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Old 03-24-2014, 07:20 AM   #1
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Boston , Massachusetts
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SUV and 34ft AS?

Fairly new to the boards, do a lot of reading but not a lot of posting. Pardon the newbie question but here are my thoughts...

Looking to pickup a 31/34ft AS for an upcoming adventure. My girlfriend and I are planning a 6mo-1yr cross country full time airstream trip for photo and video work along the way.

As I read and research more and more, I am learning that I have a lot to learn in order to safely tow such a large trailer. I currently have an 02' F150 4.8L V8 with Tow Package. I had assumed it would be enough for a temporary situation and it seems as it will get the trailer home once I buy it and around town between repairs and such. However since the truck gets 12mpg on a good day while not towing and is getting high on miles it's time for a new vehicle for the year of towing I have ahead.

As much as I would love a 3/4 or 1 Ton Diesel Truck, I also need a more realistic daily driver. That said, here's what I am looking at based on my research both here on the forums and elsewhere... Looking for opinions on these vehicles as well as information I may not be asking myself or finding in my research.

-2011 ish Jeep Grand Cherokee Overlander with 5.7L Hemi - only issue I'm seeing with this is a lot of trans problems reported. Do I have a long enough wheelbase and tow capacity?

-2011 ish Toyota 4runner - Just starting to look into it, any suggestions?

- 06+ Tahoe? - Don't know much about towing with these

I'm looking for a large SUV that's smaller than my F150 that's under $25k that has enough specs to pull a 31 or 34ft AS. I know that so much of it depends on the specific setup however I am looking for something that can be made to work once the setup is correct. I will not fly blind here but need a baseline.

Thoughts? Thanks!

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Old 03-24-2014, 07:38 AM   #2
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Ive been considering upsizing from my Suburban to a used Excursion V10. I currently have a 25ft but am looking at a 30ft in the future. Ive recieved positive & negative feedback on the Excursion as a tow vehicle. Havent test driven any yet.

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Old 03-24-2014, 07:48 AM   #3
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I tow a 1984 34' International with a Honda Odyssey, with no problems at all. The trailer, ready for camping weighs in at around 7000lbs. The payload of the Odyssey is 1400lbs, comparable to many of the smaller trucks, like for example a Tundra. The V6 delivers 260hp, albeit at relatively high revs - it's not a torque monster.

The power requirements for towing my AS are moderate. I've measured hp output at the wheel a number of times and at 60mph on the highway engine output is between 40 and 60hp. The highest I ever saw was 148hp from a standing start accelerating up a hill.

We have added a transmission cooler and had the hitch reinforced to deal with the weight.

We're planning to go on a cross country trip next year or the year after, and for that trip we'll most probably need more carrying space (bikes and canoes for two adults and three kids) and more payload than the Ody can offer. I am looking at the F150 Ecoboost as an option for then that time arrives.

Vehicles that people report good experiences with include the VW Touareg, the Mercedes GL 350 Blutec, the Jeep GC. I personally know two people who have towed all over the continent using Dodge Grand Caravans - might be an option for storing your equipment as well. It would easily fit your budget.
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Old 03-24-2014, 08:29 AM   #4
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Once properly equipped your F150 should be fine... But if you want to just switch out cars that is okay too.

IMO the 2500 series Suburban/Yukon XL or 07+ Escalade are great tow vehicles. Parts are cheap and easy to find on the road in an emergency as well, just in case. Same goes for the Tahoe/Yukon but those are 1500 chassis. The biggest benefit to the newer GM 1500 trucks is the 6 speed for towing, the old 4 speed 4L60E sucked. For the 2500 series the 4L80E was great! Power from any of the LS series engines is just fine.

If you have air shocks, then you really do not need the load distribution for a 1500 large SUV. If 2500 just hook it up and go, you don't need any extra hitch gear $$$. Tahoe size would need load distribution.

The GC with Hemi would be good as well. But I find that their interiors fall apart quickly. IDK why.

Not hating, but from my lifetime of trailer towing (TT, commercial, enclosed, landscaping) I would not tow with a mini-van or equally light duty vehicle. We have a friend that tows a pop-up with an Odyssey and it looks overloaded at that. This has been debated before, so i will leave it alone.
Trailer: 1948 Spartan Mansion 30'
Tow Rig: 2010 Cadillac Escalade ESV
Tow Rig: 1971 Chevy C-10 with 5.3 LS and T5 conversion
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Old 03-24-2014, 08:44 AM   #5
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With a newer 30 foot plus Airstream you are getting close to 10,000 pound trailer weight.
The Jeep with Hemi has a tow rating of 7,200 lbs, fine for a mid size AS but not a big one.
Some of the beefier half ton trucks have a tow rating close to 10,000 pounds and that is what you should be looking at. You are talking like you are going to tow lots of miles over mountains ect, not a few miles back and forth to the lake on a flat interstate.
I have an old Excursion diesel and it is a great tow vehicle but a pain to drive in the city. Most old Excursions need lots of work to bring up to top condition.
I would not tow any size AS without a weight distributing hitch with internal sway control. As good as they tow, you will have trailer sway under some conditions like heavy side winds or steep down hill curves without a good hitch.
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Old 03-24-2014, 08:50 AM   #6
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Looking at an older AS mid 90's at the newest. Weight Distributing hitch and sway control and all that is a definite plan. Going to get the setup right but need the correct vehicle to start.
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Old 03-24-2014, 09:43 AM   #7
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I think with a trailer that big (long) and heavy, you'd be hard pressed not to go with a crew cab 3/4 ton truck. You can get them with just single rear wheel (not dually). The crew cab gives you all the comfort and space you get with a big SUV plus the outside space to put dirty and/or wet camping equipment. You could also get a cab cover to secure and protect all your work equipment.

Unfortunately, a good tow vehicle is not the best choice as a daily driver. You can keep the size of the truck down by going with the GM or RAM trucks - with the Fords, the bigger truck has a bigger/wider cab.

A diesel will yield a little bit better fuel economy, but that comes at a price - namely the upfront higher cost of the vehicle, and some will argue ongoing maintenance cost and fuel price. I typically get 19/20 in mixed driving unloaded with my Silverado 2500.

Where the diesel pays is in climbing steep grades. They have around twice the torque of a gas engine - so acceleration and hill climbing are where you need torque. So if you are planning to scale the Rockies, I would recommend you consider a diesel truck.

Next year we will start to see smaller diesels in smaller pickups. Chevy is introducing a new design of their Colorado mid-size truck which will have a 4 cylinder turbo diesel. It should make a great option for those towing, but don't want a really big truck. Of course that would be buying new, which may not be an option you are wanting to consider.
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Old 03-24-2014, 09:51 AM   #8
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Greetings from the Florida Panhandle

First off, welcome to the Forums. We're glad to have you with us.

As to your situation and tow vehicle choice, keep in mind that vintage Airstreams are significantly lighter that the late model ones. An earlier poster states that his '84 34 footer weighs 7,000# ready to camp. Our 2005 25 footer weighs 7,400# ready to go camping. This demonstrates the difference. A significantly smaller trailer weighs more. I'm not sure where the 90's Airstreams fall in the weight area.

Another factor that you need to keep in mind is that since you plan to full time for up to a year, you will probably be carrying more stuff and weight than the short term casual traveler.

Since you will tow initially with your F-150, you will quickly discover how much tow vehicle will satisfy your needs and desires.

Just remember that you need a tow vehicle that you comfortable with. If you do not feel safe and confident with you tow vehicle/trailer combination, you're probably not going anywhere.

Good luck in your endeavor.

SuEllyn & Brian McCabe
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2015 FC 25' FB (Lucy) with HAHA
2005 Suburban 2500 Quadrasteer (Olivia) & 2018 Silverado 2500 (Lillian)
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Old 03-24-2014, 09:59 AM   #9
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Keep in mind that a truck based SUVs, like the Excursion/Yukon/Suburban, won't deliver the best fuel economy either - probably around the same as your current setup. I would not be prepared to live with a vehicle that delivers less than 20mpg as a daily driver, but then again your personal parameters might be different.

Another question to ask yourself is whether you're going to follow manufacturer's posted ratings or whether you'd be comfortable improving on these ratings by aftermarket additions, such as a reinforced hitch or the installation of a transmission cooler.

While there are many arguments in support of both positions, that's a decision only you can make.

Another option to explore might be, why not stick with your current truck. Yes, fuel economy is pretty awful, but how many miles would you have to tow with it in order to justify the cost of a new vehicle?

The average number we see, from all kinds of vehicles, tends to be about 15mpg when towing. That's true for, trucks, modern SUVs and vans. IF you could get 10mpg out of your truck, that would be a lot of miles to cover before buying a new vehicle would make financial sense.
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Old 04-01-2014, 07:41 AM   #10
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The TT is what matters. Get that purchase out of the way, the TV is of secondary concern. As to "tow ratings" the numbers that matter are axle/wheel/tire ratings as the manufacturer tow rating is as much marketing as anything else.

Up to around 7-8k in weight is a generally accepted point to move from 1/2T to larger pickups. A 1/2T will pull any A/S ever made but how well it will do so is a matter of emotional comfort. I focus on pickups as cars, minivans, etc, may not have the payload volume (not same as weight) you may need for work. A pickup with topper is hard to beat. SUV's have a lot of weight (glass) that is detrimental in comparison to the same manufacturers pickup.

Another choice, and maybe the best, is a fullsize van. The short rear overhang makes it better than almost all other vehicles of this type. Stick to 3/4 & 1T chassis. Start by comparing specs.

Have long look at threads/posts by Andrew_T as his dealership sets up TV/TT's as we once did through the late 1970's, but with a depth of experience not elsewhere matched these days. Try to gain an understanding of what is at stake in terms of "stability", and not focus overmuch on pre-determined scripts ("must have pickup, SUV", etc).

Second, your trip will find you gaining weight in TV and TT as time/miles progress. Prt of the learning curve. Unavoidable, and not worth fighting. One can spend a lot of time inventorying, etc, that feels too much like work when one has other work to do.

And, a 3/4T or 1/T is hardly that much more difficult to drive around in. It need not be 4WD, most of all.

But start with a FORD or GM van as suggested.

Good luck.
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Old 04-01-2014, 10:19 AM   #11
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I have VW Touareg V6 Diesel pulling 2013 30' Flying Cloud. With ProPride hitch setup, it is a dream pulling it. I get around 15 mpg towing at 60mph. 29 mpg highway, 20 mpg pure city, and my average is 22 mpg. Small enough to fit in compact car parking in downtown, seats 5, carries lot of stuff, and has a big gas tank. That is to me a best all around utility/luxury vehicle.. Lastly, the VW hitch was reinforced by Andy at Can-Am.

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