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Published May 26, 2021
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There’s nothing like hitting the water for a day of warm-weather fun, whether it’s for the adrenaline rush of water skiing, or a more relaxing fishing trip or pontoon cruise.
But how you get your boat to the lake or other favorite body of water is essential, and we looked at the best SUVs for towing your boats and personal watercraft. So how much power do you need? Buying too little towing capacity can lead to mechanical failure, so consider the weight of what you’re towing.
You’ll also need to factor in the weight of the trailer to tow your boat. As an example, the average 21-foot boat trailer weighs between 500 and 1,000 lbs, while most boats of this length weigh about 5,000 lbs. so your SUV will need to be rated to tow at least 6,000 lbs.
Also consider how you’ll actually get your boat into the water. It’s likely down a slippery concrete launch ramp or other less-than-desirable slope, so all-wheel drive or 4-wheel drive along with a good towing package will help ensure your day on the water is mishap free.
Included on our list are full-size and mid-size SUVs, with both rugged utility and a lot of luxury options for that weekend drive to the coast or weekday drive to work. To come up with our list, we looked at:
Large full-frame pickup trucks are a natural choice for towing. Since they’re built with full-steel ladder frames, they have the strength to haul. Their engines — whether V8s, turbo V6s, diesels or a Hemi — are optimized for low-end torque vital for towing.
But a monster truck may not fit into your garage and they can be a tight fit for parking spaces when you’re grocery shopping or at the office. So you may want to consider sizing down to a SUV for both towing and commuting. Chevrolet, Toyota and Ford all have SUVs with towing capability comparable to their larger truck cousins, and often have better fuel economy.
Here are the SUVs that made our list:
Towing Capacity: 5,600 lbs.
Engine: turbocharged four-cylinder or V-6/300-365-hp
MPG: (four-cylinder) 20 city/27 highway
The midsize Ford Explorer can tow up to 5,600 pounds (that’s a lot of boat) and was totally redesigned in 2020. It comes standard with a touch-screen interface, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, a Wi-Fi hot spot and a power liftgate handy for getting your gear in and out of the back, along with Ford’s MyKey safe driving system.
Towing Capacity: up to 9,300 lbs.
Engine: 3.5L turbocharged V6/375-hp
MPG: Up to 17 city/23 highway
With a 9,300-lb. towing capacity, the Ford Expedition could practically tow a small yacht! This large SUV has three-row seating for the family and offers a smooth ride and great handling. It comes standard with an 8-inch touch screen, smartphone connectivity, a Wi-Fi hot spot, universal garage door opener and the Co-Pilot360 bundle of active safety features.
Towing Capacity: 6,000 lbs.
Engine: 3.5L V-6/284-hp
MPG: 20 city/27 highway
Considered a workhorse among midsize SUVs, the truck-like and family-friendly Nissan Pathfinder tows an impressive 6,000 pounds.
And when you’re not taking the fam on vacation on the water, its Rear Door Alert, rear parking sensors, forward collision warning and automatic emergency braking will keep you and the kids safe on the way to school. A responsive 8-inch infotainment touch screen and available wireless phone charging and Wi-Fi hotspot will keep the driver entertained during the ride to work.
Towing Capacity: up to 7,200 lbs.
Engine: V-6 to V-8, from 293 to 707-hp
MPG: 19 city/26 highway
Want serious max towing of 7,200 lbs., off-road capability AND a luxury cabin in a midsize SUV? Yes, you can have it all with the Jeep Grand Cherokee. Commuter-friendly standard features in the Grand Cherokee include the latest smartphone app support, rear parking sensors, blind spot monitoring and rear cross traffic alert.
Towing Capacity: 7,400-7,800 lbs.
Engine: 5.3-liter V-8/355-hp on most models
MPG: 21 city/27 highway
It’s big. That’s the only way to describe the Chevrolet Suburban’s interior and max towing. In addition to its towing capacity, the Suburban offers “expansive seats, cavernous cargo capacity and robust gas and diesel options,” according to a U.S. News & World Report best list.
Family-friendly active safety technologies come standard, including GM’s Teen Driver system. It also comes equipped with a user-friendly 10.2-inch touch screen, a Wi-Fi hot spot, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and two 120-volt household-style power outlets.
Towing Capacity: up to 8,700 lbs.
Engine: V-6 to V-8/295-360-hp
MPG: 19 city/26 highway
Officially, the Dodge Durango is considered a midsize SUV, but it can tow more than almost every SUV on the market, at the best price, too. The Durango offers a comfy interior and smooth ride, with seating for 7 in three rows. (Who’s ready to load up the pontoon?) Cargo room is competitive with other SUVs in its class.
The Durango comes equipped with a 8.4-inch touch-screen infotainment system, considered one of the best on the market, plus Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.
Towing Capacity: 5,000 lbs.
Engine 4.0-liter V6/270 hp
MPG 16 city/19 highway
With the 4Runner’s 4-wheel drive, limited slip differential and Active Traction Control, this rugged SUV can navigate slippery boat ramps, tow up to 5,000 lbs. AND take your adventure offroad too. Safety features and driver assists abound, with Toyota’s Star Safety Sense and Brake Assist. Available upgrades include leather upholstery, heated and ventilated front seats, dual-zone automatic air conditioning and push-button start.
Ready to gear up for a family vacation with water as the destination, or just a Saturday fishing trip in your small boat? No matter the adventure, you can find your next SUV with a comfortable ride and good towing capacity at EchoPark for as low as $12,999 (as of April 2021), so start your search today.