impreza 2.5 Sedan & Wagon
Legacy L & Wagon Versions
WRX & Wagon Versions
Aerio S/GS Sedan & SX Wagon
Celica GT & GT-S
SUVs & Pickups
Blazer 2DR 4WD
Silverado/Sierra 1500 Series 4WD
Suburban/Yukon XL 4WD
Escape 2WD & 4WD
F-250/350 SD 4WD
Ranger 2WD & 4WD
Santa Fe FWD
Grand Cherokee 4WD
B-Series 2WD & 4WD
Tribute DX FWD
Frontier 2WD & 4WD
Pathfinder SE 4WD
Vitara & Grand Vitara 4WD
RAV4 2WD & 4WD