We researched several different types of tow hitches available and based on that research, have chosen the CURT 13105 Class 3 Trailer Hitch as our best overall pick. In addition to the best overall pick we have reviewed two additional top rated tow hitches for you to consider. There is also an informative buying guide that will provide you with all the knowledge you need about tow hitches to sort through the different brands and make a decision based on your specific needs and preferences. The right information will ensure that you don’t waste your money on the wrong tow hitch.
Tow Hitch Buying Guide
There are several hitch words and terms that you will encounter in your search for the right tow hitch. Knowing what these words mean will help you understand what you are reading so you know whether the hitches you are looking at will work for your needs. We have listed these common terms below.
Ball Mount – The part of the trailer that connects the vehicle to the trailer. This is the part of the trailer that is lowered onto the ball that is attached to the vehicle.
Gooseneck Hitch – A gooseneck hitch is not the same thing as a ball hitch due to the fact that the trailer is mounted to the center of the truck bed rather than the bumper.
Ball – The ball of a tow hitch assembly is the solid sphere-shaped piece that is on the vehicle hitch. The ball allows the trailer to pivot safely and allows it to adjust to corners and uneven road conditions without getting jarred. This is especially important when you are transporting animals.
Tongue Weight – Tongue weight or TW is the amount of force downward that the tongue can handle without problems. Tow hitches typically list two weights: towing capacity and tongue weight.
Gross Trailer Weight – The total weight that the hitch can handle when the trailer is fully loaded with what you will be towing is referred to as the gross trailer weight.
Pin Weight – This is the total weight that is sitting on the pin. The pin holds the towing assembly together.
Hitch Pin – The steel bar that is put into the draw bar, holding everything together is known as the hitch pin.
Weight Distribution – When you load is distributed properly, towing becomes much safer and more stable.
Choosing the Right Tow Hitch
There are several things you need to know and have in place before you purchase a tow hitch. This information will ensure that you choose the right hitch for your vehicle and the tow jobs at hand.
Budget – There are several types of hitches on the market with a variety of price points. It is important for you to decide what you are looking to spend on a tow hitch before you start shopping around. Setting a budget and sticking to it will provide you with the best shopping experience and will help you avoid spending more money than you anticipated. Even if the tow hitch you are interested in is too much, there are options that can help you save money on that model if you look around and comparison shop.
Tow Hitch Quality – The quality of the tow hitch you purchase can determine its lifespan and performance. Purchasing the cheapest one you can find is a recipe for disaster. There are manufacturers that are reputable and that regularly produce high quality products that you can trust and there are others that it would be better to avoid. The majority of tow hitches are made from pieces of steel that have been welded. The strength and quality of those welds and the coating that is applied to the hitch, if any, will provide added strength and protection against wear and rust. Check out the reputation of the different hitch companies you find. Look for strong warranties and excellent product reviews from others who have purchased the hitch and used it. These are points that will help you have a great chance of choosing a tow hitch that will perform at the highest standard and that will last as well.
Make and Model of the tow vehicle – They manufacturer, model, and year your vehicle was made is very important information to have to ensure you purchase the right tow hitch. Some designs on the market will not work with certain vehicles so having this information will point you in the right direction when it comes to eliminating the hitches that won’t work with your vehicle.
Your vehicle’s towing capacity – It is important to find out the towing capacity of the vehicle you will be using for your towing jobs. This information is different for each vehicle and can be found in the vehicle’s owner’s manual. Do not deviate from this number to avoid damage to the vehicle.
Gross trailer weight – The next step is to know what the gross weight is of the trailer you’ll be towing. Gross weight refers to the weight of the trailer when it is loaded with the cargo you are towing. Included in the gross weight are safety equipment if applicable and other supplies that may be in the trailer as well during transport.
Determine the highest weight capacity you can tow – To figure out the max weight capacity you should tow is in direct relation to the lowest-rated towing component. For example, let’s say your vehicle has a towing capacity of 10,000 pounds. If you hitch is rated for 5,000 pounds then your total tow rating drops to 5,000 pounds. To not have low limits, look for towing components that have ratings higher than you think you’ll need so you will not be above the towing capacity rating.
Choose the right ball mount – After you have chosen a hitch for your vehicle, look for a ball mount that matches it and has the correct rise or drop to ensure the trailer you are towing will be level.
Choose the right trailer ball – Look for a trailer ball that fits the coupler of the trailer.
Types of Towing Hitches
There are 4 basic types of tow hitches on the market. We have listed each type below along with characteristics of each.
Bumper Frame Hitch – This is the simplest type of hitch but not the best one to purchase. With this style, the ball is attached to the bumper of your vehicle. There is little strength in this type of tow hitch and using it for towing anything that has some weight to it can result in problems.
Ball Hitch – The most common type of hitch for pick-up trucks and SUVS is the ball hitch. The design of this type of hitch includes a metal steel ball that is attached to the tow bar of your vehicle. There are several different sizes of balls to choose from depending on the size and weight of the load you are towing. Make sure that the ball you choose matches the socket of the trailer. This type of hitch involves a receiver that is attached to the vehicle. The receiver is the part that the ball mounts and trailer part slides into when putting the whole assembly together for towing. There are 4 classes of tow hitch available that are determined by the towing and tongue weight.
Gooseneck Hitch – A gooseneck hitch is designed to attach to the bed of your pickup rather than the back. It is much stronger and capable of towing large loads like horses trailers. Some gooseneck hitches can be removed when not in use while other designs are underneath the bed of the towing truck and can be covered up when not in use. A gooseneck hitch is capable of towing much larger trailers.
Fifth Wheel Hitch – This is the strongest type of hitch on the market. It can be used on large trucks and is a permanent hitch that has been mounted onto the bed of the truck via a steel plate. This type of hitch is for regular, heavy duty towing. When installing a fifth wheel hitch a sidewinder or slider can be installed along with it to prevent the trailer from striking the cab of the truck if it makes a sharp turn.
Tow Hitch Classes
There are five different classes of towing hitches available. Each class is separated by towing weight and tongue weight capacities. We have listed each class below and provided some information on the types of vehicles they are best suited for as well as the weight capacities of each class.
Class 1 – The class 1 hitch is for light-duty and is usually installed on small SUVs and passenger cars. There opening is 1 ¼” and have a gross trailer weight rating of 2000 pounds with a 200 pound tongue weight. This is a good choice for towing small utility trailers, boats, and motorcycles.
Class 2 – This hitch class is usually installed on small trucks, minivans, and mid-sized sedan vehicles. The opening is 1 ¼” x 1 ¼” and have a tongue weight of 350 pounds with a 3500 gross trailer weight. This moderate duty hitch can handle snowmobiles, mid-sized boats, and small campers.
Class 3 – The gross trailer weight of this class hitch ranges from 3500 pounds to 6000 pounds and it features a tongue weight that ranges from 350 pounds to 600 pounds. The receiver opening on the class 3 hitch measures 2” x 2”. Class 3 hitches can be installed on minivans, full-sized SUVs, and pickup trucks and are perfect for medium sized campers, medium sized boats, and utility trailers.
Class 4 – The heavy-duty class 4 hitch is for large SUVs and heavy duty pickup trucks. The tongue weight ranges from 600 pounds to 1000 pounds and the gross trailer weight can range from 6000 pounds to 10,000 pounds. Class 4 hitches have a receiver opening of 2” x 2”. A class 4 hitch is most commonly used for towing large boats and campers as well as being used for toy haulers.
Class 5 – The biggest of all the classes, this class 5 hitch can be installed on commercial and heavy duty trucks. They have a 2 ½” x 2 ½” receiver opening and have a gross trailer weight of 10,000 pounds or more. The tongue weight of the class 5 hitch ranges from 1000 pounds to 1200 pounds. If you are towing large boats, multi-horse trailers, equipment trailers or full-sized campers, the class 5 is what you are looking for.
Towing Safety Tips
When doing any kind of towing, small or large, keep these safety tips in mind.
- Check the tire pressure on both the trailer tires and the tires on your tow vehicle to make sure they are at the proper inflation level. Make adjustments as necessary.
- Check all of the towing assembly including the coupler, hitch, safety chains, ball mount and anything else that is a part of the towing assembly before pulling out to make sure that the vehicle and trailer are secured properly.
- Check to be sure the wiring is connected the way it should be. You want it to be loose enough to handle any turns you have to make without becoming disconnected or damaging the wires by being too tight. Do not let the wiring touch the road.
- Trailers much have turn signals, hazard lights, running lights, and brake lights. Check all of these to ensure they are properly connected and working the way they should be.
- Check the brake fluid on the tow vehicle and the brakes to make sure they are in proper working order as well. If the trailer has brakes, make sure they are operating correctly as well.
- Is everything you are towing properly secured and tied down? You don’t want things sliding around or shifting while you are in transit. Use proper tie downs and check a couple of times before hitting the road that they are tight and secure.
- Make sure that the tongue support, stabilizers, and trailer jack are raised and locked into the proper position. This is also when you should check to make sure that everything is balanced correctly from the front of the vehicle to the back of the trailer and side to side as well.
- Ensure you have good visibility by checking rear-view and side mirrors so you can see all around the vehicle and trailer properly when you are on the road.
- Know your restrictions, if any, on the route you are taking and check your route ahead of time especially if you will be making stops along the way.
- You will need jack stands and chocks for when you reach the destination to secure the trailer and vehicle while you are unloading.
There are many reasons you may need a tow hitch from towing trailers to campers and boats. Whatever your towing needs are, the most important thing is to make sure you have chosen the right class and the right hitch for the job. Towing can be relatively simple if you have done your homework ahead of time and understand all that you have to do to choose the right hitch for your vehicle and towing job.
The purpose of this guide is to provide you with all the information you need to determine the class you need, the kind of tow hitch that will work the best with your vehicle, the weight restrictions you have and other factors.
The three top-rated tow hitches we have featured in the reviews above are all excellent choices that will work for a variety of towing needs. If you are interested in one of them, check to make sure your vehicle can handle the weight ratings of the hitch you are interested in purchasing and then follow all of the instructions and safety tips we have provided to secure the trailer and your load.
It is important that you are educated on tow hitches and that you don’t exceed the weight limits even a little bit. It is much safer to choose a hitch that is less than your gross trailer weight and tongue weight restrictions rather than pushing it to the limit.
Before you spend your money on a tow hitch, make sure you have all the information you need to choose the right one such as vehicle towing capacity, the type of towing jobs you will be doing, and roughly how much the trailer will weigh when fully loaded. Following these steps will reduce the chances of anything going wrong and will provide you with a safe, strong tow hitch that will last for years.