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If you’re moving soon and plan to haul your belongings without the help of professionals, consider installing a trailer hitch to your car. A trailer hitch is a device that attaches to your vehicle and enables you to tow a trailer behind it. While some top moving companies offer hitch installation services, you can do it yourself or visit a local mechanic. In this article, we’ll discuss how much trailer hitch installation costs and walk you through the installation process.
Trailer Hitch Installation Cost
The average cost for professional installation of a trailer hitch is around $437, with a price range of roughly $175 to $700 or more.* These prices assume you are purchasing a receiver hitch; gooseneck and fifth-wheel hitches may cost significantly more. Expect to pay around $130 for installation alone; parts incur an additional cost.
The exact cost of trailer hitch installation depends on several factors, including the class of hitch and which company or individual installs it. U-Haul cites a total cost of $100 to $600, depending on the price and availability of parts. AutoZone estimates a cost of $150 to $400 for the receiver hitch itself and an additional $75 to $150 for installation. CURT, a leading trailer hitch manufacturer, charges $150 to $700 for a receiver hitch and suggests that labor will cost $50 to $250.
When you pay for professional installation, your final bill will include the cost of parts and a labor or service charge. DIY installation costs less but requires the right tools and some mechanical expertise. If you aren’t confident in your abilities, it may be worth paying an extra $100 or so for professional installation at an auto shop or dealership.
*These figures are based on price ranges provided by AutoZone, CURT, and U-Haul. We used their estimates to calculate a price range and average cost.
Factors That Impact Trailer Hitch Installation Cost
Below are the top four factors that affect trailer hitch installation costs.
Type of Trailer Hitch
Installation costs depend heavily on the type or class of hitch you need. Every hitch has a maximum gross trailer weight and tongue weight, and the higher the limits, the more the hitch will cost. Here are the most common types of tow hitches:
- Class I hitch: Designed for sedans and midsize vehicles, Class 1 hitches cost less to install because they do not require heavy-duty parts or difficult labor.
- Class II hitch: Class 2 hitches are designed for slightly larger vehicles, such as small SUVs. They may cost slightly more to install as they require more robust equipment and labor.
- Class III or IV hitch: Designed for full-size SUVs and pickup trucks, these hitches can tow 8,000 to 10,000 pounds. Requiring heavy-duty equipment and more labor, a Class 3 or Class 4 hitch can be more expensive to install.
- Class V hitch: Designed for the heaviest-duty towing needs, Class 5 hitches have a towing capacity of 20,000 pounds or more. Installation costs can be quite high because it requires specialized equipment and expertise.
- Fifth-wheel hitch: This type of hitch is typically used for large campers and trailers. It requires a special hitch system and may require modifications to the vehicle’s bed or frame.
- Gooseneck hitch: Gooseneck hitches require a specialized system that mounts in the bed of a pickup truck, making them more expensive to install.
Type of Vehicle
Larger vehicles with higher towing capacities may require pricier heavy-duty hitches. Additionally, vehicles with unique designs or modifications may require specialized installation. Here are some common vehicle types and how each one affects trailer hitch installation:
- Compact cars: Small cars have lower towing capacities and call for easy-to-install Class I receiver hitches.
- Midsize cars: A midsize car may need either a Class I or Class II receiver hitch, which are relatively inexpensive and simple to install.
- SUVs and crossovers: A smaller SUV may require a Class II or Class III hitch, while a larger one may require a Class III or Class IV hitch. Larger SUVs may also require modifications to their frames or electrical systems.
- Pickup trucks: Pickup trucks are designed for heavy-duty towing and can handle a range of hitch types, including Class III, IV, and V hitches. Installation costs will depend on the specific truck model and the type of hitch required.
- Vans: Vans can be used for various towing applications, from transporting equipment to towing campers. Depending on the van’s towing capacity and intended use, it may require a Class III, Class IV, or even fifth-wheel hitch.
The complexity of the installation process can impact the cost. Here are some common complications that may increase the cost of trailer hitch installation:
- Vehicle modifications: If your vehicle has been modified with a feature such as a custom bumper or exhaust system, it may require additional equipment or make installation more challenging.
- Electrical work: Depending on the type of hitch and your vehicle’s electrical system, installation may require additional wiring or electrical work. This can increase the installation cost, especially if the electrical system needs to be modified or upgraded.
- Corrosion or rust: If your vehicle is corroded or rusty, it may require additional time and effort to remove the rust and properly secure the hitch.
- Accessibility: If the installation location is under the vehicle, inside the bumper, or otherwise difficult to access, it can increase the time and labor required for installation.
- Weight distribution: If your trailer requires weight distribution, you may need to install additional components or modify the vehicle.
In addition to the factors above, you may find yourself in a unique situation that requires a specialized hitch, custom parts, or additional safety features. Any modifications or extra parts needed will increase the overall installation cost.
Labor costs can vary significantly from one installer to another, as well as from one installation to another. Here are a few things to consider as you estimate labor costs:
- Professional vs. DIY: If you choose professional installation, your bill will include a service charge or installation fee. You can save money on labor costs by handling the installation yourself, but you’ll need to acquire the necessary tools.
- Time: A professional hitch installer may charge a flat fee or an hourly rate. In the latter case, the time required for installation will impact the labor cost. Factors such as the location of the hitch, the accessibility of the vehicle’s frame, and the need for additional wiring or electrical work can all impact the time required for installation.
- Complications: If any unexpected complications arise during installation, your mechanic may increase their service charge to reflect the time and expertise required.
How to Install a Trailer Hitch
If you opt to DIY your trailer hitch installation, you will need a few basic tools, including a socket set, ratchet, ratchet extension, swivel socket, and torque wrench. Read the installation instructions carefully before you begin, and recruit an assistant to help with heavy parts and difficult maneuvering.
Here are the basic steps for installing a trailer hitch:
- Position the hitch: Position the hitch under your vehicle, making sure it lines up with the mounting holes on the vehicle’s frame. You may need to remove bolts, rubber plugs, or even a spare tire, depending on the hitch and vehicle model.
- Attach the hitch: Attach the hitch to the frame using the provided bolts, washers, and nuts. Tighten them securely, but be careful not to over-tighten them.
- Torque the bolts: Using a torque wrench, torque the bolts to the manufacturer’s specifications. This will ensure they are securely fastened to the vehicle’s frame.
- Install the wiring: If your hitch requires wiring, follow the manufacturer’s instructions to install the trailer wiring harness and any required connectors. This may involve splicing into your vehicle’s existing wiring, so be sure to follow the instructions carefully.
- Install the ball mount: If your hitch includes a ball mount, attach it to the hitch receiver using the provided pin and clip. Make sure it is securely fastened before towing.
- Test the hitch: Once the hitch is installed, test it by towing a small load, such as a utility trailer or bike rack. Make sure everything is secure and functioning properly before towing a heavier load.
By following these steps and the manufacturer’s instructions, you should be able to install a trailer hitch safely and securely. U-Haul has a YouTube channel dedicated to trailer hitches and towing, with video topics ranging from general tips to model-specific tutorials.
Ultimately, the cost of trailer hitch installation depends on several factors, including the kind of hitch you need and the installation method you choose. Professional installation is safer, but you can save money with a DIY installation if you have the right tools and follow the instructions carefully.
Regardless of which installation method you choose, towing a trailer behind your vehicle is handy when planning a move. Since most long-distance movers charge based on size, weight, and distance, you can save money by installing a trailer hitch and transporting some of your belongings yourself.
Trailer Hitch Installation Cost FAQ
Does adding a trailer hitch increase value?
Adding a trailer hitch can increase the value of a vehicle, but not necessarily. It depends on market demand and the type of vehicle you have. Some buyers may be willing to pay slightly more for a vehicle with a trailer hitch, but others may not care.
What is the best trailer hitch to install?
The best trailer hitch to install will depend on your towing needs and the towing capacity of your vehicle. CURT and U-Haul have tools on their website to help you find the right trailer hitch for your vehicle model, whether you have a Honda SUV, a Toyota pickup, or a Subaru hatchback.
Is it worth it to install a trailer hitch?
Installing a trailer hitch can be worth it for people who frequently need to tow recreational equipment or heavy loads, such as a camper, a boat, bikes, or work equipment. It can also be a cost-effective alternative to hiring a moving company or renting a moving truck.