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Old 02-10-2014, 12:16 AM   #1
dhw
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Small Tow Vehicle Recommendations (considering XTerra)

So, I'm in the market for a tow vehicle.

The catch is, I'm not planning on buying an Airstream in the immediate future. In the near term, we intend to buy a teardrop or other small travel trailer.

Eventually, we do want to get a vintage 16-18' Airstream, but that's easily 5 years away. Since we tend to keep vehicles for a long time (one is 10 years old right now, the other 15), I don't want to buy something that isn't going to be capable of towing a vintage Airstream of that size.

Oh, one more catch. I'm not willing to buy any vehicle with OnStar or Hyundai's BlueLink or any equivalent remote-control system; I simply don't trust the actual technological safeguards on a networked-remote-control-of-engine-and-locks system.

Right now, I'm leaning towards a Nissan XTerra; is that a horrible idea, or something that would meet both near-term and long-term goals?

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Old 02-10-2014, 03:55 AM   #2
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If your primary motivation for buying a new vehicle is for towing, I'd wait until you make a final decision on the travel trailer and use one of your current vehicles as temporary tow vehicle (TV), if possible.

If that works, I'd then wait until you actually need a larger TV and get the latest and greatest. In five years, you may be able to buy a 1/2 ton diesel pickup, or the gas versions may get 30-40 mpg.

If you buy a new TV now and don't actually need it, it may sit and age for five years because it is too big and/or gets such poor mileage that it doesn't work well as a daily driver. Or, it may not be suitable to tow your anticipated Airstream, when you actually buy it.

I personally prefer a full-size, crew cab pickup. We have a Tundra; and while it is a large vehicle and gets relatively poor mileage (13-18 mpg around town, 13.5 towing) compared to a modern sedan, it is like a very tall, wide limo. It is luxurious compared to our 2002 Prius, it's a much more comfortable highway cruiser, and it easily tows our 19-foot Bambi and could pull a much larger Airstream.

Personally, the Nissan XTerra would not be a good fit for us. -- All the more reason to wait until you actually need a new TV.

Just my opinion...

As an aside, we drive the Prius almost exclusively while at home, because it gets 45-50+ mpg around town. We use the Tundra strictly for towing and for transporting big stuff that won't fit in the little car. I figure the Tundra burns the gas we save driving the Prius.

Good luck in your search, but I suggest you keep an open mind and possibly consider a larger TV.
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Old 02-10-2014, 05:17 AM   #3
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Almost any vehicle will tow a small vintage trailer.

But I too would wait. Technology moves so fast these days, it is impossible to predict what will be on the market in five years from now.
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Old 02-10-2014, 06:38 AM   #4
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Originally Posted by Phoenix View Post
If your primary motivation for buying a new vehicle is for towing, I'd wait until you make a final decision on the travel trailer and use one of your current vehicles as temporary tow vehicle (TV), if possible.

If that works, I'd then wait until you actually need a larger TV and get the latest and greatest. In five years, you may be able to buy a 1/2 ton diesel pickup, or the gas versions may get 30-40 mpg.

If you buy a new TV now and don't actually need it, it may sit and age for five years because it is too big and/or gets such poor mileage that it doesn't work well as a daily driver. Or, it may not be suitable to tow your anticipated Airstream, when you actually buy it.

I personally prefer a full-size, crew cab pickup. We have a Tundra; and while it is a large vehicle and gets relatively poor mileage (13-18 mpg around town, 13.5 towing) compared to a modern sedan, it is like a very tall, wide limo. It is luxurious compared to our 2002 Prius, it's a much more comfortable highway cruiser, and it easily tows our 19-foot Bambi and could pull a much larger Airstream.

Personally, the Nissan XTerra would not be a good fit for us. -- All the more reason to wait until you actually need a new TV.

Just my opinion...

As an aside, we drive the Prius almost exclusively while at home, because it gets 45-50+ mpg around town. We use the Tundra strictly for towing and for transporting big stuff that won't fit in the little car. I figure the Tundra burns the gas we save driving the Prius.

Good luck in your search, but I suggest you keep an open mind and possibly consider a larger TV.

What he said....
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Old 02-10-2014, 08:57 AM   #5
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We don't actually have a capable tow vehicle at the moment.

The two vehicles we do have are a '98 Chevy S10 (50k miles, RWD, small engine), and an '03 Ford Focus SE (116k miles, FWD, small engine).

I wouldn't trust either one towing even a Teardrop in the mountains. So if we're going to get the Teardrop (which is the plan) we need a new vehicle now. I was just hoping to get one which could also work for a small vintage Airstream later.

Edit: We plan on camping in the State and National Parks in the Pacific Northwest, so we'd like the TV to be "dirt road capable" (although we are unlikely to go off-road), and we'd like the TV/Trailer combo to be reasonable to take on the Washington State Ferries. Also, our actual daily vehicle mileage use is quite low, so low mileage vehicles aren't as painful as they could be.
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Old 02-10-2014, 09:59 AM   #6
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I've got teardrop owning friends, they tow with small vehicles comparable to yours, with no complaints. One of them tows with a Prius.

I'd give it a shot before buying a new car. If you decide you don't like it, you can always spend the money later.
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Old 02-10-2014, 11:44 AM   #7
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Honestly, I don't trust either vehicle to tow well; so although that may be a possibility, it isn't really on the top of the list right now.

So, for the sake of argument, if I were to buy a new tow vehicle to tow a Teardrop (900-1250lb weight on most of them, from what I've seen), and would like to not preclude the ability to tow a vintage 16'-18' Airstream at a later date, what should I be looking for?
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Old 02-10-2014, 01:15 PM   #8
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You can start by reading one of the current threads discussing this very topic:

http://www.airforums.com/forums/f463...up-114513.html
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Old 02-10-2014, 02:46 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by dhw View Post
Honestly, I don't trust either vehicle to tow well; so although that may be a possibility, it isn't really on the top of the list right now.

So, for the sake of argument, if I were to buy a new tow vehicle to tow a Teardrop (900-1250lb weight on most of them, from what I've seen), and would like to not preclude the ability to tow a vintage 16'-18' Airstream at a later date, what should I be looking for?
ok, how about Tacoma or Frontier. 2005 to current, with 4.0L V6, tow package.

18 to 22 mpg unloaded, a guess pulling a teardrop, probably 16 to 18 mpg, and pulling a 16' A/S, about 11 to 15 mpg.

These trucks have a longer wheelbase than a XTerra, which some say is a good thing for towing.
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Old 02-10-2014, 03:14 PM   #10
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I've mostly been looking at the SUV form factor, partly because we *have* a pickup (albeit one with a fairly weak engine), and partly because I'd like to have more interior storage versus open air storage.

That being said, I'll go look at some of the truck options.

Edit: One of the vehicles I've been looking at is the Ford Escape with the 2.0 liter turbo. They claim 3500lb tow capacity, and it is a nice vehicle when not-towing. Does anyone have any experience and or recommendations on this one?
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Old 02-10-2014, 03:33 PM   #11
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I went from a full-size Chevy van with a 5.7 V8. It was a good tow rig but I only got 10-12 mpg towing. I now have a 09 Dodge Grand Caravan with a V6. I love it as my tow rig for my 66 Caravel. I have been able to get 17.5 mpg towing and 24 mpg on the hwy not towing. It has plenty of power and the ride is great. A van is great for traveling and camping. They have lots of room to store your gear to keep it dry and safe. The stow-go seats are a real plus.

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Old 02-10-2014, 05:30 PM   #12
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We tow with a 2012 Pilot- our 19' trailer is 2900 dry, and the towing capacity of the Pilot is 4500. One great thing with the smaller combo is just ease of maneuvering- I can make a u-turn in most gas stations with the trailer. If you wait, the new Pilot is coming out for 2015.
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Old 02-10-2014, 07:08 PM   #13
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I would recommend a Chevy Tahoe, Toyota Highlander, Cadillac Escalade, Any GM Fullsize vehical
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Old 02-10-2014, 09:26 PM   #14
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If you liked the S10 enough to keep it 16 years, you could wait a few more months and get a new Colorado which is reportedly going to be a decent little truck.
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Old 02-10-2014, 10:07 PM   #15
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I own a 2009 Ford Escape and it has been my least favorite vehicle of all time. I also consider it to be my least reliable vehicle, the other vehicles being a Honda odyssey with 210,000 miles and a Volvo with over 100,000 miles. The Escape has spent more time in the shop than either of them. They actually had to replace my transmission at $17,000 miles! Under warranty but the hassle was a pain. In addition, the acceleration in this car is awful....I can't imagine how bad it would be when towing something.
Strangers come up to me on parking lots and ask if I've had trouble..... Makes me think.

Maybe just a lemon, but I will never buy a Ford CAR again. Am seriously considering trading it in for a Ford Truck, which I have owned and like.
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Old 02-11-2014, 05:44 AM   #16
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Per Edmunds.com, the S10 has a 120 HP engine; and the towing capacity is 5,500 pounds, which should be plenty for a small travel trailer like a Teardrop.

Years and years ago, we towed a 1,200 pound travel trailer with a 1972 Mazda RX2, powered by a 120 HP rotary engine. The rig towed fine, but stopping it with no trailer brakes was another matter. Your S10 is a much more capable tow vehicle. And, with only 50,000 miles on it, it could last several more years.

Personally, I'd try towing with the S10 before putting a lot of money down on an SUV and saddling yourself with new car payments. After all, a few hundred dollars spent on S10 towing mods, upgrades and repairs are only a couple of car payments. New car payments will go on for years.

However, I know how beckoning the new-car "Siren's" call can be. -- Odysseus, resist the Siren's song in your quest for a tow vehicle! (At least, until you have defined how much towing capacity you actually need.)

Note: Dodge recently announced that a 2014 Ram 1500 pickup will be available with a Fiat 3.0L V6 Eco Diesel engine that is supposed to get 28 mpg, highway.
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Old 02-11-2014, 08:48 AM   #17
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Test drive the Honda Ridgeline, 240 HP, 5000# towing capacity. Ours has 108,000 mi, a third of that towing. Bought in '05 and still runs like new.
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Old 02-11-2014, 02:22 PM   #18
dhw
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The S10 has issues with just passengers going up an 11% grade; it works but it strains and you probably don't want the AC on.

That makes me reluctant to use it to tow anything.
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Old 02-11-2014, 02:24 PM   #19
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I'm going to be looking at the Honda Pilot and pickups next.

That being said, I do like the feel of the XTerra. Are there any things that make it a particularly bad vehicle (other than mileage)?
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Old 02-11-2014, 02:49 PM   #20
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Here's a reference to good characteristics in a tow vehicle from Airstream towing expert Andrew Thomson.

RV Lifestyle - Hitch Hints
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