Tow Vehicle Question
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Thread: Tow Vehicle Question

  1. #1

    Default Tow Vehicle Question

    So I am in the process of shopping out a good vehicle to tow a car trailer with.

    I get that Diesel is the best bet torque wise but what else am I looking for specifically knowing I will be towing a car and car trailer potentially across the country in the future?

    Ive been looking to stay under the $1000 range but have only found garbage V8 Jeeps and crap like that (go figure). I then thought short and easy about it and figured I need to bump that price range up if I want to pull a car across the country.

    Im now hoping to find something in the >$5k range.

    Im thinking F250/350 V8 or Diesel, Suburban Diesel, Ram V8 or Diesel

    So my real question is: What else besides diesel trucks can/should I look at? Is there a specific Litre range I should look for or above(for Gas motors)? Etc?

    Ive never towed a car trailer before but have 10 years of towing motox trailers with a V8 Grand Cherokee under my belt.

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  3. #2
    100 oversquare right bentmettle's Avatar
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    What you need for capacity also depends on what you take for tools, spares, crew, etc.

    I'd go to some events and check out how folks set up trucks vs. SUVs vs. vans and decide which suits you best.

  4. #3
    50 caution yump
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    You'll hear a lot of different ideas on what is suitable.

    Personally. I have a 1995 Ford E350 Ambulance that I bought for $2k, and tow with a borrowed open dual axle trailer (I wouldn't feel comfortable on anything else but a dual axle trailer). It's towed us to Minnesota and back in comfort and *decent* MPG for what it's doing.
    #542 - 1991 Subaru Legacy Open Class

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  6. #4
    The Scorpion King John Sundelin's Avatar
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    To expand a little bit on what both Matts said, you'll really need to come up with a number for the weight of your car and trailer, and then a number for the weight of what you want to put in the truck. Unless you happen to think that half the challenge is getting to rally, and you aren't really concerned about potential liability from getting into an accident with an overweight vehicle, both of those numbers need to fit within the various weight ratings for the vehicle that you end up choosing, so you really need to start with the car and then work your way forward. If you don't have a car, I'd say 3250 lbs is a good number for an upper limit for the car weight, unless you want to rally a truck. The next thing to consider is the weight rating of the trailer. Most "car haulers" are not particularly light. Mine weighs around 2000 lbs. So, unless you get an aluminum trailer, you're looking at a minimum trailer GVWR and truck tow capacity of slightly more than 5000 lbs. One thing to keep in mind about actual trailer GVWR is that if you keep under the max weight rating of the trailer, you can drive faster without pissing off the tires on the trailer. If you've got a trailer that's loaded to it's max rating and you tow at 75 MPH, you will have a blowout at some point, and the first tire may take out another one. IIRC, most trailer tires are rated at 55 MPH. However, if you look around the web long enough, there is at least one trailer tire manufacturer that has a table showing allowable tire loads for various operating speeds. Once you've got that sorted out, then you can look at the weight ratings for the truck. I don't think it's unreasonable to figure that eventually you'll want to tote around at least 1000 lbs of tools and spare parts, plus people and luggage. Let's say that's 250 lbs per person, and you want 3 people, so now we need 1750 lbs of payload capacity, plus the trailer.

    Just as an example, let's take a new E-150 with a 4.6L gas V-8. The towing capacity is 5600 lbs, so you are good with the above trailer example. The GCWR is 11500 pounds, so with a 5000 lb trailer, you've got 6500 lbs left. The curb weight that I found was 5,224 lbs, which leaves you with a payload of 1276 lbs, which is a good bit shy of the 1750 that I was assuming, so that's probably not going to work well.

    Personally, I have a diesel pickup (F-250), but with the current price of diesel vs. regular gasoline, it's harder to justify the extra cost of the diesel on economy alone. I also found the seating position in most vans to be aggravating.

    --
    John

  7. #5
    100 oversquare right bentmettle's Avatar
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    The only minor thing missing in John's explanation is that tongue weight- generally 10-15% of your towed load - gets counted against your capacity. So if you are towing a 5000lb bumper pull trailer/car setup, at least 500lbs is sitting on your hitch, and hence the truck/van/suv suspension, and is counted as payload.

    Using all the other same assumptions, this drops usable payload down closer to 750~800 lbs. If you carry tires in the bed of a 1/2 ton truck, and a couple people, you can run out of weight rating pretty quickly.


    The RV websites have towing in all it's forms down pat. They're not going to be able to help with living with whatever vehicle you've chosen once you get to an event and need to use it for a service rig, or a recce rig, or ad-hoc camper, etc. Most people grossly underestimate the weight of what they're loading into their tow rig.

  8. #6

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    I've towed with gas and diesel, with a van, pickup, and short metro bus (E350 chassis). My favorite, by far, was the bus. Tons of room inside, big diesel, tons of torque, better mileage than any gas vehicle I've towed with, and you couldn't even tell the trailer was back there. The bus belongs to my local SCCA region, and we picked it up for about $3k.

    My advice: watch out for vans. Working on the engines are a real PITA in the tight space. So if you get a van, make sure it runs like a top. We picked up a GMC3500, and that year 350 has this crazy injector setup with the fuel pressure regulator INSIDE the intake. It took us like 2 hours to get the intake off to replace it...only to have the new replacement FPR be junk and had to do it over again. Thanks GM! It would have been a 10 minute job on any other setup. So, if you get something that needs work, make sure it's not a royal PITA to work on.
    Jim Perrin - #716, but no more Jeep.... - TeamHazardRally.com

  9. #7
    The Scorpion King John Sundelin's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bentmettle View Post
    The only minor thing missing in John's explanation is that tongue weight- generally 10-15% of your towed load - gets counted against your capacity. So if you are towing a 5000lb bumper pull trailer/car setup, at least 500lbs is sitting on your hitch, and hence the truck/van/suv suspension, and is counted as payload.

    Using all the other same assumptions, this drops usable payload down closer to 750~800 lbs. If you carry tires in the bed of a 1/2 ton truck, and a couple people, you can run out of weight rating pretty quickly.


    The RV websites have towing in all it's forms down pat. They're not going to be able to help with living with whatever vehicle you've chosen once you get to an event and need to use it for a service rig, or a recce rig, or ad-hoc camper, etc. Most people grossly underestimate the weight of what they're loading into their tow rig.
    Oops! The danger of posting while trying to decide if you should just go to sleep...

    --
    John

  10. #8

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    Quote Originally Posted by bentmettle View Post
    Most people grossly underestimate the weight of what they're loading into their tow rig.
    Yup. I figure fully loaded with even my smallish trailer and decently light car, I'm looking at a little over 2500# (assume 4 passengers, gear, spares, tools and tongue weight). Technically that puts my 3/4-ton truck right up near it's GVW (Payload capacity of 2601#) (though nowhere near it's GCVW, which I'm probably under by 6-7000#). Which is why I got a 3/4-ton instead of a 1/2-ton.

    Mark Holden - G2 Nissan Sentra SE-R

  11. #9

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    I just went through this (thread on Rally Anarchy).

    Ended up with a 91 F-250 Diesel. The 7.3 IDI motor is dead simple, cheap to get parts for, and will do the job albeit maybe not be as fast up the hills as a more modern motor. They run for 500K miles easily and will be in your price range. I bought mine from a guy in CT.

    The other important part, to me, is that these trucks/motors have an enthusiastic following. Any problems are well documented on a couple of forums with solutions and improvements already known. And again, cheap. They do require some religious maintenance of the cooling system, though. The 7.3 will have cavitation issues if not maintained. If you are interested in one of these trucks, read up on cavitation first thing.

    I didn't go for the ambulance because of increased complexity (more stuff to maintain if you want it working) and in Massachusetts duallies and/or GVWR over 10,000# is automatically a comercial vehicle. I do like the concept of an ambulance as a service rig, though. But a pickup will be more versatile for me around the house, too. A utility body truck might be nice but I think having inside storage is even better (crew cab or at least extended, if no box).

    Tim.

    '98 VW Jetta TDI - RallyX/DD
    '96 Subaru Impreza - Rally car

  12. #10

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    And I went through the whole thing too. Had a similar budget at first, and was pretty set on buying a ~10 year old contractor van, as that's what could be had in the price range.

    Used vans sell cheaper than comparable used trucks. Used trucks can be someone's daily driver and they can drive their family around in it. And they're less creepy...

    Anyhow. I was going to get a van, and I had a place to park it lined up, more or less. But the more I thought about it, the less I wanted another vehicle to store, maintain and insure. Talked with my wife and she agreed, so the family sedan got traded in on a used, but fresh Chevy 3/4-ton Duramax diesel pickup. A lot more money than the van, yes, but able to haul the family in comfort, gets mileage equivalent to our minivan on long trips (though much less daily driving, I must admit).

    On the other hand. If you have a white van, a high visibility vest, hardhat, some workboots and a traffic cone, you can pretty much go anywhere and do anything you want, and nobody's ever going to ask. I love traffic cones. People treat them like they're legally binding.

    Mark Holden - G2 Nissan Sentra SE-R

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