Best Trucks for Towing Boats (With August 2020 Deals)

As those of us who love water sports know, boats come in all shapes and sizes. Because of that, there are many solutions for getting various size boats to different bodies of water on a trailer. So just as you decide what kind of boat you want, you also must decide what is the best truck or SUV to tow it.

Some boaters find joy in lightweight boats like personal watercraft, aluminum fishing boats, and fiberglass runabouts with outboard motors. These types of craft, all typically well under 20 feet long and relatively light in weight, can easily be towed by a properly equipped midsize crossover SUV.

But the old saying is that every boater is always dreaming of a boat that is longer than the one they own right now. If your dream has become a reality, and you’re planning to tow a small cabin cruiser like a 28-foot long Rinker 270 Express, you are looking at a boat with a dry weight of a little over 7,000 pounds. And these days some people are trailering boats that weigh 10,000 pounds or more. 

The choice of a tow vehicle is critical to your comfort and safety on the road. To help you make the right choice, we've put together a list of the best SUVs and trucks for towing boats of various sizes. The choices range from midsize SUVs to heavy-duty trucks. 

We've also paid attention to the fact that the typical boater packs a lot of associated gear from life jackets to fishing poles to coolers. And we're aware that you will undoubtedly use your tow vehicle in plenty of situations when you are not towing your boat, so you want it to be enjoyable for those uses, too. With that in mind, we have set our sights on family-friendly versions of each vehicle type, such as crew cab rather than regular cab pickup trucks.

We know from experience that the tow ratings provided by vehicle manufacturers typically represent the maximum weight you can tow with a given vehicle, and then it must be equipped with the manufacturer's recommended towing hardware. Therefore, when choosing a vehicle to tow your cherished vessel we suggest you purchase a vehicle whose max tow rating is well above the weight of the craft you want to tow plus the weight of its trailer. 

Midsize SUV: 2020 Dodge Durango

The Dodge Durango isn't the most modern of the midsize SUVs, but it does an excellent job in towing light to medium loads. 

2020 Dodge Durango SRT towing a boat

The middle-of-the-line Durango R/T is a three-row vehicle that has a useful 7,400-pound rating, dipping to 7,200 pounds in 4-wheel-drive versions. Even more robust is the performance-oriented Durango SRT 392 model. With its 6.4-liter V-8, it's rated to tow up to 8,700 pounds. For the upcoming 2021 model year, Dodge has added a Tow N Go option that endows the R/T with the same 8,700-pound rating as the SRT.

The Durango R/T and Durango SRT should have no trouble towing water ski boats like a Malibu Wakesetter LSV23 or Mastercraft Prostar 20. And it should be equally adept at towing just about any bass boat you can name or a pontoon boat like a SunTracker Party Barge 18 DLX. 

It is important to mention that tongue weight, typically around 10% of the boat and trailer's total weight, counts against the vehicle payload. Since an all-wheel-drive Durango R/T has a 1,300-pound payload rating, if you are towing a 4,000-pound total load between boat and trailer, you can carry only 900 pounds of people and gear inside your vehicle.

One potential downside to the Durango is the fact its relatively old platform means it offers somewhat poorer crash-test ratings than some more recently introduced SUVs. If you want a midsize SUV with better safety ratings, the 2020 Nissan Pathfinder can tow 6,000 pounds. 

The most recent incentives on the 2020 Dodge Durango include 0% financing for up to 72 months (except the SRT.) It is probable similar purchase incentives will continue through August and into the Labor Day weekend, especially considering the upcoming changes for the 2021 Dodge Durango.

Large SUV: 2020 Ford Expedition

The 2020 Ford Expedition and longer-wheelbase Expedition MAX will provide plenty of interior space plus significant towing capacity for America's boaters. Big families will appreciate its 8-passenger seating capacity and comfortable ride quality. 

2020 Ford Expedition Towing a Trailer

Unlike others in its class, this full-size Ford SUV’s top drivetrain does not include a V-8 engine, but its strong, twin-turbocharged V-6 enables it to outhaul its V-8-equipped competitors. The Expedition's rear-drive models are rated to tow 9,300 pounds (9,200 pounds with 4WD) when fitted with the Heavy Duty Trailer Towing package. This is enough to tow a sailboat like a Catalina 22 or a speedboat like a Fountain 32 Thunder Cat.

When it comes to safety, the 2020 Expedition has a variety of driver-assistance aids, including a blind-spot warning system that includes coverage of the length of the trailer when the tow package is fitted. The Ford Pro Trailer Backup Assist handles the steering when you're backing up with a trailer hitched to your Expedition.

Current incentives on the 2020 Ford Expedition include 0% financing for up to 72 months, and that is likely to continue through Labor Day.

Midsize Truck: 2020 Ford Ranger

The midsize 2020 Ford Ranger the best in its class overall when it comes to towing. Its maximum rating is a stout 7,500 pounds in any configuration, and that is enough to tow a wide variety of fishing and pleasure boats and their trailers. 

2020 Ford Ranger Towing a Boat

Under the hood, every Ranger has a turbocharged 2.3-liter 4-cylinder, and it features a flatter torque curve than the V-6 engines in many of the competitors. Yes, a Jeep Gladiator with a manual transmission or a Chevy Colorado or GMC Canyon with the available diesel engine will tow more than a Ranger, but those are very specific powertrain combinations that might not be right for you otherwise. 

The Ranger offers tow-specific features like a blind-spot warning system with customizable trailer coverage and trailer sway control. And it has a full menu of driver assistance aids. The Ranger's crash-test ratings are generally good, and this midsize Ford pickup has earned high honors in J.D. Power customer satisfaction studies.

Ford is offering 0.9% financing for 60 months on the Ranger as this article is written.

Large Light Duty Truck: 2020 Ford F-150

One of the reasons the Ford F-150 is a perennial sales leader is that among full-size light-duty trucks, it has the highest tow ratings. 

2020 Ford F-150 Towing a Boat

Given the right equipment, an F-150 SuperCrew (crew cab) with the standard 5.5-foot bed can tow 12,700 pounds in both rear-drive and 4-wheel-drive configurations. Interestingly, these ratings are for F-150s equipped with the twin-turbo 3.5-liter V-6. Similar models fitted with the 3.0-liter diesel V-6 and 5.0-liter gasoline V-8 are limited to 11,100 pounds and 10,900 pounds, respectively. This kind of towing really opens up the variety of boats you can tow. Included are boats like the Cigarette 38 Top Gun and the Bayliner 285 SB pocket cruiser. 

Knowing that a high percentage of F-150 owners will tow something, Ford offers towing-specific features that include an integrated trailer brake controller, trailer sway control, blind-spot warning system with trailer coverage, Pro Trailer Backup Assist, and extendable side mirrors. In crash testing, the Ford earned Good ratings from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. 

Right now, Ford is offering 0% financing for up to 72 months on 2020 F-150s. This deal is likely to continue or get even more enticing through Labor Day as Ford gears up for the arrival of the all-new 2021 F-150, which promises even higher tow ratings.

Large Heavy Duty Truck: 2020 Ford F-Series Super Duty

One thing you can say for sure about heavy-duty pickups — they are engineered for those who tow. If you have a sailboat of more than 25 feet or a substantial cabin cruiser, you will find that a heavy-duty truck is your absolute best bet for towing. And getting a heavy-duty pickup equipped with a diesel engine has two benefits — high fuel economy and top tow ratings.

2020 Ford F-250 Super Duty Towing a Boat

As with light-duty pickups, the leader in the class says Ford on its grille. Among the Ford F-Series Super Duties, an F-250 crew cab with the 6.7-liter diesel V8 in standard-bed configuration is rated to tow 20,000 pounds. An F-350 with dual rear wheels on each side bumps that to 21,200 pounds, and an F-450 "dually" can tow up to 24,200 pounds. These are the vehicles necessary to haul a cabin cruiser or in-board-equipped sailboat. Think something like a Cutwater C-302 Sport Coupe or a Catalina 315.

With a big load behind, you will appreciate Ford's trailer backup assist system available on these heavy-duty pickups. The big Fords also offer blind-spot warning with trailer coverage, along with an integrated trailer brake controller and extendable mirrors. 

Ford gave the Super Duty a big refresh for 2020, and the truck is selling well. Because of that, current incentives are limited to up to $1,000 in cash available on specific versions, but that might change in August as truck inventory is tight right now.