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Fuel efficient tow vehicles

  • Anonymous
    Anonymous on

    With the fuel price rising every time we blink, fuel efficiency is becoming  the deciding factor when shopping for vehicles. We are ready to upgrade our tow vehicle but do  have budgetary constraints.  At this stage we are towing a small 3 berth van but may wish to go to something in the mid-size range in the future ( no more than 1500-1750Kg).  Our 14 year old X- trail is so thirsty it has started affecting our decisions on how far and how often we travel , so its time to trade her in for something more fuel efficient . In doing some research before we buy a I’ve seen articles on the most fuel efficient  SUV’s and bakkies etc, as well as many articles on best tow vehicles, but I can’t seem to find anything on that combines the two: something like “the most fuel efficient vehicle for towing- that won’t cost you an arm, a leg and a kidney …”     We are not looking for amazing power but do want to sustain speeds of 80-100Km up hills; we tend to tow a 100-110 kph.

    So who tows with what and are you happy with your fuel consumption?  I realise that we are maybe talking about comparing apples and pears here but I think its still a worthwhile conversation.

    Clarence on

    Not difficult to answer this!

    Firstly, if you want to spend less on fuel, drop your speed to average about 90km/hr. When going uphill be prepared to lose 10km/hr and on the downhill use the slope to get to 100km/hr. Try not to ‘floor’ the accelerator on the inclines rather shift down to keep the engine revs in the band where you have a reasonable torque output which for most cars  is around 3000rpm (petrol) or 2200rpm (diesel).

    Secondly, aerodynamics play a huge role and there is very little you can do about it because its the caravan design that determines how air flows over the ‘van. Make sure that there are no protruding objects that interrupt airflow like side mount awnings etc. If you have an open A-frame mount a flat sheet over the top (bottom is even better) to help smooth out the airflow below the vehicle combination. Also, the stone protector that is so popular on caravans adds to the drag…decide whether you want to risk getting some stone chips on a gravel road or save some money on fuel.

    Thirdly, check your brakes and wheel bearings for rolling resistance…reset or replace to improve/reduce rolling resistance.

    Finally, a more powerful tow vehicle will show less of an increase in fuel consumption when towing BUT it will use more fuel in normal day to day driving e.g. a 3.o litre V6 will maybe average 16l/100km for day to day driving which may then increase to 18l/100km when towing a smallish caravan however, a 1.6l 4-cylinder may use 8l/100km for normal driving increasing to maybe 14 or 15l/100km when towing the same caravan mentioned above. The shock is the percentage increase that you have to deal with. On the other hand, the 3.0l V6 will last many years longer if you tow on a regular basis.

    Hope this helps…best of luck with the car search.

    Wayne Gould
    Wayne Gould on

    Hi Penelope

    We have a Toyota Fortuner 3.0 Diesel Automatic towing a Jurgens Fleetline.

    The car has more than enough power to comfortably tow at 100 kph, even up hills.

    Very comfortable to drive around town whilst not towing and we get 9 lt/100km. Towing goes up to around 13-15 lt/100km (speed dependent).

    Servicing every 10,000 km is very reasonable compared with our previous VW Tiguan and other vehicles.

    You will see it is a very popular towing vehicle when looking at how many there are around the various caravan parks. Suggest you go for a test drive!

    Snazzy321 on

    I have a 2016 Ford Everest 3 2. I get 9l per 100kms and towing a Jurgens Safari Explorer which weighs 1050kg empty I get 12 -14l per 100kms at an average speed of 100kmph

    george wetselaar
    george wetselaar on

    the amount of money you will spend to upgrade to a more fuel efficient  vehicle will buy enough fuel for your existing vehicle to go for ever.

    Gerd Kopanski
    Gerd Kopanski on

    I drive a Pajero 3.2 D automatic LWB and in town (Johannesburg) my 120kW and 2 tons slurp between 11 and 12.5 litres / 100km , depending on traffic conditions and with aircon on most of the time.

    A recent trip to Plett and back needed between 10.0 and 12.5 /100 km with 3 persons + luggage and A/C on all the time…Lots of overtaking of big trucks and lots of accelerations and de celerations between 5 and 11 a.m.  Retour journey was slightly higher (average between 11.0 and 12.5) due to uphill from coast to Reef and higher average speed of 130 -135 km/h (genuine).

    Collecting my off-road trailer (GVM 1500 kg) from a dealer in Pinetown recently I had to be in JOzi by a certain time , so I drove legally full out (125-130km/h) and also uphill the whole way with lots of changing down gears  …Consumption was  average  15.5 l /100 km.

    Note: I keep book about my diesel fill-ups and km treavelled, so the above figures are fairly real…

    If I would replace my Pajero with a newer one . i.e the Pajero Sport with a modern 2.4 l engine and lesser consumption (it is said it is around  9 l in town, with towing unknown…. I need to spend roughly  R 160.000,-(plus my trade-in) for a good pre-loved one….  But for this amount I can get Diesel fuel  at least for 90.000 km, which for me means 5  years of driving. after that I buy a HYYUNDAI i10 (or a wheel chair !?)whatever happens first and become “settled”.

    Finally I think it is worthwile to keep a trusted towing vehicle even if the consumption is a bit higher than envisaged.



    Anonymous on

    Think I had to go to 1600cc injectors, inline bosch fuel external pump, you may need to upgrade your fuel lines to the next size as well.Im maxxed out at about 339rwkw currently.But Im changing my set up, not much point having a higher power Sil,. What will 500hp do for you?  

    Chris Reed
    Chris Reed on

    Hi, I have a Kia Sorento (2015 model) auto, and get about 14 l / 100km when towing my 1993 Jurgens Palma.  On a solo trip to Limpopo recently, driving with speed control, I was thrilled that I got about 7l / 100km.  The car is amazing, and I would not change it for anything.  Around town, Jhb, I get about 8.5 l/100km.  I agree that to change the car to get better consumption is a waste of money, but if you need / want to change anyway, I would definitely recommend looking at a Kia.  I bought mine, not really wanting to, but needed to buy something and it was the right configuration for my needs (7 seats) with the right pricetag at the time.

    Good luck in your search.

    shahmeer jadoon
    shahmeer jadoon on

    Big vehicles are obviously more inefficient on fuel. And when you are towing another vehicle with it, it consumes even more fuel. But I’ve found the trucks to be the most efficient big cars. Prados and seven-seaters are not that good on fuel.

    Lao Juntasa
    Lao Juntasa on

    Unloaded or when towing, what is the best fuel economy? The second requires a diesel automobile, whereas the former requires a gas car, which will give you good fuel economy most of the time but significantly less when towing. Unless you’re towing a lot or driving mostly on highways.”

    Fyko van der Molen
    Fyko van der Molen on

    “Fuel Efficiency” and “Fuel Economy” are not the same thing, though they’re being treated as equivalent here.

    Fuel Efficiency measures the losses incurred in converting the chemical energy in the fuel, first into thermal energy by combustion and second, into the kinetic energy needed to move the load from point A to point B.

    Fuel Economy counts the total consumption of fuel for the trip.

    The conversion efficiency of diesel fuel into kinetic energy is never going to exceed 26%, but can be considerably worse if the engine is not in ideal condition. Diesel fuel contains about 35MJ per litre, so don’t expect more than 9.1MJ to appear at the flywheel of your engine. Petrol engines are slightly less efficient at this conversion and come in at about 24% under ideal conditions. The 75%-odd that does not become kinetic energy escapes as heat through the radiator, oil cooler, exhaust gas, friction and noise (which is kinetic energy as well, soon to become warmed air), and general infrared radiation from all hot surfaces.

    If you consider that a vehicle standing still at a robot carries no kinetic energy, whereas the same vehicle in motion carries energy in the quantity of  Energy in Joules = half mV squared, where m is Mass and V is velocity in metres per second.

    So to get your 1500 Kg bakkie from standing still at the robot to 100Km/h you had to give it more than half a megajoule from your precious diesel tank.

    And if you had a 1500 Kg trailer on the tow bar it would have taken twice as much.

    And if you go faster it goes up at the square of the increase in speed.

    And when you stop at the next robot it all gets lost and you have to start afresh.

    Then there’s the losses due to wind resistance, and friction in every single moving part, which also go up at the square of the increase of speed.

    So, to get Fuel Efficiency: Do good maintenance on you vehicle’s engine.

    To get Fuel Economy:

    Go lighter,

    Go slower,

    Go streamlined,

    Don’t use the brakes.



    Simon Tasman
    Simon Tasman on

    Where does hill climbing enter the picture?

    Fyko van der Molen
    Fyko van der Molen on

    The process of moving a vehicle up a hill has two components – a vertical one and a horizontal one.

    The vertical component is akin to putting money in the reputable bank – you get it back. The horizontal component is similar to any flat road, except that it is going to be slightly longer.

    To lift the vehicles away against gravity requires a force of 9,8 Newtons for every Kg of weight and for every metre of climb. So when your 1500 Kg bakkie climbs from sea level  to a point 1000 metres above sea level it has acquired 14,7 MJ of potential energy. That’s like money in the bank.

    You can reclaim your investment by rolling down the hill. The 14,7 MJ of potential energy will be traded into 14,7 MJ of kinetic energy which will overcome the wind and rolling resistance that the vehicle encounters on the way down. That wind and rolling resistance will end up as heat dissipated into the atmosphere. The wind turbulence excites air molecules which then beat against each other and make each other more energetic i.e. hotter. The friction also becomes heat which is dissipated into the atmosphere as the parts cool off.

    Unless you use the brakes of course. The brakes will convert the potential energy directly into heat, which will then dissipate into the atmosphere without the intermediate step of kinetic energy.

    So the investment you make in potential energy when climbing the hill can be sold into kinetic energy to get you down from the hill. Once again don’t use the brakes.

    Eventually the entire 35 MJ contained in that litre of diesel all becomes heat, unless you stay on top of the mountain forever, and keep your potential energy in the bank.

    Lao Juntasa
    Lao Juntasa on

    Fuel efficiency has always been the deciding factor with my dad’s preference or at least how he taught me. I just never took it seriously until recently when these oil prices just became ridiculous.

    Benon Czornij
    Benon Czornij on

    I’m thinking of buying a new vehicle to tow a caravan what are the thoughts on the new Isuzu D-Max 3.0 Ddi. Is it a fuel efficient bakkie?

    I was look at the Jurgens Classique. Any idea what the fuel economy would be with this in tow?


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