Car Buyers' Guide: The pull of holiday motoring
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Take everything into consideration before deciding what to buy, says AA Motoring
It won’t be long before we’re seeing the roads full of vehicles towing boats, jet skis and caravans, as summer approaches and Kiwis plan trips to their favourite holiday destinations.
If you’re thinking of upgrading your tow vehicle or planning to buy a new one, it’s important to take your time as the choice can be more complicated than first anticipated. It’s not as simple as just finding the vehicle that can pull or carry the heaviest load. Though you might be after a vehicle that’ll tow your trailer or boat, you also need a practical choice that performs well when you’re doing the school run or other everyday errands.
Always keep the weight of the items you’ll be towing front of mind. The towing weight is unlikely to change dramatically, but extra luggage and additional passengers can make a difference. Choosing a vehicle with a specified towing capacity of about 1600kg braked to tow a boat that is around 1500kg might at first sound like a good option but, once the car is loaded with people and gear, you could end up exceeding the recommend towing capacity.
Exceeding the recommended towing weight is unsafe, but operating a vehicle at its limits for an extended period of time can also cause premature wear to components, particularly the clutch and transmission. With this in mind, we would always recommend you factor in surplus weight, on top of the weight of the item that you’re towing.
Cost vs convenience
Just like commercial vehicles, cars suitable for towing can be more expensive due to their distinct capabilities. Of course, the obvious starting point is to search the market to find the most appropriate set of wheels for the most reasonable price.
Though buying a car that already has the tow bar and wiring fitted is more convenient, it can sometimes drive up the cost. It’s often worth investigating the same vehicle not fitted with a tow bar and researching how much it would cost to have a new tow bar fitted. You may have to wait a little longer before you can tow, but it could help you save some cash.
If you are looking in the used car market, be wary of sellers who may have removed rusty or worn towbars, to hide a history of excessive use.
Comfort vs practicality
The car needs to be comfortable for all occupants, so what better way to ensure this by taking everyone along for a test drive? A double-cab ute might seem like a great option for towing the boat or caravan during weekend getaways but if your passengers aren’t comfortable you’re definitely going to hear about if for the whole journey.
We also strongly advise car buyers to test drive the vehicle while towing the trailer or boat they are likely to be taking out. The towing weight may meet the requirements, the price may be right and the car may drive well on its own, but does it maintain its value, performance and comfort when it’s actually doing what you need it to do? If the seller lets you do this, take the opportunity to test different road types and at a range of speeds.
Balancing practical, everyday needs with towing requirements means buying a towing vehicle won’t be as straightforward as buying your regular family vehicle. If you tow frequently and that is the sole need for this vehicle, focus on the likely towing weight you’ll be pulling.
If towing is secondary to everyday lifestyle needs, ensure you’re placing equal value on comfort.