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How Do You Hook Up an RV Camper to an SUV?

Newsflash: You don’t have to have a giant pickup truck to tow an RV. Many manufacturers are making RVs that are within the towing capacity of many mid and full-size SUVs. However, you must follow the proper steps when hooking up your RV, no matter what type of vehicle you’re using. Failing to do so can be dangerous and result in an injury or damage to your beloved RV or vehicle. 

So if you’re unsure of where to start when it comes to hooking up your RV to an SUV, keep reading! 

Can I Tow an RV With an SUV?

Yes, SUVs can tow RVs. However, not all SUVs can tow all RVs. Like trucks, some SUVs are better than others when it comes to towing. You want to be aware of the SUV’s towing capacity before you attempt to tow anything.

Exceeding your SUV’s towing capacity can be incredibly dangerous and increase the wear and tear on your vehicle. Your vehicle may be able to tow a certain weight, but it’s also important that it can stop it. Never exceed the towing capacity of your SUV, truck, or any other tow vehicle.

Tom Talks About Trucks & Towing - Our Experience and Tips on Towing Heavy

Can I Tow a Fifth Wheel With an SUV?

Is it possible to tow a fifth wheel with an SUV? Yes. Is it a good idea? Absolutely not.

A fifth wheel dolly can make it possible to tow a fifth wheel with an SUV, van, or truck without a fifth wheel hitch in the bed. However, most fifth wheels will far exceed the towing capacity of any SUV. So while it may seem like it’s possible, it’s typically not a good idea in almost every circumstance.

SUV towing camper
SUVs are excellent options for big families wanting to go on big adventures!

Benefits of Towing an RV with an SUV

An enormous benefit of using an SUV for towing an RV is the massive storage space. SUVs can often carry a tremendous amount of cargo and people. So if you’re a large family with a lot of gear you want to take camping, it’s hard to consider anything other than an SUV. When traveling without passengers, you can fold down the rear seats and exponentially increase your storage space.

Pro Tip: Ready to buy an SUV that you can use to tow your camper? We found the 11 Best SUVs for Towing RV Campers.

Vehicle towing camper trailer in desert.
SUV frames are typically not capable of handling heavy RV loads.

Disadvantages of Towing an RV With an SUV

However, while SUVs can have a large amount of space, they have some disadvantages when towing RVs. First off, you’ll have to kiss any shot at towing a fifth-wheel goodbye. SUVs typically have towing capacities well under 10,000 lbs, so even with the use of a fifth wheel dolly, you’re not going to have much luck towing a fifth wheel with an SUV.

The frames and other components used for SUVs typically aren’t capable of handling heavy loads. They may be able to do the job, but it will increase the wear and tear on the suspension and likely cause problems over time.

How Do You Hook Up an RV to an SUV?

If you’re towing your RV with an SUV, it’s likely a travel trailer, and you’re going to be using a conventional ball hitch. This is the same system often found on trucks and other tow vehicles. If you’re familiar with this process on a truck, it’s identical in most circumstances.

SUV towing mini camper.
Always know your GVWR and GCVWR before you try to tow your camper with your SUV.

Ensure Your SUV Can Handle It

You want to make sure that your SUV has the towing capabilities to handle an RV. You should know the Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR), the Gross Combined Vehicle Weight Rating (GCVWR), the tongue weight of the trailer, and your payload capacity. These are all essential tow ratings you need to keep in check.

Staying within these weight ratings can help ensure a safe towing experience. Exceeding these ratings can put you in a dangerous situation or cause damage to your vehicle. You may need to drive across a scale to ensure you’re not overloading your trailer or SUV.

Use the Proper Hitch and Ball

Most travel trailers require a 2-inch or 2-5/16-inch trailer ball. It’s important that you know which one your RV takes. The 2-inch ball has a rating of 1,000 lbs to 1,200 lbs of tongue weight, while the 2.5-inch ball has a beefier 1,600 lbs to 2,000 lbs of tongue weight. 

Using a properly configured weight distribution hitch can help distribute the weight appropriately between the tow vehicle and the trailer. This creates a better towing experience and reduces sway while towing.

tow hitch and ball
Ensure you have the proper hitch and ball in place on your SUV before attaching your trailer.

Attach the RV

You’ll need to lower the RV’s coupler onto the tow hitch ball attached to your SUV. Line up the hitch ball so the coupler is overtopping the hitch. It can help to slowly lower your tongue jack down to ensure you’re directly over top of the hitch ball. Lower the coupler onto the ball once the hitch ball is squarely underneath the coupler.

Make sure to lock the coupler in place by putting a pin or lock through the coupler release. This helps ensure the tow vehicle and trailer stay connected while going down the road.

Utilize a Backup Camera

One of the most difficult skills to acquire is lining up the hitch ball and the trailer’s coupler. Use an RV backup camera to help guide you.

If your vehicle doesn’t have a backup camera, having a partner direct you over the phone can be equally as helpful. Sometimes being off by as little as half an inch can make the difference when hitching. However, take safety precautions and always know where everyone is standing around you when backing up your truck or trailer.

Pro Tip: We found the 8 Best RV Backup Cameras to help you navigate driving your RV with ease.

RV Buying Guide: Towing With A Midsize SUV

Is Towing an RV with an SUV a Good Idea?

Towing an RV with an SUV can be a great idea if you can stay under your tow ratings. With all the room for storage and passengers, you can quickly overload your tow vehicle and put yourself, your passengers, and others on the road in a dangerous situation. Tow ratings can vary considerably between two similar vehicles. Ensure you adequately research your specific vehicle’s unique tow ratings and stay within them.

Have you ever towed an RV with an SUV? Tell us about your experience in the comments!

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About Tom Morton

Tom, a Pacific Northwest native, is our technical genius. Born in Washington and raised in Alaska before settling in Michigan. He's the man who keeps our operation running, both figuratively and literally.

With a background in Electrical Engineering, Tom specializes in RV solar systems and lithium batteries. He made history as the first documented individual to use a Tesla battery module as an RV battery. Tom has personally assisted countless RVers with system installations and has educated thousands more through his videos and articles.

Cinematography is another of Tom's passions, showcased in his work on the Go North series. You can see his camera skills on display in The RVers TV show on Discovery Channel and PBS where he also stars as a co-host.

Tom's mechanical expertise extends beyond RVs to boats, planes, and all things mechanical. He's renowned for taking on maintenance and repair projects single-handedly and is often spotted underneath RVs, making him the technical backbone of our endeavors.

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Patricia Nicosia

Tuesday 22nd of August 2023

I drive a 2020 Chevy Equinox 2.0 turbo engine. I was told the towing capacity is up to 3500 lbs. I have a 2021 Riverside Retro 135 travel trailer that weighs 2550 lbs and I tow it with my Equinox. I have weight distribution bars to distribute the weight properly for my vehicle. This is the first time I have taken the trailer out and I am presently traveling cross country with this set up. To this day I have driven 6700 miles so far and have at least another 4000 miles until I arrive home. The gas consumption is not good at all, 7-9 miles to the gal and at the current price of gas it has been quite a shock at what I have spent, so far. It has been a wonderful experience that I wouldn’t have given up and it has been an easy way to travel. Naturally there have been a few hiccups along the way, like most any trips, but it’s been comfortable pulling my trailer with my SUV.

Bob Case

Thursday 28th of April 2022

We tow a Bushwracker Plus (made by Braxton Creek) with a 6 cyclinder AWD Kia Sorento. We also use a weight distribution system. Works well.

Tom Schlenker

Thursday 21st of April 2022

Let me try again We tow a 25ft 6500lb travel trailer with our 2018 Nissan Armada, no problems, but the 7mpg is not great