Would be Caravanners are often confused when it comes to choosing a suitable towing vehicle. As a general rule there is no such thing as a bad towing vehicle. It all depends on the combination of towing vehicle and trailer. A medium sized car with a small caravan is just as suitable as a large 4WD with a long caravan in tow. Most passenger vehicles are not specifically designed with towing in mind. A perusal of car owners handbooks will find comments like Your vehicle is suited for occasional towing of trailers and caravans or Your vehicle is primarily designed as a passenger vehicle so handling, durability or economy may be effected by towing a caravan or trailer.
This does not mean that a particular car cannot be used to tow a caravan or trailer. It does indicate however that certain modifications may be needed to make sure that the vehicle can be safely and reliably used for towing. The most suitable towing vehicle is one which is heavier than the caravan or trailer it tows and which has enough power to handle the towing load. Both manual and automatic transmissions can be successfully used .
As automatic transmissions can use up engine power, smaller engines often perform better when coupled to a manual gearbox. One advantage of an automatic transmission is that the driver can keep two hands on the steering wheel. Manoeuvring, particularly reversing, is also much easier when the vehicle only has two pedals instead of three.
The majority of components in smaller vehicles are less robust than in larger ones. This usually makes small cars less suitable for towing heavy loads. Larger four wheel drives (4WDs) are popular for towing for two main reasons. Firstly there is their rugged construction which together with their solid engines and transmissions form a sound basis for a capable towing vehicle. Secondly their higher unladen weight, or mass, means that a larger caravan can be towed than would normally be the case with lighter vehicles.
In many instances a four wheel drive is not really needed unless you intend to venture away from the beaten tracks. There are two wheel drive vehicles which are just as capable of towing a caravan around Australia as a four wheel drive. It is the compatibility of the towing vehicle and caravan, or camper trailer, that is important. Remember that just because your towing vehicle is suitable for travelling on unsealed roads your caravan may not be. Most caravans, unless suitably modified, are not designed to travel along rough outback tracks.