Best Trailer Hitches (Review & Buying Guide) in 2021
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BY Heather Fishel / LAST UPDATED ON November 8, 2021
A good trailer hitch opens a realm of possibilities for any SUV or truck. The ability to tow a trailer when needed makes long trips, moving, and camping much easier and allows you to use hitch-mounted accessories like a bike rack, a motorcycle carrier, or a cargo carrier that frees valuable interior space and comfort. Your vehicle may not come with a hitch from the factory, but that isn’t a "game-over" because there are plenty of aftermarket options to choose from. This guide will help you decide the best trailer hitches available now.
A heavy-duty hitch that fits a wide variety of small SUVs, vans, and cars.
- High 650 pound tongue weight capacity that leads the segment
- Limited-lifetime warranty and easy installation
- Relatively low towing capacity at 4,500 pounds
- Focused on hitch-mounted accessories
A low-cost hitch with great weight capacity and custom fits.
- Durable construction
- Excellent rustproofing
- Tested to stringent SAE J684 standards
- Poor instructions can lead to an unnecessarily difficult install
An expensive but extremely capable hitch from a popular brand.
- Lightweight and small design with decent weight capacity
- Some customers have received incorrect hardware that required an extra trip to the store
Why Trust Us
Our reviews are driven by a combination of hands-on testing, expert input, “wisdom of the crowd” assessments from actual buyers, and our own expertise. We always aim to offer genuine, accurate guides to help you find the best picks.
When it comes to trailer hitches, there are many factors to consider. We looked at more than a dozen and chose the best ones based on design, towing capacity, and the ability to fit a wide range of vehicles. Durability and warranties were also considered. In addition, we looked at price and brand name to ensure that this guide included hitches in a variety of price ranges as well as ones from well-known manufacturers. While we haven’t conducted real-world testing on all of these products yet, we’ve looked at consumer testimonials and data, tutorials, and general discussions on social media and in forums. And, of course, we rely on our institutional knowledge of the automotive landscape to weed out weak products.
Best Trailer Hitches Reviews & Recommendations
Our Verdict on Trailer Hitches
You absolutely can’t go wrong with the Draw-Tite Class III Hitch, but the fact that it offers a segment-leading 675-pound tongue weight capacity with a 4,500-pound gross trailer weight towing capacity, lends even more credibility to the pick.
What to Consider When Buying Trailer Hitches
Whether you’re buying your first trailer hitch or upgrading an existing hitch, finding just the right fit for your trailer and your vehicle can take some time. If you’re wondering where to start and how to identify a quality hitch that’ll cover all your needs, check out our tips and advice right here.
Types of Trailer Hitches
Trailer hitches are organized into five classes that represent a general rating for tongue weight, gross trailer weight, weight distribution, and hitch receiver size. Hitch manufacturers rate hitches based on these classes as defined by the SAE standard. Most hitch ball mounts and hitch accessories will come in 1 1/4-inch and 2-inch sizes, which is the size of the square receiver on the hitch. They are as follows:
This is a hitch receiver with a hitch receiver size of 1 1/4 inches, a gross trailer weight rating up to 2,000 pounds, and a tongue weight rating up to 200 pounds.
This is a hitch receiver with a hitch receiver size of 1 1/4 inches, a gross trailer weight rating up to 3,500 pounds, and a tongue weight rating up to 350 pounds.
This refers to a hitch receiver with a 2-inch hitch receiver size, a gross trailer weight rating up to 8,000 pounds, a tongue weight rating up to 800 pounds, and a weight distribution hitch rating up to 12,000 pounds.
A Class IV hitch receiver has a 2-inch hitch receiver size with a gross trailer weight rating up to 10,000 pounds, a tongue weight rating up to 1,000 pounds, and a weight distribution hitch rating up to 12,000 pounds.
A Class IV hitch receiver has a 2-inch hitch receiver size with a gross trailer weight rating of up to 17,000 pounds, a tongue weight rating up to 2,400 pounds, and a weight-distribution hitch rating up to 17,000 pounds. Class V isn’t officially designated by the SAE standard but some manufacturers rate their hitches as such — usually for construction work.
Trailer Hitch Key Features
Hitch receiver size is a primary consideration for anyone shopping for a hitch, as a hitch ball mount and hitch accessories come in either 1 1/4 inches or 2 inches, depending on the class of hitch system you are using. The hitch class and receiver size are one of the most important considerations to make when deciding the level of utility you need. Generally, it is best to get a Class III with a 2-inch receiver if possible, for maximum compatibility and variety in the segment. It’s important to map out what sort of accessories and trailers you want to use before making any purchases; that way, you save money on something you actually will use.
Weight ratings are just as important, as some Class III hitches don’t meet the maximum 8,000-pound towing capacity and 800-pound tongue weight rating as set out by the SAE standard. Weight ratings depend heavily on the type of vehicle being used, where cars will have lower ratings and trucks near the max or in Class IV. Make sure to factor in the trailers and accessories you want to use and get the best trailer hitch that fits those needs.
Ease of Installation
A trailer hitch is something that should be easily installed at home with simple tools. A well-designed trailer hitch should bolt on with no fuss and come with all required hardware and instructions. While you could get a shop to install it and deal with an ill-fitting hitch, it’s best to spend a few extra dollars to get the one that can be installed in your driveway. Not to mention, an easy hitch installation is a good sign of great hitch design, potential longevity, and high quality.
Trailer Hitch Benefits
Variety and Versatility
Sure, a trailer hitch is designed to allow you to tow an actual trailer. But having a hitch on your vehicle gives you so much more versatility than you might think. It’s the key to variety, or being able to haul and tow plenty of items. You can use a trailer hitch for so many purposes, like a mounted cargo carrier, bike racks, and other vehicles beyond trailers. You’ll be able to tow toys, cargo, and just about anything you need to travel or enjoy the outdoors. It just depends on the weight and types of jobs your hitch is rated for.
Makes Towing and Hauling Easier
With a trailer hitch, you’re able to tow a number of different kinds of trailers. But no matter what you’d like to pull behind your vehicle, a hitch will make it easier. You’ll be able to connect the trailer – whether it’s a cargo trailer or a camping trailer – to your vehicle in minutes, and you’ll have a stable connection that allows you to easily haul extra weight. Plus, you won’t have to worry about renting a vehicle or trying to figure out how you’ll haul your gear if you have a hitch on your own vehicle.
Adaptable to Your Vehicle’s Style
Worried your trailer hitch will stand out once it’s on your vehicle? It doesn’t have to. Whether you opt for a custom-fit hitch that’s designed to fit your make and model or you pick a hitch that blends in with your car’s style, you can easily find an option that doesn’t stand out. You can opt for a hitch that’s more hidden, that matches the color or trim of your vehicle or one that’s even designed to stand out. It’s entirely up to you.
Trailer Hitch Pricing
The cost of a trailer hitch can vary quite a lot, as the price depends on the type of hitch you need, the towing class, your vehicle, and whether you’re looking for value or a premium product. On average, though, a decent trailer hitch will run you between $75 and $125. If you step up to the $150 to $200 price range, you’ll find even more options, including heavy-duty hitches and adjustable hitches.
Tips and Tricks
As with something you do for decades upon decades, you pick up a few tips and tricks along the way in terms of selecting the right product, and/or using it. That’s the case with us and trailer hitches. To help you bridge the information gap, here’s a selection of what we’ve learned along the way.
- Pay extra attention to the weight capacity limits of your vehicle and any hitch you check out. Exceeding these limits makes towing unsafe for you and the people around you.
- You will need a good ball mount or weight distribution hitch to complete your towing setup if you are starting from scratch.
- If you don't have much DIY or automotive experience, have a professional install your aftermarket hitch. Most local auto shops can handle bolt-on hitches.
You’ve got questions. The Drive has answers!
Q. Does the hitch ball mount matter for towing?
A. Yes, because they come in different ball sizes from 1 1/4 inches to 3 inches diameter and the hitch receiver can be 1 1/4 inches or 2 inches. Make sure to check the weight ratings on the hitch ball mount to make sure it works for your trailer.
Q. Is my car too small to pull a trailer?
A. Generally, most average-sized cars can handle a small trailer. If you drive a sports car of a compact car, however, you may be limited in the loads you can pull safely. Refer to your car's towing capacity to be sure.
Q. What's the difference between a trailer hitch and a weight-distribution hitch?
A. Both are designed to pull a trailer, but most trailer hitches use just a ball mount to connect to the trailer. This setup can make the towing less stable at high speeds or on rough roads. Weight distribution hitches add some extra bracing and can extend or contract to stabilize the load, so they can handle greater loads with extra safety.