When we decided to hit the road, Trail knew she wanted an Airstream. What we weren’t so sure about was what vehicle should we tow it with. This led me to do a lot of research, and there is a lot of information out there. Unfortunately, opinions were wide-ranging, and the advice wasn’t always clear.
I wanted to try and take everything I learned and help others make this decision with less stress and uncertainty. I hope you find it helpful!
You have two key considerations: safety, and features. Like a construction site, we are going to adopt the policy of “Safety first.” If your vehicle isn’t safe to tow the trailer, you should not consider it. Once you meet the minimum requirements, it comes down to what you want to do.
So we will look at safety considerations first, then I will talk about what kinds of vehicles you should consider and the advantages of each.
Your goal is to match the abilities of a tow vehicle with the demands of your trailer. I’m going to give you the basics up front, then explain the details if you are keen on learning more.
The numbers game
A few key numbers drive the basic question of “Can we tow that?” Let’s review them
Trailer – Gross Vehicle Weight Rating GVWR (Maximum Trailer Capacity): This is the maximum safe weight for your trailer and everything you load in it. If you load up your trailer beyond this value, you are not being safe. It consists of the trailers “Dry Weight” or Base Weight and its maximum cargo capacity. Cargo includes all the water in your tanks by the way and that stuff is heavy so be careful about overloading your trailer.
Trailer – Tongue Weight TW (Hitch Weight): This is the amount of weight your trailer puts on the tow vehicle when it is properly hitched. Because trailers are pretty evenly balanced this is nearly always 10%-15% of the GVWR of the trailer.
Need to know your Airstream’s weight? Check out this article for the details.
Tow Vehicle – Max Towing Capacity: This is the maximum trailer weight that the manufacturer deems safe for this vehicle to tow. A lot of factors go into calculating this: Engine torque, frame strength, tires, suspension, transmission, and axle ratio. For this reason, you need the towing capacity for a specific make, model, and trim of your vehicle.
Tow Vehicle – Max Payload: This is how much weight a vehicle can carry safely. More than this and you risk damaging the vehicle and creating unsafe driving conditions.
The Simple Equation
In a nutshell, you want a Tow Vehicle with a Max Tow Capacity that is greater than your trailers GVWR. (Max Tow > GVWR)
Provided you don’t load down your tow vehicle with lots of people or cargo, this equation should nearly always work out for you. That’s because the manufacturers try to design tow-capable vehicles such that they can safely tow X amount under normal conditions. Two people and normal camping gear and this equation should work out just fine. Super simple!
Some folks will say the simple equation is too simple. Their concern is that the tongue weighs, plus passengers, plus cargo in the tow-vehicle, may exceed the Max Payload of the vehicle even though the Max Tow is greater than the GVWR of the trailer.
It’s a valid concern, especially if you are traveling with a big family, or have a lot of gear loaded in the trailer or the tow vehicle. If you have more than a family of two adults and 2 kids and/or are packing some heavy loads, you should check your max payload.
Max Payload > (passengers + Cargo + Tongue Weight)
Your tow vehicle needs to have a towing package. Often vehicles you buy will already have this, but they can be added after the fact by a mechanic. A tow package should always include the following.
Hitch Reciever: The hitch receiver should be welded to the frame of the vehicle. You insert your ball mount into the hitch receiver and that secures the hitch itself. A ball mounted to the vehicle’s bumper is not good for towing an airstream.
Brake Controller: This device syncs the brakes on your tow vehicle with the brakes on your trailer. Don’t tow without one of these.
Optional Stuff: Vehicles meant to tow heavy loads will often have special gearing, suspension, tires, and other elements that enhance towing ability. They are factored in the Max Tow Rating. They are not essential in and of themselves.
Type of Tow Vehicle
There are three basic types of vehicles built for towing: Trucks, Vans, and SUVs. Nearly all of them are built on the same frame that trucks are built on. So their bones are the same, but the skins and guts are different. Each has its own advantages, disadvantages and considerations.
Trucks tend to be the gold standard for towing. They will have the highest Towing Capacity and can tow the widest range of trailers. Trucks will also be the cheapest of the three primary options pound per pound. Modern trucks come in a nearly bewildering variety of sizes and options and you could fill a book with truck vocabulary.
Most trucks made for towing include 4WD which makes them great off-road vehicles when you are not towing. If you want to do some backcountry camping where your Airstream won’t go, a truck makes a lot of sense. They are also good if you want to haul around heavier gear as they tend to have the highest Max Payload. But remember, if plan to haul around motorcycles or a lot of tools, pay attention to that Max Payload.
For our 30′ Airstream International Serenity, we went with a Ram 1500 Laramie V8. It did a great job towing for 3 years and took us on all kinds of awesome back country roads.
You may hear folks talk about 1/2 ton, 3/4 ton, and full ton pickups. These are largely archaic terms, all full-size trucks can carry far more than a ton these days. What you really care about are the Max Tow and Max Payload numbers. Large luxury cabs will tend to cut down on Max Towing and Max Payload.
Not everyone thinks about vans for towing, but they have some advantages over trucks. The big one being that they have a larger cabin. You can use it to transport more passengers or larger cargo items. They can also be used as a mini RV in and of themselves, allowing you to park your main trailer, then do some day camping out at remote spots where your trailer may fit such as in an urban or suburban area.
Cargo vans are generally set up for towing, though not always. Passenger vans sometimes are, but typically are not. The biggest vans can tow large Airstreams, but it can be a close call, and that means you need to pay closer attention to the Max Payload value, especially if you have more than two passengers or a goodly amount of gear. Adding passenger seats and passengers can add a lot of weight.
Airstreams are light enough that most of them can be towed with the right SUV. It needs to be an SUV that was designed for towing, typically, these are the SUVs built on a truck chassis. The biggest advantage of an SUV is their comfort. They typically have room for a full family to travel in style with great sound, tv screens, and full climate control. That can be a real blessing on a long drive.
The catch is that you need to be extra careful of the Max Payload of SUVs. They are heavy, to begin with, and they tend to be owned by large families, which often like to carry a lot of stuff. Packing it to the gills and towing a load right at your maximum may well overload the vehicle. Finally, not all of them have very much cargo room compared to a Truck or Van. If you are thinking about being a full-timer, this can be more of an issue than if you are just camping.
A bonus is that SUV’s tend to have much better safety records than Trucks and Vans. They are built for families and include every airbag imaginable. Newer SUVs tend to be equipped with collision sensors, 360 cameras, and other features that help you avoid accidents.
Trucks: Best at towing, Many options, Best value, Least seating
Vans: Most storage, Versatile, Watch your Max Payload
SUVs: Best safety, Most comfortable, Least Storage, Weakest towing, Most Expensive, Watch your Max Payload
Diesel vs Gas Engines
On most of these vehicles, you can get them with either Diesel or Gas engine. These days the differences are smaller than it used to be but it is worth some consideration. Neither is a bad choice. Here are the pros and cons of Diesel Engines.
- Better gas mileage
- Longer engine life
- More torque (pulling power)
- Higher maintenance cost
- Not every gas station has it (most do)
The Right Hitch
It is very important you also pick the right hitch for your Airstream. It must be a weight distributing hitch and it needs to be adjusted properly. Check out our Hitch Guide here.
After you get the Tow Vehicle and Hitch, there is a lot of other essential gear you will want to have for camping. If you’re curious, here’s our Airstream Toolkit.
Please feel free to ask any questions you might have. The more details you give me about the trailer and tow vehicles you are interested in the more accurate an answer I can provide.
axle ratio? LImited or non-limited slip differential? Still greek to me. Can you shed any light? Also on diesels, I heard once upon a time (I’ve never owned one) a con around cold-weather performance. I think it may have been trouble starting? Has this since been resolved (this was a decade or more ago)
Hello Hitch, I respect your opinion and enjoy your blog very much. I ask you this. I know the figures tell me it’s safe to tow a globe trotter 27FB with a Silverado 1500 powered with 3.0 liter Duramax diesel. I think my numbers are correct, GVWR for the trailer is 7600lbs and the max towing capacity of the Silverado 1500 in the crew cab, 4×4 configuration is 9200 lbs. My question is, will the Duramax engine easily handle that load, or will the engine be working hard all the time? I think it will, but what is your take on it I do run in the Rockies every year Thanks, Dan
I have a 2018 Silverado 1500 with a factory tow package, 5.3 V 8. We are looking at a 28 ft International Airstream Would this be enough truck?
Sorry for the terribly late reply. I’m in chemotherapy and it tends to keep me from my activities of old. Anyhow, after looking up the Silverado and the International you should be good. There are many different Silverado packages and they can impact towing, but most of the combinations should work. The one exception is if you have the smallest engine and biggest cabin available, then it falls a little short, but not by much so it’s probably still OK.
Thank you for your response! Hope all goes well for you !
I have the 5.3 V -8. With a factory towing package, so I think we’ll be fine also
Thank you again!
I have a number of concerns I’m hoping you can help me out with. We have a 19 foot airstream Bambi international (weight approx 3800lbs) and are pulling it with a Jaguar F-pace. The F-Pace has a towing capacity of 5291 lbs but the manual Indicates a tongue weight of only 385 lbs.
I was able to weight the tongue (with the two AGM batteries in place in the box). and the tongue weight was 660 lbs.
We have a weight distribution hitch and seem to have no trouble towing but am worried because of the low tongue weight capacity.
I greatly appreciate any input you can provide.
Hello Michael, I’ll do my best. 🙂
I’m surprised by the tongue weight on your Bambi. Airstream doesn’t list it on their site but they tend to run around 10-15% of the trailer’s weight. At any rate, I never recommend going over the limits outline by the manufacturer, but they do make those with the idea of erroring on the side of caution so folks do get away with exceeding them. The weight distribution hitch should help. If you have anything stored in the Bambi, you might try loading it towards the back of the trailer rather than the front. If it’s behind the wheels it’s going to lighten the tongue weight and if it’s forward from the wheels it will increase it. Moving it to the Tow Vehicle won’t help as then all that weight ends up on the TV’s suspension rather than some of it.
If you have had no issue, I’d say you could safely continue but set a yearly inspection of the hitch on the vehicle and the vehicle’s rear suspension just to make sure it isn’t sustaining any damage. Also I’d say avoid really rough roads and washboard as that could put extra strain on those components. (The vehicle’s suspension and balance along with the hitch frame are usually what the tongue weight capacity is determined by)
“Brakes” not “breaks”……..
Thanks Rodd got it fixed!
Are you aware of any negative issues with towing an Airstream with a DRW truck? We already own the truck and have no desire to downsize due to other trailer needs, but we want an Airstream and not a 5th wheel. I have not seen a DRW towing an Airstream so I’m wondering if there is a reason I haven’t considered.
I’m not aware of any issues with dual rear wheel trucks and towing airstreams. I’ve seen quite a few folks with DWR 350s towing airstreams. You may barely notice the airstream back there. 🙂
Just a small gripe, showing up all too often on the internet: the device on your vehicle made for stopping it is called BRAKE not a BREAK (which refers to something broken)!
Thanks Luis! I make that error all too often and of course, my spell checker is no help. I’ll get it fixed up.
I have a 2021 Toyota 4 Runner Trail Edition SUV with a built in tow package and I am interested in the 22 ft Bambi model.
These calculations are confusing. Do you think I will have any issues towing this Airstream? I am obviously new to this. Any suggestions would be helpful.
Appreciative of your time,
Hello Ideal. Sorry for the slow response but I was diagnosed with Acute Leukemia and it’s eaten up all my energy lately. But not to worry, I’m doing pretty well now.
So, the Toyota is rated to tow about 5,000lb. The Bambi’s maximum weight capacity is an exact match at 5,000lb. So you should be good and safe with this combination.
May your adventures be grand,
Typo – foom
Thanks kindly Rich!
Hi There Hitch.
I have a 2018 Honda Pilot SUV. I am interested in the 22 ft Bambi model.
I’m wondering what kind of gear to buy to tow this as the truck has no hitch on it yet.
Also kind of like the basecamp very cool. I live up in Canada and am retired. So would be curious as to
Which would suit cold weather living.
Hi Dan, Thanks for the question.
So, the basic gear you would be adding are:
1. A hitch mount & hitch receiver (usually these are packaged and installed together). It’s welded to the frame of the tow vehicle so you would have someone install it and they can also do the other components.
2. A brake controller. This is a device that sends a brake signal to the trailer when you press the brakes on your tow vehicle.
3. Lights connecter. This is a wire that you connect to the trailer so when the brake/turning lights turn on the vehicle, they also go on the trailer.
You can upgrade suspension, breaks, engine, and transmission as well but I’d say that falls outside the “gear” category.
You might also want some towing mirrors (they kind of clip-on your side mirrors to give them more viewing range).
As for cold weather… my research says that both are about the same in terms of being insulated. But, the Basecamp has wide wrap-around windows, and when we held up for cold weather we baffled all our windows. That would be a bit harder in the basecamp (but still quite doable I think). I’d say you are fine either way, but the Bambi might be a bit easier to button down for cold weather. (I tend to prefer the Bambi design, but mostly just based on aesthetics and trim).
Safe and Joyful travels,
We are looking at a 2004 Airstream Bambi and wondering if the 2021 Tacoma TRD Double Cab would be ok to pull it?
The Bambi in question has a GVWR of 3,500lb and the tow rating of the TDR is around 6,400lb depending on the trim. So, you should be A-OK with plenty of capacity to spare, a very easy tow. 🙂
Happy trails Robb. And sorry for the delay in replying, holidays have been hectic (but lovely) here.
Thank you Hitch for your great article. We are thinking of getting a smaller Airstream for cross country summer trips and your sage advice will make our choices less intimidating and more fulfilling.
I’ll throw in my 2 cents worth, though a lot depends on what you are looking for specifically. For smaller airstreams, I like traditional models more than the Basecamp. The basecamp is a bit cheaper and it makes a good toy hauler type trailer for adventure campers. Personally, I go for comfort and convenience and the more traditional styles are built around that. They seem to have streamlined their selection this year and for small trailers it’s either the Bambi or the Caravel. The difference is in the appliances, fixtures, etc… So the Caravel will have more stove burners, more robust electrical features, power jacks and the like. The bambi is a little more stripped down but still quite nice.
Personally, I’ve got a soft spot for the special editions like the 2019 Tommy Bahama that have the rear hatch. I’ve not had one, but for enjoying the view and fresh air it seems pretty amazing. They aren’t making one in 2020/2021 unfortunately so you would have to find a used one most likely. If I were looking to buy now this would be my personal first look. Were I going for a new, small airstream, I think I’d first look at the Caravel line. Bambi is cheaper, but if price is my aim I’d first look at used, late model Airstreams.
I hope that helps,
Thank you for a great article.
I own a 2020 Audi Q5 (4400 lbs towing capacity, 440 lbs tongue weight). I have been shopping around and got my eyes on the Bambi 19. The problem is that this trailer has GVWR of 5000 lbs. However, the dry weight is 3650 lbs. If I don’t fully load the trailer and stay just under the 4400 lbs, let say 4200 lbs, is this considered safe for long term towing? Also, I have seen small sedans and SUVs towing really big trailers. Does having the right towing accessories allow these smaller TVs to pull big trailers that exceed their towing capability?
Your welcome Kenny, thanks for the kind words and the question.
I think if you keep the trailer mostly empty and you tow with empty water tanks (easy enough to do), then it should be OK. You do need to also think about who’s in the car and what you pack. Just moving stuff from the trailer to the TV still puts weight and strain on the TV. The other advice I would give is to make sure you get regular maintenance on the Audi.
I base my recommendations on GVWR out of an abundance of caution and knowing folks can get relaxed over time with their precautions. So long as you stay aware that you are pushing the boundaries a little, I think you could be good with this combination.
When it comes to towing, I don’t think there are many accessories that make much impact. Weight distributing hitches are super important, but all my recommendations assume you’d be using one already. Its really inbuilt options on the cars that matter. Breaks, Suspension, Frame, and Engine. The hitch mount also matters but tends to match the frame on most cars with a listed towing capacity. So you can upgrade a car’s breaks and suspension to get better towing numbers. The frame and engine are a lot harder to change of course.
I hope all that helps,
Great site! I’m having a bit of cold feet…
We were about to purchase a 2019 Ford Expedition Max (towing cap. 9000lbs) and renting a few trailers to see what we like (although we found an airstream with bunks ~6500lbs w/batteries and lp)
I though this was a good plan for our family of 6 (wife and 4 kids) but my buddy who knows a good amount about towing says it’s a TERRIBLE idea to try and tow a 30ft 6500lb airstream with an the expedition. He is adamant that I should have a diesel f350 truck (would work for our family) and that we’ll kill our transmission in 5 years and it’ll be unsafe.
The convo has really put me on edge and I’m seeing our family RVing trips go out the window!
Thoughts? Thank you!
Sorry the truck would NOT work for our family
Hi Will, thanks for the questions. Sorry, there’s a bit of a delay getting back to you, it can take me a week or so sometimes.
So, I’ve found a lot of folks believe that unless you have a massive truck, you are doomed. Honestly, an F350 is overkill for towing even the biggest airstream at full weight. I towed my 30′ with a Ram1500 for two years full time with no problems of any kind in terms of towing or wear on the truck. But let’s get to your specific case since trucks won’t work for your family.
A family of 6 does pose some extra challenges. With two adults I’d say the 2019 Ford Expedition Max is fine for towing a 30′ Airstream. It doesn’t have a lot of wiggle room, but it’s a safe choice. That said, a family of 6 tends to mean more people weight and a lot more gear which can put a lot of extra strain on the Tow Vehicle. You won’t find a better SUV for towing so if you want to go in one car, it’s the best choice. Here’s what I would do to maximize safety.
1. Be obsessive about maintaining the breaks/suspension/engine on the Expedition.
2. Try to travel with empty water tanks in the trailer
3. Don’t go crazy packing for your trips especially with stuff that is really heavy
One other option is to caravan. You can drive the expedition with a couple of passengers, and your partner can follow in another car with the rest and some of the gear. It can be nice to have a smaller car along on the trip sometimes as well and its super handy should you run into any difficulties on the trip.
I hope that helps and doesn’t come too late to be useful.
Safe travels to the whole crew!
We found your hitch website/blog so helpful! We are very grateful. But we have a question…
We are looking to purchase a 2016 Chevy Express 3500 to tow an airstream with a weight distribution system.
The Chevy has the following tow specs:
TWR of 5000lbs without tow weight distribution
TWR of 9300lbs with tow weight distribution
The hitch that is currently installed on the Chevy has weight rating of 6000lbs.
Is this adequate if we have a weight distribution system, or should we have new hitch installed with a +10,000lbs tow rating?
Stacy and Gabe Neal
College Station TX
Happy to help! I think the Chevy Express 3500 should have no problems with towing the vast majority of airstreams. (A lot depends on what size airstream you are looking at.)
You always want to use weight distribution with an Airstream so go with the higher tow value. My own research backed up that value.
I’m a little concerned about the rating on the hitch itself. If it’s only rated for 6K, that might be too low for the 23’+ airstreams. I’m a little surprised by the number. Normally the factory hitch reciever is going to be rated for the same towing capacity as the vehicle itself. You may want to have a place that does hitch installation take a look and confirm the numbers to see if you need to upgrade or reinforce the hitch reciever. It’s a good idea to know about what weight the trailer will be, so think about what size airstream you are interested in to get a ballpark.
Best wishes and safe travels!
Looking to purchase a 23 Airstream 6000# max. Wife doues not want a truck. Any suggestions for a tow cihicle
hi, nice article.
I have a 1994 range rover classic county long wheel base
I want to know if I can safely tow a 2018 airstream flying cloud.
I googled this info
Tow Capacity for a 1994 Rover Range Rover County:
Year Make Tow Capacity
1994 Rover 5500 lb
Notes: Maximum tow rating without trailer brakes is 1650 lbs. Maximum rating when towing on the highway is 7700 lbs. Maximum off-road tow rating is 2200 lbs.
can you advise?
Hi Chris, Thanks for the question.
I did some digging on the 1994 Range Rover country as well. I got a few different outcomes, but 5500 looks like a good number. I saw as high as 6500 and as low as 4000.
The smallest flying cloud is 23″ and has a GVWR at 6,000lb so the Rover is a little shy even in prime shape. Yours has got 25 years on it, but a lot depends on breaks, suspension, and engine. If all these are in good shape, then you can go with the factory figures I think. If any of them are in need of service, then it would be wise to get them fixed up.
I think you could get away with this if you are traveling with two people and tow with empty tanks whenever possible and your breaks, suspension, and engine maintenance is up to date. I can’t quite recommend it, but I think you could do it without much worry. If you have a big crew you are camping with, I’d look for a higher capacity tow vehicle, something closer to the 6500 for the 23″ cloud, 9,000 if you want to tow a 30″ cloud.
Hey I see you talk a lot about trailer weight and vehicle weight ratings but not much about max tongue weight.
I’m looking at a 2021 GMC Yukon with tow capacity of 8,000lbs and max tongue weight of 800lbs. Vehicle has max tow package. Towing a 27’ FB airstream Globetrotter Max at 7600lbs. Tongue weight of trailer estimated at 900-1000lbs. Blue ox sway pro hitch
What can be done about the vehicle tongue weight at 800lbs A new hitch receiver ??
Hi Tom, thanks for the question!
I tend not to get into tongue weight as Airstreams run about 10%-15% tongue weight very consistently, and it’s rarely a factor that impacts a tow vehicle’s decision. Airstream doesn’t always list the tongue weights so it can be a challenge to find them sometimes. (but in your case it looks like it is an issue, so sorry about that!)
Tongue weight is usually a factor of suspension and frame. The upgrade on the Youkon is mostly engine so I suppose it makes sense the tow number goes up but the tongue weight capacity stays about the same. Normally the frame isn’t a problem.
I’d say you are probably fine, but you should have the suspension checked from time to time to make sure all is looking good. It’s also possible to get the hitch reciever reinforced or replaced if you want some extra security there.
I hope that helps,
Thank you for educating us all about GVWR and max tow. Considering buying a new Airstream — size would be either a Base Camp 16′ or a Bambi, up to 19′. We need to purchase a tow vehicle as my car is a Mini! Looking to buy an SUV; could you recommend a few makes/models? I know about the Jeep Grand Cherokee; are there others?
Hi Roxane, Thanks for the question. Unfortunately, this one is a bit beyond my expertise at the moment. I haven’t been following the latest SUV models and the like. It’s something I probably should do but it will take some time to do the research. Generally, the Ford Expedition is almost always the leader in towing capacity for SUVs and can handle the midsized airstreams very well, even up to the 30′ models if you don’t carry too much cargo.
I’ll buckle down and look into putting together an article looking at recent model SUVs, but it will take a fair bit of time before I have it ready to publish.
I am trying to determine if I will be able to park an airstream 2020 serenity 27FB in my driveway. It would be towed by a ford F-150.
The street in front of my house is a 2-lane straightaway that is 20′ wide and my curb-cut to the house is 12′. The traffic on the street is minimal so I would be able to swing out into the “other” lane.
Do you think it could be done?
Hi Peter, thanks for the question.
This one is a bit tricky to answer. Generally, I’d say yes. I’ve parked at a number of my friend’s homes and in a few cases had to get into a driveway directly from a two-lane road at a 90-degree angle. That said, without seeing or measuring everything, I can’t say for sure. One key factor is that when a trailer bends the joint tends to push out a fair distance. (imagine bending a straw but keeping both ends of the staw in the same plane. The bend sticks out a way.) When you are taking a sharp turn in the trailer this also happens so if you have a really narrow driveway lined by rocks or trees, it can make things nearly impossible. If you can push out past the edge of the driveway to either side, or the driveway is two lanes wide, it’s pretty easy to maneuver.
For the road, I strongly recommend having a spotter out of the vehicle with a radio or phone to guard against traffic and keep you informed of what’s happening. It both gives you some peace of mind, and it can help avoid any big problems.
If you really want to plan before committing, I recommend making a scale paper model of the area and the truck-trailer. (2-D works fine)
I hope that helps.
Safe and happy travels,
I hope you don’t mind another tow vehicle / RV combination question! We have 2014 GMC Acadia (towing capacity 5200) and looking at a 2008 Airstream 23D International CCD (I believe the gross weight is 6000). Would this work? Thank you for your consideration.
Hi Mel, I’m always happy to field questions. (it does take me a week or so sometimes to get to them, so sorry for the delay.)
Well, I can’t recommend it. I tend to go with the guidelines on the vehicles. I double-checked and your numbers look right so I’d say that’s not a fail-safe combination.
You could probably do it, but it’s going to be hard on your Acadia and if the suspension or breaks fail, that’s very bad times. You will also get more sway than you might like and may find power underwhelming going uphill. They put some margin in the numbers they publish, but that’s why I feel comfortable using them as a litmus test. Once you go past them, you really don’t know what will happen.
I’m very happy you take the time to reply to newer comments from an older article you did. Bravo!
What was the door sticker payload for your Ram? And what was the hitch weight of the camper? Forgive me if I missed this info.
But beyond calculator stuff, how were the brakes on the 1500? Were you comfortable doing mountain passes with that truck? I was not sure how that part was for you. Whether you felt the trailer was driving you down hill or if you were comfortable. Thanks!
Hi Edward. Thanks for the kind words, happy to help folks. 🙂
My poor ram got crushed by a drunk driver. 🙁 The Towing capacity was 1100lb but I’m not sure of its cargo rating.
Breaking was never a problem provided I had the calibration on the brake controller dialed in. If I didn’t have the brakes strong enough on the trailer, I’d get a little push from it going downhill but it never destabilized the truck, I could just feel it shoving a little as I decelerated. I tried to use gear breaking when I could, but it was rarely strong enough on its own so I’d have to use breaks as well. But I tried to get as much out of the gearing as I could to go easy on my breaks. And we had them checked pretty religiously. Overall, it was comfy. 🙂 Mind you, I think my 1500 was basically as beefy a 1500 as you could get in a 1500 in 2015.
Hey Hitch! I’ll try and keep it short and to the point. I have a 2017 KIA Sorrento, AWD the manual tells me the GVWR is 5000 lbs. II like what I hear and read about Airstream, but getting a lot of mixed signals from dealers on the size of trailer I should buy 🙂 I like what I read about you, those you have helped, so here I am. My wife likes the Bambi 20 FB. Your thoughts would be greatly appreciated. Still working at 82 want to take a little breather don’t have a whole lot of money stashed, so I want to be cautious. Thanks again and blessings to you and yours!
Hi Daniel, Thanks for the kind words. 🙂 GVWR is different from Towing Capacity. It’s important to check that again to be sure. GVWR is Gross Vehicle Weight Rating, its the total weight of car and passengers and cargo a vehicle can handle before it gets potentially unsafe. Towing Capacity is how large a load it can safely tow. I match the Towing Capacity of the Tow Vehicle to the GVWR of the Trailer to see if its a safe match.
That said, Some models of the KIA Sorrento can tow 5,000lb (the AWD LX V6, the AWD EX V6, the AWD SX V6, and the AWD LIMITED V6) basically all the V6 engine models with AWD.
The 20′ Bambi’s GVWR is exactly 5,000 so its right on the line for that Tow Vehicle. I think with the smaller trailers that’s no worry and it should be a good match. You may want to travel with empty water tanks to be on the safe side for weight. (I generally recommend traveling with dry tanks anyway.)
I am looking at a 1981 Airstream International 27’. I have a 2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee with the 3.6L V6 and factory tow package. Do you think my Jeep will have enough to tow? Thanks in advance.
In addition, it has 4WD.
Hi Johnathan. The Jeep is about 1K underweight for the 27′ airstream. That model has a towing capacity of 6,200lb and the 27′ Airstream’s GVWR is 7,300. The largest Airstream it can handle would be a 23′ model which comes in at around 6,000 GWR depending on the trim.
A huge “Thank You” for your help. I believe we’ve actually narrowed down to a 2004 25’ International that a cousin is parting ways with. Do you think we’d be ok for a short distances (<50 miles) when we pick it up (dry) and bring it home? Will be upgrading our TV soon. The Jeep has 4WD and factory IV hitch.
Jeep’s are not in the high towing capacity range unless you have a Grand Cherokee, if you have one of those and the towing package then it should be OK. Otherwise…
Personally, considering the cost of the airstream and your Jeep, I’d rent a tow vehicle to make the move to be on the safe side. If you feel really confident towing you may well manage it without incident, but I wouldn’t want to take that level of risk.
Any hope for Volkswagen Tiguan 2018 SE?
Manual says 1500 lbs max. 🙁
Hi Ash, I’m afraid there’s no hope there. You have to be in the 3,500lb towing club to tow even the smallest Airstream safely. At 1,500lb you are looking at lightweight teardrop trailers only.
You are so kind to answer everyone’s questions in depth, you are a wealth of knowledge! I am wondering if you could help me – we have a Infiniti QX80 and are looking to pull a 30ft Airstream. There would be 5 people (3 adults and 2 kids) for 3 months, so we would have a significant amount of items… What do you think?
Hi Erin. Thanks for the kind words, it does mean a lot! I’m happy to help folks as best I can. So the QX80 is a pretty amazing SUV in my opinion. I looked at one pretty seriously myself. It’s a little underpowered for a 30ft airstream. The QX80 can tow about 8,500lb and a 30′ flying cloud has a GVWR of 8,800lb. The SUVs also suffer a bit in their max load rating which means when you add in a full load of passengers the suspension and breaks are sorely tested. The good news is if you can go with the 28′ then it shaves off more than 1,200lb from the GVWR and you should be in pretty good shape so long as you keep the gear reasonable. The other option would be to caravan: tow the 30′ with the QX80 and a minimal load, then have others driving in another vehicle with more of the gear.
I hope that helps,
Hi. Great article. I have a 2007 27 FB Signature International. What is your current favorite towing vehicle?
Hi Deanna. Thanks for the kind words.
I can’t say I’ve got personal experience with many different tow vehicles. I loved my 2013 Ram 1500 Laramie dearly. I’ve got nothing at all bad to say about it and I’d buy another in a heartbeat if I wanted a new tow vehicle. It worked like a dream and was super comfortable. But, I can’t really compare it to much else. When I was researching my first Tow vehicle, all the American made truck brands had great reputations. They all have their fans and all of them get high marks from professional reviewers. Any of the big truck brands (Ford, Chevy, Ram) will be a safe choice. I hear Toyota’s are good too, but they tend to be priced a little higher for what you get due to the heavy tariffs they have to pay.
Hello! My wife and I will be purchasing a Flying Cloud 23, with a GVWR of 6000. We are looking at 2 possible tow vehicles….first is a Toyota Tacoma, 4×2, 3.5L engine, towing capacity of 6700 lbs….and the second is a Ford F-150, also 4×2, 3.5L engine, and I believe the stated tow capacity is 7100 (hard to tell from the Ford website, and I haven’t yet spoken with any salesperson). What are your thoughts? Are there potential long-term problems with towing with the Tacoma, which would work on paper but would put us closer to the towing limit? Thank you very much! Love your info and advice!
Hello Mike, thanks for the question.
I think at that point you would want to go with the one you like driving the best. I don’t think the towing difference will matter a lot. You may find the Ford is going to do better going up mountain passes. I’m a pretty slow and patient driver so it was never a concern for me, but some folks get annoyed when they can’t power up the hills at cruising speeds.
As a brand, I like Toyota, they are great quality vehicles IMO. Their disadvantage is they pay a big tariff on all their trucks so they can’t offer as much value per dollar as the American manufacturers can, so head to head on price, they are often a little less powerful or featured.
Best wishes on your future adventures!
Thank you very much for your input. I believe that I ,too, am a slow , and hopefully patient, driver. I guess it’s pretty much down to these 2 vehicles. I’d like to get the one with the best mileage. I’ve only towed small campers and boats previously, so this will be a new experience. Any idea what mileage one might expect with this towing combination? 10-15? 15-20? Again, thank you very much!
Looking at a Ford 150 4×4 King Ranch or the Limited. Pulling a airstream Cloud, what do I need in this truck to tow tis trailer?
The high-end packages for the F150 can tow any Airstream. If you go with the 3.5L Ecoboost engine, you will have no problem with any Airstream you want to tow. The 2.7L Ecoboost is good for Flying Clouds up to about 25′ in length.
I hope that helps,
I wish this was true.
A new Lariat 4×4 super crew 3.5L F150 with max trailer tow package and max GVWR package (7,350 lbs) has a door sticker that says “max payload 1,392 lbs”. A 30ft Flying Cloud with 10% tongue weight (880 lbs) will leave you with 512 lbs of payload. At 185 lbs each, you will already exceed your payload carrying 3 adults (with zero cargo…)
I have a 2013 Toyota Sequioa 4×4 and we are considering purchasing a used Airstream 27FB. From what I found the Toyota has a max tow of 7400 and the airstream max weight is 7600. Should I go with a smaller trailer? Could this work? The toyota has upgraded suspension and looking at a reese hitch. thank you
Hey Albert, Thanks for the question. I try not to “officially” recommend anything below the max tow weight listed, but personally, I think you have enough wiggle room there if you feel confident in your driving and the condition of your vehicle. The more folks traveling with you and the more gear you want to bring, the more I’d recommend against it. But if it’s you and one other and you don’t pack a ton of stuff, maybe tow on empty tanks (which is generally a good idea) and you should be fine I think.
I hope that helps with the decision.
Hitch….we are now pretty sure we’ll get a new F-150 with a 3.5L eco-boost engine. The trailer will either be a 6000lb Flying Cloud or a 6300lb Globetrotter. What are your thoughts and ideas about this combination? Thank you vey much
I think that will work out really well. I’m a big fan of the EcoBoost engines. Ours had great torque and it saved fuel when we weren’t towing.
Need to the specs for a F-150 4×4 King ranch or a Limited?
Hi Patrick, You can find the specs for the 2020 version here: https://www.ford.com/trucks/f150/models/f150-king-ranch/
The towing depends on the engine type and drive train. It can be as low as 5,000lb or as high as 12,000lb. That’s a huge difference so you will need to know that information to see what you can tow safely.
I hope that helps,
HI Hitch! We are looking at purchasing a 16FB Bambi Airstream and are really unsure if the towing capability on our Lincoln MKC crossover will cut it. I talked to Lincoln and they indicated that the towing capacity according to our VIN is 3000 lbs. Is this too close based on the weight of that trailer? I get confused with the different weights they show and what we would need to add on that would count toward the 3000 lbs. We are a family of 3.
Hi Amy. I looked up your vehicle and everything I could find pointed at 3,ooolb maximum towing (when properly equipped) also. The lightest trailers Airstream sells have a GVWR of 3,500lb. Those are the two numbers I use for my recommendations.
GVWR is the most weight your trailer can handle (including the trailer itself and anything you put in it when traveling). Any more than that and the trailer could become unsafe. I use that as my measure to stay safe in making recommendations.
So, I don’t recommend that combination. Even if the trailer were completely empty (no water, no supplies etc..) it would only be at the very outside limit of what would be considered safe.
Sorry I couldn’t give better news! Safe travels. 🙂
Hi, I have a 2020 Jeep Wrangler 2 Door Willys with the 3.6L V6 engine. I’m wondering if I can safely tow a 2020 16′ Airstream Bambi which has a dry weight of 2,900 lbs and a GVWR of 3,500 lbs.
Hi Ernie. Looking into that Jeep the news is not so good. The 4 door version of the Willy (and similar Jeeps) is rated for 3,500lb towing. So that would be right on the border. But, the 2 door model is only rated for 2,000lb. I did some more reading on this. The reason is that the 2 door is shorter, lighter, and has less powerful suspension. Shorter tow vehicles are less stable than longer ones, and the suspension is important for towing also.
So for the 4 door I’d say you are good, but since you have the 2 door, I can’t recommend it. Airstreams are a bit on the heavy side compared to something like a teardrop or small fiberglass trailer.
I recently read this as well: When you upgrade to the 5.7L HEMI® V8 engine, you can enjoy a towing capacity of up to 7,400 pounds.
Some extra torque is always nice! The tow rating takes a bunch of factors into account, engine power is one, also suspension, body length, frame, brakes. For safety, brakes and then suspension are the most critical. We had a Hemi engine on our Ram truck and it was great! As Carl mentioned, if you are planning on hitting the mountain passes, you might find the “on the border” engine is unsatisfying. Personally, I drive pretty slow when I’m towing (basically at or a little under the speed limit, especially on inclines).
Hi — I am looking at the airstream flying cloud 25′ which has a GVWR of 7300, and was looking at a new Jeep Grand Cherokee v8 (top of the line) which has a towing capacity of 7200. It looks like I’m right on the line — do you think it will be okay, assuming we keep the water tanks low/empty? I have a family of 5 (two adults, three small children).
I think you are pushing it with a Jeep Grand Cherokee. I have a 27FB Flying Cloud. I tow with a 3/4 ton which I think is overkill. I might drop down to an F150 which will tow 13000 lbs. In your case, you are on the brink of being over weight. The real issue comes when you have to stop, especially in a hurry. I would not trust any medium sized SUV to stop a 25 foot trailer, especially in an emergency situation.
You would be MUCH better off upgrading to a full size SUV or maybe even an F150 super cab. I have been towing for years and nothing is worse than going up a hill at 40 miles an hour because you don’t have enough ooomph to pull your trailer.
This is just MY opinion. But I am pretty sure any Airstream service advisor would tell you the same.
Good luck. You are going to LOVE the Airstream. They really are the BEST.
Thanks for the reply. I was actually looking at a Dodge Durango which has a towing capacity of 8700. I could then upgrade to the 28’ airstream. Thanks for the feedback!
Thanks for sharing your advice Karl. I think its wise. They might be able to get an upgraded brake package as well.
Which F150 can tow 13000 lbs? Is it a diesel?
No, it is not a diesel. It is their 6 cylinder eco engine. It has a ton of power and though I didn’t tow with it, it went up mountain passes with absolutely no problem. It ran way better than the V8 Ford F150 I had at one time.
In fact I am debating going back to the F150. I now tow my 27FB with an F250 turbo diesel. I think it is overkill. I
If you exercise caution you are probably OK, but… I try not to actually recommend things that are over the line. They make those guidelines to try and be “plenty safe” so there is probably some wiggle room. Try to be extra careful about not overloading the Jeep or going too fast etc…
Hitch, thank you for the helpful and informative article (and website). We are a family of five and buying our first Airstream. We’ve decided to go big and buy a Flying Cloud FB30 Bunk. Challenge we’re having is which vehicle to buy. We want an SUV and not a truck. But the FB30 Bunk having a Unit Base Weight of 6,557lbs and a Maximum Trailer Capacity (GVWR) of 8,800lbs, finding an SUV has been challenging. Do you have any recommendations on a new or used SUV capable to effectively towing the FB30 Bunk? An SUV capable of handling the Rocky Mountains. Thank you!
Happy to help as much as I can Brian.
There aren’t many options that have 8,800 towing capacity or better. And since you have a family of 5, you want to error on the side of bigger is better.
Basically there are two SUV lines that have around 9K towing capacity: the Ford Expedition and the Lincoln Navigator.
They are actually almost the same SUV, the Lincoln is the luxury model of the two but they use the same frame and the same engines most of the time so they have a very similar towing capacity. For both, you need to get the “Heavy-duty towing package” to get to a place where they can safely tow the 30′ airstream.
Stepping down to 8,000 and there are far more choices. That said, from the reviews I looked over, the Expedition has a good reputation overall for being reliable, comfortable, and powerful. Most reviews recommended the Expedition over Navigator on a value basis. Of course, if it’s used, the difference will be less drastic.
Hi Hitch, I’m hoping I can piggyback on this question. I’ve used your responses to hone in on the 2020 Ford Expedition standard length, 4×4 w the tow package to tow our 30’ Flying cloud. Tow rating is 9200 which covers the 8800 GVWR of the trailer and I’m covered on the tongue weight as well. The concern I have is on the 15500 GCVR. With five passengers and a dog plus hitch weight fully loaded we’ll have a small clearance without additional cargo in the tow vehicle to not exceed max payload, but we would exceed GCVR by 750 lbs. Do you think we’ll be ok if we just make sure we keep under say 8000 lbs in tow? We should be able to do that pretty easily with the tanks dry. Brian if you see this and have any experience from last year please let me know!
Hi Tim, piggybackers welcome. 🙂
I think you can manage this, but I’d expect you will be riding a bit low and it’s going to feel a bit slow and heavy driving, especially on steep grades and the like. Over flat country highways, no problems. But try to be careful to plan routes, especially when in city limits, that avoid stop signs on steep hills and the like. (Not easy to do in cities like my native Seattle) On a mountain pass, that’s not really so bad provided the weather is favorable. Basically, you should be fine, but just keep in mind you are putting about the maximum safe strain on your new TV so be gentle with her and keep the maintenance up on everything.
Safe travels and grand adventures for your whole crew!
We have a 27FB Airstream that I tow from Phoenix to Vermont and back again yearly. I currently have a 2019 F250 Diesel that easily pulls the trailer. However, this is a large truck to drive the other 50 weeks a year. So I want to go with a 2019 F150 V6 gas engine.
My question: the towing capacity of the truck is 13000 lbs and the Airstream is about 8600 loaded (with cargo, water, propane etc).
I have heard different tales. Some folks tell me not to go to the F150 and others tell me the F150 is more than fine to take over the Rocky Mountains.
What do you think? Will the F150 get the job done without a white knuckle driving experience.
I look forward to his reply, as I have just sold my 25 ft A/S for a 30ft FC A/S And the different responses from A/S dealer and others is overwhelming. My A/s weighs in at 8800lbs. With a F150 and the 3.5 engine along with max tow package towing vehicle has capacity of just over 13,000lbs. Or should I do overkill and get a F250 diesel?
Hi Jeffrey, My view is that provided you are not over-loading your vehicle, the tow ratings and GVWR numbers are your best guide for towing travel trailers. It’s simple and it’s why those numbers are published with a full mind to not being liable if you ignore them and things go wrong.
Some folks have an extreme, “better safe than sorry” mindset and a perception that a 150 is a “half-ton” or “consumer” pickup and therefore no good for heavy loads. I think the former is somewhat reasonable (though I think following the recommended guidelines is playing it safe) but the latter is nonsense.
Hi Karl, First of all, sorry for the overly late reply.
You can count me in the “will get the job done” camp. I towed a 30′ Airstream for three years with a Dodge 1500 V6 eco-boost. I had no problems what so ever with towing and my tow rating was lower than yours would be. We crossed the Rocky mountains twice. You won’t fly up the mountainsides but it won’t feel like a struggle either.
Happy new year,
Hi Hitch. We are in the final stages of purchasing a 2019 AS International Signature 23FB. Our towing vehicle is a 2019 Audi Q7. Audi says not to use a weigh distributing hitch. What hitch could we use? Do you recommend this TV?
I did some reading on this topic for you. It’s a great vehicle, but it does have some challenges with respect to the towing. The way the hitch is attached to the car means that too much downward force can cause problems. This is why they warn against a weight distributing hitch. The problem is this can lead to more trailer sway if the load is not even.
The recommended solution is to use an aftermarket sway bar system. Sway bars stiffen the connection with the hitch. Here is an example, you would need two of these and possibly a mounting bracket: https://amzn.to/2NrBS9E
So, it’s not ideal, but I think it can work for you safely. Other Audi drivers reported towing airstreams this wan and were satisfied with it, but they didn’t say exactly what model airstream they had.
Hey Hitch. We just purchased a 27’ globetrotter and are looking for a tow vehicle. Currently looking at a Chevy Tahoe 4WD. The RV will have a brake controller, weight distribution hitch and sway control installed. Trailer package to be installed on the Tahoe if purchased. What are your thoughts?
Hi Michele. Firstly, so sorry for the very late response. It’s probably a bit too late to be helpful but…
You should be fine. If you have the upgraded engine on the Tahoe, its no problem. If you have the regular engine, you are still in the safe zone, but cutting it a little closer. Just watch out how heavy you load up the Tahoe and trailer and you should be fine.
Happy new year,
Hey Hitch! I am starting research on a tow vehicle, preferably an SUV instead of a truck, that I would be able to tow a 16′ Bambi Caravel. I have read that FWD would not be good for towing, but am at a loss on which ones to look at. Plus, I am looking to store my mountain bike and road bike upright in said SUV, instead of a Jack-It rack.
I have just started looking at the 2019 Airstream Bambi 19 ft. I have a 2017 Toyota Tacoma TRD Sport V6 4×2
Will my Tacoma be safe toeing the 19ft.
Las year I towed a 24′ airstream from Canada to Mexico and back with a 2017 Tacoma Sport 4 by 4- but mine was a manual which helped. You should be fine – I think GVWR was 6400lb on mine.
I was worried towing through some mountain passes but it was fine. Was an awesome trip!
Hello I read and look around as can….
Right now we are working on plan get new trailer… Size wil be 30 to 35…. Ilb…. Around 6000 to 9000….
Just me n wife n son n one dogs……
So which ia best get truck of
Chevy Silverado 1500 or 2500
Dodge ram 1500 or 2500???
Ofc will have thing in truck n trailer too…..
Also I look truck n try undy is how i know this ia great all tow package like brake n other aldreay in truck???
Can i look used truck like 2000 to 2014???
Not look brand new smile….
Hope undy n hear ya soon
Hi Nestor, thanks for the question.
If you buy from a dealer, they should be able to tell you the towing capacity and if it has a towing package.
If you buy from a private seller, you can ask them, but they may not know those details. You will have to look it up. Most 1500 and 2500 trucks will have a basic tow package but they might not have a break controller. You can get that installed if you don’t have it to start with.
I think all the American Trucks are pretty comparable. I owned a Dodge Ram and I really liked it but my reading didn’t show important differences between the brands. The imports are good too, but they almost always cost more for the same payload so I don’t recommend them to American buyers.
I hope that helps.
Hi, Hitch, Thanks for this blog, it’s both informative and entertaining!
We’re close to buying a new Globetrotter 27FB. There aren’t any first-runner-ups, that’s just the right trailer for us. Really, the only thing holding us back is indecision about our existing TV. We own a 2016 Sierra 1500 4WD crew cab SLT with 5.3L V8 and a GVW rating of 7,200 pounds.. We have a “trailering equipment package” but not the “max towing package”. If–IF–I read the table in the manual correctly, the tow rating MAY be 9,100 pounds. We plan to install a weight distribution hitch, probably ProPride. It will be just two of us but we’ll retire soon and will haul enough gear for multi-week trips.
So, will the 1500 serve our needs? Or do we start the hunt for a brawnier TV?
I think you are probably fine with your existing TV. The GVWR is around 7,600 on your trailer. That’s a little over your vehicles towing capacity, but you always have the option of not running with full water tanks which should lighten the load a fair bit. So long as you play it safe driving, I think you will be OK.
Since you already own the vehicle, I’d say go for it to start with and if you feel like its more than the engine or suspension can handle, then upgrade. I suspect you won’t have any problems though.
Hitch I’m a bit confused (easily done) – especially with all the numbers floating around.
We are also looking at an Airstream 27-foot Globetrotter (GVWR 7,600 lbs.). We have a 2015 Ford Lariat 4×4 Supercrew, 145” wheelbase, 3.55 axel ratio, 5.0L V8 with 6 speed auto and a tow package. The manual’s Trailer Towing Selector page lists our towing capacity at 9,100 lbs., however the GVWR of the vehicle is 7,000 lbs. It’s just my wife and myself who will be traveling – do we need a more powerful truck? If so, why does Ford list maximum trailer weight at 9,100 lbs.?
You should be fine. Compare the GVWR of the trailer to the Towing Capacity. You have a great margin for error there and should have no problems.
the GVWR for the truck is basically how much downward force the suspension can handle on your truck. That includes the weight of the truck and the downward force from anything on the hitch (and any cargo you have in the truck). But your truck isn’t carrying the whole trailer, just a portion of the weight pushes down on the hitch (called tongue weight), about 10% of the trailer weight for most trailers if you have a weight distributing hitch. Normally this is no problem, but… if you have lots of passengers and lots of cargo, then the tongue weight could push you over the trucks GVWR. It’s worth knowing about, but unless you really load up your truck, its probably not a problem.
We purchased a 23’AS International Sigature FB and am looking at pickups for our towing vehicle. The 2019 Toyota Tundra Platinum Crew Cab Short Box 5.3 V8 when compared to other 1/2 ton’s has terrible fuel economy, but does have a huge rear end of 4.3 has comes supplemental engine oil cooler, supplemental transmission cooler. While the 2019 GMC Sierra 1500 Denali Crew Cab Standard Box has better fuel economy, but has a 3.23 rear end and no supplemental cooling. We live in western Oregon and to travel out of the valley we have to climb mountain passes to the west in excess of 3,000 feet or to the east in excess of 6,ooo feet. Both trucks state they have the towing capacity to pull or trailer, the Tundra has the supplemental cooling and the larger rear end and less fuel economy and creature comforts, but will get the job done -but is it really that much of a better towing truck than the GMC which lacks supplemental cooling and a much smaller rear end? I’d like to read your opinion of the pros and cons of the Denali as a tow vehicle for us.
Hello Hitch…I have a new 2019 Fly Cloud 30FB Bunk which is has the same weight specs as your Airstream. I am currently looking for a new truck and so far the Toyota Tundra and the Ram 1500 are the finalist. My family really enjoy the space and confort of the Ram 1500. I was doing the math and my family of 5 will add up to 400 lbs now but as the kids get older it will add to probaby 550LBs. Do you see any issues with the RAM? I see you used it for 3 years. Can you please tell me more about your experienced with going downhill on the roads and uphill? I’m also considering the Ram 2500 for that extra power. thanks
With the big family, you might want to with 2500 to be totally no-worries safe but I suspect you would do fine with the 1500 (provided its got one of the big engines). Between my wife and I, were around 550lb for the two of us so that would be about equal. We traveled fairly light in terms of gear, but we were also full time so we had some things normal folks wouldn’t carry for camping. We had no trouble in 3 years time with the Ram 1500. It ran beautifully and never had any troubles. We crossed a lot of mountain passes without any drama. I was a sad fellow when it got totaled by a drunk driver.
Best wishes and safe travels!
Thank you for the information Hitch and very sorry to hear about getting totaled. It is a shame to hear drunk driving causing harm to others. What are you driving now? you were full time by driving all the time around the Country? or would stay long periods at a given place? Which Engine you had? thanks for all your info!
Thanks Christian, I’m happy to try and help.
I don’t have any car right now, I’m traveling in Japan and its very expensive to drive here, while the trains are really inexpensive. So we just rent when we need a vehicle. We couldn’t bring our Airstream as it was just too big for Japan and there are almost no RV camping places here.
We toured the US for just over 3 years full time. The last year we mostly stuck around southern California but the other two we were always on the move, usually visiting a new place each week or every two weeks. The longest we tended to stay was for 1 month, usually in mid-winter.
The Ram had a V-6 Ecoboost Hemi engine. It always seemed to have a lot of power and the EcoBoost saved Gas when we were not towing. We always tried to take really good care of it and it never had trouble for the 3 years we had it.
Was interested in your input for model that will best match the tow capability of my 15 Nissan Frontier (V6) Crew cab 4×4 with cap. Would ideally be interested in a 25Ft, but is that too much? Would typically carry no more than 2 persons, my dog and a few hundred pounds of gear in the truck. Thank you in advance for your input and time!
Sure Joe, happy to help. It looks like your Nissan has a tow rating around 6,300. The exact amount varies a bit but that is the ballpark for the V6 Crew.
For a modern airstream (after 1970) you are safe with a 23ft model airstream or shorter. They max out right around 6,000lb. The 25′ models have a significantly higher GVWR, partly because at that size they step up the suspension on the Airstream. They max out at around 7,200lb. The weight of the 25′ trailer is only 5,500lb so if you pack your airstream light and empty the tanks before traveling, could probably tow a 25ft without trouble. I don’t want to recommend pushing the envelope, but you probably could if you are thoughtful about what you pack.
I hope that helps 🙂
Question: I would like to buy a ’19 RB Sport Airstream. Would I be able to tow it with a ’19 Ford Edge? Or do I need to go to a Ford Explorer? Thank you
The 19 sport has a max weight of 5,000lb and the edge can only handle about 3,500lb. The Explorer can be configured up to 5,000lb but you need all the towing extras to get it there. I hope that helps.
I have 2016 Jeep Wrangler Sports unlimited and we are thinking of buying an airstream 2020 Bambi or 2020 Caravel 16RB. Is my Jeep able to safely pull either one? Thank you
The towing capacity for the Unlimited is 3,500 according to the specs I found. That is exactly on the mark for the 2020 Bambi GVWR (it’s maximum load weight). So, you should be able to tow the Bambi but watch out for carrying a heavy load at the same time or it’s going to strain the Jeep.
The Carabel is over your rating so I can’t recommend it.
Hi Hitch! I am very relieved to find your blog. I have a ‘17 25f FB airstream cloud (7300/837)that we initially trailered easily with a ram 1500. After our trip the truck was hard as a daily driver so I got a 2011 Range Rover believing it too could tow my girl. HOWEVER now that I’m ready to put a hitch on the RR I have found that although it has a tow rating of 7700, the tongue weight is only 770 and I can’t find anyone willing to put more than a class 3 hitch on it. A) is a class 3 enough?? B) does that extra tongue weight matter? C) am I safest sucking it up and going back to a truck? I have ended up putting a good bit of cash into the RR and would like to be able to make it work- however I have far more into my airstream so will do the safe thing.
So much thanks!!!
Can my Honda Element pull a 16 foot Bambi?
It is not recommended. The Element is rated to tow about 1,500lb and the Bambi’s max weight is 3,500. I think about all you can tow with an Element is a small pop-up trailer or a teardrop.
Did anyone reply to your question or better yet, did the Range Rover work out with the 25′ Airstream?
Did anyone reply to your question or better yet, did the Range Rover work out with the 25′ Airstream?
Hi Hitch, We are planning on buying a flying cloud, 25′. We don’t have the vehicle yet, but are considering a Jeep Grand Cherokee, V8, 4×4 with a factoy installed tow package. The gvwr on the Jeep is 7200 and the airstream is 7300.
We are just 2 adults and 1 dog and also very minimalist.
Do you think this is risky.
Thanks in advance for any advise you can give us.
Hi Hitch! So glad I found you! I am buying a 1966 Airstream Caravel (17 ft, 2150lbs) and looking for advice on towing and my SUV. I currently have a 2003 Lexus RX300. I was really hoping to keep it but of course, want to be safe. With my research so far it seems to be right on the edge of the limits. Can I get your thoughts? Thank you! Lisa
Hi Lisa, sorry for the slow reply. Life has not been cooperative in the last couple of weeks. 🙂
If you have a towing package on your Lexus it is rated up to 3,500lb which should be fine so long as you don’t load things too heavy. If you don’t have a towing package, you will want to get one installed first. The 66 Caravel is easy to tow trailer if ever there was, so I think you are OK here. Just try not to load the Lexus with a lot of heavy cargo at the same time you are towing the Airstream and you should be fine.
Hi! Thank you so much for your reply. We decided to trade in my car for a larger Mercedes ML450 to ensure there would be no doubt about the towing weight capacity. I really appreciate your insight and knowledge. Hoping your life is cooperating for you! Blessings, Lisa
I bought a 2017 airstream 25 foot flying cloud.
I ordered a 2020 Mercedes gle 450 4 matic
21 inch wheels, 6 cylinder turbo. Will I be ok
Towing this airstream?
The max weight on that airstream is 7,300lb. I could not find a tow rating for the 2020 GLE. The closest I could track down is the 2018 350 4-matic which boasts a 7,200lb towing capacity. The review I saw mentioned that you need to specifically get the class III hitch installed as it doesn’t come with that standard.
Since yours will have a bigger engine, and I read they amped up the suspension somewhat, it may well exceed the 7,300lb mark. So that puts you right on the borderline. I think that means you should be fine, so long as you are cautious about just how much stuff you are hauling in the trailer and vehicle. With SUVs you do have to be mindful of the vehicles total weight capacity as well as its tow rating. If you pack the SUV full of people and gear, you could be putting a bit to much strain on its breaks, transmission, and suspension. One trick you can do is try to tow with the tanks in the Airstream as empty as you can muster. Full water tanks add a lot of weight. That’s easy to do if you camp in parks with hookups, but hard to do if you are boondocking.
So I think you will be good, and happy since both the trailer and Mercedes are pretty darn nice. But keep an eye out on your overall weight and consider visiting a truck scale to check your weight balance and overall load just to be sure you are not over-working your new SUV.
I want to match a 2019 GMC Canyon diesel with tow capacity of 7600 lbs. Should I buy a AS that is 6000 or less to be safe?
Yes, though you want to focus on the GVWR value which is what it weighs with a maximum load rather than the dry weight of the trailer. So that puts you on the 23-24 foot Airstreams as the max size. Honestly, I think that’s a pretty sweet spot for Airstreams as you can park them in pretty much any RV park but they are still fairly roomy.
You need bigger vehicle….canyon is just too small….
I just purchased a Mercedes Metris passenger van.
Would love to tow a AS 22’ sport.
Is this possible?
Without knowing the year and options I can’t say for certain. But, looking at the 2019 model, it has a towing capacity of 5,000lb standard. The 22′ Sport (a lovely little trailer) has a max weight of 4,500. So you should be good there. I don’t know if the Metris Passenger comes equipped for towing or not. You need to have a good hitch receiver (the pictures make it look as if it does not have one) and you need a brake controller which I could confirm is not installed on the Metris by default. So it should make a good tow vehicle for that Airstream, but you may need to get it outfitted for towing first.
Thank you Hitch!
Had a full hitch package set up today.
Going to look at both the AS 16’ and 22’ sports this weekend.
16’ seems more practical. But, I’m being told
Not much difference how either will tow.
Just on the fence.
Thank you for your input.
For most people, the limiting factor is payload, not towing capacity. You do your readers a disservice by not discussing payload and tongue weight in detail. Sure, a ram 1500 can pull a good amount of weight, but the payload can be as little as 1200lbs in a mega cab configuration. The bigger the cab and the higher the trim level, the lower the payload. It could pull 10,000lbs only if the truck was empty and didn’t have passengers. You MUST look up the numbers for your exact vehicle cab and trim level. The trailer tongue weight, items in the truck bed, weight of after market tool boxes, and weight of the passengers all must be less than your trucks payload capacity. I’ve seen some really bad advice in this comment section.
Trailers are typically well balanced such that their tongue weight is about 1/10 of their gross weight. And vehicles rated for towing are typically rated such that they can handle a tongue weight commensurate with the weight rating of the trailer. I’ve yet to see a vehicle that is rated tow a given travel trailer but can’t handle the tongue weight. It may happen, but I haven’t seen it.
It is absolutely the case that you can be rated to tow a trailer, and you can then overburden the vehicle by loading it up with too much stuff exceeding its carrying capacity. I’ll mention that in the article so folks can take that into consideration.
Respectfully, I stand behind my advice. If you can find a specific fault, let me know. I am not infallible of course, but I do extensive research and draw on my own experience. I get that you are looking out for folks and that’s great. I’d hate to be off base and not have someone speak up.
If you are towing freight, the considerations are very different as the loads aren’t generally as balanced and you may be hauling heavy equipment in your vehicle. But for folks who are going camping, towing a travel trailer, and using an appropriate weight balancing hitch the tow rating vs trailer GVWR is a very reliable measure.
Hello Hitch, I hope your doing well. We are in the market for an Airstream and have been looking at the 16′ Scout and the 19′ Flying Cloud. We will need to pull the trailer with a 2018 Toyota Highlander XLE – V6 AWD with a 3.5 liter DOHC V-6S D-4s engine and 8 speed transmission, spec’s say the vehicle will handle 5000 lbs maximum. While I’m pretty sure the Scout would not be an issue, what are your thoughts about the 19′ Flying Cloud? Is there information I should know regarding hitch requirements assuming the weight capacity of the vehicle is not an issue?? Thanks in advance for your advise.
Doing well Cary, hope this reply finds you well. 🙂
The 19’Flying cloud is still well under your vehicles tow maximum at 4500 lb fully loaded to the gills. So you should be good there.
For the hitch, you want to make sure it is rated up to 5K and that it is a weight distributing hitch. Something along the lines of this hitch.
The GVWR for you VEHICLE is 6000 lbs. It’s dry weight is around 4500lbs. This means the maximum weight your SUV can carry (not tow) is 1500lbs. The tongue weight of a 4500lb trailer is usually 10% of the trailer weight, so 450lbs. That leaves you barely over 1000lbs of weight your vehicle can handle. If the weight of all passengers and cargo in the vehicle is less than 1000lbs, you are good to go. Yes, the trailer is technically within the towing capacity limits, but depending on what you carry IN your vehicle, you might be over your payload limit.
I’m looking at the Airstream Intl Sig 25 FB Twin. Base weight 5503, 7500 max. 837 hitch weight. We would much
prefer to tow with an SUV. Do you think the 2018 Ford Expedition w/max tow package is up to the task?
3.5L EcoBoost 375 HP 470 Ft Llds Torque
9300 lb tow capacity
1750 lb payload capacity.
Hitch rating is 900 lb. (which seems a bit light)
We travel pretty light, mostly 2-4 days, with the occasional week long trip, so I’m not concerned with
payload. Airstream says hitch weight is 837 w LP full/ no water.
The Hitch Ratings tend to be about 10% of the max tow value, though usually a bit over that rather than under. I tend to be pretty confident in the numbers they give as they like to err on the side of caution when it comes to tow ratings. I’d say you are in good shape with that setup.
“Diesel engines tend to last longer but require a bit more maintenance to keep them in good condition.“
These kind of generalized statements, which imply potential costly maintenance that’s way above and beyond a typical gas engine, are just ridiculous. What’s “…a bit more maintenance…”? So I have to put in DEF fluid at every oil change (it’s not expensive and is simple to do). That’s about it. Other than that my vehicle maintenance schedule is pretty standard on my 2017 diesel truck.
Hi Todd, glad you found the article compelling in some fashion. When I say “a bit more” I mean a small amount more and don’t mean to imply “way above and beyond.” All the articles I could find covering the average cost of engine maintenance maintained that Diesel engines have a higher maintenance cost. This is because the parts you need to replace cost more, much like the engine itself does. And yes, you need to do the DEF fluid thing. The difference is not large, but it is a difference and I wanted to be honest about that. I changed the language slightly to be more clear on that point. Thanks for the feedback!
I have a 2017 Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited V6 and was looking into getting a 2018 airstream base camp. will my jeep be sufficient in towing the trailer?
You should be just fine. A basecamp’s max load is 3500lb and that is exactly the max capacity of your Jeep. Provided you don’t over-load the basecamp and your Jeep is well maintained you should be safe towing.
Love your blog! I wanted you opinion if the truck we have chosen will be adequate for our recently bought 2016 27 FB Eddy Bauer Airstream.
We are looking at a Ford 150 4×4 Super Crew, 145 in wheelbase, 3.5 v6 Ecoboost, with Max towing package with the following numbers:
Max towing capacity: 12, 700
I was also concerned re: Hitch weight. (the eddy bauer hitch weight is 885 with lp and w/o options, water and cargo). I am unclear to what the max hitch/tongue weight is for the Ford 150 xlt?
Eddy bauer Unit base weight is 5975 and Gross vehicle weight is 7800.
Do you think the Ford xlt150 will be fine for pulling the Eddy Bauer? or should weupgrade to a Ford 250?
Thanks very much for your thoughts!
Thanks for the kind words Jen. The Eddy Bauer’s are my favorite Airstream design, they came out just after we got ours so we missed out. The rear hatch is so cool.
Anyhow, you will have no problem what so ever with that Ford towing the 27′. I pull my 30′ international with a Ram 1500 which is actually a bit lighter than the Ford you mentioned and its handled that for 3 years solid with no issues at all.
The tongue weight comes into play more with the hitch that you buy to connect the two. You want to make sure its rated for at least 885lb. The hitch receiver on the truck will handle that without any issues. Usually anything less than 10% of the towing capacity is perfectly fine, so in this case up to 1200lb.
Have fun out there!
I towed a flying cloud 20ft for 3 years with Touareg diesel 2015… easy town….just moved to a airstream Globetrotter 27 ft, based on numbers and VW dealership, I still OK, but my concern is if I go in mountains area, high hill, how it will perform!…..globetrotter empty weight 6,400lb, (incredible what they could acheive) and 7,600lb max load permitted (we keep weights to a minimum..just 2 of us…Will never acheive 7,600) Touareg could pull 7700lb.. I have a Equilizer distribution hitch (I like it)……….up to now pulling look easy….but first thing is Security….
thanks for your opinion
I wasn’t familiar with the Touareg so I read up on it. I have to say, that is a pretty great tow vehicle. Really powerful for its size and lots of great features.
I tend to trust the tow ratings. I’ve never encountered a story of someone feeling like their vehicle couldn’t handle something it was rated for and lots of stories of people who had a vehicle underrating but felt it worked just fine for them. I wouldn’t recommend going over a tow rating myself, but I feel confident that if it works on paper, especially with an Airstream, it should be fine so long as the vehicle is in good working order.
So my advice would be to go ahead and tow with it, just make sure you keep the engine in good condition, especially if you plan to hit up some mountain passes. It’s a Diesel and an 8 speed so that should give you good torque for hill climbing. I think it should handle the job fine, but it will run a little hot and heavy doing so. Make sure coolant and oil are in good shape before you go up into the mountains.
I hope that is helpful, and have fun out there!
Hi, I am in the early stages of researching a tow vehicle for a 25 ft. Airstream. My plan is to get a truck that can pull my trailer but also serve as a daily driver when I’m not traveling. Based on the information I have read on your site and elsewhere I think I can find a 1/2 ton truck that will suit my desired needs. One of the big factors I have found, all things being equal, is the rear axle gear ratio ultimately determines the rated towing capacity for a given truck. I have been surprised at how much of a difference this element of the drivetrain affects the rated towing capacity. I have been looking for a late model used truck and have found a 2013 Ram 1500 CrewCab 5.7L with a 3.21 rear axle ratio. The seller is claiming this truck has a tow rating of 10,200 lbs. but I cannot find corroborating data. What is your advice on this setup? Do you have any good links that show vehicle towing capacities for various makes/models? Thanks.
I get most of my info by doing google searches and trying to filter out the good from bad info. Whenever possible I try to use information from the manufacturer. Ram has a pretty nice site for their current year models. The figures won’t be exactly the same but it should give you a pretty good idea. https://www.ramtrucks.com/towing-guide.html
That tow rating might be a little high. The 5.7 is the larger engine but the 3.21 is the lower axle ratio. I’d suspect its more like 8K, though if it has a special tow package, it could be higher. Ours had the higher gear ratio and was rated at 10K. I suspect even at the lower ratio, that truck should be able to tow the 25ft Airstream without a problem.
My Audi Q5 is a 2015 TFSI Quattro 3.0L with 18” tires. It claims a 4400 lb max tow weight and recommends tongue weight to be near the Maximum of 440 lbs.
I’m considering the Airstream Sport 16 base weight 2860 lbs , hitch 378 lbs or
Airstream Sport 22 base weight 3634 lbs hitch 422 lbs.
The front profile on the 16 is 8’ x 9’3” and 16’4” long or 74 sq. ft.
22 is 7’x3.25” and 21’8” long or 67.25 sq. ft.
Given that I will use the best anti sway, load balancing hitch that I can, will the 22’ airstream tow better, worse or about the same as the 16’ Airstream? Can I expect to tow the 22’ Airstream with this vehicle?
My expectation would be that you can tow them both safely. The 22 will likely put a bit more work on your suspension so you will feel a slightly rougher ride on uneven terrain as a result. I think the engine is powerful enough not to make a big difference between the trailers in terms of towing performance. The bigger trailer will always be a little less stable due to way trailer sway works. That’s all about the size of the trailers surface area vs the size of the tow vehicles surface area (assuming you have the weight well balanced with the hitch). It should be safe either way, but you will feel more sway under the same conditions with a larger trailer. I’d go with whichever length you feel you like more for camping in.
I hope that helps. 🙂
Hi. I am a newbie and looking for some help. I have a 2017 Jeep GC with the towing package, and a 25’ Coleman 215bh travel trailer. I also have a WDH with a separate manual sway control arm. On our first longish trip I was experiencing a significant amount of sway and just felt like we were being pushed around by the wind on the highway. A couple of times it was quite worriesome. Granted it was quite windy out, but it didn’t seem right to me. Is the Jeep undersized for this trailer? If I get something different is a Tahoe with the tow package sufficient or should I just get a crew cab truck?
The Jeep has a towing capacity of 6,200 to 7,200 depending on the engine you have in there. most are 7.2K, the eco diesel is 6.2.
The Trailer has a maximum weight of 7,600. Its dry weight is 4,400. That’s a pretty big payload capacity on it, more than 3K lb of gear and water etc…
So, if you have your trailer really loaded up, then the Jeep is a bit underrated for the trailer. The Tahoe can go up to 8,600 if you max it out for towing (aka the biggest engine and the best suspension package). But the base Tahoe is lower than the average Jeep GC.
If you don’t have the trailer especially loaded up, then the Jeep or the Tahoe should get the job done without too much difficulty. A truck (in the 150/1500 range) would be a good bet no matter how you loaded the trailer as they tend to be in the 10,000 towing range.
As to sway, I think you should take a look at the hitch you are using as that impacts sway more than towing capacity generally would. The goal should be to have the trailer and the tow vehicle both sitting nice and flat when hooked up. If you have a bend towards the hitch or away from it, then that will make the whole rig sway a lot more. You want the weight evenly distributed on both the vehicle tires and the trailer tires. A good weight distribution hitch is designed to accomplish this. Many of them also come with anti-sway bars that stiffen the connection between the tow vehicle and the trailer. I use a Blue Ox brand hitch and it’s been good to me or the last two years. I think there are a number of good brands out there though.
My hitch article is focused on airstreams but most of the information is general to all trailers.
I hope that helps,
Looking to purchase a 27ft airstream globetrotter. Currently own a 2016 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland and pretty sure this is not sufficient to tow. Would really like to stay with an SUV. A Nissan Armada has been recommended. Do you have any thoughts on this vehicle or could recommend another SUV that would be safe to utilize? I dont really want to be in a huge vehicle but understand that it may be necessary. Any information would be appreciated and we are just starting our search. Thank you!
The Armada is definitely on the high end for Towing SUVs and it should be able to handle a 27ft Airstream. You don’t have tons of wiggle room, so you have to watch how many people you have in there and how much hear you are hauling, but if you keep it reasonable, it should work out. I’ve watched some towing tests with the Armada and it comes well recommended. I think you need to look for at least 8,000lb towing capacity and the more you can get the better.
We have a2006 Land Cruiser. Want to tow a 23 ft 2018 Flying Cloud. Concerned with weight factors. Hard to pin down. Are we safe?
That should work out fine. the 23ft has a max capacity weight of 6,000lb and the 2006 Land Cruiser has a towing capacity of 6,500. So that should be no problem provided you don’t overload the trailer with too much gear. You can safely carry about 1200lb of water and personal items in there and stay under the limit.
For safety, the most important thing you could do for assurance is to make sure your breaks, engine, tires, and suspension are in good shape on the Land Cruiser. Those are the key systems that ensure safe towing.
Hope that helps, safe travels!
I have a 2017 Jeep Grand Cherokee. Tow rating is 6700 lbs. It has been pulling my 16′ Bambi great and I am now moving up to a 20′ Flying Cloud. GVWR 5000lbs. This should still be good with my WD system intact?
I think the Grand Cherokee should be up to the task without any trouble. Be sure to check the weight rating on the WD system/hitch itself. They tend to have a pretty big range on them, but there is a slim chance the larger trailer is heavier than it was made for. That would lead it to not fully distributing the weight like it should. It’s probably fine, but worth checking on.
Hi Ben- I have a 2010 Pathfinder- plain package but has tow hitch. Manual say it till tow I believe
6,000. Want a smaller trailer less than 20ft yo fill comfortable for towing. Also budget. Any smaller ones you can recommend to feel comfortable to have as full time home and create space within as Artist studio. Want to ge out in nature. Yet close to a city due to heart condition. thanks for any input. Do not have a big budget- a small one! Sr. Citizen Roman and single.
That’s a challenging set of parameters! Airstreams are the only trailers I have first-hand experience with, and they are not cheap to come by. You definitely want to look for a used trailer if you want to save money. So really, the best thing to do is to look at trailer classifieds in your area, set a budget, and keep an eye out for one that looks like the right size, weight, and features.
The lucky part here is, any trailer at 20′ or less will be towable for your vehicle, so that’s not a problem. Getting an artists studio into a 20′ trailer could be challenging, depending on what kind of art you are doing. Still, where there is a will, there s a way. But to get all you want you will likely need some patience and persistence in looking for the right trailer in your area.
I’d give RV Trader a try ( https://www.rvtrader.com/ ). While you can get good deals on Craigslist, there are too many scammers and spammers there for my taste and it is harder to search the adds.
We are buying an Airstream Serenity 30 ft. My family of 4 plus big dog has the typical amount of family stuff. We need a tow vehicle and my hubbie is convinced we need a 250 crew cab (like Ford the best for visibility). It’s a BIG powerful truck and I’m not convinced we need all of what it offers but we don’t want to stress out a 150. Are we being too cautious about a 250 v 150?
Also, what van would you recommend for towing this trailer? That could be a real fix this decision!
The differences between a 150 and 250 are mostly the weight of the frame, the suspension system, and sometimes the breaks. Those let them carry larger loads. The 250 crew cab isn’t physically larger than a 150, it just has upgraded components. The exception is if you get the double wheels in the back, which make the truck wider in the back, but you definitely don’t need that for an airstream and that is mostly found on 350s. So size wise, they are both big-trucks. It’s really more a question of price, as the upgraded components come with a higher price.
We spent two years solid on the road with a Ram 1500 which is pretty much the same as a 150 spec wise. Ours was a high end 1500 in terms of engine and suspension. We had no problems what so ever and the truck was not especially stressed, even over many mountain passes. So, it can definitely do the job. We do try to keep ours lightly loaded, and there are only two of us and two small cats. So we probably have less gear and somewhat less passenger weight.
While you would be fine with the 150, if the 250 gives your husband more confidence, I’d say go with that. With the 250 you don’t even have to think about overloading it unless you want to carry around 100 gold bricks in the bed or something. 🙂
As to vans, the two heavy-duty van models these days are the Nissan NV 3500 (see another reply here about that one) and the GMC Savanah 3500. The Savanah is about equivalent to a high-end F150 so it can easily tow a big Airstream, the Nissan is right on the borderline.
I hope that all helps,
Will a Nissan NV 3500 HD SL tow a 30 foot serenity?
The capacity of the Nissan NV 3500 HD SL is (a heavy duty passenger van) is right at the limit for towing a 30′ serenity that is fully loaded. The Serenity’s max weight is 8800 and the Nissan is rated to tow up to 8700. Mind you, the Serenity itself weighs 6400, so if you don’t load it down all the way, you should be under your towing weight. I couldn’t find a GVWR for the Nissan. If you fully load the Airstream and fully load the Van, you may find it struggles a bit.
In my view, If you don’t totally load up the Airstream and totally load up the Van, you should be good. If you want to also haul a lot of heavy hear around, I’d go for something with a bigger capacity or a slightly smaller trailer.
Hello Hitch, I tow our 2017 International Serenity 19′ with a 2013 Ram Laramie 1500. We are looking at upgrading to a 25′ RBT Serenity. I was unsure my ram would tow it but see you are towing a 30′ with yours, is that correct?
Yep. We have the v8 gas engine in our 1500. It’s been towing our 30′ Airstream beautifully for almost 2 years now. 🙂
Just curious are you using Blue Ox for load bars? I’m looking at a 28′ and have a 1500 with 3:92 gears 8 speed.
Hi Rod, thanks for the question.
I’m not 100% sure on what you mean by load bars. I’m going with the sway/spring bars on the weight distribution hitch but if this is wrong, let me know. I did indeed use a Blue Ox hitch with spring bars (big heavy steel ones). They work nicely and give a nice smooth ride and good leveling between Tow vehicle and trailer. My only gripe is the Blue Ox is so heavy and unwieldy to store when I’m not using it. But performance-wise it’s been super reliable.
I hope that helps,
I am planning to tow my new airstream 19 flying cloud with my 2017 jeep grandcherokee i would like your opinion if you think this is a good fit ?
Hi there Clark,
I tried to run down the numbers on this. The answer is that it could work, but it depends on the model of Jeep Grandcherokee you get. The Lorado model can handle it pretty easily with a towing capacity of 6,200lb. The bare-bones models have only half that at around 3,200lb.
A 19′ flying cloud comes in at a max weight of 4,500 so it is right in between the towing capacity of the low and high-end Grandcherokees. They have a long history of being used as tow vehicles for lighter trailers so I think they are a good pick, you just have to make sure you check out the tow rating on the specific configuration you are looking at. The Engine and Suspension are the two factors that will determine the towing capacity.
I hope that helps,
Good evening Hitch,
I used your response regarding using my 2017 landcruiser to pull a 25 rbt airstream. I pulls like a dream. I have the reece hitch system and it easily levels landcruiser and trailer. My question tonight may be over the top. Could the same towing system be used to move up to an airstream 28 foot trailer? We really dont add much weight, except for small dog, minimal food stock, water etc. dohave small 2000 w generator.
Your thoughts, or if I go that direction , will I have to go to larger towvehicle such as pickup?
Really love setup, but extra room in rv would be nice. The landcruiser has a towing capacity of 8100.
Just a follow . Guess I left out some info?
Hi Ben, Sory for not getting a reply to you sooner. We’ve been making a lot of short hops as of late. I typically try to get back to folks much faster.
I’m glad to hear the land cruiser worked out nicely! I went and looked up the maximum running weights of 25foot models vs 28-foot models and the differences were small, about 300lb on average. That is not going to be a difference you will notice much if you are already towing nice and smooth. It’s still below your landcruiser’s maximum. The heaviest Airstream I could find at 28-feet was 7,600lb max weight.
It is possible to overload the trailer but then if you did that, then all bets are off safety wise. Truck scales are the easiest way to weigh your rig and will also tell you how your weight distribution is doing.
BTW: 30-foot models would be pushing over your vehicle’s stated safe limit, especially the classic which is an especially heavy Airstream due to all the heavy duty cabinetry and furniture it comes with. All that wood, plumbing and such gets heavy. The classic has a max capacity of 10K.
Thanks so much Hitch. You are a great asset for us newbies, or is retirnnto rvers like myself. Like everything else, weights, distribution management, towing vehicles and trailors are all designed for saftey and safe towing concerns. As an engineer , we just design the roads, but the concerns of marrying the rv and tow vehicle ,at least for me, are better left in the hands of people and experts like yourself. Sometimes ,we are given a short answer to close a sell, but that may not be the correct solution, and we pay later buy trading up or down on the rv or towing vehicle.
I really apprecite your insite. I may discuss the moving up to the 28, with the undestanding they allow me a trial tow?
Thanks, hope you keep up this site. I highly tecommend it.
You do me much honor, Ben. Thank you kindly and I’m happy to be of help.
“We ended up with a Ram 1500 crew cab Larraine with a V8 Hemi Engine.” I was losing my mind because if you Google “Ram Lorraine” you get some hits. Finally I got it, your Larimie was corrupted by a spell checker. Fantastic website! We anchored to the daily routine love to live vicariously through the adventures of others. Happy trails. Mike.
Thanks, Mike! That typo has been hanging about for a good long time! And thanks for the kind words as well. They are always encouraging!
Hello: Any advice on 4×2 or 4×4. We are looking at a 25 ft. Live in Texas and will most likely do most of our travels in spring and fall. I’ve narrowed my search to a Nissan Armada and there is only a limited number of 4×4 in Texas. Thanks.
We have a Selectable 4X2 or 4×4 or auto on our Truck. I’ve only used the 4X4 mode while towing once. That was when we were trying to park on a friend’s very steep driveway in the hills in Southern California and there was some loose soil near one end of the incline we had to maneuver in. That was a very unusual situation.
We use the 4×4 when unhitched and exploring narrow dirt mountain roads in some of the national parks and in those situations, I’m very glad to have it. If you like driving in remote locations on dirt roads, it’s a great thing to have. If you only plan on driving paved roads it’s not that helpful. I’d also want it if we drove in snow conditions, but we have consistently avoided cold weather in our travels around the country by migrating north and south seasonally.
I Hope that helps 🙂
Nice piece, but as a confirmed “tows with a van” person, I need to differ. Big vans tow very well, get no worse fuel mileage than anything else towing and generally cost less than the equivalent truck. Our Ford E350 with the V10 will tow (and stop) 10,000 pounds. There is LOTS of interior room and I have towed a 33′ TT with two small dogs and two kids across the country with no problems. The E350 went out of production in 2015 so at the moment the big GMC/Chevy van is the only new one you can buy and it is rated for ~9400 pounds. I believe big vans are a healthy alternative to pickups and cannot be dismissed so easily.
Thanks Tom. I appreciate the account of your first-hand experience. I didn’t mean to imply Vans were a bad choice, but looking back over what I wrote, I can see how I might give that impression. I’ve been meaning to update the article a little and I’ll get that fixed to better highlight its advantages.
I think all three options are good, but for different reasons.
Hitch, I agree, the options are all out there. One last thing compared to many SUVs is that the Van will have a flat floor with no foot wells or transmission hump to move around in or over. moving between front and rear seats while underway is lots easier and if you travel with small animals of the four footed variety, they have an easier time, too!
Like many things in the RV world, it’s easy to spend lots to time around a campfire discussing!
Thanks for that comment when I do decide to purchase a trailer I want to tow with a van for all yhe reasons you listed. Yiu are the first straight answer I’ve heard on van towing.
I am doing a frame off restoration of a 54 Chevy 3/4 ton with a new crate powertrain (The original engine was beyond repair). My desire is to build it so that it can tow a mid size or smaller Airstream. I am tryingt o figure out how to determine a good engine size. Of course I know “the bigger the better” but I intend to drive this truck often when not towing so efficiency and MPG is a consideration, 8 MPG vs 12 MPG is a big difference for example. I have seen few article discussing towing in terms of HorsePower/Torque/displacement etc. Is a standard 350 short block V8 acceptable or is that likely going to be too small? Also are there other considerations I should be looking at? (Disk break conversions over the stock drum, etc.). Any thoughts you have would be appreciated.
I’m sorry to say that’s a little beyond my level of expertise so my advice is going to be based mostly on research rather than experience. So, for what it’s worth, here is what I came up with, hope it helps a little.
For engines, the general guidelines I found were that if its Gas, it needs to be a V8, if it’s diesel, then a V6 can work. I know folks swear by the EcoBoost v6 deisel. We have a gas EcoBoost v8 in our Ram and it really does deliver a great mix of gas mileage and power.
Torque is going to be your main concern in an engine, rather than horsepower. More torque is better for towing, and the lower RPMs that the engine hits peak torque at, the better. Generally, engines with long pistons shafts have more torque (this is one reason diesel engines have more, they have longer cylinders due to their ignition method). You can also get some extra torque from gearing ratios, tire size and the like. Torque will give you better acceleration and hill climbing when towing and help the engine have an easier time of it so less wear and tear. I could not find hard numbers on torque and horsepower values with respect to towing. I suspect the hard numbers come more from the frame/axles/suspension/tires.
There are lots of other considerations for towing. Suspension, Tires, and Axes strength all matter for the GVWR. Those components have to take the weight/down forces you want to put on it. Most Airstreams have their own breaks, and you use a brake controller to activate them. That takes some of the pressure off the vehicle breaks, but more breaking power is safer I presume. You need to make sure your hitch receiver is rated for the tongue weight of the trailer. Bumper hitches aren’t going to cut it for most trailers so you need a hitch receiver welded to the frame the axels rest on. Using a weight distributing hitch system will help even out the forces on the two axles on the truck, so that’s a good thing to have, they also make for safer towing.
A lot depends on how bit a rig you want to tow. If you are looking at a Trailer under the K range, I’m thinking you won’t have many problems. If you start going above that, I imagine you may run into some issues with the older car’s axels if it wasn’t built with towing in mind originally. Finding out what axels you have and what they can support is a good step to seeing what you have to work with.
Here’s a pic just to show it’s been done! https://www.pinterest.com/pin/465911523922252785
BTW: Style wise, cool choice, I really like the 54 Chevy 3/4 look, and it would be gorgeous towing an Airstream.
thinking about buying an older jeep Cherokee like 1990’s beefing it up and pulling air stream trailer (1960’s) probably 24 ft whats my odds of doing it?
The prognosis is that it is possible, but only just so, and you have to be particular about the Jeep.
A 95 Jeep Cherokee has a max towing weight of 5K, and that is if you have the 4.0-liter V6 engine and Automatic Transmission. It is as low as 1,000 for the 2.5 liter V4 with the manual transmission. And of course, you’d want the engine in pretty prime shape.
A modern 24′ Airstream is around 6K dry weight, too heavy for the Cherokee. The 1960s models were lighter, however. A 24′ Tradewind is 3,500 dry weight so more like 4k maximum capacity.
So if you get the beefiest Jeep they made and you can find and a light 60’s model, you are probably good but don’t have a lot of wiggle room.
In response to Larry’s question: I bought a 20ft Airstream three months ago, which I intended to tow with my 1998 Grand Cherokee. My car is in excellent condition for its age and I was told at the RV dealership that I could tow 5K with it. I can tell you that I haven’t felt that this SUV is suitable for towing this much weight, even with the weight distribution system and sway bar. I feel that it is putting stress on my car and I feel ever bum when driving. I’ve asked a few technicians what I can do to improve the performance and they all discourage me from putting more money into this car. I am now looking for another tow vehicle as much as I have loved using the Grand Cherokee…it just doesn’t feel safe.
i used my jeep grand cherokee limited to pull my first 22′ safari and no it wasn’t safe. of course the stealership said “no problem you can do it ” but don’t. i almost burned up my tranny on it. go with something bigger. i reccomend a truck. my second as i wasn’t messing around and got a nice used dodge 2500 diesel . can pull a house and does well. i pull a 31′ now and feel very safe with it. with the smaller one behind it, didn’t even know it was there. i reccomend getting something that you feel safe with. i picked dsl because they last longer and they like to work hard. towing with a dsl is no biggie. just my opinion. if you are staying with the same size you wouldn’t have to upgrade much. good luck and happy streaming.
How well will an AS 25 tow with a 2017 Toyota Landcruiser? The towing capacity for the Landcruiser is 8100 lbs. I have the Landcruiser and love it. Happens to be my 3rd one, but have never towed a travel trailer, let alone an airstream. The consideration is the 23 fb AS, vs the 25 due to room.?
The short answer is, yes it should work fine.
The longer answer: A 25′ airstream has a Max Capacity of 7300 lb and a hitch weight of 837lb. So the Landcruiser meets the towing capacity and can handle the tongue weight (with a proper hitch). And you should have some room to spare towing wise. The Toyota has eight speeds (which is good) and good torque so it should tow quite well. If you really loaded it up with say… beyond 700lb of gear and passengers, then you could be pushing the Landcruiser’s total weight capacity when you include the hitch weight. You would have to be hauling some heavy stuff or a big crew of folks to manage that.
Ok looking at towing a 30ft AS flying cloud Bunk – Dry weight 6,422 loaded 8,880 Hitch weight 885
I have 2 adults 2 kids (11&8) and 2 large dogs 250lbls going to take a long 6mo to year trip. I’m looking at a Ford Expedition ’15 or newer (Turbo 6 motor) with the tow package and a leveling hitch. Tow rating for the Expedition is 9,100,-9,200 Depending on extend or not. Dose anyone have a similar set up? am I crazy? If so what can anyone suggest. I shy away from trucks because I would have to add a cab which is weigh and I have a cargo box on top and I’m concerned about cargo box on Cab.
I think that should work out. Obviously, you are right on the edge there in terms of towing to weight, especially with the vehicle itself loaded up with your crew. Airstreams are easier to tow than just about any other trailer so you have that going for you. My experience says this should work out. You may need to take it slow and steady on steep grades. That tends to be where towing power is put to the test in terms of weight and engine power.
Most SUVs are essentially trucks with a different body on them. The Expedition is based on the F150 in terms of its frame and major structural components. Thus the large SUVS are often just as tow worthy as the smaller trucks.
The only specific advice I have is to look for the most powerful motor you can get on that vehicle. While you are on the road, I suggest being extra conscientious about maintaining the engine with regular oil changes and recommended maintenance from an authorized service center. Also, make sure to use the recommended fuel grade. Basically you just want to make sure you maintain the engine in optimal condition so you get it’s full performance.
Go to You Tube and watch Fast Lane Trucks
They do towing tests on all the most popular pickups. They test them to the max on the Ike Gauntlet. From Denver to the Eisenhower tunnel a steep grade at elevation. No better real world towing test.
Cool, I’ll check that out. Thanks for sharing the tip!
* in addition we had a Blue Ox Swaypro installed.
Any time! Same Hitch we have, so far after a year, it’s holding up very well.
Well…we originally were looking at the 20 flying cloud, but purchased the AS 25FB Flying Cloud. The TV is a 2014 F150 3.5L Ecoboost 4×2 Supercrew. Still a little confused on all the numbers. TV GVWR 7100; GCWR 14000. AS GVWR 7300. What are your thoughts on all the above. Did we get the right TV?
Hi Jill, and congratulations on the new Airstream! I did some digging on the Truck and Airstream. The Airstream weighs 5,500lb empty, and the max weight you should ever load it up to is 7,300lb total (aka 1790lb of stuff you can put in it). I use that max weight as my benchmark to be on the safe side. According to the spec sheet on the Truck, it can tow up to 8,500lb. (according to the last page of this document: https://media.ford.com/content/fordmedia/fna/us/en/asset.download.document.pdf.html/content/dam/fordmedia/North%20America/US/2014_Specs/2014_F150_Specs.pdf )
So you have about one ton to spare on the towing, which means you should be good. Just be careful of putting any really heavy loads in the truck or trailer. (big blocks of stone, many sandbags, 50-gallon water tanks, that kind of thing)
At some point, you might want to hit up a truck scale when you have everything loaded. That GCWR (is the gross combined weight rating) so you don’t want to see your total weight above that with you and all your things loaded up in truck and trailer. The weight on the truck itself (while hitched) should be under the GVWR number 7100.
The engine on the truck is only a V-6 but it’s a really nice one for towing, it has very good torque which is important when you are going up hills and the like.
Bottom line, I think you made a good choice and it should work out fine.
Hitch, very useful article. Thanks. What gas mileage do you get towing your Airstream with the Dodge 1500?
You’re very welcome Will! Very glad you found it useful.
We get somewhere around 11 MPG with the Dodge towing the 30′ Airstream. It has an Ecoboost engine which uses fewer cylinders when you are just cruising along and thus saves gas. I’m also a pretty tame driver. I don’t go much past 65mph even when the limit is much higher, trailer sway starts to feel a little dangerous past that speed. Lots of elevation changes tends to put it around 10 while long flat country roads can get as high as 13 as a trip average.
Without the trailer, we average around 17 MPG so we are losing around 1/3 of our mileage when we tow.
Thanks for the timely info brother! My wife and I are just doing our shopping for a full-time airstream-towing rig (and airstream for that matter). Safe travels!
One thing that should be mentioned in your article is payload. This is the amount your vehicle can carry. This means the amount in the vehicle that includes passengers, fuel, any luggage or add ons including a hitch. All this affects payload, and/or tongue weight. If your vehicle has a payload maximum of 1300 lbs(a normal 1/2 ton pickup), you carry 2 people (350 lbs), a tank of fuel (200 lbs), a hitch (80 lbs) and some extra baggage and stuff (70 lbs), then you have 1300 – (350+200+80+70) = 600 lbs available to put on the vehicle. Also the distance the hitch point is away from the rear axle also means the leverage of the trailer adds more weight than what the actual tongue weight of the trailer is. So taking this into consideration, a trailer with 480 lbs may actually exceed a 1/2 tons towing capacity regardless of what it can pull! Call this the fine print of trailer hauling!
Thank’s Wade, I’ll work on adding information about maximum payload since it can make a difference if you have an otherwise heavy load in the vehicle, especially with something like an SUV loaded with passengers.
For a Truck or Van it’s less likely to be a factor for most folks unless they are hauling something pretty heavy in the vehicle itself. The main reason for this is all Airstream Trailers (except perhaps the new lightweight one) require a weight distribution hitch for safe towing. Same goes for most heavier trailers. Not only does that mean you don’t need to take into consideration the leverage but the tongue weight is distributed across all 4 tires on the vehicle as well as on the axles of the trailer itself so tongue weight is likely lower than what is listed. The only way to know for certain is to hit up a truck scale and measure the weight on all your axles.
Towing a trailer is different that towing other loads like boats or cargo because the weight distribution on the trailer tends to be pretty uniform and you tend not to be hauling any kind of heavy loads like you might if you were driving a working truck which could have concrete or gravel. My research showed that if you can hit the towing capacity needed for a trailer, and you are using a proper hitch, all the other weight factors tend to work out. The exceptions are when you are doing something you probably shouldn’t like over loading your trailer or pulling a trailer and carrying a very heavy load in your vehicle. I decided since most of the minute details wouldn’t matter, I’d keep things simple.
In our case, we have one of the largest Airstreams you can get, a 30′ Airstream International. Its max gross weight is 8800lb with a 800lb tongue weight. Our Ram Loraine 1500 can tow 10400lb and has a maximum load of 1860lb. It has an extra large 32 gal tank which full is about 200lb, our hitch is 60lb, we have about 100lb of stuff in the back, Trail and Hitch weigh in around 600lb together, and the 800lb from the tongue weight comes to 1760, a good 100lb under the capacity.
PS: I’m not a fan of the 1/2 ton, 3/4 ton designations. The truck industry hardly uses them anymore and their original meaning (carrying capacity) has long since become meaningless. 1/2 ton pickups like a 1500 can generally carry 3/4 tons. A Ram 3500 (often called 1 ton) can carry 2.5 tons. It’s best to just look at the actual capacity and towing numbers themselves than try to use the old classifications.
Shopping for a AS 20 flying cloud or AS 22FB. Very confused on TV. We have looked at a few trucks – a 2015 F150 XLT 2.7L engine being one that we have really are sold on but, not sure it is the best. We have watched a few video’s and read a few blogs that say it would work fine. What are your thoughts. Willing to give your more information if needed. Ford website says towing capacity 1500/11,700. Confused!
A ford F150 XLT 2.7L should get the job done nicely. It’s a good truck and has enough power to easily tow a 20′ flying cloud. (Not sure what the AS 22FB is)
The 1500/11700 is the Tongue Weight (1500) followed by the Towing Capacity (11700). A 23′ flying cloud (using that since you mentioned a 22′ trailer) has a hitch weight of 467lb and a max gross weight of 6000lb (that would be as much as you can load it safely). That means the ford has triple the Tongue weight required and just short of double the Towing Capacity needed.
The bottom line is it will get the job done and then some!
Thank you so much for a very informative website!!!!
You are very welcome Colleen. It means a lot to both of us to know folks are getting value from our work, so thank’s very much for letting us know!
Thank you so much for the info! We are just beginning our research on life on the road and what it all takes. Your article was a perfect place to start 🙂
You are very welcome Amy. We are so glad you found our article useful. Best wishes on your coming adventures!
Thanks Hitch…This is exactly what I was looking for since my husband and I are now shopping for an airstream and vehicle to tow it with. We had been looking at the 25 foot or 27 foot airstream…maybe a used one…maybe new. We had also decided that a truck would be better. I am in the market for a new car and had hoped the Audi Q7 would be both a great luxury car for these long travels and an adequate towing vehicle (7,700 pounds of towing)…but my husband — who will do most of the driving — was concerned about the handling with the shorter wheel base. Comments? Again, thanks!
So happy we could help. 🙂
I looked up the 25 and 27-foot airstreams and the gross weights are 7300 and 7600 respectively so the Q7 should be up to the task. A friend of mine has a Q5, and it’s an excellent vehicle to be sure. I watched a couple of videos of people with similar SUVs towing big airstreams and testifying that they loved it and had no problems. Here is one of them, this is a diesel Mercedes ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hmg3A5l9s0M )
We partly went with a truck because we had 100% confidence there would be no problems, and it turned out a good decision for us because we found it incredibly handy when we were fixing up our house and selling our things to move into our RV. It’s also nice for us because we can store equipment in the truck that would be awkward in the trailer like our hitch, generator, and other bulky stuff. That may not apply to you if it’s for camping or occasional road trips.
Unfortunately, it’s hard to “test tow” an airstream with various vehicles! I also can’t tell you first hand what towing is like with a big SUV. I can say with the truck it is mostly fine. I find the hardest moments are at high speed on the highway with a cross wind. Trailer sway can be pretty nerve-wracking, even when it’s not at truly dangerous levels. I imagine in an SUV it would be more pronounced, but probably not more dangerous.
I think if I had children, I may have been more sure on trying to go with an SUV as they are safer in an accident, especially when it comes to the rear seats, also more comfortable. For one driver and passenger, our Larrain Ram 1500 is actually very luxurious and comfortable since it has so much room in the cab and has luxury seats and climate control. I really do appreciate those luxury features on long trips, well worth the extra money I think.
Last tip, make sure you have a backup camera. Incredibly helpful when hitching the vehicle to the trailer. They are pretty standard on new vehicles but it’s worth mentioning.
Best of luck on finding a great vehicle 🙂