Recently I was helping a family member move states. They had some larger, but light, furniture to move and we were trying to figure out a solution. Having recently gotten a 2021 Subaru Forester with a tow hitch on it I thought I would help them move those items with a U-Haul trailer. I could not find a lot online about this, other than a few Reddit/Forum posts; so I thought I would post about what I learned.
One of the main reasons we went with renting a U-Haul we would tow over a truck is cost. U-Haul trucks cost is based on distance, U-Haul trailers come with unlimited miles. The estimate we got for renting a truck was around $1,300 for 3 days, the trailer was $550. We were renting for 4 days.
First the 2021 Forester (non-wilderness package) is rated to tow 1,500lbs in the US. That is the big issue and ceiling that you will hit. The 4×8 is 850lbs empty, and the 5×8 is 900lbs empty. That leaves us with only 600lbs of capacity when getting the larger one that can fit a bed. Is this a hard ceiling? No, but as people on Reddit and other sites have pointed out it can wear out your car (mostly the transmission) more if you tow over that, specially if you do this often. I knew the route I was going to take, and that 98% of it would be flat interstates. That, along with knowing I was towing lighter things, made me less worried about the weight.
The next thing to worry about is how to hook it up. The U-Hauls come with a 2 inch ball mount coupler. My Forester had the hitch installed from Subaru. Subaru puts in a Class I, 1-1/4 inch receiver. I used the following ball mount, which ended up working perfectly.
I spoke to U-Haul on the phone and they said you want the hitch to be level at about 18.5 to 18.75 inches off the ground. The Forester mount is about 14 inches off the ground, and the above posted ball mount adds 4 5/8s inches, giving you the height you want.
I got the CURT 21410 Trailer hitch pin Amazon recommended. DO NOT GET THIS ONE. It is 2 inches long, with the extra metal around the mount for the hitch, this pin would not fit the stock Subaru hitch. It didn’t fit just by a hair. I ended up at the last minute going to Home Depot and getting a 2 1/4 inch long, 1/2 inch thick pin that fit.
Now that we had the hitch, we are off! I ordered a 5×8 U-Haul 2 months before we needed it on U-Hauls website, I quickly got a call saying they don’t have one at the local rental place, but would get back to me within 48 hours of the rental to tell me where to pick it up. The call never came. With less than 24 hours left, I call the main 1-800 number, and work with a nice lady on the phone to find where I can pick one up. There was a different facility than the only I selected online, 30 miles away that had it available.
The next day I was there when I would them I would be to pick it up, and no one was there. There was a sign on the door saying “for help call X number”, and then someone answered and within 5 minutes was over to help me. The pickup place was a small business attached to a self storage place who check once a day or so for pickups, and since at the last minute I changed it, it wasn’t noticed. I was just happy the person came so quick to help me get going.
With having the hitch already on the car, pickup took less than 5 minutes. I didn’t know if they would inspect the car, or check anything, but he said just back up to the trailer and we will hook it up. I asked the older gentleman if there is any advice he would have for someone who has not towed before. He said to leave extra stopping room, and make wide turns. The trailer dropped right on the ball, then we attached the wiring for the lights, and checked they were working. The standard 4 pin hookup the Forester hitch came with was exactly what the trailer had. Another important thing I was told for towing, CROSS THE SAFETY CHAINS BEFORE ATTACHING TO THE CAR. Apparently if you don’t cross the chains you can get a ticket, and State Troopers LOVE to give out tickets for it.
The smaller trailers (4×8, 5×8) do not have breaks, they fully rely on your cars brakes. This is something to think about; for instance, parking on a hill, all the weight of the trailer rests on your car and its transmission. I used the parking break a lot when parking the trailer. When I grabbed the trailer it had 2 wood blocks under the tires to keep it in place, I asked to take those with me (which ended up being a very good idea). They helped when parking in some locations, as well as when you want to take the trailer off, if you don’t have them it will want to roll because it has no brakes of its own. When I went to drop it off, the other U-Haul location (I did a one way trip), required those blocks to hold it the trailer in place, so I once again was glad I had them. They may have had some more of their own, but get the blocks when you pick it up, you’ll be glad you did.
The trailer says max speed 55, and after a bit of getting used to it, I felt comfortable with that. You just have to get used to being in the right lane, and giving plenty of room when changing lanes. It takes a while to start and stop, be prepared for that. Some people online mentioned and I felt one or two times, if you brake too hard, and then the trailer pushes forward on your car, the automatic transmission does not like that ad can rev up in situations you wouldn’t want it to.
I hope this post helps anyone who has a similar situation, and feel free to drop questions or your experience!