Tow Bar or Car Dolly

Question: What is the best and most cost-effective towing a car 4-wheels down or on a tow dolly or a trailer? Answer: The answer depends on many factors

Tow Bar or Car Dolly

by Lonnie

(Wyoming)

Question: What is the best and most cost-effective towing a car 4-wheels down or on a tow dolly or a trailer?

Answer: The answer depends on many factors including personal preferences and what one actually considers “best”.

There is a lot of room for speculation and there is no one right answer. In our opinion, the best approach is to weigh the pros and cons of each option in the context of your personal preferences and your specific situation and application.

We mention a few questions you should be asking yourself to determine what is best for you, and list a few pros and cons from our perspective. We invite other comments.

Financially, either option (tow dolly or four-wheels down) will cost about the same amount for the basic equipment. And in both cases, you need brakes and a breakaway system. Typically it is more labor-intensive to install a supplemental brake system for a 4-wheel down arrangement than it is to make any needed modifications to a tow dolly.

In either case, another suggestion is to have some sort of shield or 3M film to protect the front of the car. Vehicles get beat up being towed behind a motorhome. Paint, body, trim and windshield can bet damaged by debris that the motorhome flings back at the towed vehicle.

Questions to consider:

Tow Vehicle and motorhome:

  • Do own a vehicle that you want to tow or are you buying one just for that purpose?
  • Is your towed vehicle towable 4-wheels down without modifications?
  • How comfortable are you with having minor or moderate modifications done to your towed vehicle and motorhome?
  • If the vehicle(s) are still under warranty how comfortable are you with making needed modifications?

You:

  • How comfortable are you with manhandling of equipment?
  • How comfortable are you with driving your vehicle up onto a ramp?
  • Is ease of set-up for towing and disassembly important?

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Option 1 Tow Dolly:

Cost for a Tow Dolly is about $600-3500 depending on quality and options. (Prices based on internet searches and seem to vary widely.)

The lower priced tow dollies do not include lights or a auxiliary braking system which we think are essential for safety.

Tow dollies are usually used when the vehicle you want to take along cannot be towed with 4-wheels down. Most vehicles can be towed 4-wheels down, even with automatics transmissions, if you provide lubrication to the transmission from another source. There is a company called REMCO that produces lubrication pumps for this purpose.

PROs:

  • A tow dolly offers an advantage if you already have a car that cannot be towed 4-wheels down without modification or you do not want to make the modifications. This may be important if you have a relatively new vehicle that is still under warranty.
  • In most cases, only the rear tires, the rear suspension and to a lesser degree the front suspension wears on the car. Some cars cannot be towed on a dolly, so be sure to check specifics for your car.

CONs:

  • If you have back problems or other physical limitations, you may find it difficult to lift the tow dolly tongue and move it into place behind the motorhome.
  • Setup for towing is slightly more time consuming than towing 4-wheels down.
  • The loading ramps can be slippery when wet with rain or dew
  • You need to make sure that straps are tightened, stay secure during travel and are maintained.

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Option 2 Towing 4-Wheels down:

Cost for Towing 4-Wheels down is $1100-3300 depending on modifications required to the car and motorhome. (Prices based on internet searches and vary).

The basic setup is a tow bar for the motorhome, a base plate on the car and an auxiliary braking system that works with the cars braking system.

PROs:

  • Quick and easy setup for towing and disassembly. Easier disconnect in unexpected situations.
  • Most tow bars stow on the back of the motorhome.
  • Easy alignment of towed vehicle with motorhome/tow bar.

CONs:

  • Initial installation may not be a do-it-yourself job if you need a lubrication pump.
  • Initial installation of the auxiliary brake system may not be a do-it-yourself job, on both the motorhome and the towed vehicle.

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As we mention, it really is a matter of personal preference. We have touched on a few pros and cons and welcome other comments and opinions.

Comments for Tow Bar or Car Dolly

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May 30, 2016

Tow bar or tow dolly?

by: Desertrek


My best advice is lots of research on the vehicle you intend to tow. A general rule of thumb is most front wheel drive vehicles are best towed with a dolly to eliminate any transmission wear.

When it comes to 4 wheel drive vehicles or rear wheel drive is where it gets to be a bit of a challenge – so ask lots of questions. Most rear wheel drive vehicles, you will be told no way unless you spend the bucks for the extra modifications as described in this article to either install a drive shaft unit that disengages the connection or extra transmission lubrication equipment.
As far as 4 wheel drive towing 4 down? That has been my method for many years but… You have to make sure you are towing or buying the right vehicle to do it. At this point there are only two newer 4×4 vehicles that I know of for a fact that can be towed 4 down without some modifications. The Honda CRV is one that many use.
In my case, I have been towing jeeps for years starting out with an old CJ7, several older box Cherokees, then a 2005 Grand Cherokee and to date a 2015 Cherokee Trail Hawk. You need to look for a 4×4 vehicle that still has a neutral position in the transfer case to be able to tow 4 down without modification. This is also very model specific in the vehicle options. In the case of the Cherokee, there are only a few models that can be towed 4 down and they have to have the 2 speed high low range 4wd gear box. There will still be an investment in tow equipment such as a base plate, tow bar, and auxiliary braking equipment and tail light/brake light wiring.
I have stuck with jeep for years because they seem to be the only models other than the Honda CRV that seem to somewhat cater to the towing 4 down RVer’s. When Ford, Chevy, and most others eliminated the neutral position in their 4wd transfer case, Jeep kept it in at least some models. I would still recommend at each fuel stop to start and idle your towed vehicle engine for a quick system lubrication. Just my own personal experiences. Thanks.


May 25, 2016

Update on previous comment

by: MrOak


In my previous comment I talked about buying a new car and maybe going the brake dolly route instead of the 4 down route. Well I bought a new car that could be towed 4 down (2014 Honda CRV) but my old beat up toyota was not worth much as a trade in so I kept it to use primarily as a towed car. I did change the wiring from the motorhome to the tow car so that the battery in the car is charged as it is being towed. Thus no more worries about killing the battery. I also run the car when ever we stop on the road so the transmission oil gets circulated and cooled.
The toyota will likely live the rest of it’s life with us as a toad. Even though it is old and beat up it still works well and towing 4 down is easy to set up and go.
It is looking like next year (our 9 th year RVing) will be our last year traveling 4 to 5 months a year. So towing a car will become a thing of the past. We will become seasonal snowbirds (Florida) and not move often during the snowbird season.
Towing 4 down was not without its problems but over the eight years it worked out well in general.


May 25, 2016

I have both.

by: Randyc11


I have a tow dolly with surge hydraulic brakes. I love it because it will tow any front wheel drive vehicle without modifications. But as the article says, you need to be able to manhandle the dolly on and off the motorhome hitch and cinch down the straps/chains to hold the car on it.
I also have a Jeep Wrangler with Blue Ox set up, along with the Blue Ox brake unit that sits on the floorboard. Definitely the way to go if you have any physical limitations, super easy and quick. Biggest thing here is a vehicle that can be towed 4 down.


Jul 07, 2014

Tow 4 Down or Tow Dolly

by: MrOak


I have been RVing since 2008. We live on the road 4 or 5 months a year. We own a 32′ Class A motorhome and tow a 2007 Matrix 4 down. I found that towing four down was a little cheaper to set up for me, new blue OX tow bar, local installed baseplate, and used brake buddy from craigslist.
The Blue OX tow bar is indestructible and a very quality piece of gear. I would recommend this make highly.
Over the years towing the Matrix has put a lot of wear and tear on the car. I needed to replace the battery due to too many times forgetting to turn off the key on the tow when overnighting. Over discharging the battery killed it (this was an early year problem).
I needed to replace the transmission at 90,000 miles and I am sure that was due to towing too long with out running the engine to cool down the transmission fluid. Tires wore out faster than expected.

I am buying a new toad and will try a tow dolly this time.


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