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Old 08-28-2011, 07:15 PM   #1
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Smallest towing vehicle ?

Hi, I'm new to the Forum and just starting shopping for my first Airstream -- probably the '16 ft Bambi for just me and my 15 lb doggie. That said, I currently drive a Honda Element -- which I love! -- and am so sad that it will not tow the Bambi. Does anyone have experience trying this? So probably I will be looking for a replacement vehicle: the smallest, most fuel efficient vehicle that will still give a good towing experience (in mountains). On a tight budget, so I will look for a late model used vehicle. All comments and suggestions are most appreciated!
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Old 08-28-2011, 07:32 PM   #2
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I'll toss out a couple.

One is Honda Ridgeline

The other is Toyota 4runner.

I'm quite familiar with the 4runner in 06, 07 year models. The 2WD should be in the 15-17K range for a nice clean 60,000 mile example. They're equipped with nearly turn key tow package, 6 cyl 4.0 engine, 5 speed auto. Only thing to do is plug in brake controller.

If you keep a steady cruise speed (no trailer) at 65 MPH the vehicle is capable of 24 mpg (observed). I suspect the hwy mileage won't be much worse than the boxy Element. Stop and go mileage would be worse though. The unloaded ride is halfway decent certainly better than a Tacoma or many half ton trucks.

That generation 4runner had very good build quality. The engine has a nice top mounted spin on oil filter. The differential is easy to service with fill and drain plugs. The auto transmission is factory filled with synthetic fluid.

I've heard some say 4runner is too tall and too short wheelbase to be the most stable tow vehicle. But it is within capacity for the 3500 GVWR Bambi, I think others are using it successfully with 16' Bambi, and the vehicle is pretty much turn key for towing and build quality is excellent. My only experience towing with it is briefly with 13 foot Scamp and it pulled effortlessly.
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Old 08-28-2011, 07:34 PM   #3
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I have seen a Honda element towing a 25' late model stream. I saw this in Ft. Wilderness and they had Az plates. So anything is possible I however would not do this as I believe it's not safe enough for me. Others may have a different view on this.
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Old 08-28-2011, 07:48 PM   #4
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Hi, and welcome to the forums!

If you want to tow with a minimal tow vehicle, you would be better off with a vintage Airstream. For example, our 16 foot 1960 Pacer weighed 1760 pounds and the previous owner (the trailer was in the family since 1962) towed it all over the country with a Mercedes 190D sedan. I think the current Bambi's are more like 4,000 pounds. Newer trailers are also wider, 8 1/2 feet as opposed to 7 1/2 feet.

The main thing to remember is that the limiting factor is not the size trailer that the tow vehicle can pull, but the size trailer over which the tow vehicle can maintain control (think brakes and steering) on a steep downgrade.

There are many on these forums towing trailers with tow vehicles that are far too small in my opinion, but they are welcome to their choice. I'm sure they will weigh in on your question.
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Old 08-28-2011, 07:56 PM   #5
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Hey Youngh, Welcome....I think you are getting fairly broad answers to your question, I don't know if you will see much difference in the Tacomavs4Runner, they are built on the same chassis....I tow my 73 with an 05 Tacoma, 4Wd, 4 litre engine with a 6 speed manual transmission. And, maybe more important my hitch is well matched to the truck and the Airstream. I think that after your get your Airstream, then your Tow Vehicle an equally important decision will be selecting the appropriate
hitch/set up.
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Old 08-28-2011, 07:57 PM   #6
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Welcome!

You may want to contact CanAm RV in London Ontario. There are several references to them in threads I've read about their work reinforcing/modifying hitch gear to support towing larger AS than you are considering with smaller vehicles ( including a Mini Cooper - video on YouTube ). You may want to find out what, if anything, they can do with your Element before you give-up on it. Had I known about them before I began searching for my AS, I would have kept my Odyssey Touring, which I had been told I'd have trouble towing even a pop-up.

Regardless, I'm sure you'll get plenty of advice on alternative TVs. I've seen several members with pic's of a Ford Flex or Edge towing a relatively large AS. If you are towing with something "small" meaning a short wheelbase and lighter in weight than the trailer itself, plan to spending another $3000 on a sway eliminating hitch (Hensley or equivalent)....again no shortage of advice on which of these is preferred.

Take your time, do a lot of reading / searching of the older threads, ask lots of questions and you will find some excellent advice from the forum.
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Old 08-28-2011, 08:13 PM   #7
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Here are a few I could think of off the top of my head...

Ford:
Explorer (comes in a V8 too)
V6 F150
Ranger with 4.0L

Toyota:
FJ
4Runner
Tacoma

Jeep:
Compass
Wrangler Extreme
Grand Cherokee

There are hundreds more, i'm sure.
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Old 08-28-2011, 08:25 PM   #8
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I tow my 1965 Caravel with a Subaru Forester. The Caravel is 1800 and my towing cap is 2400. I get 15 mpg. with this rig.
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Old 08-28-2011, 08:28 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bigventure
I tow my 1965 Caravel with a Subaru Forester. The Caravel is 1800 and my towing cap is 2400. I get 15 mpg. with this rig.
My girl has a Forester too. Nice ride, very capable and the new body style sure looks nice. I actually drive it! Wouldn't be caught dead in her previous car.
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Old 08-28-2011, 08:53 PM   #10
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Don't forget the Tourareg! I have a V8 but a V6 would handle a 16'. We're in Colorado and it tows like a dream.
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Old 08-28-2011, 09:05 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by blmitch5 View Post
Don't forget the Tourareg! I have a V8 but a V6 would handle a 16'. We're in Colorado and it tows like a dream.
The OP did mention "Tight Budget"...
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Old 08-28-2011, 09:43 PM   #12
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I think I'd go with a Ranger EC 4.0 4x4 long bed with a cap on the back. Should tow that 16 footer like a dream, and you can find them aplenty for cheap.
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Old 08-28-2011, 10:05 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by my3sonsdad View Post
Welcome!

You may want to contact CanAm RV in London Ontario. There are several references to them in threads I've read about their work reinforcing/modifying hitch gear to support towing larger AS than you are considering with smaller vehicles ( including a Mini Cooper - video on YouTube ). You may want to find out what, if anything, they can do with your Element before you give-up on it. Had I known about them before I began searching for my AS, I would have kept my Odyssey Touring, which I had been told I'd have trouble towing even a pop-up.

Regardless, I'm sure you'll get plenty of advice on alternative TVs. I've seen several members with pic's of a Ford Flex or Edge towing a relatively large AS. If you are towing with something "small" meaning a short wheelbase and lighter in weight than the trailer itself, plan to spending another $3000 on a sway eliminating hitch (Hensley or equivalent)....again no shortage of advice on which of these is preferred.

Take your time, do a lot of reading / searching of the older threads, ask lots of questions and you will find some excellent advice from the forum.
Indeed, don't rule anything out until you have contacted Andy Thompson at CanAm RV. He will certainly let you know what vehicles are capable of towing a 16'. He certainly did a fabulous job with us and it is quite good fun when people look askance at our rig and ask how we do it
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Old 08-29-2011, 08:25 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ddstech

The OP did mention "Tight Budget"...
I bought mine used and a used V6 is a pretty good price.
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