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Reader Question: Can I Tow My Prius Behind My RV or Motorhome?

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2008 Toyota Prius

2008 Toyota Prius

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We love reader questions, and occasionally they prompt posts, like this one:

I'm thinking of buying a motorhome. Can I tow my 2008 Toyota Prius behind it?

Stumped us, so we turned to the good people at Toyota.

They sent us excerpts from the Prius owner's manual, complete with many, many, many legally required warnings about all the things you should and shouldn't do around your car. But buried in the alerts and boxed warnings was good information.

Toyota Prius towing warning - from owner's manual

Toyota Prius towing warning - from owner's manual

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The basic answer: No, you should never flat-tow a Prius hybrid behind any vehicle, RV or otherwise. (Oddly, Toyota calls it "dinghy-towing," a term we'd never heard before.)

As it turns out, when towing a Toyota Prius, the company says you must always keep the front wheels off the ground to prevent damage to the transmission. They're the ones powered by the electronic continuously variable transmission (eCVT) system that blends torque from the engine and the two motor-generators.

So, if a Prius is towed from the front, the front wheels must be elevated in a wheel lift (Toyota recommends against dolly-style tow trucks.

Toyota Prius towing warning - from owner's manual

Toyota Prius towing warning - from owner's manual

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If towed from the rear, the front wheels must sit in a rolling dolly or cradle--but under no circumstances should a Prius be towed from the rear with its front wheels on the ground.

In emergencies, if it's absolutely necessary to flat-tow a Prius on all four wheels, it should only be done for short distances and at speeds of 18 miles per hour or less.

Which means, we suspect, that you may need to find another car to tow behind that RV.

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Comments (4)
  1. Sigh. You make this sound like it is a serious limitation for the Prius. This problem exists for all automatic transmission vehicles. To transport them you need to get a tow dolly that keeps the driven wheels off the ground.
    Only manual transmission vehicles can be driven with all four wheels on the ground.
     
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  2. I'll be impressed when you can put the front wheels down and wire the Prius into the brake light circuit so it can join in with regen braking. Too much? Yeah, I think so.
     
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  3. John,
    Your comment isn't completely true, though it's a fair generalization. There are several automatic transmission vehicles that can be flat (or dinghy) towed.
    Here is a resource that lists them by model year and make.
    http://www.motorhomemagazine.com/output.cfm?ID=213607
    Respectfully,
    Dave
     
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  4. Dave,
    Thanks for the feedback. Looks like some automatics can be dinghy towed with restrictions, e.g. running the engine periodically and restricting speed. But more often, automatics cannot be dinghy towed at all.
    Manual shift is a better bet, but checking the dinghy towing reference is probably more useful than any of these generalizations.
    John C. Briggs
     
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