Which custom towing mirror is best?
Whatever kind of trailer you’re towing, from self-haul moving vans to boats or fifth wheels, adding substantial length to your vehicle means you need a greater field of view to maneuver safely.
Factory extensions are available but tend to be expensive. The affordable solution is a custom towing mirror, and we’ve been looking at a wide variety of models so we can help you choose one that’s right for your needs. Our favorite, the CIPA Ford F-150 Custom Towing Mirror, slides easily over your existing mirror and blends in so neatly you’d think your vehicle came out of the factory like that.
What to know before you buy a custom towing mirror
Permanent or removable
If you’re going to be using your vehicle for towing a lot of the time, it makes sense to have permanent replacements. You’ll pay more, but you should get to keep all of the functions your standard mirrors have, like turn signals, heated glass, etc. Although fitting will take a bit longer, once done you should have none of the vibration issues that can plague cheap clip-on models.
Even the best custom towing mirrors obviously change the look of your vehicle — and add to the width a little. Some permanent-fit models have telescoping arms to overcome this. For those that don’t want to make the permanent change there are a huge range of clip-on or slide-on alternatives.
Cheap mirrors tend to look it — they might work, but no attempt is made to blend in with the style of your vehicle. Attachment can be via a tensioning screw, plastic clips, rubber straps, etc. Not necessarily complicated, but perhaps not as secure as you’d like. The main problems with poor fit are both the danger to other road users should your towing mirror come off, and the fact that they tend to vibrate — so vision is compromised. It’s an area that’s important to check, and owner feedback provides valuable information.
In our view, better-quality custom towing mirrors, like our favorite, are designed to slide over, or clamp around your existing mirror, providing a snug and seamless fit that looks good, allows them to fold as they normally would (which is an important feature given that these mirrors do make your vehicle slightly wider), and gives image stability. The only disadvantage is that they don’t offer as wide a range of extension as some — something you may prefer if you tow a camper one week, and a boat trailer the next.
You’ll also want to check what the mirror itself is made of. Cheap custom towing mirrors are often plastic, which scratches and scuffs easily. Good ones are glass, which is not only more durable, but has better optical clarity and doesn’t suffer distortion.
What to look for in a quality custom towing mirror
The thing that gives rise to most complaints about custom towing mirrors is that they don’t fit properly. “Universal” is a phrase that’s used often, but it’s not always true! It should go without saying that you need to double check that it fits your vehicle’s year, make and model. Vehicle manufacturers sometimes make small changes from one year to the next that seem unimportant — until you fit aftermarket parts. Added to that, sometimes retailers accidentally send out the wrong box, so be prepared. Order well in advance of an impending trip. Check your mirrors as soon as they arrive. If they don’t fit, return them straight away.
How much you can expect to spend on a custom towing mirror
The cheapest custom towing mirrors are clip-on models for around $15 each. Quality is OK, but they don’t look great. Those that are styled to look like part of your vehicle cost roughly $35 each, though you’ll save a few bucks and get them at around $50 if you buy a pair. Those that completely replace your existing mirrors, and provide the same features, run from $80-$160 each.
Custom towing mirrors FAQ
Are towing mirrors a legal requirement?
A. It varies from state to state, but most say that you need to be able to see at least 200 feet of highway behind your vehicle. If the thing you’re towing obstructs that view, then a custom towing mirror on the driver’s side is usually the minimum requirement. The AAA website gives current regulations.
Do I need a custom towing mirror on the passenger side?
A. Again, it depends on the state. Some demand it, some don’t. The AAA website will tell you. That said, we think it’s a good idea anyway. The more of the trailer you can see the better. Also, if you cross state lines, you may find you need them both anyway.
What custom towing mirrors are best to buy?
Top custom towing mirror
Our take: This is a stylish driver- and passenger-side pair from the sector’s leading brand.
What we like: It offers easy, tool-free fitting over the existing mirror and can be removed equally quickly. It is well made, giving a vibration-free view. The standard mirror functions are retained.
What you should consider: It’s rare, but on occasions owners have reported them coming loose.
Where to buy: Sold at Amazon.
Top custom towing mirror for the money
Our take: This pair of economy mirrors fits many popular trucks and SUVs.
What we like: The simple clip-on design looks like an integral part of the vehicle. The mirrors fold as normal. It offers an expanded field of view with minimal cost.
What you should consider: Several owners found them frustrating to fit. There was some vibration.
Where to buy: Sold at Amazon.
Worth checking out
Our take: The wide-angle replacement retains the vehicle’s normal feature set.
What we like: It offers identical functions to the factory model (depending on model) — a heated lens, power adjustment, turn signal and puddle light. It has a straightforward fit.
What you should consider: The inconsistent quality control results in some faults and durability issues.
Where to buy: Sold at Amazon.
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Bob Beacham writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.
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