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Old 03-05-2021, 08:01 AM   #1
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New Tow Vehicle under 20k

My family is looking for a new reliable tow vehicle for under 20k. We have 13’ Scamp, no bathroom. we carry two kayaks, two toddlers and a dog. Live in Colorado. Last year we used our 2006 Subaru Forester, but it had over 150k miles and is not very comfortable on longer trips. Any advice on a new vehicle? It seems like everything is so expensive that can tow. Any input appreciated!
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Old 03-05-2021, 08:34 AM   #2
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Under $20K? Look for a reliable used vehicle. With all the people, pets, and gear, your biggest constraint will be payload, not tow rating. I’d recommend a minimum 3500/350# rating. Nothing new I can think of comes close to your budget. Even at $30K your choices are limited.

Offhand, a 3-5 year old Kia Sorento V6 might be a good candidate. Not too big, decent reliability, less expensive than more popular Toyota and Honda models, available AWD. Not recommending, just throwing out an often overlooked possibility. We are also four and tow a 13’ Scamp with a Honda Pilot, purchased used.

Consumer Reports has lists of good used vehicle choices in different budget ranges in their annual used car guide. That might lead you to some other possibilities. Of course they don’t consider towing, so you’ll have to check that yourself. To get the full towing scoop on a particular vehicle, look up the owner’s manual online by make, model, and year. Different versions of the same model can have very different tow ratings, and the manual will sort it all out.
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Old 03-05-2021, 09:08 AM   #3
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There are still a few new 2019 Nissan Frontiers S models left on dealers lots in that price range. These are a 4 cylinder, manual transmission, rwd king cab, work trucks. Tow rating is 3500 lbs. Very reliable. We have at least one member who tows a Scamp 13 with one and is happy with the performance. Slow up the mountains but I suspect your Forrester is too. The King cab back seats may not work but it's worth a look.

For a few thousand more you might find a crew cab with the v6. Avoid the 2020!
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Old 03-05-2021, 10:33 AM   #4
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Be green and buy USED! People get new car fever well before they wear them out. When I bought my F150 used, I paid the seller HALF what he paid for it new, and it only had 12,000 miles on it (it was five years old, bought from the 85 year old original owner).

Now it has 130,000 miles on it. His cost per mile on those first 12,000 miles was ridiculous!

Is there even a $20,000 new car with a tow rating?

You could buy a very nice used tow vehicle for around $10,000, like a Toyota Highlander. I’m partial to four door pickups. Plenty of room for family, and a truck bed to carry bicycles and other camping gear.

One of the BEST ways to build family financial security is to manage/control/reduce your spending on depreciating assets. Over a lifetime, the #1 depreciating "asset" most people buy are vehicles. Don't be that person and it will benefit you and your family.

I know which I would prefer: a new car with an average to mediocre quality rating, or a used car with top tier quality rating. Our last new car was 1981. Its not like we drive crap, we just buy used stuff in great condition, maintain it to that level, and move on after ten years or so, to the next really nice used car. We may actually buy our first new car in 40 years. It fits within our budget. But its a strange thing for us to do.
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Old 03-05-2021, 11:02 AM   #5
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When you say "new", do you mean brand new or new to you? If you're open to a used vehicle, the Ford Escape and Ford Edge both tow 3500 lbs and you can find them with a factory tow package. I just bought a 2016 Edge with low mileage for $21k CDN, so about $16,600 US. I haven't towed with it yet but it feels like it definitely has enough power and way more than the CRV that I had previously and only towed 1500 lbs. Some other models I had been looking at were the Honda Pilot, the Nissan Pathfinder, Subaru Outback and the Acura MDX. But they were all considerably more money, unless I wanted to get something 10 years old, and not in the budget at this point.
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Old 03-05-2021, 12:08 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by zsturm View Post
My family is looking for a new reliable tow vehicle for under 20k. We have 13í Scamp, no bathroom. we carry two kayaks, two toddlers and a dog. Live in Colorado. Last year we used our 2006 Subaru Forester, but it had over 150k miles and is not very comfortable on longer trips. Any advice on a new vehicle? It seems like everything is so expensive that can tow. Any input appreciated!
I would look for a used Datsun Frontier 4dr with the longer bed. Put a cap on the back and good to go.
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Old 03-05-2021, 02:01 PM   #7
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Our kids have a Kia Sorrento with a 5000 tow rating, are very happy with it. I believe it is a 2016 model. We tow with a Nissan Frontier, bought used unde $20k with 19k miles on it. Not fancy but a crew cab, been very reliable.
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Old 03-05-2021, 02:32 PM   #8
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a few years ago I bought a 2002 F250 diesel for $13000. high mileage but in very good condition and well maintained. have put 20 or 30K miles on it since, and just had to do oil changes, after taking care of the glow plugs when we first got it. it can tow 12,000 lbs as-is.
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Old 03-05-2021, 04:22 PM   #9
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Subaru Outbacks are popular for towing 13' Scamps. Up until this year they had mostly a 2700/200 tow limit, although this year that changed to 2700/270 or up to 3500/350. As long as your tongue weight on the 13 doesn't exceed the 200 lb tongue weight limit then the used Outback is a very safe and economical choice. They are normally rated by IIHS as a Top Safety choice+.
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Old 03-05-2021, 04:37 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by Radar1 View Post
Subaru Outbacks are popular for towing 13' Scamps. Up until this year they had mostly a 2700/200 tow limit, although this year that changed to 2700/270 or up to 3500/350. As long as your tongue weight on the 13 doesn't exceed the 200 lb tongue weight limit then the used Outback is a very safe and economical choice. They are normally rated by IIHS as a Top Safety choice+.
The 200# tongue weight limit will be a problem for a family of four with a pet and kayaks, and the new (2020+) Outbacks are out of their budget range.

Tow ratings are based on two people and no cargo. I'm taking the long view that the OP really needs a mid-sized V6 crossover to carry them into their teens. Kids grow fast and vehicles last a long time. Fortunately there are lots of good choices in that class, and used ones are plentiful.
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Old 03-05-2021, 04:41 PM   #11
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the newer Subarus almost universally have CVT transmissions, for which I would NOT recommend any sort of towing unless you want to encourage premature wear of a very expensive part.
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Old 03-05-2021, 05:47 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by zsturm View Post
My family is looking for a new reliable tow vehicle for under 20k. We have 13’ Scamp, no bathroom. we carry two kayaks, two toddlers and a dog. Live in Colorado. Last year we used our 2006 Subaru Forester, but it had over 150k miles and is not very comfortable on longer trips. Any advice on a new vehicle? It seems like everything is so expensive that can tow. Any input appreciated!
I think this budget spells "used vehicle", which is actually a good thing as per the above posts.

I suggest you take the following five steps.

1) Google "Best SUVs with 5,000 lbs. towing capacity" and "Best SUVs with 3,500 lbs. towing capacity", etc. Some of the articles may be a bit dated; that would actually be great since you are likely targeting more affordable vehicles from a few years back.

2) Then, spring a couple of bucks for an online subscription to Consumer Reports. Find the overlap between CR's reliability and driving experience ratings and recommendations, and those tow vehicles which interest you as appearing suitable. Try to end up with more than five choices on your draft "short-list", particularly if you are not in a large urban area with many choices of vehicles to purchase.

3) Validate the actual rated towing capacity of your target vehicles. This is an important step as it's very common for two different trim lines or two different model years to have different rated towing capacities. When you have a final "short-list" of at least five vehicles, investigate "known issues" here on the forum such as the limited tongue weight capacity of some Volvos and Subarus, and the difficulty in wiring a brake controller on some other brand of vehicles which escapes me at this moment.

4) Be very polite and non-committal to all of the forum members who will immediately jump in here and start talking about how Consumer Reports couldn't find it's butt in the dark with both hands. It's one source of data, not something handed down from the mount.

5) After competing steps 1 through 3, (with extra credit for step 4!), shop competitively for a good deal on one of the vehicles on your final "short-list". Purchase the best deal and enjoy the results of your wise decision-making process!
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Old 03-05-2021, 10:21 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by John in Santa Cruz View Post
the newer Subarus almost universally have CVT transmissions, for which I would NOT recommend any sort of towing unless you want to encourage premature wear of a very expensive part.

You've warned about this before, but the video you used as a reference presented no scientific evidence that CVTs are unsuitable for towing within the limits defined by the manufacturer.


Can you please present some scientific experiement-based facts if you are going to continue saying CVTs are unsuitable for towing as per the manufacturer limits?
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Old 03-06-2021, 07:24 AM   #14
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You've warned about this before, but the video you used as a reference presented no scientific evidence that CVTs are unsuitable for towing within the limits defined by the manufacturer.

Can you please present some scientific experiement-based facts if you are going to continue saying CVTs are unsuitable for towing as per the manufacturer limits?
Therein lies the problem. Nobody is doing any kind of independent, rigorous testing or data-collection and analysis of vehicles used for recreational towing, especially as regards long-term durability. What we have are lots of opinions and anecdotal reports. But here’s one added tidbit...

According to the Subaru manual, the tow rating is reduced by 50% (to 1350#) when towing long grades in hot temperatures. No reason is given, but I think it likely the transmission is the culprit. Since the OP lives in Colorado, that hill-climbing caveat would give me pause.

I don’t know if that restriction went away in 2020 along with the low tongue weight limit. It seems that’s when they finally adopted the J2807 tow testing standards, which includes a performance standard for hill-climbing.

CVTs continue to evolve. Are they there yet for light- and medium-duty towing? Maybe, maybe not. Nissan seems to think so. Their Pathfinder offers the highest tow rating on any CVT-equipped vehicle, at 6000#. Reliability has been sub-par, though, which again gives me pause.
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Old 03-06-2021, 08:12 AM   #15
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FYI, I didnít mean new as in new car, I donít even think any new car is sub 20k. Mean used today vehicle under 20k. Outback seems promising. Kia looks solid too.
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Old 03-06-2021, 08:50 AM   #16
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Originally Posted by zsturm View Post
FYI, I didn’t mean new as in new car, I don’t even think any new car is sub 20k. Mean used today vehicle under 20k. Outback seems promising. Kia looks solid too.
Endless choices on the used market. Me, I favor either Toyota or Honda. Recent year Hondas seem to suffer from infotainment system hell. Too bad as we are long term, loyal Honda owners.

The best tow vehicles are not super efficient around town vehicles. It's typically a compromise. I prefer either a truck or a midsized SUV. The more you tow, and the further you take your trailer, the more tow capability becomes important.


Google the model of your choice and infotainment problems, or parasitic drain problems. Both can drive you nuts!! We have a good friend with a 2020 CRV. Been to the dealer a dozen times for parasitic drain problems. They are too patient, myself, I would have escalated this long ago. Thus far, every fix has failed. They are on their THIRD battery.....

As cars have become more like computers, the reliability has suffered. Kia offers a 100,000 mile warranty (to original owner only, buy used and you don't get it). And that warranty does NOT cover the infotainment system, which only has a 3 year, 36,000 mile warranty.

Not picking on Subaru, every brand is struggling with this issue!

https://www.subaruoutback.org/thread...-drain.466873/
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Old 03-06-2021, 02:12 PM   #17
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purely anecdotal, but when we were car shopping last year and sniffed around 2020 Outbacks, heard a bunch of stories of CVT failures in newer Subarus, even just used for around town kid transport duties. wife of a friend of my son's in Reno, her Outback was less than a year old and only had 10K miles, and the tranny grenaded. took months to get it back on the road because the dealer was backordered on factory replacement transmissions.
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Old 03-06-2021, 04:16 PM   #18
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It would be nice if manual transmissions were readily available. We have to hunt far and wide to find them. It drives me up a wall to have a salesman tell me they don't have them because Americans don't want them. They either think Americans are stupid or lazy. How can we buy them if they are not available? Sometimes older salesman will go on to tell us how much more efficient automatics are now than they used to be. They do not take into consideration the "fun to drive" factor.
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Old 03-06-2021, 04:27 PM   #19
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it really is true how much more efficient modern automatics are... the 7G 4Matic in my 2016 mercedes is a marvel, it shifts so smoothly you can hardly tell, its torque converter locks up in every gear, and its remarkably good about anticipating road conditions and just being in the right gear at the right time. it has a pseudo-manual paddleshift mode, hardly worth messing with

much as I enjoyed rowing through my 5 or 6 speed sticks on mountain roads, 30 minutes in urban stop-n-crawl can leave you with a very tired clutch foot
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Old 03-06-2021, 05:38 PM   #20
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Buy used

I just saw a 2018 Honda Odyssey with 36,000 miles for $20,595. That would make a great tow vehicle for a 13í Scamp with room on the top for kayaks and lots of interior space for growing kids. Iíve heard rumors that Odysseyís are reliable.
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