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Old 12-28-2015, 06:10 AM   #1
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SUV or Truck

Hi Airstream community, My wife and I are newbes to the forums and looking for advice on buying our first Airstream and TV. We are not completely new to camping in a Airstream having honeymooned in my parents trailer over 35 years ago. We also used it for local vacations for many years after. We also have abs a couple tent campers and a class C motor home years ago.

I am ~ 3-5 years from retirement and my wife has recently retired and we are looking to buy about a 25 to 28 foot Airstream (with the experience of my parents having owned one, SOB is not a option).

We have some questions the I am hoping the community can help with:

1) SUV or Truck - what are the pros and cons of each?

2) We are a ford family so I am looking at a Expedition or F150 with the 3.5 ecoboost. What are people experience with a trailer of this size?

3) What average mileage are you getting towing a trailer this size?

Thank in advance for your advice


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Old 12-28-2015, 06:29 AM   #2
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Welcome, Is it going to be your primary all around vehicle or mostly a tow vehicle? I want from a super crew cab F150 back to a Jeep Grand Cherokee Hemi because a big truck was just not practical for everyday use for me.

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Old 12-28-2015, 06:30 AM   #3
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Greetings from the Florida Panhandle

Welcome to the Forums. We're glad to have you with us.

As to your question regarding a truck vs. SUV, we tow with both. We have had two 25FB's over the past ten years. We have traveled extensively with them. We have camped in our Airstreams 1,700 nights and have towed them 150,000 miles all over the United States.

Our Current tow vehicles are a 2005 Suburban 2500 and a 2011 Silverado Duramax 3500. We use the Suburban in the winter time when we pretty much stay stay in the flat lands of the southeast. In the summer we use the Duramax when we head out the great west.

The gas Suburban is a great tow vehicle, but struggles on the severe grades of the mountain west. The diesel pick-up pulls the mountain grades without effort. The diesel, with its exhaust brake, also does an excellent job on significant downgrades.

SuEllyn & Brian McCabe
WBCCI #3628 -- AIR #14872 -- TAC #FL-7
2015 FC 25' FB (Lucy) with HAHA
2005 Suburban 2500 Quadrasteer (Olivia) & 2011 Silverado 3500 (Fred) with Outfitter Truck Camper (Ethel)
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Old 12-28-2015, 06:41 AM   #4
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Hi Randy,

We faced the same SUV/truck decision when buying our classic 30.

Certainly there are pros and cons to each, I suppose to some degree it depends on how many people you need to carry.

In our case there are normally just the two of us - and also, I didn't like the idea of messing up the inside of a nice new SUV with all the "stuff" I planned to carry, tools, generator, jacks, ladder, lawn chairs etc. So it was a truck for us.

We have had it for 8 years now and in our case it has proven to be the best choice for us.

I also like the fact that when not towing, we have the ability to carry all kinds of other things with it - including loads of topsoil / compost etc, and can just wash it out.

We got the 4x4 crew cab regular box version and have a Leer cap on the box.

When camping we use the back of the truck as the "Basement" of the trailer and carry large rubbermaid boxes with shoes/boots, extra food items etc and it really helps keep clutter out of the trailer.

Ours is the diesel version and we get around 11.5 - 12mpg with cruise on. Not the best mileage maybe, but we generally keep up with interstate traffic at around 70mph.

I'm sure the F150 would be fine. When we first bought our trailer we had a Sierra 1500 and used it on a couple of trips - probably could have continued with it but I just liked the idea of having the larger 3/4 ton diesel especially for frequent trips to the US South West.

Good luck with whatever you choose!

Brian & Connie Mitchell

2005 Classic 30'
Hensley Arrow / Centramatics
2008 GMC Sierra SLT 2500HD,4x4,Crew Cab, Diesel, Leer cap.
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Old 12-28-2015, 07:18 AM   #5
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I'm sorry that I forgot to post our tow vehicle fuel mileage. The Suburban get 10 mpg while towing the Airstream. The Duramax gets 11 mpg whether towing the Airstream or not. Please note that our Duramax carries a 3,200# truck camper full time while towing the Airsteam. The diesel's mileage would be significantly better sans the truck camper.

SuEllyn & Brian McCabe
WBCCI #3628 -- AIR #14872 -- TAC #FL-7
2015 FC 25' FB (Lucy) with HAHA
2005 Suburban 2500 Quadrasteer (Olivia) & 2011 Silverado 3500 (Fred) with Outfitter Truck Camper (Ethel)
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Old 12-28-2015, 07:46 AM   #6
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Determining the correct TV (for us) was a 2 year process. We began with a Suburban. Loved the way it towed but was unhappy with the lack of power and torque. Switched to a Yukon Denali. Plenty of power but never handled well. This year traded for GMC Sierra 1500 with tow package. Love it! Just replaced the TT tires and wheels with 16", including Centramatic balancers. Improved gas mileage on last trip from 11.5 to 13.5.

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Old 12-28-2015, 08:04 AM   #7
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Some notes we made when comparing Expedition and F150.

1) Expedition has a shorter wheelbase making it easier to maneuver with and without the Airstream.

2) Expedition has independent suspension for the rear axle. The body mounts to the suspension farther outboard on either side making it more stable than the F150.

3) Expeditions rear independent suspension has less weight under the springs of the rear axle than the F150's solid rear axle assembly, allowing a smoother ride for the vehicle and the Airstream resting on the hitch ball, when on rough roadways.

4) Expedition has enclosed space for everything carried in the vehicle, heated/cooled and more secure.

5) F150 costs less, and may be ordered to carry greater payload, if needed.

6) They both have the 3.5 Ecoboost engine, which has plenty of power for a 25-28' Airstream.
Doug and Cheryl
2012 FC RB, Michelin 16, ProPride 1400
2016 Ram 1500 Laramie Crew Cab 4X4 Ecodiesel 3.92 axles

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Old 12-28-2015, 08:21 AM   #8
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I know you are a Ford guy but all information provided is useful to me when I'm looking so here's my $.02. I tow a 25' AS with a 2006 Dodge Cummins SRW one ton. I get 15 mpg (by the computer) towing 60 to 65 on the highway. I'm not brand loyal to any truck and fully considered Ford/GMC/Dodge when shopping for a diesel truck. One of the factors for choosing the Dodge was the shorter wheel base, at least in that year, over the GMC and Ford. I found the maneuverability of the short wheel base vastly superior for a daily driver. Good luck in whatever you get.
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Old 12-28-2015, 09:06 AM   #9
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2 cents:

The first two factors must be be size/weight and performance capability. If you go to a dealer and tell them you want to pile in 1000# (tongue weight) into the back plus people and gear AND tow a 7000-8000# pound trailer- see what they lead you to. My AS tongue weight is listed as 860 but is 990 actual FYI. SUVs are more people haulers versus stuff. According to Left Lane news the 2015 Suburban has a payload rating of 1682# but has a limit of 8300# tow capacity. The final drive number though is low with an engine power band in higher RPMs which means high engine RPM when pulling to get to the engine's power band= more shifting- the same issue I had with my '09 pickup.

Whether you end up with a pickup or an SUV something that I have learned about it is what I call the "cruise factor". Last summer when I went to West Virginia I went on back roads that had steep inclines. I learned quickly about my truck's capabilities. It met the specs- was rated to tow 8100# (was towing maybe 6000 with empty tanks) but it struggled and roared, even on the highway. It came down to one thing- gearing/torque ratio. The engine roar made driving less pleasurable and more stressful. When I came home I began truck shopping and comparing MANY features but in the gearing you get an idea of how the truck will perform when called upon to pull. In other words, what percent of the torque is available at normal cruising speed before gearing down? Also, the higher the percentage, the less likely the engine will need to be geared down. Interestingly you can also see how the manufacturers are designing their products to compromise between pull power and MPG see below- higher the percentage, better the tow/lower percentage, POTENTIALLY better MPG but more gear changing and even more time perhaps in a lower gear thus mitigating MPG at least when towing. Understand this is pickup info only on 2015 models. I compared all to the same tire/wheel package with tire diameter 31.9", same speed 70mph (bit high but..,) and with their respective final transmission gearing whether 6 or 8 speed tranny. The RPM is @70:

'15 Ford 2.7 Eco with Max tow 3.73 Final gearing 0.69
1908 RPM@70
63% of Torque@70mph- 221 ft lbs

'15 Ford 3.5 Eco Max tow 3.55 Final gearing 0.69
1806 RPM@70
72% of Torque@70- 302 ft lbs

2009 Previous Truck 3. 55 0.69
44% of Torque- 140 ft lbs= low pull power and major shifting needed

'15 Ram 1500 Hemi 5.7 3.92 Final gearing 0.67
1936 RPM@70
48% of Torque@70- 197 ft lbs

'15 Silverado 5.3 Liter Max tow 3.42 Final gearing 0.65
1737 RPM@70
40% of Torque@ 70- 153 ft lbs

'15 Silverado 6.2L Max tow 3.42 Final gearing 0.65
1737 RPM @70
40% of Torque@70- 184 ft lbs

As you shop between SUV and Truck consider this as well. What RPM does the engine make its peak torque at? What RPM is the vehicle doing at around 70 mph without shifting? (see above for pickup comparison). Right now in the gassers, Ford has an advantage because their engines produce their peak torque at low RPMs (2500 or 3000rpm) which says all the pull without the shifting. This will change in the future when GM and Ford get their 10 speed tranny but for now the figures show that Chevy is geared for less towing (4100 RPM) and more MPG, RAM(4000RPM) is in the middle and Ford is tow pull with more sacrifice of MPG. That is why I have posted elsewhere that while my MPG is no different (12MPG towing- pump calculated/14 mpg computer) than my old truck on flat ground, the tow experience is totally different- fast acceleration and as if the trailer isn't there. The engine is not strained at take off and I am sure it will not struggle on hills anymore.
2015 Ford F-150 3.5 Ecobeast 3.55 Lariat
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Old 12-28-2015, 10:58 AM   #10
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Bushnell , Florida
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Welcome aboard!, and get ready for the 50 posts this thread will generate on the merits of 1/2 ton versus 3/4 ton versus suv to tow your upcoming 25-28 foot Airstream (none of which will ever weigh more than about 7600 lbs mind you). We love to debate this endlessly on AirForums! Oh, and also ask about which hitch you need! I'm kidding, this is the place on the Internet I spend the most time, and I love the details of everything AirStream you learn here. Look at Rodster's post above mine. Where else would you find all that info in one place?

To give our experience to your question, we tow our "Pete", a 2014 Flying Cloud 27fb twin with our "Chip", a 2015 F150 4x4 crew longbed XLT Sport MaxTow (too many names for a durn truck). It tows great, although we haven't been far yet, maybe 3 local trips and heading out again soon since we got this new mule. You can read about the details here if you are interested:

We like you fell in love with Airstreams long ago from family history of ownership and longed for one for years. We had 3 different white box bumper pulls, towed with 3 different trucks (I'm a truck guy), and a 39' diesel pusher over about 15 years. In late 2013 we said OK, enough of $3000 yearly maintenance and repair bills on the big coach, let's downsize. We looked hard for a true "half-ton towable" that didn't smell like formaldehyde and look like it would fall apart in 2 years, and ended up buying our Pete. We have spent probably 90 nights aboard since, and it is the perfect coach for us and 2 young grandkids who often camp with us (and even their parents come sometimes).

As to trucks, we towed the 3 white boxes with everything from a '97 F150 with an anemic 4.6L v8 and twisty frame, a '99 F250 that rode like a lumber wagon, up to an '03 Chevy Duramax that towed anything we put behind it, and the new F150 blows them all away for comfort, ride, and capability for what we tow. The 3.5 L EgoBoost makes big torque way down in the rpm band, the frame is much stiffer than our '13, the interior is more comfortable than the '13 (for us), we love the 6.5 bed, and with the XLT Sport we have 10 way heated seats, and 1907 lbs of payload. What's not to love?

There are always lots of variables, like what exact coach will you tow, how long will you travel at a time, how much stuff do you take with you, blah, blah, blah that need to influence your decision. Take a couple of hours and read through some threads on AirForums under Tow Vehicles, and get out there and join us!
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Old 12-29-2015, 10:49 AM   #11
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Thanks everyone for your replies and helpful information. It looks like a lot of you who have the 3.5 Ecoboost like it. From what I seen on paper and YouTube it seems to be a good mix of power and fuel economy. I agree with the comments on how the final drive ratio will make a difference. The advantage of the 3.5 is the low RPM that the torque peeks at giving a wide power band.

As for the discussions on SUV vs Truck I am leaning towards an SUV. We have two dogs that will travel with us and being able to fold the back set down for them to ride where they can look out the window in the SUV vs on the floor of the truck is a plus. Plus we have two kayaks that we can load in the roof. With a truck we would need a cap or rack.

The weight discussion in interesting, the truck may seem to have an advantage here but you need to consider the weight of a cap to tonneau cover. A cap would reduce the capacity of a truck to close to the SUV's. In most cases by the time you add tongue weight of the TT and the passages you only have a few hundred pounds available for stuff.

The next steps for me will be to start looking for used examples of each to test drive to see how they fit. I am not in a hurry so I hope I can find the perfect TV for us

Thanks again, and keep the comments coming, I really enjoy these forms.
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Old 12-29-2015, 09:57 PM   #12
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I have never cared for pickups so when we bought our 27 international we bought a 2011 Tahoe to pull it with. So far we have only been on two trips with it but I have been happy with the performance. The tahoe we bought has the trailer tow package with the 3.41 rear end so that may have helped. Like you we sometimes take two kayaks and we can load them on the top of the tahoe. I have been getting about 12 mpg.
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Old 12-29-2015, 10:32 PM   #13
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A lot depends on your camping style and destinations. If you travel with minimal gear, you can probably fit it all into your AS and a SUV. If, like us, you take a lot of gear with you, having a pickup truck bed with a cap (canopy, topper) is a big advantage.

We often travel with a canoe on our roof rack (others might think kayaks or some other small craft) which means traveling with paddles, life jackets, a buoyant blue barrel or dry bag with canoeing supplies, a large-capacity "biffy box" (portable waste disposal tank,) generator, jerry cans for gas and water, picnic cooler, folding chairs & table, luggage, box for winter jackets & backpacks, box for recyclables, and I forget what all else.

You could probably roughly estimate how much gear &c you plan to take, its approximate dimensions, & compare that with your planned AS and vehicle's storage space. (Better to be too generous on your estimate: your passengers will thank you.)

We traveled extensively with a medium-large dog (sadly no longer with us) who sat on the back seat, but when we had extra passengers, the ability to put everyone's luggage in the back end , as well, was another truck advantage.

A truck with a longer wheel base may give your rig extra stability.

We tow with a crew cab Tundra and enjoy the comfort. It also tows like a breeze-- up and down the Canadian Rockies. With a 19' 4500 lb trailer we get about 15 mpg. 20 without it.

We agree with Wingeezer-- living in a rural area, our truck also comes in handy for all kinds of other hauling needs.
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Old 12-30-2015, 09:01 PM   #14
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I have never cared for pickups
Me either, until I got one! I have to say, especially the new one is like a luxo barge. To me, the crew cab is a real nice similar to traditional full size car feel. I don't have a cap but I have used the back several times now for camping and home duties. Very handy and comfortable.

2015 Ford F-150 3.5 Ecobeast 3.55 Lariat
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