What do you do when you want to explore on your camping trips without hauling your motorhome everywhere. You can’t always bring your driveable RV into some areas. And perhaps you don’t want to spend the gas for your motorhome and a separate car. So what are your options? One solution is to buy an RV tow dolly.
Today we’ll look into what an RV tow dolly is and why you might want one.
What Is an RV Tow Dolly?
An RV tow dolly is a trailer attached to the back of your RV at the trailer hitch. Many travelers want an extra car for adventuring, so they use a tow dolly to transport the vehicle safely. Tow dollies have two wheels. This means the rear two wheels of your car touch the ground as you drive.
This is different from flat towing, where all four tires of the vehicle are on the road. Only certain cars have flat towing capabilities because of the damage it can cause to transmissions. You can safely tow almost any front-wheel drive vehicle with a tow dolly since it raises the front two wheels off the ground.
This towed vehicle is often referred to as the “toad” or a “dinghy.”
What Are the Benefits of an RV Tow Dolly?
As already mentioned, you can tow any car you own with an RV tow dolly as long as you find the right dolly rated for your vehicle’s weight. Also, ensure your RV can tow the additional pounds.
Tow dollies also have an integrated braking system, making them very safe to use. If you want to bring along your sedan one weekend and the minivan the next, you won’t have to make modifications to either car. Just strap it onto the tow dolly, and you’re ready to go.
Some people use a full-size car trailer instead of a tow dolly. This is a huge piece of equipment and requires a lot of room to store it. However, a tow dolly takes up less space.
Once you arrive, you can detach the car, unhook the tow dolly, and set it aside. They can fit in smaller campsites.
You can load and unload your vehicle off of a tow dolly fairly easily. It may take a few tries when you get started. And finally, it is probably the least expensive option when finding a solution to haul your vehicle while traveling.
Because the dolly has brakes there is no need for auxiliary braking systems you need to install or modifications you have to make to your car. It’s the simplest and the cheapest option.
Pro Tip: New to towing? We put together a beginner’s guide on How to Tow an RV.
What Are the Drawbacks of an RV Tow Dolly?
If you don’t keep the RV tow dolly level, you can create serious problems during travel. You may have to buy a hi-low hitch adapter. These adapters can raise or lower the hitch height so that the towed vehicle is more level.
It can put too much weight on the hitch if it leans forward. If it leans backward, it can drag when going up inclines.
As with towing anything of substantial weight, you can experience swaying. It adds even more length to the rear when you’re already towing a 35’ or longer motorhome. Even if you pay attention to cargo weight and towing capacity and do everything correctly, you can still have a side-to-side movement.
Another inconvenience when using an RV tow dolly is you can’t back up. If you get into a situation where you have to back up, you have to unhook the tow dolly. This can be dangerous depending on where you are, and it’s certainly not convenient.
Compared to flat towing, using a tow dolly is more complicated, slower to set up and disconnect, and requires more storage space. But if you don’t have a vehicle capable of flat towing, your only other option is a full-blown car trailer. Using an RV tow dolly is a great alternative.
Is It Better to Flat Tow or Use an RV Tow Dolly?
Flat towing or using an RV tow dolly comes down to preference. They both have their advantages. The biggest difference is the initial price and the type of vehicle you need to tow.
If your current vehicle doesn’t have a transmission that allows for flat towing, you must make expensive modifications.
If you have a Jeep Wrangler, then flat towing may work great. The tow bar takes up minimal space and makes it easy to connect and disconnect.
But if your car didn’t make it on the list or if the owner’s manual doesn’t specify that you can flat tow, use an RV tow dolly. Both options are safe ways to transport another vehicle.
Pro Tip: Don’t forget these 10 Camper Towing Rules You Should Never Break on your next adventure!
How Does an RV Tow Dolly Work?
First, you’ll attach the coupler of the tow dolly to the hitch of the RV. You’ll then hook up your safety chains. Connect the lights and make sure they operate correctly.
All three of these initial steps are very important. Take your time when setting up the tow dolly to ensure safe travel.
After you’ve positioned the ramps, you can load your vehicle. Grab the tire straps and lay them across the tow dolly. Drive your car slowly up the ramp until you feel the tires fit into the tow bar. Turn it off and apply the parking brake.
Now you can strap in your tires. After securing the straps, remove the ramps and connect the safety chains from the tow dolly to the vehicle. We recommend storing these ramps elsewhere in your coach to remove the extra weight from the dolly load.
Then follow your vehicle manufacturer’s tow dolly instructions for properly securing the steering wheel and preparing for motion. Depending on your vehicle you might leave the car in park, drive, first, or neutral. If you do not follow your manufacturer’s instructions, you could cause major damage to your vehicle’s transmission.
Considerations for Selecting An RV Tow Dolly
Before going out and purchasing the cheapest tow dolly you can find, there are some things you should consider to make sure it meets you and your vehicle’s towing needs.
Fixed Deck vs. Pivoting Deck
This first consideration is going to depend on your towed vehicle. Cars without steering wheel locks need fixed deck RV tow dollies. Conversely, pivoting decks need the steering wheels to be locked.
Deck Height & Width
Whether you need more or less deck height will largely depend on your vehicle. Typically, lower clearance vehicles require lower deck heights and higher clearance can handle higher deck heights.
Again, you’ll need to make sure the tow dolly is wide enough to accommodate all the vehicles you plan to haul with it. Having easy adjustment for both the ramp and tow strap locations will be key in easily setting up or changing your tow size configuration.
Your RV tow dolly must be rated for the weight of your intended toad vehicle. Ratings are often given “over the axles,” meaning the weight actually on the tow dolly axle.
A separate rating tells you the maximum gross of the vehicle to be towed. This factors in the weight of the dolly and its strength capabilities.
Electric or Surge Brakes
You’ll need to ensure your RV tow dolly setup has brakes. The two common types are either electric brakes or surge brakes. Electric brakes require wiring running to a brake controller in the cab of the vehicle. If your vehicle does not have this capability, surge brakes may be an option.
Surge brakes use the dolly’s natural momentum to actuate the hydraulic cylinder when the trailer presses against the hitch. When properly tuned, these brakes can smoothly increase braking the more you slow down and increase the pressure. However, these brakes cannot be separately controlled in the event of tow dolly sway like electric brakes.
Tow Dolly Brake Lights
Depending on the state you’re registered in, you may need to add additional lights regardless of whether or not your tow dolly has brake lights. Built-in RV tow dolly lights are a great feature, as it’s always good to have more lights for safety.
Materials and Durablility
To get the most out of your tow dolly, make sure it is made of quality materials from a reputable manufacturer. If you’re concerned about rust, we recommend looking at galvanized tow dollies. This often adds cost, but you’ll probably recoup your investment in extended life and/or resale value.
Also consider the dolly’s weight, dry tongue weight, and storage options. Some are designed to be easier to maneuver than others. Others even have special storage mechanisms to reduce size when not in use and a place for the loading ramps.
The 5 Best RV Tow Dolly Options
Just like with all RV gear, you have many options. No matter what you buy, you may have difficulty deciding on the best option. Here are four of the best RV tow dollies on the market.
You’ll have to decide if you want a fixed wheel or a steerable pivot one. You can also determine if you want electric brakes or surge brakes. Do you want to attach tow dolly lights or removable lights?
Let’s look at these four options, and then you can decide what will work best for your travel needs.
1. Roadmaster Adjustable Tow Dolly with Electric Brakes
About: This Roadmaster RV tow dolly weighs 545 lbs but has a weight capacity of 4,250 lbs. It measures 102” wide and features Accu-Lube hubs for easy repacking of the wheel bearings. You can also get accessories to fit this model, like a spare tire carrier and a Guardian carrier to protect your car from rocks and debris.
Key Features: Travelers who want to explore mountain regions may appreciate the electric brakes. This means you can apply them separately from the RV, which can help reduce sway. The ramps can also extend from 34” to 77” to help load and unload any vehicle.
Price: Around $2,600
2. Master Tow Dollies
About: Master Tow offers two main models of RV tow dollies: the 77T and the 80THD. The 77T is designed for small to mid-sized cars of less than 4,250lbs. Meanwhile, the 80THD allows for slightly larger vehicles up to 4900lbs. The 80THD also allows for a tow tread width of up to 80″, so can even handle some vans and small trucks.
Key Features: Easy-lube hubs are standard on all Master Tow dollies. These make repacking of wheel bearings much easier since you don’t have to disassemble them.
Radial tires and wheels are computer-balanced, and the ramps offer tilt-bed loading. All Master Tow dollies come with a 1-year warranty on the unit, tires, and hubs against manufacturer defects.
Price: Around $2000-$2500, need to go through a dealer
3. Demco KarKaddy SS Tow Dolly
About: This Demco tow dolly weighs about 615 lbs and has a total tow weight of 4,800 lbs. This 101” wide dolly uses a hydraulic braking system. You can get additional options like a spare tire mount, light bar, and loading winch.
Key Features: One of the key features of this model is that it extends to 133” but folds to 67” for easy storage. The galvanized finish reduces corrosion and rust for a long-lasting product. The tongue weighs less than 100 lbs, making this tow dolly easy to handle.
Price: Around $4,500
4. Demco KarKaddy X RV Tow Dolly
About: Another good Demco option is this KarKaddy X tow dolly. It measures 102” wide and weighs 680 lbs. It can carry 4,800 lbs. You can also buy additional accessories to fit this RV tow dolly.
Key Features: This model fits low-profile vehicles because it has a 4-degree lower load angle. It also works for wider cars with a 78” maximum vehicle body width. The KarKaddy X also features a fifth-wheel design swivel platform.
Price: about $3,200
5. Car Tow Dolly
About: This lightweight RV tow dolly may only weigh 400 lbs but has a towing capacity of 4,985 lbs. The tongue weighs about 70 lbs, which makes it easy to handle. The tire straps adjust from 13” to 20”, thus fitting most makes and models. Although your purchase comes with a six-month warranty, you can add a three-year or five-year warranty for added security.
Key Features: At 400 lbs, this is the lightest tow dolly on the list. It’s also an important consideration for people who can’t lug around a 600 or 700 lb tow dolly. The EZE-TOW surge brakes have more than triple the braking efficiency of drum brakes.
Price: The basic price is $2,499
Should You Buy A Tow Dolly?
If you want to transport your vehicle without having a second driver, then a tow dolly is a good option. However, you should never tow a car behind a towable RV. This is unsafe.
If you have a towable RV, you need a second driver. If you have a motorized RV, check the towing capacity to ensure you’re within limits, and then start checking out RV tow dolly options.
They don’t require much storage space once you arrive at your location, and they safely transport your vehicle without any transmission damage.
Have you looked at RV tow dollies? Which one fits your budget and needs? Drop a comment below!
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