The 3 Ways to Tow a Vehicle Safely | How to Tow a Vehicle

There are several ways to tow a vehicle. Some are legal and safe. Many are illegal and unsafe. This short article will point out three methods that are both legal and safe. However, one method will probably meet your needs and fit your circumstances better than the others. 

This article will answer the following five questions:

RV flat towing daily driver to save gas on trip

How many ways are there to tow a vehicle legally/safely? 

  • Flat towing (Four down)

Four down (or ‘flat towing’) refers to how many tires of the ‘toad’ (towed vehicle) are on the road. Unlike the bulky equipment needed for dolly and trailer towing, four-down towing is done with a small tow bar. The only problem is that many car transmissions do not allow for this option. If you use this method to tow a car that isn’t designed for this, you could be looking at spending big bucks on car transmission repairs.

  • Tow dolly (Two wheels)

A tow dolly is a type of trailer on which the front two wheels of a car are loaded. The rear wheels roll on the pavement as it’s pulled along. A tow dolly is used mainly for vehicles with front-wheel drive transmissions, although rear-wheel-drive cars can be placed in a tow dolly if their transmissions are disconnected. The main reason for a tow dolly is because your RV cannot pull the weight of a loaded car hauler (trailer).

  • Car trailer (Four wheels)

If your toad is an all-wheel-drive or 4-wheel drive vehicle, chances are you will have to put it on a car trailer. Commonly known as a car hauler, these trailers normally have two axles for stability. When purchasing a trailer, look for car haulers that are long enough for your vehicle. It is also important to make sure each axle on the trailer is rated for at least 3,500 lbs.

Chevy Travers being towed on a car dolly

Which towing method is better/safer?

The most popular method is flat towing. In other words, all 4 tires are on the road. Here are a few reasons flat towing is so popular:

  • It’s one of the least expensive towing methods.
  • It’s quick and easy to set up. 
  • Hooking and unhooking the car is a one-man job.
  • It does not require additional storage at home or at the RV park.

The only downside to flat towing is that not all transmissions are suitable. If you try to flat tow a vehicle that isn’t properly designed for it, you easily risk damaging the transmission.

gray car being towed on car trailer

What are the other advantages of each of the towing options? 

Tow dolly advantages: 1) Flexibility in the number of cars with front wheel drive that can be towed; 2) More affordable than a car trailer. Choose a tow dolly if you are looking for the most cost-efficient way to move a vehicle a short distance. Paying high prices for a car carrier when you are only moving within the same city or state may not make sense from a budgeting standpoint.

Car trailer advantages: 1) Less mileage & wear n’ tear on the car. 2) Can hold heavier cars. 3) Safer for long distances. Choose a car trailer if you are moving a heavy vehicle that exceeds the weight limit of what a tow dolly can handle. You should also opt for a car trailer over a tow dolly if traveling long distances.

Severe service / heavy duty suspension upgrade kit

What should I know before flat towing or dolly towing? 

Some vehicles require special towing instructions. For example: Jeep YJs require that you put the 4wd yoke in Neutral and the manual transmission in 1st gear before towing. Others recommend that you disconnect the driveshaft. At the end of the day, it’s best that you look up your vehicle’s specific towing requirements to prevent transmission damage and unnecessary wear and tear.

standard duty Timbren SES suspension upgrades

What suspension upgrades should I consider before taking on these different towing options?

If you are using the ‘flat towing’ method, the weight of the ‘toad’ is not supported by the RV’s suspension because all 4 tires are on the pavement. As long as the RV can support its own weight, it’s unlikely you will need to upgrade your suspension.

On the other hand, if you are towing with a ‘car trailer’ or a ‘tow dolly’ you will need a reliable suspension upgrade for your RV. In order to prevent suspension squat, body roll, and backend sway, you’d be wise to purchase a Timbren SES kit. 

These easy-to-install upgrades replace the front and rear bump stops on your RV. Every kit is designed to eliminate suspension squat and increase stability. This means you’ll enjoy a greater level of confidence, safety, and security while on vacation with your family and friends.

Classic jeep with a tow bar for flat towing attached to the front bumper

For more information on Timbren SES spring helpers, visit