Tow Vehicle Advice: Highlander vs 4Runner, AWD vs FWD vs 4WD vs RWD? - Fiberglass RV


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Old 10-05-2018, 08:33 PM   #1
JLC
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Name: Jen
Trailer: Scamp
Washington
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Tow Vehicle Advice: Highlander vs 4Runner, AWD vs FWD vs 4WD vs RWD?

Hi. We have a 13 foot Scamp. We need a new tow vehicle because the transmission just went out on our old one (a 2002 Mercury Villager that we happened to have before we got the Scamp). We're considering a Toyota Highlander or a Toyota 4Runner (more likely used than new). Any advice about which one would be better or if it makes a difference? Also, if we go with the Highlander, would you recommend AWD or FWD? And if we go with the 4Runner, would you recommend 4WD or RWD? I'm just learning about all of this, so I really appreciate any help and advice you can give me. Thank you!
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Old 10-05-2018, 08:49 PM   #2
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If you want an off-road capable vehicle, go with the 4Runner. You will sacrifice somewhat on highway ride and handling, as well as non-towing fuel economy. Get 4WD because you're buying an off-road vehicle.

If you want a daily driver that can also tow, go with the Highlander for the reasons mentioned. AWD will come in handy when pulling the trailer up a slope with limited traction (gravel, snow, wet grass even), because the weight of the trailer on the hitch tends to reduce traction on the front drive wheels.

Both are solid, reliable vehicles. Towing set-up, especially wiring, may be easier on the 4Runner, but both have been used by many people for towing small to mid-sized molded trailer very successfully.
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Old 10-05-2018, 09:00 PM   #3
JLC
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Thank you for sharing that!
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Old 10-06-2018, 09:58 AM   #4
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JLC, tow capacity may come into play down the road. All vehicles you mentioned will tow a 13' Scamp. What if you want to go to a larger trailer in a couple years? If you want to keep the TV and only upgrade the trailer then go with the 4runner with 4wd, which I believe has a higher tow rating than the 5k lbs of the Highlander AWD.
If you never drive in snow or icy conditions the a fwd or rwd may be adequate. I have a AWD highlander V6 and it is OK for my 17' Casita at 5k lbs tow rating but if I decide I want a heavier trailer down the road I would need to go bigger/stronger on the TV.
Some folks suggest that you leave a margin of safety when choosing a TV, IE don't max out the TV ratings.

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Old 10-06-2018, 01:53 PM   #5
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Name: Wayne & Barbara
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As I have said before, Tow Ratings already have a margin of safety built in.
We are on our 2nd Highlander. and 2nd 16 ft trailer. It works very well.
And is my daily driver.
If possible, get the Toyota Hitch as it fits into the rear bumper and looks better that an aftermarket hitch.
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Old 10-06-2018, 02:50 PM   #6
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note that the Highlander is essentially a beefed up FWD unibody car, and even the AWD version is primarily FWD with rear wheel assist on demand. OTOH, the 4Runner has a ladder frame, and is RWD primarily, with on demand 4x4. in general, RWD is the better configuration for towing, and a full frame is superior to unibody for pulling heavy loads. With a very light trailer, this doesn't matter much, but it certainly comes into play with heavier trailers.

absolutely you want the factory tow package on either of these. I've heard the Highlander tow packages don't come with brake wiring or a 7-blade RV connector, just a 4-pin trailer light connector, so that will require additional vehicle wiring.
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Old 10-06-2018, 03:29 PM   #7
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The Highlander might be difficult to locate with the tow prep package included. The primary element of this package was extra cooling, back in 2008 when I bought mine; not sure about new ones. The new HLs can be touchy about getting the brake controller wiring set up, from what I've read, but it has been done. I sold mine after 140,000 miles of towing (185k on the odometer) and bought a used 2008 Lexus GX 470. I miss the ride and handling of the Highlander, but my wife is much happier about the seats in the Lexus, and a happy wife = a happy life.
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Old 10-07-2018, 08:58 AM   #8
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Name: Tap
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I’ve been towing with 4Runners for 22 years. From utility trailer, to pop up, to 19’ camper and more. Never a problem. I would not get a 4WD. I had one 4WD vehicle. Only used the 4WD once for fun. Meanwhile gas mileage was less and brake job and other repairs cost more.
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Old 10-07-2018, 01:01 PM   #9
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I used the 4x4 on my Tacoma quite a bit, not necessarily when towing, but when exploring jeep roads in death valley, prewitt ridge road above big sur, pulling a subaru out the mud in Carrizo Plains NM, exploring Peavine Mtn north of Reno one muddy spring, etc etc.


(thats coming down, on top, the snow/ice covered the road entirely but I didn't stop)
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Old 10-13-2018, 11:47 AM   #10
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Apples and oranges. Those are all very different vehicles. I had a 2012 HL with V-6 and tow pkg, rated 5k towing. It towed my Burro 14 pretty easily, but was overkill. It got poor mileage, about 18mpg at best, was a bit large and not fun. (My previous vehicle was a Forester.) The 4Runner is about the same exterior size, but higher and beefier, really overkill for me.
I now have a 2018 Escape with tow pkg, 2.0 turbo and 3500 tow rating, more than I will ever need. I might carry up to 2500 lbs of gravel or lumber at most. Just got back from my second trip with my Scamp 13. Tows like a dream. And the Escape is very "fun" to drive.
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Old 10-13-2018, 12:36 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by John in Santa Cruz View Post
note that the Highlander is essentially a beefed up FWD unibody car, and even the AWD version is primarily FWD with rear wheel assist on demand. OTOH, the 4Runner has a ladder frame, and is RWD primarily, with on demand 4x4. in general, RWD is the better configuration for towing, and a full frame is superior to unibody for pulling heavy loads. With a very light trailer, this doesn't matter much, but it certainly comes into play with heavier trailers.

absolutely you want the factory tow package on either of these. I've heard the Highlander tow packages don't come with brake wiring or a 7-blade RV connector, just a 4-pin trailer light connector, so that will require additional vehicle wiring.
What he said! I've had two 4Runners. Currently driving a '14. They are rear wheel drive unless you manually shift into 4 wheel drive. They now have a specific towing package on my SR5 but I have a few special packages on mine that I never thought I'd use (but I do). Glad that's what came with it! 5000 lb towing capacity so I'm good for my Lil Snoozy on order.
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Old 10-13-2018, 01:42 PM   #12
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To reiterate what others have said, one is a car-based unibody crossover and the other is a truck-frame SUV. Ride will be very different. Both get the job done. It is a personal choice but I prefer the towing stability of the truck-based vehicles - the tail doesn't seem to wag the dog as much. Plus, as others have mentioned, the tow package is built into my 4Runner.

Other considerations are that the 4Runner will cost more new and it will depreciate less, so expect the difference to be more pronounced for used vehicles.

Also, be aware that Toyota offers two different 4WD systems in the 4Runner. The SR5 and TRD have a part-time system that is real-wheel drive normally and can't be driven in 4WD on dry pavement. The Limited has a full-time all wheel drive system.

I can't speak for the Highlander but my 4Runner TRD Pro gets about 19 mpg average and about 15.5 mpg towing the Lil Snoozy.
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Old 10-14-2018, 04:40 AM   #13
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Trailer: 2003 Casita 17' SD Deluxe, Towed by '09 Honda Ridgeline.
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In days of yore, our full size, long wheel base, 1978 Chevy G20 van towed some fairly large and heavy campers. Last one was close to 7K lbs. Engine mods, tranny, torque converter, differential, and suspension were all set up for towing.

Most frequent problem was lack of traction, even with the Limited Slip (Posi-Traction) differential.
It was still towing and hauling stuff for us until about a year ago. It was Unibody

Our 09 Ridgeline is, and our 03 Pilot was Unibody, Fwd primarily and AWD when needed. FWIW, I'm pretty sure the Jeep Cherokee and most of the other Jeep models are unibody. Although the wrangler is probably body on frame.

If we were towing constantly, it would be with a full size V8 truck with AWD or at least 4WD. I've had several full size pickups, and as long as the traction was reasonable they did fine with limited slip axle. But non towing ride was not good. Last one was a 98 Ram. So the new ones might ride a lot better.

Someone in an earlier post suggested going larger than necessary with the tug, in case you should decide to go with a heavier camper later.
Good advice!
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Old 10-14-2018, 06:22 AM   #14
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It appears to me the OP is already deciding to going larger. She currently owns a 13' Scamp and is considering two 5000# rated tow vehicles. One is a unibody crossover, the other a traditional body-on-frame SUV. Both are reliable and well-proven in towing duty. Both could tow a 16'-17' trailer. Seems like ample growing room to me.

At some point buying larger "just in case" reaches a point of absurdity, like buying your kids' shoes 3 sizes too big.

The choice between the Highlander and 4Runner comes down to how the vehicle will be used when not towing. The Highlander is a better commuter and family schlepper. It will have better highway driving dynamics and a lower cost of operation. The 4Runner is a legit off-road vehicle. It makes sense only if you need that extra capability.
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Old 10-14-2018, 01:00 PM   #15
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Name: Gilbert
Trailer: Scamp
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Highlander Towing Scamp13: 21 Mpg

Just completed a trip from Washington State to NM/Colo and back. My 2017 Highlander Hybrid AWD pulling a Scamp13. On the initial leg of the trip was only getting 18.7 mpg--but the Highlander engine only had about 7000 miles on it. As the trip continued I found fuel mileage improving to 21 mpg with the trailer whereas with the trailer disconnected I was getting 29 to 30 mpg. So that's about an 8 to 9 mpg loss in efficiency pulling the little Scamp (which was not hard to do except in stiff headwinds uphill where the engine had to noticeably rev up).

Am a little disappointed at how much fuel efficiency is lost pulling the little Scamp. It worked out to about a $20 per day fuel cost just to pull the trailer which didn't have much in it. If I didn't have my 2 little dogs with me would consider travelling without the trailer. On the positive side of things--was only getting 10 mpg in my money-pit RV.


Also noticed how roomy the Highlander is. I had a single mattress w/sleeping bag in it in case I decided for whatever reason to sleep in the Highlander. The rear side windows have pull-down screens for privacy. And the driver side 1/3 size rear seat can be used for dressing, etc. Definitely lends itself to casual "touring".
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