I need to tow a boat

I’d normally ask this in the RV forum but the Fool in it’s infinite wisdom closed that venue, so maybe somebody here can answer:

I have a Toyota Sienna van, to which I added a dealer-installed tow package (and hitch). The literature says my limit is 3500#, and my calculations put my trailer and boat at … 3500#. That scares me just a little, because normally I wouldn’t push a limit like that.

While I had an RV, it was a motor home so the I only towing I did was a GeoTracker, which was small enough you couldn’t actually tell you were towing something. Running at the tow limit I think that would be different.

Also, I know nothing about “sway” and “tongue weight” and all that other stuff, and all my reading so far hasn’t helped.

The boat is a 24’ pontoon, BTW. I rented a huge 4WD pickup from Enterprise last time, but at ~$175 for a few hours that’s pricey, time after time. I’d rather not, but if I should, then I should.


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In the late 1960’s, we had a 22-ft travel trailer (towed behind the car). Car was a Buick Electra 225 with 451 engine (big car w/big engine). Welded trailer hitch block–4" sq hollow receiver. Put the actual hitch into the block to use different size hitch balls), two anti-sway bars, electrical connections, and safety chains. There was a trailer brake control by the car’s steering wheel so the driver could use the trailer brakes to start slowing both and not having to use just the car brakes–lots of momentum in the towed item, so necessary to make sure it does NOT jackknife and create a major problem. Think about driving on a highway heading down a mountain… You NEED the ability to keep the tow behind you, which the trailer brake control gives the driver on such a slope. The anti-sway bars help to keep the trailer behind the vehicle. Very necessary for a fairly heavy load.

These are the guys to talk with, either literally on the phone or maybe a chat line… I’ve used them for years on different setups, rear equalizer hitches, parts, even added a front receiver to my previous 3/4T Chevy… Once they know your setup it should all fall into place, since you may already have the receiver, it should be an easy fit… We have a 24’ trailer, theoretically lightweight, but by the time all the stuff is aboard, I’m sure it’s many pounds over the advertised dry weight… Toyotas are pretty tough should be fine… Keep an eye on tires, they age out by time, not mileage… Short hauls no big deal, but hours at full speed, loads, they will blow…




There is a buying and maintaining a car board that might be more appropriate. However, the posters here and there are pretty much the same, so there’s little to be gained by posting there, having already posted here.

I agree that pushing things to the weight limit is not a great idea. But thoughts on doing that would depend on how often you plan to tow this trailer. If it’s once or twice a year, I’d just push the minivan and drive very carefully. The main issue isn’t getting moving, it is how the rig handles turning and stopping. Both of those are improved by driving slower. Or bite the bullet and rent an appropriate vehicle for those couple of trips a year. If it’s a couple of times a month, perhaps budgeting for a different tow vehicle is in order. Maybe a small pickup or larger SUV would be more appropriate.

I’d also wonder about that weight. I know pontoon boats are pretty light for their size, but is this one really that light? Don’t forget the gear and supplies you might carry. Switching those to inside the van would help with the trailer weight, but won’t help with the combined weight - which is another limit to check out. My full size van is easy to overload. I can carry a full load inside, but then have to limit the trailer weight. Or I can tow a max weight trailer, but then have to limit the weight inside the van. The figure to look for is GCWR, or Gross Combined Weight Rating - which is the combined weight of the van and trailer. It should be on a plate in the driver’s door area. Don’t confuse that with the GVWR, Gross Vehicle Weight Rating, which is the limit for the vehicle without a trailer. That spec will also be on that plate. As I mentioned, both weight ratings need to be respected. (It will also have maximum axle weights - front and rear - and maximum trailer weight. All of these weight limits need to be met at the same time.)



Goofy have you considered a uhaul pick up to tow the boat? $20 a day plus gas. They probably have restrictions about this that you would have to evaluate. Also would need to insure that you have a hitch. If the truck has the proper reciever you would need to buy the right ball or use your own if you already ha e it.


Just guessing here, but with a pontoon you’re possibly just needing to retrieve from storage and launch at the beginning of the season and haul out and back to storage at the end. If that’s the case, as long as you don’t haul it a great distance and the overall and tongue weight ratings are acceptable for your Sienna, you should be okay. Biggest concern might be pulling the boat/trailer out of the water with the minivan. My experience is with RV and utility trailers but have witnessed some failures with boat retrievals.

Are you going up/down mountains with the boat?
Because the 3500 lb limit in the owners manual is with the assumption that the vehicle will be used for extended periods of time towing that much weight. And that it will be for any normal terrain - ie. anything that might be encountered driving on the US interstate system. Which does include some mountain passes. So the brakes, suspension, and transmission are going to be able to handle the additional stress of 3500 lb. towing when going through mountain passes - so driving an hour to the lake is unlikely to be really coming close to what the limit is.

My two-cents. If you have to ask the question, then you probably don’t want to do it. You’re risking a boat and the van to save a few bucks renting a truck that you KNOW can do it. For me it wouldn’t be worth it.


Thank you. Yes, it’s mostly just about launching before and pulling the boat out after the season, with a trip to a service center for annual service/winterization, etc.

I need a 4WD to pull it up the (steep) ramp at the house because the concrete pad is short and the truck is on grass before the boat levels out. (Been there, done that.) But going the other way I can use a 2WD or possibly my van.

I think I will just try it with the van on my neighborhood street (once I get it back from service), but continue to rent a truck when needed. (Extraction, for sure. Maybe not for launching, dunno.)