One of many popular used SUVs for sale, a 2021 Chevy Suburban High Country, is shown towing a trailer.

Can I Tow a Trailer With My SUV?

Many people have no interest in towing and look at used SUVs for sale with an eye toward passenger space, cargo capacity, and interior comfort. That’s a valid way to shop for a vehicle, and these are all important considerations. But that leaves them without really thinking about the full potential of an SUV and what it brings to the road, which can include towing. A surprising number of people fail to consider towing capabilities when they buy a new or used SUV, only worrying about it after the fact. Let’s look at the realities of towing with an SUV, what you should know about their towing potential, and what equipment is needed to do it properly.

Is Towing Possible With an SUV?

This might seem like a silly question, but it’s a valid one. Yes, you certainly can tow with some SUVs. Please note that I did say you “can” and “some SUVs,” which doesn’t mean all SUVs are built to handle heavy-duty towing. The first thing to note is that trucks are still the kings of towing capacity. They’re designed to do that job better than just about anything else. A full-size truck can also give you more options for how to tow as well, such as fifth-wheel or gooseneck towing, which you can’t do with an SUV.

The important thing to note is that, like any other vehicle, an SUV needs to be properly equipped to tow a trailer or camper behind it safely. We’ll get into that in a moment, but this needed to be said early. Also note that while most SUVs can tow, not all can. As you look at different models, they’ll have different degrees of towing capacity. That can include “not recommended for towing.”

How Much Can an SUV Tow?

This entirely depends on the specific SUV you’re looking at. There’s no simple, absolute rule for this, so it comes down to what vehicle you’re interested in and how it was built. That being said, there are some general factors to consider that are true almost universally, which can make it easier to ensure you get an SUV with the towing potential you want.

For starters, the size of the SUV you’re looking at almost always correlates with its towing potential. The larger the SUV, the more weight it can generally tow behind it. The perfect way to illustrate this is with the Chevy lineup of SUVs. Many different models are available, and they quickly showcase just what I’m talking about. Let’s look at the 2021 lineup, where Chevy starts with the subcompact Trax, which isn’t recommended for any towing at all.

From there, we have the subcompact Trailblazer. This is also a small model, but the Trailblazer can handle up to 1,000 lbs of towing. The compact Equinox offers 1,500 lbs of maximum towing. After that, we have the midsize Blazer with up to 4,500 lbs of towing, and the three-row Traverse with 5,000 lbs of towing available. Finally, we move up to the full-size Tahoe and Suburban. These are based on the Silverado truck platform, which means that each of these can handle more than 8,000 lbs of towing. It’s pretty easy to see how size and towing capacity line up. If you want to get the most towing out of your SUV, go for a larger model.

What to Look For When Towing in an SUV

You need to look at any specific vehicle to see if it’s already equipped for towing or not because that’s not a given with an SUV. Going with Chevy again, for simplicity’s sake, we saw numerous SUV models with towing potential, but that doesn’t mean every one of them out there can handle it.

First of all, you need a trailer hitch. This installs on the back, connecting to the vehicle’s underside, and has a receiver tube sticking out from it. This is the essential piece of towing equipment you absolutely must have. Without it, you’re not hauling anything behind your vehicle. A Chevy with a towing package will already have a trailer hitch installed. This package is standard on some models and trims, but not necessarily all of them. The current Chevy Tahoe can come with the Advanced Trailering Package that includes extra functions like an integrated trailer brake controller. There’s also a Max Trailering Package available with enhanced cooling to allow for optimal capability.

You should also pay careful attention to which engine a vehicle has, since numerous engines are often available for SUVs and they can impact its abilities. Sticking to Chevy, the 2021 Blazer has three engines available. The standard 2.5L I-4 tops out at 1,500 lbs of towing capacity, while the optional 3.6L V6 increases that up to 4,500 lbs. That’s a significant difference that can be easily overlooked if you’re unaware of these different engines and how they affect what a vehicle can do.

It’s also worth remembering that there are different classes of trailer hitches that can handle different amounts of weight. Going back to that Blazer, it might have the more powerful engine in it, but let’s say it was equipped with a Class 1 hitch. That means it has a Gross Trailer Weight (GTW) of just 2,000 lbs. That small Class 1 hitch limits how much it can handle. You need a Class 3 hitch to unlock that full 4,500 lbs of towing capacity.

A good SUV for towing won’t just provide the hitch, but other accessories to enhance towing capabilities as well. At a minimum, it should include a four-pin wiring harness, which will run the basic trailer lights required by law. An integrated brake controller with a seven-pin wiring harness enables the SUV to control electric trailer brakes. This is a useful feature for heavy loads, but may not be required for smaller, lighter trailers. Other features like Chevy’s Hitch View camera make it easier to connect to a trailer and hit the road. All of these extra details can be a lot to keep track of, which is why you should know what you’re looking for. I suggest having a checklist to keep everything organized and ensure you don’t overlook anything.

Stay Safe and Be Careful

It’s important that you’re prepared for the differences in driving an SUV while towing a trailer because it does change the overall experience. Make sure you know how to connect a trailer to your vehicle safely, including a good connection between the trailer and your hitch, safety chains, and trailer light wiring. You also need to adjust your driving to accommodate the extra load. That means leaving extra stopping distance for yourself due to the added weight you’re hauling, being mindful of trailer sway, and knowing how towing changes the handling and feel of your vehicle. The right SUV can make your life easier by providing plenty of room inside for passengers, space for everything you need to bring along with you, and towing capacity for something extra. All you have to do now is ensure you get what you’re looking for and drive safely out there.