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Hyundai Santa Fe Towing Capacity: What to Know

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It wasn’t all that long ago that Hyundai was seen as little more than a cheap import that sacrificed quality for price. But over the last two decades, Hyundai has steadily improved its image by improving its product. They are now often hailed as some of the most reliable cars available, and they have one of the best warranties to back this up.

All new Hyundais sold come with a 5-year/60,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty and a 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty, so in the off chance that something does go wrong with your new Hyundai, it will stay covered for longer than any other midsize SUV on the market. But a good warranty and reliable parts can be best appreciated when you really want the car, and with the new and improved Santa Fe, why wouldn’t you?


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The new redesign is sleek and polished with an exterior that clearly tells you it is a modern car without loudly screaming future at you (looking at you Cybertruck) and an interior so smooth and sophisticated; you might think you had stepped into a Lexus. This is especially true at the higher trims with premium Napa leather, ambient lighting, an improved infotainment system, and even a built-in heads-up display.

After seeing one in person, you may be surprised that this car has a starting MSRP under thirty thousand dollars, and even the premium Calligraphy trim starts just a hair over the forty-thousand-dollar mark. What is less surprising from this five-seat midsize SUV is that the towing on this model is pretty low for its class.

With a maximum towing capacity well under 5,000 pounds, the Santa Fe is more in line with compact SUVs like the Toyota RAV4, Ford Escape, and Chevy Equinox than its classmates like the Dodge Durango, Toyota Highlander, and Chevy Traverse. If you’re interested in possibly buying one, CoPilot will walk you through what you still can do and what the limitations are with the Hyundai Santa Fe’s towing.

Towing Capacity Without Trailer Brakes: 1,650 Pounds

Across all four trims of the new Hyundai Santa Fe, you can only tow 1,650 pounds without trailer brakes. Regardless of what engine, drivetrain, or trailering package you have, that is the limit set for safely operating the vehicle. With this weight limit, you could probably tow a lawnmower on a trailer, one average jet ski (or two if they’re on the light side), some small models of teardrop trailers, or pop-up campers.

You could tow the smallest model of a U-Haul cargo trailer, the 4x8 version, but with a dry weight of 850 pounds and no brakes, you could only fill it up with about 800 pounds of your belongings, which is only about half of the maximum capacity. To improve your towing ability, you need to add trailer brakes to whatever you’re towing.


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There are two types of trailer brakes: surge brakes and electric trailer brakes. Surge brakes work on a very simple positive feedback loop with a large hydraulic cylinder. When the tow vehicle stops, the trailer tries to keep moving forward into it, which ends up squeezing that cylinder. This pressure from the hydraulics compressing applies pressure to the brake pads.

When the vehicle accelerates again, the hydraulic cylinder loses pressure, and the brakes are released. This is a simple, fairly effective solution, but it can feel a little clunky at times since the brakes don’t start working until you have already begun to slow down, and they might not be released until you’re already accelerating away and the trailer brakes just drag you back.

Electric brakes exist to remedy this. Instead of using physics to stop your trailer, they use technology. If your car has a wiring harness to connect to a trailer (which some Santa Fes do), then you can plug your trailer into your car, and any time you apply the brakes, that same signal is also sent to the trailer, so it brakes nearly instantly.

Towing Capacity of SE and SEL Trims with Trailer Brakes: 2,000 Pounds

The Santa Fe’s towing capacity may not go up greatly with the trailer brakes, but 350 pounds can be an appreciable difference in some contexts. You can almost definitely haul two jet skis, some lightweight boats, and small RVs.

Most campers under 1,650 pounds are very minimalist structures with little more than a roof over a bed. But coming in just under 2,000 pounds, you’ll start to find mini-RVs that come with fully equipped bathrooms and kitchenettes. It’s not luxurious, but it certainly makes road trips more manageable and fun.


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Towing Capacity of Limited and Cartography Trims with Trailer Brakes: 3,500 Pounds

The bottleneck holding the SE and SEL trims back from towing more is definitely the engine strength. Their 191 horsepower, 2.5L, four-cylinder engine is upgraded in the Limited and Cartography trims with a turbocharger and dual-clutch eight-speed transmission, raising the output to 281 horsepower.

With that bigger engine, available all-wheel drive, the wiring harness for electric trailer brakes, and a built-in tow hitch, the top two trims of the Santa Fe have significantly higher towing capacities than the bottom two. This does make for a far more capable vehicle, with power to tow a fully loaded 5x10 cargo trailer, a nice travel trailer, and you might be able to tow a small car.

What to make of this towing capacity sort of depends on how you would classify the Santa Fe. Many sources would list it as a compact SUV, while others would call it midsize. If it is a compact SUV, it is on the heavy side, its starting price is high, and its towing capacity is about average for the class.

If it is midsize, it is pretty light, it has a low entry price point, and it has a weak towing capacity compared to the many competitors that can pull 5,000 or more pounds. So this is a good in-between vehicle: it has premium features and feel at a fair price and has enough towing capacity to help out in a pinch.



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