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Old 08-17-2009, 03:34 PM   #15
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Grand Junction , Colorado
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Nolan, this is a tough one. As you can see there are very divergent answers. I agree that too small a vehicle will have significant stress on the engine, transmission, suspension, and I wouldn't want to be the person who buys it used. An underpowered vehicle will often burn more gas than a properly powered one. Too big a vehicle is overkill and can be rough on the trailer. In between those two extremes are a lot of vehicles.

I don't have the answer for a 17' or a 19'. We bought a bigger and heavier trailer and saw no alternative to buying a large 1/2 ton gas engine powered truck.

There are some things you can do:

1. Look for a reasonably efficient and reliable smaller 1/2 ton truck—Toyota Tacoma is one possibility. A second hand one will still last a long time. Then wait for the more fuel efficient trucks to start appearing in several years.

2. Take short trips, therefore, use less fuel.

3. Boondock and get a solar panel—you won't be using electricity off the grid, you'll use less water because you have to.

4. Replace the bulbs in the trailer with LED's—they use a lot less electricity and that's good for boondocking (less battery drain) or with electric hookups.

When you compare vehicles, you have to check what the tow capacity of the tow vehicle is, the gross combined vehicle weight rating, and the payload of the vehicle. Payload is sometimes ignored but is important. Generally pick ups with the same engine have a higher payload than comparable SUV's because their bodies are lighter. Manufacturers' websites will have information on specifications for current models and you can check websites like Edmunds and Kelley's Blue Book—they may have them for older models. Compare with weights (including tongue weight) for Airstreams you are interested in. Read up on tow vehicles on the Forum so you can understand all this stuff, especially payload.


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Old 08-17-2009, 08:34 PM   #16
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Originally Posted by Astroboy View Post
Just curious, did you convert the whole front end (grille, lights, fenders, bumpers, etc)?

I think that's cool!

Yep everything from the A pillar forward is from the VW parts bin. It was relatively painless too.

To stay on topic as a tow vehicle the sprinter is limited to 5000 pounds. Its all so a really easy driver but it is a really big step up into the truck.

It weighs about 500 pounds less then the current F150.


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Old 08-22-2009, 12:42 PM   #17
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Green Tow For Safari 17

Thanks everyone for the replies .... very helpful. We're going to get out there and look at as many as we can!

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Old 08-22-2009, 02:13 PM   #18
Lyle & Margie
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Nolan: Here is our experience, as limited, as it is.

Last September, we purchased a new ’08 GMC Yukon hybrid (2wd). We have two daughters that live in Northern California, (San Mateo & Modesto). Every couple months we take a trip to visit them and the grandkids. We use I-5 from, our home in San Diego to Los Banos and then either the 152 to San Mateo or the 165 to Modesto. For those of you who are unfamiliar with that route, it includes two trips over the “grapevine”.

With an average speed of 70-75 mph, we get 22+ mpg. At an average speed of 55 mph we have gotten 25+ mpg. Around town I average 21 mpg and the wife gets 20. Being a Prius owner, I’m sure you are aware, that how you drive a hybrid will have an affect your mileage.

In May, we purchased a used ’08, 28ft, CCD International. Since then we’ve taken our only hooked up trip, to Los Banos (900+ miles round trip), to have some Warranty Service on the AS completed.

Setting the cruise at 55 mph, we averaged 14+ mpg round trip. At one point, over 200 mile stretch, we averaged 15+ mpg.

Lyle & Margie
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Old 08-23-2009, 09:49 AM   #19
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Green Towing Does Seem Possible

Thanks for your reply regarding your green tow package.

I live in Northern California and grew up as a kid going over the "Grapevine." with my folks to see the relatives in L.A. I remember those vehicles on the grade with the radiators steaming on a hot day. Your Yukon International package sounds ideal if it masters the Grapevine.

After reading all the replies here (which we really appreciate), I have almost come to the conclusion that a larger efficient vehicle and a trailer in the 23-25' range may be a good starting combination for my wife and I. Clearly we need to look at as many as possible and are hoping to attend a local upcoming rally.

I almost ran out to buy a vehicle with the cash for clunker program this weekend, but it is premature until we decide what we want. Clearly, bigger is better ... but not too big

Anyway ... thanks for your thoughts, it is good to know the larger SUV hybrids perform as well as you explained.

Safe travels ...

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Old 08-23-2009, 09:59 AM   #20
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8 horses...8 horse power? Doubt they will pass the emissions test though.
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Old 08-23-2009, 02:43 PM   #21
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So Far, this has Worked fine for us.
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Old 08-23-2009, 03:34 PM   #22
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Looks Cook

Originally Posted by w7ts View Post
So Far, this has Worked fine for us.
But have you ever pulled it out of your driveway?

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Old 08-23-2009, 04:00 PM   #23
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Originally Posted by dstalzer View Post
But have you ever pulled it out of your driveway?

Well Dennis,
I haven't actually figured out how to hook it up. There's no receiver on the Smart Car. Maybe just tie it to the back with some good strong rope.
It works great parked in front of the trailer though.
Although the car is red, it IS green. It gets 40+ MPG, so I am sure it would get at least 30 towing.
In the meantime, I guess I will have to keep using my fuel guzzling truck.
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Old 08-23-2009, 04:07 PM   #24
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I think part of the confusion on this thread results from not having defined what "green" really means in this case. Reducing fuel usage is certainly a good thing, but also one has to consider output of pollutants and CO2. The easiest way to reduce your environmental impact is to simply shorten your trips, as one poster has already pointed out. Drive less, camp more!

I suggest taking a look at the new crop of "clean diesel" engines now available on trucks and SUVs. BlueTec technology and other variants demonstrates that diesels running the new ultra-low sulphur fuel can be incredibly clean in their emissions. Their exhaust air has to be experienced to be believed: it's invisible, unscented, soot-free, and appears to the observer as simply humid air. They can be bought new in all 50 states, unlike earlier diesels.

Right now the clean diesels are mostly in the European brands, but American and Japanese brands have promised to introduce more in 2010. The current economy has put a lot of those plans on hold, so it's hard to say how many diesel tow vehicles will really hit the market, but there seems to be no question that this technology will become more widespread and cheaper over time.

The really nice thing is that the engine torque of any of these V-6 clean diesels is ideal for towing purposes. They'll also turn in good fuel economy when not towing, similar to the report above for the Yukon hybrid.

From the current crop of V-6 clean diesels, I'd look at the VW Touareg2 TDI as a possible candidate. It's the cheapest of the clean diesels that I've seen to date, and has plenty of tow capacity (rated at 7700 lbs), with seating for five. At 400+ ft-lbs of torque, it has the power to pull any Airstream made, but the short wheelbase suggests that it would be happiest with trailers under 20 feet. For just a little more money, you can pick up a Mercedes ML320 with similar specs and a stronger frame. A few of my friends are using the ML320 and are extremely happy with it.

If these are out of the budget, then I'd look at the Yukon Hybrid and other gas-powered variants. But like other posters on this thread, I'd caution against letting your interest in "greenness" overwhelm the importance of having a good towing experience. Be sure to consider relative wheelbase, frame strength, tow rating, hitching, the weight of gear you plan to carry, and your future plans before you plunk down any money. Good luck!
Former full-timer | AIRSTREAM LIFE magazine | Tour of America (old blog) | Man In The Maze (current blog)

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Old 08-23-2009, 04:28 PM   #25
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One thing to consider: if the OP is sticking to a small trailer like a 17' Sport, they might get similar fuel economy with a V6 minivan or mid-sized SUV as they would with the diesel. (And the cost of entry is a whole lot less.)

I recently borrowed a GL320 Bluetec to tow my 2000-lb T@B. The torque was nice, and it just wafted along the highway, but I can't really say it was better than towing with my Honda Odyssey. Both pull strongly.

Funny thing was, I expected to get kickbutt fuel economy with the diesel (after all, the T@B hardly stressed it), but wound up with the same 16 mpg highway mileage I average with the Odyssey. This probably isn't a huge surprise, given that the GL Bluetec's unladen fuel economy is pretty much on par with the lighter Honda. Same goes for a Yukon Hybrid - their fuel economy is much better than a normal Yukon, as shown in the example above, but pretty much matches a normal Odyssey or Toyota Sienna or Ford Flex.

Of course, the GL is rated to tow a heavier trailer than the Odyssey, something to consider if future plans were for bigger trailers. (There are folks towing quite large trailers with well set-up Odysseys, thanks to the van's long wheelbase, but that's another debate.)

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Old 09-02-2009, 07:08 AM   #26
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As an old hot rodder, I'm surprised that no one here has come up with some outside the box thinking. When the California Air Resources Board (CARB) started making rules and regulations that killed the muscle car market in the 1970's, half a dozen magazines did project engines that reduced emissions and improved torque and HP.

If I were to do a "green" tow vehicle, I'd recycle an old seventies van or Suburban and up date the running gear with aftermarket parts and drop in a crate motor with EFI and a factory warranty. Install Vintage Air and some real comfortable seating and you have a a custom tow vehicle that can be registered as a classic in many states, insured by a specialty rate that's much cheaper that conventional insurance and have a unique ride.

FYI, we did a lot of ads in the old digest size CAMPER COACHMAN and TRAILER LIFE offering intake and exhaust products designed for RV's. These products came about because many of the Drag racers using haulers and trailers were getting killed by gas prices in the seventies.

PS....Well over 90% of the high performance products on the market are made in the USA
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Old 09-02-2009, 08:47 AM   #27
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Originally Posted by lylevg View Post
Every couple months we take a trip to visit them and the grandkids. We use I-5 from, our home in San Diego to Los Banos and then either the 152 to San Mateo or the 165 to Modesto. For those of you who are unfamiliar with that route, it includes two trips over the “grapevine”.
I'm familiar with that route. I wouldn't want to be towing with anything less than my 1/2 ton through the high winds blowing across I-5 for that 40 mile stretch south of Los Banos. If your going to have a sway problem it would be there, with a stiff cross wind mixed with big rigs passing you going 85.

I also have an aversion to riding in a vehicle where my head is at eye-level with the bumper on big rigs. But that's just me.
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Old 09-02-2009, 08:55 AM   #28
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Ok, I'm gonna pipe in here. The term Green in kinda weird here. Do you know what goes into making those batteries for those hybrids.. Not very green.. anyway.

If you are towing with a hybrid you are on the gas part of the engine, thus the hybrid part is pretty much nul and void. So you might as well get a gas tower unless you are only towing once in awhile.

My Sequoia gets 21 mpg going to grand junction and back about a 100 round trip with 2500 ft of elevation gain and loss. just driving around I get about 16-17 mpg.

3 mpg over a SUV hybrid is not worth it to me. I won't the power when I need it. Now if it where more like 10 mpg different it would be a different story.

And it is true about how you drive it.

I saw a test on Top Gear. They took a prius and a bmw m5. The M5 followed the prius around there test track. the Prius going as fast as it could. When all was said and done the BMW got better gas millage. Thats because the "green" car is meant for city driving. not highway or TOWING.

And until they get rid of those batteries they aren't "Green" in my book. Just a hybrid..


May you have at least one sunny day, and a soft chair to sit in..

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