Which is the best trailer coupling for the towing vehicle?

There are many trailer couplings on the market now and generally speaking they fall into three distinct types:

  • Rigid trailer coupling device
  • Detachable/removable trailer coupling device
  • Sway control coupling device.

Each of the above-mentioned types is valid in its own right with corresponding advantages and disadvantages.

Rigid trailer coupling device/tow hitch  is screwed on to the vehicle and the ball mount juts out behind. It is always visible and is usually cheaper to buy than the other two types.  However this coupling device is not authorised or legal if the ball mount conceals the vehicle license plate.  Another disadvantage is that it can get in the way when you are hitching/hooking up and your clothes can get dirty. Because there are no moveable parts, this device is low maintenance and offers good protection when parking and manoeuvring.

The detachable coupling device consists of a fixed mounted support under the bumper (fender US) and a mechanical removable ball mount.  The advantage of this arrangement is that it does not spoil the the appearance of the vehicle and it can easily be removed and stowed in the boot (trunk US).  The disadvantage is that it is more expensive and that if the ball mount installation accumulates a load of dirt (salt and corrosion), it can make life difficult because the surfaces have to be cleaned off.

The sway control coupling is similar to the detachable coupling in that the ball mount can be  mechanically folded away under the bumper/fender until it needs to be used.  This arrangement has the same advantages as the detachable coupling device but no part of it (ball mount) needs to be stowed in the boot. A fully automated variation of this coupling exists that provides push button control to lock the swaying thereby sparing the driver the need to intervene in any other way. This is the most expensive coupling device option on the market.  Cheaper ones can also be fitted with cable control whereby the swaying is locked manually.

Because of the complexity of this arrangement, proper maintenance is vital otherwise problems will arise.

The rigid coupling device is a good buy if it is used regularly and if the overall appearance of the vehicle is not an issue.  Otherwise the detachable or sway control couplings are a better option.  But never  grease the coupling ball otherwise the sway control mechanism will not work.

Source: CampingRevue (ÖCC-A)