What should I buy to tow a horse trailer?

We just bought a horse and now I will need to trailer it. Between horse and trailer I am looking at 5,000 pounds. What considerations should I take into account, such as 4X4 versus 2WD and rear axle ratios in selecting a tow vehicle?

Scott B., Clarkston, Mich.

Options like four-wheel drive, axle ratio, engine, bed length, cab style, hitch type and transmission are going to affect towing capacity and overall ease of towing, so choosing the right combo is ideal for finding the right tow rig for your needs.

We recommend finding a truck or SUV that can tow more than what you think you’ll be towing. It will take less effort to tow a 5,000-pound trailer with a vehicle rated to tow 8,500 pounds than with one rated to tow just 5,000 pounds. Also, that extra towing capacity can be used if you decide to carry any additional equipment, or eventually step up to a larger trailer or heavier load. You can overdo it, though: Buying a Ford F-350 diesel to tow an aluminum row boat is overkill.

The options you choose will depend on how often you use the vehicle, where you tow and what you do with the rig when you’re not towing. Rear-wheel-drive trucks and SUVs are often capable of higher towing capacities, but you may find sacrificing a couple hundred pounds of towing capacity worthwhile for the ability to grip in the mud with four-wheel drive.

A higher numeric axle ratio (4.10 compared to 3.08) will make towing easier because it allows the engine to operate closer to the rpm where it makes the most power. But with the engine spinning faster, you’re going to eat more gasoline. If you’re just towing on the weekends it may not be an issue, but if you drive the vehicle daily, those gasoline receipts can add up.

While shopping for a tow vehicle, you should also take a look at the gross combined weight rating and tongue weight. GCWR is the combined weight of vehicle and loaded trailer that a can safely be pulled. GCVW takes into account a vehicle loaded with passengers, gas, cargo and a loaded trailer. Tongue weight is a measurement of how many pounds is being exerted on the hitch with a trailer attached; the rating is typically 10 to 15 percent of the trailer’s loaded weight. The type of hitch you have helps determine the tongue weight rating.

For more information, see our articles on towing linked below. Check out manufacturers’ websites for towing and trailer guides that list options such as four-wheel drive, cab and bed configurations and axle ratios along with each configuration’s tow ratings.

Learn more

Answered by Joe Bruzek on June 5, 2007 in What Car Should I Buy? | Permalink

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