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Ford Explorer Towing Capacity

So you just bought that 2020 Ford Explorer and you’re ready to go camping or what-not.

But the problem is, the brochure you received featuring all those fancy pictures gave you no clue as to its EXACT maximum towing capacity.

So we’ll lay it all down for you here along with the towing capacities of the other models.

What Is the Maximum Towing Capacity of a Ford Explorer?

Let’s get straight to the point: The short answer is that the best models of the Ford Explorer can tow up to 5600 lbs!

Among its competitors, it is a vehicle in a class of its own and beats out its closest competitors or SUVs:

  • 2019 Jeep Grand Cherokee – 3500 lbs
  • 2019 Toyota Highlander – 5000 lbs
  • 2019 Chevrolet Traverse – 5000 lbs

However, there is more to the Ford Explorer than just the maximum towing capability.

Let’s see how the Ford Explorer is not just an amazing car, but also a great towing partner for your travel trailer.

Ford Explorer Specifications

Even within the Ford Explorer model, there are various engines to choose from, which give it a variance in terms of its performance as a towing vehicle.

Below is a summary of the towing specifications for various models for the 2021 Ford Explorer:

2.3L EcoBoost I4

  • Axle Ratio: 3.58
  • GCWR (lbs): 10,000 (RWD), 10,100 (4WD)
  • Maximum Towing Capacity (lbs): 5,300 (both RWD and 4WD)

Although the towing capacity of the EcoBoost I4 isn’t as great as some of the other models, the EcoBoost I4 is still one of the top picks as it is one of the cheaper models of the Ford Explorer.

Buying the EcoBoost I4 model would only mean giving up 300 lbs of towing capacity for a significantly CHEAPER price.

3.3L Ti-VCT V6

  • Axle Ratio: 3.58
  • GCWR (lbs): 10,500 (RWD), 10,600 (4WD)
  • Maximum Towing Capacity (lbs): 5,000 (RWD), 5,600 (4WD)

While not as cheap as the EcoBoost I4, it features the full 5,600 lbs of towing capacity that the EcoBoost I4 couldn’t give.

The 3.3L Ti-VCT engine is definitely worth the purchase if you have deep pockets.

3.0L Ecoboost V6 (ST Version)

  • Axle Ratio: 3.58
  • GCWR (lbs): 10,600 (4WD)
  • Maximum Towing Capacity (lbs): 5,600 (4WD)

Take note, however, that you have to avail of the Class III Towing Package for all the models stated above in order to achieve a maximum towing capacity of 5000 – 5600 lbs.

I recommend you get the particular package when you buy your Ford Explorer. Otherwise, you will only have a maximum of 3000 lbs of towing capacity.

Definition of Terms: Towing 101 and How to Learn How Much Your Ford Explorer Can Tow

In order to understand further the towing capacity of a Ford Explorer, let’s take a look at some terms you may have encountered before, but are quite confusing they all mean similar things.

What Exactly is Maximum Towing Capacity?

We’ve already discussed the maximum towing capacity of a Ford Explorer, but what does it exactly mean? Basically, it simply just tells us how much weight can the Ford Explorer tow.

This is determined by a number of factors such as GVWR, GAWR, and many others, which will be discussed below.

Axle Ratio

This refers to the rotational ratio of the transmission shaft (powered by the engine), to the axle, which rotates the wheels.

A higher ratio would provide more power to the tow vehicle, but your fuel economy will suffer as a result.

Conversely, a lower ratio will provide better fuel economy but will give you less power to your tow vehicle.

Wheel Drive

A wheel drive is a wheel that transmits force, causing the wheel to rotate and the car to move. Basically, these are the wheels that cause the car to move. There are three main types of wheel drive, these are:

  • Front-wheel drive
  • Rear-wheel drive
  • All-wheel drive

Front-Wheel Drive

Front-Wheel Drive, or FWD, means that the front wheel of the car is pulling the whole car to move forward. In other words, the engine transmits the force to the front wheels causing the car to move.

The main advantage of a front-wheel-drive is that cars usually have better fuel economy.

Also, front-wheel drive cars are usually easier to control in difficult road conditions such as rain and snow since most of the weight of the car is concentrated on the front end.

Rear-Wheel Drive

Rear-Wheel Drive, or RWD, means that the rear wheels push the car forward. This means that the engine transmits force to the rear wheels for the car to move forward.

While harder to control, they are deemed more fun to drive by car enthusiasts. They are also more balanced in terms of weight distribution in the car, making the front tires last longer than in FWD cars.

All-Wheel Drive

Also known commonly as the Four-Wheel Drive, or 4WD, this wheel drive type is commonly installed in an SUV and other large vehicles.

They have the ability to drive on extreme road conditions such as unpaved roads composed of dirt, snow, and gravel for off-road driving.

However, the downside to this is that the 4WD often has the poorest fuel economy, which is why most 4WD vehicles typically can switch to RWD when road conditions are not bad.

Gross Vehicle Weight Rating

Gross Vehicle Weight Rating or GVWR is the maximum loaded weight allowed for your car by the manufacturer.

You can typically find this information on the driver-side door sill. Other places you can find this is at the website of Ford (for your Ford Explorer) and the owner’s manual.

Basically, it’s the maximum weight allowed by the manufacturer of the following combined:

  • Vehicle
  • You and your passengers
  • Any load placed inside

To clarify, the Gross Vehicle Weight Rating is NOT the actual weight of the car. It is the recommended weight limit the manufacturer recommends at which you can safely drive the car.

If you exceed the GVWR, then you risk damage throughout the whole car. Specifically, it can damage your car’s suspension, frame, axles, and many other parts.

Keep in mind also that the Gross Vehicle Weight Rating is not only applicable to your car (your Ford Explorer in your case), but also to your travel trailer.

In that case, the formula stays the same and you just switch your Ford Explorer with a travel trailer.

Gross Combined Weight Rating

Gross Combined Weight Rating, or GCWR, refers to the maximum weight of your vehicle with a travel trailer attached allowed by the manufacturer.

This also accounts for any passengers and cargo inside both your car and travel trailer.

In other words, it’s the maximum weight allowed by the manufacturer of the following combined:

  • Automotive Vehicle
  • Travel trailer
  • You and your passengers
  • Any load placed inside both in the vehicle and in the towed travel trailer

GVWR vs GCWR: What’s the Main Difference?

The two are very similar, so let’s just emphasize the difference for clarity.

The main difference between the two is just the following:

  • GVWR considers only one of either the vehicle or travel trailer
  • GCWR considers both the vehicle and the travel trailer

Gross Axle Weight Rating

Gross Axle Weight Rating, or GAWR, is the maximum weight that can be loaded on the axles, or the rod that rotates the wheels and supports the weight of your Ford Explorer.

Each axle has a separate rating from the car manufacturer:

  • FR for Front Rating
  • RR for Rear Rating

The GAWR takes into account the weight the axles take when the vehicle has the following:

  • Travel trailer in tow
  • Loaded with passengers
  • Loaded with any other goods

Gross Trailer Weight

Gross Trailer Weight, or GTW, as the name implies is weight of the following:

  • Travel trailer
  • Any other goods loaded

It’s essentially just a measurement of the weight of your travel trailer plus any other goods it contains.

The key difference between the GTW and other ratings such as GVWR, GAWR, and others is that GTW is a measurement, while the other is a rating.

The rating is prescribed by the manufacturer, while the GTW is actually measured by people .

This means that while GTW is completely independent of its rating, but as a rule of thumb, GTW must not be greater than the Gross Vehicle Weight Rating.

Otherwise, a person can risk destroying both the travel trailer and Ford Explorer.

GTW vs Maximum Towing Capacity

If both GTW and Maximum Towing Capacity can consider the travel trailer and its cargo, then what exactly is the difference?

The key difference between the two is that GTW is a measurement, while the capacity is basically a rating of the manufacturer.

And as a rating, the capacity is prescribed by the manufacturer, while the GTW is again, as mentioned above, personally measured by the people or user of the car.

Tongue Weight

Tongue Weight, or TW, is the total weight exerted on the back of your tow vehicle, by your travel trailer.

It is greatly affected not only by the weight of the payload, or the goods loaded on your travel trailer but also by how these goods themselves are distributed on the travel trailer.

Knowing your Tongue Weight is important to have better control of your tow vehicle. Ideally, the TW should be around 10 to 15 percent of your Gross Trailer Weight.

For the Ford Explorer, the maximum Tongue Weight allowed is 560 lbs or around 10% of the Gross Trailer Weight.

Curb Weight

The curb weight is basically the weight of your car. It includes any fluid that is necessary for your Ford Explorer to run but doesn’t include any passengers and other items loaded into the car.

These include:

  • Fuel
  • Oil
  • Steering Fluid
  • Brake Fluid
  • Any other fluid essential to the operation of the car.

However, it doesn’t include the following:

  • Passenger
  • Any goods loaded into the car unnecessary to the car’s operation

The curb weight is sometimes also called the empty weight as it is the weight of the car as if it just got out of the dealership.

It contains no passengers (even the driver), no payload, and no car accessories, just the original parts.

To measure the curb weight, just remove passengers, payload, and aftermarket car accessories and use a vehicle scale.

Payload Capacity

Payload Capacity is the maximum weight your car can carry. It is essentially the weight of the goods loaded onto your car or truck:

Specifically, a term used more for pickup trucks like the Ford F-150, a person can still use the term for vehicles like the 2020 Ford Explorer and its successor model, the 2021 Ford Explorer.

Payload vs Maximum Towing Capacity

While payload capacity and the maximum towing capacity are both weight limitations set by the manufacturer,

  • The payload capacity pertains to goods loaded on the Ford Explorer itself
  • The maximum capacity refers to the weight of the travel trailer that is towed by your Ford Explorer

Travel Trailers and Campers: Which Can Your Ford Explorer Tow?

The Travel Trailer, or campers as some people call them, are basically mobile homes that can be lugged around by the family.

It is primarily used by people and families who love traveling to national parks and the outdoors.

A travel trailer can be some sort of base camp for friends and family alike so they can enjoy their outdoor activities unhampered.

What Kinds of Travel Trailers would Could a Ford Explorer Tow?

Now that we know all about the Ford Explorer’s ability to tow, we can now move on and look at what trailers can the Ford Explorer actually tow.

Types of Trailers

Tear Drop Campers

Teardrop campers are a type of travel trailer that was widely popular in the 1960s. They take their name from the teardrop shape of the camper.

The popularity of the camper eventually declined in the 1980s but thanks to its aerodynamic shape, this camper is seeing a renaissance in terms of its popularity.

The invention of new lightweight materials, the rise of sports utility vehicles like the Ford Explorer, and the increasing demand and popularity of green and efficient fuels have certainly helped in this regard.

Trailer Specifications:

  • Weight: 520-2,200 lbs
  • Length: 4-14 feet
  • Sleeping Capacity: 1-2 people
  • Price Range – $7,000-$12,000

As you can see with the specifications, you can only expect the basic amenities for this type of travel trailer. You also can’t bring your whole family to your camper with this travel trailer.

Can Your Explorer Tow It?

Well, it is very lightweight and well under the capability of the Ford Explorer to tow. You would virtually have no problems lugging behind this camper.

Also, you don’t have to dig deep in your savings for this camper, so people with small budgets would prefer this trailer.

Lastly, this would help you focus on your outdoor activities! Comforts within these types of trailers wouldn’t really matter if your focus is to experience much of the outdoors as possible.

Towable Trailer Example: 2017 LITTLE GUY T@G XL MAX

The 2017 Little Guy T@G XL Max is a towable trailer for the Ford Explorer, even without the Classic III Towing Package for the camper.

Here are the specifications:

  • Weight: 2,200 lbs
  • Length: 14 feet
  • Sleeping Capacity: 1-2 people
  • Price Range – $10,950

This little camper even features a small air conditioner and a fully functional kitchen with the following:

  • Mini-refrigerator
  • Microwave
  • Countertop space
  • Sink

Pop-up Campers

Pop-up campers are some of the lightest campers as they can even be lighter than some large tear drop campers.

The reason these particular type of campers is lightweight for its size is that pop-up campers are made of practically the same material as tents.


It is initially packed while traveling, but it then “pops up” once you set up the camper.

Trailer Specifications:

  • Weight: 600-4,000 lbs
  • Length: 8-16 feet
  • Sleeping Capacity: 1-6 people
  • Price Range – $7,000-$50,000
Can Your Explorer Tow It?

As you can see, the campers of this type are still lightweight and can be towed by your Ford Explorer, but now, you can bring your whole family to your camper.

This type of trailer is the typical family edition as there is enough room for up to 6 people.

However, the downside to this is that you don’t have a very sturdy camper for places where the environment is volatile.

In fact, some national parks do not allow pop-up campers as this type of trailer cannot protect you from wild animals or particularly bad weather conditions.

Towable Trailer Example: 2020 A-Liner Classic Rear Sofa Bed

The 2020 A-Liner Classic Rear Sofa Bed is a towable trailer for the Ford Explorer, even without the tow package for the camper.

Here are the specifications of the trailer:

  • Weight: 1590 lbs
  • Length: 15 feet
  • Sleeping Capacity: 1-4 people
  • Price Range – $20,500

Even with a lot of space, here are additional amenities included in the camper:

  • Small cooking space
  • Multifunctional couch-bed
  • Small dining area
  • Unique triangle shape

Hybrid Campers

Hybrid Campers offer the best of both worlds as it features a hard shell, has enough storage space, while still being lightweight.

Hybrid Campers are able to do this because while these campers have a hard shell. It still has several portions that pop out to create more space, usually the sleeping area.

Trailer Specifications:

  • Weight: 2,000-5,000 lbs
  • Length: 16-30 feet
  • Sleeping Capacity: 1-6 people
  • Price Range – $8,000-$50,000
Can Your Explorer Tow It?

As can be seen in the specifications, the Ford Explorer can still tow our trailer. Now, we get the best of both worlds with the large size and still have a hard shell for the trailer.

The only downside I can see is that it is quite pricey. But then again, pop-up campers are similarly priced to the hybrid camper.

Towable Trailer Example: 2017 Starcraft Ravel Star Expandable

The 2017 Starcraft Ravel Star Expandable is a towable camper for the Ford Explorer. With this hybrid camper, you get to host a lot of people, while still staying towable by the Ford Explorer.

Here are the specifications of the camper:

  • Weight: 3,650 lbs
  • Length: 21 feet 4 inches
  • Sleeping Capacity: 1-8 people
  • Price Range – $16,995

For big families, this would be the dream as they would be able to camp with everyone! And for the price, this camper did not skimp on the amenities:

  • 3 queen-sized bed pop-outs
  • A lot of space for storage
  • Plenty of dining space
  • Full bathroom

Travel Trailers

Although in general, we may call the general trailers as travel trailers, it is actually a specific type of trailer! It may sound confusing, but that is how this type of trailer, or camper is called.

These classic trailers, or simply just trailers, are what people usually think of when we say campers.

Simply put, a classic travel trailer is specifically a hard-shell type of camper. These trailers are usually what is stereotypically what we see as “mobile homes” on television.

Trailer Specifications:

  • Weight: 1,000-12,000 lbs
  • Length: 10-45 feet
  • Sleeping Capacity: 1-9 people
  • Price Range – $8,000-$170,000
Can Your Explorer Tow It?

As you can see from above, the specifications for campers of this type vary greatly. Trailers of this type can go from light to heavy, small to big, and relatively cheap to expensive.

Now, larger types of this trailer will probably be too big and heavy for the Ford Explorer to tow. However, there are still smaller, and cheaper options for this type of trailer.

Towable Trailer Example: 2020 Airstream Bambi 19cb

The 2020 Airstream Bambi 19cb is a towable trailer for the Ford Explorer, as long as you have the Classic III Towing Package for the camper.

Here are the specifications:

  • Weight: 3,650 lbs
  • Length: 19 feet
  • Sleeping Capacity: 1-4 people
  • Price Range – $53,234

Although a bit pricey, this relatively lightweight trailer offers a sleeping area for up to 4 people, which essentially means you can bring your small family to your camper.

This trailer has quite a few amenities, which include:

  • Small kitchen area
  • Separate toilet and shower rooms
  • Dining Area for 4

Of course, the biggest draw for this trailer is the capability to host 4 people, while still being a hard-shell camper so the camper is perfect for families who love to hike and camp.

Where to Buy Trailers

If you want to buy new trailers, then it would probably be best to head out to the dealership nearest you.

However, if you want to buy a used trailer, then it would probably be best t give out your email address to used trailer selling websites.

JUST MAKE SURE they are reliable sources.

Sellers would be able to reach out to you and give a comment. Name your price and hopefully strike a deal with them. Best of luck!

Final Take

The Ford Explorer is a wildly popular SUV and with good reason. Its capability to haul trailers for its size is unmatched.

With this information in mind, you now have the option to tow trailers with your Ford Explorer safely and securely, without damaging your car or your trailer.

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