Whether dry camping in deep wilderness or enjoying full hook-ups at a campground, safety is key to a great experience.
This is especially true when towing and loading. Having the right tow vehicle (and knowing the load limits of your touring coach) is critical to a safe and comfortable driving experience.
So, how do you choose wisely when it comes to selecting a vehicle to tow your Airstream? While numbers like Gross Vehicle Weight Rating and Hitch Weight play a vital role in determining a tow vehicle’s suitability, those stats simply narrow your choices. You can consult this guide when exploring different Airstream Travel Trailers and potential compatibility with different tow vehicles.
To make your best selection, you should also be asking yourself these important questions:
H2: How many people will be adventuring with you?
Knowing how many people are involved in your adventure will help determine both how many seats you need in your tow vehicle and how much storage space you require, especially for longer outings. A family of five, for example, will be much happier in an SUV than a pick-up truck, especially if there’s a dog in the mix. A solo adventurer or couple with a lighter Airstream might be comfortable in a tow-capable crossover.
H2: What much storage space do you need?
How much room do you need for items like outdoor sports equipment (skis, bikes, climbing gear, SUPs)? What about kid stuff (the pack-and-play, toys, and trikes)? Do you routinely bring along a generator, gas grill, or firewood? Consider both the volume and nature of your kit when determining if your tow vehicle has the capacity to haul your gear and personal belongings.
H2: Where do you spend your outdoor time?
Be sure that your tow vehicle can handle the terrain of your destination. If you love to answer the mountains’ call, a more-than-capable tow package is important. You may even want to consider diesel vehicles, which often do well pulling heavy loads up steep climbs. If boondocking is your thing, four-wheel drive might come in handy. A standard SUV or hybrid that can easily navigate urban streets could be perfect for Airstreamers with lighter models who frequently visit cities, towns, and tourist attractions.
H2: What other purposes will your tow vehicle serve?
Rarely is a car, truck, or van dedicated solely to towing. Think carefully about additional roles you might need it to play so you don’t ask too much of one vehicle. For example, will your tow vehicle double as your everyday drive? If so, you need to consider the demands of both tasks and look for something that comes closest to fulfilling both purposes. If you have a long commute, you may not be satisfied with the gas mileage you get from a truck capable of comfortably towing your Airstream. Do you want to carry kids or business associates in a van or SUV that’s habitually full of wood chips or smells like gasoline because you haul a generator a couple of weekends a month?
H2: Where can I talk to someone about my specific tow-vehicle situation?
For more insight on all the questions and issues above, talk to your nearest Airstream dealer. These experienced sales and service teams have the experience and knowledge to help a customer find the right tow vehicle for your dream trailer.
H2: What does all of the towing lingo really mean?
Once you’ve settled on the best type of vehicle – crossover, van, SUV, truck – for your needs, it is essential to understand and heed the following weight considerations and limits. As you assess your choices, remember that excess towing capacity is always better than barely enough. Your Airstream dealer and vehicle dealership can address all the nuances of these numbers for the Airstream units and tow vehicles you are considering. And car dealerships can fill-you-in on how various configurations – tow package, diesel engine, four wheel drive – will impact both your towing capacity and overall driving experience.
Generally, here are the basic definitions of the lingo you’ll see when exploring tow-vehicles.
Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) - This is the maximum allowable loaded weight of your tow vehicle or Airstream, as set by the manufacturer. GVWR includes the weight of passengers, cargo, and the vehicle itself. Exceeding the GVWR poses significant risks as it makes the vehicle difficult to control, slow, or stop.
Tow Rating - The vehicle manufacturer’s rating of the maximum weight that can safely be towed by a vehicle. Your RV’s GVWR should not exceed your Tow Vehicle’s Tow Rating.
Net Carrying Capacity (NCC) - The total weight that your Airstream can carry, including cargo and passengers. NCC does not include the weight of the unit itself. Never overload your Airstream. That excess weight can create a dangerous amount of inertia, making it difficult to stop. And, over time, those added pounds will take a toll on your tow vehicle’s brakes, suspension, frame, and engine.
Unit Base Weight (UBW) - Sometimes called “dry weight,” this is how much your Airstream weighed when it rolled off the assembly line – before you started putting stuff in it.
Hitch Weight (HW) - Also known as Tongue Weight, this is the amount of weight a trailer's tongue places on the tow vehicle’s hitch. Because the hitch is attached to the tow vehicle’s frame, exceeding your tow vehicle’s tongue weight rating will push down the rear of the tow vehicle, causing uneven weight distribution. This can result in difficulty steering, possible loss of traction, and trouble stopping. Hitch Weight can be influenced by the distribution of weight inside your Airstream. If you are bumping against your tow vehicle’s Hitch Weight limit, consider a weight distribution hitch, which can help level out your Airstream and tow vehicle. The Airstream hitch weight includes the batteries and propane tank weight.
Occupant and Cargo Carrying Capacity (OCCC) - This standard is applied to motorized RVs. The Occupant and Cargo Carrying Capacity is the maximum allowable weight for everything onboard the unit – people, pets, food, tools, full water, and LP tanks plus personal belongings.