Car Towing: Best Mini SUVs for Towing Pontoon Boats

You should know exactly what you’re up against before buying a rig to tow your pontoon boat. Towing a 16-foot fishing pontoon boat requires far less muscle than towing a huge 24-foot pontoon boat.

If you haven’t yet acquired your toon, I’ve written about pontoon and trailer weights with many of examples of different sizes of toons and trailers so you can get an idea.

While most people utilize a full-size vehicle to tow a large pontoon boat, certain smaller SUVs are capable of doing so as well. Consider the choices below.

Dodge Durango

When it comes to towing, the Durango is a monster. Depending on whether you have the tow package and the size of your engine, you may be able to tow up to 7,100 pounds (3,220 kilograms).

When I connect my towing kit to my 2012 Dodge Durango Crew, it barely seems like there is anything behind me. I can easily navigate any wet or steep boat launch ramp when pulling my 22′ pontoon boat and trailer (package weight of nearly 3,600 pounds or 1,634 kilograms). In fact, I’ve never seen the wheels fall off before.

Going up hills is a breeze, and I can easily travel up to 78 mph on the interstate. There was a tiny jitter in the trailer when I pushed it to 82 just to test if it could take it, but that was without a sway bar attached. So, suffice it to say, that will suffice.

The Durango’s wheelbase is significantly longer than that of some other compact SUVs, which makes a major difference while traveling down slopes so you don’t feel like you’re being forced around by the trailer.

When driving up a steep boat ramp (around 4 miles per hour), the Dodge Durango has all-wheel drive, and you can shift into low gear, but… I’ve never had the need to utilize low gear since the tires have never slipped.

My 2012 Durango Crew cost $26,000 with a ludicrous number of extras and 30,000 miles (purchased in Aug 2014). The wife was easily persuaded since she acquired third-row seats, which she prefers for transporting her children around the neighborhood.

Nissan Pathfinder (Before 2013)

The Pathfinder was formerly a popular towing vehicle, but its redesigned 2013 body drastically limited its value as a boat towing vehicle. I was on the verge of purchasing a Pathfinder (in fact, I was seated at the showroom ready to make the purchase) when I came across a couple forum discussions from Pathfinder owners who were hauling. Nothing except grumbles.

Although the Pathfinder is rated to pull up to 5,000 pounds (2,268 kg), real-world Pathfinder owners say it shouldn’t be used to tow anything more than 2,500 pounds (1,100 kg).

However, Pathfinders from before 2013 do an excellent job towing. The earlier Pathfinders, on the other hand, featured a sturdy and durable body-on-frame construction. The unibody structure of the 2013 and subsequent body styles is not nearly as robust (even though it looks like a million bucks).

Honda Pilot

The Honda Pilot may be a fine pontoon boat towing vehicle, but you should double-check the model you’re obtaining. When I was looking through the lot, I noticed a significant difference in the towing capacity of each model, depending on the options.

The Pilot is a lovely (and expensive) automobile, but it also comes with Honda quality, which, as a previous Honda CRV owner, I can attest to.

Nissan Xterra

The Xterra is one of the more popular alternatives on the boat ramp if you don’t require third-row seats as I did. It tows a lot of weight, is tough, gets good gas mileage, and isn’t too pricey even new (about $24,000 depending on extras).

The Xterra has a few flaws that make it an unsuitable vehicle for me. One is that there is no third-row seating, as I previously said. The other appears insignificant until you have children and realize how inconvenient it is. There is no door handle in the customary place on the back doors. It’s a latch that’s pulled and is located on the side of the door. The issue is that the latch is too high for my children to reach, and this vehicle will be my wife’s everyday driver. This isn’t a fantastic solution unless you want to walk around to both sides and open the doors for the kids every time you get in the car.

However, if you don’t have children and only need a small SUV to tow a trailer, the Xterra is an excellent alternative.

Honda CRV

Towing a large pontoon boat with a Honda CRV is simply impossible. It normally only tows roughly 2,500 pounds, depending on your preferences and the addition of a towing package. That’s not even close to what a pontoon boat requires, especially when you consider that most automobile manufacturers exaggerate their towing capacity figures. Getting a vehicle that can tow at least 2,000 pounds greater than the weight of your boat is typically a good idea.

Aside from that, most CRVs have four-cylinder engines, which aren’t powerful enough to get you moving from a stop, which is a critical safety element if you live near a lot of two-way stops as I do.

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