Wondering what tow car to buy? Well, if you want to tow a large, heavy caravan you need a big tow car. A hefty new 4×4, estate or MPV won’t come cheap, but there are some real bargains to be had on the secondhand market. Here are my favourite big used tow cars with surprisingly small price tags.
Hyundai Santa Fe (2006-2012)
The old-shape Hyundai Santa Fe was an excellent tow car. If the budget allows it’s worth going for one of the later cars with the 2.2-litre diesel engine, with its extra power and torque and improved economy compared with the older 2.9-litre engine.
We tested the Santa Fe at the Tow Car Awards back in 2011, and asked the question: “Which other car offers seven seats, a lot of standard equipment and the power to pull heavy twin-axle vans, all for £23,000?”
Three years on, you won’t have to find anything like £23k to own one. According to our colleagues on What Car?, expect to pay around £12,385 for a 40,000-mile, 60-plate 2.2 Style seven-seat manual.
Hyundai Santa Fe 2.2 CRDi Style 7st
- Used price £12,385 (60-plate, 40,000 miles)
- Kerbweight 1961kg
- 85% match 1667kg
- Legal towing limit 2500kg
- Towball limit 100kg
Kia Sedona (2006-2012)
Think Kia and you probably think of the Sorento 4×4, but I’ve always preferred the Sedona MPV. It may not have four-wheel drive, but it’s a much roomier car than the Sorento, and I have found it to be more stable when towing.
As with the Santa Fe, I’d be inclined to go for one of the later cars with the superior 2.2-litre diesel engine, but there’s no doubt an earlier car in good condition is an absolute bargain, with prices for the 2.9 diesel starting from under £4000.
Whatever the engine, the Sedona has lots of space inside. The seats are arranged in a 2-3-2 formation, and the second and third rows slide back and forth, fold and can be removed completely. You need to find somewhere to store them, though – I much prefer seats which simply fold away like a Ford Galaxy‘s. But then the Ford doesn’t match the Kia’s kerbweight or power.
Kia Sedona 2.2 CRDi ‘3’ Auto
- Used price £11,790 (60-plate, 40,000 miles)
- Kerbweight 2287kg
- 85% match 1944kg
- Legal towing limit 2000kg
- Towball limit 85kg
Jaguar XJ (2003-2009)
I have to admit to an unhealthy obsession with the previous generation Jaguar XJ. It’s one of my favourite cars, both for towing and regular driving, and you can now pick up one of these luxury saloons for less than you’d pay for a new city car. I’ve seen early, high-mileage diesels advertised for less than £6000.
Back in 2008 we tested the 2.7 TDVi Sport Premium at the Tow Car Awards, and raved about its stability, performance and luxury. “The XJ combines unflappable stability with limousine comfort. The 2.7-litre diesel musters 204bhp and 321lb ft of torque, enough to punch car and caravan from 30-60mph in 12 seconds. The engine is so smooth and quiet that it’s easy to miss how quickly you’re travelling.”
Compared with the Hyundai or Kia, the Jaguar is obviously more cramped inside. Rear legroom in particular is limited for such a large car. But boot space is surprisingly generous so long as you don’t need to carry any tall items.
Jag’s reliability has been improving over the past 10 years or so, but some owners do report electrical problems with the XJ. I’d find a car that’s been serviced on time, every time and would invest in a warranty.
Jaguar XJ 2.7 TDVi Sport Premium
- Used price £12,145 (57-plate, 70,000 miles)
- Kerbweight 1734kg
- 85% match 1474kg
- Legal towing limit 1900kg
- Towball limit 76kg
Mercedes-Benz R-Class (2006-2012)
The German prestige brands keep on finding new niches and splicing together different kinds of car to make something different. The Mercedes-Benz R-Class is one of the less successful examples of this approach, at least in sales terms.
It probably doesn’t help that the R-Class looks so bloated and ungainly. Get beyond its appearance, though, and the R-Class is actually a very capable car. Part SUV, part MPV, part limo, the big Merc is a quirky but practical car with space for up to seven and the weight and power to make a good match for big twin-axle tourers.
The three-pointed star normally guarantees strong resale values, but the oddball R-Class is the exception which proves the rule. You can find early high-mileage cars for under £8000.
One of the four-wheel-drive versions makes an unusual, upmarket and capable heavyweight tow car.
Mercedes-Benz R320 CDI SE
- Used price £14,265 (09-plate, 60,000 miles)
- Kerbweight 2195kg
- 85% match 1866kg
- Legal towing limit 2100kg
- Towball limit 85kg
There are some real bargains to be had on the secondhand market