Fuel efficient tow vehicles

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    Penelope Flack

    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.

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    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.

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    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!

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    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

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    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.

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    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.



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