Best Trucks for Towing Campers (With August 2020 Deals)

If you've gone tent camping in a local, state, or national park there's a very good chance that the campers all around you have had much more elaborate camping setups than you had. From 30-foot long motor homes to 40-foot trailers that fold out like massive pieces of origami, the vehicles that folks use to "get away from it all" these days definitely run to the luxurious. 

And there you are sleeping on the ground. 

But it doesn't have to be that way. The first baby step from a tent to a big rig is a pop-up camper-trailer. It'll get your aching back off the ground and give you some creature comforts without requiring you to drive or tow something as big as a school bus.

Couples and families who want some of the comforts of home will find a great deal to like in a pop-up-style trailer like the almost zany Sylvansport Go Pop Up Camper or the Aliner Family Expedition Pop Up Trailer. The Sylvansport Go is only 143 inches long and weighs less than 900 pounds, while the Aliner Family Expedition is just 18 feet long and weighs less than 2,000 pounds.

From there the sky becomes the limit. You can purchase pop-up campers with elaborate floorplans and tons of features. As with a boat, longer typically means more comfortable and more feature-filled. Families planning on a lengthy vacation might like a larger and more traditional pop-up like the Coachmen Clipper Sport or the Forest River Flagstaff. 

Of course, choosing the right pop-up camper is only part of the equation. It is equally important to have — or acquire — the right vehicle to tow it. To help you make up your mind on that score, we've compiled a list of the best SUVs and trucks for towing camper trailers ranging from compact SUVs to midsize SUVs to midsize pickups. 

As you seek out the right tow vehicle, remember that manufacturer tow ratings represent the maximum weight you are advised to tow with a given vehicle when it's properly equipped with the manufacturer's towing hardware. Also, in addition to the weight of the camper and the gear you haul in it, you need to keep tongue weight in mind. Usually about 10% of the trailer's weight, it counts against your vehicle's payload.

Taking a conservative approach, it's wise to stay well below a vehicle’s maximum tow-rating threshold. When you buy a pop-up camper, you'll want to consider both its base weight and its net carrying capacity, as well as its tongue weight, in mind and match to your tow vehicle accordingly.

Compact SUV: 2020 Chevrolet Equinox

A well-regarded compact SUV that seats five, the 2020 Chevrolet Equinox combines good interior space with the ability to handle light towing jobs like pulling a pop-up camper. 

2020 Chevrolet Equinox Red Front View

For 2020, Chevy Equinox models with the turbocharged 252-horsepower 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine and all-wheel-drive are the best bets for towing. They are rated to tow 3,500 pounds, while most of the front-drive trims are only rated for 1,500 pounds. Properly equipped, this Chevrolet is more than capable of pulling a small pop-up camper like the Livin' Lite Quicksilver 8.0 or Sylvansport Go. 

As far as safety is concerned, the Equinox gets absolute top crash-test ratings from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), and it earns a Top Safety Pick rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). 

Summer incentives on the 2020 Chevrolet Equinox include cash-back of up to 15% of the manufacturer's suggested retail price, which could be worth up to $5,700 on some Equinox trims. In addition, Chevrolet is offering a 39-month lease with no first month's payment, no down payment, and no security deposit due at signing on a tow-friendly Equinox LT. It's likely this program will continue through August.

Compact SUV Runner-up: 2020 Toyota RAV4 

The 2020 Toyota RAV4 is one of the bestselling vehicles in the United States with a reputation for dependability and longevity. This Toyota seats five, has interior space very similar to that offered by the Chevrolet Equinox, and it shares its ability to handle light towing like pulling a pop-up camper. 

For maximum towing with a RAV4, the models of choice are the off-road-oriented Adventure and TRD with all-wheel-drive. With the proper equipment and the 203-horsepower 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine, they are rated to tow 3,500 pounds. In contrast, most of the front-drive trims are only rated for 1,500 pounds, and hybrids can handle no more than 1,750 pounds. 

Currently, in many areas, the RAV4 qualifies for $1,000 in customer cash or 1.9% financing for up to 60 months. In addition, in many locales, Toyota has special lease offers. 

Midsize SUV: 2020 Dodge Durango

Moving from compact SUVs to midsize SUVs like the 2020 Dodge Durango improves your towing capacity significantly. For the 2020 model year, Durango SRT 392 models with the 6.4-liter V-8 are rated to tow 8,700 pounds, and the middle-of-the-pack R/T trim offers a solid 7,400-pound rating (7,200 pounds with all-wheel drive). 

2020 Dodge Durango SRT Towing

A three-row midsize SUV, the Dodge Durango is a family-friendly option that will tow most pop-up campers with ease. For instance, with its 7,400-mound capacity, a 2020 R/T is capable of pulling an 18-foot pop-up like the Jay Sport Camping Trailer or the 19-foot Forest River Rockwood High. And for the 2021 model year, Dodge has announced it will add a Tow N Go package that gives the R/T the same highly robust 8,700-pound rating as the SRT.

On the safety front, the Durango's decade-old design translates to lower crash-test ratings than newer SUVs. The Dodge receives a Marginal rating (second-lowest) in the small-overlap front offset crash test conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). 

Summer incentives on the 2020 Dodge Durango include 0% financing for up to 72 months (except the SRT) or a cash allowance of up to $3,700. These or similar offers are likely to continue through August as Labor Day discounts commence.

Midsize SUV Runner-up: 2020 Nissan Pathfinder

The Nissan Pathfinder has been a stalwart competitor in the midsize SUV segment for decades, winning tens of thousands of fans. It carries as many as seven passengers in three rows of seating and has a very accommodating interior with nearly 80 cubic feet cargo space with rear seats folded.

Under the hood, its 284-horsepower 3.5-liter V-6 and its 4-wheel-drive system enable it to tow up to 6,000 pounds. Its towing capacity is more than enough to enable it to handle mid-sized pop-up campers like the Forest River Flagstaff and the Opus Pop Up Camper.

The summer incentives on this Nissan include up to $3,500 in total savings off the sticker price or 0% financing for 36 months plus $2,750 in savings. It is expected these or offers like them will stay in effect through Labor Day.

Midsize Truck: 2020 Ford Ranger

The 2020 Ford Ranger is a great choice for towing across all of its trim levels. It's rated for 7,500 pounds in any configuration – enough to tow pop-up trailers up to 20-feet long. 

2020 Ford Ranger Towing Boat Side View

Equipped with a turbocharged 2.3-liter four-cylinder engine, and the Ranger has more towing capacity than the vast majority of its midsize competitors. And while it's true that examples of the Chevy Colorado, GMC Canyon, and Jeep Gladiator are rated to tow more than the Ranger's maximum, those trucks don’t offer broadly applicable capability while every Ranger can handle 7,500 pounds of towing, making it perfect for larger campers like the Coachmen RV Apex Nano 15X, which is a hybrid between a pop-up and a traditional travel trailer.

Another advantage of the Ranger is its full menu of driver assistance aids and towing-specific features like a blind-spot warning system with customizable trailer coverage and trailer sway control. Crash-test ratings for the Ranger are generally good, though the IIHS rated it only Acceptable for front-passenger safety in its small-overlap test.

At summer’s midpoint, Ford is offering 0.9% financing for 60 months or up to $2,000 in cash incentives for the Ranger, and local lease offers are also available. These deals are likely to continue into Labor Day weekend.

Midsize Truck Runner-up: Toyota Tacoma

The Toyota Tacoma is one of the most popular midsize trucks in history, and the 2020 models an excellent tow vehicle for those who have a pop-up camper. The Tacoma has two engine options — 2.7-liter 4-cylinder or 3.5-liter V-6 — and two cab configurations — Access Cab or Double Cab. The configuration with the greatest towing capacity (6,800 pounds) is the rear-drive Access Cab with a V-6 engine and an automatic transmission. 

If you seek a crew cab — in Toyota parlance, a Double Cab — the rear-drive V-6 in combination with the short bed has a 6,700-pound rating in SR5, TRD Sport and TRD Off-Road trims. Various mixes of trim and equipment also have tow ratings of well over 6,000 pounds. For instance, all Double Cabs with four-wheel-drive have a 6,400-pound tow rating. 

As we go into the dog days of summer, Toyota is offering 1.9% APR financing for up to 60 months on 2020 Tacomas or $1,000 in cash rebates. These deals are likely to continue through August.