Whether you are still planning your tiny house, building your tiny house, or sitting inside your tiny house, one question that you always have to think about is – how are you going to tow your tiny house on wheels?
Simple: with a vehicle. But what vehicle?
So what are the best vehicles to tow your tiny house in 2019? We’ve prepared a list of the best SUVs and trucks for tiny house towing.
For SUVs, these include:
- 2019 Jeep Grand Cherokee
- 2019 Mercedes-Benz GLE
- 2019 BMW X7
- 2019 Audi Q8
- 2019 Land Rover Range Rover
- 2019 Toyota Land Cruiser
- 2019 Cadillac Escalade
- 2019 Infiniti QX80
- 2019 Dodge Durango
- 2019 Ford Expedition
And for trucks, the best for your tiny house towing needs are:
- 2019 GMC Canyon
- 2019 Ford Ranger
- 2019 Chevrolet Colorado
- 2019 Ford F-150
- 2019 Ram 1500
- 2019 Ram 2500
- 2019 Ram 3500
Below we talk about everything you need to know when selecting a tow vehicle for your tiny house – from why towing capacity matters to the speccing insights to get the most out of your vehicle.
Why Towing Capacity Matters in a Tiny House
The first and most important question we should address is why towing capacity matters. After all, both the vehicle and the trailer are on wheels. If the engine can pull it, then you can take your tiny house wherever you want, right?
That isn’t quite the case. No matter how powerful your engine might be, there will always be a limit to what it can do, and with the immense weight of a tiny house, it is a very real possibility to reach and surpass that limit. If you attempt to pull a weight that is too heavy for your vehicle, you will end up permanently damaging your vehicle.
How Much Weight a Vehicle Needs to Tow with a Tiny House
If you already have your tiny house on wheels and you have had it weighed, feel free to skip this section. But if you’re still in the process of building it and want to prepare your towing vehicle right now, then give this section a read.
Let’s start with a basic rule of thumb: the bigger your house, the heavier it will weigh. The heavier it weighs, the more power your towing vehicle needs. So let’s figure out your tiny house’s weight.
The size of your home is the greatest factor in how much it will weigh, and since the width and height of a tiny house are limited by road legal standards, the dimension you most have to consider for your tiny house’s size is its length.
Tiny house average lengths have increased over the last few years. Whereas most tiny houses built in the beginning of the tiny house movement were generally smaller, at 12-14 feet in length, these days you can expect an average tiny house length of 20-24 feet.
As more people start to see tiny houses as a real long-term option for raising entire families, we can expect people to continue slowly lengthening the average size of a tiny house.
But the longer it becomes, the more the average tiny house weighs. Here’s the average weight by tiny house length:
|Tiny House Length||Tiny House Average Weight|
|12 – 14 ft||5700 – 6650 lbs.|
|18 – 20 ft||8550 – 9500 lbs.|
|24 – 28 ft||11,400 – 13,300 lbs.|
|32 – 36 ft||15,200 – 17,100 lbs.|
If you are still in the process of building your tiny house, make sure to plan its weight by measuring every piece of material that goes into building your house.
While this can give you a pretty rough estimate of what your house will weigh when it is done, remember to give yourself 1000-2000 pounds of allowance, and weigh it on a scale before towing it a long distance to avoid possibly damaging your vehicle.
Learn more: Tiny House Weight Saving Ideas
Understanding the Basics Behind Towing, Speccing, and Pulling Tiny Houses
One of the most common questions we get on the topic of tow vehicles for tiny houses is: “Why do two trucks of the same size have such a large difference in towing capacity?”
Many people find it confusing when they see one half-ton pickup with a towing capacity of over 11,000 lbs., and another half-ton pickup with a towing capacity of just 5,000 lbs. So what’s going on here?
The difference is in the hitch – one truck might be able to tow much more but is being held back by the capacity of its hitch and the weight distribution of the payload – and in the speccing, or how the truck has been specialized/specified (or not) to increase its towing capacity. If a truck has been specialized for towing, then it can have double or even triple the towing capacity of another truck of the same size or even model.
When talking about weights, here are the three terms you need to know:
- Curb Weight: The curb weight of the vehicle is basically its weight straight from the manufacturer. This is the shipping weight of your fully-fueled vehicle with standard equipment, without any specialized upgrades or outfittings. The curb weight can be found on the VIN sticker; it should also be available from the truck’s OEM or original equipment manufacturer.
- GVWR: The GVWR is the Gross Vehicle Weight Rating. This is the official maximum weight certified by the vehicle’s manufacturer that a vehicle can safely weigh. This includes the weight of the towing cargo, the people in the vehicle, the fuel, and the vehicle itself. Weighing more than the GVWR can be dangerous for the vehicle as well as the passengers, as it can cause malfunctions in the vehicles ability to properly start and stop with your vehicle brakes and trailer brakes.
- Payload Capacity: The payload capacity is the vehicle’s curb weight subtracted from the gross vehicle weight rating. Essentially, it is the total weight of the vehicle’s cargo and occupants. If your vehicle has a curb weight of 8,000 lbs. and a GVWR of 19,000 lbs., then you can determine its payload capacity as 11,000 lbs. If your vehicle has two occupants weighing 150 lbs. each, the maximum weight of your cargo can be 10,400 lbs.
Vehicles and Weight Classifications
In the United States, trucks and similar vehicles are grouped into 8 different classes, from Class 1 to Class 8, making up 3 greater classes: Light, Medium, and Heavy. The chart below comes from the Federal Highway Administration and the US Census Bureau:
|Truck Class||Duty Classification||Weight Limit (GVWR)||Vehicle Examples (Some depending on specs and engines)|
|Class 1||Light||< 6,000 lbs.||Toyota Tacoma, Ford Ranger, Chevrolet Colorado|
|Class 2A||Light||6000 – 8500 lbs.||Chevrolet Silverado, Dodge Dakota, Toyota Tundra|
|Class 2B||Light / Medium||8500 – 10,000 lbs.||Ram 2500, Ford F-250, Chevrolet Silverado|
|Class 3||Medium||10,000 – 14,000 lbs.||Isuzu NPR, Ford F-450, Ram 3500|
|Class 4||Medium||14,000 – 16,000 lbs.||Ram 4500, GMC Sierra 4500, Isuzu NPR-HD|
|Class 5||Medium||16,000 – 19,500 lbs.||Ram 5500, Ford F-550, Isuzu NRR|
|Class 6||Medium||19,500 – 26,000 lbs.||International Durastar, Ford-F650, Chevrolet Kodiak C6500|
|Class 7||Heavy||26,000 – 33,000 lbs.||Ford F-750, Peterbilt 220, Autocar ACMD|
|Class 8||Heavy||> 33,000 lbs.||Semi-trailer trucks|
Looking at the table above, tiny house owners should only ever concern themselves with Class 1 – Class 4 trucks. Trucks in Classes 1 and 2 can include general vans, pickups, SUVs, and smaller van cutaways, while trucks in Classes 3 and 4 can include dual-rear-wheel pickups, medium-duty cab and chassis, and van cutaways.
Another common question we get from first-time tiny house enthusiasts is why trucks are called “half-ton”, “three-quarter-ton”, or “1-ton” trucks. This has to do with how light-duty trucks were initially manufactured in the United States; if they could withstand a 1-ton payload, they would be called a 1-ton truck.
However, payload capacities have slowly increased with vehicle and manufacturing technology over time, while truck sizes have remained the same. This means that the original naming categorizations have become imprecise, and are now used to compare the standard sizes of vehicles rather than their payloads.
When determining payload, it is best to consult the manufacturer’s numbers for the curb weight (specifically the as-spec’d curb weight) and the GVWR.
Speccing in Trucks: How to Make Your Truck Pull a Heavier Tiny House
We mentioned earlier the general confusion of how trucks of the same size can vary widely in their maximum towing capacities, with one half-ton pickup pulling 11,000 lbs., and another just pulling 5,000 lbs.
For this, we need to look at what is known as the powertrain specification. You can think of the powertrain as the brain, spine, and muscles of your vehicle; all the components that create power and convert it into motion.
Generally, this means that the powertrain is made up of:
- The engine
- The drive shafts
- The transmission
- The axle, wheels, and more
Different specifications of your vehicle’s powertrain can make a huge impact on your vehicle’s maximum towing capacity, but they can also cost a pretty penny (another point on why it is so important to have a rough idea of your tiny house’s weight before you build it and buy a vehicle for it).
Here are some important considerations when it comes to powertrain speccing for your tiny house’s tow vehicle:
When dealing with trucks in the 1-3 Class range, your choice of engine generally comes down to a single diesel engine or a variety of gas engine sizes.
If you want to maximize your vehicle’s towing capacity, your best bet is almost always the one diesel engine, mostly because it has a much greater torque than gas engines. However, a diesel engine can add several thousand dollars to the cost of your vehicle.
These days, most vehicles only offer automatic instead of manual when it comes to the transmission, but an automatic might not always be the best for your tiny house towing journey. If you have the option between an automatic and a manual for the same vehicle, consult with your dealer rep or directly with the manufacturer and ask how the transmission can differ on your chosen vehicle.
If you find yourself looking for a Class 2 or Class 3 van or pickup truck, you might want to consider speccing into a transmission cooler. This is best for tiny house owners who expect to tow their tiny house often, as the cooler can significantly extend transmission life for trucks undergoing lengthy, heavy trips.
Rear Axle Ratio
Your vehicle’s rear axle ratio is the relationship between the revolutions of your rear axle and your driveshaft. Greater ratios lead to strong towing power but higher fuel cost. If you want to maximize your towing capacity, you can opt to change your rear axle ratio at the expense of making your vehicle less fuel-efficient.
Other spec issues you might want to consider include:
- Rear Suspension: If you are planning to pull your tiny house for long distances quite often, you might want to invest in rear suspension, which is better at protecting your truck when under long-term heavy loads.
- Side-View Mirrors: If towing a tiny house that is maxed out on its width, you might have trouble using regular side-view mirrors. Invest in extendable side-view mirrors so that you can still drive safely even with a tiny house at your back.
- Two-Wheel Drive or Four-Wheel Drive: Four-wheel drive sounds sexy and adventurous, but it adds a ton of weight to the truck while adding a few thousand dollars to your cost. A two-wheel drive should be selected to maximize your towing capacity, as long as you avoid severe off-road conditions.
- Your Hitch: And finally, we see this mistake too often with tiny house first-timers: don’t invest in the perfect tow vehicles only to get bottlenecked by your hitch! Make sure your tow hitch can match the strength of your truck, or you won’t be able to pull anything for long at all.
Best Vehicles for Tiny House Towing
With all that said, let’s get to the most important part of this article: what are the best vehicles to tow your tiny house? We understand that some people might want to stick to SUVs while others will prefer a truck, so we’ve prepared two tables below: our favorite SUVs and our favorite trucks for towing tiny houses:
Best SUVs for Tiny House Towing
|Vehicle||Max Towing||Average Price (With Specs)||Notes To Maximize Towing|
|2019 Jeep Grand Cherokee||7,200 lbs.||$68,645||Choose the 5.7-liter V8, giving it 390 pound-feet torque and 360 horsepower. Consider opting for the heavy-duty engine cooling, Class IV hitch, and load-leveling suspension|
|2019 Mercedes-Benz GLE||7,200 lbs.||$55,700||You will need the twin-turbocharged V6|
|2019 BMW X7||7,500 lbs.||$73,900||For maximum power, opt for the xDrive40i trim V8|
|2019 Audi Q8||7,700 lbs.||$67,400||You will need to choose the towing package when purchasing this vehicle|
|2019 Land Rover Range Rover||7,716 lbs.||$89,500||The supercharged V6 option will give this vehicle 369 pound-feet of torque and 355 horsepower|
|2019 Toyota Land Cruiser||8,100 lbs.||$85,165||This luxury large SUV was made for towing, as it comes with a standard V8 and integrated tow hitch|
|2019 Cadillac Escalade||8,300 lbs.||$75,195||Choose the rear-wheel drive option to achieve 420 horsepower for maximum towing potential|
|2019 Infiniti QX80||8,500 lbs.||$65,500||To pull all 8,500 lbs., you will need to choose the Luxe rear-wheel-drive trim|
|2019 Dodge Durango||8,700 lbs.||$63,245||The SRT trim on the Durango is required for best towing action, with V8 that pushes 475 horsepower, Brembo brakes, and upgraded suspension tuning|
|2019 Ford Expedition||9,300 lbs.||$52,130||The Heavy Duty Trailer Tow Package on the Ford Expedition will give you the best towing numbers of any SUV|
Best Trucks for Tiny House Towing
|Vehicle||Max Towing||Average Price (With Specs)||Notes To Maximize Towing|
|2019 GMC Canyon||7,000 lbs.||$32,645||Optional V6 is necessary for maximum towing|
|2019 Ford Ranger||7,500 lbs.||$35,495||Not many upgrades are needed, as the turbocharged four-cylinder engine is standard on all models|
|2019 Chevrolet Colorado||11,400 lbs.||$52,295||Available only on some models, the Diesel V6 is a requirement for maximum towing capacity, giving a 440 pound-feet of torque|
|2019 Ford F-150||13,200 lbs.||$39,750||Opt for the 3.5-liter V6 for the highest tow capacity on this model|
|2019 Ram 1500||12,750 lbs.||$43,490||The optional V8 is necessary to add up to 5,000 lbs. of towing capacity to this vehicle|
|2019 Ram 2500||17,500 lbs.||$45,090||Just add the optional trick suspension for maximum towing|
|2019 Ram 3500||35,100||$45,640||No other heavy-duty truck compares to the 2019 Ram 3500, which was made for towing the heaviest tiny houses out there|
Your Tiny House, Your Vehicle
When choosing your tow vehicle for your tiny house, the most important thing to remember is that it should work perfectly for your situation.
While weight might be one crucial consideration, there are other things that you need to think about that no number of guides and articles can help you with, such as: does the vehicle fit your family, does it fit comfortably in your price range, and will you tow your tiny house enough to justify purchasing a tow vehicle?
Get the vehicle that works best for you, and you will be one step closer towards the perfect tiny house lifestyle.
Hey, there! We're Ivan and Manuela from Croatia, and we're crazy about tiny houses. We don't own one (yet).
This website is a result of our passion to share all the knowledge, photos, tips and tricks that we were able to learn while studying everything possible about the tiny house movement.