Buying a caravan is a hefty investment, so is getting the right vehicle to tow it. Here are 12 cars that are up to the task - across a range of towing capacities - and a look at just how versatile they are for doing duties outside of towing.

Note: This list is a snapshot of vehicles currently available on the Australia market as tow vehicles which are also among the more reliable and capable. While the list is not exhaustive, it provides an overview of some of the better choices for most buyers.

A car that will be used for towing a medium to heavy trailer such as a large caravan needs to do more than just that job well.

To be viable for long distance touring, a car that is to be used to tow a caravan also needs to be relatively affordable, comfortable, reliable and with goods parts availability in regional areas.

For many families, that vehicle will also need to do school runs, shopping centre manoeuvring and all the other suburban running around.

The towing capacity of a caravan tow car is important, but so is its flexibility, affordability, and driveability.

Dual cab utes are often the towing rig of choice for many caravanners, and with the open tub in the rear and relatively narrow proportions compared to full-sized four-wheel drives, they have their advantages.

But just as with any dual cab ute rated to tow over 3000kg, it’s important to consider carefully that a trailer this big is likely to be outweighing the tow vehicle by around 1000kg. Even though the trailer is braked, and the vehicle’s engine and transmission can do the job, if things go awry at 100km/h, they can do so very quickly.

RELATED: Understanding caravan towing weights »
RELATED: Caravan weight distribution »

Towing a trailer at or near the rated limits of the vehicle will also dramatically reduce the other loads it can carry, such as people and their gear.

Owning both a competent tow vehicle for long trips, and a smaller, more economical, and better handling vehicle for driving around the city, would of course be the ideal scenario. But for many, that isn’t an option or even a preference.

A large vehicle rated to tow three tonnes or more will always bring with it compromises that help it do the towing job better and more safely than a lighter, cheaper vehicle.

Some vehicles and brands didn't make our list, not because of their towing abilities, but because of other factors that make them poor ownership propositions. This was due to an unacceptable track record for reliability and/or less than optimal customer support when vehicles require attention outside of the normal servicing schedule. These factors can become especially important when travelling long distances in remote areas.

So, here are some tow vehicles that can also work well as a city commuter, and where they sit on the scale between urban-oriented SUV and the ultimate heavy hauler – without having to make the step up to a truck.

RAM 1500 – $92,000 drive away

A RAM 1500 towing a trailer

Given this huge US-built ute has an extra tonne of towing capacity (4.5 tonnes) compared to a Toyota Landcruiser 300 Series (3.5 tonnes) which is similarly priced, it’d be more within its limits towing large caravans.

The entry level RAM 1500 Express ($92,000 drive away) has a 5.7-litre V8 which makes 291kW and 556Nm. The diesel version (the 2500 Laramie) makes less power (276kW) but has more than twice the torque – a huge 1152Nm. It’s also almost twice the price, at $178,270 drive away. But for ultimate towing competence which also leaves ample capacity for payload such as your family and all their gear, the RAM is the vehicle you need.

RAM 1500 specifications
Price: $92,000 drive away
Engine: 5.7-litre V8 petrol
Power: 291.0kW @ 5600rpm
Torque: 556Nm @ 3950rpm
Kerb weight: 2605kg
Towing capacity: 4500kg
Gross Combination Mass: 7237kg
Fuel consumption:  12.2L/100km
ANCAP safety rating: Not rated

Chevrolet Silverado – $120,270 drive away

A Chevrolet Silverado in mountainous terrain

The US-built Silverado is a full-sized pick-up truck (as Americans call them) which competes directly with the RAM line-up. The Silverado’s 6.2 litre petrol V8 is slightly larger than the RAM’s and has higher outputs at 313kW and 624Nm. Spend a little extra for the diesel and you’ll get an even bigger 6.6-litre V8 turbo diesel that pushes out 332kW and an enormous 1234Nm.

The Silverado is imported to Australia as a left-hand drive vehicle and converted to right hand drive for Australian roads, as is the RAM. The Silverado and the RAM are among the ultimate tow vehicles without taking the next step to a light truck – which might be less comfortable on long trips. Towing a 3.5-tonne caravan with the Silverado will leave more payload capacity to accommodate your other cargo and keep you away from the ragged edge of the vehicle’s recommended limits.

Chevrolet Silverado specifications
Price: $120,270 drive away
Engine: 6.2-litre petrol V8
Power: 313kW @ 5600rpm
Torque: 624Nm @ 4100rpm
Kerb weight: 2481kg
Towing capacity: 4260kg
Gross Combination Mass: 12474kg
Fuel consumption:  13.2L/100km
ANCAP safety rating: Not rated

Ford Ranger – $74,573 (XLT) drive away

An orange Ford Ranger on a dirt road

Statistically, those looking to buy a new dual cab ute will be considering a Ranger because it’s one of the best-selling vehicles in Australia. The arrival of the heavily revised Ford Ranger in mid-2022 was not a moment too soon, given its predecessor had been around since 2011.

The new Ranger gets a heavily revised interior, chassis, and suspension, but the same (albeit revised) biturbo four-cylinder diesel has been carried over from the old model as an option. The big news is the availability of a 3.0-litre V6 turbo diesel with 184kW and 600Nm. It’s still relatively early days for the new Ranger though, and potential customers would be well advised to wait and see how these engines fare for reliability before committing to buy one.

Ford Ranger specifications
Price: $71,645 (XLT) drive away
Engine: 3.0-litre V6 diesel
Power: 184.0kW @ 3250rpm
Torque: 600Nm @ 1750-2250rpm
Kerb weight: 2331kg
Towing capacity: 3500kg
Gross Combination Mass: 6400kg
Fuel consumption:  8.4L/100km
ANCAP safety rating: 5 stars


Toyota Landcruiser 300 – $104,180 (GX)

A Toyota Landcruiser 300 series towing a caravan

It’s among the most widely coveted caravan tow vehicles, and now that the Toyota Landcruiser 300 Series has been in the market for around 18 months, it’s slowly becoming as ubiquitous as its widely beloved predecessor, the 200 Series.

The 300 has the same 3500kg braked towing capacity as the 200 Series, but there are some differences between variants of the 300 in the maximum payload you can carry in the vehicle when towing 3500kg. It stops and steers better than the 200, but it’s still a big beast to drive in urban areas and you’ll need to be on board with that if it’s going to be both your family holiday car and suburban run-around.

Toyota Landcruiser 300 specifications
Price: $98,640 (GX)
Engine: 3.3-litre twin turbo diesel
Power: 227kW @ 4000rpm
Torque: 700Nm @ 1600-2600rpm
Kerb weight: 2495kg
Towing capacity: 3500kg
Gross Combination Mass: 6750kg
Fuel consumption:   8.9L/100km
ANCAP safety rating: 5 stars

Toyota Hilux - From $61,370 (SR)

 A blue Toyota Hilux towing a horse float

The Hilux and Ford Ranger have recently been neck-and-neck for the title of overall top-selling vehicle in Australia, and plenty of both will be racking up the kilometres towing caravans. The Hilux also has a long wait time on delivery, with good reason.

The Hilux SR5 is slightly lighter than the Ranger Wildtrack, but the Hilux can carry 49kg more payload. Both have the same 3500kg maximum braked towing capacity. Parts supply is good in regional areas so you won’t be stranded if the odd mechanical mishap occurs. The 2.8-litre, four-cylinder diesel engine powering 4x4 dual cab Hiluxes has been around for almost eight years, and after the DPF issues which troubled early versions, the Hilux has its mojo back.

Toyota Hilux specifications
Price: From $60,570 (SR)
Engine: 2.8-litre diesel
Power: 150kW @ 3400rpm
Torque: 500Nm @ 1600-2800rpm
Kerb weight: 22110kg
Towing capacity (braked): 3500kg
Gross Combination Mass: 5850kg
Fuel consumption:    7.9L/100km
ANCAP safety rating: 5 stars

Isuzu D-Max – $58,700

A blue Isuzu D-Max pulling a trailer on a bush track

The D-Max, and the MU-X wagon which shares its underpinnings, were heavily revised in 2020, and for 2023, they’ve received some further tweaks. They’re mainly cosmetic, but the few functional changes include a gas strut on the tailgate to soften the movement, and the ability to disable rear cross traffic alert and blind spot monitoring when a trailer is attached.

D-Max models from 2020 onwards are far more refined, which has brought it to about average in the current crop of towing car competitors. We’ve heard no bad reports about the reliability of the revised 3.0-litre diesel engine.

Isuzu D-Max specifications
Price: $58,700
Engine: 3.0-litre diesel
Power: 140.0kW @ 3600rpm
Torque: 450Nm @ 1600-2600rpm
Kerb weight:  2035kg
Towing capacity (braked): 3500kg
Gross Combination Mass: 6000kg
Fuel consumption:  8.0L/100km
ANCAP safety rating: 5 stars

Nissan Patrol Y62 - From $94,650

A Nissan Patrol driving on a dirt road

The Y62 Patrol has been on sale for 10 years now, and more recently sales have benefitted from good availability of new vehicles and the higher price of the LandCruiser 300 Series – it’s closest alternative. Given the Patrol uses premium 95 unleaded, the higher cost of diesel in recent months has also suddenly made it look better than it did in previous years, though the Patrol still costs more to fuel per km. The Patrol is a formidable tow vehicle, which while thirsty, is also significantly cheaper to buy new.

Nissan Patrol Y62 specifications
Price: From $91,580
Engine: 5.6-litre V8 petrol
Power: 298.0kW @ 5800rpm
Torque: 560Nm @ 4000rpm
Kerb weight: 2715kg
Towing capacity (braked): 3500kg
Gross Combination Mass: 7000kg
Fuel consumption:   14.4L/100km
ANCAP safety rating: 5 stars
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Mitsubishi Pajero Sport - From $55,800 (GLX 4x4)

A Mitsubishi Pajero Sport in a desert landscape

With essentially the same underpinnings as the Triton ute, the Pajero Sport is a great value all-terrain wagon that can be had as a seven-seater, is quite well finished inside and has a largely good reputation for reliability. It has a 5-star ANCAP safety rating, too. The Pajero Sport’s braked towing capacity is 3100kg and matches that of the Toyota Fortuner but sits below other direct competitors like the Ford Everest (3500kg) and Isuzu MU-X (3500kg). As an affordable, versatile and reasonably capable 4x4 wagon, the Pajero Sport is a very appealing package.

Mitsubishi Pajero Sport specifications
Price: From $55,800 (GLX 4x4)
Engine: 2.4-litre turbo diesel
Power: 133kW @ 3500rpm
Torque: 430Nm @ 2500rpm
Kerb weight: 2045kg
Towing capacity (braked): 3100kg
Gross Combination Mass: 5565kg
Fuel consumption:    8.0L/100km
ANCAP safety rating: 5 stars

Hyundai Santa Fe - From $55,370 (diesel 4x4)

A white Hyundai Santa Fe on a road

The Santa Fe is one of the most advanced and well-thought-out family SUVs on the market. While it has less ground clearance and suspension articulation than a 4x4 ute or ute-based wagon, it does also handle and ride on the road much better. Given urban sealed roads is where most people drive most of the time, a road-oriented SUV like the Santa Fe may be the option for many who are willing to tow a smaller van in exchange for a better driving experience when they’re not towing.

Hyundai Santa Fe specifications
Price: From $55,370 (diesel 4x4)
Engine: 2.2-litre diesel
Power: 148.0kW @ 3800rpm
Torque: 440Nm @ 1750-2750rpm
Kerb weight: 1943kg
Towing capacity (braked):  2500kg
Gross Combination Mass: N/A
Fuel consumption: 6.1L/100km
ANCAP safety rating: 5 stars

Mazda CX-9 - From $57,400 (Sport TC AWD)

A Mazda CX-9 with ocean in the background

Build and finish quality that matches a premium European SUV is what you can expect in the CX-9, especially those variants near the top of the CX-9 range. Its pricing is similar to that of the Ford Everest, but in the CX-9 you’ll get better on-road handling, ride, engine smoothness and a more premium interior.

The trade-off is the CX-9’s towing and off-road capabilities are much less than those of a ute-based SUV like the Everest or Pajero Sport. It’ll be up to buyers whether they want to prioritise a vehicle that does a better job of the tasks its does 95 per cent of the time, or one that’s better for towing a caravan and road tripping.

Mazda CX-9 specifications
Price: From $57,400 (Sport TC AWD)
Engine: 2.5-litre turbo petrol
Power: 170kW @ 5000rpm
Torque: 420Nm @ 2000rpm
Kerb weight: 1954kg
Towing capacity (braked):  2000kg
Gross Combination Mass: N/A
Fuel consumption:  9.0L/100km
ANCAP safety rating: 5 stars

Toyota Landcruiser 70 Series - From $79,700 (GXL)

A Toyota Landcruiser 70 series on a dirt road

Despite having a five-speed manual gearbox only, and wind-up windows on some models, the Landcruiser 70 Series was in such high demand throughout 2022 that Toyota decided to stop taking orders for it due to a more than 12-month waiting list that had no sign of abating. Powered by Toyota’s 4.5-litre, single-turbo diesel V8, the 70 Series remains relatively simple but still rare, expensive and yet a hugely capable tow vehicle. Last time we checked, the waiting list was out to a year and order books were still closed. But despite the age of the 70 Series’ design, Toyota said this doesn’t mean the model has gone out of production for good.

Toyota Landcruiser 70 Series specifications
Price: From $79,700 (GXL)
Engine: 4.5-litre V8 diesel
Power: 151kW @ 3400rpm
Torque: 430Nm @ 1200-3200rpm
Kerb weight: 2265kg
Towing capacity (braked):  3500kg
Gross Combination Mass: 6800kg
Fuel consumption:  10.7L/100km
ANCAP safety rating: not rated

Ford Everest - From $78,899 drive away (V6 4x4)

A Ford Everest towing a boat on a road with water the background

The 2022 upgrade of the Ford Ranger ute and the wagon it’s based on – the Everest – brought with it Ford’s powerful 3.0-litre V6, replacing the good but noisy and aging five-cylinder diesel. Among the Everest’s other upsides is the refinement and improved ride quality, which for a vehicle that can still tow 3500kg and traverse rugged terrain, is impressive. You get what you pay for though, and the Everest is much more expensive than competitors such as the Mitsubishi Pajero Sport and Isuzu MU-X. Like other popular vehicles, you might need to wait some months for delivery.

Ford Everest specifications
Price: From $76,900 drive away (V6 4x4)
Engine: 3.0-litre V6 diesel
Power: 184.0kW @ 3250rpm
Torque: 600Nm @ 1750-2250rpm
Kerb weight: 2454kg
Towing capacity: 3500kg
Gross Combination Mass: 6250kg
Fuel consumption:  8.5L/100km
ANCAP safety rating: 5 stars

Honourable mentions

  1. Toyota Prado
  2. Mitsubishi Triton
  3. Mazda BT-50
  4. BMW X5
  5. Nissan Navara
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