Zinger, we started our PUP adventure about one year ago with a 2000 4 cylinder Tacoma 4x4 and a Fleetwood Rio PUP with a Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) of 2300 lbs.
The Tacoma had a Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) of 5100 lbs., a Gross Combined Weight Rating (GCWR) of 7400 lbs., and a towing capacity of 3500 lbs.
The rule of thumb for matching up a tow vehicle and a trailer:
GVWR tow vehicle + GVWR trailer < GCWR tow vehicle
Added together, the sum of the Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) of the tow vehicle plus the trailer should be less than the Gross Combined Weight Rating (GCWR) of the tow vehicle.
How much less? This depends on where you tow, how you tow, and believe it or not, what you tow.
Given the above rule of thumb equation, we were at the top of the Tacoma's capacity:
5100 lbs. Tacoma GVWR + 2300 lbs. GVWR Rio = 7400 lbs., which exactly equaled the Tacoma's GCWR of 7400 lbs.
When we were working our way through this problem we relied on the CAT scales, available at major truck stops.
We loaded up the Tacoma and the Rio to the max- everything we thought we'd need for a week plus vacation including two full propane tanks, two bikes, two duffel bags of clothes and a cooler full of ice, drinks and a typical assortment of food- and we went to the CAT scales.
All the way to the CAT scales we just knew we were way overweight. We'd never felt the Tacoma work so hard. Granted, it was a 4 cylinder, but we'd never worked that truck so hard before that trip.
The truck didn't handle as usual, either. Our little sure-footed Tacoma felt sloppy in the front end.
On another vehicle a weight distributing hitch may have helped with the sloppy steering, but as I recall, our owner's manual said that weight distributing hitches were not to be used on the Tacoma. Please double check that fact behind me; it's been a year and I'm not sure that I remember every fact correctly.
At the CAT scales we found that the Tacoma weighed 4160 lbs., the Rio weighed 2140 lbs., and the entire rig weighed 6300 lbs.- a full 1100 lbs. below the GCWR.
We just didn't like the way the Tacoma felt trying to pull that load on level ground at sea level.
We planned to tow in the mountains and we knew on the way home from the CAT scales that night that we could not effectively use the Tacoma for that purpose.
We decided on the way home to trade the Tacoma for a tow vehicle with more capacity.
We traded the Tacoma for a 2004 V6 Toyota 4Runner: 5000 lbs. towing capacity, a GVWR of 5570 lbs. and a GCWR of 9600 lbs.
The Rio's GVWR was a full 2700 lbs. below the 4Runner's towing capacity. The Rio's GVWR of 2300 lbs. + the 4Runner's GVWR of 5570 lbs. = 7870 lbs., which was 1730 lbs. below the 4Runner's GCWR.
We stopped at the CAT scales a couple of different times when loaded for travel: once with a summer payload and once with a winter payload.
Our average combined weight, 4Runner + Rio, was 7300 lbs., 2300 lbs. below the 4Runner's GCWR of 9600 lbs.
This added capacity made all the difference in the world in the quality of our towing experience.
We recently traded the Rio for a Westlake, GVWR 3000 lbs. The 4Runner still had the towing capacity and there was still room in the 4Runner's GCWR, but we felt that the Westlake's additional tongue weight (don't forget about tongue weight!) ate up too much of the 4Runner's GVWR and payload.
So we traded the 4Runner for a 2006 Dodge Durango with a greater towing capacity, greater GCWR, bigger payload and bigger GVWR. Remember, the tongue weight of the camper will count against your tow vehicle's GVWR and payload when the camper is hitched up to the tow vehicle!
Yes, I am darned sick of trading tow vehicles but here's hoping that we are settled for a bit.
Another factor to keep in mind: wheel base.
The length of the tow vehicle's wheel base vs. the length of the camper is important also. The longer the tow vehicle's wheel base vs. the camper's length, the more stable the towing experience will be. Think of it in terms of a dog and his tail: you want the dog wagging the tail, not the tail wagging the dog.
There are formulas out there for calculating wheel base vs. trailer length- I'd have to go look them up.
We were OK with the 4Runner/Rio combination but I wanted a longer wheel base for the Westlake, and the Durango provides that for us.
As far as what you tow:
So far we have only towed PUPs, which when folded down for towing are shorter than the tow vehicle.
We've not yet towed a hard-sided camper that is as tall or taller than our tow vehicle so we do not speak from first hand experience.
From what we've heard and read, towing an upright flat surface behind a tow vehicle is a completely different experience.
We've read that given a PUP and a light weight hard sided camper that both weigh exactly the same, the tow vehicle will pull the PUP with less effort because of the reduced wind resistance.
While all of this may seem overwhelming- and if you are like us, the thought of giving up your beloved Tacoma is a sad thing indeed- the good new is, if you decide to trade in the Tacoma for more capacity you have a great vehicle to trade.
We received very nice trade in values for both the Tacoma and the 4Runner.
Also, this was simply our experience, we are still towing newbies and we are by no means experts. Your mileage may vary.
Him/Her Late Boomer Vintage
Two Wonderful Sons, Grown and Out!
One Non-Camping Cat
2008 Fleetwood Westlake
2006 Dodge Durango
Edited by - becasunshine on February 20 2009 00:21:01