Post 18: Towing with an Older SUV or Van

Nissan Xterra towing corvette racecar on trailer

My last post may have been surprising to many of my readers… How could a blog about not spending money possibly suggest buying new or nearly new SUV’s for at least $30,000-60,000+?  Let’s get back to our roots with this one.

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If SUV’s are your thing but you don’t want to (or can’t) be stuck with a car payment, older SUV’s can also be quite capable for towing. Many older models are more likely to be truck based, with body-on-frame capability and great parts availability. Cheap SUV’s are everywhere. If you don’t mind some repairs (and dealing with a bit of rust), you can find something with no matter your budget.

To name just a few: 1990’s-early 2000’s GM SUV’s are still everywhere and have a pretty good reputation for reliability. Suburbans, Yukons, etc. First generation Dodge Durangos and nearly any Jeep Grand Cherokee can get the job done. Second Generation Nissan Xterra’s tow quite well, even with their v6.

Below is Ken’s 2002 Yukon, he paid just over $2,000 for it. Despite having over 200k miles, it’s done a fine job getting him and his H4 Integra to the track the past two years without any work beyond the typical maintenance (rotors, pads, belts, exhaust, etc).

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Toyota 4Runners pull well, but seem to fetch the same “Toyota tax” as Tacomas… so I’m not sure the value is really there.


Maybe you don’t need the spare seats and daily-drivability of a SUV… how about a work van for tow vehicle? Like SUV’s, work vans are truck based, often come with v8’s, and are very capable of towing. The nice bonus of a van is you get extra-secure parts storage and also have plenty of room for a cot or a futon. As long as you can get past the inevitable windowless van jokes and have a place where you can park a somewhat “less attractive” vehicle without neighbors setting it on fire…  A work van may actually be the most practical option.

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Amy’s Van, (bought from an electrician who was upgrading) has been seen across the country pulling every manner of car to every sort of event. Add a trans cooler and good to go. #DriveALLTheThings 

Zephyr has been using his ford van for track transportation for years and shared some van specific points: First and foremost they are WORK vans, so most are beat to hell… be careful with your search, and good luck. Work van seats are garbage, upgrading to power passenger van seats is worth every penny. Add curtains over any windows to help with bedtime ambiance. His final piece of wisdom “Don’t put your tool box it the van. It rattles a lot and will drive you insane.”

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In general, the theme I hear from everyone with an older SUV or Van tow vehicle is that you may need to replace some things (replace a brake line here and there, bearings, water pump, etc) but they will definitely get the job done and you will rarely, if ever get stranded. A trans cooler may be the only strongly suggested “upgrade”, but worry not they can be found VERY cheap (<$50) and install quickly and easily. 

If you’re thinking that $30,000+ brand new or barely used tow vehicles may not be for you, you are not alone.

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