Best Trailer Hitches: Turn Your Vehicle into a Workhorse
Pull a trailer with these aftermarket hitch options
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BY Austin Fracchia / LAST UPDATED ON June 27, 2019
It's tough to overestimate the usefulness of pulling a trailer. From RV campers to UHauls, a trailer hitch opens up a ton of doors for any vehicle with the towing capacity needed to handle the extra weight. If your truck lacks a factory-installed hitch, it's time to check out the various aftermarket options available. Here's our guide to the top trailer hitches on the market right now.
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Why Buy a Trailer Hitch
- Pull increased loads. All vehicles have certain towing ratings that allow them to pull extra loads like a trailer. While this always varies from vehicle to vehicle, almost any car can benefit from a trailer hitch since it expands the versatility of your driving setup.
- Haul more things. Pickup truck space only goes so far when it comes to carrying different things around. Trailers and other towable rigs offer more surface area and tie-down points so you can haul extra cargo, weekend toys, and other things without having to give up precious space in the vehicle itself.
Types of Trailer Hitches
These hitches automatically come with a vehicle and are installed at the factory. They are custom-made for the vehicle's model and may come as an upgrade or as a standard feature. Most large vehicles like trucks and SUVs come with standard hitches, while smaller vehicles usually have them available on upper trim levels.
If your vehicle doesn't have a hitch that is straight from the factory, you will need to look at aftermarket options. These come from third-party companies that design hitches to be compatible with a variety of different makes and models. Traditionally, these hitches tend to be more simple to install (bolt-on designs) but may lack the towing capacity of factory-installed options.
Top Brands of Trailer Hitches
As a company that has become associated with quality towing products, it's easy to see why CURT is the first company many people check out when searching for a towing hitch. The company offers a good range of traditional hitches, weight distribution hitches, fifth-wheel hitches, gooseneck hitches, and more. For a regular car or truck, the Class 3 Hitch is a great option to consider.
Trailer Hitch Pricing
- $100 and under: Budget hitches tend to be limited in weight capacity. As a result, they are often lightweight in design and better suited for smaller vehicles.
- $100 and above: This is the range to check out if you want anything that is a Class 3 hitch or above. Suited for trucks, SUVs, and other large vehicles, there are also some commercial options in the mix as well.
The main part of a hitch is the receiver that can accept a number of rear-mounted accessories like hitch balls, bike racks, cargo pads, and more. The most common are 1.5- and 2-inch receivers and can be found on a number of small and large vehicles. Typically, smaller vehicles will be limited to 1.5-inch receivers, while 2-inch receivers tend to be more standard and commonplace, especially with trucks and SUVs. Standard 2-inch receivers are also more versatile since they can mount accessories with 2-inch tubing or 1.5-inch tubing with an adapter. Do some research ahead of time to see which receivers you can mount safely on your vehicle.
A hitch's class is a simple classification of its maximum weight capacity. Ranging from one to five, these ratings give you a quick idea of what the hitch can handle in terms of pulling and carrying loads before it will start to fail. Class 1 hitches, for example, are rated for up to 2,000 pounds. Class 5, on the other hand, are rated for 12,000 pounds or 17,000 pounds with a weight distributing hitch.
All hitches have limits in terms of what they can pull and carry. While vehicle capacities differ, the weight capacity of different hitch options varies less. Two terms will help you gauge how much a hitch can take: the gross trailer weight (GTW) and the tongue weight (TW). The GTW is the maximum weight of the trailer and towing vehicle, including all of the cargo included. In combination with the vehicle's weight limit (gross combination weight rating), this will give you a good idea of how much you can actually pull. The TW, on the other hand, is the weight of the trailer bearing down on the hitch, which is usually much less than the GTW.
- Vehicle Model: Aftermarket hitches can be tricky to install since all vehicles have different frames and undercarriages. Bolt-on hitches, in particular, need to be designed to work with a particular model in order to have a quick and easy installation process. So, it is helpful to search for a hitch with your vehicle's make and model in mind. You will save yourself some time, money, and headache by finding the right hitch for your vehicle.
- Installation: The way a hitch attaches to your vehicle will influence how safe and stable it is when towing a trailer. Many factory-installed hitches, for example, come welded or can be bolted onto the vehicle (as an upgrade). While welding is typically stronger, bolts offer a quicker installation process. That is why many aftermarket hitches use bolt-on designs; some that don't even require pre-drilling into a vehicle.
Best Trailer Hitches Reviews & Recommendations 2020
- Pay extra attention to the weight capacity limits of your vehicle and any hitch you check out. Exceeding these limits make 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.
- Buy a 1.5-inch hitch adapter if you have a 2-inch hitch. This way, you can use hitch-mounted accessories that use the smaller receiver size.
Q. What do I need to find the right hitch for my vehicle?
A. Your vehicle's towing capacity is the most important information to use. This will tell you how much weight it can pull (usually combined with the weight of the vehicle itself and any cargo/people) safely. Also, pay attention to the weight limits of any hitches you consider. When in doubt, search for hitches that are compatible with your vehicle.
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 or mini-coup, 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 basic trailer hitches use just a basic ball 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 to stabilize the load, so they can handle greater loads more safely.
For the top general hitch, you can add to your vehicle, check out the Draw-Tite Class III Hitch. It offers some great towing capabilities and quick installation.
Save some money on a hitch with the Curt Class 3 Hitch instead.