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Discussion Starter #1
I know others have asked about towing, so here is the heaviest thing I will pull down the road, and I don't go fast. It's a 12' trailer loaded with fresh oak, hackberry and cherry. It's not my trailer. It's what the tree service owner had and I had to make do. Both of my tandem trailers are buried in snow.
I don't know how much it weighs, at least as much as the rav, maybe 6,000 lbs. Gross combined weight was probably around 9,000-10,000 lbs. The tongue weight was ~ 250-300 lbs It's a bit of a dog to get going with the 4 cylinder, and stopping is not happening fast without trailer brakes. My truck wouldn't bat an eye at it, but with the weather we have been having, I felt better pulling it with the 4wd rav. It handles it well, as far as road manners go. This is the third load like this that I've hauled home with the rav.

The rav seems to max out at about 3,000 lbs for decent acceleration and braking. If you are wondering what the rav will safely tow under normal conditions, it's about 1/2 of this. Mileage is out the window. My last tank averaged 19 mpg and I got ~200 miles before filling up. That was with only one trip. The gas gauge is currently at 3/4 and 50 miles traveled, so not great. There were a lot of big hills to climb and stop and go in town. The big gate on the back doesn't help either. My truck will average just as good of mpg as the rav, so it's not about mpg. I chose the rav because the roads are snowy/icy and my truck is 2wd.
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I think that weight is close to the RAV4 and I am surprised the car and trailer can pull with such a heavy load. I would have made 3 or 4 trips instead of one just to be safe. Braking on snow is not safe with that much weight plus the wear on your vehicle down the road. Another thing is if you ever have an accident you may be declined due to the illegal load you are carrying.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
It was a 30 minute drive one way at normal speeds. I took it slow on back roads and did fine. Multiple trips were out of the question. The wood had to get moved. My average speed was about 30 mph, and that worked well. Like I said, "safe" would be 1/2 of this. There is no way I'd pull it on the interstate, but a back road "farmer drive" is a good way to do it. Ever pulled a full hay wagon with a truck? 1st gear the whole way and keep it slow. We used to pull two wagons at a time and that was a 30,000 lb load some days.
 

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Agree in principle with DL175 and in the past when we had heavy loads including among others grain trailers and hay wagons to tow I have used the V8 Chev. pickup I had at the time, even on snowy roads. Like you I always used back roads, usually graveled and drove slowly. I would not have thought of using the car even if it were AWD or 4WD for various reasons. I'm surprised that your RAV4 would tow that sort of weight, especially with a 4 cyl. engine without damage to the transmission, and with a rather high tongue weight and towed weight damage to the RAV4's structure could take place if an unexpected quick stop were needed. But so far what you are doing obviously is working.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Towing more weight won't hurt anything if you take it easy. Tongue weight was completely appropriate for the rav.
The transmission is fine. I didn't over work it and I have a large cooler on it. Now if I held it wide open and tried to hold 60-70 mph on the highway I would expect problems. I let the car decide how fast to go. Hills were usually 1st or 2nd gear manually selected to prevent upshifts. The load on the engine/trans was no different than if it was climbing a mountain with passengers/luggage, and probably less than that.
 
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