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A dolly and a flatbed tow truck

The Pros and Cons of Dolly vs. Flatbed Towing for Long Distance

Towing a vehicle long distance requires careful consideration of various factors, including the method of towing. Two popular options for long-distance towing are dolly towing and flatbed towing. Each method has its pros and cons, and understanding these differences can help you make an informed decision. In this article, we will explore the advantages and disadvantages of dolly and flatbed towing, allowing you to choose the method that suits your needs best.

Understanding Dolly and Flatbed Towing

Defining Dolly Towing

Dolly towing involves towing a vehicle with its front wheels lifted off the ground, while the rear wheels remain in contact with the road. This is achieved by using a dolly, a specialized trailer with ramps and straps to secure the front wheels of the towed vehicle.

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Dolly towing is commonly used to transport front-wheel-drive or all-wheel-drive vehicles. The dolly allows the tow vehicle to bear a portion of the towed vehicle’s weight, making it an effective and cost-efficient option.

One of the key advantages of dolly towing is its versatility. It is particularly useful for vehicles that cannot be towed with all four wheels on the ground, such as those with automatic transmissions that do not have a neutral gear setting. By utilizing a dolly, these vehicles can be safely transported without causing damage to their drivetrain.

Defining Flatbed Towing

Flatbed towing, on the other hand, involves towing a vehicle on a flatbed trailer, where all four wheels of the towed vehicle are securely positioned on the trailer’s surface. The towed vehicle is fully lifted off the ground, eliminating any risks of tire wear or damage.

Flatbed towing is suitable for all types of vehicles, regardless of their drivetrain configuration or size. It provides maximum stability and security during transportation, ensuring that your vehicle reaches its destination in the same condition it was loaded onto the trailer.

Another advantage of flatbed towing is the ease of loading and unloading the vehicle. Since the entire vehicle is loaded onto the flatbed trailer, there is no need to worry about aligning the towed vehicle’s wheels or potential damage to the undercarriage during the loading process. This makes flatbed towing a convenient option for transporting luxury or high-performance vehicles that require extra care.

The Advantages of Dolly Towing

Cost-Effectiveness of Dolly Towing

Dolly towing is generally a more budget-friendly option compared to flatbed towing. The equipment required for dolly towing is less expensive, making it a cost-effective choice for many individuals or businesses.

If you have a front-wheel-drive or all-wheel-drive vehicle and are looking for a cost-efficient towing solution, dolly towing can be a practical choice that won’t break the bank.

Moreover, the affordability of dolly towing extends beyond just the equipment costs. Since dolly trailers are lighter and more compact than flatbed trailers, they can result in lower fuel consumption during towing, saving you money on gas in the long run. This cost-effective aspect of dolly towing makes it an attractive option for those looking to save on overall towing expenses.

Versatility and Convenience of Dolly Towing

One of the significant advantages of dolly towing is its versatility. Dolly trailers can be easily maneuvered and stored when not in use, and they do not require as much space as flatbed trailers.

Additionally, dolly towing allows you to tow vehicles with low ground clearance, preventing any potential damage to the front bumper or undercarriage. This makes it a convenient option for towing vehicles with limited clearance, such as sports cars or vehicles with aftermarket modifications.

Furthermore, dolly towing offers the convenience of being able to tow vehicles with different wheel configurations. Whether you have a front-wheel-drive, rear-wheel-drive, or all-wheel-drive vehicle, a dolly trailer can accommodate various types of cars, providing a versatile solution for different towing needs. This flexibility makes dolly towing a convenient choice for individuals or businesses that may need to tow a variety of vehicles with different drivetrains.

The Disadvantages of Dolly Towing

Potential Damage Risks with Dolly Towing

While dolly towing is generally safe and reliable, there are potential risks involved. The most significant risk is damage to the transmission of the towed vehicle. Since the rear wheels of the towed vehicle are in contact with the road, they can cause the transmission to rotate, potentially resulting in damage if not properly handled.

It’s important to note that dolly towing may also put strain on the suspension components of the towed vehicle, especially if the roads are bumpy or uneven. This added stress can lead to premature wear and tear on the suspension system, potentially resulting in costly repairs down the line.

Additionally, dolly towing is not recommended for vehicles with rear-wheel drive, as it can cause excessive wear on the tires and other components. Therefore, it is crucial to consider the drivetrain of your vehicle before opting for dolly towing.

Limitations of Dolly Towing

Dolly towing has some limitations that need to be taken into account. It is generally not recommended for long-distance towing due to the increased strain on the towed vehicle’s rear wheels and transmission.

Furthermore, dolly towing requires the tow vehicle to have enough weight-bearing capacity to safely transport the towed vehicle. This can be a limitation for certain vehicles, particularly those with smaller towing capacities.

Another important limitation to consider is the added complexity of maneuvering a vehicle on a dolly. This can be challenging, especially for individuals who are not experienced in towing. Care must be taken when turning corners or navigating tight spaces to avoid damaging the towed vehicle or the dolly itself.

The Advantages of Flatbed Towing

Safety Benefits of Flatbed Towing

One of the significant advantages of flatbed towing is the enhanced safety it provides. With all four wheels of the towed vehicle securely positioned on the trailer, there is minimal risk of damage or wear to the tires or drivetrain components.

Flatbed towing also ensures better stability and minimizes the chances of accidents or mishaps during the towing process. This makes it an ideal option for long-distance towing, where safety is paramount.

Moreover, flatbed towing eliminates the risk of potential damage to the towed vehicle’s undercarriage, as it is lifted entirely off the ground. This feature is particularly beneficial for low-clearance vehicles or those with sensitive components underneath.

Suitability for Different Vehicle Types

Flatbed towing is suitable for a wide range of vehicles, regardless of their drivetrain configuration or size. Whether you own a front-wheel-drive sedan or a heavy-duty truck, flatbed towing can accommodate your needs effectively.

This flexibility and versatility make flatbed towing an attractive option, particularly for individuals who frequently transport various types of vehicles or those who require towing services for commercial purposes.

Additionally, flatbed towing is the preferred method for transporting luxury or high-end vehicles due to its gentle approach that minimizes the risk of damage to the vehicle’s body and frame. This makes it a popular choice among car enthusiasts and collectors who prioritize the preservation of their prized possessions.

The Disadvantages of Flatbed Towing

Higher Costs of Flatbed Towing

One of the drawbacks of flatbed towing is the relatively higher costs compared to dolly towing. The specialized equipment required for flatbed towing, including the flatbed trailers themselves, can be more expensive to purchase and maintain.

However, it’s important to consider the added benefits in terms of safety and peace of mind that flatbed towing provides, which may outweigh the higher costs, especially when transporting valuable or delicate vehicles.

Moreover, the cost of training and licensing operators for flatbed towing can also contribute to the overall expenses. Ensuring that drivers are properly trained to operate the equipment and handle various types of vehicles safely is crucial, adding to the financial investment required for flatbed towing services.

Size and Storage Challenges with Flatbed Towing

Flatbed trailers are larger and bulkier than dolly trailers, which can present challenges in terms of storage and maneuverability. If you have limited space available for storing the trailer when not in use, or if you need to navigate narrow or congested roads during transport, flatbed towing may prove to be more challenging.

Furthermore, the size of flatbed trailers can impact fuel efficiency, as larger trailers may require more fuel to transport vehicles over long distances. This additional fuel consumption can contribute to the operational costs of flatbed towing services, making it important to factor in these considerations when choosing the appropriate towing method.

Additionally, flatbed trailers may require additional permits or restrictions when transporting oversized vehicles due to size or weight regulations. It is essential to be aware of these considerations and ensure compliance with local regulations. Failure to adhere to these regulations can result in fines or delays in transportation, emphasizing the importance of thorough planning and preparation for flatbed towing operations.


Towing a vehicle long distance requires careful consideration of the pros and cons of different towing methods. Dolly towing offers cost-effectiveness and convenience, but it comes with potential transmission damage risks and limitations for certain vehicles. On the other hand, flatbed towing provides enhanced safety, versatility for different vehicle types, but at a higher cost and with size and storage challenges.

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Ultimately, the choice between dolly and flatbed towing depends on your specific requirements, vehicle type, and budget. Consider the advantages and disadvantages discussed in this article, and consult with towing professionals to make an informed decision that ensures the safety and protection of your vehicle during long-distance transport.

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