Q & A: Can I tow a camper with a 4 cylinder car?

I received this question the other day and I thought it might be helpful to anyone else that may also be looking to tow a vintage trailer with a 4 cylinder car.

Question: “I’ve been seeking a vintage trailer (10-14 ft) that I can pull w/my 4 cylinder car.  There must be a bathroom.”

Answer: “A vintage trailer of the size you are looking for that has a bathroom may be pretty hard to find unfortunately. I’m not familiar with any that small that have bathrooms as back in the day they just didn’t make the small ones with bathrooms. It’s much more common to see bathrooms in larger models such as 16ft and above. Although in a small trailer, if it has a closet you could use a porta-potty. I have also seen where people have modified the closet area and installed a plumbed bathroom. So that may be an option if you are willing to put in the effort and cost.

As far as towing with a 4 cylinder you’ll want to check the tow capacity for your car and see what it’s rated at and also see how much tongue weight it can handle. I don’t want to sound like I’m raining on your parade but towing with a 4 cylinder will really limit what you can tow. To give you an example, our Shasta Compact is 10 ft (13 including the tongue) and it weighs 1160 lbs. This is the dry weight. If you pack “stuff” in the trailer and  in your vehicle that overall weight is greatly increased. I know you could tow a tear drop but those are really tiny and it doesn’t sound like that is the type of trailer you are looking for.

The major problem with towing with a under powered vehicle is not so much that you can’t go down the road and pull the trailer, as on flat surfaces you likely could, but it’s the long term wear it will have on the cooling system, transmission, brakes, etc., that you have to be concerned with. Plus it’s probably just not real safe.  It’s just really hard on a car to tow something over the rating capacity. I’d recommend you look up on Google the tow rating for your particular car as maybe you can find some info. Or you could talk to a dealership as they may have some info. I think if you could upgrade to a larger tow vehicle you would have many more options for what you could tow.

I hope some of that is helpful.”




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  1. Michelle says:

    I had the same issue; 4 cyl CRV and the desire for a vintage trailer. I checked the tow weight thru Honda, and began my search for a ultra light weight trailer with a bathroom. FOUND IT! 1962 Lil Loafer 8′ 900lbs or so including tounge. It has a built in toilet (but I bring a porta potty for short trips). It pulls like a dream up and down the local mountains.

    I did have my mechanic preform all the required vehicle maintenance, new breaks and roters, check transmission.

    But all that being said, I don’t use the trailer more than once monthly at this time, a few days here and there.

    Good luck!

  2. Our 12 Ft. 1962 Mobile Scout has a bathroom, but it is so small that it is hard to turn around in it. But in the middle of the night ….. who cares! Since everything is small in it, we are forced to live outside and that is wonderful. We cook, relax and meet friends in the out of doors!

  3. You should also consider the type of terrain you’ll be traveling on. Will you be going up and down mountains or will you mostly be pulling your ham on flat ground

  4. a 4 cylinder car is not designed for towing.4 cylinders have a towing capacity of 1000 lbs.1000lbs includes passengers and luggage . even if you have a transmission cooling system installed you will still ruin your vehicle.4 cylinder can not tow anything under 1000 lbs.concider you might carry passengers.passengers alone on a 4 cylinder is putting stress on the car as it is

  5. I fell in love with my 1976 Shasta and bought it right away. After I was told my 1986 Dodge Dakota can’t tow it :o( it this the case??

    • Terry, It’s best to always check the manual for your model/make of truck to see what the tow capacity is. I wouldn’t know and would only be guessing so check the manual.

  6. My heart aches for a vintage Shasta… my dream is a small, maybe 12ft.+ tow. My question for anyone…….. Is there a sm Shasta (1957-1964- preferably a 1960) out there with a full sz (not a day bed style) in the back & a full dinette in front, if so what is it called. I’m in the southern tip of Indiana & would love to own a pretty red & white gem !

  7. I also am in search of a small tow trailer and have a 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport 4 cyl. Turbo. When I purchased this SUV, the 6 cyl. was not yet available. It is marketed as having a tow capacity of 3500.

    I’ve looked at A-Liner hardtop popups which are okay, and adorable teardrops that are just a little too small for hanging out inside with my large dog. Northeast weather is a factor. I’m open to suggestions on light weight trailers and tips on towing with a 4 cylinder Turbo–thank you!

    • Hi Anne,

      I have the same vehicle as you. Did you ever find a small trailer that it can tow?



      • Hi Ruth,
        I’ve held off but recently learned of a fun, new lightweight camper that offers changeable modular configurations in a vintage style. The “Happier Camper” is made in LA. On the east coast, I hope to visit LA in the next year and check them out.
        I’m not sure how it would hold up going cross country. This one really makes me smile!

  8. katharine says:

    This is also my big question? my mother, myself & 17yr old daughter are toying around with the idea of getting a trailer, together. Being my first experience at towing/owning a trailer & for practical (storing) purposes ect.. we just want something small, we eliminated the idea of a tent trailer (for future plans & avoid extra set up) so now, when my mom’s car died, she ended up taking my sister’s old 4cyl, temporarily with thoughts to hand it down to myself/daughter eventually(few months?) Now the debate since i would be the one to use/drive trailer more (as mom’s in 60’s).. would it be worth to pay to put a hitch on, as eventually my mother will be looking for another car with tow bar/6 cyl? (and could use for longer trips?) but wasn’t sure if finding a small trailer that sleeps min 3 (-4)/ a small dog with at least a water closet/porta poty was possible?? since, i suffer from ibs/gluten-intolerance (lol) min, porta potty “ideally” would be on the priority list? i’m sure there’s a vintage one out there somewhere.. but so far the closet to fit criteria was a newer one with rough in. But, where do you start to understand what you can tow?.. i’ve checked the manual and there’s so many numbers weights i don’t know what i’m looking at/for this particular 4cly.? Maximum Permissible trailer weights= trailer with brakes 1,500lbs, without brakes 1,100lbs, tongue load 110 or permissible total 3,572, unladen weight 2,800… front/rear axle…… ????? Help! lol

    • katherine, you scenario is sooooo similar to mine. What did you end up deciding on? Or did you scrap the entire idea? I cannot afford to purchase a car AND trailer and I don’t want to purchase an old RV for fear the engine will blow soon after.

    • If you want to pull with a 4 cylinder stick with a pop-up camper. See how much you actually go camping and then go from there. Nice pop-ups can be found for around $1200 and you can usually resell for at least what you paid in a year or two of purchase if well maintained. We bought a camper we were told we could pull with no problems. We had a small v6 Jeep Liberty with factory tow and transmission cooler–whole nine yards. It could tow 3500 lbs and our camper was 1900 lbs. Well let me tell you that it “could” tow it perfectly fine on a flat road, but the minute we travelled on hills it was not a fun ride, we went to visit family in PA and found out just how dangerous it was to pull basically at max percentages with people, gear and camper. We came home and had to change all 4 brakes on the jeep even though we had electric brakes on the camper itself. Going up and down hills was so scary. We never towed the camper to PA again and only went a few times locally in the camper before selling it. Do not pull at max levels. A 4 cylinder vehicle that can pull 1500 lbs should only pull a camper of 750 lbs. Most of the cars are meant to tow a small open trailer to the local dump, or a bike rack or trailer for kayaks. I just bought a 1966 12 ft camper, I don’t know the weight as I have not taken it to a weigh station yet–but I am going to pull it with a V8 Hemi so whether it is 900 lbs or 1500 lbs, I am safe. I can tow 7400 lbs. so I would not buy a camper over 3600 lbs–but that is just me! After my white-knuckle experience I would rather tow less than half of my vehicles ability to account for hills, rainy roads etc.

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