A new towable is a big investment; make sure to perform your due diligence before signing on the dotted line
Part and parcel to the motorhome lifestyle is bringing a dinghy vehicle along for the journey. It’s a simple concept — the RV is your home-on-wheels that stays parked in an RV park, and the dinghy serves as the family runabout for sightseeing, exploration and local errands. What may not be so simple is choosing the right dinghy vehicle for your needs.
Start by verifying the tow rating of your motorhome. A large gas or diesel Class A may not have difficulty towing most suitable vehicles, but a smaller Class C motorhome may have a limited tow rating, so be sure to check with the chassis or motorhome manufacturer first. The weight of the vehicle you are considering, meanwhile, should be available on the manufacturer’s website under “specifications.”
Think about your lifestyle and how you plan to use a dinghy vehicle. For example, if you like hiking and/or mountain biking, you’ll probably be interested in a small SUV with 4WD/AWD capabilities and seatbacks that fold down to accommodate your gear. Deciding what you want ahead of time will help narrow the search.
Next, determine if the vehicle you’re considering is towable, and if the towing process is relatively convenient. Unless a prospective dinghy is brand new, or isn’t in dealer showrooms yet, you should be able to download a copy of the owner’s manual online. In the index, search “towing,” which should have subheads for “recreational towing,” “flat towing,” etc. If the vehicle is towable, there will be instructions for towing it, which may be as simple as turning the key to the accessory (“ACC”) position and putting the vehicle in neutral, or may be a time-consuming process of placing the 4WD system into towing mode, removing fuses and/or disconnecting the negative battery post. There are aftermarket solutions for making some of these processes easier but, of course, they will come at an additional cost both in initial purchase and installation labor.
Keep in mind that the equipment necessary to tow your new vehicle may not be available yet. Some items, like an auxiliary braking system, are universal, but the baseplate, which provides a connection point for the tow bar, is model specific. Companies like Blue Ox, Demco and Roadmaster have fit lists on their websites that will tell you if a baseplate for a particular car/SUV/truck is currently available. If not, contact the company in question and ask when/if a baseplate will be offered — because you can’t tow without one.
The same baseplate fit lists will usually include the installation instructions, which you should review carefully. Not all vehicles are the same, and some require more extensive modifications to make the baseplate fit. This will not only provide some idea of how much labor is involved, but will help you decide if you’re comfortable with the modifications required. For example, part of the lower grille or front fascia may need to be cut away to make room for the connection points, which may make you queasy if the vehicle is brand new.
For a full list of 2020 vehicles that have been approved by the manufacturer for towing four wheels down, check out our annual Guide to Dinghy Towing in the April issue. You can find out if older vehicles can be towed by visiting www.motorhome.com/download-dinghy-guides/ and downloading a copy of the guide for the vehicle’s model year.