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Author Topic: Tow dolly vs. 4 down?  (Read 570 times)

jymbee

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Tow dolly vs. 4 down?
« on: June 13, 2018, 03:51:02 PM »
Ok, feeling cautiously optimistic thanks to input here that we could tow our Honda Odyssey 4 down. My next question is how does a direct, 4 down tow compare to using a dolly. Obviously 4 down has the big advantage of not having to deal with the dolly when you get to your destination. That can be a big factor. But how do the two options compare with regard to other factors such as  initial cost and complexity?

For example looking at Blue Ox I obviously need to do more research given there's so many options. Also with a system such as Blue Ox apparently there would need to be a fair amount of work done to your vehicle while with a dolly you wouldn't have to deal with that. Just drive it on and take off.

Am I being overly simplistic in this assessment? I general terms, would the initial cost of a dolly tend to be less than fitting a vehicle to be towed 4 down?

Could I save $$$ by maybe just towing 3 down?! Ok, ok... sorry, couldn't resist the dumb joke...  ::)


Ghostman

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Re: Tow dolly vs. 4 down?
« Reply #1 on: June 13, 2018, 04:53:52 PM »
I think you answered your own question to a certain point.  Is it cost effective for the convenience. How much travelling and unhooking are you doing? I would not go any other way than 4 down. But we travel a lot. It is nice to pull in and unhook or hook up in the matter of a couple of minutes. It all depends on your situation. I dont think the extra cost is that much more by the time you buy a dolley and plates for it. I can do most my set up to tow 4 down myself though. so I dont have labor to install Lights, base-plate and brake controller. I have around 2K in setup cost.
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kdbgoat

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Re: Tow dolly vs. 4 down?
« Reply #2 on: June 13, 2018, 05:22:58 PM »
Not all states require tow dollies to be tagged and registered. Either way, one will need the toads lights wired up, and the dolly will need to have brakes. That drives up the tow dolly price. If the dolly has electric brakes and not surge brakes, you must have a brake controller installed.
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Sun2Retire

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Re: Tow dolly vs. 4 down?
« Reply #3 on: June 13, 2018, 05:35:59 PM »
I can do most my set up to tow 4 down myself though. so I dont have labor to install Lights, base-plate and brake controller. I have around 2K in setup cost.


I paid $3K to have the last 4-down install done. Since the work adds little to no value to the vehicle being modified, one could argue that itís advantageous being able to sell a dolly later and recoup much of the cost. But as Ghostman stated, 4-down is much more convenient and I too wouldnít go any other way
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grashley

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Re: Tow dolly vs. 4 down?
« Reply #4 on: June 13, 2018, 05:53:45 PM »
It is all up to you. 

To tow 4 down, you pay $2k to $3k to set up the first vehicle to tow, then a bit less for future vehicles.  You can hook up and disconnect in under 5 minutes. You have no dolly to store.

To dolly tow, you spend $2k - $3k for a dolly and can tow (almost) any car you like with minimal added expense (lights on the tow).  You get down on your knees to connect and disconnect the tire straps on the towed.  You spend 15 minutes or more to hook up and disconnect, and you have a dolly to store.
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Gary RV_Wizard

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Re: Tow dolly vs. 4 down?
« Reply #5 on: June 13, 2018, 05:57:10 PM »
Quote
while with a dolly you wouldn't have to deal with that. Just drive it on and take off.
That might qualify as one of the more optimistic views of the entire year.  I've done both dolly and 4-down, and dolly towing is never that simple.   Place and then cinch down the wheel straps, hook the safety chains over the car front axle, and tie down the steering wheel (if not a locking type wheel).  My front drive sedan was low-slung enough to require that we use a couple wood shims ahead of the dolly ramps to prevent the car from scraping as it drove on.  I'm not talking a sports model either - this was a Buick sedan!  Then we discovered that it was necessary to stop and re-tighten the wheel straps after 15-20 miles, not matter how tight we cinched them initially.  Also needed a level place to drive onto the ramp.

I'm not trying to knock dolly towing as an option, it worked well enough, but "just drive on and take off" is a gross overstatement in my opinion.

Cost factors: You can near always find a used dolly if you shop around, whereas used base plates that match a car take some luck. You may need to but new wheel straps for a used dolly, but that's not a big expense.  The dolly will need a brake controller on the coach if ithe dolly has electric brakes (but not if it has surge brakes).  Overall, a 4-down tow set up will cost more.

Gary
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Tom

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Re: Tow dolly vs. 4 down?
« Reply #6 on: June 13, 2018, 06:26:03 PM »
We've flat-towed our Chevy Suburban for 14 years, and flat-towed a Toyota sedan and a Ford Bronco for 10+ years prior to that. So I don't have personal experience with a tow dolly, but we've had a lot of entertainment watching folks who dolly-tow arriving at campgrounds.

FWIW we've been kicking tires on a replacement for the Suburban, and have come to the realization that many of the vehicles we've looked at (and like) are not flat-towable. Cogitating over this, we realize that, campground logistics aside, we wouldn't have anywhere to store a dolly or a trailer at home unless we got rid of a couple of boat trailers in the side yard. We're not out of options, and have found some flat-towable vehicles that would suit our needs.
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ArdraF

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Re: Tow dolly vs. 4 down?
« Reply #7 on: June 13, 2018, 07:05:50 PM »
We decided we never wanted a dolly after watching a man in Tok, Alaska try to get the mud off the tow straps so he could then clean the car off enough to move it off the dolly.  It took about 1.5 hours and, believe me, he was not a happy camper!  But he sure provided the rest of us with our daily entertainment!

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johnaye

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Re: Tow dolly vs. 4 down?
« Reply #8 on: June 13, 2018, 07:12:08 PM »
When we purchased our last motorhome, not the current one, we had to drive to another state to pick it up.  Our car at that time was  a Matrix.  I can still remember lying on my back in the rain at U-haul to hook up the safety chains.  When we got home we sold the Matrix and bought a car we can tow four down.  Another advantage of four down is you do not need to find a place to store the tow dolly when you are parked.  The downside of four down is it limits what toads you can own.  On my current Honda, I have to remember to stop and go through the towing procedures every three hundred miles or so.  Also, I had to have a fuse cut off switch installed so the battery would not go dead.
 I also had to have a special 12 volt accessory plug put in since the fuse that needs to be cut off controls the interior 12 volt accessory outlets.  Still with those problems, I would be very reluctant to switch to a tow dolly.
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jubileee

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Re: Tow dolly vs. 4 down?
« Reply #9 on: June 13, 2018, 11:07:51 PM »
  We have both. Tow 4 down about 75% of the time. We have a Geo Tracker and CJ 5 jeep with baseplates. We have a Honda Accord that goes on dolly. Dolly is very handy to have. Both systems have pros and cons. Our dolly is very light and easy to handle. Will slide almost completely under coach at campground. No brakes. We use BrakeBuddy when on dolly and 4 down.
   Dolly is tilt type so never any problems driving vehicle on. It also has a locking swivel plate so it can be backed up carefully. Iím old and putter, but donít notice a lot of time difference hooking up either way. I run winch straps on dolly up with 1/2 battery impact and have a piece of wood cut to lay on ramp for guide so vehicle is centered first shot.  Of course unhooking is much faster with 4 down.

Gary RV_Wizard

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Re: Tow dolly vs. 4 down?
« Reply #10 on: June 14, 2018, 09:56:13 AM »
Quote
Dolly is tilt type so never any problems driving vehicle on.
The tilt ramp does not guarantee of "no problems".  Many newer sedans and even small SUVs have low road clearance and front air dams to reduce wind resistance and those can easily graze the ramp.  The fact that it is tilted is the cause of the problem, not the solution.   Taller vehicles usually do ok, though.
Likewise, newer vehicles often have electronic anti-theft systems, so don't use locking steering wheels. That means you have to come up with some other scheme to immobilize the steering so the dolly wheel tables will rotate as needed.

I don't want to come across as negative on dollies cause they have their pros as well as cons and I've used them successfully. I think folks with good tech skills find them reasonably easy to manage, but I suspect that others might throw up their hands in despair on the first attempt.
Gary
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John Stephens

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Re: Tow dolly vs. 4 down?
« Reply #11 on: June 14, 2018, 11:15:26 AM »
We are on vacation right now and I am tickled to death that this will be the last time we use our tow dolly. We plan to buy a Chevy Equinox that can be towed 4 down upon our return home and sell the tow dolly. On this trip, one of the wheel straps broke after only 4,000 miles on it and since I had the chains connected to the tie rod ends (the only part of the axle they would fit onto), I had to replace one tie rod end as soon as we got the car unloaded. Thankfully, I carry a set of old straps with me at all times so I didn't have to buy a new set - yet.

I don't like the idea of disassembling a brand new car to install the base plate for the hitch, but I'll be very happy to sell that dolly and be done with it. It's going to cost me close to $4,000 to have the work done because I won't touch the car myself to install the plate and wiring, and I probably won't get more than $900-1,000 for the dolly when I sell it, but the hassle involved with hitching and unhitching the car at every destination is getting to be too much for me.

And Gary is right about some cars not wanting to load or unload easily. I have been towing a Hyundai Azera that is built so low to the ground in front that the first time we unloaded it from the tow dolly, the tire stop on the dolly ripped the air dam right off the underside of the car. Not every car can be towed on a dolly without modifications.
« Last Edit: June 14, 2018, 11:18:01 AM by John Stephens »
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Re: Tow dolly vs. 4 down?
« Reply #12 on: June 14, 2018, 04:51:00 PM »
After towing a Mini Cooper S on a dolly for three seasons, we decided to go 4 down with a low mileage used 2017 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk. DW had enough of loading and unloading the Mini, and really was never a fan of riding in it - hated the tight ride. I miss the Mini but don't miss having to manhandle the dolly around and find places to stash it at campgrounds. While traveling with one night stays we spent a lot of nights in camp instead of going to dinner because of the hassle of getting Mini off and back on the next morning. We also lost what storage we had in the Mini because I hauled around a spare tire for the dolly and a spare tire for the Mini. That left room for a towel or two.

We had Roadmaster baseplates installed on the Jeep and use an RViBrake controller. Towbar is a Roadmaster Falcon All Terrain. Then we had to have the "death wobble" cable installed on the Jeep.

It cost us a total of about $4,500 to set up for towing, but only about half of that was car specific - You get to keep the tow bar and its accessories and the brake controller no matter what vehicle you have. One more expense I have coming is to get an extra set of Roadmaster tow arms and then have a welding shop cut off the tow bar adaptors and weld on my Trailhawk recovery hooks. The Trailhawk doesn't look right without its red fangs on the front.
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John From Detroit

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Re: Tow dolly vs. 4 down?
« Reply #13 on: June 14, 2018, 05:27:53 PM »
I helped a U-Haul customer Dolly load a car recently. It was  a Tilt Tupe and there were indeed problems. (not enough clearance the Dolly wanted to grab his front bumper).

We got it loaded. a dealer had to unload it.
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JoelP

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Re: Tow dolly vs. 4 down?
« Reply #14 on: June 14, 2018, 09:29:03 PM »
I have owned both. 

4-down has many expenses that easily match and exceed that of the dolly.  You have to install base plates, tow bar, auxiliary braking system at a minimum, but often a trickle charger and sometimes a fusemaster to bypass a fuse. That said it is so much easier to hook up and go.  And, I no longer have to rent a space to store my dolly or worry about where to store when I get there.  I no longer have to worry about whether or not I have cinched down the car tires  or where to stow the dolly when I arrive at a park.

That said I feel that the proportional brake controller that activated my tow dolly brakes were far more effective than the braking I get from my auxiliary braking system when towing my CMax with the active assist brakes turned off.
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BinaryBob

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Re: Tow dolly vs. 4 down?
« Reply #15 on: June 15, 2018, 10:28:15 PM »
The dolly vs 4 down is a long debate.
To me, itís simple. If you have an existing vehicle capable of 4 down, go for it.
If money is no object and you want to buy a vehicle capable of 4 down, go for it, with all of the ancillary hook up expenses.
We have a FWD Corolla that Iím perfectly happy on the dolly. Yes, itís a bit more involved but not horrible. Iím just not inclined  to purchase a vehicle simply for 4 down capability.
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Gary RV_Wizard

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Re: Tow dolly vs. 4 down?
« Reply #16 on: June 16, 2018, 10:00:45 AM »
 :))
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John Stephens

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Re: Tow dolly vs. 4 down?
« Reply #17 on: June 16, 2018, 10:25:02 AM »
The dolly vs 4 down is a long debate.
To me, itís simple. If you have an existing vehicle capable of 4 down, go for it.
If money is no object and you want to buy a vehicle capable of 4 down, go for it, with all of the ancillary hook up expenses.
We have a FWD Corolla that Iím perfectly happy on the dolly. Yes, itís a bit more involved but not horrible. Iím just not inclined  to purchase a vehicle simply for 4 down capability.

Bob, I can't agree more. We aren't made of money and I would normally not think of taking on the expense of a 4 down car just for that reason. However, my wife is driving a 2006 with 112,000 miles on it and it's ready to become a money pit. Since I already have one of those called an RV, I decided it's time to get another car and simply decided to kill two birds with one stone. We'll go down to one car within the next couple of years, so this will probably be the last one we buy. It might as well be capable of being towed 4 down.
John
Cape Coral, Fl.
2005 Winnebago Adventurer 38J
Acme EZ Tow Dolly and 2007 Azera

scottydl

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Re: Tow dolly vs. 4 down?
« Reply #18 on: June 16, 2018, 10:29:18 AM »
The dolly vs 4 down is a long debate.
To me, itís simple. If you have an existing vehicle capable of 4 down, go for it.
If money is no object and you want to buy a vehicle capable of 4 down, go for it, with all of the ancillary hook up expenses.
We have a FWD Corolla that Iím perfectly happy on the dolly. Yes, itís a bit more involved but not horrible. Iím just not inclined  to purchase a vehicle simply for 4 down capability.

Great summary. I dolly-towed for a few years and enjoyed the versatility (we towed 2 different cars) and low cost. It worked great as a weekend/vacationer and I never experienced the ease of 4-down so I don't know what I was missing. ;) I owned two different dollies (both purchased used) and sold them both easily, to eventually break even when I was done with them. The dollies are light enough to be moved around by hand, and I always rolled mine under the rear end overhang of the motorhome behind the rear wheels, i.e. campground storage was never a problem. Mine also had "ramp" loading but I needed a few boards to get our Oldsmobile Aurora loaded without scraping the front end.

We didn't take the car on every trip (only the more vacation-type trips that were longer than a couple days) so the extra loading/unloading/hitching time... maybe 10-15 minutes... was not a part of every RV outing. If I were fulltiming or snowbirding and had financial resources directed toward extended RV living, than I'm sure the convenience of 4-down would be pretty attractive and might make the cost worthwhile in the long run.
« Last Edit: June 16, 2018, 10:31:51 AM by scottydl »
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Wendy

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Re: Tow dolly vs. 4 down?
« Reply #19 on: June 16, 2018, 11:59:58 AM »
We tow our 73 VW 4-down. We have a Pontiac that we tow on a dolly occasionally. We prefer 4-down but donít want to put $$ into making the Pontiac towable 4-down.
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jymbee

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Re: Tow dolly vs. 4 down?
« Reply #20 on: June 16, 2018, 08:05:51 PM »
... I never experienced the ease of 4-down so I don't know what I was missing. ;)

Well right there pretty much describes a whole host of things I'll probably never be able to afford! What the sea breeze feels like cruising on my yacht, the engine sound of my new Cessna fixed wing, the comforting feeling knowing my maid and butler will be taking care of all my needs...  :(

Great input with different perspectives and experiences from folks who have been there done that. I learned a lot about options for towing and will take it all into consideration as we get nearer that final decision.

Corky

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Re: Tow dolly vs. 4 down?
« Reply #21 on: June 17, 2018, 05:53:12 AM »
One point that I might add, when pondering this choice, is to check and see how well the intended toad fits the dolly.
Not necessarily how the toad fits on the dolly, but how well the straps fit the toad.
I dollied several toads without any problems until it came to my 2005 Ford Focus SVT. All of possible problems that could occur -did.
The clearance between the wheel and wheel-well, the angle of the straps both front and rear made it almost impossible to make a clean connection. And to top things off I had to actually lay on the ground to get everything hooked up, so I always planed my departing showers accordingly. :)
Granted my SVT was a little strange, and I may not have done everything the same way everybody else does, I only mention this as it helped make my decision to go 4-down.   
Good luck in your choice.

Corky
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NY_Dutch

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Re: Tow dolly vs. 4 down?
« Reply #22 on: June 17, 2018, 07:24:50 AM »
When we decided to bring a toad along after buying our first Class A, our Toyota RAV4 4WD automatic could not be dolly towed, so our options were buying a different car, trailer towing, or 4-down towing. We loved our RAV4 and didn't want to part with it, and the hassles of dealing with loading and stowing a trailer turned us off to that idea. We found that we could buy everything we needed for 4-down towing the RAV for about $2200 including the needed Remco transmission lube pump. We chose a ReadyBrute Elite all-terrain tow bar with an integrated auxiliary brake system that was considerably lower cost than buying separate units. Add a Blue Ox base plate and we were in business. It took me most of a day to install everything, and we were good to go. We later on replaced the original 2002 RAV4 toad with a new 2011 RAV4, and everything we had switched right over except the base plate. The uninstall/reinstall took about 10 hours spread over two days working alone. It takes less than 5 minutes to hook up or unhook the RAV, and I've never seen anyone load or unload a dollied toad as fast or as easily. And no kneeling or reaching under a dirty car needed...
Dutch
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Bill N

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Re: Tow dolly vs. 4 down?
« Reply #23 on: June 17, 2018, 07:28:04 AM »
We decided we never wanted a dolly after watching a man in Tok, Alaska try to get the mud off the tow straps so he could then clean the car off enough to move it off the dolly.  It took about 1.5 hours and, believe me, he was not a happy camper!  But he sure provided the rest of us with our daily entertainment!

ArdraF
When we had a travel trailer I observed a guy with a dolly pull in, remove the vehicle and snake the dolly in between the trees behind his coach.  It poured for about 3 days and he decided to leave.  I had to help him pull that dolly out and it had been sitting in a pretty muddy spot (in which the straps were laying).  Got it hooked up to the coach and I left the rest to him but I noticed his nice tan tee shirt was a very dark mottled brown after he finished hooking up the straps.  That picture stuck in my mind and when we bought a motorhome I had no other thoughts than 4 down.  JMHO.

Bill

PS:  I should add that our Chevy Cruze was not towable 4 down so we traded it in for a 2013 Sonic which has proved to be a perfect toad and general all around town car for the wife.
« Last Edit: June 17, 2018, 07:30:40 AM by Bill N »
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Re: Tow dolly vs. 4 down?
« Reply #24 on: June 17, 2018, 08:38:28 AM »
When we bought our first motor home about 8 years ago, my wife and I both had Wranglers as our daily drivers.  Only question was, which one was going to get the tow bar and lights. 
Now that we've sold everything and moved into the coach, we traded my Wrangler for a newer one. 
I've seen too much fun with dollys over the years to want to deal with it myself.
Wally Crow
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