Ever since its introduction in 1995, the Toyota RAV4 has become a favorite amongst novice outdoor enthusiasts. Since then, it has been used to reliably take weekend warriors and serious outdoor aficionados alike on their many adventures. Often, those adventures required the use of a watercraft, and the mighty RAV4 was up for the challenge.
Simply put, Toyota’s mid-size SUV can successfully tow a boat. That is, of course, if the boat in question is under its towing capacity limit.
Can the RAV4 tow a boat?
The Toyota RAV4, with a towing capacity of 3,500 lbs, can tow a boat and trailer as long as it is under this maximum towing capacity. While this may not seem like much to some, it is enough you haul your small fishing or pleasure boat down to your favorite spot with relative ease.
After all, the RAV4 was engineered with adventure in mind. It is only right that it can haul your favorite toys along with you. Small fishing or riverboats should easily stay under its maximum towing capacity of 3,500 lbs.
You may think that with its small engine, it will not be up to the task, but today’s modern engines are more than able to provide sufficient power for towing a boat while returning a smile-inducing 27mpg in some cases. To put that into perspective, its competitors get only 20-24mpg at best.
History of the RAV4
In 1995 when the RAV4 was introduced, the mid-size SUV market was still in its infancy. Most SUV’s were quite simple and built with one reason in mind. That reason was to help take you and your passengers safely to an adventure spot that would otherwise be inaccessible.
The name RAV4 came as an abbreviation for “Recreational Activity Vehicle: 4-wheel drive”. It was a bare-bones, purpose-built vehicle. In today’s market, the mid-size SUV has to be loaded with all the creature comforts such as leather and a huge infotainment screen to even keep up with the competition.
Luckily, Toyota’s recreational activity vehicle was renowned for reliability, which made customers gravitate towards their vehicle. Over the years, the RAV4 has become bigger and more sophisticated than ever. This has to be done if the automaker wants to acquire new clients and retain the existing ones.
Now in its 5th generation, the new RAV4 will take you over most rough terrain, while still being able to tow your favorite water toy along. Come Monday morning, you can hop the driver’s seat and head to work in comfort and look good doing so.
What kind of boats are under 3,500 lbs.?
Many boats fit under the RAV4’s maximum towing capacity. One thing to keep in mind is the weight of the trailer needed to carry your boat. In some cases, these trailers can weigh upwards of 500 lbs.
The average fishing boat’s weight is right around 3,500 lbs, making the RAV4 the perfect companion for a weekend getaway. Pair that with above-average ground clearance and it is easy to see why the RAV4 reigns victorious over the competition.
In recent years, the weight of the average ski boat has increased to 4,500 lbs. when fully decked out, making them too heavy for the RAV4. Luckily, some older ski boat models are lighter and will weigh under the 3,500 lb. limit.
Personal watercraft such as jet-skis have also gotten heavier as the years rolled on, but will comfortably weigh in under the RAV4’s max towing capacity. The average weight of a personal watercraft is roughly 750 lbs., therefore, the RAV4 can tow a couple with relative ease. Enough for you and your friends to all have fun.
The examples noted above are just some of the potential water toys that the RAV4 can tow, but enough to get you excited. Although anyone with a license can tow a boat, doing it correctly will save you from potential disasters down the road.
If you are looking for something over the 3,500 lb. max towing capacity of the RAV4, you might want to step up to the legendary 4Runner. Just like the RAV4, the 4runner has been a reliable way to get anywhere, on or off-road. Luckily, V-8 powered 4Runner’s can tow upwards of 7,300 lbs. Here is an article detailing its capabilities.
Things to know when towing a boat
Whether it is a small trailer, boat, or camper, towing can be a daunting task for some. Knowing how to properly tow a boat is crucial. Here are some pointers to help you reach the lake or river safely:
Make sure all lights work
Some trailers have a four-pin hookup, while others come with a seven-pin connection. Regardless of which one yours comes with, make sure all lights, including brakes, signals, and backup lights are properly operating.
In most cases, the boat you are towing will block the taillights of your vehicle, leaving other drivers behind you essentially blind if your trailer lights don’t function.
Checking your lights is simple and will require two people. One will stay in the vehicle and press the brakes, activate the turn signals, and the other will be behind the trailer to confirm everything works. This simple step could save you hundreds of dollars in tickets and will substantially reduce the risk of an accident.
Have the right hitch
Arguably, this may be one of the most overlooked factors when towing. Having a hitch that is rated for less than the weight you are pulling may end up in you unintentionally leaving your load on the side of the road. Unfortunately, I’m writing this from personal experience.
Bigger is always better, and this statement is especially true when talking about hitch ratings. Having one that is rated for a higher weight than it will be pulling is key in making sure your plans don’t end up being just hopes and dreams.
The only thing to keep an eye out for is the ball size. The average ball size for towing is 2”, but some are 1-7/8” and even 2-5/16” for heavy-duty towing. Some people that tow regularly will opt out for a multi-ball hitch that has all three common sizes.
Know how to properly back up your boat
Backing up with a trailer is a skill that takes some time to master. If you’ve never backed up with a trailer before, it may be a good idea to practice in an open area such as an empty parking lot beforehand. No one wants to be that person at the boat landing that has no clue how to back up.
While it may sound simple, everything becomes reversed when backing up with a trailer. Essentially, any inputs on the steering wheel are reversed compared to normal backing up.
Jackknifing is another issue that can cause some serious damage. Jackknifing is when the tow vehicle and trailer go into opposite directions to the point where it cannot be corrected. Continuing to back up when jackknifed will cause your rear end to hit the trailer, causing a serious dent in your wallet and your vehicle.
Will towing my boat regularly cause reliability issues?
Toyota’s reliability is what initially put them on the map in the US. Constantly towing a boat with your RAV4 should not negatively affect reliability. Like anything else, there are exceptions to this rule. If the weight is under the recommended maximum towing capacity, you can expect to get many trouble-free miles out of your beloved RAV4.
Of course, constantly pulling additional weight will put a greater strain on certain components such as tires and suspension. The engineers at Toyota poured countless hours and spent unthinkable amounts of money on research and development to make sure your vehicle will not be affected by towing regularly.
If you are constantly towing your favorite watercraft back and forth, the RAV4 is the perfect vehicle as it will return fantastic gas mileage. The possibility of added wear and tear will be easily offset by the savings of a sensible, fuel-sipping engine.