You don’t always need a truck to tow a pontoon.
Depending on the size and weight of your pontoon boat, you could instead use a compact or mini-SUV. But it will very much depend on your pontoon and trailer weight.
I’ve previously written on Pontoonopedia about pontoons and trailer weights, so go check that out before you even think about what type of vehicle you will need for towing.
For example, a 16-foot fishing pontoon isn’t going to require the same amount of towing power that a luxury 24-foot leisure pontoon will need – and you would certainly need a truck for that.
But before you start worrying about having to buy a truck as well as a boat and trailer, it’s worth considering whether or not you can tow instead with the SUV you already have, or one that you might want to consider buying.
Some smaller pontoons will happily be towed by a mini-SUV.
One of the great things about using a mini-SUV to tow your pontoon is that it’s a multi-purpose vehicle, that is going to be practical everyday road and family use. In other words, you might not have buy an expensive large truck that’s going to take up space on your drive and only be used in pontoon season.
Now in earlier years, I would never have even considered using a compact SUV to tow a pontoon. They simple never used to have the power that their larger truck-based predecessors did. You would struggle to tow even a trailer with some jet skis on.
But things are changing.
There are now some stunning mini-SUVs that will happily tow a smaller pontoon, and get you from home to water and back again with no troubles whatsoever.
Handy Hint: Always choose an SUV that can tow at least 2,000 pounds more than your boat weight.
Here are some mini-SUVs you might want to considering using for towing – plus one which I completely discount.
Dodge Durango – The Best of Best
The Dodge Durango is great for pulling a pontoon, with a tow capacity weight of up to 7,400 pounds. That’s more than enough for most pontooners, with large or small boats possible.
This weight capacity marks it out as possibly the best there is. It’s a beast of a machine.
It breaks from tradition by using a car-like unibody platform instead of a body on-frame construction letting you combine a more comfortable ride whilst towing your pontoon.
If you choose the basic model which is the 3.6 liter 290hp VG then the maximum trailer load will be 6,200 pounds. That’s more than adequate for a pontoon boat.
Want more towing power? Then take a look at the 5.7 liter model which can tow a load of up to 7,400 pounds.
Whichever model you choose, you won’t experience any slipping on the boat launch ramps, can handle hill climbs at ease, and can hit speeds of 70 miles per hour with no discernible strain.
Ford Expedition – Best for Lots of People
The 2016 Ford Expedition model comes with a 3.5-liter V6 engine and a two capacity of 9,200 pounds. Sounds impressive right? And it is, but you will pay a premium to get one.
It includes space for 8 passengers and you can opt to choose a load-levelling suspension system out back to help keep the Ford flat. That’s a serious consideration when towing a boat so don’t forget to pay that little extra.
Chevrolet Equinox – OK for Smaller Pontoons
You might already own an SUV? Is it a Chevrolet Equinox? If it is then you should be able to pull a smaller pontoon as it has a tow capacity of 3,500 pounds. Just make sure not to overload the boat and trailer, and you should get from A to B.
It is more than capable when it comes to towing, but my model preference would be the 301hp, 3.6-liter V-6 engine – making sure to have the model with the dealer-installed trailer tow package. That comes with an electronic trailer sway control and hill start assist, and you can haul around 3,500 pounds with confidence.
There’s not a huge amount of room in the back though, so don’t expect to pack this SUV with all your kids, fishing equipment, supplies and more without having some capacity problems.
Honda CRV – Not Viable
We own a Honda CRV. We love this car, and it’s amazing for our family, but forget about towing a pontoon boat with it.
It’s just too small. It should be able to tow around 2,500 pounds, but reality bites when you consider the average pontoon weight plus trailer and load will be around 3,600 pounds.
So, for me, it’s a non-starter.
Lastly: Important Things to Consider
Be very careful when towing, as the wind profile of a pontoon boat including its shape can make it feel like you are towing something much heavier.
Launching can also be a problem on wet and slippery ramps. Even more so with smaller lakes that only have dirt ramps which is where AWD is an absolute must.
When you buy an SUV for towing your pontoon, make sure that it comes with the factory tow package. Don’t just think that you can install a hitch and wiring and think you’re all set.
Factory tow packages cost money, and there’s solid reason for that. They will mean you have aspects such as upgraded radiators, trans coolers, oil coolers, lower ring and pinion gears in the differentials and so on.
Whilst that might mean you fuel economy is worse when you aren’t towing, but once you have your pontoon trailered up, your SUV will be in the correct power band to handle the weight.