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Old 24-10-2013, 13:58   #1
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Best small car for towing a small boat

Last fall I acquired a Discoverer 18. While this summer got complicated and I only got it in the water briefly, I'd been planning to bring it home (to near Boston, MA) this fall.... and then my car fell apart. Faced with $3000+ in repairs to a 12 year old car with over 100k on it, I'm looking for a new car.

Clearly, the Discoverer is a pretty light boat: about 650 pounds from what I can find. My hope is to get it home from Maine, and be able to take it out and launch for day trips nearer my house. I'd like a tow rating over 1000 pounds, so as to have some margin in case I move to a different boat.

So: any recommendations on a fuel-efficient car that can actually pull this thing? So far the only thing I've found that gets good (over 30mpg highway) fuel efficiency and has a factory tow rating high enough is the Toyota Matrix and Pontiac Vibe. What other cars am I missing?


And as a side note, what should I be looking for in a trailer? The one that came with the boat is in pretty rough shape, and I may want to replace it.

Thanks!
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Old 24-10-2013, 14:10   #2
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Re: Best small car for towing a small boat

I tow a 16 foot Daysailor with a '99 Chevy Tracker, and can't tell it is there.

The car is rated good to 1,000 pounds.
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Old 24-10-2013, 14:22   #3
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Re: Best small car for towing a small boat

Thanks! That at least confirms that 1000 pounds should be adequate for this boat.
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Old 24-10-2013, 15:49   #4
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Re: Best small car for towing a small boat

I think that the limit is the ability of the towing vehicle to brake the combined load. Electric brakes are mandatory on heavier tows, and can be fitted to smaller trailers if you drive in heavy stop and go traffic.

My total tow weight is about 600 - 650 pounds. I have to consciously remember that the tow is there to stop from clipping corners on turns.
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Old 24-10-2013, 15:58   #5
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Re: Best small car for towing a small boat

Maybe I should rephrase: I know what a lot of the limitations are. I also know that the only car I've found that fits within those limitations is the Matrix/Vibe (same car, different badges).

I mostly want to know if there are other cars that are fuel efficient and capable of towing, because I know I haven't looked at every model of car manufactured in the last 10 years.
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Old 24-10-2013, 16:03   #6
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Re: Best small car for towing a small boat

A Toyota corolla would be fine. Factory tow ratings on small cars are all over the place, Hyundai had the highest ratings a few years back. All depends on the attitude of the company, most experienced in the US market know that everyone will want to go 80 going stuff so they tell you it's not safe.

Pull that boat at 50 or 55 with any small car. The best reference is actually the online hitch sites. Plug in the year and model and have a look at the pics and install drawings of the actual available hitch. This will give you a much better idea what you can really tow based on good a hitch you can actually put on the car.
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Old 24-10-2013, 16:10   #7
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Re: Best small car for towing a small boat

I use an automatic rear wheel drive 91 ford falcon to tow my trailer sailers to my boat ramp.. It has one of the highest towing capacity of a car- 2300 kg. Pick one up for a few hundred dollars and scrap it when you have a major mechanical problem. I buy throwaway cars and computers.
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Old 24-10-2013, 19:52   #8
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Re: Best small car for towing a small boat

Adventurebound, that would be great, but up here in Massachusetts, USA, there's not much in the way of old used cars. The road salt tends to rot them out fairly quickly.

Boatguy, it hadn't even occurred to me to look at the Corolla... that's a definite possibility. I wish they were still making the hatchback version (I'd like to be able to carry lumber for my other hobby, woodworking), but the seats might fold flat enough to manage. Thanks!
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Old 24-10-2013, 20:05   #9
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1,000 lbs is within the capacity of most cars, with the exception of hybrids and micro cars.
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Old 24-10-2013, 20:10   #10
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Honda Fit, manual.. Rated outside the u.s. for 1000lbs towing or 2000lbs trailer w/brakes.. In the u.s. the book says towing may void warranty.. Go figure. I tow with mine, no problem, plus you will find no compact car with the cubic feet of storage.. Or even a small SUV that compares.. But boy that new Subaru cross trek is looking really good!
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Old 24-10-2013, 20:52   #11
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Re: Best small car for towing a small boat

I towed my pacific cat 19 from Virginia to minnesota with a 1996 vw passat tdi 5 speed.at about 750 lbs for boat and trailer it towed easily, we averaged 52 mpg eastbound empty and 30 mpg towing the boat , I dont think there is another car in the us capable of matching that including my current 05 tdi automatic.

Steve.
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Old 24-10-2013, 21:46   #12
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Re: Best small car for towing a small boat

I bought a 70s VW bug from a guy that towed a 505 with it. Discovered that it worked fine towing a Hobie 18 on its maiden tow home by having to tow it over a 3000 foot pass to get it home. Was down to 2nd gear and 30 mph getting over the steep part of the pass though. Hobie and trailer is around 700 lbs. The big truck mirrors to see around the outside of the 8 foot wide Hobie looked very weird when I wasn't towing the Hobie.

Few years later decided to upgrade to a more reasonable towing vehicle, a station wagon with a V8. Didn't even make it part way up the same pass that the VW did earlier. Turned out I had bought a car from when Chevy hadn't hardened the cams properly so the lobes were mostly flat and the car had no oomph.
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Old 24-10-2013, 22:10   #13
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Re: Best small car for towing a small boat

How about the last generation Jetta with the 2.5 and manual transmission? Lots of fun to drive too.
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Old 24-10-2013, 23:08   #14
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Re: Best small car for towing a small boat

honda CRV.
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Old 24-10-2013, 23:43   #15
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Don't get a stick. Auto trans are the way to go for pulling things.
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