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Old 06-24-2019, 01:18 PM   #1
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1 ton passenger van towing. thoughts?

Long story short. I started looking for used van for weekend transport have more room for everyone.
Then I quickly realized the lower price point of a one ton van vs. one ton pick up. That said if your using a one ton van to tow travel trailer, please provide your likes, dislikes in general.
FYI. The most cost effective vans in my area are Chevy 3500 express type with 6.0 gas and 3.42 rear with 6 speed auto trans.
I’ve learned that lower gears are really not out there but the 6 speed trans from 2010 to near current at least 2018. Are doing ok with 9,000 of towing.
Payload on vans is high and towing is rated lower that a pickup platform. That makes good theory to me as they are people haulers.
Also since this is not a primary vehicle. In my state registration is as a station wagon at 38.00 per year. Vs. over 700.00 for a one ton pickup.
Just considering, I’m not committed to this idea and would like anyone’s input, that has used or is using a van to tow.
Also our trips are never over 250 miles in one direction. Life has limits to time off so we’re in the weekend trips and extended weekends.
Thank you for your responses.
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Old 06-24-2019, 01:25 PM   #2
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My old boss pulled his RV with some sort of a 1/2T Ford van... I know gutsy right?

I think it is an excellent idea and I would definitely consider it...if I got what I needed to work.
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Old 06-24-2019, 01:33 PM   #3
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Since it will probably be a single differential it shouldn't be too bad if you find the ratio to be an issue.

Personally I never really understood the low van tow ratings, as long as you aren't maxing the van capacity I wouldn't worry about exceeding the tow rating by a reasonable amount.

Since they aren't setup as TVs you may find transmission cooler, radiator and possibly gearing need to be upgraded, just keep an eye on it.
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Old 06-24-2019, 01:36 PM   #4
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I just rented a 16' Penske van/box to haul my storage unit 'stuff', and my GulfStream 259BH Camper, and it worked just amazingly, smooth, and the Chevy powertrain got excellent mileage.
While it's not a 'people van', per se, and it's more similar to a Class C RV chassis, I found myself wondering why more folks don't take this route versus the standard vehicles(passengers, I suppose!)... there's a LOT of storage if you go this route and don't have but two folks traveling.

The truck is very up to date, with not only 12v USB for charging devices, and other normal 12v outlets, but an INVERTER with a 120v outlet on the dash, for Computers and such, and maybe even a small fridge, I assume. A rear view camera is integrated into the rear view mirror, when in reverse, too. The ball height required no adjustment, and the ride was very smooth considering the two vehicles and their lengths. If you don't have to make very tight turns, it just might be a good option for those wanting to 'carry' stuff, and carry their camper : )

My truck was white, though... nice. It might also be a good choice for those looking for a camper, but that don't necessarily already have a 'truck' to tow it... the cost is not even that great compared to a monthly PAYMENT on a vehicle, at least for those who don't necessarily camp a lot.
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Old 06-24-2019, 03:30 PM   #5
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I think a van is a great idea with a few cautions. Be careful of the extended Econolines because of the long rear overhang and assure you get the v10, check ford’s trailering guide to see why. The extended checy/GMC stretch in the middle, so rear overhang is the same.
Look at youtube - less junk, more journey. They use a GMC window cargo with Diesel to tow their 30’ Airstream. They are probably changing units soon, though. There has been a couple of times they wanted 4wd.
My only real issue is wet grass and mud traction. The vans that can pull a bunch of weight were never available with factory 4wd. There are some aftermarket 4wd reliable units around.
4wd pickups are everywhere, but the box area is not climate controlled even with a cap.
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Old 06-24-2019, 04:02 PM   #6
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Express Van for towing

For many years, I had a 1500 Chevy Express window van as work vehicle.
They were equipped with 5.3l, 3.73 rear end and automatic.
It was set up as an 8 passenger, but had the seat to make it 11-12.
We pulled a 2005 Outback 23RS, from Texas to all parts of the midwest every summer, and numerous trips though Texas.
4 passengers, a dog, bikes and stuff to last 2 weeks at a time.
Pulled the Outback, fairly easily, but mileage was poor at best.
60 equals 10.5, 65 equaled 9 mpg.

Loved the space in the van


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Old 06-25-2019, 12:24 PM   #7
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My first tow vehicle was a one ton conversion van called the Megatow. Basically a 3500 Chevy Express upfitted by Custom Craft out of Milwaukee. I used it to tow a 6000 pound Jayco Eagle 30 foot trailer. It had 10,000 pounds of towing capacity.

I also used it as a daily vehicle. So it was usually a bumpy ride for passengers. unless we were towing. Mileage was never great but it had Flexsteel captain chairs and the folding bed in the rear along with a TV, VCR, two stereo systems, window shades, and the usual interior gadgets provided in conversion vans. A perfect vehicle for long trips. The fit and finish was far superior to the best stock vehicle.

I heartily recommend a 1 ton or 3/4 ton passenger vans for RV use. But see if you can find a conversion van to get even more for your money.
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Old 06-25-2019, 01:42 PM   #8
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We towed a 34' 9000# trailer with a 2005 Ford E350 with the 6.0L diesel Super Duty Chateau Passenger Van for over 35,000 miles over 6 years without a problem - before that we had a 30' 7000# trailer. Seemed like a great tow vehicle with lots of interior room. It did have the factory installed trailer package. Finally stepped up and got a 5th Wheel and an F250 gasser.
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Old 06-25-2019, 08:41 PM   #9
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We have been towing 30'+ trailers with extended length vans for over 35 years without problems. You need to have a good WDH and good anti sway system. Currently we're using a 2000 Ford E350 Super Duty with the V-10 and 3.73:1 gears. The trailer is Flagstaff Signature 34' at about 7500lbs loaded. We get about 9-10 US mpg towing and about 16 US mpg solo. We only use the van for towing and have about 100,000 miles on it now. We're disappointed that Ford dropped the line in favour of the Transit which can only be rated to 5000lbs.
I have been looking at the Savanna and will wait to see if they will offer it with the new 6.7 l engine. I have looked at the specs and at this point it is not yet listed for the vans. Also, I would look to see if the axle ratio could be changed to something in the 3.7:1 range. It is only offered with a 3.4:1 in the online spec.
Why a van? I carry my motorcycle in the back, either an antique BMW or Honda ST1300. It stays clean and out of sight. Plus as you noted, a van can be as much as $20,000 cheaper than a p/u
If you have any questions, please feel free to ask.
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Old 06-26-2019, 07:11 AM   #10
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I towed a 7k lb travel trailer with a non-extended 2003 GMC Savana 2500. Rear end was 3.73. Traveled all over the US east of the Rockies. Only time I had an issue was pulling up a grade in the Big Horn mountains, that 6.0 gasser couldn't breathe, but we made it up and over at about 10 mph. The space was great for the family, especially when we got down to 4 kids as opposed to 7.
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Old 06-28-2019, 02:53 PM   #11
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We tow our 25' palomino solaire with a chevy 3500 express. It has the factory tow package. definately need a WDH. No problems towing with it - tows very well around MN or on flat terrain. Last summer we went to Yellowstone and it did struggle on some of the steeper passes. Not really a problem, just went a little slower than others. We don't get great gas milage when we tow (10-11mpg) but we only use the van for towing the tt (or dog shows). Ours is a cargo van so not a lot of creature comforts in the main back van area (but a little retrofit with some carpet, etc. fixed that). We travel with 5 dogs and have 3 crates set up all the time so for us a truck just wouldn't work. We can throw our kayaks up on top, one of us can nap in the back while the other drives, don't have to stop to feed dogs, and we love all the space inside the van.
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Old 06-28-2019, 08:07 PM   #12
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I tow our Alpha Wolf 26RL with a 3500 Express passenger with the 6.0L. No problems towing with it so far. Haven't been in any mountainous regions so no info there. My only issue is I have the 15 passenger so I'm in the neighborhood of 50' long. Backing into some of these smaller parks is fun. :-)
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