Join Date: Jan 2012
Location: Arvada, CO
Car: 2005 Outback XT 5EAT: SSR Type C wheels, KYB struts, rear sway bar, exhaust tips, MC brace, MoMo shifter, tranny cooler, tow package
Feedback Score: 0 reviews
We have towed our pop top camper all over the Mountain West for years. You definitely don't want to skimp on brakes.
Get electronic brakes and a brake controller (offers more control, preferred for campers) or hydraulic surge brakes (preferred for wet applications like boat trailers) for your camper.
You're talking about adding another 50%+ more weight to the maximum gross vehicle weight of your car. You can't expect the vehicle's stock brakes to stop that much weight safely. There are physical reasons for why trailer brakes are required above the vehicle's lower limit. Even with trailer brakes, your stopping distances are going to increase substantially.
Read up on towing capacity, tow load balancing and braking before you commit to a trailer.
Here are the basic tow capacity formulas:
Gross vehicle weight = curb weight + payload capacity
Gross combined vehicle weight = curb weight + payload capacity + net trailer weight.
Net trailer weight = gross trailer weight - tongue weight.
You subtract the tongue weight from the gross trailer weight because it is carried by the car's suspension - you don't want to double-count it.
We have a 2005 XT. As an example on our car, we're looking at a gross vehicle weight of ~3500 + 900 = ~4400#
Net trailer weight = ~2100 - 200 = 1900#
Combined vehicle weight = 4400 + 1900 = ~6300#.
Our car has a maximum tow rating of 2700#. This implies that the maximum combined vehicle weight for our car with trailer brakes is about #6900.
You don't mention where you want to go. Mountain terrain requires that you go conservative on your figures. Don't buy a trailer that maxes out your vehicle if you're going to tow at altitude. In fact, I wouldn't advise buying a trailer that maxes out your vehicle under any circumstances.
Tow load balancing:
Notice also that you have to reduce the car's payload by the tongue weight. In other words, our car has a payload capacity of 900#, but the 200# of tongue load has to come off that, otherwise you'll overload the car's suspension.
The tongue load should also be 8-10% of the trailer's gross weight, otherwise the trailer won't track well. Since our cars have a 200# tongue weight limit, that implies a maximum trailer weight of ~2500#. Pushing the limit with a 3000# trailer and a 200# tongue weight is about as far as I would go. Stability in cross winds will suffer.
The Outback makes a fine towing vehicle as long as you respect its limits. I love being able to drive a vehicle that tows our camper and hauls our stuff but still handles like a car, not a snow-plow. Engine power matters, engine/transmission cooling capacity matters, braking capacity matters, weight distribution matters, trailer cross-section area matters (a pop-top camper will be fine). You need to look at the whole picture.
Hope this helps, and good luck with your shopping,