Can A Ford Explorer Tow A Boat? Explained Comprehensively!

The allure of the open water, the thrill of a boat ride, and the freedom of the open road often converge in one pivotal question for vehicle owners: Can my car handle the weight and demands of towing? For those driving the Ford Explorer, a renowned SUV celebrated for its robustness, this question is particularly pertinent. 

The concise answer? Yes, the Ford Explorer can tow a boat. However, the depth and breadth of this capability warrant a closer look. Join us as we delve into the specifics, examining the Ford Explorer’s towing prowess in detail.

Understanding Ford Explorer Towing Capacity By Year

The Ford Explorer has undergone various transformations since its inception, with each iteration bringing about changes in design, engine options, and towing capabilities. To truly grasp the towing potential of the Ford Explorer, it’s essential to break it down year by year. Here’s a brief overview:

  • 1990s: The Ford Explorer made its debut in 1991. Throughout the ’90s, its towing capacity ranged from 5,000 to 5,600 lbs, depending on the specific model and engine configuration. This was more than adequate for many smaller boats, personal watercraft, and trailers of that era.
  • 2000s: As the new millennium dawned, the Explorer saw upgrades in its powertrain and chassis. By the mid-2000s, equipped with the right towing package and engine, some models boasted a towing capacity of up to 7,300 lbs. This increase allowed owners to tow larger boats and even some twin-axle trailers.
  • 2010s: The Explorer underwent a significant redesign in 2011, transitioning from a body-on-frame to a unibody construction. While this change improved ride quality and fuel efficiency, it did affect its towing capacity. However, with the introduction of the EcoBoost engines, the Explorer’s towing capacity hovered around 5,000 to 5,600 lbs for most models, with the Sport and Platinum trims occasionally reaching up to 5,000 lbs.
  • 2020s: The most recent versions of the Ford Explorer, especially from 2020 onwards, have seen a resurgence in towing prowess. With the introduction of the rear-wheel-drive platform and the continuation of the EcoBoost engines, the Explorer’s towing capacity has reached up to 5,600 lbs for the standard models. The ST and Platinum versions, equipped with the 3.0L EcoBoost V6, can tow an impressive 5,600 lbs when properly equipped.

It’s crucial to note that these figures can vary based on factors like engine size, drivetrain, and the inclusion of specific towing packages. Always refer to the vehicle’s owner manual or consult with a Ford dealer to determine the exact towing capacity for a specific year and model.

So, Can A Ford Explorer Tow A Boat 

Yes, the Ford Explorer is equipped to tow boats. Historically, its towing capacity ranges from 5,000 to 7,300 lbs, depending on the model and year. For safe towing, users should consider the vehicle’s towing capacity, use the right equipment, and be aware of weight distribution and road conditions. 

What Size Boat Can Be Towed By A Ford Explorer

When determining the size of the boat a Ford Explorer can tow, it’s essential to consider not just the boat’s dry weight but also additional weights like fuel, equipment, and the trailer itself. Here’s a detailed table breaking down various boat types and their compatibility with the Ford Explorer’s towing capacity:

Boat TypesAverage Dry Weight (lbs)Additional Weight (Equipment, Fuel, etc.)Total Estimated Weight (lbs)Can Ford Explorer Tow?Comments
Personal Watercraft (PWC)600 – 1,200100 – 200700 – 1,400YesPerfect for weekend getaways and short trips.
Jon Boat300 – 65050 – 150350 – 800YesIdeal for fishing and calm waters.
Bass Boat1,500 – 2,500200 – 5001,700 – 3,000YesSuitable for freshwater fishing adventures.
Bowrider2,500 – 3,500500 – 1,0003,000 – 4,500YesGreat for recreational boating and watersports.
Deck Boat3,100 – 4,500600 – 1,2003,700 – 5,700MostlySome larger models might be close to or exceed the limit.
Cabin Cruiser5,000 – 8,0001,000 – 2,0006,000 – 10,000NoTypically exceeds the Explorer’s towing capacity.
Pontoon Boat2,000 – 3,500500 – 1,0002,500 – 4,500YesIdeal for leisurely cruises and group outings.
Sailboat (Small to Medium)2,500 – 4,500400 – 8002,900 – 5,300MostlySome larger sailboats might be close to or exceed the limit.

It’s crucial to remember that these are average weights, and specific models or brands might vary. Always check the boat’s and trailer’s combined weight against the Ford Explorer’s towing capacity for the specific year and model you own. Additionally, ensure that you have the appropriate towing package and equipment to handle the load safely.

Things to consider when towing a boat with a Ford Explorer

When you’re hooking up a boat to your Ford Explorer, or any whip for that matter, there’s a game plan you gotta stick to. It ain’t just about connecting and cruising; it’s about double-checking everything for safety, getting the most bang for your buck, and keeping your ride looking and running sharp. Here’s the scoop.

Towing Capacity: 

Always ensure that the combined weight of your boat, trailer, fuel, equipment, and any other cargo does not exceed the Ford Explorer’s towing capacity for your specific model year. Overloading can lead to reduced vehicle control, increased stopping distances, and potential damage to your vehicle.

Towing Package: 

Ensure your Ford Explorer is equipped with the appropriate towing package. This often includes a hitch receiver, wiring harness, and sometimes additional cooling for the transmission. The right package will optimize performance and safety.

Tire Pressure: 

Before setting out, check the tire pressure on both the Explorer and the boat trailer. Proper tire inflation is crucial for stability and can help prevent blowouts.

Braking System: 

If your boat and trailer are on the heavier side, consider investing in a trailer with a braking system. This will help reduce the stopping distance and provide additional safety, especially in emergencies.

Weight Distribution: 

Ensure that the trailer weight is distributed evenly. An uneven load can cause the trailer to sway, making it harder to control the vehicle, especially at higher speeds.

Mirror Extensions: 

If your boat is wider than the Ford Explorer, consider using mirror extensions. These will provide a better view of the road behind, ensuring safer lane changes and turns.


If you’re new to towing, find an open space like an empty parking lot to practice driving, reversing, and parking with the trailer attached. This will help you get a feel for the added length and weight.

Drive Slowly and Carefully: 

When towing, it’s advisable to drive at slower speeds than usual. This gives you more time to react to potential hazards and reduces the strain on your vehicle.

Regular Maintenance: 

Towing puts additional strain on your vehicle. Regularly check and maintain your Ford Explorer’s engine, transmission, brakes, and other critical systems. This will ensure longevity and safe towing experiences.

Weather Conditions: 

Wet or icy roads can significantly impact towing safety. If possible, avoid towing during adverse weather conditions. If you must tow, be extra cautious, increase your following distance, and reduce your speed.

Hill and Mountain Towing: 

When towing in hilly or mountainous areas, be aware that going uphill will strain the engine and going downhill will put pressure on the brakes. Use lower gears to help control speed and reduce brake wear.

Legal Considerations: 

Different states or countries may have specific regulations regarding towing, such as maximum speeds, required equipment, or permits. Ensure you’re familiar with and adhere to these regulations.


What is the average towing capacity of a Ford Explorer?

The Ford Explorer’s towing capacity has ranged from 5,000 to 7,300 lbs over the years, depending on the model, engine, and equipped towing package.

Do I need a special towing package for my Ford Explorer to tow a boat?

It’s recommended to have a towing package for optimal performance and safety. This often includes a hitch receiver, wiring harness, and sometimes additional cooling for the transmission.

How do I ensure safe towing with my Ford Explorer?

To ensure safe towing, check the combined weight of the boat, trailer, and equipment to ensure it’s within the vehicle’s towing capacity. Also, maintain proper tire pressure, balance the load evenly, and consider a trailer with a braking system for heavier boats.

Are there legal regulations I should be aware of when towing with a Ford Explorer?

Yes, different states or countries may have specific regulations regarding towing, such as maximum speeds, required equipment, or permits. Always check local laws before towing.

How does weather affect towing a boat with a Ford Explorer?

Wet or icy roads can impact towing safety. It’s advisable to drive slower, increase following distance, and be extra cautious during adverse weather conditions.

Can I tow larger boats like cabin cruisers with a Ford Explorer?

While the Ford Explorer has a robust towing capacity, larger boats like cabin cruisers often exceed its limits when combined with the weight of fuel, equipment, and the trailer. Always check the combined weight against the vehicle’s towing capacity.

Final Thoughts

In the grand scheme of American adventures, towing with your Ford Explorer stands as a testament to freedom and versatility. Whether it’s a boat for those sun-soaked lake days or another vehicle for a cross-country escapade, the Explorer’s got your back. 

But remember, like any great journey, it’s not just about the destination but ensuring the ride is safe and efficient. So, always stay informed, gear up right, and hit the road with confidence. Here’s to many more miles and memories! Don’t forget to bookmark this guide for all your towing needs. Safe travels!

Ricardo Vaughn
Ricardo Vaughn

Vaughn is a seasoned off-roading expert and professional winch specialist. When he's not out on the trails, he shares his knowledge and experiences through his writing as a blog author in the off-roading and outdoor lifestyle space.

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