Tow Car Awards 2024: How we decided the winners

If you’re looking for a great tow car that will also be enjoyable to drive solo, you need one of our 2024 Tow Car Awards winners. Here's what we put them through...

Tow Car Awards 2024 Range Rover Sport descending slope

Pulling an extra tonne – or even two – asks difficult questions of a car’s engine, gearbox, brakes and handling. So, the top choices for everyday use aren’t necessarily the ones that stack up best if you want to tow a caravan, horsebox, or boat trailer.

That's why we've been running the annual What Car? Tow Car Awards in partnership with the Camping and Caravanning Club since 2007. Every year we bring together a selection of new models and pit them against our reigning champions at the Horiba-MIRA test track so we can name the best tow cars on sale.

We divide the cars into four classes, based on kerb weight, to make it easy to quickly find one that’s suitable for whatever you need to tow. And for the fourth year in a row, our technical partner is Adria, which provided a fleet of caravans of various sizes and weights to use during our tests.

Tow Car Awards 2024 setting up timing gear

The Camping and Caravanning Club recommends that you tow a caravan weighing no more than 85% of your car’s kerb weight, especially if you are new to towing. We therefore load the caravans to 85% of the kerb weight, or less if the car’s towing limit is below that figure.

If a car has a low maximum towing figure, it might need to drop down to a lower weight class, with a penalty applied to the score. 

Just a few years ago, electric tow cars were a novelty. Now, fully electric cars make up a third of the field, and we’ve rated these in their own separate class. But, petrol or diesel, electric or hybrid, every contender goes through the same demanding tests.

Tow Car Awards 2024 Polestar 2 brake test

These include each car and caravan being taken through a lane change at increasing speeds by a What Car? reviewer, who also assesses straight-line stability at up to 70mph. Every car’s 30-60mph acceleration time and emergency stopping distances are recorded, too; we’re looking for cars that will keep you safe and which have enough punch for overtaking while towing.

In addition, four other judges, including a former What Car? editor and a towing instructor, complete a different test route that includes a low-speed slalom and a hill-start on a 1-in-6 slope.

That said, most tow cars double up as everyday transport, so we also consider what the cars are like when not towing, factoring this ‘solo driving’ score into our verdicts.

Tow Car Awards 2024 checking tow bar

Every car is also rated for towing practicality. Experts from the Camping and Caravanning Club use a typical load of holiday luggage as a real-world test of boot space. They also check how easily towing extension mirrors can be fitted, whether the puncture repair provision is suitable for use while towing, and if  the car is fitted with a trailer stability system.

Some tow bars and electric sockets are easy to use, others have you cursing as you kneel on the ground and reach far under the bumper to plug in your trailer’s electrics. So, the quality of the towing gear installation forms part of the score, too.

Finally, every model is assessed for its price, value, running costs, equipment, safety, and reliability. These ratings give the score for ‘buying and owning’.

It adds up to a very thorough picture of each car’s towing ability and all-round appeal.

Tow Car Awards 2024 volunteers

Thanks to Adria Caravans for providing the tourers used in our testing. We’re also grateful to Al-Ko, Milenco, and Witter for their help.

A big thanks, too, to the Camping and Caravanning Club’s volunteers, whose hard work makes the What Car? Tow Car Awards possible.

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See the Tow Car Awards 2024 winners >>

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