When most people think about towing an RV, they believe it requires a big, beefy diesel truck. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Hitching up and making memories in a camper doesn’t require you to own a gas or diesel-guzzling truck. Some vans have the capacity for towing an RV.
To prove our point, we’ve found some of the best vans for towing. If you want to get out and start adventuring, these are vehicles worth considering.
So what’s the van with the best towing capacity? Let’s look and see!
Is a Van Good for Towing?
Vans can be an excellent option for towing. However, while minivans have some towing abilities, it’s often insufficient. You’ll need to look at passenger and cargo vans due to their stronger frames and larger engines. This results in increased payload and towing capacities, which makes them much more capable towing vehicles.
A van can also be an ideal option for towing as it can provide a tremendous amount of passenger and cargo space. This can maximize comfort and allow you to bring more gear or equipment. Who wouldn’t appreciate more space for camping and traveling?
Vans for towing campers are popular among families with more than three kids. They are also ideal for extra interior cargo space, especially if your camper doesn’t have many exterior cargo compartments.
Pro Tip: Want to get off-road in your van? We uncovered Can You Overland in a Van?
What Is the Best Van for Towing?
The best van for towing will significantly depend on what you’re towing and your other needs for the van. If you’re looking for a van with the highest towing capacity, the GMC Savana and the Ford Econoline feature towing capacities of around 10,000 pounds. They’re powerful and capable vehicles that deliver tremendous power.
If you’re looking for a combination of comfort and capability, it’s hard to beat the Ford Transit or the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter vans. They both offer 7,500 pounds of towing capabilities and an incredibly comfortable ride.
To determine if a van is right for your towing needs, you’ll need to look at its tow ratings and specifications, as well as how well it’ll handle sway and suspension under load. The best van for towing may not simply be the van with the best towing capacity.
Towing Capacity, GVWR, and Payload
You must stay within your vehicle’s towing capabilities whenever you hitch up a trailer. There are three towing-related numbers that you must know when towing a trailer; towing capacity, Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR), and payload capacity. Exceeding any of these ratings can create a dangerous situation and damage your vehicle.
Towing capacity refers to the maximum weight a vehicle can safely tow without damaging or compromising safety. The manufacturer sets this rating based on the vehicle’s power, transmission, frame strength, and suspension. Towing capacity can also be limited by the hitch rating on whichever trailer hitch you have installed for towing.
GVWR refers to the maximum loaded weight a vehicle can safely operate at. This number includes the vehicle’s weight, passengers, cargo, and the additional weight from a trailer or other items. This is a rating the manufacturer sets that drivers must follow to stay safe and avoid damaging their vehicles. Similarly, the GCWR or gross combined weight rating is the limit set by the manufacturer of the max combined weight of the vehicle and anything it is towing.
The payload capacity is similar to the GVWR. You subtract the vehicle’s weight from the GVWR to calculate this rating. This lets you know how much weight you have to work with when it comes to adding gear, passengers, and any trailer weight to stay within the capabilities of your vehicle.
Ratings can vary considerably from one vehicle to the next. You must check the documentation and specifications for each van. Manufacturers typically have towing charts that allow you to see the specific capabilities of a vehicle for each category. When in doubt, reach out to your manufacturer for assistance.
Don’t forget to weigh any trailer you plan to tow. You can do this by driving across a CAT Scale at a truck stop. They’re easy to use and can help you stay safe on the road.
Suspension and Sway
Towing requires that the tow vehicle remains in complete control over the trailer. This should occur when accelerating, at cruising speeds, and braking.
A van’s suspension must be strong enough to handle the added weight of a towed trailer and any cargo or passengers. If not, the van’s rear will sag and can become rather unstable. This can make it challenging to handle and steer the vehicle safely. Upgrading the suspension with heavy-duty shocks, springs, and stabilizer bars can improve a van’s performance.
Additionally, a van must be able to reduce the sway from the trailer it’s towing. Sway can refer to either the body roll of the vehicle or when a trailer moves side-to-side behind a tow vehicle. While this can result from high winds and passing vehicles, it also can mean improper weight distribution or inadequate sway bars. Adjusting the weight distribution from cargo and using a weight distribution hitch can help minimize sway and improve the towing experience.
As for the body roll of the van, it may be increased with the added weight of cargo and the weight of the trailer. It may help to install heftier sway bars on the van itself for improved handling.
However, suspension and sway control upgrades do not compensate for overloading or improperly distributing weight in a trailer. You must stay within the vehicle’s towing capabilities that the manufacturer sets.
7 Best Vans for Towing RV Campers and More
If you want a van for towing your RV, there are some incredible options to consider. Let’s take a look at several of the best vans for towing. Who knows, your next vehicle purchase could be one of these!
The GMC Savana is a full-size van well-suited for towing and starts at $38,100. The towing capacity of the GMC Savana varies depending on the configuration and model year. However, when you properly equip them, the most recent versions have a towing capacity of up to 10,000 pounds and a max GCWR of 16,000.
The GMC Savana is an excellent option for towing as it has a solid frame construction. This strong frame provides a stable platform, especially for towing. The Savana comes standard with a 4.3L V6 engine, but upgrading to the 6.6L V8 engine and its 400+ horsepower is likely worth it. You’ll appreciate the extra power when hauling loads up hills or mountain passes.
The Savana features a tow/haul mode that helps reduce excess shifting when hauling heavy loads. Additionally, the StabiliTrak Stability Control System monitors driving conditions and can help avoid the loss of traction.
The Ram ProMaster is a famous full-size cargo van people often use for commercial purposes. However, it’s a popular campervan conversion and ideally suited for hauling campers and other towing loads. It comes in various options, which significantly affect its capabilities with towing. With the correct equipment, the most capable models have a towing capacity of up to 6,910 pounds.
Like the towing capacity of other vans, the costs vary based on your selected options. However, starting prices range from $41,000 to $51,000, depending on the model. You may score quite a deal if you find a used model in good condition.
The ProMaster is a front-wheel-drive van that helps with traction when towing heavy loads. It also has various features, including trailer sway control and a tow/haul mode that optimizes the transmission and engine for towing.
With its potent engine options and towing features, the Ram ProMaster can handle various towing needs. The 520 cubic feet of cargo space provides an efficient and versatile area.
The Mercedes-Benz Sprinter is a luxury full-size van with tremendous towing capabilities. Depending on the model you choose, prices for these vans start between $53,000 and $66,500. However, these vans last a long time, and you can find some well-loved used models still in excellent condition. They are extremely popular for vanlife, as they have a 4×4 van option.
Like the price, the payload and towing capacities vary considerably based on the model. Basic models have a payload capacity of around 3,600 pounds, and beefier models are shy of 6,000 pounds. When you properly equip it, the maximum towing capacity of the Sprinter 4500 is 7,500 pounds.
The Mercedes-Benz Sprinter has a spacious and comfortable cabin for passengers or additional cargo. It also offers advanced safety features, like adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring, and lane-keeping assist. Whether you’re towing or not, these features can help improve safety on the road.
Pro Tip: Sprinter vans are expensive! So are they worth the investment? Find out.
The Ford Transit is one of the most popular full-size vans for conversion projects. Its 7,500 pounds of towing capacity makes it a solid choice for anyone wanting to tow with their van. However, the towing ability of the Ford Transit significantly depends on the configuration and model year.
Prices for the Ford Transit run between $43,000 and $52,600. However, features like an Intelligent All-Wheel-Drive System, a massive 31-gallon fuel tank, and a maximum payload capacity between 3,000 and 5,100 pounds are worth it.
The Transit is extra popular because it offers an AWD option for adventurers. The spacious and comfortable interior has ample room for storing gear or bringing passengers. Additionally, drivers will love the safety features like lane departure warnings, a virtual rearview mirror, and adaptive cruise control.
Nissan NV 3500 (Discontinued)
The Nissan NV 3500 is a full-size cargo van that, while it’s no longer in production, is worth considering for its towing capabilities. Nissan stopped producing the NV series in 2021, with a starting MSRP of around $30,500. This price point and its towing capabilities made it hard to overlook.
With a maximum towing capacity of 8,700 pounds and a payload capacity of 3,700 pounds, the NV 3500 was a beast. The 5.6-liter V8 engine delivered 375 horsepower when needed. It made conquering steep grades a breeze, whether towing or not. Owners love features like the up-fitter packages, making it convenient to add accessories and other items to optimize their experience.
Its robust construction, powerful engine, and capable towing features allow it to handle various towing situations. Simultaneously, it provides a versatile cargo space for maximum comfort no matter where your adventures take you.
Mercedes-Benz Metris (Discontinued)
The Mercedes-Benz Metris may only be a mid-size van, but it can be an excellent option for towing smaller loads like teardrop campers. Unfortunately, Mercedes-Benz announced the 2023 Metris as its final model year with a starting MSRP of around $40,000. However, with the longevity of Mercedes-Benz vehicles, you’ll likely see used versions available for a decade or more.
The compact size of the Metris makes it an optimal option to consider, even for towing. It’s straightforward to maneuver and park almost anywhere. However, don’t underestimate its smaller size. Its turbocharged four-cylinder engine can produce over 200 horsepower and tow up to 5,000 pounds. Its 2,400 pounds payload capacity is also nothing to take lightly.
Combining its compact size, adequate power, and towing features with a comfortable and versatile interior, this van is hard to beat. If you plan to get one new, you better snag one while they last because they’ll be gone soon.
Ford Econoline (Discontinued)
The Ford Econoline (E-Series) was unfortunately discontinued in 2014, but that doesn’t stop it from being one of the best vans for towing. The E-350 came standard with a massive 7.3-liter V8 engine that produced 350 horsepower and 4658 lb-ft of torque. With the correct equipment, these vans have a towing capacity of an impressive 10,000 pounds.
The van also comes with a range of towing features, including trailer sway control and a tow/haul mode that optimizes the transmission and engine for towing. It also has safety features like stability control to maximize safety during your adventures.
The Econoline series provides a versatile cargo space of 237 and 278 cubic feet of room. It remains a popular model for van conversion enthusiasts for its capabilities and versatility. Many also converted these vans to 4×4 to make them rugged off-road machines.
Since 2014 was the final production year, costs can vary by the vehicle’s age, condition, and mileage. However, you can typically find one of these vans in excellent condition for around $20,000.
Can You Tow a Trailer Behind a Campervan?
It is possible to tow a trailer behind a campervan. However, you must stay within the towing capacity of your van as well as the GCWR. Depending on your campervan conversion, you may have added a lot of weight to your vehicle. This will limit your ability to tow, as you may have little weight left for your payload capacity.
Exceeding the tow limits of your campervan is not only illegal but unsafe. You should never endanger yourself or others by exceeding your vehicle’s towing capabilities. Ensure you drive your rig across a CAT scale to confirm you’re within your ratings.
However, as long as you are safely within ratings, you can tow a camper behind a campervan. Some families do this to have more cargo in the van or to have two separate living spaces.
Pro Tip: Some people tow a car behind their Class B campervan to have a second get-around vehicle.
Can a Van Tow a 5th Wheel?
Generally speaking, van cannot tow a 5th wheel because of the special 5th wheel hitch that needs to sit in the back of a truck bed. The pin box of a 5th wheel cannot attach to the bumper of a van. Additionally, most 5th wheels exceed weight limits on vans.
However, there is a special contraption called a 5th wheel dolly. This piece of machinery allows vehicles other than truck to tow 5th wheels. However, it is usually for short distances and not highway speeds. Technically, you could probably move a small 5th wheel with a van using this dolly.
Should You Use a Van for Towing?
Using a van for towing can be an option if you stay within your towing limits. Vans can offer increased space for passengers and cargo that other vehicles can’t provide. However, they’re not the most capable vehicles on the market.
You’ll need to pay close attention to how much weight you’re putting on your vehicle. You don’t want to unknowingly risk your safety or cause increased wear and tear on your van. However, they can be a fantastic option for travelers looking to haul campers and other toys during their adventures.
Would any of the vans on our list work for your needs? Share your thoughts in the comments!
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Thursday 4th of May 2023
I think your opening statement about "gas or diesel guzzling trucks" is misleading and disingenuous. Any vehicle that is towing something that weighs more than itself is in essence, going to be a guzzler regardless of the fuel type. You can tow a teardrop camper with a four-cylinder sedan and it's going to guzzle way more fuel than normal. In contrast, my diesel truck fuel mileage is affected much less by towing than the aforementioned vehicle. I bet it would even be less affected than the camper vans you are touting. I really don't think it was necessary to disparage trucks while simply presenting an alternative.