What Is The Best RV Tow Bar And RV Tow Dolly in 2021?
Deciding to tow a car worth thousands of dollars using an RV tow bar behind your motorhome or travel trailer involves many factors to be considered.
Among other things, you must decide if you want to use an RV tow dolly or tow your vehicle with all four tires on the ground (four down) using an RV tow bar.
Some vehicles cannot be towed with all four tires on the ground ('four down').
If you tow with four down, what is the best tow bar for flat towing? How expensive will it be?
Is your vehicle set up for towing or are you going to have to install modifications to be able to do so? Will it be worth the trouble?
There is a lot to know about getting a tow bar.
This page teaches you all of the essential things to know about towing a vehicle behind your RV.
You need to learn whether you should tow two down or four down, towing limitations, which bars are the easiest to use, hitch receiver information, and if you even need a toad.
Your Guide To Pulling A Toad Behind An RV
There's a lot to consider when you are thinking about towing a vehicle behind your RV.
How often you will need to tow your vehicle?
If you only go camping once or twice a year, it may not make economical sense to bring a toad.
If you use a tow dolly, can you store it at the campground? Do you want to be able to back up your RV while towing?
You also need to know that you can't back up if you are towing 4 down, or are using certain RV tow dollies.
These things and more are what you will have to consider to make your decision.
Let's cover all the bases on the ins and outs of pulling a vehicle behind your RV.
Should I Tow A 'Toad' Or Not?
To tow or not to tow, that's the big question. Having a towed vehicle (often referred to as a 'toad') has its pros and cons.
It's up to you to decide if having a toad works for you.
Pros of Towing a Vehicle Behind Your RV:
Cons of Towing a Vehicle Behind Your RV:
Annual Dinghy Towing Guide
If you are purchasing a vehicle specifically to be your toad, some factors will come into play as far as your decision on whether to go all 4 down or to use a dolly.
Motorhome Magazine publishes an annual dinghy towing guide that lists current model year vehicles that towable with 4 down.
The Two Main Ways To Tow
You have two options when it comes to towing a car behind your motorhome:
- Flat towing or '4 down'
- Dolly towing or '2 down'
Sure, you could tow your vehicle on a trailer where no wheels are on the ground.
Most people don't do this because storing the trailer can be an impossibility at an RV park, and just a pain to have to deal with overall.
For this reason, we are only going to cover flat and dolly towing.
Flat Towing Or '4 Down'
The first thing to know when flat towing is if your vehicle manufacturer approves your model for flat towing.
If it does not, you must make modifications to the vehicle to make it so. Be aware, this might void your warranty. Check with your manufacturer for details.
Flat towing or '4 down' involves a tow bar and additional parts.
All four tires of your 'toad' remain on the ground.
Flat towing can be an expensive investment. You could be looking at $2-3K.
It's a solid choice if you are prepared to make the investment and know that you will be keeping the vehicle as your toad for a long time.
Flat towing with a tow bar is the easiest system to use.
Once installed, you connect your car to the tow bar/RV, hook up it's 'umbilical cord' and braking system.
Then make any necessary electrical changes to your toad, and you're off. Disconnecting is very simple as well.
There is also the added benefit of not having to deal with storing a heavy dolly at your campsite.
This system has quite a few parts. It includes the towbar, a base plate, a safety cable set, wiring, and a supplemental braking system for your toad.
The base plate will be permanently attached to your toad while the tow bar attaches to the base plate when towing.
Then, the other end of the tow bar inserts into your RV's receiver.
Some car tow bars stay connected to the RV, some stay connected to the tow vehicle.
The choice is simply a personal preference, though we only review the style that remains attached to your RV.
Connecting A Towed Vehicle Properly by Gone With the Wynns
Don't forget that some vehicles can be set up to tow or are 'tow ready' and some CANNOT (without expensive modifications).
Read your manual to find out if your toad will need modifications or not.
You can total your vehicle by doing it wrong. Doing so could destroy your transmission.
Tow Bar Selection
Even though it's more expensive, you'll want to get a tow bar with telescoping arms.
This makes hooking up MUCH easier as you don't have to pull up the toad perfectly to get it on.
Otherwise, you have to have your toad aligned just perfectly with your RV to get it attached properly.
Technology has come a long way. Might as well take advantage of it!
Lights And Turn Signals
By law, your toad MUST have working signals and brake lights and tail lights. For this, you have a couple of options.
You can either wire your toad to work with your RV's lights/signals, or you can get add-on accessory lights.
The downside to add-on lights is that they can damage your paint.
They also cause you that much more of a hassle since you have to set them up and take them down every time you hit the road.
Auxillary Brakes For Your Toad
Most states require by law that you have an auxiliary braking system for your toad. This type of system causes your toad to have brakes of its own while towing.
It also will brake the toad if it somehow becomes disconnected from your RV.
Towing without an auxiliary braking system will put undue stress on your motorhome. Stopping distance will suffer.
You will likely be able to feel the push from behind. Your motorhome's brakes will be more stressed.
If you get into an accident and your insurance company finds out you were towing without a braking system, they might find you at fault and not cover your losses.
In other words, if you are smart, you will get a braking system.
This one is vehicle-specific.
Some toads require the ignition switch to be in a position that allows the steering column to remain unlocked for flat towing.
It also leaves power applied to various electrical circuits. If you are towing for more than a few hours, it can completely kill your battery.
Strategies for avoiding this vary by model, but most fixes are to simply pull a fuse from the vehicle's fuse box before towing.
This can be another step that you might forget to do.
Many base plates have to be custom ordered to fit your toad.
Most of the other parts of your tow bar can be made to fit universally, but not the tow bar base plate.
Installing a tow bar base plate is a difficult process and will likely take a professional to install unless you are extremely handy.
Pros and Cons of Flat Towing:
For some RV'ers, towing using a dolly is the better choice. It works by carrying your car by its front tires only.
You drive the front tires up onto the RV tow dolly, secure them down using the straps, and attach the 'umbilical cord'.
A dolly is an extra hassle in that now you have another set of tires to maintain and another piece of equipment to maintain.
You also have to store it at the campground or home.
They aren't the lightest things in the world.
If the ground is wet, it's even harder to maneuver at a campground.
A tow dolly works best with front-wheel drive vehicles.
If you have a rear wheel or sometimes an all-wheel-drive you may have to get it modified.
Again, this is an extra cost.
It's nice that there are usually limited or no modifications necessary with a dolly.
If you change vehicles, you can simply drive the new vehicle up onto the dolly.
You cannot do that with a tow bar unless the new-to-be-towed vehicle already has a base plate attached that fits your tow bar.
Getting the car onto the dolly can be intimidating and stressful. Drivers have driven TOO far onto a dolly and gotten the car stuck on top of the dolly.
Before You Go: Tow Checklist
Also, as tight as you get the wheel straps, they tend to come loose.
If your car's lights aren't connected to the motorhome, you will need to get that set up.
Or, you can get an accessory tail light to attach to the back of your vehicle. It's against the law to tow a vehicle without brake lights, parking lights, and turn signals.
Yes, many RV tow dollies come with their own brake system.
This would save you from purchasing an auxiliary braking system.
A tow dolly will also save wear and tear on your front wheels and suspension.
If your tow dolly has fixed wheels instead of swiveling wheels, you CAN back up with your toad attached.
You cannot do this with 4 down. However, if your wheels swivel, you are out of luck.
Pros and Cons of Dolly Towing:
How To Load Your Toad Onto A Dolly
Your RV has a towing weight limit.
If you exceed it, you may not have handling problems (but you could), but you could also break your hitch and your heavy-duty tow bar.
Your stopping distance will be greater, your brakes will wear faster (and possibly fail coming down a mountain pass), and your ability to control the rig during a fast stop will be compromised.
These are very good reasons to know your motorhome's towing capacity and to keep your weight under that limit.
The weight rating of the motorhome’s hitch receiver is another concern. Most receivers are adequate, but if necessary, you can upgrade your receiver.
Keep in mind, however, that an upgraded hitch receiver cannot increase the specified weight limit set by the chassis manufacturer.
RV Hitch Receivers
You must know your motorhome's hitch receiver rating to make sure it is suited for the load you are looking to put on it.
The most problematic part of your hitch receiver may be that the height may not match up with your chosen toad.
In such a case, you would need a drop-receiver to allow the tow bar to ride level.
You can get them anywhere from 2 to 10-inch variations.
Having an extra vehicle to bum around town is quite a luxury when camping. It means you don't have to break camp to go somewhere.
Knowing how you need to tow is essential in picking the right towing setup. Below we have reviewed the best tow bars according to ease of use and customer satisfaction.
All of the information and manuals you need for each is provided inside each particular review.
Take a look and get ready to have a new tow bar on your hands!
RV Tow Bar Reviews
Here you will find our picks for the best RV tow bars that money can buy.
If you simply want to learn more about towing, jump down below the reviews to our guide.
Our favorites were three Roadmaster 'All-Terrain' tow bars that range in load capability from 6,000 to 10,000 pounds, so choose the weight capacity that fits your vehicle.
The reviewed Roadmaster All-Terrain RV tow bars vary in the weight of the tow bars themselves, and the weight capacity for the vehicle being towed.
What does 'All-Terrain' mean?
Simply that these RV tow bars use Roadmaster's patented non-binding Freedom Latch technology that allows you to unlock the tow bar (when unhitching) with minimal effort.
It doesn't matter what angle your toad is in relationship to your motorhome.
It also doesn't matter if your motorhome is parked on an incline or decline.
Competitors' tow bars tend to bind unless the RV and towed vehicle are perfectly straight while on level ground.
With the below reviewed Roadmaster Tow Bars, it doesn't matter. (See the video below the reviews for further explanation of tow bar binding.)
This is a HUGE reason we chose this brand.
You will notice a lack of Blue Ox Tow Bars in the reviews below. Find out why we don't recommend Blue Ox.
Why Roadmaster Tow Bars?
All the reviewed Roadmaster tow bars feature the patented non-binding Freedom Latch technology.
This allows for easy release during disconnecting. The angle or incline of your RV and toad doesn't matter.
This means no frustration and simple, one-person operation.
The competition either doesn't offer non-binding latch technology or only offers it in a very limited number of tow bars.
See the video below the reviews to learn more about tow bar binding.
Roadmaster tow bars are designed and manufactured completely in-house at their Vancouver, Washington facility.
Roadmaster uses FEA (Finite Element Analysis) computer testing - the same technology used by aerospace companies - to completely test designs before producing the first prototype.
They then do real-world stress testing to the equivalent of 600,000 road miles to ensure your Roadmaster tow bar will give a long, trouble-free life (life expectancy of around 70,000 miles).
The below reviewed Roadmaster RV tow bar models are available in either steel or aluminum construction.
They offer towing ratings from 6,000 to 10,000 pounds.
Roadmaster offers over 1,000 different mounting brackets (purchased separately as they are specific to the model vehicle you are towing) that fit over 2,000 different vehicles.
This selection is the largest in the RV tow bar industry, ensuring they most likely offer a mounting bracket for your vehicle.
Best RV Towbar Overall
Roadmaster Sterling All-Terrain
The Roadmaster Sterling All-Terrain RV tow bar is the world's strongest aluminum tow bar.
It can handle towing vehicles up to 8,000 pounds.
Its non-binding Freedom Latch means that you can unhook your towed vehicle from your motorhome with no frustration, regardless of the angle between your RV and toad or amount of incline/decline your rig is parked on.
Continue Reading Roadmaster Sterling All-Terrain RV Tow Bar Review
Best Heavy Duty RV Tow Bar
Roadmaster Blackhawk 2 All-Terrain
If you have a full-sized pickup or SUV that you want to tow behind your motorhome, then the Roadmaster Blackhawk 2 All-Terrain tow bar (model 422) is what you are looking for.
It has a 10,000 pound towed vehicle capacity.
With all the great features the All-Terrain series are known for, this is the best tow bar for flat towing your heavier vehicle.
Continue Reading Roadmaster Blackhawk 2 All-Terrain Tow Bar Review
Best Budget RV Tow Bar
Roadmaster Falcon All-Terrain
The Falcon All-Terrain (model 522) is Roadmaster's best selling RV tow bar, and for good reason.
It offers a reasonable price, good towing capacity, and outstanding All-Terrain features. Therefore, if you have a small to medium-sized vehicle (under 6,000 pounds), this bar is perfect for you.
Continue Reading Roadmaster Falcon All-Terrain Tow Bar Review
What About Blue Ox Tow Bars?
Why are we not recommending a single Blue Ox tow bar? After all, they are a very well known brand in RV tow bars.
So, what's up?
With the exception of all but their latest tow bar (the Blue Ox Avail), all of the Blue Ox Tow Bars suffer from binding issues when the towed car is in certain positions.
This makes it virtually impossible for one person to disconnect the toad from the motorhome. See the below video for more on this binding issue.
While a Blue Ox Tow Bar may be less expensive initially than the Roadmaster Tow Bars that we recommend, we feel strongly that the Blue Ox Tow Bar binding issue (when you are on anything but flat, level ground) is enough to make us not recommend them.
All of the recommended Roadmaster Tow Bars have their patented 'Freedom Latch' that allows you to easily disconnect your toad no matter what angle or incline it is at.
This lack of binding, no matter what position your toad is in, makes the minimal cost difference more than worth it by eliminating a huge aggravation factor.
Tow Bar Binding, Or Why To Choose A Roadmaster Tow Bar
Vehicle Mounting Brackets
Purchasing one of the above RV tow bars is only half of the equation.
You also must purchase (and install) the appropriate mounting bracket for the front of your towed vehicle. This mounting bracket is vehicle specific.
This is why Roadmaster cannot include a bracket with the purchase of your car tow bar. Roadmaster offers two different styles of brackets.
One that uses a full-length crossbar and one that doesn't.
Why in the world are there two different styles?
The style of bracket that uses the full-length crossbar allows you to install tow bar accessories such as a rock shield (to protect the front of your vehicle).
If you aren't into these accessories, then you can purchase the bracket version that doesn't use the crossbar.
See the below video for further explanation (after all, a picture is worth a thousand words, or something like that).
The two different bracket styles are as follows:
- XL (also called EZ4): Uses the full-length crossbar and is compatible with Roadmaster accessories. If you purchase the Sterling All-Terrain tow bar, then this is the style of mounting bracket you need as it is compatible with the Sterling's EZ Hook safety cables.
- MX (also called EZ5): The tow bar connects directly to this style bracket, eliminating the use of the full-length crossbar. These brackets ARE NOT compatible with the available Roadmaster accessories, nor are they compatible with the Sterling All-Terrain tow bar, which requires the XL/EZ4 style for it's EZ Hook safety cables.
To find out which vehicle specific bracket you need, visit Roadmaster's interactive bracket selection guide.
Once you select your vehicle year, make, and model, you will see the available bracket part numbers. When you click on the part number, you will see the installation manual (PDF).
It will show you what exactly needs to be done to install the mounting bracket on your particular vehicle.
You can then decide if this is a job you want to tackle, or if you would prefer to have a professional do the work for you.
Difference In Roadmaster Mounting Bracket Styles
Roadmaster RV Tow Bar Accessories
One of the hazards of towing a vehicle behind your motorhome is that debris kicked up from your RV can damage the front of your toad.
To greatly reduce the chance of flying debris from cracking your toad's windshield, paint, or headlights, consider using either the Roadmaster Tow Defender or Roadmaster Guardian.
Heck, if you wanted to get wild and crazy, both protective devices can be used at the same time.
Roadmaster Tow Defender
The Roadmaster Tow Defender is a heavy-duty screen that fits horizontally between your motorhome and your towed vehicle. It prevents debris kicked up by your RV from hitting your toad.
It uses shock-absorbing gas struts to compress the screen when you are turning and rolls up for easy storage behind your rig.
Roadmaster Tow Defender Features and Specs:
- 20 square feet of protection for a bumper-to-bumper blanket of protection
- Weight: 14.5 pounds
- Rolls up to 4" diameter for easy storage
- Reinforced seams and gussets for long life
- Powder-coated steel supports
- Shock absorbing gas struts that compress during cornering to 'compress' screen during turns
- Fits XL/EZ4 style brackets that use the quick disconnect crossbar. Not compatible with MX/EZ5 style brackets.
Roadmaster Tow Defender
The Roadmaster Guardian is made from rotationally molded, high-impact polyethylene plastic.
It protects the nose of your towed vehicle from debris kicked up by your motorhome.
No, it doesn't necessarily protect your windshield, so if that is a concern, the Roadmaster Tow Defender (above) is a better choice.
Or, you can use both the Guardian and the Tow Defender.
Roadmaster Guardian Features and Specs:
- Made from high-impact polyethylene plastic
- Protects the front of your toad from rocks and other debris kicked up by your motorhome
- Fits XL/EZ4 style brackets that use the quick disconnect cross bar. Not compatible with MX/EZ5 style brackets.
The Roadmaster Stowaway stores the Roadmaster Guardian (see above) at the rear of your motorhome when your toad is disconnected from your rig.
It slides over your tow bar's stinger to allow for easy storage of your Guardian.
There is a drop-down collar with pull-pin that lets you easily remove the Stowaway and access a rear engine compartment.
RV Tow Dolly Reviews
RV tow dollies are a good alternative to RV tow bars if you have a vehicle that cannot be flat towed (towed on all four wheels).
A tow dolly works best with front-wheel drive vehicles since the 'drive' wheels are off the ground.
While it is possible to tow a rear wheel drive vehicle with an RV tow dolly, you have to get a driveline disconnect kit so that the rear (drive) wheels don't 'turn' the transmission and damage it.
While there are several manufacturers of RV tow dollies, we chose Demco as our top pick.
Furthermore, we chose the Demco Kar Kaddy SS (their top of the line tow dolly) as the best RV tow dolly for a couple of reasons.
While you read more about the Demco Kar Kaddy SS in the below review, we will point out a couple of features that set this tow dolly apart from the competition.
First, it folds up to less than half its unfolded length for easier storage both at home and at the campground.
Also, it offers a steering axle that allows tighter cornering without putting unnecessary stress on your towed vehicle.
Best RV Tow Dolly
Demco Kar Kaddy SS
The Demco Kar Kaddy SS is a great RV tow caddy that offers ease of use, with industry-leading features.
If you can't (or don't want to) use an RV tow bar for the vehicle you are towing behind your motorhome, then the Kar Kaddy SS (Space Saver) deserves serious consideration.
It's not the cheapest on the market, but its features that make the expense worth it.
Continue Reading Demco Kar Kaddy SS Review
By now, you understand that the choice on whether to tow 4 down or on an RV tow dolly depends on your RVing style and needs.
It's up to you to review the pros and cons of each and come up with your conclusion.
Whichever you choose, have a ball camping out there!
Camp on, Addicts!
He-llllo. I'm the co-founder of Camp Addict, which my biz partner and I launched in 2017. I frigging love the RVing lifestyle but in December of 2020, I converted to part-time RV life. Heck, I lived in my travel trailer for over 5.5 years, STRICTLY boondocking for pretty much all of it. Boondocking is a GREAT way to live, but it's not easy. Anyway, I'm passionate about animals, can't stand campgrounds, I hardly ever cook, and I love a good dance party. Currently, I can be found plotting and scheming whether or not to start collecting farm animals (or plotting my next RV trip!) at my beautiful new 'ranch' named 'Hotel Kellyfornia', in Southern Arizona.
Camp Addict co-founder Marshall Wendler brings his technical expertise to help explain RV products in an easy to understand fashion. Full-time RVing from April 2014 - December 2020 (now RVing about 50% of the time), Marshall loves sharing his knowledge of the RV lifestyle. Marshall spends the majority of his RVing life boondocking. He is the part of Camp Addict that knows 'all the things'. He's good at sharing his technical knowledge so you can benefit.