The Adventures of Airstream Mikie

Monday, February 22, 2010

FJ Cruiser vs. Tundra for Tow Vehicle?

Today I received an email asking to compare the Toyota FJ Cruiser (my previous tow vehicle) with the Toyota Tundra (current tow vehicle) when used with the Airstream Sport 17.

I would have answered the email directly, but the message was deleted because of a bug in Google's Tasks (no undelete option!), so I hope answering it here will help.

I got the FJ Cruiser because that's what was recommended to me by the Airstream sales rep. It is not an optimal solution, for several reasons...

1. The rear hatch on the FJ Cruiser can not be opened very far at all when still hitched up. The spare tire inhibits the opening to only about 8". I removed the spare and put it on the roof rack, but the hatch still can not be fully opened when hitched up. The door hits the tongue jack. I think the Airstream rep could not have been aware of this or he would not have made the recommendation.

2. The power of the FJ Cruiser is ok, but not great. Same for the brakes. So it's acceptable for towing the Sport 17, but if you are thinking of upgrading to a bigger Airstream, the FJ Cruiser will need to be replaced with a vehicle with a greater towing capacity.

3. The capacity of the FJ Cruiser is somewhat limited for hauling all the "stuff" you'll probably accumulate. If you want to carry a generator, it will take up a lot of the space in the cargo area. Check the GVWR of the FJ Cruiser. Then subtract the fully wet and stocked trailer weight (max 3500 lbs for the Sport 17) and there's not a lot of carrying capacity left especially when you consider margin for safety, occupants, etc.

4. The Tundra is more powerful and has better brakes, and a much higher towing capacity, and you'll feel much more comfortable towing compared to the FJ Cruiser.

5. If you are carrying a generator in the FJ Cruiser, you will have to carry a gasoline can (or propane tank) inside the vehicle, exposing yourself and occupants to the fumes. Not safe! With the Tundra, the generator fuel can be stored in the bed of the pickup, away from the passenger area.

Hope that helps!


  1. I have an '07 FJ Cruiser and just bought a 1959 Avion silver travel trailer. The FJ ally excels in off road and vehicle recovery and I've never got it stuck. I also love all the safety features and stability in bad weather. However, towing is another story. We have towed large round bales of hay and haven't felt that comfortable with it. Maybe adding stability bars on a tow rig would help the avion trailer towing? Or should I cut out and get a more heavy duty tow vehicle like you did?

    1. Get weight distribution hitch. I have a 31 ft airstream. I use a ford f150 to pull it. It's stable with the hitch attached proper.