Trucks are great for a lot of things: durability, storage, offroading, and towing. Towing opens up a whole new world of transportation possibilities, but just how much can your Tacoma tow? For this article, we are going to focus on third-generation Tacos (2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, & 2020) and discover what these trucks can handle.
The stats from the factory list these trucks to have a towing capacity of 3,500lbs with the 2.7l four-cylinder engine, and 6,800lbs with the 3.5l V6 and the towing package.
What is the Toyota Tacoma Tow Package?
While the 2020 model is changing things up a bit with what is standard and what is optional, the optional Tow Package for the third generation Tacoma includes a class-IV towing hitch receiver, transmission cooler, power steering cooler, a beefier 130-amp alternator, 4 and 7-pin connector with converter, and a Trailer-Sway Control.
Why is all of that important? From the factory, trucks are designed to haul some stuff in the bed and do well without pavement. Anytime you add substantial weight behind your truck, regardless of the make or model, your truck has to work harder. The engine and transmission have to work harder, the alternator has to draw more power, and all this causes heat. Added cooling and more electrical power are necessary to allow your truck to pull the most it can, and safely. All of these features can be added to your truck with aftermarket parts, but Toyota offers exactly what the truck needs to perform the best it can.
On that note, to be safe, you have to make sure you have the right setup on your hitch to tow the right load. You need to consider your “tongue weight” or “tongue load.” Tongue load is the static force a trailer tongue puts on the hitch ball.
For example, the 2019 Tacoma has a rated tongue load of 350 pounds on the four-cylinder trucks, and between 640 pounds to 680 pounds on the V6. A proper tongue load, or weight, is about 10 to 15 percent of the total loaded trailer weight. If your Tacoma is rated at a towing capacity of 6,800lbs, 10 percent of that is 680. So your tongue load/weight needs to be 680 pounds.
There is so much more science that I could get into, but West Marine has an excellent article an all the mathematical details on how to select the proper hitch, ball, coupler, and just about all the other stuff you need. You can read the article here: Sizing Up Trailer Hitches and Couplers.
With all stats out of the way, what can you tow with your third-generation Toyota Tacoma? Can your Tacoma pull a boat? Yes. Can your Tacoma pull a camper? Yup. Can your Tacoma pull a horse trailer? You betcha! In short, Tacomas can pull all types of loads in or out of trailers. Once you do the math about what the weight of your load is and you have the proper equipment, you’re really only limited by local/federal laws and your skill.
Can A Tacoma Pull a 5th Wheel?
Some people have asked if you can use a Tacoma for fifth-wheel towing. Fifth wheel towing is a whole different animal. This counts more on the truck’s payload capacity, which for a third-generation Toyota Tacoma is 1,175 pounds on the short bed and 1,370 pounds on the long bed.
Payload capacity is what a truck can handle on its rear axle, and it’s important since fifth-wheel towing involves the mount for what you’re towing to be in the bed of the truck. In short, Toyota does not recommend it. People have done it, but you have to get creative with how you do it. It’s not a simple installation, but if there is a will, there is a way. I would recommend sticking with “traditional” towing when it comes to Tacomas. After all, they are built for that and build for it well.
You do have to keep some things in mind when you are towing: your handling and the way you have to drive will change dramatically, your gas mileage will go down, and your truck will be working harder.
If you have a proper factory or aftermarket tow package, the extra load on your drivetrain will be fine. If not, you could damage parts or overheat due to temperature increases. Your gas mileage will drop around or below about three miles per gallon less than what you currently get. Of course, that depends on the weight and the drag/aerodynamics of your load. Handling is obvious: you have a MUCH longer truck now. Sharp, last-minute turns at high speeds could cause a massive and very expensive spill, and wind can become your new worst enemy. You must drive with care when towing.
All in all, the Toyota Tacoma is a fantastic truck. It is extremely capable and reliable in almost any situation that you can throw at it. Towing is no exception. If you take care to adhere to all safety regulations and not exceed what your truck is rated for, our little Toyota Tacomas can really almost tow it all: campers, cars, boats, and more.