Now that we're in the height of summer, every weekend traffic is made up of an array of boats, jet skis and caravans as more and more people head away on trips to their favorite holiday spots.

If you're thinking of buying a new tow vehicle, it’s important to take your time as the choice can be more complicated than you think. While you might be after a vehicle that’ll tow your trailer or boat, many people also require a practical choice that performs well when you’re running every day errands.

Towing weight

Always keep the weight of the items that you’ll be towing at the front of mind. The towing weight is unlikely to change dramatically, but extra luggage and additional passengers can sometimes make a difference.

Choosing a vehicle with a specified towing capacity of about 1600kg braked to tow a boat that is around 1500kg might at first sound like a good option, but once you factor in passengers and gear, you could end up exceeding the vehicle’s gross combination mass (GCM). This is the combined mass of the vehicle passengers, cargo and the trailer with its cargo.

Exceeding the recommended ratings is unsafe; additionally, choosing to operate a vehicle at its limits for an extended period can cause premature wear to a vehicle’s components, particularly the clutch and transmission.

With this in mind, we would always recommend you factor in surplus weight on top of the weight of the item that you intend on towing when searching for a vehicle.

Cost vs convenience

While buying a vehicle that already has the tow bar and wiring fitted is certainly more convenient, it can sometimes push up the cost. It’s often worth investigating the same vehicle that’s not fitted with a tow bar and researching how much it would cost to have one fitted. It may mean that you have to wait a little longer before you can tow, but it could help you save some cash in the process, or even find a more desired model.

Comfort vs practicality

Modern double cab utes appear to be a popular choice. As of October 2019, these made up the top five bestselling new car models this year. This type of vehicle won’t be to everyone’s taste, so fortunately there are many capable comfy medium-sized SUVs worth looking at, particularly for lighter loads.

We strongly advise buyers to test drive the vehicle they are looking to purchase, while actually towing the trailer or boat that they are looking to tow. The towing weight may meet the requirements, the price may be right and the vehicle may drive well on its own, but the vehicle may not perform as well as you expect when it’s towing a boat or trailer. If possible, try to take your passengers along for the test drive too.

If the seller is flexible and lets you do this, take the opportunity to test different road types and at a range of speeds to paint a picture of how the car performs in different scenarios.

Balancing practical, everyday needs with your towing requirements may mean that buying a towing vehicle will not be as straight forward as purchasing your regular family car. If you often tow and the primary need for this vehicle is to help you on that front, then focus on the likely towing weight you’ll be pulling. If towing is secondary to your everyday lifestyle needs, ensure that you’re placing an equal value on comfort and practicality. 

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