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I currently drive 2013 Subaru Impreza hatchback, which seats 5 people (1 driver, 3 comfortable passengers and 1 unfortunate passenger on the middle seat in the back row). Its towing rating in Canada is 0 pounds (I believe this model is rated to tow in Europe and Australia (and maybe elsewhere too, I don't have an exhaustive list) but not in North-America). Despite its tow rating, I would like to be able to tow a small trailer to carry a motorcycle. Let's assume the trailer and motorcycle have a combined weight of 500 pounds. I have seen other people do it, but I still have concerns over damaging the vehicle by putting too much strain on it and creating a dangerous situation.

I did a trip with 4 adult male passengers without issues, so if I replace passengers with a trailer of equivalent weight, are there obvious problems I should foresee? I can I reasonably assume it would be fine?

My question is: in terms of strain/wear on different components of the car and performance (acceleration, braking distance) what's the difference between towing a 500 pound trailer and carrying 4 passengers of 125 pounds each?

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    If you'd please give us the year/make/model of the vehicle in question, we might be able to provide more reliable information. – Pᴀᴜʟsᴛᴇʀ2 Mar 23 at 16:26
  • @Pᴀᴜʟsᴛᴇʀ2 I edited to add it, but I'd also like to have a more general answer on how carrying extra weight vs towing the same weight would affect the vehicle, not just recommendations specific to my situation. – Alexandre Aubrey Mar 23 at 18:32
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    Oddly enough most of the major trailer hitch suppliers (U Haul, Curt, etc) list a hitch for the 2013 Impreza. The exception is the WRX models. No idea why the WRX is excluded, possible reasons may be the gearing or tires or some issue with the rear spoiler and the dymanics of a trailer. – mikes Mar 23 at 23:38
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Basically, there is no difference between the two. Weight is weight. It will affect the braking, take off, fuel mileage, etc., pretty much the same either way (rolling resistance of the tires may have an effect, but it shouldn't be too much). Towing is a little easier on the suspension because the car itself isn't handling the overall weight.

Most vehicles differentiate between load and tow ratings, but when you figure the load rating, you cannot ignore what is being towed. This weight must be added to the overall load. Just like the driver and any other cargo cannot be dismissed, either (including fuel in the tank). Something else to consider is, the weight of the trailer must be included in your overall, so don't forget it.

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    There is a potential difference. Aerodynamics aren't significantly changed by things inside the vehicle. Trailers, particularly enclosed ones add considerable wind resistance. Ihave seen anecdotal reports of 3-5 mpg less from a bicycle rack. – mikes Mar 24 at 9:24
  • @mikes - You're right about that. A bicycle rack (with bikes) is most likely less aerodynamic than the trailer and motorcycle the OP is talking about, but I can see it would have some detriment to fuel mileage. Good add. – Pᴀᴜʟsᴛᴇʀ2 Mar 24 at 9:28

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