If you want to take your motorcycle, ATV or golf cart with you on your RV trips, you will need a way to transport it. One of the easiest ways is to have a hydraulic or electric cargo lift system installed on the back of your Class A Motorhome.
There are 3 major manufacturers of cargo lifts or carriers for motorhomes, but not all are the same. We investigated them all and listed the differences of each below.
Who Makes Cargo Lifts and Carriers for Class A RVs?
There are three major manufacturers of cargo lift systems for RVs: Hydralift-USA, Mighty Hauler and Cruiserlift.
What Are the Differences in RV Lift Systems
3 significant differences in RV Motorcycle Lift systems are:
- How they are mounted on your motorhome (to the RV chassis or rear bumper)
- What type of lifting system they use (hydraulic, electric/manual jack or electric cable winch)
- What they are made to lift (motorcycles, golf carts, trikes and side-by-sides)
We’ve highlighted their differences and uses below, along with cost estimates for each.
Important Tip: No matter which lifting system you choose, if you are transporting motorcycles make sure to purchase a Self-Locking Wheel Chock to secure it in place.
- Chassis Mounted
- Hydraulic Lifting System
- Maximum Lift Capability 1,300 pounds
- Patented Automatic Locking System
- Most Versatile in what they can lift and what type of RV they can be installed on
- You Can Flat Tow a Vehicle Behind It
Hydralift is a top of the line hydraulic lift manufacturer that offers several different models to accommodate everything from motorcycles, to golf carts, to trikes and even side-by-sides. They even have a special model 5096GC built specifically for the heavier Luxury Garia Cart street legal golf carts.
Considered to be the top of the line in the RV industry, Hydralifts are one of the most expensive on the market with a price range between $6,000-$15,000, depending on the options that you choose.
Why Choose Hydralift?
Hydralift is the only manufacturer that does not use any winches or cables and is strictly hydraulic. Hydraulic systems are generally quieter and have greater lifting capabilities, in some models up to 1,300 pounds.
The system is powered by your RV’s 12V battery and can be easily operated by one person.
Hydralift has a patented locking system to keep your motorcycle lift in place while traveling.
There is an installation option now that allows you to uninstall and transfer the unit to another RV. That way if you purchase another motorhome you don’t have to leave it behind and buy a whole new lift system.
Mounted to the RV Chassis
It mounts to the chassis frame instead of mounting on a trailer hitch and is the lightest power lift on the market. The loading ramp drops to the ground, so loading is easy. They also offer a folding option for storage when not in use.
Hydralift cargo lifts mount higher than other lifts, which keeps you from reducing your rear ground clearance and scraping the ground with your chassis.
With a wide range of features and top quality manufacturing, it’s easy to see why Hydralift is a top choice among RV owners.
- Rear Hitch Mounted Carrier
- Manual Jack or Electric Hydraulic Bottle Jack Lifting System
- Sway Lock™ Technology keeps motorcycles from swaying
- Can lift motorcycles, golf carts, and trikes
- Maximum Lift Capability 1,000-1,200 pounds
- You Can Flat Tow a Vehicle Behind It
The second most versatile cargo lift is Mighty Hauler which makes rear hitch-mounted carriers. They offer different models that can lift motorcycles up to 1,000 pounds. They also have carriers with 1,200-pound lifting capability for golf carts and trikes, but these are for diesel pushers only.
Mighty Hauler offers a manual jack system and an electric hydraulic bottle jack system. I was a little concerned about how much effort would be required to use the manual jack system. When I spoke with the owners at Mighty Hauler, they assured me that the manual jacking was very easy to use, since they supply a 6,000-pound lifting jack for the 1,000-pound lift.
Why Choose Mighty Hauler?
At a price range of around $1,500-$3,000 depending on the options you choose, the Mighty Hauler is less expensive than a Hydralift. But there is a trade-off.
While it does have an impressive lifting capacity of up to 1,200 pounds, it does not have all of the options available for Hydralift. That being said, you might not need them for your particular use.
Another thing to consider is whether you will need to reinforce your RV frame or upgrade your hitch, which will add to the overall price.
You can flat tow a car behind the Mighty Hauler, but you will need a three-point hitch. It is available from Mighty Hauler as an accessory.
The Mighty Hauler gets great reviews, so if you don’t need a unit as powerful and versatile as the Hydralift, the Mighty Hauler is a good choice.
Tip: Not sure what size your RV hitch is? Your hitch rating can be found on the hitch itself on the back of your motorhome or in your RV manual.
Can Your RV Handle a Hydraulic Lift System
Most Class A Diesel RV frames can handle the extra weight of a lift system, but not all Class A Gas RVs can.
If you have a Class A Gas RV, you will need to determine if your chassis frame runs the full length of your motorhome without any welded-on extensions.
If there are welded on extensions, they may not be able to carry the extra weight. The different lift manufacturers do offer some installation options, but you will need to know this information first. The easiest way to find out about your frame is to check with your motorhome manufacturer for your specific RV.
What’s Your RV Weight and GAWR-Rear
An overweight RV is an UNSAFE RV, so it’s extremely important that you know your vehicle weight ratings and the actual weight when fully loaded. This includes all gear, fuel, water, and passengers.
You can locate your Gross Axle Weight Rating- Rear (GAWR-Rear) in your coach manual.
- Take your fully-loaded coach to a weigh station and get your vehicle’s weight-by-axle.
Tip: If you want to learn how to properly weigh your RV, we wrote this post which covers that- XXXX
- Subtract your Actual rear axle weight (GAWR Rear) found on the weigh slip from the manufacturer’s rear axle gross weight Rating (from your manual). The result gives you the Available Weight you can safely add to the rear axle.
- Calculate your Added Weight Formula using this handy diagram Courtesy of Cruiserlift:
- If your Available Weight from step 2 above is Greater than your Added Weight from step 3, then you should have enough rear axle carrying capacity to add a lift.
What To Do If Your RV Can’t Carry A Hydraulic Lift System
If your RV cannot carry a hydraulic lift system, there are still several options that will allow you to tow your recreational vehicles.
One of the best options that we found instead of a lift system is the Swivelwheel made by Cruiserlift. This two-wheel system works with pretty much all motorhomes (gas or diesel). One of the great things about the Swivelwheel is that even when fully loaded, you can actually back up without disconnecting it!
Swivelwheel-DW58 Tandem Dolly- Photo Credit Cruiserlift
This dual wheel platform system will carry up to 1,200 pounds AND let you tow a car up to 6,000 pounds behind the loaded platform. You will need an auxiliary braking system on your tow vehicle and you must tow with all 4 wheels on the ground.
The tandem towing system comes with a dual insert rotational bar and uses a caster wheel system. Your RV will need at least a Class 3 Receiver (but we would use at least a Class 4 or 5) and should have the capacity to pull the added weight.
- Uses a winch or ramp system to load vehicles.
- Can purchase optional power ramp
- Four different models available
- Attaches to RV receiver hitch
- Can flat tow vehicle behind it provided tow vehicle has an auxiliary braking system
- Can back up with Swivelwheel attached
The Swivelwheel 58DW-Tandem Tow Starts at $4200. Some available options are a power ramp loader and a 6-inch platform extension.
Cruiserlift gets great reviews and may be a great option.
Can The Swivelwheel System Be Used in All States?
We learned of one caution about using the Swivelwheel Tandem Tow and pulling a vehicle behind it.
A frequent question asked is if the Swivelwheel system is legal to tow in all states. There are basically 22 states that do not allow double trailer towing, some of them call it triple towing. We consider the system an extension of the Fifth wheel or motor home. (Not a Trailer).
Although we do not agree, The State of New York has decided to reclass our Swivelwheel system [as a trailer and] therefore, it could fall under the double/triple towing law. A trailer is classified by a ball mount, our Swivelwheel system does not utilize a ball mount.Content courtesy of CruiserLift
Differences Between Hydraulic Lifts and Electric Winch RV Cargo Lifts
Hydraulic Cargo Carriers
Hydraulic Lifts are stronger and quieter.
With greater lifting capabilities there are more options in the type of cargo you can carry.
Parts can be hard to find in case of a failure.
If you can’t get the part to fix it, you won’t be able to get your lift down, so no toy access.
You must have the room to mount the hydraulic reservoir and pump.
When removing a hydraulic lift, the hydraulic lines must be disconnected.
Some RV’s don’t have the rear axle weight capacity to mount a hydraulic lift.
Electric Winch Carriers
Parts for electric winches are more easily accessible if there is a failure, so you won’t be unable to use your lifted toys.
Electric winches are noisier
Electric winches are not as powerful as hydraulic ones.
What Can RV Lifts Carry
What you carry on your lift depends on the design of the lift and the weight of the items being carried. In addition to motorcycles, you can also carry three-wheeled trikes (including the SPYDER CanAm), side-by-sides, golf carts, and cargo.
Lifts may need to be customized, depending on the weight of the item you are carrying and the ramps needed to load it.
If you are carrying large cargo, like a Garia Street Legal Luxury Golf Cart, you may need a heavy-duty hydraulic system and a larger platform like those offered by Hydralift.
People with Wheelchair Accessible Class A RVs can bring along their mobility scooters using an RV Lift System.
Interested in learning more about motorhomes with wheelchair lifts? Winnebago just introduced three new Accessibility Enhanced Class A RVs for 2020.
How Much Weight Can An RV Cargo Lift Hold?
The lifting capacity is restricted to your RVs GVWR based on the chassis. If your RV has the available weight capacity on the rear axle, lifts can carry up to 1,300 pounds depending on the brand and model.
Can You Install a Hydraulic Lift Even If You Have A Ladder On The Back Of Your RV
Yes, even if you have a ladder on the back of your motorhome you can install a lift.
Can You Tow a Car With a Cargo Lift System Installed?
Yes, with the 3 cargo carriers we investigated, you can pull a car behind several of their models. Depending on your setup, you may need to install a tow bar extension (which is an option and does cost more).
Will a cargo carrier cause a diesel pusher to overheat due to blocked airflow
No, none of the carriers we investigated will block the airflow and cause your diesel pusher to overheat.
Things to Consider Before Choosing a Cargo Carrier
Do you have to unhook your tow vehicle to use the carrier to load or unload your toys?
Does it fold for storage?
Can you remove it?
How easy is it to use- one person or more?
Can you easily access your engine compartment on your diesel pusher with a lift installed?
What accessories should you consider for your lift?
Depending on the brand and model of cargo lift you select, there are a variety of optional accessories that are available.
If you are carrying motorcycles, the one accessory that is a must-have is locking wheel chocks.
Here’s a few that we found most interesting.
Content and photos courtesy of Hydralift
Portable Garage for your Motorcycle:
The Hydralift GC4010210 Motorcycle Enclosure can easily be removed for use at home or while on the road as a stand-alone motorcycle garage, keeping your motorcycle next to your RV in a home of its own.
Aluminum Motorcycle Ramp Cover:
The HLP8018 Aluminum Ramp Cover: A specially designed aluminum floor cover encloses the bottom of your Hydralift motorcycle ramp completing the Hydralift GC4010210 Cover on your standard Hydralift motorcycle ramp.
Automatic Wheel Chock:
Keep your motorcycle in place without the use of your kickstand to assist you in securing your motorcycle. HLWC39
Mighty Hauler Accessories
Content and photos courtesy of Mighty Hauler
Mighty Hauler Wheel Chock
Add a self-locking wheel chock to your Mighty Hauler. It holds the motorcycle in the vertical position for easy strap down. This wheel chock mounts directly into our existing platform so it can be added when purchased or years down the road. The wheel chock is fully adjustable to accommodate different size tires.
Content and photos courtesy of Cruiserlift-Fast Master Products
Locking Wheel Motorcycle Chock
RIDE ON – GET OFF – WALK AWAY
Power Ramp for Swivelwheel Systems
The Power Ramp uses a channeled ramp with a bed guide mounted to the deck of the Swivelwheel system. Once the bike is locked into the trolley you just slowly clutch the Motorcycle up.
Final Verdict on Hydraulic Lifts or Electric Winches
When choosing between a hydraulic versus an electric RV cargo lift, if weight and lifting capacity are not deciding factors, then it comes down to a matter of preference.
We chose the Hydralift, but know of other RVers that installed the Cruiserlifts and are very happy with them.
Need More Info About RV Lift Systems?
Contact a Professional Installer
One of the best installers in the business is Dan’s Service Center in Elkhart, Indiana. You can find them on Facebook at Dan’s Service Center. Here’s a video of a Hydralift Installation they did for a motorcycle that shows how easy it works….