smallish SUVs with decent towing

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ProstheticWeasel
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smallish SUVs with decent towing

Post by ProstheticWeasel » Mon Sep 01, 2014 10:41 pm

We are in the market for a second vehicle and are looking at smallish SUVs so we have some ability to tow and haul. The car we have is an 03 wrangler so its pretty hard to even get groceries with its limited space. Its towing ability of 2000 pounds is also pretty meager.

So we are looking at:
towing at least 3500 pounds - so we can get the slightly larger uhaul trailer.
awd, 4wd or at least fwd - in case we are someplace with snow/ice.
comfortable for long trips - the wrangler is not a fun car on a long trip.
under 25k in price

We are looking very hard at a 2012 chevy traverse. It can tow 5200 pounds, seating for 7, tons of room and is comfortable.

It will be my wifes car so she does not want something too big. We considered one of the 4 door wranglers, a bmw x3 and a Hyundai Veracruz.

So far the leader is the traverse but is there any others that we should consider? does anyone have a traverse that can offer some thoughts on it?

One of the sources of info we used was this article: http://www.trucktrend.com/features/cons ... s_can_tow/

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Re: smallish SUVs with decent towing

Post by raptor » Mon Sep 01, 2014 11:01 pm

Both the Honda and Toyota minivans will tow 3,500 lbs. Lots of room and good quality for both. They are about the size of the Traverse but with more interior space and lot of seating options. Add a roof top carrier or a tow hitch carrier and you can carry 7 and luggage comfortably.

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Re: smallish SUVs with decent towing

Post by Murphman » Tue Sep 02, 2014 9:22 am

I've got the Jeep 4 door Limited package, and it is rated for the same ton as your two door.

Ever think of a crew-cab pick up, or do you need 7 passenger?
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Re: smallish SUVs with decent towing

Post by Dabster » Tue Sep 02, 2014 2:37 pm

I just started towing with my Honda Ridgeline. It is very comfortable for at least four, easy to drive, has a nice cargo area (plus a cool trunk) fantastic in the snow and tows like a boss. I bought my '08 gently used four years ago for $28,000 and like it more every day. It also gets ~19 MPG.

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Re: smallish SUVs with decent towing

Post by eugene » Tue Sep 02, 2014 2:41 pm

The thing to remember with towing is those numbers are for a flat ideal situation. If you want to tow in hills or rain that number will be lower.
The longer the wheelbase the more comfort towing, as well as the heavier the vehicle.
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Re: smallish SUVs with decent towing

Post by ProstheticWeasel » Tue Sep 02, 2014 7:57 pm

We looked at some trucks but this will primarily be my wifes car and she was not too excited with the idea of driving a truck around. We also like the idea of the suv as it has more enclosed space for hauling. We don't need the 7 passenger seating but as long as its there its kind of nice to have.

The Hondas and Toyotas were kind of on the pricey side. We did look at one of the ridgelines and it was pretty nice.

One thing we have found with the tow rating is that they don't tell you that you need the "tow package" to get the rating in the manual. The Traverse is only rated for 2k base but 5200 with the factory tow package. So it makes it kind of hard to get on the used market as people don't seem to care much how well a vehicle can tow. And sales people are generally unhelpful in that area as well.

For longer trips where you can't predict the conditions very well we keep the amount we are towing down so there is a cushion. Having a higher rating makes keeping that cushion a lot easier. :)

The wrangler unlimiteds can get up to 3500 pounds which is 1500 more than the 2 door wranglers except for the LJ. I am guessing most of the higher rating comes from the longer wheelbase.

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Re: smallish SUVs with decent towing

Post by eugene » Tue Sep 02, 2014 8:33 pm

Sometimes the tow package is just a weight distributing hitch and transmission cooler. Both can be added aftermarket easily. And if your towing with anything less than a v8 you should get a cooler that is better than the factory one anyway.

I don't get the Ridgeline thing, its a mid sized v6 that gets the gas mileage as a full size v8.
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Re: smallish SUVs with decent towing

Post by Murphman » Wed Sep 03, 2014 9:12 am

ProstheticWeasel wrote:
The wrangler unlimiteds can get up to 3500 pounds which is 1500 more than the 2 door wranglers except for the LJ. I am guessing most of the higher rating comes from the longer wheelbase.

I just went and looked it up. You are absolutely correct. I would swear my salesman told me a ton only. That makes me very happy!

Now I just need something to tow....and a hitch... :clownshoes:
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Re: smallish SUVs with decent towing

Post by offcamber » Wed Sep 03, 2014 10:06 am

I've been really happy with my second gen 2007 Nissan Xterra Offroad (the newer ones have changed very little, mostly cosmetically).

They discontinued the "Offroad" model a couple years ago, and now call it the Pro-4X but it is basically the same rig.

Bombproof reliable backwoods fun that is well behaved on highways/roads as well.

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Re: smallish SUVs with decent towing

Post by Denis J. » Wed Sep 03, 2014 10:41 am

I have a 2009 Traverse and, as mentioned, to get the full tow capacity you should get the tow package (and to be covered under warranty if towing more than the 2000). I don't recall all the specifics now, but I remember from when I was buying that after market modifications won't necessarily do the trick. For example, there is a push-button tow mode that changes how the transmission behaves in addition to the tow-specific mechanical components (from looking online, it appears this includes a heavy duty radiator, external transmission cooler, heavy duty alternator, etc).

That said, while I intended to get at small trailer, I haven't yet so I can't actually comment on how the Traverse does towing in the real world. I am pretty happy with the vehicle overall and the size & people capacity (I got an 8 passenger version) has come in real handy. Its also an AWD model which has performed quite well in the winter & snow.

I did get the factory cross rails for the roof racks and use a basket for when I need to haul lots of gear & people.
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Re: smallish SUVs with decent towing

Post by ProstheticWeasel » Wed Sep 03, 2014 9:51 pm

offcamber wrote:I've been really happy with my second gen 2007 Nissan Xterra Offroad (the newer ones have changed very little, mostly cosmetically).
I have always liked the xterras. Kind of on the pricey side though even used ones. Me and the wife have come to the conclusion that we are just cheap. :)
Denis J. wrote:I have a 2009 Traverse and, as mentioned, to get the full tow capacity you should get the tow package (and to be covered under warranty if towing more than the 2000). I don't recall all the specifics now, but I remember from when I was buying that after market modifications won't necessarily do the trick. For example, there is a push-button tow mode that changes how the transmission behaves in addition to the tow-specific mechanical components (from looking online, it appears this includes a heavy duty radiator, external transmission cooler, heavy duty alternator, etc).
We found the same info about the tow package. And from the sound of it it was not a dealer installable option. If it did not have it at the factory it could not be added. I suppose you could add the mechanical parts but getting the computer to handle the transmission would still be hard.
We talked to a couple of people on the street that had them and they liked thiers as well. Most of them had had them for quite awhile so that is a good sign.

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Re: smallish SUVs with decent towing

Post by zero11010 » Thu Sep 04, 2014 12:19 am

I want to make sure I understand what your criteria are:

* You want a small SUV for your wife to drive around. She doesn't want anything too big, and she doesn't want to drive a truck, but she does specifically want an SUV.
* You ideally want a vehicle which has 4WD or AWD and can tow 3,500lbs or more.
* You want to spend less than $25k
* You want something comfortable on a long trip.
* You have a Wrangler which cannot tow enough, and is uncomfortable to drive long distance.

Can your wife use the Wrangler as her daily vehicle? This would allow you more leeway in picking a vehicle to fit your criteria? This would give you the ability to go with a pick up or a larger vehicle for your mode of transportation.

The Wrangler does not suit your needs for long distance comfort or towing capacity. If your wife will not take the Wrangler then it sounds like you have a car that neither of you really want. Have you considered getting rid of it on the basis that neither of you are really happy with it?

Two examples of things that fit your criteria (prices from kelley blue book):
Honda Pilot can tow 4,500. A 2010 model from a dealership will run you about $18k.
Ford Escape can tow 3,500. A 2013 model from a dealership will run you about $18k.

I'm assuming you decided you absolutely need a 19 MPG Wrangler that isn't comfortable enough on long rides and doesn't have enough towing capacity, in addition to a vehicle which can tow even more. And, that you need both of these on a daily basis. I'm only asking because I know that big bulky vehicles are common for people who rarely need the capacity. This is also why the capabilities of SUVs have diminished so much over the last couple of decades.


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Re: smallish SUVs with decent towing

Post by grennels » Thu Sep 04, 2014 12:03 pm

Anybody have knowledge/opinion on Dodge Nitro? They seem to sell pretty cheap used.
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Re: smallish SUVs with decent towing

Post by teotwaki » Thu Sep 04, 2014 12:34 pm

I did not notice if your purchase had to be a new vehicle. My 2005 4Runner with the V6 and 4WD has about 190K trouble free miles. It can easily tow what you want. Besides a hitch they include a 7 pin circular connector that allows you to easily add a brake controller for trailers with electric brakes. It also has a 12 volt line that is fused for 30 amps so that you can charge a battery in the trailer. Around here a used 2005 with 100k miles is pretty inexpensive. A stock 4Runner is comfortable and you have lots of interior storage. I agree that the 2014 models are overpriced.
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Re: smallish SUVs with decent towing

Post by Dragon80 » Thu Sep 04, 2014 4:09 pm

Buy an early 2000's Toyota Land Cruiser and get 6500lb towing cap and one of the best off-road SUV's ever made (that we can get in the US) IMO. MPG 16-20 has rear locker, 7 seats, look great, and hold their value really well. You can find early 2000's for $13,000-$15,000 and you could probably get as new as a 2006 for your budget.

I drive cars for my part-time job. I have driven basically every car you can find being sold in America for a minimum of 60 miles and as far as SUV's go, the Toyotas are leaps and bounds nicer than the rest, especially American made SUVs. If you're leery about buying an older used Toyota LC, there are only really two problems on them, the water pump and timing belt. They're sold in a kit together and are to be replaced every 120k or so miles and it's fairly easy to do.

This is all my opinion of course and I'm about 2 months out from buying a Toyota myself, so I'm not giving advice I'm not willing to follow.
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Re: smallish SUVs with decent towing

Post by wee drop o' bush » Thu Sep 04, 2014 5:04 pm

I drive a 2005 BMW X3 and it pulls our 12'x6' IW livestock trailer effortlessly. They're also attractive to look at and nice to drive, your wife might well like one.
Mine is 9 years old now and still going well.
Edit: with regard to your specs:
It's comfortable to sit in, even for long distance.
Like I said it tows a large livestock trailer, full of sheep, easily.
It's 4WD.
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Re: smallish SUVs with decent towing

Post by Wormjello » Thu Sep 04, 2014 6:56 pm

grennels wrote:Anybody have knowledge/opinion on Dodge Nitro? They seem to sell pretty cheap used.
Same platform as the last generation Jeep Liberty. Towing capacity of 5,000lbs, we bought one for towing a horse trailer. Car and driver ranked it #10 out of 10. They said the only reason to purchase one would be if you needed the highest towing and actually wanted to go off road. Sounded good to me. I have since traded it for an 09 Wrangler 2 door. 15 mpg and 1500 towing. Looks great in the mall parking lot. :lol:
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Re: smallish SUVs with decent towing

Post by ProstheticWeasel » Thu Sep 04, 2014 10:47 pm

grennels wrote:Anybody have knowledge/opinion on Dodge Nitro? They seem to sell pretty cheap used.
Heh. Ironically a nitro was one of the first new cars we bought together. We sold it though as the monthly payments we bothering us and we had the opportunity to get out of without much of a loss. Other than the payment we liked the car. I guess if we had kept it we would not be in this pickle...
Dragon80 wrote:Buy an early 2000's Toyota Land Cruiser and get 6500lb towing cap and one of the best off-road SUV's ever made (that we can get in the US) IMO. MPG 16-20 has rear locker, 7 seats, look great, and hold their value really well. You can find early 2000's for $13,000-$15,000 and you could probably get as new as a 2006 for your budget.
We were wanting to get something that still had some of the warrany on it to protect a bit against getting a serious lemon. We like getting used vehicles rather than new so we don't take that big drive it off the lot depreciation hit. The bmw x3 would have been 50k new but with a year of warranty left it was 24 something. So it was half price after being a few years old. I kind of worry about cars that come back to a dealer after a year. I wonder what could have been wrong with it that the owner wanted to get rid of it so bad.
zero11010 wrote: Can your wife use the Wrangler as her daily vehicle? This would allow you more leeway in picking a vehicle to fit your criteria? This would give you the ability to go with a pick up or a larger vehicle for your mode of transportation.

The Wrangler does not suit your needs for long distance comfort or towing capacity. If your wife will not take the Wrangler then it sounds like you have a car that neither of you really want. Have you considered getting rid of it on the basis that neither of you are really happy with it?
We have talked about getting rid of it. But we both really like it as it is a fun and good looking vehicle. The trouble is that it is a stick and my wife while able to drive a stick is not really comfortable with it. If we lived in a small town with less traffic I think she would be ok but for now we live in the city.

We are not in a big hurry to make a purchase and for now we can get a rental car for 130/week. She does not work so we don't need to have one all the time. Just once or twice a month and we don't have to worry about any maintenance. We can bide our time waiting for exactly what we want. We think it is good to get the options kind of ironed out ahead of time and are not making a decision with little thought.

thanks for the help everyone! It is good to bounce ideas off someone else who has other experiences and can lend additional insight.

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Re: smallish SUVs with decent towing

Post by JeeperCreeper » Sat Sep 06, 2014 1:47 am

If you want something that is great for towing get something that is a "body on frame" construction like a truck, preferably with a solid rear axle.
If you want something that is great for driving comfort and fuel economy you will be looking at a "unibody" like a car/crossover

Examples of decent towing "body on frame" SUV that are recent that I would recommend:
Nissan Pathfinder (3rd gen, r51)
Nissan Xterra
Toyota 4Runner
Toyota FJ Cruiser
Jeep Wrangler Unlimited

Examples of nice riding "unibody" that I would recommend:
Nissan Pathfinder (4th gen, r52)
Ford Explorer (5th gen, u502)
Jeep Grand Cherokee
Toyota Highlander

Personally I am a Jeep guy but would recommend looking at the Xterra or r51 Pathfinder. My folks own the r51 to tow their boat and that 4.0 V6 is no joke (same as newer Xterra's engine). Over 150k miles and nothing other than oil changes and new tires. Nissan's in general are just as reliable as Toyota and normally much cheaper. I would also stay clear of non-V8 Chevy's and BMW's because of their track record for problems... but that's just me

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Re: smallish SUVs with decent towing

Post by Halfapint » Sat Sep 06, 2014 3:22 am

Personally I think what you are looking for, and what your wife want are completely different things.....

My recommendation is get your wife a newer model SUV. Check out some CRVs, RAV-4's, Xterra, Excape, or something along those lines. Avoid the luxury brands like BMW or Mercedes they have tons of trouble and generally are not built for much more than going over speed bumps.

Then go on Craigslist and check out people who are looking to get ride of F250s, Tundras, the equivalent in Chevy or Dodge. They all get generally the same gas mileage and tow about the same. If towing/hauling is that big of a deal you really just want to get a truck, they have the upgraded front brakes, a more rugged suspension, and are actually built for towing. If you are on facebook look at groups that are local buy/sell/trade, and don't be afraid to ask people on craigslist if they are willing to trade. Some people just want to get rid of their vehicles because a divorce is coming and they wont be able to afford it anymore, or just plain want something new.

There's a HUGE Jeep following out there and being a manual is an added bonus. I personally have never liked Jeeps, but I have a dozen friends out there that would sell their first born for a nice 2 door manual Jeep. You might get lucky and get a better deal because of it.

Just my .02
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Re: smallish SUVs with decent towing

Post by wee drop o' bush » Sat Sep 06, 2014 6:11 am

Halfapint wrote:Personally I think what you are looking for, and what your wife want are completely different things.....

Avoid the luxury brands like BMW or Mercedes they have tons of trouble and generally are not built for much more than going over speed bumps.
Just my .02
And you're entitled to it, but I disagree. People do use them as Chelsea Tractors but I have to ask if you've ever driven an X3 to drive over rough ground or used it to tow a trailer? Because let me tell you we find it a far better farm workhorse for towing trailers and getting through our mucky heavy clay based fields than either our Nissan Terranos or the Landrover we had before it. As for trouble, ours is now 9 years old and it's no more trouble than any of the 3 Terannos we had.
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Re: smallish SUVs with decent towing

Post by raptor » Sat Sep 06, 2014 1:49 pm

wee drop o' bush wrote: And you're entitled to it, but I disagree. People do use them as Chelsea Tractors but I have to ask if you've ever driven an X3 to drive over rough ground or used it to tow a trailer? Because let me tell you we find it a far better farm workhorse for towing trailers and getting through our mucky heavy clay based fields than either our Nissan Terranos or the Landrover we had before it. As for trouble, ours is now 9 years old and it's no more trouble than any of the 3 Terannos we had.

Not being critical in anyway. However, I note that you are in Ireland and many of the vehicles that you have access to may or many not be the same as the US versions.

For instance the X-3 sold in the US are made in North Carolina. The X-3 sold in the EU are made in the EU. I have noted that besides smaller engines that european BMW and Mercs seem (at least to me) better put together than similar US made models. Obviously YMMV ...literally. :D

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Re: smallish SUVs with decent towing

Post by wee drop o' bush » Sat Sep 06, 2014 2:00 pm

Fair enough, obviously the ball is in the OPs court.
It was the generalisation that BMW X3s were not fit for much more than going over speed bumps that I disagreed with.
I had no idea that US made EU vehicles wouldn't necessarily be as well made. Considering Americas place in automotive history that seems a damn shame :)
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Re: smallish SUVs with decent towing

Post by Halfapint » Sat Sep 06, 2014 9:09 pm

wee drop o' bush wrote:Fair enough, obviously the ball is in the OPs court.
It was the generalisation that BMW X3s were not fit for much more than going over speed bumps that I disagreed with.
I had no idea that US made EU vehicles wouldn't necessarily be as well made. Considering Americas place in automotive history that seems a damn shame :)
It is a damn shame. I have driven the X3 its nice, but I wouldn't haul anything with it. If you read the problems they've had with the here in the US market, they are not all that reliable. It's much like the Japanese market with Honda's and Toyota's, they have some amazing cars, we get the bastardized chopped down sluggish econobox's.
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