The most important factor when choosing an SUV for towing a boat is to know how much your boat and trailer weigh together. As a quick rule of thumb, the average 21-foot boat trailer is between 500 and 1,000 lbs, while most boats in this size range hover in the 4,000 to 5,000 lbs bracket. This means you'll want SUV that is rated to tow between 4,500 and 6,000 lbs in total — a number that takes you out of the mid-size segment and pushes you towards a fullsize hauler. There are a lot of options out there to satisfy your towing needs, which means you don't have to park a pickup truck in your driveway just to get to the lake or ocean in the summer. Let's take a quick look at the 10 best SUVs for towing a boat.
10 Best SUVs for Towing a Boat
Photo Credit: General Motors
1) 2016 Chevrolet Tahoe — 8,600 lb Tow Capacity
The 2016 Chevrolet Tahoe (and its long-wheelbase sibling, the Chevrolet Suburban) is a competent SUV that can easily haul your boat regardless of its size. An available tow package allows the up-to-9-passenger Chevrolet Tahoe to pull as much as 8,600 lbs (with a slightly lower rating for 4-wheel drive models), and a 5.3-liter V8 that generates 355 horsepower and 383 lb-ft of torque is standard across all trim levels. If you move up to LT and LTZ editions of the Tahoe, you also get a locking rear differential, which will help you find traction when pulling the boat and trailer up and out of the water.
Photo Credit: Ford
2) 2016 Ford Expedition — 9,200 lb Tow Capacity
The 2016 Ford Expedition features a 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6 that brings substantial performance thanks to the 365 horses and 420 lb-ft of torque that are now standard with the Ford Expedition. The 8-passenger Expedition can lug 9,200 lbs of boat and trailer, and 4-wheel drive is also available with the fullsize SUV. Dedicated tow fans can opt for a load-leveling suspension system out back to help keep the Ford flat.
3) 2017 Nissan Armada — 8,500 lb Tow Capacity
The 2017 Nissan Armada is an old soldier in the towing wars, but that doesn't mean it's not an effective SUV for pulling your boat. The fully redesigned Nissan Armada's sturdy construction and 5.6-liter V8 engine give it enough strength to tow 8,500 lbs. The Armada features 390 horsepower and 401 lb-ft of torque right out of the box. The latest version of Nissan’s flagship SUV goes on sale in the summer of 2016.
Photo Credit: Dodge
4) 2016 Dodge Durango — 7,400 lb Tow Capacity
The 2016 Dodge Durango is a big SUV that breaks from tradition by shirking body-on-frame construction in favor of a more car-like unibody platform. That means the Dodge Durango is able to pair a more comfortable ride with its respectable boat towing ability. If you stick with the SUV's base 3.6-liter, 290-horsepower V6 you'll be looking at a maximum trailer load of 6,200 lbs, which is definitely adequate for boat duty. If you're seeking more, then the Durango's optional 5.7-liter Hemi V8 adds 360 horsepower and 390 lb-ft of torque to the equation, bumping max towing to 7,400 lbs. 4-wheel drive can also be ordered with the 7-passenger Dodge.
5) 2016 Toyota Sequoia — 7,400 lb Tow Capacity
The 2016 Toyota Sequoia leverages the strength of the fullsize Tundra pickup's platform, giving large SUV shoppers the advantage of a smooth-riding independent rear suspension as well as 8-passenger seating. The Toyota Sequoia also offers big under-the-hood performance in the form of a 5.7-liter V8 engine that develops 381 horsepower and 401 lb-ft of torque (which can be paired with the option of 4-wheel drive). If you stick with 2-wheel drive, you'll enjoy 7,400 lbs of towing capacity, while 4-wheel drive drops that number somewhat to a still-useful 7,100 lbs.
Photo Credit: General Motors
6) 2016 GMC Acadia — 5,200 lb Tow Capacity
The 2016 GMC Acadia probably isn't the first thought in most people's minds when considering which SUV they should use for towing a boat. That's unfortunate, because this comfortable fullsize people mover (which also comes in the luxurious Denali edition) offers a towing package that boosts its trailering ability to 5,200 lbs. All versions of the GMC Acadia are motivated by a 288-horsepower, 3.6-liter V6 (that's also good for 270 lb-ft of torque), and all-wheel drive is available with the SUV. The car-based, 8-passenger Acadia is also notable for its easy-to-drive nature and sedan-like comfort.
Photo Credit: FCA Media
7) 2016 Jeep Grand Cherokee — 7,400 lb Tow Capacity
The 2016 Jeep Grand Cherokee is often lauded for its off-road skills, and for the considerable charms offered in the cabins of its more upscale trim levels, but it also happens to be a good SUV choice for towing a boat. The midsize, 5-passenger Jeep Grand Cherokee's standard 3.6-liter V6 engine (which offers 293 horsepower), provides 6,200 lbs of towing capacity, while opting for either of the Jeep's 3.0-liter turbodiesel V6 (240 horsepower, 420 lb-ft of torque) or 5.7-liter Hemi V8 (360 horsepower, 390 lb-ft of torque) engine options improves that figure to 7,400 lbs. Even the high performance Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT leverages its 475 horsepower to deliver 7,200 lbs of towing capacity (and 4-wheel drive is either standard, or optional across the entire Grand Cherokee lineup).
Photo Credit: Lincoln
8) 2016 Lincoln Navigator — 9,000 lb Tow Capacity
The 2016 Lincoln Navigator makes our list of the best SUVs for towing a boat by virtue of the fact that mechanically, it's identical to the 8-passenger Ford Expedition. This means that the Lincoln Navigator sports the same 3.5-liter, twin-turbo EcoBoost V6 (although in this case it's tuned to deliver 380 horses and 460 lb-ft of torque), along with available 4-wheel drive and a towing capacity of 9,000 lbs. The biggest difference between the Expedition and the Navigator, aside from price, is in the luxury department, with the Lincoln providing a full slate of comfort features and advanced safety equipment for premium shoppers.
Photo Credit: Cadillac
9) 2016 Cadillac Escalade — 8,300 lb Tow Capacity
The 2016 Cadillac Escalade continues the theme of adding luxury to an established SUV platform to create a cushy boat-towing SUV option. The Cadillac Escalade rides on the same platform as the Chevrolet Tahoe, but in addition to its considerably upgraded cabin, the 8-passenger Escalade also features a generous up-size in the engine bay. A 6.2-liter V8 is standard with the sport utility vehicle, and its 420 horsepower and 460 lb-ft of torque give the Escalade a maximum tow rating of 8,300 lbs. You can get 4-wheel drive with the Cadillac, too.
Photo Credit: Infiniti
10) 2016 Infiniti QX80 — 8,300 lb Tow Capacity
Like the Acadia, the 2016 Infiniti QX80 is another boat-towing SUV dark horse, which is a real shame given that this fullsize 8-passenger beast has one of the nicest passenger compartments in the industry. 400 horsepower and 413 lb-ft of twist are included free of charge with every version of the Infiniti QX80 thanks to its 5.6-liter V8 engine, and these boisterous figures ensure a towing capacity of 8,300 lbs — more than enough for even over-sized boats. 4-wheel drive can be added as an option to the QX80.