Carol, this is something I have been discussing for years. Australia is not the odd ball here... The USA is. I like to check out other English-speaking car site, like Australia and the UK. Outside of the US cars almost always have a much higher tow rating. There are little, if any differences in the cars themselves. In fact, they often have smaller engines outside the US.
I have heard a few reasons why this may be the case. The first is that the US is full of lawyers. When people get into trouble, they like to pass the blame... Sue, sue, sue.
Also, Americans tend to have a slightly different outlook on cars and driving than most of the rest of the world. Driving a car is the US is a God-given right handed down by George Washington himself. I think Abe Lincoln mentioned that every American should be able tom drive any car he or she wants, however he or she wants to. (I joke, of course, but you'd think it was in the constitutiom). In other words, people don't want to slow down and be more careful with a trailer in tow. They want to hit the interstates and run 80 MPH all day long.
Another reason is that we have EPA standards. Would a bigger GCVWR bump a small car into a larger category? Would that matter? I don't know. I have heard arguments, but I don't know enough about it to comment.
Trailer laws are also very different from state to state. Here in Maryland, trailers don't need brakes unless they are over 3,000 pounds. I'm thinking that trailer brakes should probably have more to do with the ratio of trailer weight to curb weight on the car. In England, for instance, the curb weight of the car dictates how heavy of a trailer you can tow. That's what I've been told, anyway.
Mor often than not, a given car is rated to tow more outside the US. That is a fact. It seems that it is very rare for this to actually matter in the US. I have always gone by the Euro numbers on my cars. My VW Golf was rated at 1,200 pounds in the US, but was rated to 3,200 pounds in Germany where it was built. My Scion is rated at ZERO pounds in the US, but is rated for about 1,700 pounds in the UK. I installed class I hitches on both, so I will surely not go over 2,000 pounds... But I don't mind going right up to that. My car tows very well. The brakes are more than capable. The handling is confidence inspiring. It is easy to forget that a 1,500 pound trailer is back there.
Of course, I keep up on everything on my car. I use good synthetic fluids. I keep the brakes and tires
in good condition. I have air lift bags in the rear springs tom help keep the car level. I check the condition of the hitch often. I also send samples of my engine oil to a laboratory for analysis at every oil change. Even though I often go past 10,000 miles on an oil change, the reports always come back very positive. The lab always recommends that I put more miles on the oil, but I like to change it every 10k because it is easy to remember. I also use a ScanGauge2 to keep an eye on the coolant temp (my car just has an idiot light) as well as other numbers.
I only have 40,000 miles on my car, but I have not replaced brakes or anything else other than filters and fluids. Speaking of which, brake fluid should usually be replaced every two years. This helps a lot to keep corrosion out of the brake system. I also use good brands here... I use ATE Super Blue Racing in most of my vehicles. Most other fluids are either RedLine or Amsoil. Out of 40k miles, about 4,500 of those were with a trailer of some sort in tow.
Originally Posted by Carol H
There is one thing that I have always found intreasting about the tow caps for the Outback here in N/A vs Austraila. My model in Australia has a tow cap with trailer brakes of 1500kg (3300lbs) and the tongue 150kg (330lbs). Have talked to our local dealer and they tell me there is no difference between my NA model and the Australia model other than different option packages. This is one of the reasons I don't worry to much about the car being able to handle my tonque weight if it creeps over the NA limit of 200lbs by 40 pounds or less providing it is within the hitch limits. Would love to know the real reason for the difference between here and Australia though.
I like Paul like keeping my Outbacks for at least 5 years - which I have done in the past (this is my 3rd one). Admit that I wonder if this one will stand up as long as the previous ones due to the towing - never towed with the others. 3.5 years into ownership and so far no issues whats so ever. Only thing I have noticed is I went through front brakes faster on my current Outback than on my old Outbacks - service manager suggested that although towing would be a factor the lower milage on the front brakes had more to do with this being the first automatic I have owned and the steep hills that I drive on daily. My old Outbacks were manual. For me living in a big city and on the side of a mountain with steep roads and snow that stops a lot of more expensive SUV's at the bottom of the road in winter - my Outback is the best all round car I could own and has never failed to get me home. Only time will tell if the wear of towing means a shorter life with me.
I realize fully that having a bit more tow cap would not be a bad thing so I have been looking around at what my options are for a replacement to the Outback in the future. Need something that works for parking in a big city and gives me smooth handling and ride which so far I have not found as most other options for increased tow cap have a truck based frame and the ride and handling is not as good not to mention the gas consumption. Need a tow that is really good in snow. Owning two cars is not an option. So far I haven't found the a good replacement option but will keep looking.