Leading the Weigh
by Valerie Law
October 28, 2016
Filed under Feature Story
Trailer Life has helped readers know their tow limits since 1984
From World War II to the Great Recession, a lot has happened in Trailer Life’s 75-year history, but few events made a more lasting impression on the state of RVing than the energy crises of the 1970s. While the government’s reaction to fuel shortages spurred some healthy weight-reducing innovations in RVs, the new gas-saving standards also decreased the towing power of passenger vehicles, leaving readers wondering what to drive next. Rising to the occasion, the magazine published its first guide to tow vehicles in 1984.
That initial seven-page resource shared trailer-weight maximums for a wide range of new models and equipment with emphasis on engine size, axle ratio and optional tow packages. Although the manufacturers supplied this information, it was often difficult for RVers to come by and had never been collected in a single reference. Not surprisingly, the 1984 tow guide was a favorite with readers and has been an annual feature ever since.
With new emissions regulations rolling out, the Trailer Life staff wondered if there would be fewer tow vehicles to choose from in the coming years. But the outlook brightened as automotive technology advanced and manufacturers introduced increasingly sophisticated vehicles that were not only lightweight and fuel-efficient but packed a more powerful punch. Truck manufacturers in particular vied for the highest tow ratings in a battle that has gotten more competitive every year (see Chris Hemer’s “Light-Heavyweight Champ” in the October issue for the 2017 title-holder).
Over the years, the tow guide has alternated between a bound-in section and a freestanding supplement, and listed official limits for as many as 800 new models, but the original mission remains the same: to provide readers with a single, reliable source of maximum trailer-weight ratings to help them make informed decisions among a broad array of cars, trucks, vans and SUVs. The 34th-annual guide, now in the works, will continue the tradition of helping readers know what they can safely tow.