Last updated on December 30th, 2023
What cars can be flat towed behind an RV or motorhome? Best New & Used
Flat towing, also known as four-down towing or dinghy towing, refers to the process of pulling a vehicle with all four wheels on the ground. Not all vehicles are designed to be flat towed. However, several models can be safely and effectively towed behind an RV or motorhome.
The best new models for this purpose include the Jeep Wrangler, Ford F-150, and Chevrolet Colorado. The Honda CR-V (2014 and earlier models) and Saturn Vue are excellent choices for used vehicles. Before flat towing any vehicle, it is crucial to refer to its owner’s manual to ensure it can be safely pulled in this manner.
It’s important to note that Cars Can be flat-towed behind an RV or Motorhome only if they meet certain specifications.
You don’t necessarily have to buy trailers or dollies to tow your vehicle to your motorhome. With flat towing, you only have to purchase minimal gear and work.
However, flat towing has plenty of intricacies you may be unaware of. This content’s goal is to address them. Plus, we’ll provide you with a list of cars that can be flat towed at the time of writing.
What is flat towing?
There are many methods of towing vehicles, with three primary ways being tow dolly towing, trailer towing, and flat towing.
When flat towing – also sometimes alternatively called dinghy towing, with a dinghy behind the vehicle that is towed – all four wheels of the towed vehicle are on the ground, rolling as you drive the towing vehicle. Most often, flat towing is done with an RV.
Flat towing is a less popular towing option than trailer or dolly towing. Still, it has been seemingly gaining popularity over the last few years due to simplicity and space concerns.
Pros & cons of flat towing
When deciding whether to go for flat towing, an important thing to understand is the advantages of flat towing over other towing methods. In reality, no towing methods are better than the others – every way has advantages and disadvantages.
Let’s begin with the pros. Flat towing has the following two advantages:
- Flat towing is storage-efficient. When flat towing, you aren’t using any towing dollies or trailers that take up much room. All the hardware used in flat towing is much more compact than that used in other types of towing.
- Flat towing is more convenient. Towing and unhitching a vehicle is quicker than with other types of towing. The only thing you need to do is uncouple the car – since it is already on all four wheels, you can drive it immediately without too many alterations.
On the other hand, flat towing has some notable disadvantages:
- The need to modify the vehicle. Depending on the vehicle model, you may or may not need to do some modifications to it to flat tow it.
For safe and convenient flat towing, you may (and probably will) need to drill mounting hardware into the vehicle’s front bumper, driveshaft decouplers, auxiliary brakes, and whatnot. Ultimately, you get a space-efficient solution, but preparing a car for flat towing often requires time-consuming modifications.
- Relatively high cost. All those modifications we mentioned above do cost money. Often, it is cheaper to go for a dolly or a towing trailer than to prepare your vehicle for flat towing. This depends on what precisely a car lacks, so flat towing some models may be much more cost-efficient than others.
- Not every vehicle can be flat towed. Possibly, the biggest downside of flat towing is that not every car is suitable for it. You can dolly or trailer tow almost any vehicle, but not every vehicle can be flat towed.
A vehicle’s ability to be flat towed is crucial, and we’d like to examine it a little more in-depth below.
What determines if a vehicle can be flat towed?
So what determines if a vehicle can be flat towed? The answer to this question lies in the transmission of the car. More precisely, the lubrication of the transmission plays a crucial role in a vehicle’s ability to be flat towed.
When you are pulling a vehicle flat-towed, its drive wheels are rolling along the highway. In its turn, the wheels rotate the driveshaft, which delivers power from the engine to the wheels. And if the driveshaft isn’t being lubricated while the vehicle is being flat towed, severe transmission damage can and most likely will occur.
The problem is that some vehicles rely on lubrication pumps to lubricate the transmission and the driveshaft. When the vehicle’s engine is off, the pump isn’t running, and the transmission isn’t lubricated.
Ultimately, even though your vehicle may roll along the highway just fine, it isn’t necessarily suitable for flat towing.
Depending on the specific vehicle model, some other things may not allow you to flat tow your car. For example, some vehicles have steering locks triggered by the ignition switch. So, the vehicle’s front wheels won’t turn unless the engine is running.
Many cars can be flat towed after some aftermarket modifications like transmission lube pumps. However, you probably shouldn’t expect as much reliability from a modified vehicle as a car flat towed from the factory.
The best vehicles to tow behind RV or Motorhome: New and used
Typically, rear-wheel-drive vehicles that have manual transmission are suitable for flat towing. In addition, some four-wheel drive vehicles can also be flat towed, given that they have a manual transfer case that can be placed in neutral.
A few vehicles with automatic transmissions can also be flat towed with their transfer cases in neutral and transmissions in the park position.
As you may have noticed, there are no specific guidelines on which vehicles can be flat towed and which cannot. Every car manufacturer has its own transmission and lubrication design, and a Toyota vehicle with an auto won’t be the same as a Ford vehicle with an automobile.
The only way to determine whether a vehicle is suitable for flat towing is by being manual. Manufacturers usually include specific recommendations for towing in their vehicle’s manuals, so it shouldn’t be a problem to find out whether your car is flat-towable.
If you don’t have a vehicle or plan to buy one, contact the manufacturer to determine whether the desired model can be flat towed.
For some reference, we’d like to introduce you to vehicles that can be flat towed.
Cars that can be flat towed
There are plenty of vehicles on the market that can be flat towed, so there certainly isn’t a shortage of car options for those who want to use this method of towing.
Here is a list of some flat-towable cars from various manufacturers:
|Only 1.5-liter models without active shutters can be towed.
|Silverado 1500 4WD
|Only models with a two-speed transfer case have a 4WD Low setting and a neutral position.
The ignition must be kept in ACC to control the steering column unlocked.
|Silverado 2500 HD 4WD
|Silverado 3500 HD 4WD
|Auto/manual, towable with manual
|The transmission needs to be shifted to neutral and ignition to ACC.
|Auto/manual, towable with manual
|The transmission must be in a neutral position.
|The transmission needs to be shifted to the park. The engine must be started and allowed to run for 1 minute at the beginning of each day.
Then, the transmission must be placed in neutral, and the ignition must be shifted off.
|Expedition/Expedition MAX 4WD
|The four-wheel-down towing feature needs to be engaged, and the transfer case needs to be in a neutral position.
|Explorer 3.5L Duratec AWD/FWD
|At the beginning of each day and every 6 hours after that, the engine must be allowed to run for 5 minutes.
With the engine running and your foot on the brake, the transmission needs to be shifted to drive, reverse, and back to neutral.
Then, the negative cable should be disconnected from the battery.
|Explorer 3.5L EcoBoost 4WD
|Edge 3.5/2.7L EcoBoost AWD/FWD
|The transfer case needs to be placed in neutral, and the Four-Wheel-Down feature needs to be engaged.
|Auto/manual, flat towable with both
|Auto transmission models: the ignition needs to be switched on, the transmission placed to neutral, and the ignition switched off.
Then, the negative cable needs to be disconnected from the battery.
Manual models: the transmission must be neutral.
|Focus 2.0 L, except ST
|Release the parking brake and place the car in the Stay-In-Neutral mode.
Allow the engine to run for a few minutes at the beginning of each day and every 6 hours afterward.
While the engine is running and your foot is on the brake, shift into drive, reverse, and back into neutral.
Re-enable Stay-In-Neutral before continuing to tow.
|Fusion Hybrid Energi
|Shift the transmission to neutral, release the parking brake, and turn the ignition switch to ACC to keep the steering wheel unlocked. Repeat every 8 hours.
|Only models with two-speed transfer units. The transfer unit must be neutral, and the transmission must be in parking.
|Only 4WD models with Quadra-Drive II and Quadra-Trac II. The transfer unit must be neutral, and the transmission must be in parking.
|Wrangler JK/JK Unlimited
|Auto/manual, flat towable with both
|Auto transmission models: transmission in the park position.
Manual transmission models: transmission in gear, not in neutral.
The transfer case needs to be in a neutral position.
|Auto/manual, flat towable in manual
|MKT 3.5L EcoBoost/3.7L Duratec
|At the beginning of each day and once every 6 hours after that, allow the engine to run for 5 minutes.
With the engine running and your foot on the brake, shift the transmission to drive, reverse, and back to neutral.
Then, disconnect the negative cable from the battery.
|Release the parking brake and place the car in its Stay-In-Neutral mode.
Allow the engine to run for a few minutes at the beginning of each day and then every 6 hours.
While the engine is running and your foot is not on the brake, shift into drive, reverse, and back into neutral.
Re-enable the Stay-In-Neutral mode before continuing to tow.
|The optional Heavy-Duty Trailer Tow Package with the 2-speed transfer case is necessary.
|After towing the vehicle for 500 miles, allow the engine to run for 2 minutes with the transmission in neutral.
|The transmission needs to be neutral. After 500 miles of towing, allow the engine to run for 2 minutes with the transmission still in neutral.
|Sentra S/SR Turbo
|The manual and electronic transfer cases both need to be in neutral.
If the transmission is manual, it must be placed in gear. If auto, the transmission must be in the park
|Shift the transmission to neutral. Turn the engine switch to Accessory Mode or ACC. Make sure that all powered devices are off and release the parking brake.
After towing, allow the engine to run idle for at least 3 minutes.
|Corolla SE 6MT
|Yaris Hatchback 3-door/5-door/iA
This isn’t a comprehensive list, and you should consult the manufacturer before purchasing to determine whether the desired vehicle can be flat towed.
Also, note that each vehicle has some specific procedures to be followed for flat towing. To ensure that the vehicle is handled correctly when towed, consult the owner’s manual of your car to learn precisely what you should do before flat towing.
Now, we’d like to dive into the things to keep in mind with flat towing so that you get an idea of what you should and should not do when flat towing your vehicle.
Things to keep in mind when flat towing your vehicle
Running the engine from time to time
Some vehicles require special stopping procedures after covering some distance or after a set period has elapsed. Some cars don’t need special procedures, but if your car’s manual says you must allow the engine to run once every 6 hours, you should do it.
You may think overfilling the transmission before towing may circumvent this requirement, but it won’t. This is because the problem is caused by a lack of oil circulation rather than lubricant. So don’t try to bypass the instructions and be “smart” about your car.
Wheel steering locks & battery power
In some vehicles, you are required to place the ignition switch in its ON position to unlock the steering. Aside from that, when the ignition is on, power is applied to various systems in the vehicle. During a long day of towing, this may lead to a significant battery discharge.
Manufacturers give various tips and instructions on preventing battery discharge. Manufacturers require removing one or more fuses from the vehicle while towing. The negative cable was also released for this reason. It may also be possible for your car to be charged from the motorhome while towing.
This is also why you must switch off the vehicle’s power equipment during the ride. This is done to preserve the charge in the battery.
Things to consider before flat towing your vehicle
After getting yourself a motorhome and a flat-towable car, you probably aren’t ready for towing yet. Before actually setting off for your journey, there are some things that you need to keep in mind. Your RV’s hitch receiver, tow bar, baseplates, and auxiliary brakes are those things.
Let’s go over them one by one.
First and foremost, check the rating of the hitch receiver on your motorhome to ensure that it is suitable for the loads you plan to tow. If the hitch receiver has a lower-than-necessary rating, do not attempt to flat tow your vehicle.
However, you shouldn’t worry about towing load if you’ve chosen the correct motorhome and vehicle.
Another thing to keep in mind with hitch receivers is their height. The height of hitch receivers in motorhomes rarely matches that of the vehicle, so it is often necessary to use a drop receiver for level towing.
If you need to install a drop receiver on your motorhome, ensure it has the required load rating.
The hitch receiver of motorhomes is connected to the towable vehicle’s baseplate with a tow bar. There are two types of tow bars – A-frame and self-aligning.
Designed to fit a limited number of baseplates, an A-frame tow bar is cheaper. In their turn, A-frame tow bars are available in folding and solid styles, with the folding design working with a broader range of vehicles.
Self-aligning tow bars fit a much more comprehensive range of vehicles but are also more expensive. There are two kinds of self-aligning tow bars – coach-mounted and dinghy-mounted. People prefer coach-mounted units since they have a lower risk of damage when not used.
Choosing a proper baseplate for your vehicle is perhaps the most crucial step when preparing it for dinghy towing. Each car is going to require a baseplate designed for it specifically. When choosing a baseplate, it is essential to remember your vehicle’s brand, model, and manufacture year.
Selecting the proper baseplate isn’t everything, though. Installation may also have its intricacies.
On some vehicles, the bumper covering (the fascia) needs to be removed temporarily to allow the baseplate installation. You may even need to do minor drilling or trimming of the grille, air dam, or whatnot.
Modern baseplates are pretty well-adapted to the vehicles they are designed for, so you may not even need to modify anything. But be prepared to do some alterations to your car nonetheless.
In all 50 states, it is required that the dinghy be connected to the hitch receiver with properly rated safety cables. The safety chains or cables must be crossed under the tow bar and secured to the hitch receiver. In addition, the wires need to be long enough to allow complete turning without binding and should not drag when slack.
Tail & brake lights and turn signals are mandatory in all 50 states, so wiring the dinghy to your motorhome’s lights is another thing you must do. It’s pretty easy, and you should be able to find guides on how to do it online.
For cases where modifications to the original wiring of the vehicle are undesirable, removable towing lights become an excellent option. Most removable lights rely on magnets, though some are affixed to the dinghy via suction cups. After installing such lights on your dinghy, you just run a cable from the lights to the connector on the motorhome’s hitch receiver.
Another thing that you will probably need to install is auxiliary brakes. Nestled on the dinghy and connected to the RV, auxiliary brakes engage when the brakes in the motorhome are applied.
In most states, there is a maximum towing weight set by law, above which auxiliary braking systems are mandatory. This number is usually somewhere around 4,000 pounds. A few states specify a stopping distance the auxiliary brakes must have.
Whether or not you must install auxiliary brakes will depend on the state. However, since the 3,000-4,000-pound mark is easy to exceed, you probably should install auxiliary brakes on your dinghy anyway. Besides, if traveling across states, you must ensure that your RV complies with their regulations, so it’s a good idea to have auxiliary brakes just in case.
Now, you should know everything to decide whether or not to switch to dinghy towing. It has some great benefits, but not every vehicle suits it.
But if you have a flat towable vehicle and an RV that can tow it, you shouldn’t have any problems with flat towing.