Thinking small pays big dividends
By Mike Milne
For most boaters, “tow vehicle” means a beefy SUV or full-size pickup truck. But if you’re pulling an outboard-powered inflatable, aluminum fishing or utility boat, or a personal watercraft – and plan to use a well-maintained launch ramp – there are many other capable but less obvious tow vehicles.
If your boat, motor, trailer, fuel and gear add up to under 1,000 or 1,500 pounds, you can opt for a tiny tow vehicle that will cost less than $25,000 (new). Not only will it handle your weekend tow requirements, but also provide comfortable and economical family transportation the rest of the time and cost much less to buy, operate and insure. That means less time at work and more time on the water.
But you must be cognizant of tow ratings, which have less to do with the vehicle’s actual towing capability than its transmission’s ability to work without overheating. So many small cars could easily tow your small boat and motor or PWC, but only those that are rated can be used for towing without voiding the manufacturer’s warranty.
If the owner’s manual says the vehicle is not suitable for towing, don’t do it. That said, most small vehicles are actually capable of towing more than their rated weight. So don’t feel bad about coming as close to it as possible. If your load is close to the rated weight, consider buying a lighter trailer and fuelling up closer to the launch ramp or on the water (a full tank can add up to 100 pounds). If you are planning long hauls, add an aftermarket transmission cooler.