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Old 02-02-2014, 11:22 AM   #1
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Possible last minute change - new (used) tow vehicle for 25' Excella

In a couple of weeks I am scheduled to pick up my 25 foot Airstream Excella from Can AM RV - just waiting on a special order mattress and a few other things. As of now, we're planning on reinforcing the Curt Class III hitch on my 2005 Chevy Astro van and adding weight distribution, etc, the way Can Am is known for doing things well. But after reading about smaller, more fuel efficient and more modern tow vehicles, I'm thinking of splurging and trading in or selling my Astro for something newer and getting Can Am to do their magic and increase the towing rating. If I keep the Astro, I'd need to fix the ABS, get a tune up, get new tires, possibly upsize the wheel rims too, and I'd still be driving an almost decade old van with older technology. Don't get me wrong, I love this van, but maybe it's time to move on and get something else. Technology and quality has taken a huge leap in the last 10 years. And the Astro, though a 2005 model, is really based on 1980s and 1990s technology, has a higher center of gravity and leaf spring suspension and would benefit from wider, lower profile tires.

I'm not sure what my Astro is worth to sell or trade in. Overall, it's much better than most. For a new tow vehicle, I'll budget to spend up to about $20,000 though $12,000 to $15,000 would be more comfortable. Although, if I spend towards the higher end of the spectrum, I could get something nearly new, like maybe one or two years old and hopefully keep it for the next 10 years. After reading several threads where Can Am has added towing equipment to surpass the manufacturer's ratings, I would like to consider some of those, and the more fuel efficient, the better. I like the versatility of a van, but might consider a sedan, SUV or Crossover. So far, these are the ones that appeal to me and should make a decent tow vehicle for my soon to be 25 foot Airstream Excella:

- Dodge Grand Caravan (ideally a 2011 or newer to get the Pentastar V6 and I'd want full stow & go rear seats). I test drove my 25' Airstream Excella with Can Am's 2014 Grand Caravan and I liked the way the whole set up worked (see pic)
- Chrysler 300 (ideally a 2011 or newer to get the Pentastar V6)
- Jeep Grand Cherokee (diesel if possible)
- Dodge Magnum (possibly with 5.7 Hemi, more power, less MPG's)
- Ford Taurus (2010 or newer)
- Ford Flex
- Ford Crown Victoria (I believe only V8's are available, rear wheel drive)
- Chevrolet Impala
- Chevrolet Traverse (all wheel drive)
- Cadillac SRX (older are RWD, newer are FWD)
- Honda Odyssey
- Toyota Sienna
- Nissan Quest

I'm sure there are some other good vehicles I'm missing. Undoubtedly, there are some other nice sedans made by each of those automakers that might work. As expected, any of the Japanese nameplates will cost more, so I'd be looking at more like 2006, 2007, 2008, etc and with more mileage. With the domestic nameplates, I could be into a 2010, 2011 or 2012. These days the quality control and reliability are arguably a lot better across the board, so I don't think I could go wrong with any of those. I'm not sure which would be better from the standpoint of:

1. Quality and reliability - slightly older and more used Japanese brand or newer lower mileage domestic

2. Best dynamics as a towing vehicle for my 25 foot Airstream Excella and just to have as a comfortable, roomy vehicle when not towing (mid size or full size). I hear some sedans are actually better than trucks and vans.

3. Definitely hoping to get improved fuel economy over my Astro. The better the fuel economy, the happier I'll be, especially when I'm not towing and would appreciate a more fuel efficient mid size or full size vehicle for roominess and cargo capacity.

Any ideas on which of the above (or one that I did not mention) that might be worth looking at? Thank you in advance for your help! I'm a towing and Airstream newbie!
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Old 02-02-2014, 11:59 AM   #2
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Forgot to mention, the Cadillac DTS is a bit pricier, wouldn't have as much cargo area capacity but really classy, similar fuel consumption in a front wheel drive V8 sedan.
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Old 02-02-2014, 12:54 PM   #3
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I tow our 34' International with a 2008 Honda Odyssey Touring, also set up by Andy's team, and could not be happier. With a Hensley hitch, this is a rock-solid rig with ample power, lots of space and good fuel economy.

Having said that, you've got a great list to choose from. I personally really like the Flex, with AWD and the EcoBoost engine. The Jeep GC diesel is also a vehicle on my personal shortlist for when the time comes to replace our van.

The AWD comes in handy in some of our Provincial Parks, where roads can be sandy and the ground slippery. I got stuck on wet grass last year once, AWD would have prevented that.
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Old 02-02-2014, 01:46 PM   #4
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Good to know, thanks! If your Odyssey can tow a 34' International, it should have no problem with a 25' Excella.

I also like the Flex. With AWD and a few years old, the prices are pretty good. I like the idea of AWD too, though it takes away slightly from fuel economy, but not too much.

There are also some decent deals (though at the higher end of my price spectrum) on the Toyota Venza. A bit smaller, but can be had with a V6, AWD and 20" wheels.
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Old 02-03-2014, 09:16 AM   #5
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We tow a 2011 28' International with a V6 3.5L Toyota Sienna, set up by Can Am. Like Andy above, I think you have a pretty good list there so with Can Am's help you could comfortably go with any of those options. I know Andrew T likes the Grand Caravan; maybe he can point you at a good, late example.
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Old 02-03-2014, 10:46 AM   #6
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Thanks for the feedback. I've been looking at the 2011 and newer Grand Caravan as well as the more luxurious Town & Country. When they're 2 or 3 years old they're quite a bargain yet still quite new. I used to drive a base model 2011 Grand Caravan at work and it was pretty good. Each one had some minor flaw, and maybe not as refined as a Honda or Toyota, but nothing objectionable. And the price can't be beat. I don't think all-wheel-drive is available though. I'm not sure if I need it, but if I could get it, I would.

I also like the Sienna and Odyssey. They're a bit pricier (and supposedly more reliable), so I'd either need to increase my budget or buy an older model. The Toyota Venza looks pretty good too, but I'd only consider a V6. A few of them come with AWD and cost less than a Sienna. If I look at a sedan, the Pentastar (2011 and newer) Chrysler 300 Touring is looking pretty good. I might have to take a look at that too, though I'd really like the space of a van, SUV or crossover.

Either way, Can Am will be installing the towing equipment. That's also where my Airstream is coming from. For now, unless I hear a compelling argument to the contrary, I'm going to drop the Nissan Quest as it seems to only come with a CVT transmission, which I get the impression is not desirable for towing. And I'm dropping the Ford Crown Victoria and Cadillac DTS because they are older technology, with longer rear overhangs and more thirsty V8 engines. For the same money I can get something more modern and fuel efficient.

I'm still not sure if I will make it a priority to get AWD. As was mentioned before, you may not need it often, but when you do need it, there's nothing better. Since this is my first RV, and haven't really settled into a pattern yet, I'm not sure if I'll really need AWD, so it may not be a deal breaker, but a definite bonus if I can get it.
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Old 02-03-2014, 11:10 AM   #7
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It really depends on what you do and where you camp. When we got stuck, it wasn't off-road or in a Provincial Park, it was on grass at a commercial campground. Our entire row, including heavy trucks, got caught on a rainy morning.

Thankfully they had a tractor at the ready for just that eventuality and got us all going again in no time at all.
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Old 02-03-2014, 01:00 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by andreasduess View Post
It really depends on what you do and where you camp. When we got stuck, it wasn't off-road or in a Provincial Park, it was on grass at a commercial campground. Our entire row, including heavy trucks, got caught on a rainy morning.

Thankfully they had a tractor at the ready for just that eventuality and got us all going again in no time at all.
It's for times like that when AWD would be handy. But, most of my vehicles have been 2WD and I've managed fine most of the time. Since I've got the opportunity to get anything (within reason), I was thinking of AWD. Since I haven't ventured out yet, it's hard to say if AWD will be a priority or just "nice to have" for those "just in case" times. If I don't get AWD, it opens up my options quite a bit, the vehicle will likely get slightly better fuel economy and the purchase price will be lower.

At this point, having not even test driven any of the vehicles (except the Grand Caravan since I had one as a company vehicle), it's hard to say. But if I were to go AWD, so far I'm liking the Toyota Venza. If not AWD, I'm liking the Honda Odyssey, or taking a bit of a gamble on reliability but a better purchase price, a Town & Country van. And if I decide I can live with a sedan, the Chrysler 300 is looking good (and Dodge Charger if I want a sporty look). I believe the Chrysler 300 can be had with AWD but harder to find.
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Old 02-03-2014, 10:17 PM   #9
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I spoke with Andy today (thanks Andy! ), since he's quite knowledgeable with good tow vehicles and I'm buying my Airstream Excella from him at Can Am. We narrowed down the list to a brand new Dodge Grand Caravan (since they can be bought for $20,000 for the base model, brand new), a Chrysler 300 or Volkswagen Passat TDi (since they have a wider stance than the Jetta but the same 2.0 liter engine). Overall, we figured the brand new base model Grand Caravan offered the best value and best tow vehicle, though the others are also fine choices - each unique in their own way.

First, I went to a large used car dealer. They had some used Caravans and Town & Country vans, only 2-3 years old, but all looked a bit rough and smelled with some strong air freshner (as did most vehicles there, ex-flood vehicles maybe?). I sat in a Ford Flex and Chevrolet Traverse and liked the roominess and AWD, but to keep the price down, I'd have to get one with as much mileage as my Astro has! I test drove a 2007 Jeep Grand Cherokee diesel (very fun to drive, and would make a great tow vehicle) but it's a bit old and had high mileage for the same price as a brand new Grand Caravan. There was a nice used 2011 Ford Taurus for (I think) $16,000 or maybe just a bit more, low mileage, lot of options (no AWD), but the front bumper looked damaged and the rotors were warped. Otherwise a very nice car. Can Am runs a similar Taurus. They also run an Impala, and although a pretty good value on the used car market, they're a bit dated looking with antiquated technology. If that's all my budget would allow, I'd go for one, but I can get something I like better for just a bit more money.

Then I went to a Chrysler dealer. Loved the value in a brand new Grand Caravan for $19,995 but it only has rear stow and go seats, it's not available for the middle row unless you go to a much more expensive SXT model or buy a used one. Might be worth forgoing the full stow & go for the rear seat stow & go to get 100% brand new. They also had an amazing 2013 Chrysler 300 Touring, absolutely mint and fully loaded for $24,000 (originally $28,000 but it's been in the lot for a while, former daily rental). Very tempting... a fully loaded luxurious and classy Chrysler 300, but I'd have to go over budget by $4000. Although a Mazda dealer has a used 2012 Chrysler 300, but without a backup camera for $19,995.

Some very good choices. And I haven't even gone to a VW dealer to check out a Passat TDi, but I might stick with what I've looked at and pick out something from there. Unfortunately none of the dealers would give much money on trade-in my for my 9 year old 2005 Chevy Astro. I'd rather not go through trying to sell it privately, and even if I did, I still wouldn't get out of it what I put in to it by a long shot. I've put an obscene amount of money into it, a lot of nice upgrades and extras, and it's clean with low mileage for the year. I thought I could keep it for a run around vehicle and buy the nice Chrysler 300 for every day use and towing, and just use my Astro when I need to haul large items. But, I kind of want to just have one motor vehicle.

I didn't look at any Honda Odysseys or Toyota Siennas. Though they'd also make a fine TV, to stay under budget I'd need to get a well used one that's a few years old. Or go over budget by $5000 to $10,000 for a 2011 with lower mileage, so it still wouldn't be brand new.

I think it's down to a brand new Grand Caravan base model or a 2012-2013 Chrysler 300. Decisions, decisions... One thing's for sure though... Andy and I both agreed (and maybe you do too), once you've had a van, and get used to how handy it is to have one, it's hard to go back to a sedan. Though that Chrysler 300 is so nice, it's very tempting.
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Old 02-05-2014, 04:21 AM   #10
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We just bought a Grand Caravan SXT for our business. We paid $18,000 for a 2 year old dealer certified vehicle with 32,000 km on the clock. This includes a 2 year nose to tail warranty. It is like new.

We use a car broker when we buy cars. We tell her what we need, she does the legwork and comes back with three options to pick from.

Because the dealers know her, and she brings business all the time, she gets excellent prices. She takes a commission from the dealer, but even including that I have never been able to beat her quote.

She works out of Toronto, but if you'd be willing to travel to view and pick up the car if be glad to introduce her to you.
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Old 02-05-2014, 10:18 AM   #11
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Sounds good! I've seen similar 2 year old Grand Caravans and even a Town & Country with similar kilometers around Barrie for around $18,000 give or take. But I decided that if I get a Grand Caravan, I'll just get a brand new one since the Canada Value Priced model is only $19,995. 100% brand new! Love it! The only thing I'd be missing that I kind of like is the full stow and go seating. The CVP Grand Caravan only has third row stow and go.

And I have to make up my mind soon as I have to pick up my Airstream in a couple of weeks (and get a hitch installed on whatever vehicle I get) and then, weather permitting, head out west a couple of weeks later.

At this point I'm kind of leaning towards a brand new Grand Caravan but there's a 2012 and 2013 Chrysler 300 Touring available, for 20k and 24k respectively. Andy also suggested a Passat TDi but I have not looked at one yet. Can't find a decent Taurus or Flex in my price range. But... I think I'd rather have a van for its space and versatility. Pretty sure I'll get a 2014 Grand Caravan, but I still haven't decided for sure.

Does your broker deal in used vehicles only, or new ones too? I'd love to get top trade in dollar for my excellent condition 2005 Chevy Astro with lots of nice upgrades (extra winter tires, nearly new, stereo with Bluetooth, Sirius XM, amp and sub, high end alarm and remote starter, etc. Only 124,000 kms (77,500 miles). The dealers aren't interested in it as a trade in, and if they'd take it, I'd get an insulting pittance of money for it - a true gift for whoever ends up with it. I don't have the time or patience to advertise online and wait for the right buyer. And I can't ship it out west and keep it as a second vehicle. I don't know what to do.
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Old 02-05-2014, 02:21 PM   #12
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She only works with dealers, she wouldn't help sell a private car. Sorry.

The reason we bought the SXT is that we needed the full stow and go seating but you're right, the base price for a new vehicle is really great.
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Old 02-05-2014, 08:54 PM   #13
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Yeah, I would really like the full stow and go seating too - that's one of the things holding me back from getting the Canada Value Price Grand Caravan for $19,995. It only has the third row stow & go. If I got a Caravan, I'd really like full stow and go, but the price on the base model is so attractive, it almost makes me ready to overlook that.

Andy had also suggested a Passat TDI. I went in to the local VW dealer as they had a nice 2013 model, but manual transmission. Andy recommended getting the automatic. And it's a bit pricy. There are some cheaper 2012s at another dealer. Even still, I need to get past the fact that it's a sedan, and not a handy minivan that I've become to accustomed to having. Same goes if I consider that Chrysler 300.

Tough choices! I don't know what to do. But I'll keep your broker in mind in case my plans change. It's down to a brand new CVP Grand Caravan or used Grand Caravan SXT, a Chrysler 300 or Passat TDi - listed in order of cost, from lowest to highest.
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Old 02-06-2014, 06:59 PM   #14
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OK, I finally made up my mind. After much thought, research, many test drives of several different vehicles and "sleeping on it" for several nights (after each test drive) the right choice finally became clear. I realized that after many years of owing and driving vans, I need to stay with a van. A sedan just wouldn't do. An SUV or crossover might have worked, but the best deal seems to be on certain vans. Originally I thought I'd go for the super value priced Canada Value Priced 2014 Grand Caravan.

But then I realized full stow and go (not just the 3rd row stow & go) would make my life infinitely easier, and you need to go to a higher model to get those. I also wanted the stereo with a backup camera, navigation and satellite radio. The power roll down sliding door windows are nice to have too. This leads me to the high end luxury version - the Chrysler Town & Country. But, new ones are too expensive. I found several used 2012 and 2013 models with various amounts of mileage. Finally found a nice, super clean silver 2012 Chrysler Town & Country Touring-L with heated leather seats, transmission cooler, factory remote starter and security system, etc, etc. etc. Not fully loaded, but just about. It's a low mileage van that was driven by a Chrysler executive, not a former daily rental. And it's silver too, so it should match my Airstream nicely! I wanted a light color, and silver was actually my first choice and I got it!

I'm so excited to pick it up! That's scheduled for Tuesday (unless there's a blizzard or nasty weather. Then I get to drive it for a week or so and then I take it to Can Am to get my Can Am special towing equipment installed and tow my 25' Airstream Excella home!



Pics to come soon either in this thread and/or future threads. I can't even show you pics from the online ad as the dealership used stock photos that weren't even the right colors.
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