Before I bought my Ford F-150, and way before I had even thought of any custom mods, I wanted to know what would be included in the towing package. I also own a pontoon boat, so knowing how much I could pull was an essential part of the buying process. I was offered a towing package but didn’t know what was going to be included. Here’s what I found out.
In most cases, a factory-installed towing package will include a hitch platform, engine and transmission cooling, trailer towing wiring harness, and a strong frame for mounting the hitch. Manufacturers can also add rear-end gearing, upgraded alternator and battery, and towing circuitry for the trailer lights. You also might have the standard brakes, shocks, and struts upgraded to cope with the added stress of towing.
Should You Choose a Towing Package?
You might have got away with using your older vehicle for towing, but if you are just about to buy a new truck, and you’re going to be pulling boats or other heavy items, definitely opt for a towing package.
The truck manufacturers get their engineers to design specific parts that will be able to handle any extra weight, meaning you have the peace of mind you can handle large pay loads, but also know you shouldn’t end up damaging your truck.
The aspects that will come included with a towing package could be:
- Sturdier engine, transmission, brakes, and frame
- Enhanced electrical and cooling systems to handle heavy loads
- Including a hitch platform and trailer towing wiring harness
- Upgrades to the rear-end (differential) gearing to make towing easier
- Upgraded battery alternator, and charging system wiring
- Upgraded shocks/struts and brakes to handle the added load and stress
- Towing-capable circuitry added to the electronic control module
It’s important to note that not all of these extras and features will be included in the towing package that you are offered by your vehicle manufacturer.
Some packages might only include a small proportion of what I have listed out above, and in many cases will be really streamlined with just a trailer wiring package and hitch included.
The finer points will vary from brand to brand, so check through the specs to see what’s going to be included with the one you are considering paying extra money for.
You Might Not Need a Towing Package Included
Not everyone is going to need to upgrade to a towing package, so don’t go spending money you don’t have to.
As an example, if you are into water sports and want to transport jet skis on a small trailer, then you might only be looking at a 2,000-pound pay load. That’s nowhere near what we would call heavy duty towing, and so it would be over-kill to have a factory towing package fitted. In cases such as that, a simple aftermarket hitch would suffice.
Things get a little different when we start to consider larger and more bulky items such as boats. I own a 25-foot pontoon boat, and that weighs nearly 4,000 pounds when you add the trailer and all the gear on top.
For me, having a towing package is essential as I don’t want to add strain and stress onto my Ford F-150.
Is it Cheaper to Do it Yourself?
Whist factory installed towing packages have come down in price over the last decade or so, they are still more expensive than doing the work yourself as best as you can with an aftermarket towing hitch.
When you talk with your truck dealer, carefully read through everything that they give you including the specs on their website to check what’s included with the tow package.
Based on that you can compare the included parts and upgrades against buying items separately. See how the costs and prices compare, throw in your own labor and time, and you can make a better-informed decision on whether to proceed or not.
It is Easier to Do it Yourself?
Well I guess that all depends on how good you are at upgrading your truck and the experience or tools you have at your disposal.
What I would say though, is that it’s virtually impossible to completely replicate an OE towing package with parts you pick up aftermarket.
You will probably find it quite easy to find the same towing hitch and wiring, or at least ones that are almost the same. But upgrading a battery, alternator, brakes, shocks and other components could end up costing you a heck of a lot of money – not to mention the time, energy and expertize that it will involve.
But Can Aftermarket Towing Upgrades Be Better?
There is nothing wrong with aftermarket towing packages and products. In fact, many products on the market will be better, and I know of many truck owners who have removed factory-installed towing hitches and completely replaced them.
Why would they do this?
It’s because in the past, aftermarket hitches tended to be better and could handle heavier towing loads than the factory-installed ones.
That’s not really the case now though.
The manufacturers have upped their game, and the towing hitches that they fit and generally considered to be of comparable quality to the ones you can buy on a standalone basis.
However, there are some brands that are still much better and can handle higher weight loads such as Draw-Tite, Reese, and Curt.
Those guys produce hitches that can take up to 18,000 pounds worth of weight which is a massive jump on the ones that are factory-installed.
So again, it comes down to how much you will be trailering, and what you need to be included with your towing package.
But a word of warning. Just because you can get a higher capacity hitch, it doesn’t mean you should.
Your truck will be safely rated to tow a certain weight, as will the hitch.
As an example, your truck spec will say your vehicle has a towing capacity of 4,500 pounds, but the hitch can only tow 2,000 pounds, then that 2,000-pound figure is your limit.
Similarly, a truck that can tow 4,500 pounds should not exceed that, even if the hitch is designed to do so.
Before you commit, check the factory tow package to decide whether or not you believe it offers true value for money.
In most cases that I have seen, it does pay to proceed with a tow package once you take in to account how long and how much hassle would be involved in making the towing upgrades yourself.
Truck manufacturers will also let you pay in instalments as part of the overall truck purchase, which probably won’t be the case should you decide to buy aftermarket parts. That might be far more preferable than having to come up with $400 to buy a hitch by itself and then get it fitted.