What’s the difference between conventional and unconventional towing?

White 2020 Chevy Silverado tows a boat along a mountain ridge.

Conventional Vs. Unconventional Towing Capacities, and other Trailering FAQs

Many new vehicles offer tow capabilities, especially those in the popular pickup truck and SUV realms. But there are many different methods and types of towing. We decided to look into a few common towing questions, starting with the oft-wondered: what is the difference between conventional and unconventional towing?


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Conventional towing uses the tow ball of the vehicle, while unconventional towing tethers the load to the vehicle’s chassis or body. Conventional tow limits are actually far less than the vehicle’s real maximum towing capacity. However, these limits should always be honored unless one is using a safe, responsible unconventional towing method.

What is conventional towing?

As stated above, conventional towing utilizes the tow ball of the vehicle. Loads pulled must remain in compliance with the tow vehicle’s weight limits. Most pull-behind towing falls under this category, including any towing that utilizes a pintle hook, tow ball, or similar configuration involving a shank and receiver hitch.

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Are weight-distributing hitches for three-quarter ton pickups and larger classified as conventional or unconventional towing?

Weight-distributing hitches for three-quarter ton pickups and larger are classified under conventional towing.

What is the most common type of tow hitch?

Bumper pull, also known as drag or tagalong trailer, is the most common type of tow hitch. This method is where the trailer’s tongue fits over a ball hitch that juts out from the vehicle’s frame at the rear.

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What type of towing grants the best control to both the truck and trailer?

The 5th-wheel hitch method typically grants the best control of both the truck and trailer to the driver compared to other methods.

What is gooseneck towing?

Gooseneck towing is similar to the 5th-wheel method. The difference is that a gooseneck trailer slides over a ball hitch in the bed of the pickup truck. The fifth wheel attaches using a hinged plate hitch (which is the same type of hitch used by semitrucks). The benefit of the gooseneck method is that it adds more stability than a bumper pull.

Where can I find the tow specifications for my vehicle?

Towing specification info can often be found on a sticker attached to the inside of the driver’s door, and/or in your Owner’s Manual. It can also be tracked down on Google, though the previous methods should be relied on for the most accurate information.

A 2020 Chevy Silverado pulls a retro truck on a trailer

Posted in FAQs, Tips and Tricks