Car Buying

Buying a Car: How Do You Figure out a Tow Rating for an Older Model?

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author photo by Doug DeMuro October 2016

If you're interested in buying a used truck or SUV for towing, you're probably curious about exactly how much weight it can tow. While it's easy to figure out tow ratings and payload capacity if you're buying a car or truck that's brand new, it can be harder to find these ratings for used vehicles. How can you do it? Here's what we recommend.

Check the Manual

Our first suggestion is an obvious one: Check the owner's manual. While most modern car shoppers search manufacturer websites to find capacities and tow ratings, those ratings are also published in a vehicle's owner's manual. If you still have the owner's manual for the used SUV or pickup you want to use for towing, just search it, and you'll find the numbers you're looking for.

Search the Web

Of course, you probably wouldn't be here if you still had the owner's manual, since that's an easy place to start your search. If you don't have access to the manual, move on to Plan B, searching the internet.

First, start by searching for a copy of the owner's manual. Many automotive owner's manuals are now available online in PDF form, and many others are available for purchase on sites like Amazon or eBay. You can also look for the tow rating itself. If you search for the year, make and model of your vehicle, followed by the words "tow rating," you might find the official rating is still listed on the manufacturer's website, or it may be located elsewhere, such an automotive data site.

However, be sure to check out the quality of the site where you find this information. An owner's manual remains the best source for a tow rating, since it comes straight from the manufacturer. If you find the tow rating published on a third-party website, you may want to check a few other, similar sites to ensure the rating is correct.

Talk to Experts

If you can't find an owner's manual for your vehicle or your tow rating in online searches, consider talking to an expert, such as someone else who has towing experience with the same vehicle you have, or a mechanic who works on the vehicle you're considering. For example, if you want to tow with an older Chevy pickup, you might consider asking a mechanic or service advisor at your Chevrolet dealership.

Either way, if towing is important to you, we strongly recommend checking out the tow rating before buying a car, and we suggest getting the rating verified by someone other than the seller. You don't want to purchase a vehicle only to find you can't quite tow the trailer or boat you were hoping to.

This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
Buying a Car: How Do You Figure out a Tow Rating for an Older Model? - Autotrader