AskTFL: Will My Crossover Tow It, Or Do I Need a Pickup?

2019 Chevrolet Traverse

If you’re only looking to tow a small trailer, is a pickup truck even necessary? That’s the question put forward this week by a reader.

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What this really boils down to is body-on-frame versus unibody. Here’s the question:

My wife and I want to buy a light weight travel trailer. It will weigh about 2300 lbs. A Chevy Traverse with a towing package can pull 5000 lbs. Some of my friends recommend that I buy a pickup truck because pickup trucks have a frame. How good is a Chevy Traverse in mountainous country? I would appreciate your input.

Thanks for the question Mark & Yvonne. The short answer? A Traverse will tow that weight just fine, although a midsize pickup would probably feel better doing it. Now, the long answer:

Body on frame construction certainly should be more durable than a unibody in the long run, as the stress being put on the vehicle is strictly on the frame, where the unibody takes stress throughout its entire body.

But at the weight you’re talking about, the Chevy Traverse would have no issue hauling that trailer for years to come. You only need to really start worrying about frame versus unibody if you plan to overload your vehicle regularly (looking at you farmers), but it doesn’t sound like that will be a problem.

The other important factors you should consider are the brake sizes and the weight of the vehicle. With a curb weight at 4,362-pounds, the Traverse should feel planted against the 2,300-lb trailer, though the standard brakes could begin to feel taxed, so trailer brakes are a good idea especially in mountainous terrain.

There’s something else to consider: the gross weight rating on the Traverse of 6,160 pounds. When you subtract the curb weight of the vehicle, that leaves you with 1,798 pounds of capacity for people and cargo. A 2,300-pound trailer would have about 345 pound of tongue weight (based on 15 percent of overall weight), leaving 1,453 extra pounds for people and stuff.

So don’t let your friends scare you! A unibody vehicle, when towing a weight that is within its limit, is entirely safe and capable.

*Update: Article was updated to correct vehicle curb weight and explain the payload hauling capabilities.