Can You Tow a Camper with a Toyota Sienna?

Can You Tow a Camper with a Toyota Sienna?Toyota’s popular Sienna minivan obviously isn’t a pickup or large SUV, but can it handle trailer towing duty nevertheless? To find out, we have researched all of the relevant towing specs on the 2020 Sienna as stated by Toyota themselves. Not only must the Sienna’s tow rating match up to the trailer’s overall weight, but it will need to be able to handle the payload and tongue weight demands of the trailer and all your cargo. And towing also requires that your vehicle has a hitch, so we will discuss the details of fitting a hitch to your minivan as well. Before we go into the details, however, let’s answer the question you came here to answer:

Yes, it is possible to tow a small travel trailer with a Toyota Sienna. All model years of the Sienna, when equipped with a tow package, are capable of pulling up to 3,500 lbs. Minivans are relatively large, strong vehicles that are built to carry up to 8 passengers. This makes them a viable platform for towing, although their carlike unibody structure and independent suspension mean they are not as well-suited for towing duty as ladder-framed pickups and SUVs. 

If you are planning on towing a trailer with a Toyota Sienna, there are many important factors to keep in mind. Essentially, you must ensure that you stay under the rated weight limits for every component of your vehicle. Keep reading as we dive into all of these nitty-gritty details.

Towing with a Toyota Sienna

Believe it or not, there are more factors to consider than just the overall tow rating of the vehicle. In this section, we have included all of the relevant weights to keep in mind as you decide on what sort of trailer you are comfortable towing.

Tow Rating

According to the owner’s manual, the 2020 Toyota Sienna can tow up to 3,500 lbs. And, luckily, it is very easy to find out how much previous years can tow as well by checking their owner’s manuals (these are provided online via a quick google search if you do not own one). Every Sienna, dating back to the very first model introduced in 1997, can tow 3,500 lbs as long as it is equipped with the tow prep package. Many models have a lower rating (usually 2,000 lbs) for models without the tow package.

Trailer Brakes

If you plan on approaching that limit, however, you will want to make sure that your vehicle and trailer are properly equipped for trailer brakes. Check your specific model for the “unbraked trailer weight limit” to find out how much you can tow without trailer brakes.

On page 214 of the 2020 Sienna owner’s manual, for example, it states that the unbraked trailer weight limit (unbraked TWR) is just 1,000 lbs. That means that any trailer weighing more than that will need to have trailer brakes. What’s more, your vehicle will need to have a trailer brake controller to send braking inputs to the trailer as well.

Check out this Tekonsha controller on Amazon.

Tongue Weight

Toyota states that the total tongue weight (that is, the weight put on the hitch by the trailer) must be between 9 and 11% of the total trailer weight. This ensures a stable ride and prevents the dangerous phenomenon known as trailer sway. Because the maximum tow rating for Toyota Siennas is 3,500 lbs,

You can adjust your tongue weight by loading heavy items in your trailer at the front or back, depending on what adjustments need to be made. There are tongue weight scales, such as this model on Amazon, that can help you determine how heavy your tongue weight is.

GVWR

Knowing your vehicle’s GVWR (gross vehicle weight rating) is another important factor to consider for towing. This amount refers to the total weight of your vehicle, everything inside of it (including people), and the tongue weight put on it by the trailer.

Toyota does not publish this limit for the entire Sienna line, so owners must check the certification label on their van – found on the driver’s side doorjamb. A quick google search indicates this figure might be 5,995 lbs, but don’t take our word for it – check your vehicle.

Payload

A vehicle’s payload includes the weight of all cargo, passengers, and the trailer tongue weight. Every vehicle has a payload limit, and it can even vary within models, so you will have to find your specific Sienna’s rating before moving forward.

According to the owner’s manual, the total weight that the 2020 Sienna can carry ranges between 1,125 lbs and 1,380 lbs. The various amenities and accessories fitted to each Sienna built affects this rating, so, again, check what your own vehicle’s payload is on your doorjamb sticker.

GCWR

A vehicle’s GCWR (gross combined weight rating) refers to the total weight of both the vehicle and the trailer it is towing. This includes everything loaded into the vehicle and trailer as well. You can think of GCWR this way – if you were to drive your Sienna (with all passengers on board) and trailer onto a giant scale, the total weight is your GCWR.

Luckily, there are such scales – normally meant for 18 wheelers, but normal passenger vehicles are usually welcome to use them as well. Use one of them if you want to know your exact GCWR, then you can measure it against the limits set by Toyota. For example, the GCWRs for the 2020 Sienna is as follows:

2WD models: 8,900 lbs

AWD models: 8,990 lbs

Does the Toyota Sienna Come with a Tow Package?

Black Toyota Sienna

A new Toyota Sienna can be optioned with a Towing Prep Package. This package includes an engine oil cooler as well as a heavy-duty radiator and fan. Notice, however, that this is just a “prep” package and does not include everything needed for towing. Toyota currently does not offer hitch installations on these models.

To really be able to use your Sienna for towing, of course, you will need to install a hitch as well. See the below section for which hitches will fit on the Sienna.

Which Hitch Can You Put on a Toyota Sienna?

There are many different hitches that can work with the 2020 Sienna. A class 3 hitch is usually recommended, as they are rated to tow at least as much as the Sienna is without going too far over.

For an example of a good hitch for the Sienna, this etrailer.com hitch is one ideal option. This class 3 hitch is rated to handle 350 lbs of tongue weight (500 with a weight-distribution hitch). It uses a 2-inch hitch like you will find on most small travel trailers and can tow up to 3,500 lbs (5,000 lbs with a weight-distribution hitch).

Another option is this class 3 hitch from uhaul. This link also includes all of the relevant accessories you might need for towing, such as the hitch ball, ball mount, and wiring. Most shops you go to will include these items, but if you are doing the job yourself, make sure to buy everything you need before towing.

No matter what hitch you choose, you must ensure it is rated to tow as much as you plan on towing. Most people prefer to give themselves a healthy buffer of at least 25% more than their planned towing weight, just to be safe.

How Much Does it Cost to Put a Hitch on a Van?

To assess the cost involved in installing a hitch on your Toyota Sienna, we have to factor in the upfront cost of the hitch as well as the cost to install it. The installation cost will vary depending on where you have the service performed.

If, for example, you choose to do the job yourself, you will only pay the cost of the hitch and accessories (plus any necessary tools you don’t already own). This is not a very difficult procedure because no drilling or welding is required. However, it is important that it is done correctly, so some owners prefer to take it to a professional installer.

Going to a local shop to have the job done professionally carries additional charges, of course. This cost is not a standard rate, so it will vary by shop. Normally, this cost should range between $100 to $200 in addition to the cost of the hitch and accessories.

Which Camper Can You Pull with a Sienna?

Blue Toyota Sienna

With relatively low payload and tow ratings, the Sienna will not be pulling any large trailers. Still, there are some travel trailers out there that stay under the tow rating.  Here are some examples with their UVW (unloaded vehicle weight) ratings. To be sure that you keep your total weight under the 3,500 limit once it is loaded down with cargo, propane, water, etc, we are only showing trailers under 3,000 lbs.

Little Guy Mini Max:

UVW: 1,993 lbs

The Mini Max is actually not the smallest trailer offered by Little Guy. As their name suggests, they offer plenty of tiny trailers to consider. We have gone with the Mini Max as it includes many convenient features that trailer shoppers prioritize, such as a sink, stove, fridge, and microwave. A small dinette can be transformed into either a twin or queen-size bed. Even loaded down, the total GVWR of this trailer stays under 3,000 lbs, making it a perfect companion to the Sienna.

Forest River Rockwood Tent Trailer

UVW: 2,439 lbs

Tent trailers are a great way to maximize interior space while minimizing the overall weight. This Forest River model, for example, weighs just under 2,500 lbs but boasts two large beds that pop out once you are at camp – a feature few standard travel trailers can match at this weight. And because most minivan owners are transporting multiple people, the more beds, the better. A dinette, kitchen, and sofa bed are also included. You can also option the 2318G with a small shower/porta-potty combo if you don’t want to have to rely on the campground bathrooms.

Aliner Family Pop-Up Trailer

UVW: 2,000 lbs

Aliner is known for their super lightweight trailers. The Family model straddles the line between a traditional trailer and a tent trailer. When towing, the trailer folds flat to minimize drag. Popped up, this trailer features three separate sleeping areas, a sink, and a toilet. A small kitchen is a slide-out unit, so all of your cooking will be done outside – just like when tent camping. Aliner claims the total unloaded weight of this trailer is under 2,000 lbs, while the GVWR is 3,500 lbs.

Happy Towing!

Using the information in this article will help you as you decide on a camping trailer to use with your Toyota Sienna. Of course, the most important factor to consider is safety, so make sure you never exceed any of the vehicle’s limits. That way, you can enjoy your camping and towing experience while minimizing your towing-related stress. That’s how you can be a happy Sienna camper!

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