When it comes to trucks, what you need to tow can determine which vehicle you buy. We know towing capability isn't the only factor that influences how you spend your hard-earned money, but for many buyers, it's a big part of the decision. Those wanting to pull a big horse trailer or a fifth-wheel RV will need a heavy-duty truck. Those towing something lighter, like an ATV or a small boat, can get away with a small SUV or even a crossover.

Yes, truck people are not the same as crossover people. However, before you write off crossovers as incapable, take a look at the towing capacities of some. While there are plenty of crossovers that can't tow more than 1500 pounds, there are some that can tow as much as -- or more than -- a compact or midsize truck.

Consider the Dodge Durango. It just made the switch from body-on-frame SUV to unibody construction, yet it can still tow 7400 pounds -- more than any compact/midsize truck out there. The Chevrolet Traverse, GMC Acadia, and Buick Enclave are crossovers built on versions of the same platform, and the least this trio can tow is 4500 pounds. The new unibody Ford Explorer can pull 5000 pounds, and there are plenty of crossovers that can tow 3500 pounds.

We're not exactly in love with the growing number of crossovers, an expansion that seemingly comes at the expense of some body-on-frame SUVs. Thank goodness there's still a Suburban, a Tahoe, an Expedition for those who want to tow bigger trailers and carry people as well. But there is an SUV silver lining: People who need something smaller than a traditional body-on-frame SUV can still find some genuine towing capability in a crossover, in some cases more of it than in a compact or midsize pickup.

In the chart below, we've listed the numbers of a couple of bare-bone compact pickups just for comparison. We've also compiled a list of crossovers and a few compact SUVs that tow 3500 lbs. or more.


Trucks
Class YMM Engine Maximum towing capacity
Compact Truck 2012 Chevrolet Colorado/2012 GMC CANYON Vortec 2.9L I-4 Regular cab 2WD: 2400(manual)/3400(automatic)
Regular cab 4WD: 2100/ 3100
Extended cab 2WD: 2200/ 3200
Extended cab 4WD: 1900/2900
Crew cab 2WD: 3000(automatic)
Compact Truck 2012 Nissan Frontier King Cab 2.5L I4 4x2/4x4 3,500 lbs.
Compact Truck 2011 Suzuki Equator Extended Cab 2.5L I4 3,500 lbs.
Compact Truck 2012 Toyota Tacoma 2.7-liter 4-cylinder or 4.0-liter V6 3,300/3,500 (depending on cab configuration)
Crossovers
Class YMM Engine Maximum towing capacity
Midsize Crossover 2012 BMW X6 xDrive35i or xDrive50i 6,000 lbs.
Midsize Crossover 2012 Buick Enclave 3.6L V-6 VVT DI 4,500 lbs.
Midsize Crossover 2012 Chevrolet Equinox/GMC Terrian 3.0L DOHC V-6 DI 3,500 lbs.
Midsize Crossover 2012 Chevrolet Traverse 3.6L V-6 DI VVT 5,200 lbs.
Midsize Crossover 2012 Dodge Durango 3.6-liter V-6/ 5.7-liter V-8 6,200/7,400 lbs.
Compact Crossover 2013 Ford Escape 2.0-liter EcoBoost I-4 3,500 lbs.
Midsize Crossover 2012 FORD EXPLORER 3.5-liter DOHC Ti-VCT V6/ 2.0-liter EcoBoost I-4 5,000 lbs.
Midsize Crossover 2013 FORD FLEX 3.5-liter V6 Ti-VCT/3.5-liter EcoBoost(R) V6 4,500 lbs.
Midsize Crossover 2013 GMC Acadia 3.6L V-6 VVT DI 5,000 lbs.
Midsize Crossover 2012 Hyundai Veracruz 3.8 liters V6 3,500 lbs
Midsize Crossover 2012 Infiniti FX50 AWD 5.0 liters V8 3,500 lbs.
Midsize Crossover 2012 Kia Sorento 2WD AWD 3.5L V6 3,500 lbs.
Midsize Crossover 2013 Lincoln MKT 3.7-liter Ti-VCT V6/ 3.5-liter EcoBoost(R) V6 4,500 lbs.
Midsize Crossover 2013 Lincoln MKX 3.7-liter 24-valve Ti-VCT V6 3,500 lbs. (Class II)
Midsize Crossover 2012 Mazda CX-9 V6 DOHC 24V 3,500 lbs. FWD with Towing Prep Package / 3500 AWD
Midsize Crossover 2012 Mitsubishi Outlander GT 3.0L MIVEC V-6 3,500 lbs.
Midsize Crossover 2012 Nissan Murano 3.5L V6 3,500 lbs.
Midsize Crossover 2012 Subaru Tribeca 3.6-liter Boxer engine 3,500 lbs. (Class II)
Midsize Crossover 2012 Toyota Highlander 2.7-liter, four-cylinder/ V6 3.5-liter, six-cylinder 3,500 lbs. w/tow prep package/ 5,000 lbs. w/tow prep package
Midsize Crossover 2012 Toyota Venza 3.5-liter, 6-cylinder, V6 3,500 lbs (V6) w/tow package
CUVs
Class YMM Engine Maximum towing capacity
Midsize SUV 2012 Honda Pilot V6 24-valve i-VTEC 4,500 lbs. 4WD
Compact SUV 2012 Jeep Liberty 3.7L engine automatic transmission with Trailer-tow package 5,000 lbs.
Compact SUV 2012 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited 3.6L V-6 gas 3,500 lbs.
Compact SUV 2012 Toyota RAV4 "V-6 3.5-liter, six-cylinder, doubleoverhead cam, 24-valve with dual VVT-i" 3,500 lbs. (w/ Tow Package)