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Truck fans make fun of compact trucks all the time. If the vehicle has a unibody frame there’s no way it can be a “real truck” and it certainly can’t tow, right? Wrong. We’re here to answer a viewer’s question: how much can a Santa Cruz tow? Publisher Tim Esterdahl will also cover the Ford Maverick since it is the only other compact truck in the U.S. market and is frequently compared to the Hyundai Santa Cruz.

Numbers vs real life

Does it have more payload than your typical full-size truck? Is it capable of pulling a small camper or boat? Do you really need a full-size truck to tow relatively small trailers?

On paper, the Hyundai Santa Cruz or Ford Maverick could handle a pretty large camper, but towing safely is about so much more than just the numbers. Esterdahl breaks this all down in his video explaining why the height (or lack thereof) of a compact truck matters, how combined gross vehicle weight comes into play and how to calculate your total weight to make sure you don’t overload your truck.

How much can the Hyundai Santa Cruz tow?

In this video, Esterdahl looks at the Hyundai Santa Cruz Limited AWD which has better towing numbers than the front-wheel-drive truck. He is also taking into account an added maximum tow kit which comes with trailer brakes and an upgraded transmission cooler. For this truck, the max tow rating is 5,000 pounds and the max payload rating is 1,609 pounds. So yes, this little compact truck can tow quite a bit. But should it? That depends on your load and driving conditions.

Having just driven the Santa Cruz myself, I can’t imagine using it to tow anything large. Maybe a small utility trailer or a popup camper, but that’s honestly not why I’d buy a compact truck. What do you think? Would you plan to tow with your Santa Cruz or Maverick?

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Erica Mueller

Erica Mueller is a Texan, which means she believes that trucks are family vehicles and giant SUVs make good second cars. As part-time auto journalist for almost a decade, Erica enjoys driving all kinds of vehicles and sharing her experiences with others. Erica is the secretary of the board for the Texas Auto Writers Association as well as a contributor at A Girls Guide to Cars.

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  1. Brock Gilman April 17, 2022

    We recently towed a 20′ boat from New Jersey to Washington with our Santa Cruz. The boat weighs 3300#, the trailer comes in at about 1200#. On our trip we logged 3076 miles and averaged 53 mph. The trailer is double axle with disc brakes on the front axle actuated by surge. We had no issues with acceleration or stopping that you wouldn’t expect with 4500# plus behind you. The tongue weight is 340#. There was a little bit of an issue pissing off opposing traffic at night with the squat sending our headlights a bit high. The big surprise came with fuel economy. We averaged 9.7 mpg for the trip. That meant we were stopping for fuel about every 125 miles. That got old pretty quickly. The trucklet handled the load easily with no issues other than the excessive squatting with the 340# tongue weight. We took I-80 west, then up to I-90 from SLC.

    1. Brian March 8, 2023

      I’d like to hear more about your experience. Have you since used a wd hitch? I’m looking to buy a travel trailer that will bring it close to the 5k lbs when loaded. What do you think?


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