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Old 11-09-2020, 09:09 AM   #1
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Flat tow-vs Tow dolly

I am in the process of making a decision do I flat tow or use a dolly. I have heard that if the dolly is manufactured before a certain year no plates are required. I plan on towing a front wheel drive car so transmission is not an issue if I use a dolly. Looking for some thoughts and input from experienced folks. We have a 2004 27C Sightseer. Chevy 8.1.

Any thoughts?

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Old 11-09-2020, 09:19 AM   #2
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WE have seen lots of trauma from folks trying to find a place to put the dolly and we find it not what we want to do but think about the campsites you have been to that have space for the RV and a car but that is pretty much all? We would not want to know we had a dolly but it had to be left in the overflow parking and not where we could watch it and where it was not locked up.
But we are also not finding it handy to find the right vehicle to flat tow either as we are needing to change. Very few that are now made can be flat towed as CVT transmission come out, so be very careful in checking that your specific one will work to do rec. towing.
Not sure what a chevy 8.1 means but it sounds like you mean a large engine truck, so weight may be a major question?
Some do require lots more wiring and "process" to get ready for towing, so check first.
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Old 11-09-2020, 09:23 AM   #3
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You’ll find a range of answers here. But most agree that flat towing is easier and quicker to set up/ unhook. Plus, unlike dolly towing you don’t have to get on the ground, strap down dirty tires and find a place to stow the dolly at a campground.

Buying a tow dolly is generally cheaper than setting up all the equipment you need for flat towing.
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Old 11-09-2020, 09:27 PM   #4
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I can tell you I dolly towed my car for several years before I got a new car for my wife that we could flat tow and though as "creativepart" pointed out that it's more expensive and sometimes there's no place to put it on your some sites unless you've done your homework. It more than makes up for the fact that I don't have to crawl under my car to put on and tighten the straps down in the pouring rain or on a hot and humid day. So more easier I'll never use a tow dolly again.
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Old 11-09-2020, 10:00 PM   #5
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As others have pointed out, you have a lot of things to verify/check if you want to flat tow. Make sure your vehicle is flat towable! We flat tow and my brother in law uses a tow dolly. The amount of time it takes us to hook up, well, let's say we're waiting on him to get going. Creativepart hit it on the nose when he says it will cost you more for the setup of a flat towed vehicle, but my wife says it was worth every penny. And we don't have to worry about storage of the dolly. But it's a matter of preference...your choice. I can't help but smile when we're waiting on the in-laws and they are sweating their back ends off in the Arizona heat. : )

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Old 11-10-2020, 05:06 AM   #6
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Guess I am going to be on the other side of the fence on this one. I have towed a jeep wrangler 4 down with no problem. Yes its easy to hook up and thats about all. Now a days its getting harder and harder to find cars that one can pull 4 down.

As for dolly I have been using a dolly now for 5 years of great towing. I have yet to find a campground where the dolly does not fit. I unhook just like the 4 down folks do. I then move the dolly to the rear of the site, the dolly tung will go under the motorhome very nicely. That saves up front space for the car. Yes its true about the tie down straps. They are a pain in the rear, but if thats all I get to complain about DW is happy. With the dolly the choice of cars either now or in the future is easier. As I drive the highways I am seeing more and more dollies as newer cars just do not pull 4 down.
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Old 11-10-2020, 07:42 AM   #7
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I'm in the process of researching tow dollies to buy for the following reasons, which probably don't apply to many Winnieowners but might give some insight for some. Not everyone has the option of buying a Jeep Wrangler or other vehicle that's easily towable 4-down.

1. We have a 2011 Honda Odyssey which, per Honda isn't flat-towable but per the forums, Remco (before they stopped doing so) and towbar manufactures, it is, provided the transmission is getting 12V power and you follow very specific pre-tow steps. These steps need to be repeated every couple of hours. With power, it circulates transmission fluid to avoid damage. If it loses power, or these steps are skipped, significant damage can result. I have it outfitted for flat-towing and have a charge circuit to it from my MH but after a couple of trips I decided I don't want to risk damage since it's also outfitted with a very expensive ($8k+) seat for my disabled wife that pivots out and lowers so she can transfer from her wheelchair. It has low mileage and we plan on driving it as long as possible.

2. Our second car is a 2010 Mazda 5 microvan that can't be flat-towed but is accessible for my wife without any expensive mods, hence the need for a dolly.

Additionally, we can always tow the Honda with the dolly should we decide to do so, avoiding the need for all the rigmarole and risk.

Clearly, the dolly will be more work, but most of our trips are fairly local and once we get to our destination we stay for a week or so. It's not like I'll be hooking and unhooking every day or so.
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Old 11-10-2020, 08:06 AM   #8
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So much of all the things we do, will come back to what we want to do and what we are able to do! We are currently looking at swapping cars, not because we want to but because the other options are not what we are able to do.
We are running close to the max amount of weight we want to tow, so adding the weight of a dolly to any car, is not prefered but when we get to a campsite, we do not want to disconnect the car from the dolly , then disconnect the dolly from the RV and often have to push it uphill by hand to put it somewhere!
So much of it depends on how, when, and where. If you are into commercial sites where all the trees are gone and natural is considered to be flat and paved, it might be better!
My sites are "required" to have big trees with lots of shade, but that often means little extra room for the extra stuff.
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Old 11-10-2020, 10:40 AM   #9
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Good point on the tow dolly weight since that can usually add 400 to 500 to the tow weight of your vehicle. I'm sure it doesn't impact very many people and I'm sure using a tow dolly for some is the only option as it was for us several years ago since my suburban was weigh too heavy to tow with my gasser so my FWD MKZ was the only option. It wasn't a major issue but like I said it was a pain getting under it in the rain.
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Old 11-15-2020, 05:15 PM   #10
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I'd be willing to bet that there are fewer that 2 people on the planet that ever bought a second tow-dolly...'nuff said.

We've trailer-towed, tow-dolly towed, and flat towed. Our current toad is a 5-speed BMW sedan that is up for sale because we're selling the motor home, otherwise it would be the last tow vehicle we ever got. Easy to hook up, easy to dis-connect, no straps to tighten and adjust.
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Old 11-15-2020, 06:33 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 1237dmctlc View Post
Good point on the tow dolly weight since that can usually add 400 to 500 to the tow weight of your vehicle. I'm sure it doesn't impact very many people and I'm sure using a tow dolly for some is the only option as it was for us several years ago since my suburban was weigh too heavy to tow with my gasser so my FWD MKZ was the only option. It wasn't a major issue but like I said it was a pain getting under it in the rain.
I've ordered the Acme dolly since my last post and chose it for its weight. At 380# it's the, or one of the lightest dollies out there. I was looking at some used dollies and even found a three-year old lightly used Demco (their top of the line model), but it weighs in at 615#. In addition to weight, I like that the Acme will store vertically and is hot-dipped galvanized.

Although there are many differing opinions about what dolly is the best, I really didn't find anything but theoretical objections to one or the other from people who don't own the brand in question. Again, people seem to like what they have, which tells me that most do a pretty good job. I don't recall seeing one truly negative review on the Acme by an owner.

And, since we live in, and mostly camp in California, rain usually isn't a problem, except in the winter. I'm not sure that I've ever driven my MH in the rain.

With the dolly, I'll have the best of both worlds. I can tow either car on the dolly and, if necessary, I can flat-tow the Odyssey.
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Old 11-15-2020, 07:10 PM   #12
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I had purchased a Ford Fusion (2012) specifically because it could be flat towed. The magazines and Ford manual said it could. I then found a barely used Kar Kaddy SS for $2,000 and that beat the heck out of $4K for Blue Ox flat tow. I just lucked out because Ford changed it’s mind (but not the manual) and said that only Ford Fusion “hybrids” with CVT tranny could be flat towed. My Fusion with 6 speed automatic could not. The cars that I like to drive are not flat towable so I like the flexibility of a dolly even if I do have to get a little dirtier than flat tow folks.
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Old 11-15-2020, 07:16 PM   #13
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Another perspective

Over the past 40 years, I have towed both ways 4 down and on a dolly. I am a bit bumfuzzled about the perception that dolly towing is difficult and that you must get dirty using and loading it. I have been using our American Tow dolly since 2014-- about 70,000 miles and I must say it's every bit as easy and in fact, we now believe now easier than when we towed our Cherokee 4 down.

Needless to say, I had a bad experience towing 4 down a few years back when the Cherokee we were towing broke away from a failed weld on a base plate. The safety chains barely held and we somehow coasted to a safe stop. But not before I looked in my mirror and watched it try to pass me on the driver's side!

When we set this motorhome up we thought about 4 down but our tow options were limited. I wanted the versatility to tow many more types of vehicles. In fact, we tow both our car (front-wheel Focus) and our Ranger pick up (rear-wheel-drive automatic) on the dolly. The Focus faces forward and when we use the truck it faces rearward. We love the ability to choose the vehicle we want to take based on the needs of the trip.

When I priced a good tow bar, base plates, and brakes, I could not beat the price of our American Car Dolly.

Coming home from the mountains this morning we were loaded and on our way in about 8 minutes. My knees and legs never touched the ground and strapping it up was so easy. In fact, my wife straps it up while I stow the ramps. Believe me, if she didn't want to, or if she didn't like applying the straps she wouldn't! I'll never go back to 4 down if I can at all avoid it. It's extremely easy and we never touch the ground using the dolly! I scratch my head wondering how one would get dirty loading a dolly- I never have gotten any dirtier than when I loaded 4 down????

In 5 years I have never had a problem stowing my dolly at a campsite. I have a caster wheel on the tongue and I just roll it behind the rig to the rear of any back-in campsite we use and then I can easily back the motorhome over 80% of the dolly to its wheel fenders of the dolly. It sticks out about 2 ft and I've never been told to stow it somewhere else. Overnight we often use a pull-through and we never disconnect. I can back some with the dolly when loaded for several feet if I am careful. I never could back up when towing 4 down.

Anyway just my experience
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Old 11-15-2020, 08:18 PM   #14
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I have towed a Scion Xa for four years using an Acme dolly that came with the motorhome. The dolly is 7 years old and going strong. With the Vault hubs and Dexter axle it's virtually maintenance free. I've only had to put tires on it and only because they were 5 years old. My Acme has disc surge brakes and is still on the original pads. I have no problem hooking up the tow straps and it only takes about 10 minutes to load and go. Since our Scion was paid for when we bought the motorhome and the dolly was essentially free it was a no brainer decision I've never regretted.
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Old 11-15-2020, 10:54 PM   #15
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I have towed a Scion Xa for four years using an Acme dolly that came with the motorhome. The dolly is 7 years old and going strong. With the Vault hubs and Dexter axle it's virtually maintenance free. I've only had to put tires on it and only because they were 5 years old. My Acme has disc surge brakes and is still on the original pads. I have no problem hooking up the tow straps and it only takes about 10 minutes to load and go. Since our Scion was paid for when we bought the motorhome and the dolly was essentially free it was a no brainer decision I've never regretted.
I'm glad to hear such a positive report. Thanks.
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Old 11-16-2020, 02:30 AM   #16
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In Washington and to my knowledge most other states a dolly does not require a license plate as long as there is a licensed vehicle on the dolly.
When towing a dolly empty it is considered a trailer and a license plate is required.
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Old 11-16-2020, 02:57 AM   #17
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I'm beginning to consider another vehicle to flat tow. I towed the Saturn Vue until a deer accident claimed it. Since then, I have flat towed the Jeep Wrangler. The Jeep is difficult for short legged Jan to climb into or roll out of. I have towed the 1969 VW bug a few times. I am now ready to sell the VW. I just can't bring myself to let it go so cheap. I have considered a Honda CR-V, but don't necessarily like what I have found available used.
I have towed with a tow dolly a few years ago. I prefer flat towing. I'll continue looking for a vehicle that's flat tow-able.
I suggest you rent a tow dolly for a trip or two and judge for yourself if that works to your satisfaction.
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Old 11-16-2020, 05:58 AM   #18
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With our tow dolly, the only reason to get on the ground is to hook the safety chains to somewhere on the frame under the toad. Sounds like some skip this step; I have in the past, but will never skip it again in the future. Everything else is quick and easy. What frustrates me more is needing to stop after the first 30-60 minutes to re-tighten the wheel straps, and then checking/tightening them again every gas stop thereafter.

I just want to set and forget it, get on the road and not have to stop until I need fuel every 6 hours.
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Old 11-16-2020, 06:01 AM   #19
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I just registered my tow dolly in Minnesota. They said if it pulls behind a vehicle it needs to be registered. Wisconsin it doesn't need to be registered.
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Old 11-16-2020, 07:23 AM   #20
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We bought the car we wanted first, Knowing it had to be dolly-towed. We bought the type dolly tow that can de stored standing up to eliminate any storage issues. Strangely, for the two years we’ve had it and nearly 8000 miles we’ve put on it I’ve never HAD to store it upright (although it has come in handy a couple of times to do so). It takes us 15 minutes to get it on the dolly - and it requires two people to get it aligned and up on the dolly. About half that to get it off.
Cost To dolly tow is less than to get a car set up for flat tow, but it seems to me there is less time needed to hook up a flat tow.
Back to the beginning- what car do you want? If it is to go on dirt roads for sightseeing stuff and you get something like a jeep that CAN be flat towed and you have the $, probably worth the hook up time savings to do so. I’m not there yet.
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