Sienna v. Odyssey v. Highlander for towing a pop-up

Discussion in 'Tow Vehicles, Hitch & Towing' started by CampingCubFan, Jun 12, 2019.

  1. CampingCubFan

    CampingCubFan Member

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    We are looking to upgrade from our 2007 Sienna with a 2012-2014 Odyssey, Sienna or Highlander. I find that most Odysseys do not come with a tow prep package, while many of the Siennas do. Interested to hear from Odyssey owners about whether you had to have the tow prep installed at the dealer, and whether you like towing with the Odyssey. We also are considering a Highlander (but they can be harder to find), which we hope would enable us to tow a light-weight high wall or hybrid down the road. If you own any of these, please feel free to chime in on pros and cons. Thanks!
     
  2. jmkay1

    jmkay1 2004 Fleetwood/Coleman Utah

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    This is my two cents so take it what it’s worth. If you are truly considering upgrading your camper I wouldn’t buy a new vehicle until you know a bit more about the unit you are considering buying. My mom went out bought a truck with a 5000 tow limit and looked at campers but everything she liked she couldn’t tow with her new truck. I have a toyota 4 runner that tows 5000, I love it, but towing a light hybrid especially in the mountains would have been a struggle on her engine. Combined with her shorter wheel base it would not be a fun drive. Not to mention something you may notice is really pay attention to the payload numbers of the vehicle you are interested in. You may be really surprised how much you truly have left to haul. Yes, the book says I can tow 5000 but if I looked at the payload numbers for my vehicle I wouldn’t be able to haul much more than 3500 pound camper. I’m currently at that 3500 mark with my Fleetwood Utah. Someday I’m going to sell my 4 runner so I can upgrade to a large truck or suv. Just so I have a little more lee way in my numbers. I’m not trying to tell you to go buy the largest truck, but do watch your payload numbers and adjust your expectations if needed.
     
  3. mattlreese

    mattlreese Active Member

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    A minivan can not tow a HW popup or a hybrid. The engine could likely handle it, the transmission and suspension could not.

    The Highlander has a tow capacity of 5k and a payload capacity 1450 lbs on the low end. You might run into issues with payload if you have a large family, but it should tow most HW popups.
     
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  4. giadiep

    giadiep Active Member

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    The "can I tow it" topic can get heated on these forums. I will share my experience, but it is just my experience only.

    We had a pop up and then we got a Hybrid. The Hybrid is about 4600 lbs loaded with a 550 lb tongue weight. We tow it with a Toyota Tundra that has a 9000 lb tow capacity and a 1400 lb payload capacity. With the tongue weight of the Hybrid, plus weight of family in the truck, and bikes in the truck bed, we just about max out the payload capacity. However, the truck pulls the Hybrid and our family around safely and securely. We also use a weight distribution hitch with sway bar, which helps control the trailer and distribute the weight.

    I tried to pull the Hybrid one time with my fairly new Dodge Durango that had a theoretical 6200 lb tow capacity. It was not nearly as comfortable or secure. The difference in power was noticeable, but you can adjust your driving style to accommodate that. It was that the Durango had much less control of the Hybrid. The greater wheelbase of the truck and the greater weight of the truck made all the difference with controlling the Hybrid.

    So in my experience, and my experience only, you can tow a Hybrid with a midsize SUV like the Highlander (if you watch your weights and get a lighter Hybrid) but it will not have the control of a full size truck or full size SUV. The extra weight and wheelbase of full size vehicles really make a difference.

    I used to have a Sienna, and the back end was so low that putting a heavy tongue weight will drop the entire end to the ground. Some people use air bags or bump stops to combat this, but it doesn't shift weight properly so the van would still have a problem controlling the Hybrid. Plus, If I recall correctly, the manual said that the Sienna cannot use a weight distribution hitch (this is just going by memory). So I would strongly advise against towing anything near 4000lbs with a minivan.
     
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  5. Spaceace5150

    Spaceace5150 Active Member

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    I am towing a small Rockwood with my 2011 Odyssey and it pulls it great. I added an aftermarket hitch and transmission cooler. If you end up getting the Honda, you can read some reviews of various transmission coolers on an Odyssey forum. Many of the aftermarket ones are better than the Honda OEM.

    I didn't buy the OEM hitch but kinda wish I would have since it is higher off the ground (you have to cut into the bumper to install it). It is more expensive, but might be worth it.

    Let me know if you have any questions about the Honda!
     
  6. Rusty2192

    Rusty2192 Well-Known Member

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    Just a couple general points in response to earlier comments:

    The Sienna is able to use a WDH as long as the hitch and the trailer can also handle it.

    Also, the Sienna and Highlander share the same powertrain, so the engine and transmission on both are the exact same, no worries there on killing one before the other.

    @CampingCubFan First question: do you still need a minivan? As a current owner you’ll know what I mean. If so, you need to choose what’s more important, everyday ease of life or a bigger camper down the road?

    If you are willing to settle with an SUV and think there is a good chance you’ll go larger in the future it’d probably be best to just get the Highlander now and be prepared.

    P.S. be prepared to be told you need to get a dually diesel truck and that a minivan towing even an empty utility trailer will instantly kill all of your immediate and extended family as well as all of the puppies at the local shelter and blow up in the process ;)
     
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  7. neighbormike

    neighbormike Well-Known Member

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    You are going to need a dually diesel truck... [:D]
     
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  8. Dingit

    Dingit Well-Known Member

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    Nahhhhhh. I have a highwall and pull it with just a regular diesel truck. You don't need a dually. :)
     
  9. Orchid

    Orchid Sharp Shootin' Grandma

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    [LOL] I'm surprised it hasn't already been said. We can tow our pop up with our Odyssey and it does well. But it does have lots of modifications to it. Rear sags on these vans and suspension upgrade is an absolute must, along with transmission cooler. I couldn't get away with an HW or hybrid with it.
     
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  10. mattlreese

    mattlreese Active Member

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    I have a Pacifica which tows a ~2900 loaded popup just fine. Never had any issues. No sway, braking is quite good, more than enough power. Transmission cooler is not needed in my case, but rear suspension sag is real. I would have airbags if they made them for the Pacifica.
     
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  11. Spridle

    Spridle Active Member

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    There are simply too many variables on towing to be able to to easily say yes or no to these types of questions. Partly because everyone has a different threshold of what is comfortable for them. In general if you are towing closer to the limit, keep the speeds lower. If towing with a car/mini van type vehicle and towing near max capacity, air bags or some other rear suspension upgrade will likely be mandatory. This has little to do with transferring weight to the front, it's about directly increasing the load capability of the rear axle to handle the increased load. There are monster pickups out there that come with bags from the factory for towing heavy loads. This isn't a bandaid, it's a tool to use. Transmission coolers are generally needed but they do add complexity and can cause their own problems. Cooler or not, if you are towing then a synthetic version of the required fluid is the best option and you want to change it relatively regularly. The reason for the cooler is that the trans fluid doesn't do its job beyond a certain temperature. Synthetic fluid has a much higher temperature threshold. Cooler or not, towing will significantly increase temperatures so you want synthetic. It's possible all these vehicles have synth already. Mine did not, but does now.
     
    Last edited: Jun 13, 2019
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  12. Orchid

    Orchid Sharp Shootin' Grandma

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    We have air bags now and not happy with them. It may be faulty installation, but after having them quite a few years, they don't want to hold air long enough anymore. Maybe a couple of hours before they must be re-inflated. I have ordered "bump stops" for our van and hoping I like them better. Maybe something to try with your van? I linked to the eTrailer ones I ordered. My son-in-law, who owns a company that moves homes, so does much towing, recommended I get them.

    Even though mine are on order, it may be awhile before we are able to test them out on a real trip. We don't have any camping reservations until December, although was thinking about making some for October.

    They do have great reviews, so definitely something to check into considering air bags are not available for your vehicle.
     
  13. gec66

    gec66 Active Member

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    Despite the Highlander getting a 5,000 lb tow rating it really is no more capable than either the Sienna or Odyssey. The SUV market simply demands higher tow ratings while the minivan market seems satisfied with 3,500 lbs, but that doesn't really make them more capable. SUV's that share their power train with a minivan typically have a shorter wheelbase and higher center of gravity, neither of which makes them a better TV. Unless you are prepared to get into a full frame truck rather than a uni-body vehicle you need to stick to low profile and 3,500 lbs. JMO
     
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  14. Spridle

    Spridle Active Member

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    Definitely sounds like the bag or the plumbing is defective. Probably easily repairable. Timken is the brand I'm familiar with that makes the progressive bump stops.

    If you need to haul people, the Chevy Express passenger van with the 4.8 is OK on gas and will pull pretty much any pop up. Those vans regularly make it to 400K too.
     
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  15. Orchid

    Orchid Sharp Shootin' Grandma

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    It likely is easily repairable, but I decided to go with the bump stops just to avoid any further problem.

    Thanks for the advice on the van but we really don't need anything to haul more people. We just already happened to have the Odyssey. We have a Titan as well, so have been using that the last couple of trips, while waiting to get the van suspension in order.
     
  16. Spridle

    Spridle Active Member

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    The advice on the van was meant in general! Not to you specifically. they are basically a Chevy Silverado, but go for far less than the pickup and can haul a ton of people and stuff.
     
  17. eagle

    eagle Member

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    I have a 2008 Odyssey, and I tow a ~2,000# popup with it -- a 2006 Fleetwood Graphite. I installed my own hitch from etrailer, and installed my own brake controller (also bought at etrailer). It was a chore getting the brake controller installed, but well worth it. From the perspective of ease of towing, this is a decent setup -- the trailer parks itself right behind the van -- but I have a huge problem: from the side, my setup looks like a V. Okay, it's not "V" bad, but the rig is definitely not a straight horizontal line like it should be.

    So, I have come to realize that while the van can tow, it isn't made to do it. I'm looking to swap out my van for something that is made to tow. We are starting to look at replacing the van with an SUV. Sure, a truck would work, but we want the interior cargo space (similar to the van).

    I have considered air bags to prop up the van's rearend, but every time I do that, I get back to: I'm towing with something that, while it can do the job, wasn't made to do the job. I can tell this because I'm going through suspension and brake components at a greater-than-normal rate. I'm okay with this, because I'm choosing to tow with an Odyssey. But I'd rather tow with a truck/SUV.

    Am I wrong?
     
  18. Orchid

    Orchid Sharp Shootin' Grandma

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    Maybe this is less of an issue for us since we beefed up the suspension, but can't explain the brakes. Have not had anything go bad or need replaced in the 6+ years we've been towing with the Odyssey. We tow often, as we are retired and head out usually every month. Perhaps it's the advantage of living in the very flat state of Florida?

    We are probably due for brake pads, but would even without towing. I was planning to have new ones put one during July, when we are home for the entire month anyway.

    I DO agree that the Odyssey wasn't meant for the job. Far from it. But, with the add ons, does just fine. We've used our Titan the last two trips and looking forward to getting back to the van - and I'm the designated driver.
     
  19. Minimalist

    Minimalist Active Member

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    My TV is a 2010 Jetta with Mad helper springs installed. We tow a very similar trailer to yours (2004 Starcraft 1204 I think with brakes installed) with no issues. Every vehicle is a compromise of some sorts and a lot of vehicles today have soft suspension because people want it. That is also true for trucks. It's all about the set up.
     
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  20. Spridle

    Spridle Active Member

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    Towing is extreme duty for any vehicle. Look at a manual for a 1 ton full size truck and they will have different service intervals for towing.

    If the brake usage is up drastically, I'd suspect the brake controller is not adjusted properly or trailer brakes aren't being used at all. Even with my 3/4 ton GMC and a #2500 pound trailer, I run trailer brakes and I run them pretty aggressively.
     
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