Is it Legal to tow a Motorcycle with a Car? Detailed Guide

You may have multiple reasons to tow your motorcycle. Your motorcycle may have broken down and you want to take it to the repair shop, or you want to take your motorcycle to a track, or an off-road trail. Towing can be very helpful if something goes wrong with your motorcycle. 

I faced a similar problem when I encountered issues with my motorcycle’s engine. I was not sure if it was legal to tow a motorcycle with a car. So, I did my research and gathered some information about towing with a vehicle. 

It is completely legal to tow a motorcycle with a car if you follow all the towing rules and regulations. Make sure the motorcycle is completely secured and properly attached to the towing trailer, and the trailer is also registered. 

Any car can tow a lightweight trailer unless your car has issues with the braking or engine.  There are some important things that you need to check to ensure your car can tow a motorcycle or not like checking for the towing capacity of your car.

There are rules for towing anything, so you must read all the rules of your particular state. Every state has different rules for towing, so be aware of that before heading to the expressway. You can read the rules of towing in your particular state from this detailed article about Driving Laws.

How to tow a motorcycle with a car?

Towing a motorcycle is a slightly complicated process that requires a basic degree of planning beforehand. There are a number of factors that one must consider before you can tow your ride in a safe and legal manner.

  • Calculate Towing Weight Capacity of your car

Every car has an engine that is designed to provide adequate amounts of power and torque to move a particular weight. This weight includes the weight of the car and additional factors like passengers and luggage in the boot. 

Making your car a towing vehicle makes it a lot more challenging as the engine has to deal with a significantly higher load across increased dimensions. This can make a huge difference in the handling aspects of your car.

Be aware of the maximum towing weight of your vehicle, depending on whether it is a sedan or SUV. Calculate the total weight of the passengers and luggage in addition to your motorcycle, the trailer, and its accessories.

Every vehicle has a maximum towing weight specified by the manufacturer. It is usually indicated in the manual or on the driver’s door. This will help you get a better understanding of how much extra weight your vehicle can handle. 

Regular sedans have an average towing capacity of 1,750 lbs. Mid-sized SUV’s on the other hand have an average weight of 3,700 lbs, with full-sized SUVs having the highest towing capacity of 7,200 lbs.

Once you have information about the maximum towing weight, calculate the total weight you actually intend to tow. A safe practice is to have a margin of 20% for safety. 

For example, if your maximum towing weight is 1000 lbs, try to restrict your maximum towing weight to around 800 lbs. If the route you plan on taking has a lot of inclines and steep roads, increase the safety margin to accommodate for reduced braking and engine performance. 

Include the total weight of the passengers and cargo you intend to transport at the same time. They also contribute to the load that your engine has to support. Finally, calculate the exact weight of your motorcycle, which will be listed in the manual or can be found online on the manufacturer’s website.

  • Install a hitch

A hitch is an attachment under the chassis that is used to link up a tow trailer. Most manufacturers integrate this device into the rear of the chassis, but it can also be attached as an aftermarket addition in models that do not come with one.

A hitch purchased separately can cost between $100 – 400 depending on the towing capacity and quality. Some models can be easily installed without any professional help. However, it is better to seek out expert guidance from your mechanic. 

how to tow a motorcycle with a car

Before making the purchase, verify if the hitch of your choice is compatible with the vehicle you own. Once you have purchased the hitch, you may have to lift the rear of the car, especially if the chassis of the vehicle is too low. 

Also, ensure that the vehicle is completely immobilized by placing blocks in front of the front tires while also engaging the handbrake.

Most mechanics will have the tools and expertise to install a hitch with ease. If you decide to do so on your own, follow the instructions provided in the manual. Most products also come with the hardware needed to install the hitch to your vehicle.

  • Choose the Appropriate Towing Trailer

The trailer that you are planning to use is an important element of the entire process. If it is a one-time requirement, you can rent trailers or else purchase one from a store near you if you have a regular requirement as well as the space to store it.

When it comes to choosing the right trailer, you must know your transport requirements such as the number of motorcycles and total weight to be towed. This will affect the weight of the trailer that you plan to use for your trip. 

How to tow a motorcycle with a car

Try to ensure that the trailer is compact and lightweight to allow your car to tow your motorcycle easily. Also, ensure that the trailer has been registered and has a number plate attached to it.

If you do not want to use a trailer, you can also engage a tow dolly. This connects to the hitch of your vehicle and connects with the front tire of your motorcycle and lifts it up such that only the rear tire is in contact with the ground.

But this tow dolly has some limitations, you cannot be able to reverse while towing a motorcycle with this, and you have to be careful with the speed of your car if you are using it to tow your motorcycle.

And make sure your motorcycle is attached to the tow dolly properly, it can fall if not done correctly.

  • Check the condition of the vehicle

It is important to ensure that your car is capable of towing additional weight. You must ensure that it does not have any issues with the braking systems or the engine block. 

Also, make sure that the towing dolly or trailer is attached securely to the hitch before starting out on your journey.

And check the area where you want to attach the tow hook, sometimes that portion gets easily rusted, and it weakens the strength, and cannot be able to tow a motorcycle if it is rusted.

  • Follow the Rules and Regulations

There are multiple rules and regulations regarding towing, with many of them varying from state to state. These rules are regarding the maximum towing capacity, trailer and towed vehicle safety, and driver certifications. 

If you are interested in learning more about the same, do read on as I give you the detailed information in the coming sections regarding the same.

Different Methods of Towing a Motorcycle

There are multiple ways to tow a motorcycle. Choosing the option that suits you best depends on the weight of your motorcycle, the towing specifications of your car, and other such factors. Here are the most common ways of towing a motorcycle using your vehicle.

  • Tow Dolly

A tow dolly acts like a towing crane. It connects to the hitch of your vehicle and has front-wheel support at the other end.

By lifting the front wheel of the motorcycle and placing it on wheel support, you can tow your motorcycle. To do so, the motorcycle must be neutral to avoid any issues on the road.

Different Methods of Towing a Motorcycle
CC: ADVRider

It is a low-cost and effective option that does not need additional permissions of registration. It is also the lightest option for towing your ride. 

However, you can only tow a single vehicle at a time, which makes it undesirable for transporting multiple motorcycles. It may also be difficult to transport heavier motorcycles as it puts a lot of stress on the hitch. 

  • Motorcycle carrier

A motorcycle carrier is a raised steel platform that attaches to the hitch. It involves a loading mechanism that allows you to push the vehicle on the elevated platform. In this method of towing, the bike is placed horizontally across the back of the car.

Different Methods of Towing a Motorcycle

Motorcycle carriers are a good method of towing a single motorcycle on a regular basis. It is also a good option if you are looking for a permanent fixture for your vehicle or have issues with the storage of larger trailers. 

However, it is a better option for RVs and SUVs, as it may require additional registration. It may also cause issues as it blocks the license plates and rear taillights in some cars.

And make sure the weight holding capacity of your car’s backside, because if your motorcycle is too heavy then it can damage the base of the car. 

This method is best for RVs and big trailers, as they have bigger suspensions to hold the weight, and their holding capacity is also higher than the cars and SUVs.

  • Towing trailer

Towing trailers are the most common method of towing a number of items, including motorcycles. It involves connecting a steel trailer equipped with wheels and rear taillights of its own to the hitch on the rear of the chassis. 

methods to tow a motorcycle with a car

Towing trailers allow you to transport multiple motorcycles and their related accessories together at the same time. Towing trailers can be an expensive affair, even though they provide the most versatility and load capacity. 

They also require driver’s license certifications and additional registrations depending on the length of the trailer. You may also have to make additional requirements regarding storing your trailer in the garage.

Towing trailers comes in many varieties, like folding trailers, trailers that hold one motorcycle or there are also some that can hold two motorcycles, and some are very small and compact so that you can store then easily 

What are the Rules while Towing a Motorcycle?

There are a number of rules regarding towing a motorcycle. However, these rules vary across different states. If you are going for a ride across multiple states with your motorcycle in the back, be sure to read the rules of the states you will be driving in. Visiting this website will give you all the information you need.

Here are a few things that you might want to keep in mind before starting your journey. This will help you make the journey with a tow in the back without facing any issues with the authorities.

  • Trailer registration

The trailer must be registered with local authorities before you can take it out on the road. You must all ensure that the associated electricals and additional taillights are in working order, with these components synced with your car. 

This is to ensure that drivers behind you can see when you apply the brakes or use your indicators.

Every time you make a trip with the trailer attached in the background, ensure that you have all the required documents and registrations on you.

  • Safety Norms

Apart from working brake lights and electrical systems, it is important that you make the rear of your trailer as visible as possible. 

If you are towing using a tow dolly, then you must ensure that the vehicle behind you has a clear idea of where your motorcycle ends. Add a bright fluorescent sticker or cloth to ensure maximum visibility in all conditions or use a square white cloth.

Increase your braking distance to give you more time to stop as you are carrying an additional load. Do not drive too fast when you are riding with a tow. It may end up overheating the engine or causing undue stresses to your chassis. 

While the former can cause a breakdown, the latter can lead to an accident that can cause damage to your vehicle, motorcycle, and others on the road.

Another disadvantage of driving too fast is the possibility of fish-tailing. In this situation, the trailer or motorcycle at the back moves in a direction different from the car. This can lead to loss of control or cause an accident with a car in the nearby lane. 

  • Driver certification

If you have a trailer that is longer than a particular length, then you must have the required license that allows you to legally drive such a vehicle. Verify the class of your trailer with local authorities to ensure you are within the rules.

Related Questions:

Can you tow a motorcycle with another motorcycle? You can only tow a motorcycle with another motorcycle for small distances. You cannot do that on highways or on main roads as it can be dangerous for you and for other people around you. It is not legal to tow your motorcycle in this manner.