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4 Runner vs Tundra as a Travel Trailer Tow Vehicle

4 Runner vs Tundra as a Travel Trailer Tow Vehicle

So now we’ve towed our Lance 1685 over 10,000 miles with both a Toyota 4 runner, 6 cylinder and a Toyota Tundra V8 monster pickup truck.  Which tow vehicle is better?  We defected from our beloved 4 Runner to the monster Tundra earlier this year.

All the way to Chaco Canyon! We made it!

All the way to Chaco Canyon! We made it!

We started towing our 3800 lb net/4800 lb gross Lance 1685 travel trailer with our 2006 6 cylinder Toyota 4 Runner – over 10,000 miles, out west (BIG mountain passes) and back to the Midwest and LOVED every minute.  But this year we replaced the 10 year old 4 Runner with a 2016 Tundra.  Why?  Because the 4 Runner was 10 years old and we replace vehicles every 10 years.

A sad day in history ... our trusty 4 Runner is traded for a new Tundra. :(

A sad day in history. Our trusty 4 Runner is traded for a “new” 800 mile used Tundra. 🙁

Having said that, there IS a difference … here are the biggest differences we notice in our first 10,000 miles with the Tundra (again, out west and back to the Midwest).

Pros and Cons of our 4 Runner vs. our Tundra

1.  The 4 Runner got slightly better overall gas mileage – maybe 10-11 mpg over our 10,000 miles, but had a 22 gallon gas tank.  So every 200 miles we were looking for a gas station.  The Tundra with the larger gas tank (38 gallons) has averaged 10.2 mpg so far from Illinois through SD, ND, MT (Glacier Nat’l Park), Yellowstone Nat’l Park and now to Grand Tetons Nat’l Park.  So we get almost 400 miles per tank or double the distance between looking for gas stations.  The difference takes on much more importance during long stretches out west with few or no gas stations.


2.  Having said that … the difference NOT towing since we don’t have a dedicated tow vehicle is HUGE!  21-22 mpg for the 4 Runner vs 15 for the Tundra – UGH!

3.  There’s no denying the power difference in the 6 cylinder vs the 8 cylinder for acceleration when necessary to get around a slow moving vehicle.

4.  We were always conscious of the trailer behind the 4 Runner.  With the Tundra we have to be mindful not to forget it’s back there, even in a crosswind.untitled-1736

5.  Semi-truck’s whizzing past on the interstate inevitably caused the 4 Runner to be buffeted by the wind.  The Tundra, not nearly as much.  And speaking of wind – with a crosswind of 30-40 driving through western Kansas, we were thankful for the Tundra’s weight keeping us in line.

6.  We LOVE throwing all our stinky soggy hiking (or whatever) stuff in the pickup truck bed and not smelling it all the way home.


7.  Both trucks use the same Fastway E2 weight distribution hitch – we had to move it down a couple notches to accommodate the Tundra’s higher bumper, but we were able to use the same hitch and sway bars with no trouble.  Bonus!

8.  Despite the fact that the 4 Runner had a factory tow package rated to 5000 pounds and extra cooling on the transmission, David always worried about the toll that the strain of pulling almost 5000 pounds would put on the 4 Runner.  We never had any trouble, but he was concerned enough to want a half ton pickup rather than another 4 Runner.

Did we mention the washboard dirt road leading to Chaco Canyon?

Did we mention the washboard dirt road leading to Chaco Canyon?

9.  PRICE!  Trading vehicles for our 10 year exchange, we looked at 4 Runners first.  The 2006 was the 2nd 4 Runner we’d owned and we love them.  But new 4 Runner’s cost as much (or more) than a similarly equipped Tundra. Tundras have better tow capabilities.  Plus we were lucky enough to find a discounted “used” Tundra with only 800 miles – so we got a “deal we couldn’t refuse”.  Nuff said.

10.  An aside… when we can’t find a picnic table, the back tailgate of the Tundra makes for a great picnic – perched and legs dangling!


11.  More space … with the full size crew cab and short bed, the Tundra has far more space (and weight carrying capability) than the 4 Runner.  Lucky for us, the prior owner of our “used” Tundra had already gone to the expense of a bedliner, almost waterproof rollback aluminum bed cover and running boards.  Now we have a place to put our Honda 2000 generator, gravity chairs and other “stuff” that doesn’t involve finding somewhere inside the travel trailer.  UGH – I always HATED having that stinky gasoline generator in my shower inside the trailer… and we didn’t like carrying it in the back of the 4 Runner.  Nothing that we didn’t manage with the 4 Runner….. but ….


12.  9.6 inch ground clearance for the 4 Runner … versus the Tundra at around 11 inches – doesn’t sound like much, but feels like much more.  Plus, our 4 Runner wasn’t set up with skid plates and other off road must haves because we didn’t buy it originally to pull a travel trailer, just a sailboat, and never on dirt/gravel roads.  It is possible the 4 Runner was more nimble on our version of offroads, which was more like dirt/rock/uneven roads, not exactly cross country.


So bottom line … which is better?  For us, it all depends on what we have.  David said I couldn’t have a new truck when we bought our Lance 1685 travel trailer 2 years ago.  So we had to find a travel trailer that we could pull with our 2006 4 Runner, 6 cylinder.  And we did … for more than 10,000 miles, across the USA … from the east coast to the four corners of Utah/Arizona.  When it was time for a new truck, we opted to spend less for more truck … the Tundra.  Both trucks were right for us at that particular time.

No right or wrong answer.  Please leave a comment and share your thoughts.  Cheers!  Jan





  1. Good Morning from central Texas, we are long time RVers. We have a 6cyl tundra and want to get back into being “on the road again” the truck is in great shape,four door and big enough for our dogs to ride comfortably in,so i don’t want to trade, besides its paid for. haha. How much weight can we pull? SAFELY thank you.

    • Hi Skip & Gayle! It’s not possible to say exactly what the towing capacity for a 6 cyl Tundra without knowing much more information. Online it says that towing capacity for a 6 cyl Tundra is 4800-5200 lbs. There should be a sticker inside your driver side door with info on it for your specific truck – ours is a white sticker and the 2nd line states the GVWR for our particular truck. You’ll want to check to see that you have a transmission cooler. Also a brake controller and we like our Fastway E2 weight distribution hitch with 600# round sway bars. Be careful with payload for your truck – remember it includes trailer tongue weight. I’m guessing you won’t be able to pull more than our old 4 Runner which was 5000 lbs gross – we guessed at 1000 lbs for our stuff which meant a 4000 lb dry weight trailer – our Lance 1685 was 3700# dry weight so we were marginally “safe”. If you haven’t already seen it, be sure to read my post on “The Dark Side of Towing with a 4 Runner”. Just a caution from another Lance trailer owner. Be safe! Jan

  2. Hi,

    I have enjoyed reading these posts. Brand new to RVing. Am hauling a new T@B 400 with a ’16 4Runner Limited. All the weight and hauling capacity numbers have me a bit nervous. One thing is for sure, you can’t trust the RV salesman to give you accurate info! More like – “Oh yeah! No problem! That 4Runner can go anywhere with that little trailer in tow!” Well, I crossed the Rockies and was in the slow lane a lot of the time! I do love my T@B 400 and I do love my 4Runner, so I’m going to keep trying to make it work without too much worrying. I don’t want to stress the 4Runner. I just have to get used to going slow!

  3. We are planning moving from tent trailer to Lance 1575 towed with new 4 Runner. This is 900 lbs lighter dry and shorter than your 1658. What are your thoughts on this. We don’t want to rely on opinion of Auto salesmen.

    • Hi Don! It sounds like you should be happy campers with the 4 Runner/1575 combination. “New 4 Runners” come factory equipped many different ways. Be sure to check the sticker on the inside of the driver’s door and know your cargo and towing weights for your particular 4 Runner. You’ll also want to make sure you have an extra transmission cooler, adequate suspension and a weight distribution hitch with sway bars. Enjoy & happy camping! Jan

  4. Hello Jan,
    I followed your suggestion and made my way over here from the 4Runner blog. Also took a quick look at your Pinterest postings. Amazing adventures!

    A great recommendation to be transmission equipped when towing. Although it seems a tow hitch is standard on the 4Runner, from your experience the tranny cooler may not be. I found when choosing the Grand Cherokee the factory tow option not only includes a hitch but also adds several other critical items – Heavy Duty Cooling, 4 and 7 pin connectors and Load Leveling Rear Suspension to name a few. Without the factory tow package the vehicle is severely limited with a max towing rating of 3500lbs/350 Hitch Wt. I’m seeing that many SUV manufacturers place similar limits on vehicles without the FACTORY TOW OPTION. I had one dealer tell me they could add the option but this is contrary to what the MFR says and failures will not be covered by the warranty if towing related problem occur.

    Our 1685 will happen as soon as the boat hits the market. Wife doesn’t want a “Toy” collection and we’ve pretty much cruised the Puget Sound… It’s time to cruise the country 🙂

    Really enjoying reading of your travels….. Ken

    • Hi Ken! We bought our 1685 a couple years BEFORE we sold our Passport 37 sailboat… just to make sure we wouldn’t regret our decision to travel via land yacht vs exploring the Caribbean via sailboat. 🙂 THANKS for reading! Cheers! Jan

  5. I”m glad you are towing with the Tundra now. I’m guessing you were really bumping up against or even over the 550lb tongue weight limit of the Four Runner fully loaded, especially with those bikes up there. Good to hear you like your Lance! We have a 1995 we are enjoying.

    • Hi Jeremiah! We’re glad too! It’s just nice to know we’re not living SO close to the edge of safety! But we loved our 4 Runner. Next month we’ll find out how the Tundra does on dirt roads exploring SW Texas and New Mexico! Cheers! Jan

    • Buying a new Lance 1985 and towing it with 2017 4Runner TRD Pro. Air bags, electric brake controller & weight distribution hitch. May not go fast, but will go safe.

  6. Wondergul blog! Do you have any suggestions for aspiring writers?
    I’m hoping to start my owwn blog soon bbut I’m a little lost on everything.
    Would you recommend starting with a free platform like WordPress or go foor a paid option? There are so many
    choices out there that I’m completely overwhelmed ..

    Any recommendations? Many thanks!

    • Hi Karry! First you’ll need to decide if your blog is just for fun or you hope to make some money (or break even). Going for a free site is good when you first start, that’s what I did years ago when all I was trying to do was keep family & friends informed on our travels. Currently for I’m using WordPress with the Elegant Themes/Explorable child theme. You’ll need a URL for your site, which will cost a bit and somewhere to house the site (entry level companies are like BlueHost, HostGator, GoDaddy etc – you’ll have to do the research to find out which is currently the best). Writing a blog for profit, is more than a full time job if that’s what you’re interested in for your blog – my friends that do blogs for profit literally have several new posts per week, fancy newsletters, social media support – i.e. active Facebook & Pinterest campaigns and more. Good luck & ENJOY! Cheers — Jan

  7. Have a Lance. 1685 which I purchased two weeks ago to pull behind my 4Runner V 8. How do I know if the 4Runner came with a transmission cooling feature. It had the factory receiver hitch which was bolted to the rear crossmember.


    • Hi Jonathan! First of all, CONGRATULATIONS on your Lance 1685! I’m sipping coffee in our 1685 dinette, watching the bay. Gorgeous morning! We found out about our transmission cooler when we went to a Toyota dealer for something else. We asked them to check. I’m not sure if you could call Toyota & they could tell you based on your VIN number? Other than that, stop by your dealer and ask? Good luck & ENJOY! Cheers – Jan

  8. @ Cathy Davis,

    I’d recommend having an external transmission cooler installed on your 4Runner. It’s very cheap (a few hundred $)insurance that could prevent very expensive transmission damage (likely thousand+$)
    It’s that little grade when your 4runner can’t quite find the gear it likes, so it’s constantly shifting up/down, which makes heat… transmissions don’t like heat.

    I’m going to buy a Lance 1685 in about 20 minutes (wooooo hoooo!) and I’ll be adding a tranny cooler to my Tundra, cuz why not?

    • Congratulations Bruce on your Lance 1685! Great place to live, we LOVE ours! Enjoy! Cheers — Jan & David

      • Thank you Jan,

        Signed the papers and we pick it up Saturday, very excited!

        My wife and I have been talking about getting a trailer for awhile, and the plan started as a used tent trailer for a few thousand, to be towed with our V6 4Runner.
        Then I got the Tundra and decided since I can tow a little more weight it would be nice not to have to mess with a pop-up.

        Still not quite sure how that Craigslist pop-up turned into a 2017 Lance 1685!!

        I kinda’ went with the ol’ “Can’t take it with you” adage, except now that we’ll have a comfy new trailer… maybe you can take it with you!

        I’ve really enjoyed reading about your adventures, your blog is very well written and informative… Thank you.

        Stop by the campsite and say hi when you come out west!


        • Hi Bruce! Where are you going to be? PM me at jan at trailertraveler dot net. 🙂 We love meeting new friends! Cheers! Jan & David

  9. I’m picking up my new 2017 1685 tomorrow and have a 2015 4-Runner. Getting weight distribution system and already have electric brakes. The 4-Runner has a tow hitch but no factory towing package. Am I’m going to damage the transmission by not having an extra cooling component on it for towing? I’ve never towed a travel trailer and am worried that I’m going to mess up my 4-Runner transmission.

    • Hi Cathy! We had the transmission cooler on our 4 Runner and wouldn’t have been comfortable driving in mountains/hills without it. Wear & tear on your transmission can be brutal – but maybe not if you’re not towing frequently, long distances and/or mountains/hills. Enjoy your new 1685! We’re getting ready to leave Monday to head 1000 miles south for our 1st “snowbird” winter, where hopefully we can start wearing shorts again, instead of low 30’s at night for the next few nights here in central Illinois! Cheers! Jan

      • Thanks for replying so quickly. I’ll take it slow and easy. Picking up TT tomorrow and have a 3+ hour drive back to the house. The beginning of the drive is in the mountains, very hilly and crooked 4-lane, but luckily no long grades up or down, just a gradual decent. I hope I don’t damage my transmisson. Do I need to stop and let it cool down?

        • Unfortunately that question is above my pay grade. Maybe ask at the dealership where you bought the Lance? Enjoy your new Lance 1685! Ours is packed ready to head 1000 miles south to Florida starting Monday! Cannot WAIT! 🙂

  10. Great pros and cons Jan. Like a boat nothing is perfect. We enjoyed our new to us 4Runner towing about 9K miles this summer. A step up from the trusty Highlander which got us everywhere we wanted too.

    • Hi Pam (and Bob!) — I’m guessing the difference between the Highlander & 4 Runner (with your ALiner) is similar to what we’re experiencing with the Tundra and our little heavier Lance. We loved our 4 Runner but the new to us Tundra was a better deal. Enjoy that 4 Runner! Cheers — Jan

  11. I am thinking you are much safer on the road towing with the tundra.

    • Hi MaryAnn! The Tundra feels safer at times! Cheers! Jan

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