Everything You Need to Know: Towing an RV with a Toyota Tacoma

In this post we’ll go over everything you need to know for towing an RV with your Toyota Tacoma.

You may be curious how much you can tow with a quarter ton truck. The answer may surprise you as many dealerships, both RV and auto dealerships, will try to convince you that your vehicle can tow much more than safely possible. This post will help you determine what RV you can tow with a Toyota Tacoma or similar quarter ton truck. 

The truth is that it depends. How much your truck can tow is completely dependent on your individual vehicle specifications, which varies greatly between vehicles, and even among similar makes and models. 

We’ll discuss what those vehicle specifications are, and how it impacts your vehicle’s ability to tow. 

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We’ll also share our experience towing a RPOD 192 Travel Trailer with a modified Toyota Tacoma and what you can expect if you have a similar set up.

Before we get into the modifications we made and how you can choose the best RV for your truck, let’s consider our setup’s specs:

*This post may contain affiliate links which means when you purchase an item using the link included, I’ll get a tiny commission at no extra cost for you.

Can you spot the Toyota Tacoma with kayaks on it’s roof – that’s us at the Sagadahoc Bay Campground in Georgetown, Maine.

Towing Specs for our RV and Toyota Tacoma

Our Toyota Tacoma is a 2017, 3.5 L V6, with a towing package, SR5 model, access cab. 

Our travel trailer is a 2021 Forest River RPOD 192, single axel, no slides, with a tongue weight of approximately 500 lbs. 

The dry weight of our RV is around 3400 lbs, and the GVWR is 4800 lbs. And our truck’s towing capacity was 6500 lbs. 

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That’s us, second in from the right at Heartland RV Park and Cabins in Hermosa, South Dakota. After making the modifications below to our RV, we felt confident driving from Maine to South Dakota and back!

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Glossary

  • Dry weight = weight of trailer unloaded, tanks empty, no propane, no cargo of any kind. 
  • GVWR “Gross Vehicle Weight Rating” = what the trailer would weigh if everything was loaded. Full black tank, full cargo of what is expected. 
  • Payload capacity = everything within the vehicle that the vehicle can haul. The bed, people, groceries, on racks. 
  • Towing capacity = what the truck can physically pull behind it but the trailer has the majority of that weight.
Our camping site at the Wild Duck Adult Campground in Scarborough, Maine

Modifications We Made to Our Toyota Tacoma and Which We Recommend

We made a few modifications to our Toyota Tacoma to make it more suitable for towing an RV long distance. These modifications gave us peace of mind that we would be towing in a safe and sustainable manner. 

Weight Distribution Hitch

First, we added a weight distribution hitch. The hitch we use is the FastWay E2 weight distribution.

I would never recommend towing RVs for any lengthy distance without a distribution hitch for nearly any set up. 

It’s vitally important to know not only what the weight you’re towing, but also what the weight is within your vehicle. 

The Tacoma’s payload capacity is 1150 lbs. And in our set up, we almost always would run out of payload capacity, before we would run out of towing capacity. 

For example, we had approximately 525 lbs in tongue weight, 350 lbs in people weight (if we’re sucking in), 50 lbs in dog weight, 50 lbs in an air compressor and an extra propane tank. 

All added up that’s about 975 lbs.That only leaves 175 lbs available of payload capacity. We would also sometimes bring our kayaks, wood, and//or bikes and doing so would max out our payload capacity. 

Additional Transmission Cooler

Another feature we added on the truck was an additional transmission cooler.

Our mechanic added this inline with the stock transmission cooler rather than replacing our existing cooler. We wish they would have just replaced it because we felt it ran a little too cold. Our truck’s performance wasn’t affected, but in the Maine winters when we weren’t towing, the temperature ran a bit cold. 

During one of our trips from Maine to South Dakota, it performed excellent with the two transmission coolers, but one would have been sufficient enough. 

Rear Airbag Suspension

Additionally, we added a rear airbag suspension. I do think it helped with the squat of the rear when you put the tongue weight onto that and a bit of ride comfort but it’s not something that I personally would do again. 

The reason I wouldn’t is because we opted for the cheaper airbag suspension, ____________ which was a manual fill, meaning we had to check the gauge frequently with a air pressure gauge. __________ and I had to fill them periodically. If I were to do it again, I would do an onboard system, meaning they install the airbag suspension with an actual air compressor, making filling easier.

Trailer Brake Controller

Another thing we did to the truck that we highly recommend is adding a trailer brake controller. I don’t know of any Tacoma’s that come with a trailer brake controller integrated. But we added an aftermarket one____________. 

Without a trailer brake controller you’re asking your truck to stop not only the truck, but also the trailer. 

*Our mechanic ordered the transmission cooler, airbag suspension, and trailer brake controllers, so we’re not 100% on which brands he purchased.

Scan Gauge II

An additional precaution we did was buy a Scan Gauge II to read the active transmission fluid temperature minute to minute. That also allows you to read many other outputs from the truck including engine oil temperature, water temperature, gas mileage, RPM rating, and more. For us, it was very important to get the transmission temperature to make sure we didn’t overheat our truck. The other readings were a bonus. 

In all of our research we did, the Toyota Tacoma’s transmission temperature light does not engage or come on until 300 F, and that’s from multiple sources. At 300 degrees F, you’ve already caused major problems, both in the fluid breakdown, and the actual transmission damage. Between 220 degrees – 225 degrees F is when you need to STOP towing to allow that fluid to cool down. You haven’t caused damage yet, but you’re at risk in the near future. Having that minute to minute read out from the Scan Gauge II was vitally important since I often tow alone. 

To fully know how much your truck and RV weigh, we highly recommend weighing your setup at a CAT scale, often located at truck stops. 

Additional Specs That Impact Your Truck’s Towing Capacity

Tire Pressure Can Also Impact Towing

I normally would get my tire pressure from a combination of what the max cold pressure said on the sidewall of the tire, and I’d also get the recommended PSI rating on the door sticker of the Tacoma. And I would generally go somewhere within those two numbers to whatever felt comfortable at the time of towing. I would regularly reference the tire pressure monitoring system on the truck to see if there’s any fluctuation with the pressure that would indicate the tires are heating up too much, and thus over inflating or if they are under inflated.

Although not totally necessary, we opted for an E rated tire for the low rating and the overall durability of the tire. 

We have a Goodyear Endurance Tire and for that particular pressure we went on to their website and found their tire pressure chart for that specific tire. That tire has a load rating that is much higher than what is required for our trailer. Therefore, we were able to lower the tire pressure to Goodyear specs which maxes out at 80 PSI and we at about 60-65 PSI because of our trailer’s weight. For our weight we can technically be as low as 50 PSI. 

Distribution of Weight Within Your RV and Truck

You’ll also want to be cognizant of how you load your trailer in overall weight and how that weight is distributed. 

A lot of trailers and ours included, the fresh water tank is on the forward side of the trailer, closer to the truck, and that adds weight onto the tongue, and thus onto the truck. Understanding this, it’s important to not overload your water tank while you’re towing. 

Similarly, avoid putting too much weight in the front storage compartments because that’s adding tongue weight. 

Mirrors

Althought mirrors don’t impact your towing capacity, they make it a heck of a lot easier to tow!

We picked up these adjustable mirrors that we use just in tow mode and take them off when we’re not towing.

These really helped with our confidence while towing because the standard mirrors on our Toyota Tacoma left major blind spots.

Mountain and Route Guides

Although these aren’t a product for your truck or RV, we felt most confident knowing we chose the safest route possible.

We love the Mountain Directories for Truckers, RVers, and Motorhome Drivers and bring them on local and long distance trips.

Our Forest River RPOD 192 at the Hungry Mother State Park in Virginia

Finding the Best RV for Your Toyota Tacoma or Quarter Ton Truck

Can you tow an RV with a quarter ton truck? Absolutely! But you need to know what to look for in order to safely tow and not damage your truck or RV.

When we decided to buy an RV, we weren’t sure what RV we could safely tow. We looked at a variety of specifics for both our truck and the RVs we were considering. Based on our process we would recommend the following steps below as you embark on your own search. 

First, you’ll need to understand what your truck is capable of including the length and height and length of the RV, as well as your truck’s stopping power, payload, and towing capacity. 

The next aspect to look at is the sticker on the side of the RV for the weight numbers. And our situation, we’re conservative towers. Our truck is set up for 6500 lbs, so we determined we wouldn’t consider any trailer over 5000 lbs. 

Finding an RV that fit these specs was a bit difficult at the time. There were a lot of units in the right size, however many of them had slideouts, which would cause the RV to be over the weight limit, often 5200 lbs. 

We also looked for the GVWR vs. the dry weight. Our trailer had an approximate 1400 lb difference, meaning the trailer itself can carry about 1400 lbs of cargo plus full tanks, etc. 

This meant we would be okay towing without maxing out the weight. We are well under 4000 lbs how we tow on a regular basis. You will find some trailers that have a GVWR of 6000 lbs, but a dry weight of 5200 lbs as hypothetical, and therefore you only have a 800 lb difference. 

Final Thoughts

Knowing how much your truck can tow is crucial. We hope this helped you determine how much your Tayota Tacoma or quarter ton truck can tow and what to look out for. Once you understand your particular setup’s specs, you’ll feel more confident and be on the road in no time!

Happy traveling!