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Dinghy Towing Fever

Originally Published in MotorHome Magazine

Towing a dinghy vehicle is more popular than ever. It almost looks strange to see a coach on the road without one. We left our dinghy home on our last trip and it felt as though we were missing a friend. You know that sinking feeling when you hit the road and discover you left something at home? It’s not quite like forgetting your dog, but leaving our Jeep at home was almost as traumatic. We weren’t in camp 15 minutes before whining about needing transportation to run an errand. Fortunately, our friends – towing a dinghy, of course – were on their way.

Dinghy watching is almost as much fun as checking out the other coaches in the park. Over the years I’ve seen just about every possible type of vehicle being towed. There are four groups of people: the more conservative owners looking for practical transportation, the 4WD and SUV crowd, people looking for basic transportation in a subcompact car, and those who want to make a statement.

The conservative approach focuses on four-door sedans with preferably an automatic transmission and capable of transporting at least four people. This probably makes the most sense because typically the dinghy vehicle serves double duty as a daily driver when home. 

There are quite a few sedans and subcompacts suitable for towing on all four wheels without making drivetrain modifications, as you’ll see by checking out the official “2013 Guide to Dinghy Towing” that’s poly-bagged with this month’s issue. Subcompact fans will like the Chevy Spark featured on the cover of the guide and can always consider cars like the Fiat 500 or Honda Fit.

If you really want to be practical, consider one of the four passenger cars that are powered by hybrid drivetrains. Ford offers two C-MAX and two Fusion models. The Energi option for both of these cars features plug-in technology and exceptional fuel economy. Hybrid cars can usually best most subcompacts when it comes to fuel mileage and they have more room. Weight is not that much of a factor, but the sticker price is higher.

For those looking for more adventurous activities, a compact 4WD SUV (or pickup) is just the ticket. These nimble vehicles are great for exploring back-roads, offer plenty of room for passengers and can hold a lot of stuff. Most 4WDs can be flat towed with automatic transmissions, but don’t expect great fuel economy, although GM offers hybrid variations in a few models. You pay the price for utility, but the versatility is hard to beat – as long as you can handle the weight.

The fourth category of dinghy owners is more eclectic. These vehicles are extensions of the owner’s personality. The range of choices can include classic cars to small convertibles adorned with garish trim and paint schemes.

While the list of vehicles in this year’s guide is impressive, we’ve lost a few favorites to engineering changes that prevent dinghy towing. Notably the Ford Escape is no longer towable. Also the Chevy Cruze, which was clearly towable based on information in the owner’s manual, was deemed unsuitable after Chevrolet changed its recommendation later in the model year. That put a number of people who bought the Cruze for the sole purpose of towing behind their motorhomes in a very tenuous position.

It’s too expensive to get stuck with a vehicle subject to after-the-sale changes, so here’s my suggestion: After confirming (with your own eyes) the vehicle is towable, consider asking the salesperson to put a stipulation on the purchase order that reflects the usage of the vehicle. If something changes down the road, you might have stronger recourse.

Dinghy towing is an extension of coach ownership; enjoy the guide – and the pull. 

Dinghy TowingOn Ramp

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