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Old 04-22-2009, 10:44 PM   #1
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Tow Capacity & Trailer Choice

Folks, its good to among the best free spirited Americans in the land. I am trying to get familiar with Airstream Trailers, and as such I am looking to purchase one for my wife and 3 great children (7,4 &3). So, without any further notice let the learning curve begin.

A. Main Problem. I own a 2008 Mazda Cx-9 with a max tow capacity of 3500 lbs. What trailers should I be looking for? Can I realistically tow 4000 lbs w/o ruining the engine or transmission

B Trailer Choices for family of Five to hold 5 and some beer w/ 3500 Tow Capacity

C. Leads on any Trailers that fit my situation

Any help would be great, wanted to run up to Colorado for Winter skiing in December

Finally, Iron Giant= best movie ever made and if you haven't seen it you should. Thanks for any help Pat
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Old 04-22-2009, 11:52 PM   #2
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Like a post I just posted earlier, my suggestion to you would be to trade in the Mazda because you are going to need at least a 5000lb trailer which is about 23-25' vintage for an army your size,pr around 6500lbs with a newer Airstream.

Fact is most of us say, yea, well we'll be outdoors, that's why we camp, but in reality, it rains, bad weather happens and then you are all inside.

I owned a Bambi, 19', two adults and two dogs (65lbs and 25lbs). Thought it would be possible, we could make it work and bought the 19'. Like most smaller RV owners with a gang, we quickly upgraded to the 25' six sleeper.

My advice to you would be to go out and see some and bring the whole crew and pack on in and see how it feels in there cause there will without question be days camping when you all are going to be stuck inside. My suggestion would be 23' to 25' range...maybe a few feet longer. Newer Airstreams are measured bumper to coupler so that takes about 3' off the spec'd length so a 25er has about 22' of interior living space. I have no idea if the same holds true for the vintage models.

Vintage weighs less than newer Airstreams, but in the end I doubt your Mazda will be up to the task as passengers, cargo and fuel get deducted from the max tow capacity...meaning you might have a lot closer to 2900 or 3000lbs left to tow a trailer....and that puts you out of nearly any newer Airstream, minus maybe a basecamp. Vintage, maybe a 16 or 17 footer, but that will be way too small for your group.

You are not all that far from me. You are very welcome to bring the family over and pack 'em in my 25er and see what I'm talkin' about...you can also see the storage the 25er provides...think you'll find it pretty interesting experience.
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Old 04-23-2009, 12:28 AM   #3
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Hey, Pat, welcome to Airforums! You and your herd are in for a passle o'fun in an Airstream!

A couple of points:

The choice of a tow vehicle versus trailer size is a popular debate issue on here, and as always among "free spirited Americans" (and Canadians, too) there are some big differences of opinion, so take your time and read, read, read.

I would say that while it's (I guess) a "cross-over" type vehicle, it's got lots of power, at 273hp, so there may well be a way to make it work with the right match of trailer, and the right set-up. The thing that works against you with the CX-9 is that it has a somewhat shorter wheelbase and higher stance than what an ideal tow vehicle would have.

As Silver Twinkie correctly pointed out, older is lighter for Airstreams. Older is almost always cheaper too, and that's usually because A) there's stuff that needs attention (read time and $$), and even if the trailer is perfect, there's always 2) you want to change stuff inside, style-wise.

So, since in one form or another, it's going to be a significant investment of some combination of time and money, get used to the search mechanism, because there is an incredible wealth of information on here that will help you make the decisions you will need to equip yourselves with the right trailer for your needs, desires, and budget.

Best of luck, and keep asking questions!
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Old 04-23-2009, 12:47 AM   #4
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We had a similar Mazda and purchased the 16 ft AS with the intention of pulling it with the said Mazda. It was pointed out to us, that while going downhill the Mazda weight/brakes would not safely allow us to stop. We needed for a 16 ft A/S a heavier vehicle, ended up trading the Mazda for a Trailblazer bigger engine, heavier weight. Even if the manual said it should work, locals with towing experience said not to do it.

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Old 04-23-2009, 08:10 AM   #5
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Cart before the horse

Hi

Welcome to the forums - you'll get much good info and advice here.

IMHO you should choose your trailer based upon your needs and then figure out what kind of vehicle you need to tow it safely. If you get a trailer that's the right size and layout for your family you will have it a long time and the tow vehicles will come and go. Choosing a trailer that doesn't suit your family for several years will result in several possibilities: you won't be happy and won't use it; you will use it and everybody will be unhappy; you'll end up trading it way sooner than you expected which will be more expensive than getting one that really suits your needs at the outset.

It's very easy to be seduced by the first airstream you like - so, see as many as you can - go to a rally and check them out - go to dealers and hang out in them: lie on the bed, sit on the toilet, pay attention to that little voice in the back of your head that says - this feature or lack of it is going to bug me. Encourage your wife to do the same. Take a little time and you'll find one that will work for you and you'll be happy and enjoy using it.
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Old 04-23-2009, 08:44 AM   #6
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Welcome from the Florida Panhandle

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

It's a big mistake to buy a camper of any kind that does not fit your need. Go to a dealer with the whole family, get in the various campers, and decide what size it will take to fit your needs.

Once that is decided, see if the unit of choice can be safely towed by your current Mazda.

If not,then comes the big dilemma. Do you trade in your current Mazda for a sufficient tow vehicle or do you go to a smaller, lighter trailer?

Remember that if you go with a trailer that does not fit your needs or tow your trailer with an insufficient tow vehicle, you are well on your way to owning a rather expensive piece of yard art.

Brian
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Old 04-23-2009, 09:49 AM   #7
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First - just as an FYI, the CX-9 has a 4500 pound rating elsewhere but the U.S.... that said, the hitch supplied by MZ has a small receiver - I believe 1 1/2 vs. 2".. don't quote me on the exact sizes, just know it won't fit the larger shanks needed for Airstream.

I really wanted a CX-9 for our T.V.... I think the engine, package is great. However, I too was worried about the short wheelbase. The Ford Flex uses the same engine package, but in a lower CG, longer wheelbase configuration.

What to do? I think you'd be limited to about 23 feet with the CX-9... There are some nice units that size out there (again vintage is better). I researched hitches.. the only game in town would be to go north to CanAm RV and have them set it up for you.

Welcome...
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Old 04-23-2009, 12:30 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pudentane View Post
Hi

Welcome to the forums - you'll get much good info and advice here.

IMHO you should choose your trailer based upon your needs and then figure out what kind of vehicle you need to tow it safely. If you get a trailer that's the right size and layout for your family you will have it a long time and the tow vehicles will come and go. Choosing a trailer that doesn't suit your family for several years will result in several possibilities: you won't be happy and won't use it; you will use it and everybody will be unhappy; you'll end up trading it way sooner than you expected which will be more expensive than getting one that really suits your needs at the outset.

It's very easy to be seduced by the first airstream you like - so, see as many as you can - go to a rally and check them out - go to dealers and hang out in them: lie on the bed, sit on the toilet, pay attention to that little voice in the back of your head that says - this feature or lack of it is going to bug me. Encourage your wife to do the same. Take a little time and you'll find one that will work for you and you'll be happy and enjoy using it.
In my limited experience, I have to say this is great advise. Wish I would have found this forum (and asked similar questions) before I got my trailer. AND, before I poured several hundred dollars into my truck -equipping it with a hitch, 7-pin connector and brake controller- before finding that it wasn't the safest truck to tow my 27 footer. Some folks believed my Xterra was adequate but there were others that said otherwise. With my lack of experience towing, I just couldn't get comfortable towing with it any longer and found a 2000 Yukon XL. I didn't want a big SUV like this - since it was to be my only mode of transportation - but I'm much more at ease towing with it.

I also wouldn't have expected to get such a large AS. But it sure is cool!! And it's easy to tow and set up!

Good luck - what a great family adventure you're gearing up for!
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Old 04-23-2009, 06:13 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by IronGiant View Post
I own a 2008 Mazda Cx-9 with a max tow capacity of 3500 lbs. What trailers should I be looking for? Can I realistically tow 4000 lbs w/o ruining the engine or transmission
Plenty of people will disagree, but since you are looking for an Airstream, I will say yes as long as everything is set up properly. Your vehicle has far better specifications (wider track, better suspension) than a traditional mid-size SUV, so I would expect very good stability.

Your vehicle is just a bit smaller in wheelbase and curb weight than a Buick Enclave, with similar engine size and power. Check out this link: RV Lifestyle - Hitch Hints, and this one: RV Lifestyle - Hitch Hints.

Consider this: from a power standpoint, weight really only matters when you are accelerating or climbing steep hills. Cruising down a level highway, an 8,000 lb Airstream doesn't tow any harder than a 4,000 lb one, assuming that frontal area is the same. If you drive smoothly and sanely, durability should be largely unaffected. Of course, it is important to ensure that the transmission fluid doesn't get overheated, hence the standard recommendation for an auxiliary cooler.

The CX-9 has plenty of power and torque, a 6-speed automatic, about 1,500 lbs of payload capacity (better than some large pickups) - in short, it has everything you need except an official recommendation from the manufacturer.

The biggest challenge will be in obtaining a suitable hitch receiver. You will need something custom made, or modifications to an off-the-shelf Class III receiver.

Contact Andrew T via this forum. His staff set up my car, and nearly 10,000 miles of towing with it have done nothing to convince me that it's a bad idea.
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Old 04-23-2009, 06:35 PM   #10
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What does he mean by "not towing harder?"

Quote:
Originally Posted by AlbertF View Post
Cruising down a level highway, an 8,000 lb Airstream doesn't tow any harder than a 4,000 lb one
Ahh, if only that statement were true!
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Old 04-23-2009, 07:35 PM   #11
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The manufacturer's recommendation as to tow capacity should not be exceeded, if for no other reason than it may void the warranty on the drive train. Most people will recommended no more than 80% of the vehicle's capacity for trailer, tongue, GCVWR (weight of tow vehicle and trailer fully loaded) and payload of the tow vehicle. 80% is admittedly a guess, but worth considering for safety reasons.

Those three small kids will keep getting bigger and bigger. They may fit in a smaller trailer now, but in 5 years…. Note the different sizes of dinettes—some are wider than others and thus only the larger ones can comfortably seat four adult people. Two people will have to sleep at the dinette when it is converted to a bed and the bigger ones will work Plan for the future. In 5 years you will have 12, 9, and 8 year olds, and another 5, 3 teenagers. That means more weight, bigger people, much more food (teenagers eat their own weight every day), more clothes, etc. Since teenagers don't particularly like to be seen with their parents who constantly embarrass them, better take that into account too. The trailer is a long term investment and trading to a bigger one in 5 years could be expensive.

Many people find out that once they find a trailer they like, they have to trade their vehicle for a bigger one. We did. We had a perfectly good truck, but it wasn't enough truck for the trailer we chose as right for us.

Take your time, check out lots of trailers. See if you fit in the bed—RV beds are smaller than regular ones, usually several inches shorter. A double or a queen is not the same size. Sit on the toilet and close the door and see if your knees fit. Some models have very little space in front of the toilet. Some of those same models have the double bed next to the toilet and you can't open the door all the way—see if you fit through the half open door.

If you want to come to Colorado to ski, the grades on I-70 are 7% maximum and long. Downgrades require good brakes and a trailer substantially heavier than the tow vehicle is a concern. Vehicles run less efficiently at altitude and a moderately powered vehicle in the flatlands will be underpowered going up Vail Pass. While many people use their Airstreams in the winter, it is not considered a four season trailer and will use a lot of propane for heat, especially if you have a trailer with panoramic windows. Towing in the snow in Colorado would be a challenge and a 4wd tow vehicle would necessary. Storms can come up suddenly and drop feet of snow; roads can be closed. I doubt there are any RV campgrounds open near ski areas except for a few state parks with very limited facilities in winter. I've lived in severe winters for 40 years and have driven through feet of snow, but wouldn't do it with a trailer. It can be done, but be aware of the drawbacks and you might be late getting to the ski area or getting home.

But there's plenty you can do with an Airstream and you can come to Colorado the rest of the year.

Gene
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Old 04-23-2009, 07:36 PM   #12
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[quote=mistermcfrug;690461]
Quote:
Originally Posted by AlbertF View Post
Cruising down a level highway, an 8,000 lb Airstream doesn't tow any harder than a 4,000 lb one

Ahh, if only that statement were true!

Ahh, if any of it were true.....wishes were horses, beggars would ride.

Anyone knowingly exceeding a tow rating set forth by a manufacturer would clearly leave some liability should something go wrong.
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Old 04-23-2009, 07:36 PM   #13
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The manufacturer's recommendation as to tow capacity should not be exceeded, if for no other reason than it may void the warranty on the drive train. Most people will recommended no more than 80% of the vehicle's capacity for trailer, tongue, GCVWR (weight of tow vehicle and trailer fully loaded) and payload of the tow vehicle. 80% is admittedly a guess, but worth considering for safety reasons.

Those three small kids will keep getting bigger and bigger. They may fit in a smaller trailer now, but in 5 years…. Note the different sizes of dinettes—some are wider than others and thus only the larger ones can comfortably seat four adult people. Two people will have to sleep at the dinette when it is converted to a bed and the bigger ones will work Plan for the future. In 5 years you will have 12, 9, and 8 year olds, and another 5, 3 teenagers. That means more weight, bigger people, much more food (teenagers eat their own weight every day), more clothes, etc. Since teenagers don't particularly like to be seen with their parents who constantly embarrass them, better take that into account too. The trailer is a long term investment and trading to a bigger one in 5 years could be expensive.

Many people find out that once they find a trailer they like, they have to trade their vehicle for a bigger one. We did. We had a perfectly good truck, but it wasn't enough truck for the trailer we chose as right for us.

Take your time, check out lots of trailers. See if you fit in the bed—RV beds are smaller than regular ones, usually several inches shorter. A double or a queen is not the same size. Sit on the toilet and close the door and see if your knees fit. Some models have very little space in front of the toilet. Some of those same models have the double bed next to the toilet and you can't open the door all the way—see if you fit through the half open door.

If you want to come to Colorado to ski, the grades on I-70 are 7% maximum and long. Downgrades require good brakes and a trailer substantially heavier than the tow vehicle is a concern. Vehicles run less efficiently at altitude and a moderately powered vehicle in the flatlands will be underpowered going up Vail Pass. While many people use their Airstreams in the winter, it is not considered a four season trailer and will use a lot of propane for heat, especially if you have a trailer with panoramic windows. Towing in the snow in Colorado would be a challenge and a 4wd tow vehicle would necessary. Storms can come up suddenly and drop feet of snow; roads can be closed. I doubt there are any RV campgrounds open near ski areas except for a few state parks with very limited facilities in winter. I've lived in severe winters for 40 years and have driven through feet of snow, but wouldn't do it with a trailer. It can be done, but be aware of the drawbacks and you might be late getting to the ski area or getting home.

But there's plenty you can do with an Airstream and you can come to Colorado the rest of the year.

Gene
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Old 04-23-2009, 10:42 PM   #14
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How about a vintage fiberglass unit?

Welcome to the Forum, IronGiant! I am skeptical that you can find an Airstream that light. If you are new to trailers and you aren't ready to change vehicles, I'd like to suggest a moulded fiberglass trailer (Boler, Scamp, Trillium, Bigfoot, etc). They are very light, and have the same curves as an Airstream. We have had 2 small fiberglass trailers, but sold one when we got the Airstream (too many trailers, too little time). I still don't have the heart to sell our first fiberglass trailer. It is too adorable and it gets just as much attention in campgrounds as our Airstream. Also, they are fairly maintenance free. They don't have wood-rot issues that other vintage trailers have. For a family your size, you should consider a 16 or 17 footer, rather than the more common 13 foot size. On the down side, they don't have thick insulated walls and floors like Airstreams, so that means they would be really cold in December, but we do know people who have tried it. I'm not brave enough for winter camping, even in the heated Airstream.

You can check out my website (www.geocities.com/bolerama)
Here are some pics of a winter camper from my website. Also note the solar panels. These trailers are very easy and cheap to restore and personalize.

Best wishes with your search.
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