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The classic pickup truck versus SUV debate. There are so many facets to this rivalry, but one of the biggest is the towing factor. Is it better to tow with a truck or SUV? There are certainly positives and negatives to both. Let’s examine each and see which makes the most sense for your towing needs.

A black 2021 Chevy Silverado parked next to a river.
2021 Chevy Silverado | Chevrolet

Why do trucks tow better than SUVs?

While SUVs have their advantages, one of the biggest advantages of towing with a pickup is its towing capacity. The average pickup truck can tow way more than the average SUV. Of course this may vary depending on which truck and SUV you’re looking at, but in the broad sense of the question, a Chevy Silverado will be able to tow more than a Ford Escape

When you’re looking at which vehicle to buy for towing purposes, you’ll want to consider its Gross Combined Weight Rating, or GCWR. According to Road Show, this rating will tell you how much the vehicle can tow, including its own weight, passengers, everything you’ve packed in, and the weight of whatever it is you’re towing.

Why can SUVs tow more?

SUVs on the whole can’t really tow more than pickup trucks. However, there are some SUVs that can tow more than a compact truck. Think of massive, three-row SUVs, for example. Their towing capacity rivals that of some pickup trucks. 

Even midsize SUVs can do some decent towing. If you have a travel trailer, you can likely pull that with your midsize SUV. All you need is a ball hitch. 

The one caveat of towing with one of those larger SUVs is their size. While they may seem more capable because they’re bigger, their weight can diminish what they’re able to tow after – think of the GCWR mentioned above. However, the longer the wheelbase, the better they generally are at towing, so there’s definitely a tradeoff. 

What is the best vehicle to tow with?

If you’re buying your pickup or SUV for the primary purpose of towing, you may want to consider purchasing one with rear-wheel drive. That’s because they’re lighter, which means that you’ll be able to tow more. 

In addition, a diesel vehicle will be able to tow more than typical fuel-powered vehicles. The rise of electric SUVs and pickup trucks will certainly be interesting to follow in regards to towing. 

You’ll also want to look at the class of hitches that your vehicle comes equipped with. Most cars and SUVs are class 1, 2, or 3, which can tow up to 2,000, 5,000, or 8,000 pounds. Class 4 and 5 includes larger SUVs and large pickup trucks. These can tow 10,000 to 12,000 pounds. Road Show notes that it is possible to tow even more than that, but your setup will have to be different.

The best vehicle to tow with really comes down to the vehicle that fits your needs the best. Yeah, it’s not a clear answer, but perhaps there is no clear answer here. If you have a large family and plan on towing a small travel trailer, perhaps a larger SUV will suit your needs. However, if it’s just you and one or two other people and you’ll be towing a boat, you may want a pickup truck. Examining your needs and what different vehicles are capable of can help you decide whether a truck or SUV is better for your towing needs.


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