The Best Vans for Towing: A Comprehensive Guide

By: HowStuffWorks  | 
towing capacity for vans
Vans come in various sizes and classes, each with its unique towing capacity. Kypros / Getty Images

Are you in the market for a van that can handle your towing needs? Look no further! In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the best vans for towing, taking into account their towing capacity, payload, and other important factors. Whether you are a family looking to tow a camper or a business owner in need of a capable work van, we've got you covered. So let's dive in and find the perfect van for your towing needs!


1. Understanding Towing Capacity and Payload

When it comes to towing, two key factors to consider are towing capacity and payload. Towing capacity refers to the maximum weight a van can safely tow without compromising safety or performance. On the other hand, payload capacity refers to the maximum weight a van can carry inside, including passengers and cargo. It is important to stay within the limits of both towing capacity and payload to ensure safe and efficient towing.

To calculate the payload capacity of a van, subtract the curb weight (the weight of the van without anything or anybody in it) from the Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR). The GVWR is the maximum weight that a van can safely operate within, including passengers, cargo, and the tongue weight of the trailer being towed.


2. Minivans: A Family-friendly Towing Option

Minivans are a popular choice for families, and many of them have towing capabilities that can handle smaller trailers and campers. While most minivans have a towing capacity of around 3,500 pounds, it is important to consider the payload capacity as well. Remember that the primary purpose of a minivan is to transport people, so be mindful of the number of passengers and cargo you will be carrying in addition to the trailer.

Pop-up campers, A-frames, teardrops, and overlanding trailers with foldout tents are examples of rigs that can be compatible with using a minivan as a tow vehicle. As always, be sure to check the specific towing capacities and payload ratings of the minivan you are interested in to ensure it meets your towing needs.


3. Light-Duty SUVs: A Growing Segment for Towing

Light-duty SUVs are typically designed on the chassis of sedans, which limits their towing capacity. However, advancements in technology have led to the development of stronger chassis and engines in some light-duty SUV models, making them capable of towing more than ever before. While most light-duty SUVs have a maximum towing capacity of around 1,200 pounds, there is a growing segment of models with tow ratings between 1,500 and 3,500 pounds.

These SUVs offer a good balance of fuel efficiency and towing capability, making them excellent daily drivers for families. Some models even have trims specifically tailored toward campers, with towing capacities exceeding 6,000 pounds. When considering a light-duty SUV for towing, be sure to stay within the vehicle's specified towing capacity and account for the additional payload of passengers and gear.


4. Medium-Duty SUVs: A Step Up in Towing Capability

Medium-duty SUVs, also known as mid-size SUVs, offer a towing capacity ranging from 3,500 to 5,000 pounds. While they may not have the towing capacity of heavy-duty SUVs or trucks, they can still handle smaller campers and trailers when loaded properly. Most medium-duty SUVs use frames designed for their sedan counterparts but have stronger unibodies and more durable engines, providing slightly more towing capacity.

The Toyota 4Runner is a classic body-on-frame SUV that can tow up to 5,000 pounds. It is renowned for its reliability and off-road capabilities, making it a popular choice for outdoor enthusiasts. The Ford Explorer is another option to consider, with towing capacities ranging from 3,000 to 5,600 pounds, depending on the trim level and optional trailer package. The Volvo XC90 offers luxury and towing capacity between 4,000 and 5,000 pounds, making it a comfortable and stylish choice for towing.


5. Heavy-Duty SUVs: Maximum Towing Capability

If you need maximum towing capability from an SUV, heavy-duty SUVs are the way to go. These SUVs have towing capacities ranging from 6,000 to 9,300 pounds, making them suitable for larger trailers and campers. Some heavy-duty SUVs are built on chassis similar to trucks, with the body or cab placed on top of the frame, while others have unibodies with increased towing capacity.

The Chevrolet Tahoe and GMC Yukon are popular choices in this segment, with towing capacities ranging from 6,200 to 8,400 pounds. They offer spacious interiors and powerful engine options, making them ideal for towing larger trailers. The Ford Expedition is another heavy-duty SUV to consider, with a towing capacity of up to 9,300 pounds when properly equipped. It offers a comfortable ride and plenty of interior space for passengers and cargo.


6. Considerations When Towing with a Van or SUV

When towing with a van or SUV, there are a few additional considerations to keep in mind. Proper weight distribution is crucial for safe and stable towing. Be sure to distribute the weight evenly and use a weight distribution hitch if necessary. Additionally, trailer sway control systems can help mitigate any sway caused by wind or passing vehicles.

It is also important to check the towing laws and regulations in your area. Some regions may require additional equipment or have specific speed limits for vehicles towing trailers. Familiarize yourself with these laws to ensure compliance and safe towing practices.


Lastly, don't forget to perform regular maintenance on your van or SUV and trailer. This includes checking tire pressure, inspecting brakes and lights, and ensuring all connections are secure. Regular maintenance will help prevent any issues and ensure a smooth and safe towing experience.

7. Additional Tips for Safe Towing

Here are a few additional tips to keep in mind when towing with a van or SUV:

  • Always double-check your hitch and connections before setting off on a trip.
  • Adjust your side mirrors to provide a clear view of the trailer and surrounding traffic.
  • Allow for extra braking distance when towing a trailer, as it increases the overall stopping distance.
  • Be aware of the height and width of your trailer to avoid collisions with low overhangs or narrow spaces.
  • Consider investing in a brake controller, especially if your trailer is equipped with electric brakes.
  • Practice backing up and maneuvering with your trailer in an open and safe area before hitting the road.

By following these tips and staying within the towing capacities and payload ratings of your van or SUV, you can enjoy a safe and successful towing experience.



When it comes to finding the best van or SUV for towing, there are several factors to consider. Minivans can be a great option for towing smaller trailers, while light-duty, medium-duty, and heavy-duty SUVs offer increasing towing capacities. It is important to stay within the specified towing capacities and payload ratings of your chosen vehicle to ensure safe and efficient towing. Additionally, don't forget to consider weight distribution, towing laws, and perform regular maintenance on your van or SUV and trailer. With the right vehicle and proper precautions, you can enjoy the freedom and adventure of towing a camper or trailer with ease.

This article was created using AI technology.