RV Towing Tips: 3 Ways To Tow A Car Behind Your Motorhome

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A TOAD (or dingy, in RV language) is the extra vehicle you tow behind your motorhome.

It’s used for sightseeing and other activities once you have parked your RV or set up camp at the campground.

There are a number of ways you can pull your auxiliary wheels behind you.


Serious thought needs to be given before you decide what type of vehicle will suit your needs best, and which is the best way to tow it.

First, you’ll want to verify with your state’s DOT (Department of Transportation) exactly what the legal requirements are in your state.

Many states require that all trailers (or otherwise towed items) weighing over 1,500 have brakes.  Some may wave this issue with cars attached by a tow bar.  You won’t be sure what you’re dealing with until you check with the proper authorities.

Here’s an overview of towing laws by state.


3 Ways To Tow A Car Behind An RV

There are 3 common methods of towing vehicles behind an RV. The one that’s best suited for your situation will depend on many factors.


#1 – Your first choice is to carry the vehicle on a flatbed or enclosed trailer.


This trailer will support the complete vehicle and will have its own brakes and light system, assuring its acceptance by all states.

  • Advantages: You’re not adding unnecessary mileage to your second vehicle, and you can pretty much bring along any vehicle you choose.
  • Disadvantages: Cost.  This will be a sizable investment that will also dramatically affect your mileage.  The total combined weight may very well be more then the capabilities of the average motorhome.  For the average RVer, this isn’t a very practical solution.


#2 – A second method is to use a tow bar, keeping all 4 of the car’s wheels on the road.

This is a very common way to transport a vehicle behind an RV.  Again, every state is different as to what is acceptable.

My own experience involves towing a Ford Festiva behind a 37-foot Bounder motorhome with a Stowmaster tow bar.  Roadmaster is another popular brand.


I had safety cables and the Festiva was wired so that its taillights were activated by the taillights of the motorhome.  This set-up worked very well for our situation.  The car was small, lightweight, and didn’t have any noticeable effect on mileage or handling.

Must read: Towing An Automatic Transmission Vehicle 4 Wheels Down, like a Jeep Wrangler.

One thing I like about tow bars is the fact that most of them fold up, making them small and compact for storage when not in use.


The only disadvantage would be maneuvering backwards.  You cannot back up the RV while you have a car on a tow bar.  Why? Because the front wheels of the car will turn the wrong way and you will drag the car — putting extreme stress on the steering components.

You see, most motorhomes have an extended overhang to the rear.  There are still many feet of motorhome beyond the rear wheels  This magnifies the stress when attempting to turn in reverse.  Serious damage will occur to your towed car unless you unhook it from the motorhome when circumstances arise and you are forced to back up.

IMPORTANT: Don’t assume that because a vehicle is a stick transmission it can be towed.  Not all cars can be towed with 4 wheels on the ground.  Check with the manufacturer. (Often this is covered in your owner’s manual.) Many standard transmission cars can be towed, but not all.  Some have a transmission lubrication pump that requires the engine to be running.  Some automatics can be towed as well.  Saturn is one manufacture that states their cars can be towed.


#3 – The final way would be to use a tow dolly.

This is a good compromise.  Front wheel drive automatic cars can be towed with their front wheels placed on the 2-wheel tow dolly.


Manufacturers differ in how they construct their tow dollies. For example, Kar Kaddy has a steering system that mimics the natural steering when you tow with a tow bar.  Other brands use a “wagon” method, as the required flexibility in steering is supplied by a center pivot point.  The Kar Kaddy system is better, in my opinion.

Tow dollies can have surge brakes, or even electric brakes — meeting the requirements of most states and allowing you to tow a more substantial car.  You will still find it almost impossible to back up with a tow dolly, but at least you won’t be stressing the steering components of your car.  Plus. using a tow dolly doesn’t add mileage to the odometer of your car.  That is, assuming it’s the drive axle riding on the dolly.

Towing a car is a serious matter. Whichever method you choose, be sure to have safety devices in place and fully operational at all times.


I’ve been involved in RVing for over 50 years — including camping, building, repairing, and even selling RVs and motorhomes. I’ve owned, used, and repaired almost every class and style of RV ever made. I do all of my own repair work. My other interests include cooking, living with an aging dog, and dealing with diabetic issues. If you can combine a grease monkey with a computer geek, throw in a touch of information nut and organization freak, combined with a little bit of storyteller... you’ve got a good idea of who I am. To date, I've shared my RV knowledge in over 300 articles here at The Fun Times Guide! Many of them have over 25K shares.

25 thoughts on “RV Towing Tips: 3 Ways To Tow A Car Behind Your Motorhome

  1. You should look for the rules and regulations of your state to tow a car at the first place. The priority would be a flat bet trailer where you can enclose the car. The second & third options should be using a tow bar or a tow dolly respectively so that the trailer uses its own brakes to stop the car.

  2. You should look for the rules and regulations of your state to tow a car at the first place. The priority would be a flat bet trailer where you can enclose the car. The second & third options should be using a tow bar or a tow dolly respectively so that the trailer uses its own brakes to stop the car.

  3. Putting the key in ACC will unlock the steering collumn lock so that you don’t break it while towing. (the lock is easy to break) but you have to secure the wheel somehow. I’ve used 2 short but heavy duty ratchet straps to hook thru the spokes and attach to the seatbelt anchors on either side of my drivers seat, but I have no idea if that’s legal.

  4. Hi Curtis,

    We just purchased a 1991 Ford Festiva to pull behind our MH. What can you tell me about how you set up your Festiva to pull? Did you leave the key in the ACC position? Any advice as we get it set up to serve as a Toad? How many miles did you put on your Festiva as a Toad?



    1. Hi Mark, Mine was a 93, but they are the same. It was 10 years ago since I had it so I’m relying on a somewhat foggy memory. I did leave the key in it and I believe I set it at the first click toward starting the engine. This released the steering but did not energize the ignition. It was a stick shift so I left it in neutral (I don’t even know if they made an automatic but if they did you can’t tow it with a tow bar). I installed a diode kit so I could use the car’s rear lights for towing. It worked out very well, I towed it about 20,000 miles during 3 years. One warning though, don’t try to back up with it hooked to your rig… Not even a few feet. The wheels will just turn all the way to one side and you will be dragging the car. Steering damage will be the result.

  5. Hi just wanted to know what the best vehicle for towing with our MH. We are new at this and like to look
    at our options. please help . hearing a lot of things and getting a little concern,.

    1. Bea, I’d recommend something small with a manual transmission.  I towed a 1993 Ford Festiva and never really knew it was behind me.  Motorhomes use enough gas by themselves, the smaller the car you tow the less decrease you will see in mileage.  If you tow a car with a manual transmission you just put it in neutral and tow it.  No drive line disconnects or other special concerns.  Simple is always better.

  6. A couple of years ago I saw the neatest dinghy trailer and
    now I want one. It was very small,
    aluminum, and held a Smart Car. The
    owner pulled two pins in the front, got in the car and backed up a couple of
    feet. At this point the front of the
    trailer bed lifted up and became a ramp, and he backed off and drove away! When he returned he simply put the front
    wheels on the ramp, drove forward until the rear wheels got on the ramp which
    then tilted slowly forward to the level position! I have searched the internet but cannot find
    this ramp or any like it. Can you help?

    1. Frank, what you are describing is a standard tilt bed trailer configuration. These are built in a variety of configurations in both steel and aluminum. You may have seen an unusually small version built for a Smart Car, but I’m sure all aluminum trailer manufacturers can build something that will satisfy your needs. You may have to special order it if you too need something smaller than the usual 18′ car hauler.

  7. Hi Curtis, I am a first time RV’er and due to high expense prefer to do it right the first time, After reading all the discussion on tow bars and pulling the right vehicle I am fairly certain I’d rather pay a little more up front and go with a car hauler trailer with it’s on brake and light system. The Motor Home has a 300hp Cummins on Sparton chassis. Going this route should I be concerned with amble power or extremely higher mileage?

    1. Wayne, I tow a Jeep Wrangler on a tow bar behind a 260 hp Cummins on an Oshkosh chassis. If I didn’t see the Jeep in the rear view camera I would have no idea it was back there. Carrying your vehicle on a trailer has a number of advantages. Good brakes without altering the vehicle and the ability to back up. I doubt you will have any problem in a power sense with only a minimal effect on mileage. I don’t think it would make much difference if it was a flat bed trailer or an enclosed trailer because the box of an enclosed trailer would match the size of the motorhome causing very little additional drag.

      1. Thanks for the quick response Curtis and appreciate your expertise. No need telling you getting started as an RV’er is an expensive journey and somewhat scary. Good to know there are fellow rv’ers willing to share their knowledge. Thanks

  8. How hard is it to take the car off and put it back on. Would a tow dolly work for using the car as you travel?

    1. It is not difficult to hook up tow bar setup nor is it difficult to use a tow dolly. Just remember that not all vehicles can be towed by a tow bar and not all vehicles can ride on a tow dolly. Generally speaking a Jeep can be towed with all four wheels on the ground. Late model Jeeps do not have locking steering which means they cannot be carried on a tow dolly.

  9. Your site is very informative but I have a different scenario. We own horses and are trying to decide the best options to be able to tow an additional bumper pull small horse trailer behind the fifth wheel 34′ to 40′ RV/camper. We considered buying a rig to pull but looks like may need a CDL in some states for that so would like to stay with a dually or such. Any special considerations/advice for this situation? The bumper pull trailer and horse weight would be approximately 4000 pounds. Thanks.

    1. The only accurate answer is the one gotten from the horse’s mouth. Contact the highway patrol in every state you intend to travel through. They will give you the correct answer

  10. Hi, Curtis. I just bought a used 27′ Class C Minnie Winnie. I want to tow my 2007 VW Beetle with manual transmission. Any recommendations as to the type of towing mechanism I should use? I will be travelling alone and want the best, but most convenient dolly/tow bar. Where do I go to purchase it?
    Also, where can I order your tow car shield?

    1. It all comes to personal choice. I chose the Stowmaster tow bar some +20 years ago. It served me well and was used on 3 or 4 different cars without issue. I only had to order new base plates for each change of cars. The big thing to remember with both a towbar and tow dolly’s is that you cannot back up with either one. You will cause damage for sure, so pick your path carefully or you will be unhooking to maneuver on a daily basis. I never had a tow car shield, the rock deflector under the rear of the motorhome was sufficient for my needs. They can be purchased at any RV dealership or ordered on line from numerous sources.

  11. Curtis.
    What did you use for braking the car using the 4 wheel method? You state you used stow master but did not mention the type of car brake system you used…. Thanks!

    1. I am afraid I have never used any type of braking system for my vehicle being towed. Is not required in some States and the Vehicles I have towed have been like weight and my motorhome was more than adequate to stop them.

  12. Hi, you forgot to mention in item 1 that using a trailer to tow is the only option that lets you back the vehicle up. after spending 3 months on the road this summer, we missed a few turns and had to go miles out of our way to turn around. since then we decided to sell our dolly and get a flat trailer

  13. I want to tow am Mini Cooper, Manual Transmission (Colorado Registration) 4-wheels on the ground. Will that work?

    1. Possibly.. check your owner’s manual and dealership to be certain but generally a manual transmission in neutral with the steering unlocked can be towed with all four wheels in the ground. Whether or not there are any special limitations to your car, only a dealer would know.

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