This is the single most popular question we get asked. Folks will watch our free video, where we demonstrate the sway control effectiveness of the Hensley Arrow by towing a 35′ Airstream at 45mph through a slalom course. Yes, the video is real. Despite accusations of Hensley being the only RV company with a hi-tech special effects video lab, everything in the video actually happened. In fact, most of us have towed some very large trailers with sedans and light trucks.
Does that mean you should hook up the Honda Accord to a 30′ trailer? Probably not.
The purpose of the Hensley Hitch is to give you more stability than possible with a conventional hitch. The projection of the pivot point allows your rig to behave with even more stability than a 5th-wheel. One of the issues we have with tow ratings is that they allow more weight with a 5th-wheel than with a travel trailer. Why? Stability. Weight is weight. Once you’ve taken stability out of the towing equation–which is what the Hensley Hitch does–you can tow a travel trailer that is equal in size and weight to a 5th-wheel.
You will hear folks from Hensley Mfg. speak often about trailer sway. Trailer sway is the #1 enemy of the trailer owner. Trailer sway has caused more accidents, destroyed more vacations, and taken more lives than any other danger the RVer may encounter. Eliminating–not controlling–trailer sway should be at the top of every potential trailer buyer’s checklist when they walk onto the dealer lot. If the RV industry did its job, no one would ever place more importance on the color of the curtains than in the sway control hitch. It would be like buying a car based on the interior color, then saving money by removing the brakes.
Yes, we’re that serious about it. You should be, too.
Travel Trailer Size
That brings us back to the question–how much trailer can I tow?
There is no hard and fast rule for this. It depends on several factors:
- Your vehicle’s tow rating. I never said this didn’t matter. It gives you a good starting point. You may be fine towing more. You may want to tow less. Remember, the advertised weight of a trailer is the “dry” weight. You’ll add about 1500 to 2000 pounds to that after you fill it with water and your collection of vintage cast iron.
- How many miles per year are you towing. The weekend warrior will probably tow less than a thousand miles per year. You are probably using the tow vehicle for daily activities and putting an additional 20-25k on the odometer every year. Believe me, that’s wearing down the vehicle more than the towing miles. Yes, you’ll replace parts sooner than if you didn’t tow at all, but that’s part of the cost. No trailer is weightless, so there really isn’t much difference on vehicle wear between a 5,000 trailer and an 8,000 pound trailer. Have the vehicle maintenance fund built up. Eventually, you’ll need it. Of course, if you plan on being a full-timer and putting 20,000 tow miles on your vehicle every year, you’ll want to beef up the vehicle, buy a lighter trailer, or just plan on spending more on maintenance. It’s all about planning.
- Your experience. This is probably the best method to determine what you can tow. After you’ve towed, parked, and lived in a trailer for a few years, you have a good idea of what you can handle. I mention parking because few take it into a consideration. A 30′ trailer and an extended cab pick-up equal to about 50′ of parking fun. When campgrounds say they have spaces for 30′ trailers, they apparently assume you don’t plan on bringing a tow vehicle with it. State Parks are notorious for 10′ wide roads in front of the sites, with many young saplings awaiting their fate as you swing the truck around. While the Hensley Hitch shortens that pivot by about 3 feet, you still need some space. Take that into consideration before you buy the Silverado crew cab with the 8′ bed.
Travel Trailer Size…do the Math
So it is a combination of several factors. Using myself as an example, I fall under the weekend warrior category (no, Hensley does not give us 6 months a year to “test” our products…still working on that). I have a Chevy Avalanche that has a tow rating of 7200lbs. My 33′ Sunnybrook has a dry weight of 7200lbs., so it weighs about 8500lbs. loaded. The truck tows the trailer easily. Parking with the short wheel based Avalanche is a dream. And yes, I have had to replace some axle components at a cost of about $700. This was after about 80,000 miles.
Here’s where you do the math. You can buy a 3/4 ton truck with a 6.0l engine for about an additional $10,000. You will use about $500 more gas every year as well. Was the trade-off worth it for me? Absolutely. Would a full-timer heading to Alaska be comfortable with the possibility of a breakdown somewhere in the Northwest Territories? I think probably not. I’m going with the 3/4 ton or the smaller trailer (and two spare tires).
The nice thing about full-timers and snowbirds is that most have been towing for a while. They know what the risks are and can make the buying decision based on a long history. Most first-time buyers are the weekend warriors. I always advise them to keep the trailer around 27′. I find those to have plenty of room, full slide-outs, and can easily fit into any public or private campground. With that starting point, you can determine where to go for your next trailer. The one I refer to as the “empty-nester.”
If you have any questions at all, we’re all RVers here at Hensley Mfg. We’ve all been towing for a minimum of twenty years, so we’ve got a pretty good database of knowledge. We’re happy to help. Give us a call at 1-800-410-6580.
See you under the awning.