The Toyota 4Runner has been a long-time favorite SUV for both outdoor enthusiasts and families. Known as a capable off-road vehicle with comfortable drive and handling, the 4runner is a great all-around choice for multiple needs. This is what led me to purchase a 4runner as one of my first primary do-everything vehicles years ago. And yes, I towed with it, A LOT. Now that we have owned many other trucks and towing vehicles, how does it actually stack up?
Well, today, let’s look at the 4Runner towing capacity and whether this is a good option for towing!
The Toyota 4Runner Is a Very Capable SUV
Toyota has marketed its 4Runner across the globe since the 1980s. It began as a compact SUV but has undergone several changes throughout the years. In the U.S., sales in 1984 were around 6,500. In 2021, sales exceeded 121,000.
The name “4Runner” has an interesting background. A play on the term “forerunner,” designers meant this vehicle to lead the way in the automobile industry. The “4” describes the 4-wheel drive system, and the “runner” refers to the all-terrain capabilities.
While the 4runner is not the top-of-the-line off-road from a factory, it is very capable, and we have taken it to many adventurous places with only a minor lift kit.
All Toyota 4Runners come with Toyota’s Star Safety System, including anti-lock brakes, electronic brakeforce distribution, brake assist, and traction control. In 2008, side torso airbags and side curtain airbags became standard. This vehicle has repeatedly earned positive safety ratings and has one of the lowest death rates in crashes of all vehicles.
With 2-row and 3-row models, the Toyota 4Runner has been a family favorite for years. The crash testing ratings and overall size also make this a suitable option for new drivers. Adventurers enjoy the 4-wheel drive and off-road capabilities. This particular vehicle appeals to a wide range of owners.
But can it tow?
What Is Towing and Payload Capacity and Why Do They Matter?
Towing capacity is the maximum weight a vehicle can safely tow. This is crucial when deciding if a vehicle has the power and stability to tow your boat, trailer, or flatbed. You never want to exceed a vehicle’s towing capacity because the additional weight could stress the engine, brake system, and transmission.
Payload capacity refers to how much weight can be sitting on and in the vehicle. For example, the total weight of the passengers, fluids, and cargo cannot exceed the payload capacity. This differs from the towing capacity, which only denotes how much weight you can pull behind the vehicle.
If you’re loading your Toyota 4Runners with kayaks on the roof, six passengers, a full fuel tank, and everyone’s duffel bags, the total weight cannot exceed the payload capacity to drive safely. Doing this increases the chance of losing control of the vehicle, damaging the transmission, or causing undue stress on the engine or brakes.
Pro Tip: You’ll need to know What Gross Vehicle Weight Ratings for Vehicles & Towing Mean before you head out on the highway.
What Are the Different Trims of the Toyota 4Runner Line?
The Toyota 4Runner has undergone numerous changes. There are new standard technologies and safety features of the 2023 models that you won’t find in older models.
Today, there are three trims available. The approximate starting MSRP for the SR5 model is $40,155, the Limited is $49,390, and the TRD Pro is $54,620. Each trim has features and options, so let’s take a closer look.
The Toyota 4Runner SR5 gets an estimated MPG of 16/19. It features a smart key system with a push-button start. The SR5 Premium trim adds the blind-spot monitor, heated outdoor mirrors, and heated front seats. Both the SR5 and SR5 Premium have a 4.0L V6 engine and are available in 4×2 or 4×4. They also feature 3rd-row seating, ideal for large families.
The Limited and TRD Pro trims feature a heated steering wheel that the SR5 models don’t have. This more luxurious model also has perforated leather-trimmed seats, a power tilt/slide moonroof with a sunshade, a panoramic view monitor, a blind-spot monitor, and heated and ventilated front seats. Like the SR5 models, the Limited 4Runners have a 4.0L V6 engine and are available in 4×2 or 4×4. Third-row seating is also available in some models.
The TRD Pro trim has several upgrades, making it a top choice for off-roading. An aluminum front skid plate, 17-inch matte-black flow-form TRD alloy wheels, TRD FOX high-performance shocks, TRD-tuned front springs, a TRD roof rack, a multi-terrain monitor, Crawl Control, multi-terrain select, and electronic locking rear differential are all standard features. There is no 3rd-row seating. The TRD Pro models have the same 4.0L V6 engine but are only available in 4×4.
What Is the Toyota 4Runner Towing Capacity?
The Toyota 4Runner’s current towing capacity is 5,000 pounds. All three trims have an integrated towing receiver hitch and wiring harness with 4- and 7-pin connectors. The Toyota 4Runner’s towing capacity isn’t the best compared to other mid-sized SUVs.
In the past, the 4Runner was offered with a V8 engine that had a rating of 7000 pounds, but that has since been discontinued, probably due to the poor fuel economy.
The Jeep Grand Cherokee has a 7,200-pound towing capacity on specific models. The Dodge Durango can tow up to 8,700 pounds when properly equipped. So if you want a mid-sized SUV with a higher towing capacity, there are better options.
Is the Toyota 4Runner Good for Towing?
In our experience, the 4runner has plenty of power and capacity to tow up to 5000 pounds. I actually believe it could tow more, but you end up with some stability issues. Because the wheelbase is so short on this vehicle, long trailers really need sway control built in. We once towed a 5000-pound long car hauler trailer without sway control and needed to drive below 40mph to avoid a sway condition. The truck did great but needed to downshift regularly and really needed sway control.
But even with a lower towing capacity, can the Toyota 4Runner tow a camper? It can, but you’ll be limited in your options. It will also be very important to set up weights and weight distribution properly. However, if you need a suitable, solid vehicle for an everyday driver, the Toyota 4Runner offers reliability and capability. It also provides more interior space than a truck, which might have a higher towing capacity.
In our article “11 Best SUVs for Towing RV Campers,” we mention a few larger SUVs with the capabilities of towing larger and heavier trailers. Unfortunately, the Toyota 4Runner isn’t on that list.
However, there are benefits if you tow with a Toyota 4Runner. The first is owning a less expensive vehicle. For example, the Jeep Grand Cherokee Summit 4×4 has an MSRP starting at roughly $64,955.
Another benefit is the comfortable interior. If you’re choosing between a light-duty truck and a Toyota 4Runner, you’ll appreciate the stylish and spacious interior, especially if you have a family. The exterior is also well-designed for off-road use, with a 9-inch clearance on the SR5 and Limited models and a 9.6-inch clearance on the TRD Pro models.
The limited towing capacity is the most significant disadvantage of towing with a Toyota 4Runner. A 5,000-pound rating means you should only tow about 4,000 pounds. The 80/20 towing rule is a good standard so you don’t overload your vehicle and put added stress and wear and tear on the engine, brake system, and transmission. This also leaves some wiggle room for human error when calculating the vehicle’s towing capacity.
Also, there isn’t a trailer brake controller in a Toyota 4Runner. If you are doing a lot of mountain traveling, you might want to install one aftermarket. Your rotors could end up warping severely.
Finally, a Toyota 4Runner has a short wheelbase of 109.8 inches, which can lead to uncontrollable sway in windy conditions. You want to ensure the load is balanced when towing with a Toyota 4Runner.
What Types of RVs Can a 4Runner Tow?
The TRD Pro line is outfitted for off-road travel, so it’s the best Toyota 4Runner for this type of camping. A TAXA Cricket Overland has a dry weight of 2,000 pounds, so this would be a viable option to tow with a Toyota 4Runner. The Airstream Basecamp is another option with a GVWR of only 3,500 pounds.
However, the Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro only has a 9.6-inch clearance. Typically, you want at least a 15-inch clearance for true off-road camping. It’s not just 4WD capability that’s crucial. If you are interested in overlanding with a Toyota 4Runner, check out our article “5 Best Off-Road RV Trailers for Epic Camping.”
If you’d like to tow a camper to the local campground a few weekends a year, there are also more traditional trailers that won’t exceed the Toyota 4Runner towing capacity. The nuCamp TAB 400 sleeps up to four people and weighs 2,831 pounds empty. For an even more spacious trailer, the Venture Sonic Lite has six floorplans with a dry weight of under 3,700 pounds.
Pro Tip: If you would rather tow with a truck instead of an SUV, check out these 4 Best Hybrid Trucks for Towing RV Campers.
Is the Toyota 4Runner Good Off-Road?
It depends on what you want to do, but general off-roading in rutted trails, sand, and some mud, yes, it’s a great vehicle. It’s also a great platform to make off-road upgrades, including lifts, lockers, rock sliders, skid plates, and more.
The TRD Pro comes with TRD FOX high-performance shocks, rear remote reservoirs, Crawl Control, locking rear differential, multi-terrain select, active traction control, and 17-inch matte-black flow-form TRD alloy wheels with P265/70R17 all-terrain tires. So this is the best Toyota 4Runner model for off-road traveling.
However, stay below the 80% towing capacity so you aren’t stressing the brake system, transmission, and engine as you travel on uneven, rugged terrain. You’ll need a trailer for off-road travel and a Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro vehicle.
Adventure Far and Wide Safely With the Toyota 4Runner
The Toyota 4Runner is a safe, reliable vehicle that can take you to remote, dispersed camping locations or down the road to a local Jellystone Park. If you need a vehicle for everyday driving to and from work and to tow your lightweight camper on the weekends, the Toyota 4Runner can handle these tasks.
Remember that your trailer options will be limited due to the 5,000-pound 4Runner towing capacity. Stay under the 80% towing capacity to leave room for human error and start making memories one campsite at a time!
While we no longer own our 4Runner, we still know who purchased it, and they love it. They are very reliable and fun vehicles, and we still find ourselves missing it.
Would you consider purchasing a Toyota 4Runner? Tell us your thoughts in the comments!
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