Can A 4 Cylinder Car Pull A Camper? Facts and Numbers


Like many Americans, you might be looking into getting a camper for whenever you want to take a vacation. Campers offer people a portable vacation home that allows you to keep safe social distancing. They are a cheaper option than RVs because they can be pulled behind your vehicle.

Can A 4 Cylinder Car Pull A Camper? Yes, many 4 cylinders can pull light campers. However, you need to check the manufacturers towing weight recommendation against the weight of the trailer for an accurate answer.

Other things you might be wondering is what equipment is needed to pull a camper and what are the best 4-cylinder vehicles for pulling campers. How can you find your vehicle’s towing capacity? Also, I will let you know how to approximate the weight for the camper, including any equipment and supplies you may be towing inside the camper.

Checking the Towing Capacity

The first thing you want to check to find out if your 4-cylinder vehicle will be able to pull a camper is the cars towing capacity. If you still have the vehicle’s owners manual, you will be able to look it up in there. If you don’t still have the car’s owners manual, no need to fret, you can use the VIN number and look up that information.

There are many websites where you can enter the VIN number, and the site gives you whatever information you need including recommended towing capacity. You can also call an authorized dealership and speak to someone in the service department. They should be able to pull up that information for as well.

(Note: I really would not recommend doing this during prime business hours. They might be busy with customers in front of them, so call when they are not busy.)

For some smaller cars, the vehicle’s manufacture may not recommend that you do any type of pulling or towing. If this is the case, unfortunately, you will not be able to pull any campers at all. The last thing you would want is to not be able to get over a hill or be unable to successfully brake while going downhill while pulling a camper.

Another thing I want to touch on now but will go into more detail later. Your vehicle may have a towing package option available. The car’s manufacturer’s listed vehicle towing capacity may or may not be for the car with this option added. Make sure you know whether the towing capacity includes the towing package option and whether or not your vehicle has it already installed or not.

Related reading: How Much Does It Cost to Install a Trailer Hitch? (with 9 examples)

Estimating Total Camper Weight

Now that you know what your vehicle’s towing capacity is, let’s talk about how to figure what the total pulling weight of the camper is going to be.

The base weight of the camper itself will be easy to find by asking the salesman or doing a quick google search for the weight. You should keep in mind your camper will have additional items that will add to the total pulling weight of your camper.

The base weight of a small camper can range from 600 to 3,000 lbs. To be able to be pulled by a 4 cylinder, your camper will most likely need to be under 1,500 lbs base weight.

Let’s go over a few of the things to consider to estimate the total pulling weight of your camper. Although the weight of water and propane tanks are included in the manufacture’s listed weight of your camper, they will be at least partially filled when you are pulling the camper.

You will also need to account for clothing, personal items, and food for each person. Consider what type of trip that you will be taking and add a few pounds for any fishing equipment, camera equipment, or other specialty gear or goods that you will be taking with you.

Here is a short and far from comprehensive table to help you estimate the total pulling weight of your camper:

Water for holding tanks8.34 pounds per gallon
Propane Gas4.24 pounds per gallon
Food1.5 to 2.5 pounds per person per day
Clothing and personal items1.75 to 2 pounds per day for women; 2.25 to 2.5 per day for men

Equipment Needed For Towing

Now that you know whether or not your 4 cylinder is able to pull your camper, you might be wondering what equipment or modifications you will have to make to your car to be able to pull your camper. Some vehicles have tow package options that be purchased and outfitted to your vehicle.

These packages will usually include trailer hitches, brake and rear light controllers, and heavy-duty upgrade to some automotive parts that boost the vehicle pulling capabilities. If your vehicle is not a new purchase, you can still get it outfitted to be ready to pull your camper.

Some of the heavy-duty parts that your vehicle may need include a larger gas tank to offset the lower miles per gallon that the additional weight causes.

You may want to get upgraded shocks and sway bars that help stabilize the vehicle and improve the traction of your tires to the road.

Another part to consider upgrading to help with the car’s handling are the vehicle’s axles.

Related reading: Do Travel Trailers have Back-Up or Reverse Lights? (Is It Legal?)

You don’t need any special endorsements to your state driver’s license to pull a camper with a regular vehicle. You will need to register your camper, though. You will also need to get a tag for the camper as well to be able to pull it out on the open road. Check your auto insurance company to see if your coverage will extend to the trailer.

Not to be repetitive, or maybe you skipped down to this section, check to see if the car’s listed towing capacity includes the towing package installed on to the vehicle. You do not want to make an error with that.

The following table shows the hitch and towing capacity in pounds for several small cars:

MakeModelHitchCapacity (lbs)
SubaruLegacy Sedan 2700
Subaru Forester1500
VolkswagenGolfNot recommended

Best 4 Cylinders for Pulling Campers

As you are aware, 4-cylinder cars are not the best for options among vehicles for pulling a camper. But which vehicles among 4-cylinder cars are best suited for towing? As you can probably guess, truck and SUV 4 cylinders are generally more capable than cars at pulling campers.

It does not matter whichever vehicle type you prefer though, you will be able to find one that is capable of pulling a camper.

In the list below you can find some 4-cylinder engines that are capable of pulling campers:

  • Ford Explorer
  • BMW X1 2.0 Liter Turbo
  • GMC Canyon
  • Subaru Outback
  • VW model Tiguan
  • Volkswagen Jetta

Related reading: Can a Minivan Pull a Travel Trailer? [Must-Read]


For the most part, the simple to answer to the question if a 4 cylinder can pull a camper is yes, although some of the smaller ones are not able to. Before hitching the camper up to the car and taking off, you want to check the cars towing capacity first. Then figure what the total amount of pulling weight is going to be by adding the base weight of the camper along with the weight of any additional items, including the weight of water or propane inside any of the camper’s tanks. Be safe while traveling, and, most importantly, enjoy your trip.


We Towed a Scamp Trailer with Our 4 Cylinder Car! >> Check out the video below:

Mike Gilmour

Hi, I'm Mike, co-founder, and editor of RV and Playa. My passion is traveling (with my RV) and enjoying the day at the beach (Playa)! Well, I originally created this blog as a way to share what I've learned by experimenting with the RV lifestyle, and I want to help others develop in life through new skills and opportunities.

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