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Old 02-07-2011, 08:47 PM   #1
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Passenger van as tow vehicle?

Given some thought to a tow vehicle..
This is why I think a 3/4 ton passenger van would be a great tow vehicle.

1) Long wheelbase
2) Power and what-not
3) Storage area in back for tools/whatever (out of the weather)
4) Visibility - windows all around, high seating.
5) Can haul junk in it if necessary
6) There doesn't seem to be a big market for them and used ones seem relatively inexpensive for what you are getting.

Are there any Cons? I can't think of any.
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Old 02-07-2011, 08:52 PM   #2
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Got one and I can agree with you 100%. Only down side of the passenger van is that there aren't as many creature comforts available as in the Suburban class vehicles. I've towed with vans for years and my current is more than adequate in hauling my Classic slideout.

Jack
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Old 02-07-2011, 08:53 PM   #3
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I have an e150 wagon with a 5.4 and 3.55 rear end. It does all you say it does.
Have owned vans for 33 years as my daily driver/work truck.
The only down side is that it doesn't have tow/haul mode in the tranny.
Just ordered a new truck with tow haul. Had to order a pickup to get that option.
We'll have to see if I can get used to a pickup.
Al
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Old 02-07-2011, 08:56 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BigAl View Post
The only down side is that it doesn't have tow/haul mode in the tranny.
Just ordered a new truck with tow haul. Had to order a pickup to get that option.
We'll have to see if I can get used to a pickup.
Al
So the transmission issue was a serious enough issue for you not to use it as a TV? The E150 is that 1/2 ton?
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Old 02-07-2011, 09:00 PM   #5
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My GMC van has tow haul. Not sure if the newer GM vans have that feature.

Other things to consider is because of the large inside volume, you probably will need to add the rear air and heater option. Some brands of extended vans aren't quite as stable as the standard wheel base vans due to the large overhang beyond the rear axle.

My 3/4 ton van has a 6 liter engine with a 4.10 rear axle giving it a 9,900 lb. towing capacity. The new GM's give you 9,900 lbs. but the 4.10 axle is not available anymore.

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Old 02-07-2011, 09:01 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BigAl
I have an e150 wagon with a 5.4 and 3.55 rear end. It does all you say it does.
Have owned vans for 33 years as my daily driver/work truck.
The only down side is that it doesn't have tow/haul mode in the tranny.
Just ordered a new truck with tow haul. Had to order a pickup to get that option.
We'll have to see if I can get used to a pickup.
Al
GMC Savanna van do have the tow/ haul mode and enough power ( GMC 3500) for towing up to 9000 Lb I think. Check it out
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Old 02-07-2011, 09:10 PM   #7
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I tow our '74 31' sov with our 06 (owned since new) Chevy Express 1500 (5.3L 3:73HD). I added the biggest tranny cooler you can fit and it has been excellent for the last 5 years towing approx. 5,000 miles/year. Our family of 5 plus two dogs have more than enough room plus all our gear in the van. The long wheel base with 16" 6 lug wheels and 300+HP work very well with the 31' trailer. I have caught myself exceeding the limit by way too much a few times and not even realized it at the time. At approx. 52' long and roughly 12,000 lbs sway has never been issue either. I love this combination for the room, ride, power, and stability.
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Old 02-07-2011, 10:18 PM   #8
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Have been driving and towing with full size vans for 40 years. One of the best all around vehicles. Current van 05 1500 express 5.3 3.73 gear,extra load tires. Airstream is the lightest thing I tow with it. Trailer tow doe not lock out overdrive, changes shift points. Just returned from AS factory for axel alignment on restored 19' Bambi, wind, snow bad roads didn't know it was behind me, avg 12.4 mpg. Better on slick roads not to use trailer tow less rpms and power to wheels .

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Old 02-07-2011, 10:26 PM   #9
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My van is overkill for my tiny trailer, so of course it hauls it like nothing, but I agree with everything you said. Except we had a heck of a time finding a passenger van, because we didn't want a cargo van, and we didn't want a fiberglass top (hi-top) van. But we love all the space inside, lots of room for us and the dogs and assorted stuff, and I've camped in it by itself even. When not towing we use it for our business, and at home we use it for hauling stuff to the dump. It's good for everything. I keep thinking about downsizing to save gas, but I don't think I can find anything that does everything and does it as well as the van.
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Old 02-07-2011, 10:30 PM   #10
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I used a ¾ ton Dodge Tradesman as a TV for my Trade Wind for many years. It was a great tow vehicle.

A quick note, though, the Tradesman is a cargo van without rear seating and side windows. Most of the full size passenger vans I am familiar with are full-ton vehicles. Think about it, how much does ten 200 pound men weigh?

Not really a disadvantage, just a slight difference. Also, things like the rear air are not available in cargo vans and that would have been a great addition to my Tradesman.
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Old 02-07-2011, 11:33 PM   #11
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Daniel

I have had vans and have towed with them and seriously considered purchasing a new one for my TV before settling upon the Suburban.

Aside from personal matters like comfort, driveability, and appearance, there are several major factors to consider with vans:

1) There is no factory 4wd available. Aftermarket 4wd packages, while good, are costly, typically around $15,000, which drives the price well above that of pickups and suburbans of similar age and condition or when comparing new to new

2) In general airflow is a problem particularly in mountainous regions where low speed high power and thinner air combine to reduce cooling. The problem is not only that the engine is not cooled sufficiently but also that there is little airflow over accessories and other components leading to shorter life

3) Service costs are higher due to poor service accessibility.

In my climate, towing a large trailer, absence of 4wd precludes driving or parking on unpaved surfaces of any kind unless accepting a very real risk of getting stuck. In the 1960s and 1970s before the widespread availability of 4wd people would have used tire chains. I'm not ready to go back to that.

The airflow and service accessibility are problems as the van gets older although I believe that does affect the resale picture if buying new.
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Old 02-07-2011, 11:45 PM   #12
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I think a used van gives you the most tow vehicle for the least amount of money, because they don't hold their value like trucks do. However you can't get all the latest safety stuff and the latest engines either.

I towed with a 93 GM light 3/4 ton conversion van for years. It was not adequate for power because it only had 195 hp and 343 gearing. However I still have it because it is only worth about $1,000 and I can take my Ducatti motorcycle with me and the Airstream. My wife wants me to sell it, but I just can't.

If I were buying a van for a tow vehicle, I would probably look for a one ton passenger van, so I could tow most any size Airstream and carry all my toys.

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Old 02-08-2011, 05:30 AM   #13
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I appreciate the insights. It sounds good, but something of a mixed bag. Aside from creature comforts, the main issues/problems seem to revolve around the transmission, axles, and the instability of the long rear end overhang.

The transmission and axle issues, I'm guessing, are not peculiar to vans, but are issues on whatever TV may be used. That's good, I guess, but addressing them may be harder than on a truck or what-not.

Interesting.
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Old 02-08-2011, 05:47 AM   #14
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I used a '97 Chevy 1 ton van for towing nearly 250,000 miles, just recently semi retired it due to the high miles. It has been a great TV. I ordered it with a 454 and 4:10 gears (NLA). Vans have one of the shortest distances from center of axle to the hitch point .Mine is/was the 12 passenger model so I could haul family &friends or take the seats out & haul all the other stuff . Came with rear heat & air, a plus
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Old 02-08-2011, 05:56 AM   #15
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Pardon another thought. To make theirs a long wheelbase Ford welds a section of chassis to the back end to make it longer, making the distance from axel to hitch point nearly 6 feet. Not good. Chevy lengthens the entire chasis , keeping that important rear measurment much shorter than Ford.
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Old 02-08-2011, 09:12 AM   #16
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Quote:
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...extended vans aren't quite as stable as the standard wheel base vans due to the large overhang beyond the rear axle.
The short overhang on a non-extended van is a HUGE advantage to towing - if you have a "longer" trailer don't attempt to tow with an extended van - way too much "tail wagging the dog".
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Old 02-08-2011, 12:09 PM   #17
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DanielB,
Not sure about the whole engine trans issue as I stated before have driven and towed with vans for hundreds of thousands of miles over 40 years. Never more problems with drive train than other vehicles I've had, as I recall 7 some had 70000 when bought from fleet lease. With regular not abnormal care they run to 200,000 to 240,000 miles . One engine at 160,000 oil problem , 700r4 rebuild at 90,000 back when they were first out and then driven to 236,000 no trouble. Current chevy express has 142,000.
Just for reference saw a 06? 08 express AWD passenger loaded full tint and some graphics listed at 13900.00. Was tempted to go look. AWD does drop max tow rateing.
Maintanence other than pulling an engine and full tune up no big deal, just some extra covers to remove

Brad
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Old 02-08-2011, 04:26 PM   #18
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Vans are great tow vehicles, if you stay within GCWR. EXCEPTION: 2 Mfrs, (one no longer in production) 15 passenger vans were lengthened by adding body behing the rear wheels instead of going to the proper trouble and expense of having 2 chassis configurations. Meaning one wheelbase with a LONG rear overhang. IMHO, these are not good tow vehicles and were the root of many rollover allegations a few years ago. Tail waggin' the dog running solo with a lot of weight in the back, let alone towing. Gave the whole van thing a bad image.
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Old 02-08-2011, 06:31 PM   #19
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Wow.. the extended length thing is scary. Def. going to stay away from that.
So a 3/4 ton with like a 350 type or bigger engine, try to get a 4. whatever axle ratio if possible. Awesome.
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Old 02-08-2011, 07:52 PM   #20
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We had a '94 Dodge B350 1 ton I got for cheap from the local vanpool surplus lot. That thing pulled like no tomorrow... 360 engine.. 3.9 gears. I loved it, but the wife and kids hated it. It was a passenger van with bench seats, standard length.

The wife hated it because the doghouse didn't let her extend her legs out... they always had to be off to the center. That van was LOUD... girls had to yell to be heard. It got HOT in the summer even with the dual AC while pulling.

When I got the Sequoia, it traded much comfort.. and really not that much pulling power... PLUS it gets better MPG... I could push the van off a cliff and it would still get 7 miles per gallon while towing.
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