Two years ago, in one of my first articles, I claimed that (for me) the Honda Ridgeline was the best truck ever made. It’s spacious, seats 5 very comfortably (no hump in the floor), has a trunk and has easily hauled everything I’ve thrown at it. I don’t need a truck for towing, but the Ridgeline can haul 5,000 lbs behind it if needed.
But almost 2.5 years later, I’m questioning whether I even need a truck. Honestly, I know the answer, but I’m not comfortable giving up the truck because it’s just so convenient to have it there when I do need it. But now I have a few new ideas:
Buying/Using a CAR that can haul
In our case, we already have 3 vehicles. Obviously we won’t use the MINI Cooper for towing (too small), but we do have a paid-off 1997 Pontiac Grand Am SE (4 cylinder). I looked up the specs on the Pontiac and apparently it’s rated to tow up to 1,000 lbs. Now that’s pretty close to the limit on what I’ve hauled in the truck bed before (about 1,200 lbs of bricks).
But here’s the catch. Back to our case, I would guess most people would advise against towing a full 1,000 lbs with a 4 cylinder engine, however punchy it is. Also, our Pontiac’s frame is rusting, so I would worry that any extra strain would wear it down more quickly.
But enough of our situation. Let me explore other options that might pique your interest.
How much do you really need to haul?
The first question you need to ask yourself is whether you NEED a truck or just WANT a truck. Generally, this is the guy making the decision (like it was in our case), but eventually the wife learns to like the truck (as Stacie did) given it’s higher ride and that it makes her husband feel like a “real man”. For me, I thought “hey, I’m a new homeowner, have a lot of home projects planned, so of course I should buy a truck” and promptly traded in my sports sedan for one.
But in the first 2 years of owning the truck, I used it for hauling stuff about 8-10 times where I couldn’t have just used one of our cars. Two times were for unbagged mulch, twice for our dining room furniture, twice for tailgating, and then a few random other large, heavy and/or dirty items. I also tried loading up our lawnmower, which was a pain, to transport it. By the way if you’re looking for reliable ramps for stuff like lawnmowers or motorbikes you should check this out. It wasn’t until this past 3 months that I truly needed it for all our home projects. You see, in the first two years, we didn’t have enough money for all those desired projects.
But now, I’ve used the truck about a dozen times for tons of bricks, flooring, hauling trash to the dump (old carpet mostly), plywood, and various other items that wouldn’t have fit in a car. But then again, did I even need the truck these times?
Renting a Hauler/Paying for Delivery
If I would have just planned out and known I needed about 350 bricks (7,700 lbs worth), I could have just paid once to have all of them delivered. Home Depot charges about $100, but I’m not sure if they would have to do one or two loads. Sure, I would have had almost 4 tons of bricks in my driveway so I couldn’t just do the wall at my leisure, but I wouldn’t have had to spend hours going back and forth, loading onto the cart, loading onto the truck, then unloading and carrying to the backyard. But I did develop some nice forearm muscles.
For renting, I spoke with another gentleman one time while getting bricks, and he said he just rents a U-haul box truck that can carry a few tons. For $20/day plus tax and mileage, that’s an even cheaper deal, assuming Home Depot will load the pallet of bricks on with a forklift.
I won’t get into all the options here, but instead of buying a truck, you can rent one, pay for delivery or ask your friendly neighbor to borrow theirs. Fortunately, all but one of my neighbors have trucks or large vans, so I haven’t been tagged yet, even though I’ve offered my hauling services to anyone if needed.
Using Your Car to Tow
Now if you really need more frequent towing capabilities, but you don’t need to haul large weights, then do what many non-American countries have become accustomed to doing: using your car (not truck) to tow. However, you MUST check your owner’s manual or contact your car’s manufacturer to find out its towing capacity! Many small cars aren’t rated to tow, which means you could screw up your car by towing. For instance, Honda doesn’t recommend towing with the Honda Civic, even though I’ve seen a number of Civic with trailers following behind. On the otherhand, the new Corolla is rated at 1,500 lbs and the AWD Subaru Impreza can haul a full ton (2,000 lbs).
Also, I’m learning that people don’t recommend towing if your car uses a turbo because the engine fluids get too overheated between the extra strain and the turbo. But again, contact the manufacturer or dealer to learn more.
Most V6 engines can easily tow a utility trailer or even a small camper, but if you’re looking to convert your daily compact commuter to a part-time workhorse, call around local tow-hitch and trailer providers to find out what hitch fits your car. Most cars will use either a Class I or II hitch, and be sure to understand what that means. If you’re renting a U-haul Class II trailer, but you only have a Class I hitch, try again.
So in our case, I’ll still investigate downgrading from the Ridgeline to something cheaper and more economical, but since I only owe about $18,000 on the truck, I’m heading into cheapo compact car territory. Do I really want to sacrifice my driving experience and convenience for hauling for such a downgrade? Only time will tell. I have even more information for this discussion, but I’ll save it for another time.
For you, consider whether you really NEED a truck or SUV before considering whether a sedan/wagon will more easily handle your daily duties, and if renting/delivery will take care of the rest.