Towing a travel trailer for the first time – tips

Towing a travel trailer for the first time – tips

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One of the primary reasons why people own or buy travel trailer is because they cost much less than a motorhome. Most people with tight budget get attracted to the price at which a trailer comes. It is not only the initial cots that is higher for motorhome but also the maintenance cost.

Travel Trailer would not cost for maintenance as much as a motorhome would. It also depends on how much you use your rv though and also a bit of luck. Owning a motorhome may not be possible for everyone considering the maintenance and cost related issues.

Another thing with motorhome is that you may not be able to take it everywhere you want to go where as if you owned a travel trailer you can always disconnect it from your towing vehicle and proceed with the towing vehicle.

Owning a travel trailer however means you need to have proper arrangements for towing it with your car or truck. It could sometimes become a difficult task at hand and it also offers its own obstacles.

This article is a travel trailer towing guide for new Rvers. Lets explore all the in-and-outs about towing a travel trailer or 5th wheel.

Towing trailer for the first time. What you need for towing.

Towing a travel trailer in itself is a challenge even if you have been doing it for years. For first timers this could be a headache if one is not enough aware of all the things around towing. Important thing is to get the right set of equipment for towing from reputed dealers.

Hithces are needed for towing the trailer and should be well connected at the rear end of the car or truck. For towing a small trailer a car can be enough but for bigger trailers or fifth wheels a truck is needed

One has to fully understand and learn all things about towing, right from getting the correct vehicle to tow to actually driving the vehicle on road following all the rules. Before even you start thinking about owning a travel trailer go through below pointers.

What kind of vehicle you need to tow a travel trailer.

One can tow a travel trailer or a 5th wheel or even a larger trailer. Depending on the kind of trailer you have you will have to decide on the vehicle to tow it. You can use a simple car, or an suv or also a truck that can handle high weight.

The kind of weight your trailer has will decide whether you go for a car or suv or bigger high capacity truck. You need to be careful before deciding on the towing vehicle and should not go ahead with your existing vehicle just because your car has a towing hitch to it.

Cars generally have thier own towing capcity and it is mentioned by the manufacturer on manual. Get to know the capacity of your car and comapre it with GVWR of the travel trailer.

What weight travel trailer can you tow

When you talk about weight of trailer you need to check the gross vehicle weight ratio for your towing vehicle. Infact even before you buy the trailer make sure you meet the GVWR with your vehicle. This is an important parameter and do not overlook it, as an extra weight may cause accidents.

To check the GWVR of your vehicle you may have to check for the official documentation of the vehicle or check with the dealer. Get the manual from your manufacturer and read all weight related specification and make sure you fully understand what it means.

After considering all the weight calculations (which should also include maximum number of people that can travel, including the full tank fuel weight) try to develop a combination of your travel trailer and vehicle that will meet all the weight needs and towing will be smooth.

Your trailer can carry only certain amount of weight and overloading in it will cause issues, always pack things that are necessary and do not cross the weight capacity of your trailer.

Distribute the weight

Apart from knowing and sticking to GWVR related limitations you will have to also try to distribute the load of vehicle as well as travel trailer. You need to learn about GAWR which means gross axle weight rating and get the measurements of wheel position loads.

Your tire pressure should also be adjusted in such a manner that it does not overload them with all the setup of towing. Make sure weight distribution is proper for front, back and sides for both, the vehicle as well as travel trailer.

When buying a new or used travel trailer the best thing you can do is check before hand about the capacity of your existing vehicle can tow. Then decide on the kind of travel trailer you want or else you will end up buying another vehicle just for towing the travel trailer.

All you need to know about hitches to connect both the vehicle and the travel trailer.

The element that connects both the vehicle and travel trailer is the hitch and infact the most important part in the whole process of towing a travel trailer. Most of the times your travel trailer would come with pre-installed hitch that can be used but one can go for an upgrade if needed.

Also, if you bought an old used travel trailer that didn’t have the hitch installed then you may want to buy a new one. Your hitch need to be selected carefully considering both the vehicle and travel trailer in mind.

Do proper research, study your travel trailer, towing vehicle, your usage and how much weight your travel trailer handles before deciding on the type of hitch you want installed.

The highest capacity weight that a hitch can handle depends on its lowest rated element in the chain. When selecting a hitch you need to consider two parameters, one is the GTW (gross trailer weight) and second is the maximum tongue weight.

Hitch Types

Depending on this, one can chose the hitch but its always better to go for heavy duty hitch even if you were to pull a light weight travel trailer. The five type of hitches include class 1 through class 5.

  • Class 1 : This kind of hitch can handle a weigt f upto 2000 pounds
  • Class 2 : Class 2 hitches are for a 3500 pounds capacity
  • Class 3 : These are generally used for vans and have a capcity of 6500 pounds.
  • Class 4 : They can be used for a weight of upto 12000 pound and are most suited for the travel trailers.
  • Class 5 : They have the largest capacity among all. They are suited for heavy loads and handle the weights of upto 18000 pounds. They can be used for all travel trailers types and hence many people go for this type of hitch.

Things to keep in mind once you hit the road with towed travel trailer

Deciding on what kind of vehicle to tow your travel trailer, type of hitch and working on weight of your travel trailer are thing of importance. But, taking care while actually driving on the road is of utmost importance.

Towing a travel trailer is not and cannot be same as driving your car, suv, truck or even your big-bulky-lengthy motorhome. Driving a vehicle that has travel trailer towed needs different considerations, thinking and execution on road.

Here are some of things that you need to pay special attention to

Towing a travel trailer or even smaller RV like pop up camper should be done with care. You need to check the hitch, exterior everytime you start the travel. Lets see some of the basic thing you need to follow and be vary of.

1. Be cautioned while turning

Making turns while pulling a travel trailer or fifth wheel can be intimidating. You need to keep in mind the overall length of your moving combination of vehicles.

The length of both vehicle and RV will be much higher than your vehicle alone. Hence you will need extra space while making turns. Travel traielr can be lenghty and with both car and trailer togethert the entier lenght increases. Towing a 32 foot or 40 foot trailer can be really hard unless you have been doing it for years.

2. Drive slowly

You have to drive slower than you would normally while making turns else you could be in danger of overturning or going out of road or hitting another vehicle on road.

Towing a travel trailer or camper with wind can also be difficult and thus driving fast should be avoided with high winds. You will need advance planning in your mind about how much space you will need to make a turn.

3. Slow down for sharp turns

Making sharp turns with a towed vehicle can cause your anxiety levels, trying to keep calm and moving slower can help a lot.

4. Safety while Backing

Backing up is little tricky and you need special attention while doing this in towed travel trailer because it may be difficult to judge the length sometimes.

Also, your vision is blocked unless you have the camera to check the rear side on your screen. Not to mention you need to be slower than you would be without a towed travel trailer.

5. Careful while parking

Like backing up, parking too will need care and its better to have someone outside to help you with it. The dimensions will be different and you may not be able to judge the size of the vehicle especially if you are not used to it and doing it for the first time.

6. Use proper braking when traveling with a towed travel trailer

Having a travel trailer or camper towed means you are driving with a lot of weight. A high weight means your vehicle will take extra time to stop once you apply the breaks.

Make sure you keep this in mind and apply break with sufficient time when you want to stop. Also, do not apply sharp breaks rather plan and apply them so much that the vehicle would stop exactly where you want it to.

7. Practice

Braking, parking, turning all of these things would become easy tasks for you when you have got sufficient experience driving your vehicle with a travel trailer towed.

Breaking, parking, turning all of these things would become easy tasks for you when you have got sufficient experience driving your vehicle with a travel trailer behind.

Setting up a travel trailer for the first time can be little difficult. But, as you continue camping you can become proficient in that. Specially, with travel trailers you need to do the set up at camping sites which includes hitching and unhitching the trailer. It also includes how to level the trailer at campsite.

8. Do not overload

Many a time RVers pack items that are heavy or unnecessary. This leads to extra weight that can go out of limits. Every car has certain limit for towing and you should not go beyound that.

Make sure your trailer is not overloaded and stays within weight limits. When the weight exceeds the limits it can cause the travel trailer to sway.

Summarizing on the Safety for towing a travel trailer

  • Drive slowly when towing a travel trailer
  • Apply breaks thinking in mind the time it would take to stop. Don’t slam them.
  • Avoid overloading your travel trailer
  • Make yourself aware of length of your travel trailer plus the vehicle
  • Don’t go for a hitch that handles the weight cut to cut. Instead go for a stronger one like class 5
  • Distribute the weight in your RV camper as well as in your towing vehicle
  • Park your vehicle with assistance as far as possible
  • Chose your towing vehicle after careful considerations of the travel trailer weight
  • Take special care when making sharp turns with your travel trailer towed vehicle
  • Make sure your safety accessories are in proper shape. Have good rear mirrors, camera in place
  • A towed travel trailer should not have anybody traveling in it. It can also be illegal to do so.
  • When traveling with a towed trailer one can also have checklist and check each thing twice so as to keep everything thing safe.


Towing a travel trailer for the first time can be intimidating. With proper setup and help you can always make things easy for you. Experience is also important, with time one can surely master the travel trailer towing.

Untill you become can experiene one, do the practice of towing the tarvel trailer as much as possible. Apart from making proper setup and taking care getting right equipment is also important. Install hitches, backup camera, and do proper maintenance as well.

Hopefully this travel trailer towing guide has educated you enough and you are fully ready and prepared to tow your trailer or pop up camper or fifth wheel.

G. Yoganand

A RV enthusiast who spends countless hours researching and learning various things related to RV camping. He believes in spending time doing Outdoor activities.
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