So after years of saving, fretting and self-justifying, you finally bought a boat. Maybe it's a ski boat ready to tow the kids around the lake, or a bass boat to spend weekends chasing devious fish. But whatever your boat is, at some point you're going to need to tow it. Here are 12 SUVs and trucks that will do the job. We've grouped them by vehicle type and then ranked them from lowest to highest tow rating. For the complete view of what you need to know before you buy the perfect boat tower, read, "How To Buy a Vehicle To Haul Your Boat."
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The Midsize V6 SUV: 2016 Toyota 4Runner
While virtually all its direct competition has evolved into carlike crossovers, Toyota's 4Runner remains a full-frame midsize SUV. And whether equipped with two- or four-wheel drive, it's rated to tow up to 5,000 pounds. Opting for four-wheel drive will bring with it the bonus of immense off-road ability. Get a boat hauler and you get a trail boss in the bargain.
Equipped with Toyota's 4.0-liter V6 rated at 270 horsepower, the 4Runner isn't going to win any drag races. But Toyota's well-earned reputation for quality is also part of the deal.
The Midsize V8 SUV: 2016 Dodge Durango
The Durango doesn't have a full frame underneath it, but it has the advantage of available V8 power. And when equipped with the 360-hp 5.7-liter Hemi and its accompanying six-speed automatic transmission, a rear-wheel-drive Durango can tow up to 7,400 pounds. That's more than enough for practically any pleasure boat. With all-wheel drive, that maximum tow number only drops 200 pounds to 7,200.
If the V8 Durango seems like overkill, the lower-grade models powered by the standard 290-hp, 3.6-liter V6 and its eight-speed transmission can lug up to 6,200 pounds.
The Midsize Diesel SUV: 2016 Jeep Grand Cherokee
Structurally, the Jeep Grand Cherokee is closely related to the Dodge Durango and is available with the same gasoline-fired V6 and Hemi V8 engines as its brother. But the Grand Cherokee is also available with the same Italian-made, 240-hp, 3.0-liter turbodiesel V6 that's offered in the Ram 1500 half-ton pickup. With a thick 420 pound-feet of torque available at only 2,000 rpm, it's an easygoing engine optimized for towing.
Rated to tow up to 7,400 pounds in two-wheel-drive form (and 7,200 with four-wheel drive), the Grand Cherokee offers a comfortable ride and excellent off-road ability in addition to its chugging ability.
Usually, if you're taking a boat to the lake, you're taking people, too. These three full-size three-row sport-utility vehicles from GM have long been the go-to choice for this duty.
Of these three, the Cadillac Escalade ESV — powered by the 420-hp, 6.2-liter V8 — is, naturally, the most expensive. In two-wheel-drive form it can tow up to 8,100 pounds. If you have a boat that weighs 4 tons, chances are you can afford an Escalade. It's not a small vehicle, but an amazing number of owners find the Escalade an easy vehicle to live with every day.
GMC's Yukon XL Denali uses the same 6.2-liter V8 as the Escalade and is nearly as luxurious. Meanwhile, the only V8 offered in the regular Yukon XL and Chevrolet's iconic Suburban is a 5.3-liter unit making 355 hp. But the lighter load of onboard equipment allows those two SUVs a slightly greater tow rating: 8,300 pounds with two-wheel drive and 8,000 with four-wheel drive. So you can buy more boat.
The Midsize V6 Pickup: 2016 Toyota Tacoma
Toyota's Tacoma enjoys the massive advantage of retaining its value better than any other new vehicle. If massive depreciation bothers you, this truck is your least terrifying option.
All-new for 2016, the Tacoma is available with the extended Access cab or the Double Cab, a larger crew cab, and a range of options from work truck to off-road rock-crawler. Of particular use to boaters is the plastic-lined bed, done in a composite material that won't rot or rust. Plus, in many models there's a power port in the bed for using accessories like vacuums or power washers.
Properly equipped, the Tacoma Double Cab 4x2, powered by a 278-hp 3.5-liter V6, is rated to tow up to 6,700 pounds. The smaller Access Cab will tow 100 pounds more. Going with four-wheel drive knocks 300 pounds off the tow rating.
These GM twins are designed with towing in mind. That's particularly so in the case of versions equipped with the new Duramax 2.8-liter, turbodiesel four-cylinder engine. Equipped with that engine, the two-wheel-drive Colorado and Canyon are rated to tow up to 7,700 pounds. That's up 700 pounds from the already impressive 7,000-pound rating of versions equipped with the 3.6-liter gasoline V6.
While the Duramax engine is rated at only 181 hp, a full 124 less than the 305-hp rating of the gas-fired V6, it makes an exceptional 369 lb-ft of peak torque at a low 2,000 rpm. That's 100 lb-ft more than the V6, and it all occurs at such low engine speeds that the truck never feels strained, even near its maximum towing capacity.
These GM brothers are smaller trucks optimized to tow. And when they're not towing they can return nearly 30 mpg on the highway.
The Half-Ton Diesel Pickup: 2016 Ram 1500
While it's the 240-hp, Italian-made, 3.0-liter EcoDiesel turbodiesel V6 that grabs most of the attention in the Ram 1500, the truck itself is easy to live with.
The EcoDiesel engine is backed by an eight-speed automatic transmission that makes for particularly easy cruising whether the truck is towing or not. And it's controlled by a rotary dial on the dash that frees up space between the front seats. Beyond that, the Ram is the only truck in this class that uses a coil-spring rear suspension that rides better than others in the class, particularly when the truck isn't carrying cargo.
Properly equipped, the Ram 1500 EcoDiesel can tow between 8,450 and 9,300 pounds. It's unlikely your boat is that big. But if it is, Ram offers its heavy-duty models with up to 31,200 pounds of maximum towing capacity.
The In-Between Diesel Pickup: 2016 Nissan Titan XD
Nissan is trying to split the difference between the half-ton and 3/4-ton pickups with its all-new Titan XD. It's a truck built with a tough suspension that's tuned for comfort and powered by a new American-made, puppy-dog-friendly Cummins turbodiesel 5.0-liter V8, which is rated at 310 hp and a thumping 555 lb-ft of peak torque at only 1,600 rpm. It's backed by a standard six-speed automatic transmission. It doesn't quite have the output of massive heavy-duty haulers, but it's good enough for towing up to 12,000 pounds. If your boat and trailer weigh in at more than 6 tons, you might consider forming your own navy.
The Ultimate Hauler: 2016 Ford F-450
The largest, highest-capacity pickups sold to civilians are the mega-size monsters in the 1-ton class. And with their dual rear wheels they're something of a status symbol as well. The biggest of these beasts is the Ford F-450 Super Duty Crew Cab Platinum, which technically is a 1.5-ton pickup. And only Ford dares to sell a 1.5-tonner as an everyday vehicle.
Drive the F-450 regularly and you'll soon find it doesn't fit into most parking spaces, rides pretty stiffly and isn't going to sip fuel. But the 6.7-liter Power Stroke turbodiesel V8 is rated at 440 hp and an almost unfathomable 860 lb-ft of peak torque. Those are the biggest numbers in the segment. Properly configured, the F-450 is rated to tow 31,200 pounds. That's 15 tons, plus some.
If your boat is even heavier than that, consider having the fighter jets fly off the deck before you tow it.