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Old 02-04-2012, 06:23 PM   #1
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Suggestions - Small AWD tow vehicle

We no longer need our gigantic van (95 E150) for our business, and would like to downsize to something newer - maybe about 5 years old - and more economical. Unfortunately the van is also our tow vehicle, though it is complete overkill for our trailer. We have no intention of moving up to a bigger trailer. Most of the time the vehicle would be used for running around town, only a few trailer trips a year - though I hope that will get better in time!

So what I would like is suggestions for a smaller tow vehicle (almost anything would be smaller than the van) that would have AWD or 4WD, and still have the capacity to tow the Caravel - 2800# and 250# tongue weight. I'm currently towing on the ball with a friction sway control, but I have no problem with adding a WD hitch which will probably be necessary. I would assume that having one of the tiniest trailers out there would give me lots of options.

Right now I'm thinking of Ford Escape, Toureg, XTerra, Honda Pilot, Cherokee, small SUVs in that range. I would like something more wagon-like, than truck-like, but I'm just not that familiar with what's available. If anyone has any suggestions or insight I'd appreciate it.
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Old 02-04-2012, 06:30 PM   #2
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Do you need an SUV? What about a Volvo station wagon w/ AWD, or maybe even a VW Jetta wagon?
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Old 02-04-2012, 06:30 PM   #3
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I'd go get a Jeep Commander - we love it!! Nothing beats it in the snow! We have the Hemi 5/7L but with the Caravel, you wouldn't need anything that stout - and the 5.7L Hemi is STOUT! It's very much like the old Jeep Grand Wagoneers to me!
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Old 02-04-2012, 06:36 PM   #4
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I think we probably prefer something wagon or SUV like just because we'll need a little cargo capacity still. Not like we did with the van, but probably more than a car will comfortably hold.
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Old 02-04-2012, 06:46 PM   #5
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Steph,

We are very pleased with our '07 Ford Freestar. Plenty of room for people (seats 7) or cargo, plenty of power with its 4.2l V6, and like most of the better vans, drives like a car.

You will need a good hitch vendor to put in a safe and sturdy receiver, but it tows wonderfully; wide stance and short rear hangover.

Also, because '07 was the last year, they go for a song now.

It towed our '74 31' Sov the 4,000 miles to Florida and back beautifully, so, your 17-footer shouldn't be any problem.
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Old 02-04-2012, 06:53 PM   #6
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Cargo capacity of the small SUV's you listed are comparable to the cargo capacity of the Volvo and VW wagons, in some cases your choices actually have less space.
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Old 02-04-2012, 06:53 PM   #7
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Subaru Tribeca might do the trick.

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Old 02-04-2012, 06:59 PM   #8
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I'll be checking these out. I have to admit I know nothing about Volvos - I don't even see many around here. I do tend to think vehicles that are more car/wagon-like are probably going to make pretty stable tow platforms, compared to some of the high center-of-gravity SUVs.
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Old 02-04-2012, 07:05 PM   #9
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We had a V8 Ford Explorer before we got our vintage tow and LOVED it! Big enough with enough power to pull our little trailers and small enough to get around town as a daily driver.

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Old 02-04-2012, 07:42 PM   #10
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I had a 2012 Subaru Outback to pull my 65 Caravel. It has a 2700 lb. Cap and 200 hitch weight in the 4cyl. I think it's 3000 lbs with the 6 cyl. It's fine with weight distribution hitch. This keeps the hitch weight down by shifting it to the front. The new Outback has a CVT trans on the 4 cyl. So no more shifting in and out of gears on hills.
I trade it for a 2012 Jeep Cerokee because I wanted a bigger trailer.
I saw a Jeep diesel pulling a Bambi. The Jeep diesel was made a few years ago. These are GREAT tow SUVS. Most will have 50-70k on them when you find them used.
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Old 02-05-2012, 02:26 AM   #11
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So what I would like is suggestions for a smaller tow vehicle (almost anything would be smaller than the van) that would have AWD or 4WD, and still have the capacity to tow the Caravel - 2800# and 250# tongue weight.

For a vehicle that also has business deductible miles [?] I know I would want a great, not just good, relationship with a servicing dealer. So this is where I would start as a Z-turn lawnmower can pull a Caravel: what car dealer has a great reputation among your acquaintances and friends at their service department?

Other than that, to narrow it waaay down, my choice would also be a turbodiesel first for daily driver/tow vehicle. Plenty of vehicle-specific enthusiast forums out there to i.d. problems which could be of concern. Buying used hopefully means paying cash, so a budget to bring it up to par (plus a bit more) is one I have used with success a few times. Lowered initial cost coupled to a well-chosen economical op cost makes any other problems less of a concern to deal with if that servicing dealer can be found (and factory parts used as needed).

I would rate all of this as higher than Brand A versus Brand B. My pickup truck seems "too large" but with a calendar average fuel mileage of 22-mpg and a total of $400 in repairs in 180,000-miles (plus good luck with the Chrysler dealer system overall) the results of paying careful attention to commercial operators of pickup trucks as well as private individuals is paying off well.

To illustrate this, there are plenty of Camry and Accord owners (the majority I suspect) not seeing fuel or repair or maintenance costs this low, overall or on a per mile basis. As but two sets of tires and brakes will have lasted on this 7,500-lb truck out to a quarter-million miles at the present wear rate it's more of a slam dunk. I am suggesting, then, that examination below the surface of personal assumptions as well as specific vehicles be undertaken. If this kind of economy is required (where longevity & reliability are part and parcel) one might come up surprising choices.

What I did not need was a temperamental or foreign make with expensive or hard-to-obtain parts despite magazine-trumpeted "superior performance". In a giant metro area such as Dallas (fourth largest in nation) this was never a concern, everything was/is in stock. 500-miles south of there out amongst county-sized ranches is quite another story for a vehicle whose primary purpose is still income-related.

In truth there aren't any limitations to what can be hooked up to that trailer short of your AWD requirement. Of course a change to a sway-eliminating hitch even on a small trailer is worthwhile, IMO. (The economy of my truck "pays" for all sorts of upgrades or changes of this nature I'm happy to self-justify, ha!).

Good luck.

.
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Old 02-05-2012, 07:42 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Stefrobrts View Post
I would assume that having one of the tiniest trailers out there would give me lots of options.

Right now I'm thinking of Ford Escape, Toureg, XTerra, Honda Pilot, Cherokee, small SUVs in that range.
So many choices for that size and weight of trailer. A tough decision.

Things to think about could be..... your personal preferences when it comes to brand, build location, importance of fuel economy, initial cost of vehicle, dealership (and service) availability. The other biggy is having a vehicle you like to drive and one you can imagine parked in your driveway.

Start by eliminating the ones you have strong negative feelings about and get it down to just a few choices. I would then do a Consumers mag feedback check on reliability. Nobody I know wants a vehicle with a high probability of faults or issues.

Research the forum. Review posts from Andrew T. He has probably towed with most or all of the vehicles you are considering.

Good luck with your vehicle search. An exciting time. Try to have fun with the journey.
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Old 02-05-2012, 08:27 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Stefrobrts View Post
I'll be checking these out. I have to admit I know nothing about Volvos - I don't even see many around here. I do tend to think vehicles that are more car/wagon-like are probably going to make pretty stable tow platforms, compared to some of the high center-of-gravity SUVs.
Stef,

If your not seeing many, the dealerships may be just as scarce.

Great vehicles with a good rep, but not an extensive network.

I hate to admit, being a GM diehard, but if I was in the market I'd check out Chrysler.....ouch!!!... did I really say that.
I was pleasantly impressed on a recent visit.

Disclaimer.....werked at Jeep store 30yrs past, very different then

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Old 02-05-2012, 09:00 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Stefrobrts
We no longer need our gigantic van (95 E150) for our business, and would like to downsize to something newer - maybe about 5 years old - and more economical. Unfortunately the van is also our tow vehicle, though it is complete overkill for our trailer. We have no intention of moving up to a bigger trailer. Most of the time the vehicle would be used for running around town, only a few trailer trips a year - though I hope that will get better in time!

So what I would like is suggestions for a smaller tow vehicle (almost anything would be smaller than the van) that would have AWD or 4WD, and still have the capacity to tow the Caravel - 2800# and 250# tongue weight. I'm currently towing on the ball with a friction sway control, but I have no problem with adding a WD hitch which will probably be necessary. I would assume that having one of the tiniest trailers out there would give me lots of options.

Right now I'm thinking of Ford Escape, Toureg, XTerra, Honda Pilot, Cherokee, small SUVs in that range. I would like something more wagon-like, than truck-like, but I'm just not that familiar with what's available. If anyone has any suggestions or insight I'd appreciate it.
We tow Sweatpea, a 19' Globetrotter with a BMW X5 diesel .No weight distribution or sway bars required. Tows very well up hill and down.

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