First time hooking up? There’s more than meets the eye when it comes to navigating with extra baggage, so we turned to Larry Costello, manager of Trailer Masters in Springfield, Illinois for top towing tips. “Our first priority is to educate the consumer in such a high liability industry,” he notes. So here’s the lowdown on hitching and hauling.

1. Learn the laws. Before hooking up the hitch, study up on federal and state regulations that could affect your towing plans. Costello advises newbie haulers to check on local road rules that may enforce things such as weight and road limits, as well as parking ordinances when you have your trailer in stow.

2. Know your limits. Make sure your big bad truck can grab life by the horns by checking the owner’s manual for suggested towing capacities. Relying on the salesman or the commercial boasting that the truck can haul a house can cause an overconfident driver problems, so keep your expectations realistic.

3. Tailor your trailer. “You get what you pay for,” observes Costello, warning consumers to research before making a trailer purchase. “Every price has a reason. They range from entry level to the best on the market.” For smaller trucks, opt for the more expensive, lightweight aluminum trailer as opposed to steel. “You get more life out of your towing vehicle with the right trailer.”

4. Protect your load. Always keep your freight in mind when pulling a trailer. “What or where you’re pulling may mean you need a closed trailer as opposed to an open one.” And while bigger may seem better, be aware that the accessory list grows with the trailer. “You may need expandable or adjustable mirrors depending on your haul.”

5. Note your surroundings. The type of terrain you are navigating can dramatically affect the towing experience. Flatland is less of an issue, but when you are hauling in a mountainous area, bring your attention level up a notch with regard to your speed, gear and maneuvering. “If you aren’t careful with your geography, you could lose your cargo.” Which we’re pretty sure would put a damper on an otherwise pleasant afternoon.