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Can a Minivan Pull a Boat? (Which Ones Can They Pull?)

When you go out to purchase a minivan for your family, there are certain factors you need to consider. One such factor worth considering is the vehicle’s towing capacity. This is especially important if you plan on trying to tow a boat, trailer, or anything else. 

Minivans can tow an average of 3,000 to 3,500 pounds so as long as your boat weighs less than that then your minivan will tow it without any problem. That means your minivan should be able to pull any fishing boat, smaller speed boats, and even small cabin boats as well. 

One important thing to remember is that if the boat has a lot of water left in it then that will add a lot of weight to it. Also any fishing gear, toys, etc. that are left in your boat will add to the total weight as well which means you need to add all of that to the boat’s weight and make sure that you stay under the max towing weight of your minivan. 

A lot of other related terms and ratings come to the surface concerning the towing capacity of your minivan. Hence, understanding a vehicle’s towing capacity can be a little bit  confusing. Most vehicles, especially the truck-sized ones are designed to pull a variety of objects. Now, this pulling capacity varies according to the strength and model of the vehicle. 

In the rest of this article I will provide some additional information that is important to your minivan, and its relation to other associated terms like payload, GCWR, curb weight, etc. 

What is towing capacity? 

In simple terms, towing capacity denotes the minivan’s ability to pull things. The payload is the vehicle’s capacity to carry things inside of it. Towing capacity and payload depend on several factors like chassis, the vehicle’s configuration, rear axle ratio, engine and transmission, gross weight, etc. 

Everything in the vehicle, the passengers, the seats and every other addition affects the vehicle’s pulling capacity. 

Does towing capacity include payload?

Whatever you have to tow using your vehicle, you must know the vehicle’s towing and payload capacity. The former is the vehicle’s capacity to pull whereas the latter is its carrying capacity. Oftentimes people confuse the two. 

However, it needs to be cleared that the towing capacity doesn’t include a payload. But both affect each other. I will talk about this in more detail in the next section. . 

Does payload affect towing capacity?

Payload denotes the net load weight a minivan can safely carry and operate normally. Payload is determined by taking the minivan’s GVWR and subtracting it from the vehicle’s curb weight. That being said, yes payload affects the vehicles towing capacity. The more you fill the cargo space with luggage and items, the more pressure would it put on the vehicle’s mechanical parts, hampering its towing capacity. Hence, you should never exceed the payload capacity of your vehicle. You must also know other specifications like its curb weight, gross weight, etc. 

Excessive load can cause the frame to crack, exert more pressure on the suspension and cause other issues that could cause your vehicle to quickly get damaged. 

When the towing and payload capacities are calculated, experts make a few assumptions. Firstly, they take the weight of the driver to be 150 lbs (which is rarely the case). Secondly, they calculate the towing and payload capacity assuming that the entire vehicle is empty. So these figures don’t remain true most of the time as you will often have other people or cargo in the vehicle. 

How to determine your minivan’s towing capacity

Are you wondering how to calculate your minivan’s towing capacity? 

It’s extremely simple. 

Take out its curb weight and gross combined vehicle weight rating and subtract the former from the latter. Below are just a few short descriptions of these terminologies for better understanding. 

The GCVWR is the highest amount of weight that a loaded vehicle can hold. It also includes the trailer and the weight of anything in it. These ratings denote the maximum limits of the minivan, which shouldn’t be exceeded to maintain its proper functions. If loaded beyond the maximum limit, it would severely affect its suspension, tires, brakes, and transmission. 

Curb weight denotes the full weight of your minivan, without passengers or any other load being kept inside it. However, this curb weight includes all necessary fluids like oil, gas, radiator fluid, etc. 

Apart from the curb weight and GCVWR, some other factors also determine the vehicle’s towing capacity. They are horsepower, frame design, axle ratio, torque, engine size, tire and wheel load ratings, suspension load ratings, brake size, transmission and oil cooling, and whether the vehicle is a front-wheel drive, rear-wheel drive or all wheel drive. 

The minivan’s manual should accurately indicate all of these figures. As the owner of the vehicle, you must keep these in mind and maintain the set limits. Remember the instructions on how to tow. Also, be careful of the towing limits. 

It needs to be mentioned in this context that minivans that have rear-wheel drive have a greater towing capacity than the ones having front wheel drive. This is because the FWD vehicles typically weigh more than RWD ones thus reducing the vehicle’s ability to pull. 

Suv or Minivans: Which has better towing capacities? 

Now comes the toughest decision to make. To make it a bit easier for you, we have provided a fair comparison of both types of vehicles in terms of their towing capacity. However, you must tally the vehicles on other factors as well before you decide which one is the best for you to buy. 

A SUV is a rugged, truck-based vehicle which is more advanced, durable and comes with a better-equipped engine. SUVs come in AWD mostly, whereas all minivans except for one brand are FWD vehicles. This makes it evident that SUVs are more advanced. Also, when it comes to their towing capacities, most SUVs beat minivans by their much higher towing capacities. 

They can tow a variety of things surprisingly like campers, boats, etc. over unpaved roads. Minivans on the other hand cannot tow more than 3600 pounds. 

SUVs have several other advantages over minivans but in some aspects, minivans are a better option. 

Whether you should buy an SUV or a minivan completely depends on your family’s requirements and needs. If you are looking for a family-friendly vehicle having enough cargo carrying space and equipped with built in car seats for children, a minivan is the best option to go for. 

However, if you live in areas of bad weather conditions, buying an SUV would be beneficial.

Why is the towing capacity important? 

It’s important to know the maximum limit, exceeding which can affect your vehicle’s operation. Putting excess weight on your minivan’s hitch can disrupt the vehicle’s springs and suspension struts. It can even rip off driveline components and panelling, affect the buckled points on your frame and even cause drivetrain failure. It’s also important to know the amount of weight your minivan can pull otherwise excess weight can reduce the efficiency of the vehicle’s braking and steering which can be dangerous when you are going down the road. 

You should know that these ratings are never perfect. They are just rough estimates to give the owner a rough idea about its maximum carrying and pulling capacities. However, calculations have become more exact in recent times. 

Currently, most manufacturers use standardized towing tests and conduct unbiased examinations. They adhere to the guidelines of an industry-standard, J2807, formulated by SAE international. The vehicle’s GCWR, curb weight, and GVWR is now conducted following the new guidelines, and accordingly, the towing capacity is determined as per the SAE standard.