What’s the Difference Between Dolly Towing vs. Flat Towing?

Towing is a common practice when it comes to transporting vehicles from one place to another. Whether you’re moving to a new location or going on a road trip with your RV, understanding the different towing methods available is essential.

Two popular options for towing are a tow dolly and a flat tow trailer, each with its advantages and disadvantages. In this article, we will explore what these methods entail, compare them side by side, and help you determine which one is better suited for your needs.

What Is Dolly Towing?

Delving into the topic, let’s explore the question: “What is a dolly trailer and how does it differ from a flat tow trailer?”

Tow Dolly involves using a specialized car dolly trailer to transport a vehicle. The car dolly trailer is equipped with two wheels that support the front end of the towed vehicle, while the rear wheels remain on the road. This method is commonly used when the vehicle being towed is unable to be flat towed due to its drivetrain configuration, such as all-wheel drive or rear-wheel drive vehicles.

What Is Flat Towing?

Also known as Dinghy Towing

Flat towing, also referred to as dinghy towing or four-down towing, involves towing a vehicle with all four wheels on the ground. In this method, the towed vehicle is connected to the towing vehicle using a flat tongue tow bar or tow brackets.

A flat tow trailer is suitable for vehicles with a manual transmission or those that have been modified with a neutral tow kit. Vehicles for flat towing are specifically designed to be towed behind another vehicle without the need for a trailer. Vehicles for flat towing are equipped with features that make them suitable for this towing method.

Dolly Towing vs. Flat Towing

Let’s compare tow dolly and flat tow trailer across several key factors:

FactorDolly TowingFlat Towing
VehicleFront-wheel drive vehiclesManual transmission, 4WD, or flat-towable automatic
ConfigurationFront wheels on a tow dolly, rear wheels on the groundAll four wheels on the ground
Towing Capacity3,500 – 5,000 poundsDepends on towing vehicle & flat tongue tow bar/bracket
SetupHitch attachment and securing front wheels to tow dollyInstallation of flat tongue tow bar/bracket and connecting
ManoeuvrabilityBetter manoeuvrability in tight turns/parkingSome limitations in manoeuvrability
Additional ConsiderationsDolly maintenance, securing straps/chainsFlat tongue tow bar/bracket setup, steering and transmission
StorageRequires extra storage space for a tow dollyNo additional equipment storage required
CostAdditional cost for purchasing or renting a tow dollyGenerally, more cost-effective in the long run
Ease of SetupTakes longer to set upQuick setup with flat tongue tow bar or brackets
Vehicle ModificationNo modifications requiredMay need base plates or neutral tow kit
Backing UpLimited manoeuvrability in reverseAllows for greater manoeuvrability in reverse
Vehicle Wear & TearStress on the front wheelsLess wear and tear, all wheels remain on the ground

Pros of Dolly Towing

Let’s explore the benefits that trailer dollies offer. These nifty devices are a game-changer when it comes to towing.

When it comes to trailer dollies, the following are some key benefits:

  1. Can Tow Any Vehicle: A car dolly trailer can be used for a wide range of vehicles, regardless of whether they are front-wheel drive, rear-wheel drive, or all-wheel drive.
  2. Protects The Transmission: Since the front wheels are off the ground, towing dolly eliminates the risk of damage to the transmission of front-wheel drive vehicles.
  3. No Modifications Needed: Unlike a flat tow trailer, a car dolly trailer doesn’t require any modifications or special equipment installed on the towed vehicle.
  4. Can Change Vehicles Easily: With a tow dolly, you have the flexibility to switch towed vehicles without any significant adjustments.
  5. Doesn’t Add Miles to Older Vehicles: Tow Dolly allows you to transport older vehicles without adding unnecessary mileage to their odometers.

Cons of Dolly Towing

It’s time to uncover the disadvantages associated with trailer dollies.

  1. Have to Store Large Equipment: Owning or renting a car dolly trailer means you’ll need extra space to store it when not in use.
  2. Additional Equipment: Dolly towing requires the use of a tow dolly, which means you need to have the dolly and find a place to store it when not in use.
  3. Takes Longer to Set Up: Towing dolly typically involves a more time-consuming setup process compared to flat towing.
  4. Unable to Reverse: Reversing while using trailer dollies can be challenging and may require detaching the towed vehicle.
  5. Can Be More Expensive than Flat Towing: The cost of purchasing or renting a tow dolly can be higher compared to the equipment required for a flat tow trailer.
  6. Additional Licensing and Regulations: State-specific regulations are required for these trailer dollies. Some jurisdictions require additional licensing or have specific regulations for towing with a car dolly trailer.

Flat Towing Pros

  1. Convenience: Flat towing trailer dollies are often considered more convenient due to their ease of setup and minimal additional equipment needed.
  2. Good for Storage: Flat towing doesn’t require extra storage space for additional equipment like a car dolly trailer.
  3. Better Fuel Economy: Since flat towing doesn’t involve the extra weight of a tow dolly, it generally offers better fuel efficiency.
  4. Legal in All States and Territories of Australia: Flat towing trailer dollies are legal across all states and territories in Australia, making it a viable option for travellers.

Flat Towing Cons

  1. The Cost: Although flat towing can be cost-effective in the long run, it may require initial modifications or the installation of tow brackets, which can add to the overall cost.
  2. Limited Vehicle Compatibility: Flat towing is only suitable for vehicles with manual transmissions or those that have been modified with a neutral tow kit. This limits the choice of vehicles for flat towing.
  3. Can’t Reverse the Combined Vehicles: Similar to tow dolly, reversing can be challenging with flat towing, and it may require detaching the towed vehicle.

Towing Dolly Vs. Flat Towing: Which Is Better?

Flat Towing

Determining which method is better for your specific needs depends on various factors such as the type of vehicle you own, your budget, and the convenience you prioritize.

If you have a vehicle that cannot be flat towed due to its drivetrain configuration, towing dolly is likely your best option. It allows you to transport a wide range of vehicles without the need for modifications.

On the other hand, if your vehicle is suitable for flat towing and you value convenience, ease of setup, and better fuel economy, then a flat tow trailer may be the better choice.

Calculating Towing Capacity: Choosing Dolly Towing vs Flat Towing

Determining RV Towing Capacity

When deciding between a car dolly trailer and a flat tow trailer, it’s important to consider the towing capacity of both your RV and the hitch such as a flat tow hitch. This refers to the maximum weight that your RV and hitch can handle without straining or causing damage.

To determine your RV’s towing capacity, you can find valuable information on a door located near the exterior of your RV. This door typically displays two important weights:

  1. The Gross Combined Weight Rating (GCWR) and
  2. The Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR).

Decoding GCWR & GVWR: What Your RV Can Handle

Let’s dive into the world of acronyms and find out what GCWR and GVWR mean when it comes to your RV’s towing capacity. Think of them as secret codes that reveal the superpowers of your rig!

GCWR stands for Gross Combined Weight Rating. It’s like the ultimate weight limit for your RV and everything it tows. It’s the sum of your RV’s weight, the weight of anything you’re hauling, and even the weight of your grandma’s cookies! It tells you just how much your RV’s chassis and engine can handle without breaking a sweat.

Now, let’s move on!

GVWR stands for Gross Vehicle Weight Rating. Think of this as your RV’s solo weight limit. It tells you how much your RV can weigh all by itself, including all the gear you’ve packed inside, from camping chairs to marshmallow roasters.

So, when you check the door near the outside of your RV, where these numbers are listed, you’re discovering the secrets of your RV’s strength. It’s like finding out how much muscle your RV has, ready to take on the open road!

Remember, understanding GCWR and GVWR helps you know your RV’s limits and ensure a safe and smooth towing adventure.

Towing Capacity Code: Let’s Do the Math

Before you pick between a tow dolly and a flat tow trailer, let’s crack that towing capacity code of trailer dollies. Your RV and flat tow hitch will thank you, and you’ll hit the road with confidence.

Towing capacity is the weight limit for your RV and hitch, telling you how much they can handle without breaking a sweat.

We know that GCWR and GVWR tell what RV’s chassis and engine can handle. But that’s not all! Your hitch is like a superhero with its strength. It can handle a maximum weight, and it’s not afraid to show it.

For example, let’s say you have a rockin’ Georgetown XL RV. Its GCWR is 32,000 pounds, GVWR of 25,000 pounds, and a flat tow hitch weight capacity of 6,000 pounds. Pow!

Now comes the math part.

To find your RV’s towing capacity, subtract the GVWR from the GCWR. This gives you a motorhome towing capacity of 7,000 pounds.

But hold your horses! Remember that your hitch can only handle up to 6,000 pounds. Going over that could cause trouble. We don’t want our hitch to throw a tantrum, do we?

GCWR: 32,000

GVWR: 25,000

Hitch Weight Capacity: 6,000

GCWR – GVWR = Towing Capacity

32,000 – 25,000 = 7,000

Towing Capacity = 7,000 pounds.

Hitch Weight Capacity = 6,000 pounds.

  • Exceeding the hitch limit could lead to issues.
  • The weight being towed must not surpass the maximum capacity of the hitch.

Determining Towed Vehicle Weight


There’s more! You need to know the weight of the vehicle you want to tow. The simplest and most accurate method is to have your car weighed at a local shop.

Just head to a local shop and get it weighed. Easy peasy! Oh, and don’t forget to factor in any extra stuff you plan to cram into your towed vehicle. We don’t want any surprises along the way.

Once you have the weights of your flat tow hitch and car, you’ll have a better understanding of the appropriate towing option for your needs.

Cost and Other Factors: Making an Informed Choice

Price Considerations

Cost plays a significant role in choosing between car dolly trailer towing and flat tow trailer. A tow dolly can range from $1,000 for a used model to $3,500 for a new one. On the other hand, flat towing falls in the middle price range, with an investment of $2,000 to $3,000 for a trailer.

Evaluate Usage Needs and Vehicle Type

Consider your usage needs and the type of vehicle you intend to tow before making a final choice about trailer dollies. For instance, if you frequently go RV camping and are concerned about the wear on your drive train, a tow dolly may be an excellent option.

On the other hand, if you don’t have a front-wheel drive and prefer to avoid additional tasks such as obtaining extra insurance and registration, a flat tow trailer might be the ideal choice for your specific requirements.

Always Prioritize Towing Capacity

Calculating Towing Capacity is a crucial step when deciding between car dolly trailer towing and flat tow trailer. It involves determining the towing capacity of your RV and hitch, as well as considering the weight of the vehicle you intend to tow.

Remember to calculate the towing capacity of your rig and flat tow hitch, pay attention to weight limitations, and consider the weight of the trailer dollies if you opt for flat towing.

By carefully assessing these factors, you can make an informed decision and ensure a safe and enjoyable towing experience.

Find Your Perfect Towing Fit

Now you know what is a dolly trailer and how it differs from a flat tow trailer. In conclusion, both tow dolly and flat towing have their advantages and disadvantages. By comparing different trailer dollies’ features, costs, and limitations, you can make an informed decision based on your specific towing requirements.

When selecting a vehicle for flat towing or dolly towing, it’s important to consult the manufacturer’s guidelines and ensure that the specific model and year are approved for this towing method.

When searching for flat tow vehicles for sale Australia, it’s essential to consider factors such as the vehicle’s towing capacity and compatibility with flat towing equipment.

Also, consider the type of vehicle you own, your budget, and your preferences regarding manoeuvrability, setup time, and potential wear and tear on the vehicle.

Ultimately, choosing the right towing method will ensure a safe and hassle-free journey with your towed vehicle.


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