Does Flat Towing a Car Add Miles to It?

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A jeep being flat towed by an RV

If you’ve seen motorhomes speeding down the highway with a vehicle in tow, you’ve probably witnessed one of three different types of towing: flat towing, towing with a dolly, and towing with a trailer.

Flat towing is when all four wheels of the towed vehicle touch the ground. So does flat towing add miles to the car? 

Is the RVer just adding wasted ticks to the odometer? Let’s learn more about flat towing and whether or not it adds miles!

What Is Flat Towing?

Flat towing, also known as four-wheel or dinghy towing, is when you tow a car without a dolly or trailer. All four wheels touch the road. 

When a motorhome tows a vehicle, the second car may have four wheels down, just the two back wheels, or completely lifted off the ground on a trailer. 

You can only flat tow certain vehicles due to the damage it can do to the transmission with all four wheels rolling on the road.

What Vehicles Can Be Flat Towed?

Always read the owner’s manual to find out if you can flat tow your particular car. You risk severe damage if you ignore the manufacturer’s instructions. 

In general, all-wheel-drive and four-by-four vehicles are preferred for flat towing. Popular flat-towing vehicles include Jeep Wrangler, Ford F-150, Jeep Grand Cherokee, Honda CR-V, and GMC Terrain.

What RVs Can Flat Tow a Vehicle?

Motorhomes have rear hitches with tow ratings. But each RV will have different capabilities because of the engine type, RV length, chassis, and other factors. 

For example, the Thor Miramar 34.7 Class A has a gas 7.3L V8 engine and a hitch rating of 8,000 lbs. On the other hand, the Thor Palazzo 33.6 Class A has a Cummins ISB 6.7L diesel engine and a hitch rating of 10,000 lbs.

Usually, Class A and Class C motorhomes can flat tow. They’re some of the largest RVs and have engines capable of pulling heavy loads.

How Much Does It Cost for a Flat Towing Setup?

Flat towing a vehicle isn’t just hooking a car to a hitch and heading down the road. You’ll need some serious modifications and equipment. 

You’ll have to buy a base plate kit, a tow bar, two safety cables, a light wiring kit, and a supplemental braking system. Each item has its own cost and will vary depending on where you purchase and how high-end of a product you buy.

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On average, you’ll pay $400 to $500 for a base plate kit, $700 to $800 for a tow bar, and less than $100 for safety cables. You can also expect $100 to $150 for wiring and $900 to $1,200 for the braking system. 

Again, pricing will vary. You may find cheaper or more expensive options. The average cost of an entire flat towing setup is between $2,000 to $4,000. But that doesn’t include the labor involved.

Does Flat Towing Add Miles to the Vehicle?

So the question of does flat towing add miles to the vehicle is an important one to ask. No one wants to add unnecessary miles to the odometer.

If you have an older vehicle with a mechanical odometer, flat towing will probably add miles because the cable that runs the odometer is attached to a gear in the transmission.

However, in the early 2000s, these mechanical odometers were phased out and replaced with electronic ones. Today, these meters count your vehicle’s wheel rotations. 

As long as the transmission isn’t turning, flat towing won’t add any miles because the transmission remains in neutral.

Keep in Mind: Can You Flat Tow a Tesla Behind a Motorhome? Let’s find out!

A jeep being flat towed by an RV

What Are the Pros of Flat Towing?

Any type of towing means you can access a vehicle other than your motorhome. This is very beneficial when going to the grocery store or visiting a national park. But flat towing itself has its advantages.

First, once you’ve invested in the equipment, you have very little cost afterward. Second, the connection is easy. One person can connect and disconnect the vehicle in less than 30 minutes. 

Third, you don’t need additional storage at a campground. The equipment can easily slide under the RV, or you can set it off to the side. 

Finally, it’s easier to maneuver a tow bar than a dolly or trailer. When you have a tight turn, you don’t have to worry so much about the vehicle in tow.

What Are the Cons of Flat Towing?

But just like with any decision, you’ll have some disadvantages to flat towing. The initial cost is high because of the equipment needed and the professional installation. You’re also limited in what vehicles allow for this type of hauling.

Even though flat towing might not add miles to your vehicle, the car will experience some wear and tear. The tires are still turning, so they’re still picking up debris and experiencing friction with the road. 

You’ll have to change the tires on a flat towed vehicle before you change the tires on one towed with a dolly or trailer.

Finally, you can’t easily swap out vehicles. If you want to take a Jeep Wrangler on a trip to the Arizona desert and then want to take a Honda Accord on a trip to the city of Houston, you can’t just switch out the vehicles because of the car modifications involved in flat towing.

Pro Tip: Are you new to towing an RV? Then you need to see our RV Towing Guide for Newbies!

A car being flat towed by an RV

What Are Other Ways to Tow a Vehicle?

If you have a vehicle that you can’t flat tow, you’re not out of luck. Instead, you can buy a tow dolly or trailer. A tow dolly will raise the front wheels off of the ground, while a trailer will raise the whole car. 

These trailers can be either open or enclosed. And you don’t have to modify the vehicle to tow with a dolly or trailer.

However, these pieces of equipment are much larger than the tow bar used for flat towing, which is a huge disadvantage. When you get to a campsite, you must find a place to store the dolly or trailer.

Consider the Age of Your Vehicle When Flat Towing

So the next time you consider flat towing and wonder does flat towing add miles to your vehicle, the biggest factor is the age of your car. Mechanical odometers will clock the miles, while electronic odometers won’t.

But remember that flat towing does add some wear and tear to the vehicle. Connected parts to the wheels still move, so it’s important to watch your tires and other components even if the engine isn’t running.

Do you think the pros of flat towing outweigh the cons?

Last update on 2024-04-16 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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  1. I flat tow and love the ease of hook up and disconnect and the way it tracks. The only issue is you can’t back up, so when you enter a parking area or gas station there is some planning involved.

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