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Old 01-18-2011, 11:18 AM   #1
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Need help picking a tow vehicle

HELP!
OK, I've been reading some posts / threads here and it's not helping a lot - only perhaps confusing me (or should I say scaring me).

I've towed lots of small trailers (popups, boats, etc) - all class 1 stuff,no brakes, nothing over 1500 lbs. I've towed our (very small) popup up and down the appalachian mountains with a ford winstar and didn't even know it was back there.

OK, so over the weekend we pulled the trigger and bought a 28' TT that I suppose will weight 6500# when ready to camp (based on what I read here and some past experience).

While I work from home so I don't commute in my vehicle I do use it for work and it's the main family vehicle when we all go out together (03 windstar). I prefer smaller, more economical vehicles for several reasons, but I don't think I'm gonna have many options when it comes to the new tow vehicle.

My initial thoughts were to get an Explorer but after reading some of the threads here I'm not so sure...

Our (planned...) towing is a couple of times a year (as opposed to every weekend). The trailer will be at our campground and needs moved into a spot for each visit (and moved to the storage area after). When we do tow well, hills are a concern (we live in western pa and it is not flat here but not rocky mountain steep either).

A pickup won't work for us - has to be an SUV or maybe a full size van. We can't be buying new - we're thinking 03 ot 05 range. Is 4wd a plus or just reduces payload/GCVW?
Tahoe vs Suburban - is bigger better or worse?

Any input as to what we're looking for or trying to avoid? When you buy new it's a bit easier - used you're kinda looking for a needle in a haystack.

What about improving the towing capacity of a vehicle? Some (like our van) came in a 2000# and 3500# capacity - a big step up for the same engine/tranny/weight/wb - gearing, coolers, perhaps springs are relatively cheap and easy to add (I was a mechanic for 15 years).

TIA for any help!
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Old 01-18-2011, 11:57 AM   #2
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I would say an Explorer is out. Weight will be a factor, but wheelbase will be an even bigger factor with a TT length of 28'.

If you don't NEED 4WD, it will just add extra weight and reduce payload, so I would skip it. I use my 4WD, so I have to have it.

A Suburban (or Expedition EL) may be a better choice than a Tahoe (or standard length Expedition) due to the longer wheelbase, and thus added stability. Since you are only towing a couple times a year though, I would say the shorter length vehicle is preferable for every-day driving.

Personally, I would go with a half-ton crew cab pickup (Ford being my preference). My '05 F150 tows our 27' BH very well (similar weight as yours). You didn't mention why a pickup is out, but due to wheelbase and setup, they are better suited for towing.

Just my $0.02!
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Old 01-18-2011, 12:16 PM   #3
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I would definitely rule out the Explorer, Tahoe, Expedition, and probably the Suburban and Expy EL......that is 1 long, fairly heavy trailer......the length being the biggest concern here. Even though you list it as a 28 footer, it is 31 foot overall. The Tahoe and Expy wheelbases are in the 120" range, and the Burb and Expy ELs in the 130" range.....far too short for pulling a 31' travel trailer, IMHO.

Also, the 28BH is probably going to weigh in the vicinity of 5800 lbs. after adding options, a battery or 2, and propane......and that is the dry weight. Loaded for camping, your 6500 lb. guess might be a little on the low side.

You probably need to looking at a 3/4 ton truck with a wheelbase somewhere around 155". Even the full sized passenger vans are in the 135" wheelbase range, although Chevy lists some heavy duty passenger vans with wheelbases at 155". .
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Old 01-18-2011, 01:04 PM   #4
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well, why no PU? Put in there 2 parents, 2 kids, possibly friends, and a collie dog. Our campground is a bit over an hour from our house - not a terribly long distance to be jammed it I suppose.
A cap on the back would fix the issue as well.

However, we've been looking off and on for a year and my wife has been wanting a pickup for a while (we used to have one, before kids). What we're finding is a PU without the back seat is pretty affordable - but as soon as you add the backseat you can add $5-10k to the price for the same age/condition truck.
I was actucally surprised how affordable some of the bigger SUVs are considering their price new - they don't seem to hold their value as well as pickups - so for the same age/condition an SUV is cheaper (on average of course).

I've also driven a few full size pickups with backseat and 8' foot beds and no way in hell would I have one for a daily driver.
According to this 2002 Ford F150 Specifications Wb has no bearing on tow capacity (tires, engine, trans (auto only), axle ration are bigger factors). Not to say a longer WB won't help in ride and stability of course.
The only F150 option is one with a 5.4L. A 5.5 bed on a supercrew IMO is a joke of a truck.

did some googling based on what I read there...
Tahoe and suburban are useless for towing - GCWR minua curb weight of the vehicle leafes 5000-5500 total weight available for payload and trailer!
The same math on the explorer's specs leaves a real 7100 pounds (11,600 gcwr-4500 curb weight).
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Old 01-18-2011, 01:28 PM   #5
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I understand that a SUV or van would be better than a pickup. Most crew cab pickups will only seat 5 people.....6 with a bench seat in front.

With your campground only 1 hours away, have you considered using a 2nd vehicle for people transport ??

Regarding the tow ratings.....you can't go entirely by the GCWR minus the tow vehicle weight. The Explorer has a maximum tow rating of 5000 lbs. for 2011. https://www.fleet.ford.com/showroom/...%20Mariner.pdf

You are correct that wheel base has no bearing on tow capacity. Sometimes, the longer wheelbased vehicles have a lower tow capacity, because the vehicle itself weighs more. Wheelbase is important because you are pulling a full sized trailer that acts like a giant sail when a truck passes or a cross wind hits. It will push/pull your tow vehicle around.

This is general recognized chart on wheel bases vs. maximum overall trailer lengths:

110" 20' ******* 150" 30'
114" 21' ******* 154" 31'
118" 22' ******* 158" 32'
122" 23' ******* 162" 33'
126" 24' ******* 166" 34'
130" 25' ******* 170" 35'
134" 26' ******* 174" 36'
138" 27' ******* 178" 37'
142" 28' ******* 182" 38'
146" 29' ******* 186" 39'

An equation that matches up pretty close to that is to divide the tow vehicle wheelbase in inches by 5, and that should be the maximum conventional travel trailer length in feet. These are safety guidelines, and not something that is etched in stone. But it would probably be a good keep your figures near the suggested numbers.
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Old 01-18-2011, 01:57 PM   #6
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Honestly, I think you would be pleased with an '04 or newer F150 SuperCrew (4 full-sized doors) for that trailer. A 3/4 ton truck would be better, but with your needs, I think a half-ton would do fine. We have 2 adults, 3 kids, a small dog (13 pounder) and we do fine on 2+ hour trips. Other friends, well, they just have to drive themselves. You have to sacrifice some things, and I think making others that go along drive separate is worth the piece of mind of safety vs. a non-safe vehicle.

And a truck with a 5.5' bed is much more truck than an SUV! My truck has a 5.5' bed, and though I wish it was longer at times to haul more gear (bikes, firewood, etc.), it is a great combination of utility and ease of driving/parking. Add a tonneau cover and you suddenly have a very large trunk! Also, in '06, Ford started offering a 6.5' bed option on the crew cab F150 if you want a little more bed space.

PS: though it may sound like I am trying to sell you a Ford, that is just where I have my experience, so that is what I know.
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Old 01-18-2011, 02:13 PM   #7
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When all else fails, try plan "B". Have you checked on having your dealer move the camper twice per year? Once to the campground, and then back home? Maybe a neighbor with a truck that will move it? Will the campground put it in storage and get it out and park it? Might seem a little pricey at first, but I bet it will be cheaper than three truck payments, not counting taxes, license, insurance, etc. Just a thought. I mostly agree with the above post, fairly long wheelbase truck. My 01 Supercrew is maxed out with 7000 pounds of trailer. It tows well enough, but that is all it wants.
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Old 01-18-2011, 02:30 PM   #8
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the 2011 exporer is a totally new and different vehicle - it's now a unibody crossover and NOT a body on frame 'truck' anymore.

at our campground nobody has a dedicated spot- your trailer has to be take home or put into the storage area. Now they'll spot/unspot it for you, for $10-15. But...you may wait around on them and if they move it without you watching and things get damage well, too bad so sad. So we'll most likely want to spot it ourselves (the practice can't hurt, right?). Our current vehicles are a taurus (29mpg) and a windstar (21mpg hiway). Not sure what an explorer/etc gets on the hiway but probably not much less - so the spot fee is more than our gas cost differential.

truck beds - I drove as my only or primary vehicle a pickup for 17 years (86 thru 2003)- S10s (short bed) then a jeep comanche (almost 7' bed) and am very familiar with the plus and minus of a truck. I have also had access (or primary vehicle for a few years now) to minivans (since '96). I am a ford person (so you don't have to sell me on them). For my needs a pickup WILL NOT DO. As a second vehicle - maybe. I have a business and a van or SUV will function (a station wagon would work if they still existed). My windstar is one of those recalled for a rear axle and I've had an Edge rental for 2.5 months now and trust me - a)it's not big enough capacity wise -at times) and it's b)not as convenient for work as a van (load floor height, interior height, floor length). I need to carry 10' long tubes at times - they fit in my van (not pretty, but the fit) -they have to ride sticking out an open window in the edge (and that's cold!) and it just won't work in a pick up at all, displays (need to be weather tight), camera gear (secure)...a pickup won't do.

Secondly, a search on 2002-2005 models show pickup with backseats runing $10-15k and explorers $6-11k - regular cab trucks are nearly as cheap as explorers.

as to the wb/length chart...where does that come from? I do beleive that a longer wb vehicle will to better, but I"m not at all sold on that chart's specs - no way.
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Old 01-18-2011, 02:51 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by prof_fate View Post
as to the wb/length chart...where does that come from? I do beleive that a longer wb vehicle will to better, but I"m not at all sold on that chart's specs - no way.
There was a guy on the net a couple of years ago that posted that chart. The website had all sorts of good information. A copyright battle ensued, and the guy had to shut down his website. These were guidelines......I don't know where he got them from.

Here you go, I just found this article on the web: http://www.articlesbase.com/rvs-arti...ty-431929.html
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Old 01-18-2011, 03:05 PM   #10
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The Society of Automotive Engeers have a standard now - Tow Ratings Finally Pass the Sniff Test - The Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) - Automobile Magazine

WB is not mentioned nor is trailer length. Other factors are of course taken into consideration. Why not wb or trailer length? I don't know.

I do know the trailer we bought is thousands of pounds less than others of the same length - that has to be a factor in suitability of the tow vehicle.
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