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Author Topic:   What's smallest tow vehicle for a Montauk?
whaleryo posted 06-07-2002 05:25 PM ET (US)   Profile for whaleryo   Send Email to whaleryo  
This topic has been covered in various ways, but not precisely the way I'm looking for.

I'm considering moving up from my Sport15 to a Montauk. I live about four miles from the ramp and use my Saturn to tow the 15'. I commute about 60 miles a day and don't want to drive a gas guzzler 250 days a year in order to tow a boat around 20 times per year. What would be the smallest vehicle that could safely be used to tow a Montauk those four, flat miles to the ramp?


JohnAz posted 06-07-2002 05:34 PM ET (US)     Profile for JohnAz  Send Email to JohnAz     
I tow an 18 ft Maxim V-6 with a Chevy Luv, 4wd, because of the sliprey ramps,,no problem
FINFEVER2 posted 06-07-2002 06:01 PM ET (US)     Profile for FINFEVER2  Send Email to FINFEVER2     
I used to tow my 17 footer from Redondo Beach to Marina Del Rey with a 1971 V.W van. Never got out of third gear. The ramp can be fairly steep at low tide. About 5 miles each way. Maybe 25 times a year for six years.


JBCornwell posted 06-07-2002 06:45 PM ET (US)     Profile for JBCornwell  Send Email to JBCornwell     
Yo, WhalerYo.

To coin a phrase, "Towing isn't the problem. Stopping is the problem." Just so you know what risks are involved.

There is the second issue of retrieving the boat on a wet, maybe steep ramp.

Now, given those issues, and the limitations you set, I think you need a light AWD vehicle with extremely good balance and brakes, that gets good mileage.

Subaru Legacy, Outback or Forester; Ford Escape AWD, Toyota RAV 4, etc.

Having tested all of the above, But being a bit more fussy about long distance towing and a bit less fussy about 30mpg, I would go with the Ford Escape AWD V6. You might be happier with one of the Subys.

Good luck.

Red sky at night. . .
JB :)

Dick posted 06-07-2002 09:57 PM ET (US)     Profile for Dick  Send Email to Dick     

The best place to start is: What is your Saturn rated for in towing capacity?
The factory towing capacity takes into consideration stopping ability as well as other factors. The most important one not to exceed is stopping ability. You sure don't want to park your rig in someones trunk or worse.

Hey! JB we agreed on one.

peteinsf posted 06-07-2002 10:35 PM ET (US)     Profile for peteinsf    
Adding breaks to the trailer couldn't hurt.
kingfish posted 06-08-2002 06:50 AM ET (US)     Profile for kingfish  Send Email to kingfish     
Second peteinsf on the brakes - even if it seems like overkill, it's the sort of redundancy that can only help, not hinder.

And, for what it's worth, I towed a fully loaded Montauk (loaded with luggage, fishing gear, kids beach toys, bikes, etc.) all over creation (thousands of miles) with a Chrysler minivan. I did eventually step up to a Mercury Mountaineer, and that did handle the load much more easily, but the minivan did the trick when I needed it to.


AllanR posted 06-08-2002 08:28 PM ET (US)     Profile for AllanR  Send Email to AllanR     
I my opinion your Saturn, if it is one of the small cars, will not handle it. I tow a Montauk, 90 Johnson, loaded. It is at least 2,000 lbs. I use a Honda minivan and it is fine. I used to own a 13 Whaler which I towed with a small Datsun. It worked, just like what you have done. You might want to consider the new Saturn SUV. It has an available v6 and AWD. Should handle it. Otherwise you will ruin the drivetrain on your car. I also have a Saturn SL2. I would never think about towing the Montauk with it.

But, I wish you luck.

Ed Z posted 06-08-2002 10:28 PM ET (US)     Profile for Ed Z  Send Email to Ed Z     

If you are going only 4 miles to the ramp and you (I asume) don't need to reach highway speeds, then you probably would be OK... But, do check on the max tow capacity rating for the car... As far as stopping safety goes, trailer brakes can be added for a few hundred and save you a whole lot more than just money... As far as the cars transmission goes, it may end up costing you a lot to tow with the car... Maybe getting an additional older used SUV/Truck/Large car just for the towing may prove the safest and cheapest route to go...

Tom W Clark posted 06-09-2002 01:43 AM ET (US)     Profile for Tom W Clark  Send Email to Tom W Clark     

Although your Saturn is probably not rated for a 2000 lbs trailer, it may well be able to tow your Montauk the four miles to the ramp and even spot in an emergency if you have to. The real problem is pulling the boat from the water.

Front wheel drive is a real disadvantage at the launch ramp, especially if is a slippery tidal one. I don't think the Saturn will cut it, but of course you could try it and then you would know if you need another vehicle.

If you get another vehicle be aware that (for where you are towing) just about anything will do if it is rear wheel drive (or 4 wheel drive) . Even a Ford PINTO would probably work. I think JB's suggestion of a Subaru Legacy, Outback or Forester is a really good one. A small pickup truck would work fine too.

simonmeridew posted 06-09-2002 07:28 AM ET (US)     Profile for simonmeridew  Send Email to simonmeridew     
I agree with Tom, that your biggest problem with the Saturn will be when you start to pull your boat out of the water. Tongue weight on a fully loaded Montauk/trailer/motor etc should be upwards of 180 pounds. This is hanging off a long lever behind the rear bumper and the effect would be to un-weight the front driving wheels. Ramps are always slippery and wet. I wouldn't try it. Do you have any trouble pulling the 15 footer out of the water?

Otherwise, stopping should be ok and acceleration should be ok, you just won't be able to pull the boat out.

JohnAz posted 06-09-2002 08:36 AM ET (US)     Profile for JohnAz  Send Email to JohnAz     
Front wheel drives "usualy" stay on the not so slipery parts of the ramp,,,,if the wheels slip,,,let the trailer's jack wheel down and unhook it from the car,,,secure a strong rope to the car and trailer long enough for the car to be on dry pavment and pull the boat out ot the water,,,I do this with a "Bus" motor home all the time,,i have been as much as 100 ft from the water to pull the boat out,,the "Bus" has lousy gering in first gear...
Kelly posted 06-09-2002 08:47 AM ET (US)     Profile for Kelly  Send Email to Kelly     

If I had a long commute and a short tow, I might consier getting an old pick-up to make the tow and keep the car for the commute. Kelly

whaleryo posted 06-09-2002 10:17 AM ET (US)     Profile for whaleryo  Send Email to whaleryo     
Thanks for all the replies!

My original post was a little vague in that I knew my Saturn (rated at 1000lbs) won't do the job and wasn't considering using it for the Montauk. Another factor I didn't mention is that my town doesn't allow parking on the street overnight, so the boat, my wife's car, my son's car, and my car have to fit on the driveway. An extra tow vehicle isn't an option.

I think the Saturn SUV only has a towing capacity of 1500lbs, so it only looks like and SUV. I had a Subaru for 12 years and would definately consider looking into one of their AWDs.

Thanks again for all the input.


jimh posted 06-09-2002 01:06 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
What I would do:

First, I'd buff that Saturn out, get a "Baby On Board" sticker for the back window, and sell it to a sensitive, new-age guy whose wife is expecting.

Then I'd watch the want-ads for a nice used Ford Crown Victoria, V-8, rear wheel drive. Get a 1996 or newer with the optional sport suspension, aluminum wheels, 16-inch Michelon radials, leather interior, and if you're lucky the tow package. It will have a smooth 4-speed automatic with OD. If you baby it on the highway you will get 21-MPG. Best part is you can buy one for just a few bucks more than what you sold the Saturn for to the kid.

After you take a couple of long trips in the sedan, you'll never consider driving something like a Saturn again. You can haul the boat anywhere with that car, go on road trips in comfort, and drive all day without getting tired.

The 'Vic will run until it goes about 250,000 miles. There isn't a part on the car you can't buy at an auto part store for less than $40. You can easily service all the usual stuff yourself.

Your wife is probably not going to go for this, so get her a new Subaru Forrester (in dark green of course) so she won't be embarassed when she has to go to meetings of any socially-conscious groups she might belong to.

I know in your heart you really want to this, because that's why you're going to get a Montauk--you're that kind of guy. So go the whole-hogger, man, enjoy yourself.

P.S. If you get the 'Vic in black you can drive like a maniac on the highway and everyone gets out of your way because they think you are an unmarked cop car. I drive mine in and out of downtown Detroit all the time, usually intentionally wearing a blue nylon windbreaker, and I can tell you from first hand experience that it is like Moses parting the waters the way cars get out of your path when you are cruising in that 'Vic.


jimh posted 06-09-2002 01:29 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
Let's look at this fuel economy situation here. You drive 60-miles a day. What's the impact on you (finanically) if you go from a car that gets 30-MPG to one that gets 22-MPG?

If you drive 60 miles x 5 days x 50 weeks, you are driving 15,000 miles/year. You will consume 181 gallons more gas in a year. That will cost you about $270.

Now if I said to you I could put you into really nice car, that will tow you boat, and be more comfortable to drive, is economical to operate and maintain, and your cost was going to be about $0.74 a day higher than your current car, would you think twice about it?

I bet your insurance rates will drop at least that much!

Bigshot posted 06-10-2002 09:53 AM ET (US)     Profile for Bigshot  Send Email to Bigshot     
I towed mine with a Samurai......nuf said!
where2 posted 06-10-2002 01:19 PM ET (US)     Profile for where2  Send Email to where2     
The only time I spin the wheels on my FWD VW Corrado (W/o traction control or an LSD)pulling my 15' Sport up the ramp is when I dump the clutch hard. FWD leaves the tires up where the slime doesn't grow unless you've got a 6'+ tide range, and always leaves the engine on top of the drive wheels. If I don't dump my clutch, the tires don't even chirp, (Michelin Pilot SX-GT's). Then again, I don't power load my trailer, which means I don't have to have someone in the boat running the outboard engine to push everything up the ramp. I love to watch pickup trucks that power-load. Let me just back the tires down into the wet slime, with no weight over the drive axle on a rear-end without posi-traction = 1-wheel drive... No-wonder everyone thinks you need 4WD.
whaleryo posted 06-10-2002 01:27 PM ET (US)     Profile for whaleryo  Send Email to whaleryo     

You're ruining my plan. Here's the logic I used with my wife:

I need a bigger boat because it will be safer in Jones Inlet than the 15.

I need a bigger car to tow the bigger boat, but it will cost a lot more to operate due to my long commute.

It would probably make more sense to dock the boat than to trailer it.

If I'm going to dock it, I might as well get an even bigger boat that has a cabin with a head so she can be more comfortable when she comes out with me.

If I'm going to get a boat with a cabin, we might as well get one with a galley so we can spend weekends on it.

She said: "After all of your talk about how safe they are, it had better be a Whaler".


whaleryo posted 06-10-2002 02:46 PM ET (US)     Profile for whaleryo  Send Email to whaleryo     
A bit off-topic, but kind of relates to why I'm reluctanct to buy a used car for towing.

I had a Suburu wagon for 12 years. Toward the end I had the driver's seat back propped up with a milk crate. I had a wire coat hanger sticking out of the dash to control the heat. The tires were on the bald side, the brakes were rather thin, and the battery usually had just enough juice to get the car started. Each commute was an adventure.

I decided to buy a new Saturn (1993) and the dealer said he could have it ready 4pm the next day. I didn't know the mileage on the Subaru (or the speed I was traveling) because the speedometer cable had broken several years before. The Suburu's engine blew on the way to pick up the Saturn. (Good timing, bad timing chain).

My commute is 99% highway driving so I don't put much strain on the brakes or tires. Since 1993, everytime I needed brakes or tires, I traded in the car and got a new one. I got my current one when the battery light came on while on my way to work. I went to a dealer on lunch hour and drove home with a new car. (Wife was a bit annoyed).

I haven't had to buy brakes, tires, or batteries, or have a car repaired in 9 years.
I've gotten used to this and don't think I could afford to be so cavalier with a more expensive car.


skred posted 06-12-2002 02:08 PM ET (US)     Profile for skred  Send Email to skred     
Ok, I realize this will probably create a storm of indignant responses, but it still is fact: I owned a '91 Montauk with a 90 Force (by Merc, but still a Force). No extra on board, I towed that with my 1995 Dodge Neon. Yes, I did.... Mind you, not down the Interstate for hours, but 2 to 3 miles to the launch in Prescott, WI,, and 8 to 10 to a local lake. Neon's 132 hp seemed adequate for that application, and I used it for 3 years without a problem. Yes, I had to plan my deceleration a bit, but I never had an incident of any kind. Take-out was fine on all but the slipperiest ramps.
Mind you, I don't recommend this combination for regular, moderate-to-long-distance towing, but I offer this info as an example of how little motive power is actually required to pull, launch and retrieve a Montauk. Oh, I had a relatively inexpensive single-axle Karavan trailer with 12" wheels and no trailer brakes.


Bigshot posted 06-12-2002 02:37 PM ET (US)     Profile for Bigshot  Send Email to Bigshot     
I towed mine with a Samurai....nuf said!
goldstem posted 06-13-2002 09:26 AM ET (US)     Profile for goldstem  Send Email to goldstem     
I've towed our clubs montauk with a saab 9000. It probably the maximum I'd tow with that car. It's fine (i've gone 50 miles with it) but for a longer haul I'd want something a little bigger.
hauptjm posted 06-13-2002 12:18 PM ET (US)     Profile for hauptjm    
Bigshot did you tow yours with a Samurai???

My buddy towed his '72 from here (New Orleans) to the Florida panhandle for years behind his Nissan 280ZX. For those that don't remember, this was a little two seater pocket rocket. He had to be careful not to bottom out on curbs because the car was only about 8 inches off the ground to start with.

GRMPer posted 06-13-2002 01:28 PM ET (US)     Profile for GRMPer  Send Email to GRMPer     
My dad used to tow our 17' Larson w/ a Samurai. 4WD and surprisingly beefy frame worked well.

I currently tow my 13 sport behind a 1.8 liter Toyota Celica, even when the car is also loaded down with racing tires/wheels (other diversion), it's no problem.


Ed Z posted 06-15-2002 08:33 AM ET (US)     Profile for Ed Z  Send Email to Ed Z     
I see that a lot of people have different standards for towing capacities of there vehicles... True is if really needed you can tow the boat with a 250cc motorcycle (pulled mine about 1000 yards with one as a kid), but would I recomend it, heck no... The issue at hand is this, the reason I have a whaler is for the most part because of safety and reliability... Being of that mind set using a tow vehicle beyond its designed limitations is not acceptable to me (my family and self are worth being safe)... As long as you remain very aware of the vehicles limitations just about any vehicle will work for towing.... As for the slippery ramps, try a large piece of outdoor carpet runners under the drive wheels (say 12" x 48")... This works great as long as the slime is not real thick... Happy boating...
gunnelgrabber posted 06-15-2002 09:28 AM ET (US)     Profile for gunnelgrabber  Send Email to gunnelgrabber     
Ed Z,
Well, that moves the parameters!. It's indeed amazing young males survive to grow up.!
In the pulling with the cycle has been said ..."it isn't the pulling , it's what what happens when you try to stop!"
You didn't ever pull start a motorcycle with a rope looped to your handlebars and pulled by a car(I hope) don't have to answer that...appreciate your insight, perspective. Thanks ...lm
Bigshot posted 06-17-2002 11:26 AM ET (US)     Profile for Bigshot  Send Email to Bigshot     
Man I tried that once.....once! had my 3 wheeler and my chain ppped. My bud says he'll tow me with a rope, done it with problem. we tied a rope to the bars and started going. Got about 100ft and the rope slid to one side and I could not fight it. The bars turned right and over them I went, luckily the bike did not run me over.

As far as towing goes....tow with what you want and how you want. If you do short runs like me I can tow with a Golfcart. If you do highway, another story. Be careful of tow "ratings". My bud has a Jeep Cherokee and we towed a 4000 boat and the truck is rated for 5k. ANYTHING over 45mph and she would start swaying....BAD! It is not always the truck as much as trailer setup. Although the boat towed fine behing my ML320, that Cherokee could not do it. It had plenty of juice but that particular truck needed more tongue weight.

newboater posted 06-21-2002 12:15 PM ET (US)     Profile for newboater  Send Email to newboater     

On your recommendation we went out and looked at a Crown Victoria last night. It was a '93 with 46K miles on it. They were asking 6K. The exterior was nice, but the inside looked like the car was from 1978. Plastic, dirty blue velour, and controls that seemed pretty crude. Fit and finish were lacking. It also had a R12 AC system, I want R134A.

Do the later models have a nicer interior?

Dave S.

Bigshot posted 06-21-2002 12:54 PM ET (US)     Profile for Bigshot  Send Email to Bigshot     
Depends if the previous owner wore Depends:)
jimh posted 06-22-2002 12:55 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
Look for the "LX" model. Mine has beautiful tan leather interior with some faux-wood trim.

To get the new Freon you'll have to jump up a couple of years. That same body style was carried at least to '95 or '96.

After '96 the tow ratings were lowered, in part I think because GM dropped their big V-8 IMPALA, so there was no other sedan to compete with the Crown Vic; this lowered the rating from #5000 with proper equipment to [much less]. The car looks the same to me; I think it was just a rating change to reduce exposure.

The rear axle ratio is the biggest factor in the tow rating. You can deduce the rear axle from the tag on the door frame. Most have a 3.21 for good gas mileage. You want the 3.73 for better towing.

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