Tow Dolly Vs. Flatbed Trailer | Which Will Win?

tow dolly vs flatbed trailer

Photo credit

Do you run a business that deals with transporting vehicles? Whether you’re a mechanic who enjoys fixing up and selling cars, someone who transports their dirt bike to the mountains, or you are passionate about restoring vintage cars, a safe and efficient transportation method will make your life much easier! 

When you think about transporting vehicles, what are the first main methods of transportation that come to mind? If you thought to yourself, “Umm… Flatbed trailers… And a tow dolly.” you’re in good company. These are the two main ways to transport a vehicle, but which one is the right fit for you? Will a tow dolly or a flatbed trailer fit your needs and budget best? By the end of this post, you should have a good idea of the strengths and weaknesses of both of these options and be equipped with the knowledge to pick the best one for you!

Function of a Tow Dolly and Flatbed Trailer

tow dolly functions

A tow dolly is specially designed to transport a vehicle by lifting the front of the car off the ground. As the front tires of the vehicle are securely on the tow dolly, the back tires are left to coast freely behind. Tow dollies are designed as a two-wheeled trailer with a platform where the front wheels of the vehicle are strapped down securely. 

A flatbed trailer provides essentially the same function as a tow dolly but in a different way. The vehicle is totally off the ground on the bed of the trailer. Flatbed trailers aren’t just used for hauling vehicles, but they make a very practical way to do so.

Tow Dolly Pros and Cons

tow dolly vs flatbed trailer pros and cons

As with most other things in life, tow dollies have good things and they have some bad things that you need to consider. When deciding between multiple options, it’s essential that you get a list together of the pros and cons. Thankfully, we’ve already done that for you, so you save yourself some time and headaches.

Pros of a Tow Dolly


The main advantage of a tow dolly is its cost-effectiveness. We mention this one first because we know staying within your budget is important to you. Tow dollies are generally cheaper for both buying and renting. This pro makes a tow dolly the perfect solution for someone who does occasional towing.

Easy Maneuvering

Tow dollies are small and light. This makes them easy to maneuver wherever you go. Tow dollies are known for being easy to maneuver in tight spaces, down narrow back roads, and in congested urban areas. If any of those instances sounded familiar, check out a tow dolly!


Tow dollies are generally used for front-wheel drive vehicles. In a pinch, rear-wheel drive cars can be loaded backward. This shouldn’t be a common practice, and before you decide on a tow dolly, make sure you consider the type of vehicles you’ll be towing.


Tow dollies actually save your car mileage! Because the rear wheels of front-wheel drive vehicles are independent of the mileage sensor, additional miles won’t be added to your car when towing.

Cons of a Tow Dolly

Backing Up

This one should be mentioned first because backing is a struggle for us all. While theoretically, it is possible to back up with a tow dolly, it isn’t advised. In fact, some firmly say you should never attempt backing with a tow dolly. Backing up with a tow dolly can damage the hitching system, the dolly itself, or the car that’s being towed. 

Increased Wear

Because the back wheels are constantly in contact with the ground, they will wear more quickly. The front wheels will be kept in great condition, while the rear wheels will require replacement sooner.

Limited Use

A pro of tow dollies is their easy ability to haul front-wheel drive vehicles. On the flip side of this is a con if you work with rear-wheel drive vehicles. With a tow dolly, you’ll be limited in the vehicles you’ll be able to work with.


It can be complicated to load cars onto a tow dolly. While it gets easier with time, the initial learning curve can take a while to get over.

For more information about towing a car on a dolly, check out our blog post dedicated to this topic.

Flatbed Trailer Pros and Cons

tow dolly vs gooseneck flatbed trailer

Now that we know the pros and cons of tow dollies, let’s look at their rival in this competition. Carefully weighing the benefits and drawbacks of each transportation option will help you make the best decision.

Pros of a Flatbed Trailer

Reduced Wear

With a flatbed trailer, your vehicle will be resting a not have to do any work. With all four wheels safely aboard the flatbed, the tiles won’t get any wear!

Easy Loading and Unloading

With the addition of ramps on your trailer, loading and unloading your vehicle will be relatively easy! Simply drive the vehicle up onto the trailer, securely fasten it, and you’re off!


One of the key benefits of flatbed trailers is that they aren’t solely used for transporting vehicles. You can use a flatbed trailer to haul supplies and equipment to a job site. You can load up your canoes and kayaks and head to the lake for the day. With a flatbed trailer, you aren’t limited to one use.

Easier Backing

You’ll note that we didn’t say flatbed trailers make backing a breeze. Backing is difficult no matter what. A flatbed trailer is definitely easier and safer to back up than a tow dolly. If you’re already a backing pro, a flatbed trailer will be right up your alley.

Cons of a Flatbed Trailer 

Higher Cost

Flatbed trailers will cost you more than a tow dolly. If you have a strict budget or if you aren’t going to use it often, a flatbed trailer might not be the best fit for you.

Limited Protection

Because a flatbed trailer is not enclosed, your vehicle won’t be completely protected when being transported. If debris from the road is flying through the air, your vehicle might be damaged. 


A flatbed trailer is a good bit larger than a tow dolly. This makes it more difficult to maneuver in tight spaces. If you are taking on back roads or city streets, a flatbed trailer isn’t the best option unless you’re experienced with handling trailers.


Storing your flatbed when not in use can be difficult because of its large size. Storing your trailer properly is key to keeping it in good condition, so before you invest in one, make sure you have a good place to keep it.

Towing with a Tow Dolly

tow dolly vs flatbed trailer safety

Before you load your vehicle on a tow dolly make sure that every component is ready to go. Check the tire pressure on your car as well as the ones on the dolly. Traveling with low tire pressure can quickly ruin your tires. 

Start with your car and tow dolly lined up and parked on a flat area. Extend the ramps of the tow dolly and lay out the tire straps. Carefully drive your car up the ramp on the dolly until it securely locks on the ramp. Put your vehicle in park and apply the parking brake to keep it safely in place. Your steering wheel should also be locked, or if your vehicle is not equipped with a locking steering column, tie your steering wheel securely.

Depending on the type of tow dolly you have, securing your vehicle to the dolly will follow a different procedure. It’s paramount that you follow the instructions carefully. Don’t try to cut corners or do it the way you think it should be done. 

Once you have your vehicle securely loaded, you’re ready to head out! While driving with a tow dolly, allow extra time for stopping because of the additional weight. Take your time getting to your destination. Be cautious while going around curves and making turns.

Towing with a Flatbed Trailer

tow dolly vs flatbed trailer for towing

Just like with a tow dolly, before you start loading your car hauler trailer, make sure it’s parked on a flat and solid surface. Carefully line up your car with the ramp of the ramp and drive up slowly. Have someone act as a spotter to keep you lined up with the ramp. Once your vehicle is at the proper place on the trailer, put it in park and engage the parking brake. 

Secure the wheels of the vehicle to the straps or chains on the trailer. Once the vehicle is safely secured on the trailer, put the ramps back in place. After doing a final walk around and making sure everything is secure, you’re ready to hit the road! 

Drive carefully, being mindful of the extra length and weight that you’re dealing with. You will need to allow plenty of room for wide turns and watch out for places with low height clearance.

Tow Dolly vs. Flatbed Trailer | The Decision

tow dolly vs flatbed trailer for cars

Now you know the pros and cons of both a tow dolly and a flatbed trailer. You know the process of hauling with each of them. Both are really great options and can be the perfect addition depending on what you need them for.

This is where you have to get decisive and ask yourself important questions.

What Do I Need It For?

tow dolly vs flatbed trailer questions 1

You need to ask yourself what you’ll be transporting. Will you be hauling a variety of vehicles? If you are, you should opt for a flatbed trailer. Because tow dollies are limited to front-wheel drive vehicles, they aren’t a good fit for someone looking to transport multiple types of vehicles. 

If you’re looking for a towing option behind your camper, a tow dolly is a great option! Because you’ll mainly be hauling the same vehicle, a tow dolly will work great!

If you need something that goes beyond just hauling vehicles, go with a flatbed trailer. They’ll offer you versatile uses with their large surface area.

Along with this question, ask yourself what you want a car hauler for. With an investment like this, you don’t want to just think about what you need, but you also should consider the wants you have. What will make your life easier? What will help you out?

What’s My Budget?

Figure out what your budget is for this new addition and make your decision accordingly. A tow dolly is the more economical option if your budget is smaller. If you don’t care what you spend on a towing option, choose a flatbed trailer and enjoy the versatility it offers you!

How Often Will I Use It?

tow dolly vs flatbed trailer frequent use

Photo credit

How often you use your tow dolly or trailer affects your decision as well. If you’re planning on using it frequently with the same vehicle, a tow dolly is a good option. Initially, the loading and securing process can be difficult. However, if you’re using your tow dolly multiple times a week with the same vehicle, you’ll be a pro in no time.

Tow Dolly vs. Flatbed Trailer | Which is Better?

tow dolly vs flatbed trailer four winds trailer

Hopefully, by this point, you’ve decided for yourself which option is better. There really isn’t a right or wrong answer. It all depends on what your needs are and what gives you the most convenient way to transport your vehicle. 

Whichever option you choose is sure to provide you with trustworthy hauling as long as you follow the proper procedures and safety protocols.

Four Winds Trailer offers you choices of tow dollies and flatbed trailers so your search ends here! If you have any questions, feel free to contact us. Get an idea of the cost and find out what fits in your budget by requesting a trailer estimate!