car tow dolly with two motorcycles

What is the Difference Between a Tow Dolly and Auto Transport


If you ever need to move your vehicle from point A to point B you’ve got several options. You could drive it yourself, get someone to drive it for you, transport it by plane or move it by train. In this post, we’re going to focus on two more options: towing with a dolly trailer or using an auto transport company like SGT Auto Transport. 

If you’re never heard of a tow dolly, let’s start by explaining what one is.

What is a towing dolly?

A tow or towing dolly is a two-wheeled towing device that lets you tow your vehicle with the front wheels strapped onto the dolly and the rear wheels on the ground.

It’s a very lightweight towing option that makes hauling your vehicle relatively easy behind a moving van or your own tow vehicle. The tow dolly has been designed so that loading and unloading most front-wheel drive cars is quick and easy, although it does take a little practice.

Whether or not you can move your car using a towing dolly is determined by several factors including the weight of your vehicle, the front to rear distribution of the weight, plus the length, width, and ground clearance of the vehicle. If you’re hiring a towing dolly, they will let you know what’s possible. 

What is auto transport

Auto transport is a form of car relocation service. An auto transport carrier collects your car from your home, loads it onto a trailer and then transports it safely and securely to your chosen final destination. 

Tow dolly vs. auto transport: Main differences

With a good understanding of the main differences between a tow dolly and auto transport you'll be in a better position to decide which one best fits your needs. 

How they work

A tow dolly lifts only the front wheels of your car off the ground. An auto transport trailer, on the other hand, lifts your entire car off the ground. The auto transport carrier loads your car onto the trailer and then transports it to your chosen final destination. 

Vehicle compatibility

Most front-wheel-drive vehicles are compatible with a tow dolly. In addition, a few all-wheel drive, rear-wheel drive, and four-wheel drive vehicles can also be moved using a tow dolly. Tow dollies tend to have weight restrictions, making them unsuitable for towing heavier vehicles.

An auto transport trailer, on the other hand, can transport vehicles of various shapes and sizes, from trucks and modified cars to small cars and even motorcycles. The carrier simply makes the necessary adjustments so it can accommodate your vehicle’s weight. 

For example, if there is a heavy vehicle, they reduce the number of vehicles the trailer transports for that particular trip in order to keep within maximum weight limits. 

Effortless setup

Hooking your car up to a tow dolly is not a simple process. It can be a bit complicated, especially if you’ve never done it before. The most important thing is to make sure the drive wheels are extra secure so there’s no risk of an accident. 

If you’re towing a rear-wheel drive car, the process is even more complex. You might have to take out the drive shafts because of front clearance issues. 

If you choose auto transport, minimal effort is required on your part because the carrier takes care of loading and unloading your car. 

Wear and tear of your vehicle

When you tow a vehicle using a tow dolly, the rear wheels are on the ground. This puts additional weight on them as the front wheels are lifted by the dolly. Over time, there is a small risk of wear and tear on the tires. 

There might also be clearance issues if your vehicle is low to the ground or long in the front. Parts of the car could get dragged while towing, causing damage to bumpers, undercarriage parts, and body kits.

With an auto transport car carrier, the entire vehicle is loaded onto the trailer. The risk of wear and tear on your tires is minimal. 

Cost of a tow dolly or car carrier

Renting a tow dolly is usually the more affordable option. However, there are additional costs you must bear in mind. You may, for example, have to rent a towing vehicle and pay additional fuel charges. In addition, most moving companies won’t rent a tow dolly unless you’re also renting a truck from them. 

Let’s not forget as well that pulling another vehicle behind a truck significantly decreases gas mileage. You could rack up your fuel expenses because you’ll need more gas than usual to cover the same distance. 


One of the biggest issues with using a tow dolly is trailer sway. A fishtailing movement can occur when you’re driving at high speed. It’s one of the main causes of towing accidents and is particularly risky if your towing your car during bad weather. The roads become very slippery and make it even more difficult to control your vehicle. 

An auto transport trailer is far safer and the entire vehicle is loaded onto it. The driver only has to control the vehicle they’re driving, so there’s less risk involved. 


If you’re using a tow dolly, it’s recommended that you maintain a slower-than-average speed. This is for your own safety and to prevent trailer sway. If you’re driving slower, it’s going to increase your transit time. 

While car shipping carriers also have to comply with speed restrictions, there’s no risk of trailer sway so they can travel a little faster than a truck with a tow dolly. 


Maneuvering a tow dolly can be quite challenging, especially when it comes to backing up. It can be done, but if you’ve never done it before, you might have a hard time backing up to set down the towed vehicle in the right place.

A car carrier doesn’t have the same issues. The drivers are professional and very experienced and find it much easier to back up and maneuver their truck and trailer, should they need to. 

The pros and cons of towing with a dolly trailer


  • It’s cheaper
  • It’s a great option for towing your vehicle over a short distance
  • You’ll be with your car at all times


  • Setting the dolly up can be time-consuming
  • Decrease in gas mileage
  • Safety concerns
  • Risk of vehicle wear and tear
  • Not suitable for heavier vehicles or those with low ground clearance

The pros and cons of auto transport


  • It’s much safer
  • Far less effort is required
  • There’s minimal risk of vehicle wear and tear
  • It’s suitable for heavier vehicles
  • There will be no additional mileage on your car
  • Perfect option for transporting a car cross country


  • It tends to cost more than a tow dolly

Final thoughts on which you should choose

The final decision depends on your needs. A tow dolly can be a good idea if you want to transport your car a short distance and if your car doesn’t exceed the weight limit. If you want to ship a car across state lines or across the country, an auto transport provider such as SGT Auto Transport would be a much better option. 

If you want to know more about the service we provide, please give us a call at (864) 546-5038 or use our Live Chat option.

You can also get an instant quote for auto transport  


Can you tow an automatic with a car dolly?

Yes you can tow an automatic with a car dolly but it is designed for more lightweight models that use front-wheel drive transmissions. 

Is a tow dolly good for long distance?

Using a tow dolly over long distances is not a good option because it puts your car through a lot of wear and tear, especially the vehicle’s rear wheels. Towing an elevated vehicle long distances may also undermine the structural integrity of your car. 

Can I use a towing dolly on the motorway?

It’s not advisable to use a towing dolly on the motorway because traveling at high speeds increases the risk of trailer sway.

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