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The Best Vehicles and Tips for Towing a Boat

Boating is a hobby that has stood the test of time. With many European countries having strong maritime traditions, we just cannot get enough of exploring the coastline. Although over the years it has become slightly more affordable, there are still significant costs involved and one of the questions that many boaters have to find an answer to is – what do I use to tow a boat?

This will be rather irrelevant for the lucky few who’ve found a space in a marina but for the rest of us who keep our boats on driveways, finding the right vehicle is essential.

Towing Tips

Before we go shopping for a car, there are a few things we have to consider. What is the actual towing weight? The weight that you find in the boat catalogues is unlikely to include the additional weight of the equipment, fuel and trailer, so eventually it may add up to a level where it all becomes too much for the car.

Next thing is to look at your driving licence. Are you allowed to tow? The fact that you’ve got a driving licence doesn’t automatically mean that you can legally tow a trailer. Upgrading a licence is easy (although not cheap) and essential.

It’s worth mentioning that the trailer will have to have a braking system. It’s illegal to tow an unbraked trailer weighing more than 750kg, so unless you’re about to haul around a dinghy, it will have to be a proper trailer with brakes. You can find out more on the National Trailer & Towing Association’s website.

There are also some valuable tech tips in the caravan towing section.

Now that you know the total weight of your maritime hobby, it’s time to look at the cars. For clarity’s sake you don’t want to choose a front-wheel drive car as your tow-vehicle. Although normally there would be no complaints about the traction of a front-wheeler, when towing, the front of the car will become too "light" to provide enough grip.

Also, it would be a good idea to choose a diesel car. Although it will have lower horsepower specification than a similar petrol model, the diesel produces high torque at low revs – exactly what you need when moving heavy objects.

It doesn’t have to be a 4x4 but there are benefits in having one. A reasonably-powered rear-wheel drive car with a manual gearbox should be able to cope with a boat on hard surfaces. If we’re talking about delivering the boat to a remote location or recovering it from a soft slipway, a 4x4 is highly recommended.

1. Land Rover Discovery

If you’re after the ultimate tow-car, the Land Rover Discovery is the answer. No matter which generation you go for – a classic 1990s Disco or a super-modern £40K fourth generation, they’re all capable of towing a 3500kg trailer up a muddy slope. The Discoveries pull the weight effortlessly and you don’t lose comfort in windy conditions because it’s a substantial and stable car. It is convenient to drive and in manual version will achieve 30mpg when not towing. The latest Disco cars are fitted with the Tow Assist system that features a rear-facing camera making reversing a breeze (no pun intended). If you’re not sure, consider checking Land Rover car reviews here to find out more. You're also welcome to add your own customer reviews – the more the merrier!

2. Audi A6 Allroad Quattro

This is the ultimate machine for all the SUV-haters. Don’t want to drive a big car but still looking for a capable car with a permanent 4x4? That’s Audi A6 Allroad. The 3-litre diesel with 229bhp might seem like a little bit over the top but since it can get to over 30mpg, why should we complain. It’s a versatile car – something that can both accelerate to 60mph in 7 seconds and tow a 2100kg trailer doesn’t come on the market very often.

3. Volvo XC70

It’s one of the most popular crossover estates. The concept is simple – the manufacturer takes a slightly boring estate car and makes it really cool by adding all-wheel drive, roof racks… and some decals, preferably involving Nordic forest scenes. The Volvo XC70 is not a bad effort but it's not for lumberjacks only. It provides all the comfort you expect from an executive car, it can reach over 41mpg (driving solo) and it tows like a proper 4x4 – 2100kg is not a problem for an XC70.

4. Mercedes M Class

The M-Class is a stylish executive car with a wild side. It has the image and it has the power. Its diesel range is reasonably powerful and the M-Class is almost as capable as the Land Rover Discovery. It is slightly less refined when it comes to off-roading, and the fuel consumption is slightly disappointing. What makes the Mercedes M-Class a unique car is that it is a clever amalgamation of utility and luxury. As with any Mercedes, you’re paying premium for the badge.

5. Peugeot 4007

This might be a surprise entry in the list but the Peugeot is a stylish and low-cost option for people who don’t need a second car in the family. The 4007 is a good all-rounder. Because of the way its interior is laid out, it doesn’t feel as clunky as a real 4x4. With its highly optimised 2.2-litre diesel engine and a superb 6-speed manual gearbox, this car is a really frugal choice. Driving solo it will return close to 40mpg. When towing its full permitted capacity, it will go 27-28mpg. The car is capable of towing 2000kg despite of its kerb weight being only 1800kg. The 4007 is a badge-engineered version of the Mitsubishi Outlander, which is also available in the guise of Citroen C-Crosser. The bad news for new car buyers is that the French versions have been discontinued in the UK. If you don’t mind the styling, you can still go for the original Outlander, which is going to be available for the foreseeable future.

This was the top 5 of the most obvious (or not) choices for a tow-vehicle. There are many more to choose from. Just make sure you get your numbers right! Learn to understand your vehicle and, of course, know your tides otherwise you’ll end up like the guy in this video: