How to Pick the Right Vehicle to Tow Your Boat? Top Tips

CitizenShipper CitizenShipper · Updated January 17, 2024

Set Sail Sooner!

  • Fast and easy
  • Only pay when you book

Finally: You bought your new dreamboat! If you plan to take your precious new vessel on adventures to new locations, it’s crucial to decide on a vehicle that has enough power to tow it in any direction. Having a well-equipped SUV or truck is critical for a smooth transport experience and for the safety of you and your boat. You want a vehicle that you can trust, especially on a long-distance trip! This article will guide you through important factors to keep in mind when deciding on a towing vehicle. We will give you all the basics you need to make an informed decision!

Determine the Weight of Your Boat and Trailer

Before you can decide which vehicle is the best, you first have to gather some information about your boat. Most important is its weight. In the best case, you still have your boat and trailer data from the boat manufacturer. If we’re talking about an older vessel, you have to consider that the original engine might have been replaced over time changing the factory weight guide. Keep in mind that the manufacturer measures the empty vessel’s weight. So if you have added any additions to your boat such as new seating, or a canopy make sure to include these. Additionally, if you plan to transport your boat when it is fully loaded with fuel, freshwater tanks, and other extra gear, the weight will also be much higher. You can weigh the gear individually and roughly calculate the rest: gasoline weighs about 6.1 pounds per gallon, and water weighs 8.3 pounds per gallon. If you lack the information about the boat’s weight, another option is to get the boat with the gear weighed at a local weigh station. This may be located near a trucking depot or waste service facility. Contact your local municipality for location and fees. 

Research Towing Capacities

After you have determined the weight of your boat and trailer, you can start to look for 

potential vehicles based on their towing capacities.

Car manufacturers usually calculate towing ratings with a weight of only one driver in the car. This usage is highly unlikely because you will probably take at least a friend, luggage, and other goods. You should include this additional weight in your calculation. After calculation your vehicle’s cargo, you should add the weight of your boat and your trailer. The sum of all of these factors is called “Gross Combined Weight” (GCW). The GCW Rating is the maximum amount of weight that a potential towing vehicle can manage. After you have determined the GCWR that you need, you can finally start searching concretely. Keep in mind that this number is the absolute maximum limit, one that you shouldn’t come close to in your regular use, because it’s dangerous and inefficient for your car and the environment. If you feel insecure about the towing capacity, always contact your local professional with your case and get their opinion.

Never Go Too Small

One crucial tip in decision making is: Never go too small. Towing a boat with a vehicle that is not strong enough can be hazardous. It’s much more challenging to keep control of your car and stop quickly if necessary. While it might seem possible on the straight road, you always have to include into your calculation different road conditions and weather circumstances. Towing a load that the vehicle can’t handle is not just extremely dangerous but also illegal. If your car is inappropriately sized, the insurance company may not cover the damages. But there is also no need to buy a 2-ton truck for a tiny boat. You should find one which is appropriate for the weight of your boat BUT keep the future in mind – If you already dream about a bigger boat that would extend the limits of this vehicle or you need the vehicle for starting your business as a professional boat hauler, you should think sustainably and go a size bigger. 

Standard Vehicles Used for Towing

Pickup trucks like the Chevrolet Silverado, Nissan Titan, Ford F-150, GMC Sierra, Toyota Tundra, or similar are the best suited for towing. These options have strong engines and steel frames, which are designed for towing and enduring strain. Additionally, the truck bed offers perfect space for loading gear. If you want a car made for everyday life to navigate narrow city streets, an SUV might be the better option. Large and full-frame SUVs like the Chevrolet Tahoe/Suburban, Ford Expedition, GMC Yukon (XL), and the Toyota Sequeira are strikingly designed with tow rating similar to pickups. This capacity is usually more than enough for recreational boating. If these cars are still a number too big and bulky, a smaller SUV is also possible. For example, the Jeep Grand Cherokee is rated with a towing capacity of 7,400 pounds. 

Consider Buying a Used Vehicle

A new towing vehicle can be costly but can be found in good condition on the secondhand market.  If you think about this option, make sure that you find one, which doesn’t consume an inappropriate amount of fuel – which is often the case with older trucks or SUVs – and make sure that it’s safe and in good condition. Let a mechanic make a full inspection of the vehicle!

Consider Carsharing

A towing vehicle is pretty expensive and having a smaller car can be more useful for city cruising. If you don’t need to tow your boat often, it might be possible to car share with your local towing community. While having your car comes with many comforts and freedoms, this option is better for your pocket and the environment!


A towing vehicle is a significant investment, making it essential to decide with a lot of consideration. Picking the right SUV or truck will give you a lot of safety and pleasure for your boat adventures. In the end, you must decide based on the requirements of your boat and your personal preferences. 

Good luck with your choice!