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Old 09-02-2004, 01:24 PM   #1
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Price and Year of a reliable Tow Truck

I have a 31-ft., 1979 Excella Airstream trailer (8,000 lbs.)

I have been looking for a tow truck but don't have a great deal of money and don't want to buy with credit.

I went to Atlanta Auto Brokers here in Atlanta (where they also sell new Airstreams) and they had this 1991 350 Truck (don't remember the maker) with 175,000 miles on it for $7,950.00.

I am a single woman and need something reliable. What size (250 or 350), gas or diesel, year and what price would be a good place to start looking? I would like to pay $10,000 or under if possible. Also, will carfax tell me enough about a truck to start with? And what about buying a truck at an auction?

I have never bought a tow truck and of course don't want to ask dealers. I do notice that most of the used trucks the dealers are selling were bought at auction.

Thanks for any help.

Kathy
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Old 09-02-2004, 04:24 PM   #2
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Price and Year of a reliable Tow Truck

Greetings Kathy!

Quote:
Originally Posted by maggieairstream
I have a 31-ft., 1979 Excella Airstream trailer (8,000 lbs.)

I have been looking for a tow truck but don't have a great deal of money and don't want to buy with credit.

I went to Atlanta Auto Brokers here in Atlanta (where they also sell new Airstreams) and they had this 1991 350 Truck (don't remember the maker) with 175,000 miles on it for $7,950.00.

I am a single woman and need something reliable. What size (250 or 350), gas or diesel, year and what price would be a good place to start looking? I would like to pay $10,000 or under if possible. Also, will carfax tell me enough about a truck to start with? And what about buying a truck at an auction?

I have never bought a tow truck and of course don't want to ask dealers. I do notice that most of the used trucks the dealers are selling were bought at auction.

Thanks for any help.

Kathy
With the size coach that you have, you will likely find that 3/4-ton (F-250 in Ford or 2500 series GM/Dodge) will be the smallest of the vehicles that will permit a trailer tow rating that provides an adequate cushion beyond your trailer's gross weight. My suggestion would be to focus on vehicles having at least 10,000 pound trailer tow ratings to allow a 20% cushion beyond the coach's weight.

Another possibility if you find that through test drives that you don't like the pickups, would be the Chevrolet/GMC Suburban. The 2500 series with the 7.4 Liter (7400 VORTEC) and heavy duty trailer towing package offers 10,000 pound trailer tow rating. I am in something of a minority as I owned one pickup and hope never to own another, but I love my Suburban - - I ordered it new in '98 and now have over 132,000 miles with no problems other than a circuit board in the electronic transfer case. The Ford Excursion would also fit within the trailer tow limit parameters, but I don't know whether you would find one within your price range.

Since you are uncomfortable with the pre-purchase inspection process, I would suggest finding a mechanic who you can trust to advise you as you consider a used tow vehicle. As an individual, buying a vehicle through an auction is a VERY chancy proposition, and most of the auctions that cater to dealers do not allow individuals to bid. A mechanic who is local to you and whom you trust can be of tremendous benefit when choosing a vehicle. Since not every 3/4-ton (or even 1-ton) vehicle will have a complete trailer towing package, a mecahnic's expertise could guide you regarding whether the necessary components are found on a particular vehicle that you are considering.

Making my mechanics approval of a potential used vehicle purchase a part of my purchase contract when buying a used vehicle has worked very well for me. Even when I purchased a vehicle that was 200 miles from home, I was able to arrange to have my regular mechanic inspect it prior to finalizing the purchase. The method that I worked out with the seller was that I entered into a written contract in which I made a 10% cash down-payment and provided the seller with an insurance binder (I also had a certified check for the balance that was shown to the seller) - - I then drove the vehicle to my mechanic - - the deal was that if the mechanic didn't approve the vehicle I would return the vehicle to the seller and he could keep half of the down-payment that I had made. My mechanic thoroughly inspected the vehicle and within 48-hours I was back at the seller's location where we exchanged my certified check for the car's title - - I still have that same car more than 12 years later.

Good luck with your tow vehicle search!

Kevin
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Old 09-02-2004, 05:18 PM   #3
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Kevin,

Thanks for the information. I actually prefer a pick-up truck over a Suburban. There's just something about them that appeals to me. I love the idea of owning and driving a big truck. I inherited my father's 1983 pickup but because at that time I wanted to live in this pricy apartment complex that didn't allow pickups, I had to sell it and get a car. Of course, I only owned the pickup a few months so perhaps over the long haul I might want a Surburban. But aren't they more expensive?

Do you have any idea about the lowest price I could probably get a pickup for that would be reliable. Everyone says that pickups hold their value so I just wonder if I could get a good reliable one for $10,000 or under.

Also, do you happen to know if 175,000 sounds like too much milage for a 1991 truck.
I haven't called the mechanic yet but have been looking at various trucks. But I will definitely consult a truck mechanic. The landscaper here at my office complex has a good one.

Thanks,
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Old 09-02-2004, 08:09 PM   #4
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Price and Year of a reliable Tow Truck

Greetings Kathy!

Trying to stay within your budget for a 3/4 or 1-ton pickup will be somewhat of a challenge but it can be done - - especially if you are willing to consider a standard cab rather than one of the various extended cabs. The key will be being prepared for quite an extensive search as many trucks within your price range are likely to have seen some rough or extended use. I would suspect that you will find possible tow truck candidates in the seven to ten year old range with the standard cab, with extended cabs in this price range ten to twelve years old. This would be a long-shot with a pickup, but higher probability with Suburbans - - you might check with your local WBCCI unit to see if there are any members wishing to sell a tow vehicle - - I have encountered several of these situations where the owner is either retiring from travel or is upgrading to a motorhome (the advantage being that the vehicle is already tow-prepared).

Regarding the mileage on the 1991 truck - - 175,000 miles would be low mileage for me (my 1999 has 132,000 miles), but I would be very concerned about the extent to which periodic maintenance has been pusued. I have purchased vehicles with mileage in excess of 175,000 miles, but I did so expecting to have to replace the motor and/or transmission. I would also anticipate on a vehicle with that number of miles that the radiator, water pump, starter, alternator, and fuel pump will be nearing replacement time if they haven't already been replaced. I am planning on at least 300,000 miles from my Suburban, and much of this expectation is based on the fact that it has been on a strict maintenance schedule since the day it was purchased. If I keep the Suburban beyond 300,000 miles, I am anticipating having to replace both the motor and transmission at around 300,000 miles. There is something of a nuance with older vehicles - - high mileage can mean additional repair expense as components wear out - - unusually low mileage can mean additional repair expense to replace components that cease to operate due to lack of use.

I live in a farm area, and you can find any number of pickups in the price range you mention - - the problem is finding one that has been cosmetically AND mechanically maintained (it seems like most in my area receive one or the other but not both).

Good luck with your search!

Kevin
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Old 09-02-2004, 08:47 PM   #5
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Kevin,

Thanks for that detailed reply. The only question left is: Are you saying it would be easier to get a quality Suburban for the $10,000 price? I may have misunderstood.
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Old 09-02-2004, 08:49 PM   #6
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Hi Kathy,

I have a 1989 Ford F350 Crew Cab dually with a 7.3 diesel and ATS turbo that I might consider selling.The truck has 116,000 miles on it and I am the 3rd owner.It is in good mechanical condition but does have a few paint chips and scratches the exterior color is a dark chestnut and white with tan interior. It has an automatic transmission. I will be at the Top of GA Airstream park this weekend for a rally in Helen GA. If interested email me tshepp@americus.net .WBCCI#10219. Davis
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Old 09-02-2004, 09:10 PM   #7
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Price and Year of a reliable Tow Truck

Greetings Kathy!

Quote:
Originally Posted by maggieairstream
Kevin,

Thanks for that detailed reply. The only question left is: Are you saying it would be easier to get a quality Suburban for the $10,000 price? I may have misunderstood.
In my area, it would be easier to find a 2500 series Suburban in decent condition than a pickup truck since so many of the trucks are used in farming - - you either find one that is less than three years old in good condition (with a price much in excess of $10,000) or with much waiting and searching you can locate an older model that didn't see much farming use. The older trucks that have been extensively used in farming in my area usually need significant cosmetic work if they are more than three years old. Another issue, in my area is that the Suburban will usually have lower mileage than a similar model pickup - - and will have often lead a more pampered life.

The decent older model pickups are out there, but it may take a significant amount of searching to unearth the 3/4 or 1-ton truck with the trailer tow capabilities that you want within the price range you mention that is both mechanically and cosmetically sound. I don't know that the Suburban would be much easier to locate, but in my area I believe that it would be a bit easier to find one meeting the criteria.

Good luck with your search!

Kevin
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Old 09-02-2004, 09:41 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by maggieairstream
I have a 31-ft., 1979 Excella Airstream trailer (8,000 lbs.)
I don't think much of vehicles purchased from the auctions. A dealer keeps the really good vehicles that are traded in and wholesales the rest. An auction is buyer beware.

At 175,000 miles, most trucks are ready for some work. I have one that is at 163,000/1986 and well maintained but, it has some major issues. (1) drive shaft has already had universal joints & carrier bearing, (2) lock up torque converter is getting sloppy in transmission, (3) it may have a leaking exhaust manifold gasket, (4) carb already rebuilt, (5) it has already had major brake overhaul to include new seals, (6) it has had new steering linkage but, steering is a little loose due to worn steering box, (7) ball joints are good, (8) a/c works good but, needs recharging every two years (9) ready for another round of alternator, battery & electronic ignition (8) water pump is original, (9) rear end is ok because it hasn't towed heavy. I am sure you get the idea. This has been a very good vehicle but, it needs work because that is the nature of the beast.

Are you a member of WBCCI. Some of the best used vehicles I have seen are sold by WBCCI members who are reducing their traveling.

Best of luck on your search.
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Old 09-02-2004, 11:13 PM   #9
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Hi Kathy,

First of all - stay away from dealers. In that price range, you are giving them a couple of thousand dollars that could be better spent on a more reliable or newer vehicle. And they won't warranty anything anyway. Buy from a private party, preferably someone affiliated with a group you belong to, (church, Airstream club, etc) so they are less likely to screw you and know they will see you again.

Second, take your time - DO NOT RUSH INTO THIS. Drive some trucks so you have a feel for how they run and maneuver. A dually crew cab will be HUGE and impossible to park in cities. Maybe that isn't an issue for you, but I know personally I hate driving my F250 in town, and its only a supercab shortbed (but those mirrors!). Diesels can be noisy and smell, and drive differently. A 4x4 may sit too high for you. Generally you will get more for your money in a pickup, but as someone mentioned, in some areas they are used for real work and can be beat.

Lastly, try to stay in the 1995 and newer range. There were problems prior to that, especially with Ford and Dodge automatic transmissions. Their manuals are great, though, as are most in the HD 3/4 tons. Four wheel drive will add 2-3k to the cost so if you don't need it don't get it. An extended cab will also cost more but is nice for storage. Also make sure you are getting a heavy duty 3/4 ton, not light duty. Look for 8-lug wheels. As an example of what you can find out there, I recently sold a very heavy duty regular cab 1995 3/4 ton Chevy 4x4 with 120k for $6500. It was strong and had a lot of work miles left in it. A truck with 175k is worn out unless it is a diesel, and on those you better get receipts, especially Ford. If the additive isn't used in the cooling system they can have major problems. As someone mentioned, get to know a good mechanic.

good luck, feel free to let us know what you are considering.

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Old 09-03-2004, 09:27 AM   #10
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Thanks you all of your help!

There is sure a lot I need to learn. And I will take my time. I don't have to move for another 3 years (that's when I want to move). I may buy a truck before that but I researched RVs for about a year before buying my Airstream. Of course, I wouldn't have anything but an Airstream anyway!

As I begin looking harder, I'll ask all of you more questions. But, of course, if you have anything to add at this time, please keep posting. I'm filing all your input into my Truck file. I want to be as much of an expert as possible when I find the right mechanic and seller. Thanks!
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Old 09-03-2004, 11:29 AM   #11
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I picked up my 88 454 Suburban for $5k and it just has rolled 84,000 original miles. They are out there if you look but I will warn you that anything over 10 years of age even with low miles may need some attention. As great of shape as the suburban is I still ended up spending $600 on it to get some stuff done. Shocks were wore out, It had a cooling problem that I eneded up putting a radiator in. Both the starter and the Alternator developed problems. That $600 was PURE parts. I do my own labor.


If Had to pick I really feel the F250 Super duty short bed crew with the Powerstroke deisel is the perfect tow vehcile. I have several friends with F250s and and F350s and they will move some weight no problem. Empty on the highway thos trucks can get 20mpg no problem. The best you can hope for out of any Gas vehcile with enough grunt to move your coach is goign to be about 13 empty so concider that when you buy. If your going to use this vehcile as your driver then the extra 8-10 mpg will add up fast and might make it worth buying a little newer and making some payments.

My Suburban will be replace with the F250 SD Powerstroke one day.
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Old 02-25-2008, 11:36 PM   #12
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A few years ago, I was looking for a truck to pull my 31' Excella Airstream. Well, I sold my beautiful Airstream (named Maggie) for $7,500.00 cash to the first person who looked at her. I was asking $8,000.00 but the tires were in terrible condition. The reason I sold my Airstream was to rent a 2 bedroom, sunroom, living room/dining room beautiful condo. I actually did this for my 2 cats because I felt bad making them live in such a small space.

Just three weeks ago, I finally bought a new 2007 truck, an F-150 Ford, Supercrew that will supposedly pull 9,300 lbs. I'll be making payments on the truck for awhile but after this, I think I want to buy another Airstream.

I've been looking at the Surveyors and the Wilderness trailers (which cost around $15,000.00 new). None of these trailers are exciting like an Airstream. When I had my Airstream (1979), it needed a lot of repair work all the time.

Do any of you have any suggestions about a year and length Airstream that I could pull with my F-150 truck? I like the Bambi and Safari but I think they may be way too expensive. I only paid $8,000.00 for my 1979 Excella. But I'd like to get something newer with less repairs needed. I'm not going to live in it like I did with my 1979 31-ft. Airstream, but want to take long weekend trips in it.

Also, have you ever heard of the Casita? They look a lot like Airstream from the outside. And they are a lot less expensive.
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Old 02-26-2008, 12:10 AM   #13
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hi maggieair'

casita is really really small and fiberglass...

but easy to tow.

mid 80s 25-29 foot a/s units would pull easily with your new truck...

and should be new enough to not have frame/floor issues like the 70s units...

naturally condition depends so much on care over time, maintenance and exposure...

i c 3 of these at 8-12,000$ in the classified...

pretty cool to see someone follow up in their OWN thread after 4 years...

cheers
2air'
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Old 02-26-2008, 02:10 PM   #14
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Where are you seeing these 25 to 29 foot Airstreams at $12,000? I would like to buy a 25 foot one manufactured in the '90s I think. They would have to weigh no more than 5,500 or so pounds though. I guess my 1979 at 8,000 pounds was heavy because they were heavier back then?

I just love the way Airstreams look and especially the interior. I feel like I'm in a plane or a ship. I'm not closing my mind on getting an Airstream. It's just that you can get a brand new Casita for $13,000.
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