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Old 05-09-2012, 09:27 AM   #1
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The Great Problem in Buying a Tow Vehicle...

It has taken a month, folks. This was the blueprint.

Diesel was the best way to go for longevity and fuel mileage. Also, for my intended upgrade to 10,000 pounds tow in two years, I didn't want to underbuy.

My budget was 14,000 by the time I figured in taxes and licensing.

Tennessee isn't "truck country". I wanted to test-drive what I buy (it's a flying thing), and buying cross country or unseen wasn't an option. I made three buying trips, and racked up a bunch of fuel costs to find the trucks were not what they looked like on internet.

Dodge makes the best diesel, but my budget would only get a 250,000 mile truck. There were four in Memphis, and I looked at them all. The interiors were trash. One was green (ugh). One had monster mudders on it.

Ford made the good 7.3 liter engine, and while the market is flooded with newer 6.0 engines, I didn't want to take that chance.

So, the math? 50% of the trucks on the local market were Ford 6.0 diesel. 20% were Dodge Cummins at $18,000 and up excepting the higher miles and used hard. 10% didn't have crew cab or were base model Fords. 5% were standard shift (too much work with two little kids).

The only thing I could find in the 7.3, in good shape, 177,000 miles, with nice interior was a 2002 Ford 350 Lariat for $12,500.00. It's a good looking truck, and a diesel will work well. Full maintenance records, and kept in the south.

Didn't really want a dually, but there were no 2002 Ford 250's, low miles around here.
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Old 05-09-2012, 10:01 AM   #2
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I think your budget is for a 2004-2005 gas 3/4 ton with 100k mi.
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Old 05-09-2012, 11:00 AM   #3
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I paid $7000 for a 2000 Ford Excursion with 94K on it and I put maybe $1000 into it. It is a V10 and you can buy a bunch of gas for the $6000 you have left in your pocket. When you take into account that the V10 will last as long as the diesel and the maintenance is minimal compared to all the filters, oil changes, and other high dollar items that run you broke on a diesel not to mention the higher price at the pump. Modern gas engines will last $200k without not great maintenance. If you take care of it and run synthetic oil you should get twice that. That being said, it takes a long time to put $100k on a tow vehicle. I get 9 MPG towing and a 7.3L Ford might get 12MPG towing. Diesels break all the time and when they do you are talking $1000's of dollars not $100's like a gas engine.

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Old 05-09-2012, 11:00 AM   #4
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The 6.0 in the 2003-2007 Fords isn't a bad engine; the Achilles heel is the EGR, EGR Cooler, Oil Cooler and head studs. Replace them with well-known aftermarket parts (I don't think i'm allowed on this forum to quote specific brands), and change the oil every 5K and the general consensus seems to be the engine is bulletproof.
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Old 05-09-2012, 11:03 AM   #5
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The 7.3L in Fords has a 250k B50 life design (50% will need overhaul at that point), so 177k is 30% expected life remaining. A well-taken care of 7.3L will do much better, and as it is representative of the one time Ford got everything right commands a bit of a premium . . only, now, time is on your side as some buyers will shun it according to age alone.

My feeling about time-related issues is to try and forestall the inevitable electrically-related ones by installing oversized primary and secondary charging system cabling plus state-of-the-art batteries (Sears P2 or Odyssey), new grounds and replacement of as many lamps as can be easily accessed (along with examination of wiring harness chafe and break points) to keep electrical reliability high. Problems will come, but some (many?) can be kept at bay by going through the waypoints of electron flow. All new circuit breakers, fuses, fusible links, relays, etc, are not a bad idea either. What switches tend to fail is good info to gather, and what work-arounds other owners have found make Internet searches fruitful in re older vehicle repair & maintenance.

Otherwise the 7.3L is not known for high mpg, but the overall cost of the vehicle, probable repairs, and low number of known issues ought to make it a good choice.

rcarls point about some gassers has real merit from the standpoint of overall cost versus time/miles of ownership. High mileage diesels start to suffer without some distinct advantage (as with Cummins per both longevity & fuel economy).

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Old 05-09-2012, 01:01 PM   #6
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I wrote off diesel pretty early on given that I wasn't going to tow enough miles to really justify it. The big modern gas engines can handle the weight that you're planning on towing and it'll open up more choices, etc.

For example, 8.1 litre V8 Silverado, Allison tranny...

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Old 05-09-2012, 01:44 PM   #7
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With that 24' Argosy you could just about tow it with an F-150 or an Expedition. Make sure you get one with a tow package though. You can get used Expeditions pretty cheap with gas prices the way they are. You might also consider a full sized van.

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Old 05-09-2012, 01:55 PM   #8
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I've fretted and worried on the same problems. The 2012 Eco-Boost is a carrot on the string I can't seem to reach...

The small truck custom freight haulers seem to think two and even three V-10's happily equal one diesel - run it, find its sweet spot and thrash it, swap in new block as needed and repeat being much* cheaper than initial, fuel & maintenance costs of a diesel... and they don't even want to think about having a main crank snap or something equally catastrophic occur in the diesel as earning back that $7500-10,000 would take a very long time.

If you had access to fleet priced or other discount truck-stop diesel fuel and could get expendables wholesale, do your own maintenance painlessly (including suspension & miscellaneous parts) and have mostly highway miles to drive it might pay off if you plan to resell it within two or three years...
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Old 05-09-2012, 02:42 PM   #9
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Eaglemate,

Is your Burb a 1500?

If time is on your side....keep looking.
We found our 06 8.1 2500 Burb on ebay. Like new GM program vehicle with 14k on the clock.
It didn't sell, contacted owner, made an offer and closed. It can be done if you take the needed precautions.

As was noted above, there are some very capable gassers out there and if you tow less than 10k a year and plan to use it as an occasional daily driver they would be an attractive option.

POI... in our area there a 30cent premium per gal on deezel right now.

Bob
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Old 05-09-2012, 06:48 PM   #10
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I should add that a distinct advantage of a diesel pickup is the insensitivity to vehicle weight as compared to a gas motor. Very high compression does have its' advantages and this is one of them. I can leave up to (but not more than) 1,000-lbs in the truck bed without fuel economy being noticeably changed (and I track all miles, all gallons).

While dragging around extra weight isn't really recommended (after all, it's harder on an automatic transmisssion), one can easily carry extra fuel, a better tool selection and supplies than in a comparable gasser to no ill effect.

It's my impression that used diesel trucks also see a flatlined depreciation curve where the better informed tend to be willing to travel a greater distance to acquire one. Not unlike other items of quality.

These alone are not reason enough to buy a used diesel truck as they do not affect the ownership cost in a significant way. They do, however, slightly leverage the advantage of a diesel truck where the actual advantages will work for an owner.

One can roll the roads at low speeds with a bit more (the ability to use tools or extend fuel range) thus, perhaps, making the diesel more attractive.

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Old 05-09-2012, 07:43 PM   #11
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We would LOVE to find a diesel e350 with a 7.3L engine that we could afford. We have two gas ones. It is very hard to find a passenger van with the diesel option, but we need room for our seven kids so we won't all fit in a truck.
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Old 05-10-2012, 05:43 AM   #12
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My V10 gasser gets about the same miliage no matter how loaded down it is.

Perry

Quote:
Originally Posted by REDNAX View Post
I should add that a distinct advantage of a diesel pickup is the insensitivity to vehicle weight as compared to a gas motor. Very high compression does have its' advantages and this is one of them. I can leave up to (but not more than) 1,000-lbs in the truck bed without fuel economy being noticeably changed (and I track all miles, all gallons).

While dragging around extra weight isn't really recommended (after all, it's harder on an automatic transmisssion), one can easily carry extra fuel, a better tool selection and supplies than in a comparable gasser to no ill effect.

It's my impression that used diesel trucks also see a flatlined depreciation curve where the better informed tend to be willing to travel a greater distance to acquire one. Not unlike other items of quality.

These alone are not reason enough to buy a used diesel truck as they do not affect the ownership cost in a significant way. They do, however, slightly leverage the advantage of a diesel truck where the actual advantages will work for an owner.

One can roll the roads at low speeds with a bit more (the ability to use tools or extend fuel range) thus, perhaps, making the diesel more attractive.

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Old 05-10-2012, 06:48 AM   #13
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Up until about a year and a half ago, I always had gas vehicles, and then I bought a used '08 3/4 ton GMC Duramax. Yes, the Diesel in my opinion is more expensive to operate when you consider the increased price of fuel, marginal increase in mileage, cost of oil changes and filter changes, all more expensive than a gasoline engine.

However, nothing has the brute power to pull like a Diesel, and once you have driven one towing, it would be very hard to give it up and go back to a gas engine, assuming you are towing a large heavy trailer. Your mileage and opinion may vary.
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Old 05-10-2012, 09:18 AM   #14
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If I had $50k and another $50k to maintain it for the next 10 yrs then I would have a diesel. Instead I am cheap and have an $8k gaser and it will cost me maybe $2k to maintain over the next 10yrs. If you just look at gas miliage and nothing else the diesel will always look better.

Diesels tend to eat transmissions because typically they put out more torque and the axels are geared higher which puts more stress on the drive train.

Perry
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Old 05-10-2012, 09:34 AM   #15
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Originally Posted by perryg114 View Post
If I had $50k and another $50k to maintain it for the next 10 yrs then I would have a diesel. Instead I am cheap and have an $8k gaser and it will cost me maybe $2k to maintain over the next 10yrs. If you just look at gas miliage and nothing else the diesel will always look better.

Diesels tend to eat transmissions because typically they put out more torque and the axels are geared higher which puts more stress on the drive train.

Perry
Like I said in my previous post, the increased cost of the fuel negates any gain in mileage, and yes they are more expensive. I didn't buy the Diesel to save money, I bought it for the power.

If my objective was only to save money, I wouldn't even own an Airstream, I would stay home. YMMV
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Old 05-10-2012, 04:16 PM   #16
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Buy the right diesel and fuel economy plus longevity is greater, not to mention lower per-mile costs all around.

The trick in all of this how is:

1] How long to be kept?
2] How many miles in that time?

From that estimate -- time & miles -- then a budget which shows what will work best for a given vehicle combination.
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Old 05-10-2012, 06:17 PM   #17
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Let's see: Gas costs $3.99 a gallon, diesel costs $4.07 a gallon (I just bought $130 worth of it last Saturday). My Cummins gets 30% better fuel mileage (21mpg) in my 3/4 ton 4x4 crew cab 8' bed Ram 2500 HD as compared to my 350V8 1/2 ton Chevy Suburban (15mpg). I think the argument that diesels aren't cost effective is highly variable.

I also had an Excursion with a V10. It did tow nicely. But the big Ram tows much better.

However, and this is a BIG however....I bought my diesel new. I got a fleet discount which knocked $5500 off the price, and then got another $2500 off for "Dodge Days." That made the truck "almost" affordable to me. And, I plan to run it until there's nothing left of it. I'm not so sure on buying a used diesel...the reason being everyone I know that has a diesel pickup likes is so much that they don't sell it until it's got at least 150,000 miles on it; sometimes double that. So it is hard to find a good deal on a used one.

Horsepower sounds nice, but it's torque that wins races. Diesels make torque in spades. Once you tow with one, it would be tough to go back to gas.

That being said, a buddy of mine bought a 3/4 ton Suburban with the 8.1L (that's a 496 for us hot rodders) for cheap cheap cheap, and it's a great tow vehicle. If I was really tight on money, I'd look hard at one of those.

Last year though, Ford was making some super deals on their diesels. A buddy of mine traded his '03 Dodge Cummins with 120,000 miles on a new F-250 crew cab short bed 4x4 fancy model (I think it's a Lariat...). The Ford was $56K. When they got done with all the discounts, and they allowed him $16K for his Dodge, he wound up paying something like $20K for it. It's worth taking a look anyway.

Best of luck!
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Old 05-10-2012, 08:21 PM   #18
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Let's see: Gas costs $3.99 a gallon, diesel costs $4.07 a gallon (I just bought $130 worth of it last Saturday). My Cummins gets 30% better fuel mileage (21mpg) in my 3/4 ton 4x4 crew cab 8' bed Ram 2500 HD as compared to my 350V8 1/2 ton Chevy Suburban (15mpg). I think the argument that diesels aren't cost effective is highly variable.
That delta will vary from place to place, and based on the supply of various fuels over time.

Here in Fort Worth, the delta between regular unleaded and diesel is around 40 cents/gallon right now. So, 30% better mileage gets you about 18-20% better per-dollar fuel economy. Not insignificant, but much worse than your example.
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Old 05-10-2012, 08:24 PM   #19
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That delta will vary from place to place, and based on the supply of various fuels over time.

Here in Fort Worth, the delta between regular unleaded and diesel is around 40 cents/gallon right now. So, 30% better mileage gets you about 18-20% better per-dollar fuel economy. Not insignificant, but much worse than your example.
The price disparity has changed in a big way up here lately...why, I don't know. Used to be 40 - 60 cents. Now it is down to 10 - 15 cents.

If it would stay that way, it would make a diesel a lot more attractive.
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Old 05-11-2012, 06:42 AM   #20
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Diesel made a lot more sense when it was cheaper than gas. Now it is iffy. Torque is nice but when I am pulling a trailer I am not trying to win a race or be the first one up a mountain. If I lived in Colorado then a Turbo-Diesel or at least a turbo charged gasser would be the tow vehicle of choice because of the altitude. For the few times I am going to be climbing mountains, I don't really care how fast I get up the mountain as long as I get there. If I made my living pulling trailers and getting there on time was important then the extra towing power would be an asset. If I want to go fast I will get on one of my motorcycles. If I had the money I would love to have a big diesel truck. My choice is pay the house off or buy a new truck, which is more important? I will always chose the first but the average American won't.

Perry
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