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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
My friend wants to buy a SUV for towing a boat. I have an '04 and '08 Pilot so I'm knowledgeable
about the 1st gens.
He's looking for a higher mileage Pilot, year 11 or later... for less than 12K.
I know used cars are going for a premium so finances are his ultimate decision.
My questions is really which years should I avoid? Oil consumption issues, transmission issues..,,,etc. I always read the Carfax but sometimes that is missing stuff too.
So I ask the experts!!

Thanks again
 

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If the trailer is 5000 lbs, maybe a Pilot is not the best choice. You will be pushing up against the maximum rated towing capacity of a 4wd Pilot with an auxiliary transmission cooler installed. And trying to pull a 5000 lb boat up a slippery, steep boat ramp could be a real nightmare. I see burnt up transmissions in his future. Your buddy should think about a bigger tow vehicle with AWD and a V8. Just my 2 cents.
 

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Show him the towing section in the owner’s manual to determine weights. He doesn’t want a white knuckle drive when towing. He sounds like towing will be a new experience, so the more capable (difference between laden weight and GCWR) the tow vehicle the better.
Towing heavy will require adding transmission cooler.
Has he looked at the Ridgeline as well?
 

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Show him the towing section in the owner’s manual to determine weights. He doesn’t want a white knuckle drive when towing. He sounds like towing will be a new experience, so the more capable (difference between laden weight and GCWR) the tow vehicle the better.
Towing heavy will require adding transmission cooler.
Has he looked at the Ridgeline as well?
Ridgeline towing capacity is similar to the Pilot at 5000 lbs but the WB is a bit longer
 

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Rocky, I am not sure why you would suggest the Ridgeline? It has the same basic unit body and drivetrain as the Pilot, with a little longer wheelbase. Not really any more towing capable than a Pilot.
 

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Curious, why is the FWD Pilot only 3500 lbs towing. I understand the rear diff does not do anything until loss of traction. Thank you
I guess that this question is best put to Honda engineers, but that is what the manufacturer specs. And in reference to the rear diff (VTM-4), it is a bit more sophisticated than that. It's not magic, but it is very responsive to demands on the drive train. It does make a difference in towing capability.
 

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Curious, why is the FWD Pilot only 3500 lbs towing. I understand the rear diff does not do anything until loss of traction. Thank you
It's more a safety than mechanical ability thing. A large towed load will move the car around a lot more, plus it unweights the front wheels as tongue weight goes up. Plus the AWD cars already come with the up-sized transmission and power steering coolers from the factory. For some reason Honda isn't interested in load-leveling hitches as a possible solution, maybe concerned about how they apply odd loads to the unibody.

Some other perspective: The towed load is part of the larger total load capacity of the vehicle. When I towed a boat, it was loaded with boating stuff. The fuel tanks were not filled at the gas dock if I could help it. Skis, sunshades and umbrellas, coolers, clothes, chairs for shore, anchors, PFD's,... all end up in the boat. The car is loaded with people and their luggage. Everything is heavier than you think when you put it in. Boats load nose-heavy on the trailer, then get stuff placed in the bow for travelling.

And then there's brakes... The Pilot is marginal on braking with a driver and half a tank of gas, well before the +5k of added towing weight. Meanwhile, it seems like many boat trailers don't come with brakes. The trailers are "certified" at empty weight, and therefore "don't need" brakes. Premium boat packages might have trailer brakes included, but since it pushes the costs up it's often left out. Brakes on boat trailers are very maintenance-intensive too. Water and mechanical stuff like to rust for some reason, and it's exponentially worse if you dip the trailer into salt water. Consider carrying the anchors in the Pilot, so you can toss them out the window when you need to stop quickly.

Depending on how often your friend plans to tow, a better option is often to go rent the more appropriate vehicle for the occasional trip. If it's more frequent and/or longer distances, a diesel pickup might be a practical option. Fuel savings helps that decision too.
 

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Long story short, the best Pilot to tow a 5000 lb boat is something other than a Pilot. Ford, Chevy, Dodge all have midsized SUV's with higher towing capacity. If you are looking to stay with an Asian vehicle then look at a Toyota PU or a Nissan Murano. Both have higher towing capacities than any Pilot/Passport/Ridgeline.
 

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Most have given you reasons why not to choose a Pilot.

If your friend is looking for a midsize 3 row crossover, I would point to the Durango as the towing champion for this class. My biggest concern is keeping an eye on payload, most of the vehicles in this class have sufficient payload for a pair of passengers but if the whole family is going and gear you can pretty quickly exceed the payload ratings.
 

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FWIW, my former boss had a boat weighing in at that, he always drove Yukon XL or Suburbans. 2008 he wanted a new one and we couldn't find him one anywhere. My folks had a Pilot so I said why don't you test drive one? He did, loved it, bought it, towed his boat for 4 summers with it. That being said, he towed from the house to the lake 20 miles, no highway, all secondary roads at 40 MPH and the boat launch ramp was almost flat. I have an 2011 pilot with factory tow package so PS has a cooler, transmission cooler and all the wiring is in it for trailer brake controllers etc. I would occasionally tow a 5000lb trailer but if I was doing it every weekend I'd buy something else. and if I was towing 5k LBs it wouldn't be on freeways at 70+MPH. My little 1600 lb coleman is bad enough and requires I do a transmission flush every fall to keep the transmission happy.
 

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Towing at the limit with a crossover is like smoking or drinking. You can do it, for a while. It just starts living in dog years.

Of course, it is best not to have to buy anything right now, but in normal times 15 year old Suburbans can be reasonably cheap and can be equipped with almost 10K towing limit. The longer wheelbase will make him happier too.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Towing at the limit with a crossover is like smoking or drinking. You can do it, for a while. It just starts living in dog years.

Of course, it is best not to have to buy anything right now, but in normal times 15 year old Suburbans can be reasonably cheap and can be equipped with almost 10K towing limit. The longer wheelbase will make him happier too.
Thanks for the advice.....I just found out he bought a 2010 Pathfinder with 110K on it for 10K. Great condition and can pull up to 6000lb.
 

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Towing at the limit with a crossover is like smoking or drinking. You can do it, for a while. It just starts living in dog years.
Agreed, been there done that one too many times. Forget the Pathfinder, too. Transmissions/drivetrains/chassis/brakes/etc.... all of of it just ain't up to 4,000lbs or more of towing. Safety issue. But if you insist ...and you don't plan on keeping the vehicle for a while ...
 

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My friend wants to buy a SUV for towing a boat. I have an '04 and '08 Pilot so I'm knowledgeable
about the 1st gens.
He's looking for a higher mileage Pilot, year 11 or later... for less than 12K.
I know used cars are going for a premium so finances are his ultimate decision.
My questions is really which years should I avoid? Oil consumption issues, transmission issues..,,,etc. I always read the Carfax but sometimes that is missing stuff too.
So I ask the experts!!

Thanks again
The engines are pretty much the same. I have a 2017 Touring and have towed with it. It was fine. To tow 5000 lbs you’ll need to add the towing package. That’s about it.
 

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My friend wants to buy a SUV for towing a boat. I have an '04 and '08 Pilot so I'm knowledgeable
about the 1st gens.
He's looking for a higher mileage Pilot, year 11 or later... for less than 12K.
I know used cars are going for a premium so finances are his ultimate decision.
My questions is really which years should I avoid? Oil consumption issues, transmission issues..,,,etc. I always read the Carfax but sometimes that is missing stuff too.
So I ask the experts!!

Thanks again
I have a 2017 Honda Pilot Touring and towed 5000 Lbs over 2000 miles. Hilly, Mountains, Prairie. I had absolutely no problems and enjoyed the experience. Do not buy anything from Dodge, GM, Nissan, Kia, if you want a Ford buy a truck with a V8. The eco boost engine is too small. The only vehicles I would buy now are Toyotas or Hondas. The Honda V6 naturally aspirated will last forever if you take care of it. I also use Amsoil. Good luck.
 

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The engines are pretty much the same. I have a 2017 Touring and have towed with it. It was fine. To tow 5000 lbs you’ll need to add the towing package. That’s about it.
Except the 2004 pilot had a J35A4 engine that produces 240 HP. The 2017 pilot has a J35Y6 engine that produces 280 HP.

Towing isn't as much about the engine as it is the transmission. If you push the tow limit you put a lot of stress that turns into heat on the transmission shortening the transmission life.
 

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My friend wants to buy a SUV for towing a boat. I have an '04 and '08 Pilot so I'm knowledgeable
about the 1st gens.
He's looking for a higher mileage Pilot, year 11 or later... for less than 12K.
I know used cars are going for a premium so finances are his ultimate decision.
My questions is really which years should I avoid? Oil consumption issues, transmission issues..,,,etc. I always read the Carfax but sometimes that is missing stuff too.
So I ask the experts!!

Thanks
I have a 2012 and for years i would use it to pick up 2 tons of coal (ovbiously 4k lbs) with no issues, but i always thought i was pushing its limits... one time i took my dads heavy duty but smaller dual axle trailer( 6x12) to get a small amount of asphalt to do 2 parking spaces. i haD never does this before, so i pulled up and the gates from above opened and out came 7500 lbs and i towed it home. god is my witness. i was amazed... i just ordered the square footage i needed, never thinking it would weigh that much.. i thought they would add a little at a time and check back as they were adding
although i would not do it again..i was impressed!
 
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