Advice on towing a car behind a moving van.

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Sep 01, 2000

Dear Tom and Ray:

I'm planning on moving about 2,500 miles. I'm renting a truck for this move, and I would like to tow a car behind it. I was told I have three options: I can drag the car on all four wheels, use a trailer that lifts the two front wheels or use a small, flatbed trailer to get all four wheels off the ground. Which method is best? Do any of these methods cause damage to the wheels, shocks or tires? -- Steve

TOM: Well, the flatbed method is best, Steve. A trailer that gets all four wheels off the ground would put absolutely no wear and tear on the car.

RAY: Unless the car falls off. Then there WOULD be some wear and tear, wouldn't you agree?

TOM: Sure. The greatest sources of wear and tear during long-range tows are 1. leaving the parking brake on, 2. forgetting to put the car in Neutral, and 3. the aforementioned "disconnection" issues.

RAY: Flatbedding is best, although it's also your most expensive option. But if you have an all-wheel-drive vehicle, flatbedding is probably your only option.

TOM: If you have a front-wheel-drive car, then lifting the two front wheels off the ground will work fine. You'll obviously put 2,500 miles on the rear tires and 2,500 miles on the suspension. But that's not a big deal in the grand scheme of things.

RAY: If you have a rear-wheel-drive car, you can also tow by lifting the two front wheels -- assuming the car's in Neutral. But in that case, you'll also be putting 2,500 miles on the rear differential, which is more expensive than most of the suspension pieces and tires put together. And many manufacturers also recommend that you remove the drive shaft before you tow a car on its driven wheels, so that's an added hassle and expense.

TOM: The all-four-wheels-on-the-ground method is an option for front- or rear-wheel-drive cars as well, but in addition to all the other concerns, you have to take the additional step of securing the front wheels so they don't steer off in their own direction. So I tend to steer people (ha-ha) away from that method if possible.

RAY: So here are our general recommendations, Steve. If you have a front-wheel-drive car -- which the majority of people do -- then you can use the two-front-wheels-off-the-ground method. And if you have anything else, go for the flatbed.

Get the Car Talk Newsletter

Got a question about your car?

Ask Someone Who Owns One