Looking for a second-hand car to tow your caravan, boat, horsebox or trailer? These are our pick of the best used tow cars on the market.
10. Mazda CX-5 (2012-2017)
The CX-5 is one of the most enjoyable SUVs from the driver’s seat, and its firm ride and sharp handling translate into stable towing when you hitch up a caravan or trailer. Our first choice would be one of the four-wheel-drive diesels, ideally the 175bhp model which has plenty of pulling power for towing. The petrol could do with a bit more poke, so the lower-powered diesel would be our second pick.
Whichever model you go for, the CX-5 makes a practical five-seater, with lots of space for your holiday luggage. The Mazda has performed well in owner satisfaction and reliability surveys, so you can buy with confidence.
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9. Volvo XC90 (2002-2014)
The current Volvo XC90 gets a lot of praise but at the time the original XC90 was a bigger leap forward. The Volvo was one of the first big 4x4s to combine sensible running costs, MPV-like practicality, and a road-focused driving experience. It was – and is – a cracking buy.
Used prices are sensible, so you don’t need especially deep pockets to buy or run the big Volvo. It’s a very impressive tow car as well as a brilliant all-round family SUV. Perhaps the XC90 is not quite as stable at high speed as a Land Rover Discovery, but we’d be happy to hitch up the Volvo and tow a caravan from one end of the country to the other.
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8. Honda CR-V (2012-2018)
Are you in the market for a reliable, practical, no-nonsense SUV? Then you want a Honda CR-V.
It’s not the most exciting car to look at or to drive. But it very rarely goes wrong, there are lots of used examples to choose from, and the cabin is roomy for people and their luggage.
With a trailer or caravan behind it, the CR-V is stable and secure unless the wind really picks up. We’d pick a 2.2 diesel for towing. It offers more punch than the 1.6 diesel. However, if you own a lightweight trailer or caravan you may prefer the 1.6 for its better fuel economy.
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7. Citroën Grand C4 Picasso (2014-2018)
A big 4×4 may be the obvious choice for towing duties, but a good MPV can do the job well, too. And the Grand C4 Picasso is a very good MPV.
The ‘Grand’ bit of the name tells you that there’s room for seven inside. Space might be a bit tight in the third row, but elsewhere there’s plenty of room and the cabin is packed with useful features and practical touches.
Being front-wheel drive means you’ll need to take care making hill starts in wet weather, but otherwise the Citroën makes a very capable tow car. It’s also good value as a used buy.
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6. Land Rover Discovery 4 (2009-2017)
Find a good one and keep your fingers crossed that nothing breaks, and you could argue the previous-generation Land Rover Discovery is the best used tow car of the lot. The trouble is, they do sometimes break and high resale values make the Discovery a relatively expensive buy.
Even so, we’d be very tempted. The Discovery 4 is exceptionally stable, helped by a kerbweight of more than 2.5 tonnes. At high speeds, in cross winds, on all kinds of roads, the Discovery keeps its trailer or caravan firmly under control.
What’s more, the hugely roomy seven-seat cabin makes this one of the most practical tow cars around.
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5. BMW 5 Series Touring (2017-)
The latest 5 Series Touring is only just appearing on the used market, and prices are firm. However, it deserves a place on this list because it is just so good.
As a tow car, the 5 Series is superb. Stability at speed and in emergency manoeuvres is beyond reproach. The 520d combines strong performance with fuel efficiency, while the 530d trades some economy for even stronger acceleration, even when pulling a heavy caravan or trailer.
If you tow all year round, seek out an xDrive 4×4 version. The improved traction is a big plus, especially when towing on a damp slipway or across a muddy field.
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4. Vauxhall Insignia (2009-2017)
As a used car, the Insignia is an absolute bargain. You’ll get more for your money with an Insignia than just about any other car on this list.
The Insignia has more going for it than its low second-hand price. It feels very secure with a caravan or trailer in tow, even at the motorway speed limit. There’s a wide choice of engines and the more powerful diesels in particularly can handle the strain of towing well.
It’s not as roomy inside as a Skoda Superb and it doesn’t handle with the verve of a Ford Mondeo, but the Insignia cruises quietly and tackles everyday driving with an honest competence.
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3. Skoda Yeti (2009-2017)
Not everyone has a huge caravan or a double horsebox to pull. If you own a smaller caravan or a lightweight trailer the Skoda Yeti has an awful lot going for it.
The Yeti may be one of the smallest and lightest cars on this list, but it tows a small caravan very well indeed. The least powerful petrol models may have their work cut out, but the 2.0-litre diesel models are strong and gutsy. The 4×4 versions in particular make fine four-season tow cars.
Low running costs, affordable used prices, a practical cabin and an entertaining drive make the Yeti a very strong all-rounder.
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2. Ford Mondeo (2014-)
The Mondeo makes an excellent used buy. It’s not quite in the same bargain basement as the Vauxhall Insignia, but it’s certainly reached the ground floor. And it’s a considerably better car.
When the current Mondeo arrived in 2014, Ford added comfort and refinement to the old car’s driver appeal. Perhaps a little of the old-shape Mondeo’s sharpness was lost, but the Ford still handles more keenly than most family cars.
It’s a fine tow car, too, with a wide engine line up and impressive high-speed stability.
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1. Kia Sorento (2015-)
The original Sorento was immensely popular with caravanners, but today’s model is an altogether more accomplished car. The 2.2-litre diesel has plenty of pulling power, and the car’s size and weight make it a good match for large caravans and heavy trailers.
At speed the Sorento is stable, albeit not in the same league as a Land Rover Discovery. But then just consider the gulf in price between the two – the Sorento is good value as a new car and even better as a used buy.
With a seven-seat cabin, lots of equipment, and a seven-year warranty from new (or when bought as approved used), the Sorento is our favourite used tow car.
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