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Old 12-20-2013, 08:47 PM   #1
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the ideal multi-use truck?

Hi folks. Lots of collective wisdom here. I've read through lots of old threads and am more confused than ever.

Currently I'm driving a 2004 Sienna and towing a Fleetwood Arcadia popup, one of the larger popups at about 3500 dry and 350 tongue weight. Works well with the Sienna with a Reese weight distributing hitch. I'm not exactly Mr. Toad but probably at the upper limit of what I want to do with the Sienna and it is at 250,000 miles anyway. Have probably put 15,000 miles on it towing the popup throughout TX, NM, AR, and FL and get 16 mpg towing, 25 mpg highway so it's been a great combo. But I'm starting to get a bit leery of stranding my family somewhere remote in West TX with a broken down 10 year old Sienna and planning ahead for the eventual purchase a larger airstream.

We are thinking along the lines of something like a late model Flying Cloud 27 or 30 that will be comfortable with the kids for weekend and week-long trips to the beach but will make a comfortable longer trip trailer for just the 2 of us when the kids are mostly out of the house. Right now the 30' Bunk model looks perfect but if we go used we may not get the perfect floor plan. Looking at the trailer specs and knowing how we travel I'm guessing we'd probably be hauling a 30' Flying Cloud loaded to about 8,000 lbs with a tongue weight in the 900 lb range.

The other twist is that my daily commute is 2.5 miles each way. Were it not for the fact that I drop kids at school on the way I'd just bike it. Of course I do lots of other running around but most of it short except on the weekends when I might frequently put 200+ miles on it running to out of town soccer games and such.

So I'm looking for a truck that can handle both (1) pulling at LEAST an 8,000 lb loaded up airstream and (2) also handle lots of short daily trips running around the suburbs. What I can't do is buy 2 vehicles one for commuting and one for hauling because with my wife driving and the teenager soon to have a car we simply don't have space to park 4 vehicles. So I must make one vehicle work for everything.

Questions....

1. Is it insane to think about buying something like a Duramax or Powerstroke 3/4 ton diesel truck when most of the daily driving is going to be short hops in the 5 to 15 minute range? My understanding of diesels is that they don't like to be driven short distances. I frankly don't care much about the harshness of the ride or difficulty parking as this is Central TX and everyone drives trucks anyway and I'm not doing long enough commutes to care about comfort. I'm more concerned about ruining an expensive diesel or not using it properly for lots of short runaround use.

2. Is perhaps the better option to go with something like a F150 Ecoboost or something like a Tundra and use a high-end weight distribution system to haul the trailer around? With kids, bikes, coolers, and beach gear we don't exactly travel light and I don't want to need to obsess about every little piece of gear I toss in the trailer or truck. We do want to be doing more camping in the western parks and Rockies in the upcoming years so it won't all be flatland Texas driving. I don't care about poking along up the occasional mountain pass but I don't want to be insanely overloaded.

Thoughts and advice? My inclination is to go with something like a F150 Ecoboost now so that I at least have an "adequate" tow vehicle available to make it even possible to start shopping for an airstream. Or perhaps the new Ram 1500 with the new V6 diesel. Then down the road when the kids are gone and we start doing more long-term trips perhaps upgrade to a 3/4 ton diesel at that point.

Is there some ideal vehicle out there? Or does someone in my position just get the 1/2 ton truck and make it work?
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Old 12-20-2013, 09:00 PM   #2
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Questions....

1. Is it insane to think about buying something like a Duramax or Powerstroke 3/4 ton diesel truck when most of the daily driving is going to be short hops in the 5 to 15 minute range? My understanding of diesels is that they don't like to be driven short distances. I frankly don't care much about the harshness of the ride or difficulty parking as this is Central TX and everyone drives trucks anyway and I'm not doing long enough commutes to care about comfort. I'm more concerned about ruining an expensive diesel or not using it properly for lots of short runaround use.

2. Is perhaps the better option to go with something like a F150 Ecoboost or something like a Tundra and use a high-end weight distribution system to haul the trailer around? With kids, bikes, coolers, and beach gear we don't exactly travel light and I don't want to need to obsess about every little piece of gear I toss in the trailer or truck. We do want to be doing more camping in the western parks and Rockies in the upcoming years so it won't all be flatland Texas driving. I don't care about poking along up the occasional mountain pass but I don't want to be insanely overloaded.

Modern diesels do not need to idle for a half-hour warm-up before you drive em. If that's what you want, it will have the extra payload capacity for kids and stuff.

If you want the Ecoboost, you need the Max Tow AND Max Payload options for the extra payload capacity.
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Old 12-20-2013, 09:20 PM   #3
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How many kids and how old are they? I would start by listing your payload needs and how long you need to carry that much load. Is it just a few years, and then many years of the two of you?

Airstreams and diesel trucks are expensive to buy and operate. Plan for the long haul.
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Old 12-20-2013, 09:39 PM   #4
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How many kids and how old are they? I would start by listing your payload needs and how long you need to carry that much load. Is it just a few years, and then many years of the two of you?

Airstreams and diesel trucks are expensive to buy and operate. Plan for the long haul.

3 daughters currently ages 7, 10, and 15. The two younger ones are camping fanatics. The teenager abhors it and only really wants to come along when we are heading to the beach rather than the mountains.

In terms of planning I can see us running the pop-up for another year or two and swapping it out for an airstream about the time the oldest heads off for college so I'm not planning for her, more for a family of 4 and whatever additional friends might be tagging along. The 30' Bunk model would probably be perfect if we were to buy new. By my way of thinking the Airstream is basically in lieu of buying a condo on the beach or weekend cabin in the country as we have too much wanderlust to spend all our vacations in one spot. So I don't mind paying to get the right thing. The popup has been a good learning experience about towing and campground camping. And it is awesome for sleeping 5. But we eventually want something nicer.

I tend to buy new vehicles and drive them into the ground. I've got almost 11 years and 250,000 miles on the Sienna. It replaced a 1990 Pathfinder that I drove for 10 years in Alaska.

As for Payload. We aren't doing the full time thing, mostly just long weekend and the occasional longer 7-14 day trip. We don't intentionally travel heavy but I do like to bring along gear...bikes, canoes, folding outdoor chairs, grill, etc. I don't want to have to stress about ounces and have to run around to scales to make sure I'm not overloaded. I just want to be able to pack up for a normal road trip and go.

In the future when it is just the two of us I can see scaling way back on the gear. I'm a serious cyclist and I think the ideal rig would be an airstream with 2 high-end folding bikes for local use. Something like a brompton http://brompton.com/ that could be folded up and tucked under a dinette table for traveling so we don't have nice bikes bouncing around on a bike rack for thousands of miles. Without the kids I think we would be pretty light. Especially since all the electronics gear just gets lighter and lighter.
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Old 12-20-2013, 09:53 PM   #5
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Good questions.


I have a 3/4 ton diesel which I LOVE for towing my 27fb Flying cloud and HATE for local driving (I too have a small 4 mile commute to work).

I was at a rally this year and got a ride in a friend's Dodge Laramie (I think they call it? ). 4-doors, incredibly comfortable seats, beautiful leather interior like saddles, big but not quite as big as my truck so a bit more maneuverable and I suspect as a 4-door it's very good for your situation. I do not know what it's rated to tow but my 27FB loaded for camping comes in at 5880 on the scales. I believe the Dodge 1500 has a 9000# towing capacity (don't quote me on that).

With some custom work, a minivan could be a suitable towing vehicle if you don't mind exceeding manufacturer recommendations. Search for CanAm for more info and controversy there :-)

Good luck!
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Old 12-20-2013, 10:05 PM   #6
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"We don't intentionally travel heavy with lots of firewood or generators or ATVs. But I don't want to have to obsess about weight. Just want to be able to pack up and go."

We've been camping and traveling the country for nearly 50 years, always managing weight and traveling light. It's made for a better experience I believe.

Otherwise you're on a path to a heavy duty truck.
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Old 12-20-2013, 10:07 PM   #7
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My Sienna is riding with airlift bags in the rear and a Reese weight distributing hitch and I still need to keep it pretty empty to comfortably haul my popup. Plus it is getting too long in the tooth to think about using much longer. I might use it to carefully haul a trailer back home after purchase but that is about it.

I look at all the threads about people hauling with the Tiguans, Grand Cherokees, Sequoias and so forth. And that might be fine down the road when it is just the two of us and we can be more minimalist. But our more typical trip will be a week to Destin or South Padre loaded down with surf boards, beach chairs and all manner of other assorted bulky but not necessarily heavy gear. I'm thinking some sort of truck might serve best

The other part of the equation is that my wife is about to hand her 10 year old CR-V down to my daughter when she turns 16. My wife has her eye on something like a Pilot or Highlander as a nice 7 passenger daily driver commute vehicle which will be OK for the popup but not adequate for a larger airstream. Most of the highly competent small diesel SUVs on the market that people seem to use for towing are only 5 passenger which my wife doesn't want. I can't see us springing for the Mercedes diesel just to be able to tow an airstream "some day" and she doesn't want something full size like a Sequoia or Suburban for her longer daily commute.

So I circle back around to replacing the Sienna with a truck as my wife plans to get our next kiddo hauler. While the minivan has been great, neither of us are really enamored with the latest minivan offerings and want to go in another direction.
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Old 12-20-2013, 10:20 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by dkottum View Post
"We don't intentionally travel heavy with lots of firewood or generators or ATVs. But I don't want to have to obsess about weight. Just want to be able to pack up and go."

We've been camping and traveling the country for nearly 50 years, always managing weight and traveling light. It's made for a better experience I believe.

Otherwise you're on a path to a heavy duty truck.
In my heart I know you are right. Although with kids it is easier said than done as we like to bring along stuff to keep them active so they aren't sitting around all day messing with their screens because we didn't bring their bikes or roller blades or something.

My other obsession is cycling so I do know packing light. The middle daughter and I rode a tandem down the Pacific coast last summer from Astoria to San Francisco hauling all of our camping gear on a bike trailer that weighed about 50 lbs. So we do know packing light. Every ounce makes a difference when you are hauling yourself and a kid over those coastal mountain passes. This is the blog of that trip if you are curious. Tandemania As it happened we rode some of the way with a group that had spouses supporting them by following along with an airstream that they set up at each campground along the way. I decided that was how we were going to do our next long bike trip.
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Old 12-21-2013, 12:34 AM   #9
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OK,this is my 2cents worth, everyone has their own ideal multi- use truck and for me it is a 3500 Dodge diesel. For what you want however that isn't it. In your shoes I'd be looking at a 3/4 ton (of whatever flavor you like best) with a gas engine. Lots of payload for the girls stuff but the gas engine will be less likely to give problems with your short hop drives. Short hops are hard on any vehicle but worse on a diesel.

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Old 12-21-2013, 04:29 AM   #10
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The best reason to own a pick up is for the capacity to haul stuff like bikes and kayaks. Otherwise they are not the best tow vehicles when you take everything into consideration including safety. We tow a 28' Safari all over the US with our 1/2 ton Silverado ext cab, 5.2 , 6 speed tran, and 3.42 rear end. We carry two bikes and a tandem kayak in the back and a few other things. There's just the two of us but I think with the crew cab you would have room for the girls and your stuff. The Ford ecoboost has plenty of power and I read it gets decent mileage. We get 11 - 13, driving 60 - 65. Good luck!
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Old 12-21-2013, 06:07 AM   #11
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I would buy a gas 3/4 ton and keep the Sienna.
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Old 12-21-2013, 06:28 AM   #12
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You already know the Toyota brand-
The Tundra is a great truck, but the payload is not quite enough-
No other brand comes close to the back seat room except Ram Mega cab. So, maybe a 3/4 ton gas Ram Mega cab?
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Old 12-21-2013, 09:03 AM   #13
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Modern diesels do not need to idle for a half-hour warm-up before you drive em. If that's what you want, it will have the extra payload capacity for kids and stuff.

If you want the Ecoboost, you need the Max Tow AND Max Payload options for the extra payload capacity.
X2 and on the max payload X10.

When shopping remember it will be very hard to find a max payload truck on the lot (you may need to order one) and the salesmen will ignorantly insist you don't need it. Ignore their stupidity and insist on it. Otherwise get a 3/4 ton.
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Old 12-21-2013, 10:03 AM   #14
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I would buy a gas 3/4 ton and keep the Sienna.
Given that the Sienna is practically 100% depreciated out that actually makes some sense. If I wanted to go the 3/4 ton route I could continue to use the Sienna for around town use until it falls apart (which could be 10 years) and use a new truck for all my towing and out of town driving that takes me past the county line. The only real issue is parking. That would put us at 4 vehicles with a 2 car garage until the teen leaves home which means either parking in the street or making sure the vehicles are always in the correct order in the drive for the next morning.

If I'm not using the truck for daily short haul use, why do you recommend gas? Just for the cost savings? I'm not exactly sure why I'm enamored with diesel but I'm guessing that a diesel truck would be happier if it is only gets weekend highway miles when not towing. My idea is that at some point we'll be doing long cross country hauls and maybe a run up to Alaska at some point so I want to get the right truck for towing and make do with it as necessary for around town provided that it doesn't actually harm the truck.

I'm walking into this decision thinking that I need to replace the Sienna with the one truck to rule them all so to speak, the one vehicle that will do everything for me. For daily driving something like an F150 aor other 1/2 ton with max tow and cargo packages probably gets me close enough. But there is really no reason why I need to get rid of the Sienna now that it is getting a bit old for out of town use. I doubt I could get more than $1500 for it on Craig's List at this point, might as well just keep it until it dies.

I will have to read up on what goes into getting a 1/2 ton with max payload package. Is it just some simple changes like heavier springs and shocks that could just as easily be done after market? Or are the changes deeper than that? Because I poked around over on the F150 forums about guys doing all manner of things (airbags, added leafs, air shocks, etc.) to beef up their cargo capacity and got the sense that it is very common.
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