Best SUV with roof rack that has towing power?

I’m looking to get a new vehicle. I currently have a Kia Soul, but I can’t tow anything, and it doesn’t have a rack to put a kayak on. I need something that I’ll be able to lift a kayak on (I’m 5’3), as well as something that could pull a boat and/or trailer. I also need 4 wheel drive.

. What sort of trailer are you referring to? A travel trailer, pop up,or a kayak trailer? If it’s a camper of any sort, you will need to decide how much camper you want before choosing the truck. Figure out what’s important to you, do some window shopping and see what’s out there. Keep in mind that the tow rating of , say, 5000 lbs. includes the load in the vehicle and the loaded trailer behind it. You’ll be looking for a trailer dry weight of less than 4000 lbs.
If you can, talk to folks who have trailers similar to what you want. What they like and what they wish was different.
I’ve been down this road a while, and I’ve seen some folks choosing poorly and having to purchase again. Feel free to e-mail me.

Nissan pathfinder. Still had roof rails and can tow 6000

What sort of trailer?
What sort of kayaks?
No you don’t necessarily want roof rails… You have a lot more leeway in mounting if you have a naked roof and buy an aftermarket set from Yakima Thule or others.

The payload of the tow vehicle dictates what you can tow… Subtract the hitch weight from the payload of the tow vehicle and that i the weight you can carry in or on the tow vehicle. Tow ratings I have learned are meaningless.

We have a tow vehicle that can handle 5000 lbs. supposedly. Our trailer is 24 feet long tail to end of hitch ball. The hitch weight is 400 lbs including the battery and the full propane tank. The payload is 1200 lbs. That leaves 800 lbs for fuel ( yes you have to weigh the 180 lbs of fuel on a full gas tank) people and gear. Boats can eat up a bit of that and passengers of course.
If you get a trailer with a Weight Distributing Hitch you have to add that weight too
It all adds up fast.

Another consideration is clearance between boats on roof and trailer. We use a truck for this very reason. We would never get away with an 18 foot kayak on a SUV. We can with the length of the truck. We goofed a few times on tight turns and put the stem of the boat in contact with the fiberglass cover over the trailer front window. But with the rack system we use… moving boats forward was easy. We have a Yakima roof system . The vehicle came with naked roof.

Not sure why you need four wheel drive. We have all wheel drive and it works fine. We do have the capability of going to 4 WD but thankfully we have the option not to use it on the open highway. Otherwise our mileage dragging a box would tank.
Here is our setup. We’ve done several cross country trips . This was enroute to Alaska from Maine last year.
Its a Ridgeline with tow package. 13 mpg with trailer. Trailer weights 3500 loaded… Honda says we can tow 5000. Uh no… 3500 was plenty up and down 12 percent grades.

@kayamedic said:
All valid points you make. Our rig is all wheel drive has a towing package, and is rated at 3500. We pull a total of 2500 and stay below 62mph as that keeps the rpms close to normal. That leaves 1000 for boats gear gas and people. I am reluctant to pull the trailer in the mountains. If we did much of that then I would consider a different vehicle.

BTW I enjoyed your photos!

@RavenJeyd said:
I’m looking to get a new vehicle. I currently have a Kia Soul, but I can’t tow anything, and it doesn’t have a rack to put a kayak on. I need something that I’ll be able to lift a kayak on (I’m 5’3), as well as something that could pull a boat and/or trailer. I also need 4 wheel drive.

Hi RavenJeyd. As others have said, we need to know more about the work you need your vehicle to do as well as any other key things you want in a vehicle. What is the trailer load? Will you also have a car full of people? How far and how often will you tow and will it be heavy duty use like always in the mountains!

I used to have trailer tow responsibility for pick-ups and suv’s at one of the Big 3. One thing that many people don’t know is that tow ratings are often based on the lightest version of the vehicle…a vehicle with no options.

It is incorrect to say that tow ratings are meaningless and that tow capacity is based on payload…although there are cases like kayamedic’s where payload can be the limiting factor. My CRV has plenty of payload to carry kayamedic’s tongue weight but the 3500 pound trailer load is too much for my CRV’s brakes, transmission, suspension, and cooling system…and that’s why the vehicle is rated to tow only 1500 pounds.

It’s also worthwhile to remember that tow ratings are based on weight but if you pull something like a camper the biggest additional load on the vehicle may come from the lousy aerodynamics of the trailer.

I suggest that you look at the tow rating first, that tells you the max load that the vehicle has actually been tested to handle. Then check the payload since as kayamedic has found this could be a limitation.

Personally I recommend that you target about 50-60% of the rated tow capacity as your max load. I don’t like it when the vehicle feels like it is struggling to accelerate, downshifting often to maintain speed or struggling to slow down when braking. If you target 50-60% of rated capacity it leaves a nice safety margin.

Regarding 4wd or awd systems there are many systems on the market and all will take care of you in the winter if that is your main goal. AWD systems are often more ideal for most people since they are front wheel drive by default and automatically engage the rears when required so they are hands off and work well. Many trucks (and my 4Runner) have more archaic systems that also give you an ultra low transmission range for serious off-road that most people never use, plus many systems require you to hit a button when you want 4WD. But the upside of trucks is that they can have very high tow ratings…they pull big loads effortlessly and that’s a nice feeling.

If you have an unlimited budget there are a few very nice German suv’s offered with diesels. Diesels are awesome for towing.

Finally - there are tons of cool vehicle forums out there so whatever vehicle(s) you are considering you can look at the forums and check other people’s experience while towing.

Whatever I learned ( and discarded some of) was from the Jayco forums.
I never went to the length some did. No I didnt visit CAT scales. I knew payload would be a factor… I couldnt run 5000 because of the 500 lb tongue weight and the two of us hefties and one hefty dog and a genny and boat stuff and camping stuff in the truck. The tongue weight should be 12-15 percent of the weight of the unit to avoid fishtailing in strong cross winds. The tow vehicle should always be in charge. Not the tail.
While Tom and I differ in methodology , the result is the same… 65 percent has worked for us over four back and forth cross country trips. The last on ice and snow.
So a good ballpark is look at your intended vehicle…its tow capacity and multiply by .6 .Prepare to walk out if the salesperson insists that is not right.

Tell me you are looking a Casita or A liner!

We have a Castia. It pulls like a dream.

I had an f150 with a very big V8 back when I was running bees in FL. The trailer when loaded with 9,000 pounds of honey had to be loaded so it was not tail heavy or it would wag the dog. I got very good at distributing the weight. and of course I had trailer brakes. If loaded right it never wagged. If not it could put the truck off the road.

Kayamedic, when I worked in automotive we constantly drove and tested competitive vehicles for reference and I remember saying “oh my god” out loud the first time I drove a Ridgeline because the ride was so comfortable and sophisticated. More recently I almost got one as my dream retirement vehicle but I could not resist the crummy ride, poor fuel economy and 4 star crash rating of the 4-Runner. Seriously, the 4-Runner does have some virtues and unfortunately my wife fell in love with it so I had to give it to her, but I get to use it sometimes for paddling since it has an awesome rack.

The independent suspension of your Ridgeline that gives it best in class ride may hurt it a bit as you push the tow limit since you have a softer suspension than a pick-up truck or traditional framed suv. The more crude trucks require significantly firmer springs and shocks to handle their heavy, oxcart-type axle/wheel assemblies. So they tend to ride rough but won’t be disturbed as much by something pulling on their tail.

I can also say that not all vehicle manufacturers are testing to the same limits. While tow ratings (however deceptive they may be) are standardized, some manufacturers may test to well over the stated/advertised limits. I love Hondas but they really don’t have nearly as much at stake in the truck market as the big US companies that are thriving due to the reputation of their trucks.

You have a pretty serious load and duty cycle and I suggest that you consider treating yourself to a full size pick-up for your next vehicle…or an Audi Q7 diesel if you hit the lotto.

Tom L why is this even a discussion ?
We did fine in Alaska on the Denali Highway. It’s dirt. Also the Dalton Not paved
After 45000 miles towing including Rt 12 I know what I am talking about
The Ridgeline is 5 years old and 170000 miles on it

Chaco Canyon anyone.? Yup did that too

Suburban 2500, Duramax 6.6 diesel , 4x4, That’s the best pulling SUV. …