The 2019 Towbar Buying Guide


Whether you are taking your boat down to the lake or driving around the country with a caravan, a suitable Towbar on your vehicle is a must. It protects your vehicle as well as whatever you are towing from getting damaged.

But how do you decide which kind of Towbar to choose? The market is flooded with a variety of Towbars of different weights, sizes, and shapes. Will a fixed flange ball Towbar suit your needs? Maybe a detachable swan neck Towbar will be more useful to you?

No need to worry, we’ve got you covered.

In this comprehensive guide, we are going to spill the beans on everything you need to know about buying the right Towbar in 2019.

Everything You Need to Know Before a Towbar Installation

A Towbar, also sometimes referred to as a tow hitch, is a device that allows you to tow other vehicles, caravans, trailers, horseboxes, etc. by connecting to the chassis of your vehicle.

Choosing the right tow bar depends on a few things:

  • What kind of vehicle you have
  • What you plan on towing
  • What kind of terrain you will be towing it on

Types of Detachable Towbars Available in Brisbane

In Australia there are mainly two types of Towbars – fixed and removable/detachable that are classed as follows:

  • Class 2 – Flat bolt on tongue (or, simply known as Flat tongue)
  • Class 3 – 40mm square with removable hitch (also known as Horizontal hitch)
  • Class 4 – 50mm square with removable hitch (also known as Horizontal hitch)

Allow us to break it down even more.

Within these classes Towbars usually come in four different styles:

  1. Horizontal Hitch
  2. Flat Tongue
  3. Swan Neck
  4. Rear Step

The Swan Neck and Rear Step Towbars are detachable European Towbars for European vehicles in Australia.

Now let’s get into the details of these different styles outlined above.

1. Horizontal Hitch

This is the most common type of Towbar Brisbanians have in mind when they think of a detachable or removable tow bar. From medium-sized vehicles to heavy-duty caravans, Horizontal Hitch can handle it all.

What’s a hitch, you say? It refers to the fortified metal frame attached to the vehicle. A hitch has 2 parts:

  • A Trailer hitch that links to the vehicle, and
  • A Receiver hitch that glides into the Trailer hitch and provides a strong surface for the tow ball to latch on

The Horizontal Hitch Towbar uses a square tongue that can be attached to the Trailer hitch receiver. Then a solid, heavily-reinforced metal pin is inserted through the side of the hitch to keep that receiver safe and steady.

A Horizontal Hitch comes in 2 sizes:

Class 3: 40mm square removable hitch, used to tow medium-sized vehicles. Also known as medium duty Towbars, these are generally rated up to 1600 kg.

  • Example vehicle: Family Sedan.
  • Example Load: Large Box Trailer.

Class 4: 50mm square removable hitch, used to tow large and heavy-duty vehicles. Also referred to as heavy duty Towbars, these are a must for towing horse floats, boats, and caravans.

  • Example vehicle: a 4WD.
  • Example load: Caravan.

Both of these hitches are highly convenient to use; you can remove them by just using the pin and clip. No tools are required to detach them.

2. Flat Tongue

As the name indicates, a Flat Tongue tow bar has a removable tow ball that is inserted into a horizontal opening on the Towbar.

Then the “tongue” of the tow ball is fastened by inserting two sturdy bolts through the top of the hitch. When we say sturdy, we mean a super strong security that you can bet your life savings on.

These are also known as Class 2 or light duty Towbars. They are generally rated for up to 1200kg.

  • Example vehicle: Hatchback
  • Example load: Small Box Trailer

3. Swan Neck

As we mentioned earlier, Swan Neck Towbars are specifically designed for European vehicles. It’s a mighty rare occasion when non-European manufacturers use this kind of Towbar.

As is the popular notion, Europeans really go the extra mile when it comes to comfort. It’s designed in such a way that the swan neck tow ball is permanently fixed to the Towbar. This eliminates the need for the entire process of connecting and then detaching it for each use.

Swan Neck Towbars come in a U-shape or rather, a curvy L-shape.

Since these are in low demand in Brisbane, they have to be especially imported from Europe or other high-demand markets overseas. That’s why Swan Neck tow bars are the most expensive kind compared to their Australian counterparts.

4. Rear Step

Rear Step Towbars are specifically designed for utility vehicles (ute) or 4-wheel-drives (4WDs). These are much better suited for off-road purposes than a regular Towbar.

This Towbar juts out a little further from the rear of the vehicle, allowing a rear step to fit onto it.

Also, since these are far heavier than the other types of Towbars, they can only be used for certain models of utes and 4WDs.

Tow Bar Hitch: How To Choose One?

Now that you know all about the different kinds of Towbars available in the market, it’s time to learn more about hitches. As you know, a hitch is a device that’s used to connect to the trailer coupling.

It is very important to choose the right hitch for your vehicle or you can end up with serious damage to your tow vehicle as well the trailer.

50mm Tow Ball

By default, most Towbars come with a 50mm tow ball. Most trailers also come with a 50mm coupling so as to connect with this hitch effortlessly.

These standard 50mm tow balls are also very convenient to mount a bike carrier or a spare wheel.

But in terms of swivelling and articulation capacity, these are much more limited than their off-road coupling counterparts. What that means is, if you push a 50mm tow ball beyond its limit, you run the risk of detaching your trailer from the tow ball completely. This can lead to severe harm to the tow bar.

If you keep this in mind, then 50mm tow ball is the most suitable hitch in almost all the towing scenarios.

Weight Distribution Hitch

What a weight distribution hitch does is keep the trailer and the towing vehicle at the same level. You can install and tune it to ensure the weight is evenly spread through the entire framework of towing vehicle and the trailer.

A weight distribution hitch is essential to tow a heavy trailer like a caravan. If you only use the regular 50mm tow ball with that heavy a load, it can pull down the rear of your vehicle. That can cause heavy damage to your vehicle as well as the trailer.

If you don’t use a weight distribution hitch, all that weight will fall on the tow ball. That’s why most people don’t even think about driving a caravan without the distribution hitch.

Articulating Hitch (Off-Road Couplings)

Also known as off-road couplings, articulating hitches offer more room for swivelling than a standard 50mm tow ball. This means that even if you lose control of the trailer and it flips, it won’t harm the tow vehicle, and the driver and passengers will be safe. An articulating hitch allows the trailer to move independently of the towing vehicle.

How does it work? An articulating hitch is connected directly to the tow ball. But if they come with a flat tongue, you can put them directly into the hitch receiver.

A Word about Hitches: These hitches come in a wide variety of sizes; depending upon your trailer, you can choose a “mini” version or a “heavy duty” version.

It should be noted that not all of these hitches work with an Original Equipment Manufacturer tow bar. Make sure that your vehicle is capable of using a weight distribution hitch before you buy one.

How to Choose the Right Detachable Tow Bar for Your Vehicle

With so many different types, sizes and weight classes available, choosing the most suitable detachable Towbar can get a little overwhelming.

The easiest way to handle this is by digging out the owner’s manual of your vehicle.

If that’s not possible, check the identification plate of your vehicle. It is almost always located in the doorjamb.

Every vehicle manufacturer is required to list how much weight a vehicle can tow. That weight limit will help you find the right Towbar.

Also, a lot of people think that no matter what the capability of their vehicle is, getting a heavy-duty tow bar will enable them to tow just about anything. Well, guess what? A small hatchback car that is designed to tow up to 1000 Kg will NOT magically start towing anything heavier than that even if you attach a heavy-duty Towbar with a limit of up to 3500 Kg.

In addition, there are some vehicles that are only compatible with a heavier detachable Towbar.

Let’s take an SUV for example. Since it can tow up to 3500 Kg, it’s only going to be compatible with a Class 4 tow bar.

Here are a few things you need to check before going for a Towbar installation:

  • The towing capacity of your vehicle
  • The weight of the load you’ll be towing (see that it doesn’t exceed your vehicle’s towing capacity), and
  • The type of load (for example, a light-duty Flat Tongue Towbar is enough to tow a dirt bike, but you’d need a heavy-duty Class 4 Horizontal Hitch Towbar to tow a caravan).

After you have confirmed that your vehicle can tow the load, select the appropriate weight class of the Towbar.

3 Important Points to Check Before You Decide on Towbar Installation

Here are a few factors you should keep in mind while choosing a Towbar:

1. The Towbar Should Meet Australian Standards

If you are buying a Towbar in Australia, look out for the AS/NZS 4177 accreditation. It’s an Australian Standard for Towbars and every Towbar sold here must meet this criteria. Also, all Towbars should be tested and approved by The National Association of Testing Authorities, Australia (NATA).

What if you are importing the Towbar from overseas? Make sure it complies with the Australian Standard, or the Towbar will be considered “un-roadworthy”. You don’t want that safety risk now, do you?

How to check if your imported Towbar is compliant? Look for the compliance plate that’s generally located on the inside frame or under the Towbar. If that doesn’t satisfy you, get in touch with the Towbar manufacturer to confirm.

2. The Towbar Should Not Affect the Reversing Sensors

Most Towbars don’t hinder with the reverse camera system of the vehicle but every model is a different story.

If the reverse sensor system of your vehicle is mounted very low, it can pick up the tow ball. It’s wise to confirm this with the Towbar manufacturer.

What if the reverse camera is mounted low? You can disconnect the tow ball from the hitch receiver when you are not using it. The reverse camera will still be able to go off every time you tow a trailer and reverse it.

There are a few aftermarket reversing sensors that come with a pre-installed cutoff switch. But if you are using an Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) reverse sensors, you wouldn’t be able to control the beeping noise.

3. The Towbar Should Not Void the Vehicle Warranty

As long as the Towbar meets the Australian Standards, it will not void your new vehicle warranty.

In case an issue arises or you meet with an accident, it falls on the vehicle manufacturer to prove that the Towbar was responsible for that.

If it turns out that the Towbar was responsible for the fault, you’d need to inform the Towbar supplier. They would take it from there and get in touch with the vehicle manufacturer.

In any case, your insurance provides you an inclusive cover even if you buy an aftermarket Towbar. Also, most Towbar manufacturers offer a lifetime warranty so your interests will be thoroughly covered.

What If You Can’t Find a Detachable Towbar Model for Your Brand New Vehicle?

If you have just bought a newly launched vehicle, it’s possible that a Towbar hasn’t been manufactured for that model yet.

If that’s the case, you can contact Towbar manufacturers and ask them if they’d be interested in creating a new Towbar model for you. Our guess? They’d jump on the chance to design a brand-new Towbar.

They may even offer you one for free or at a heavily-discounted rate in exchange for using your vehicle.

Where to Buy a Towbar in Brisbane?

A better question might be, who to trust: genuine Towbars from a dealership or aftermarket Towbars in Brisbane?

With most of the Towbar dealership headquarters located overseas, the after-service customer support isn’t as swift as you’d need.

Ever wondered why so many people prefer aftermarket Towbars?

  • They are less expensive than the genuine Towbars, and
  • They offer incredible customer service.

Also, if you are looking for a Towbar for your ‘old’ vehicle, finding a genuine OEM Towbar might not even be possible anymore.

Vehicular technology is advancing at a rapid pace. Parts like bolts, pins, and tongues available now are far different than what was available even five years ago. Your vehicle manufacturer may have discontinued making them.

There are some OEM Towbar models like weight distribution hitches and off-road couplings that are not compatible with any aftermarket parts.

Also, contrary to what you may think, most aftermarket Towbar brands offer a lifetime warranty on the spare accessories.

Feeling overwhelmed? Just give us a call and our Towbar installation technicians will come to you at a time and place convenient to you.

We offer a mobile service and all our vans are fully equipped to handle anything you might need.

If you still have any questions about choosing the right tow bar, our dedicated in-house tow bar experts will be happy to help you! Call Speedy Towbars at (07) 4243 4939 or book a free consultation today.