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Old 11-22-2014, 08:47 PM   #1
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Is it possible to use a car to tow a 19' or 20' airstream?

I am considering purchasing a small, new Airstream (newbe here) and am clueless about tow vehicles. It appears that most use an actual pickup truck, but are there not other options? I initially thought I could just install a hitch on my BMW sedan but I don't know it that would be wise or safe. What say you?

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Old 11-22-2014, 09:04 PM   #2
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You need to find out what the tow capacity of your BMW is.

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Old 11-22-2014, 09:08 PM   #3
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Would this be the info you need? It is for an after market hitch.
Trailer Hitch Size:
1-1/4 Inch Hitch Opening
Towing Capacity:
200 Pound Tongue Weight
2000 Pound Towing
Trailer Wiring:
2011 BMW 3 Series Trailer Wiring
Recommended Ball Mount:
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Old 11-22-2014, 09:25 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by megster View Post
I am considering purchasing a small, new Airstream (newbe here) and am clueless about tow vehicles. It appears that most use an actual pickup truck, but are there not other options? I initially thought I could just install a hitch on my BMW sedan but I don't know it that would be wise or safe. What say you?
Larger sized cars towed 31 foot Airstreams, every where.

It's not so much the size, within reason, but it is a HUGE difference as to how the car is rigged and out fitted with other equipment.

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Old 11-22-2014, 10:23 PM   #5
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Research in your future.

You need to know how much weight your vehicle of choice can tow and how much your prospective trailer will weigh, and read--read--read about towing here in the forums. Any trailer dealership or even websites can get you on your way with some early info for starters on that kind of info. We have belonged to Tin Can Tourists for a couple of years and am amazed at how many single women are camping on their own, and have gotten the towing thing mastered, and if backing up is a problem for them, they just ask for help. HAPPY camping!!!
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Old 11-22-2014, 10:23 PM   #6
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Talk with a bonifide auto-truck dealer. We tow with a Toyota Highlander SUV. 5,000 lb. capacity and equalizer hitch. It's fun looking for a new vehicle ... HA!
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Old 11-22-2014, 11:10 PM   #7
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> Is it possible to use a car to tow a 19 or 20' airstream?

Yes. But not with that Setup ! I'm assuming that your 3 series is not some strange 4 cylinder stripped model(which got discontinued), in which case power torque and suspension are *probably* great.

- Weight Distribution for the tongue weight 200 vs 300-350 on the 16-22'
- Hitch needs to be 2" class 3, rated to 5000lbs, probably custom, Rxvr and ball to proper length height
- Transmission Cooler
- I don't know what "BMW Trailer Wiring" but you need a brake controller
- Sway Bar
- review of your tire and suspension,wheelbase, overhang, ratios,ride height more

It has been mentioned to me that the japanese and I suspect the german cars have more plastic down there and that the person making/installing the hitch is more difficult. Also the car is low more susceptible to bumping.

You've now exhausted my ~4 hours of airstream car tow experience. Time to visit can-am.

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Old 11-23-2014, 06:15 AM   #8
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You know, of course, BMW is the ultimate driving machine, not the ultimate towing machine, right?
With that in mind...
Your BMW is a European design, and intended to tow European trailers, with tongue weights of 100-150 pounds. A 2000 pound trailer is common across the pond, not so much here. You will need to find a person that is knowledgable in how to modify your Beemer to tow a small Airstream. The smallest modern Airstream weighs nearly 4000 pounds.
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Old 11-23-2014, 06:50 AM   #9
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Good day Megster... Many of us on the forum here tow an Airstream with a car. To start with you will need a custom 2" receiver fitted to the BMW. As previously suggested it is best to consult with a towing specialist like the folks at Can Am. Can-Am RV Centre | Your Towing Experts
Airstreams..... The best towing trailers on the planet!
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Old 11-23-2014, 06:56 AM   #10
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Thanks for your replies😊
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Old 11-23-2014, 07:58 AM   #11
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TV Analysis


I have never posted on the forum, but it has been a tremendous resource for me as we purchased a 19' AS back in Apr 14. We moved the family across the country from California to Virginia over about 3 weeks. Took the northern route through Tahoe, Yellowstone, Badlands; then hit the inlaws in Orlando, FL before finishing up in Virginia.

I did about as much analysis as I could on using a Toyota Highlander (V6, 2013) for the Tow Vehicle. In fact, I ended up with a series of messages back and forth with the experts at Can Am-- they are pretty enthusiastic about helping!

In the end, based on all of the additional variables, I ended up going with a larger towing capacity TV (Sequoia, V8) to not have to think about it anymore.
Frankly, the main concern was about Tongue Weight- the model I have advertises a 550# Tongue Weight, but it amounted to the high 400's when I weighted it all rigged up.
Our trip was so long, the extra space was also important.

My only advice is that it will come down to your personal risk threshold. What seemed perfectly acceptable to me (towing the 19'er with the Highlander) activated all sorts of alarms with the wife. In my case I was certainly not about to embark on our first major trip without complete consensus! There were many, many times at high elevations that we were much more comfortable knowing that our TV weighed more than the TT (about 5,500# vs 4,500#)

It has been about 7 months since I did the deep analysis, and I'm having trouble finding the PMs from Can Am-- Will keep looking.

Once you make a decision, feel free to re-engage with a discussion on WDH-- I did 4 weighings at the weigh station before leaving- each with a different configuration. For example, I was never able to get 33% weight on each axle- more like 25% front axle (Sequoia), 40% rear axle (Sequoia), and 35% Airstream axle.

Take care!
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Old 11-23-2014, 08:03 AM   #12
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Old 11-23-2014, 11:27 AM   #13
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I will restate that I have been towing a 23 ft 2007 airstream safari for six years and about 70000 miles with a Mercedes V-6 Diesel, ML 350-SUV. It is a near ideal vehicle for towing that trailer, and beautiful to ride in when not towing (30mpg hwy 15mpg towing). I have gone up and down the Rockies, to alaska, California Deserts, etc. I highly recommend having the hitch set up by someone like Can-am, if you question them, they will state that they can have mini vans set up to tow most airstreams, within limits. The key is the towing set up, hitch, sway bars, etc. Get it set up right and enjoy many years of travel.
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Old 11-23-2014, 11:41 AM   #14
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I comfortably and safely towed my 20' FC for a couple of season with a 2013 Highlander. It was equipped with a tow package, trailer braking system, and I used a good equalizer hitch. Just recently moved up to a 27' FC, and for safety and capability I moved to a Sequoia, similarly equipped. My advice is don't tow with a vehicle just because you have it....there's lots of action our on the roads where you need the power and control of the correct TV. Happy travels !!

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