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Old 01-10-2006, 10:32 AM   #1
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Austin , Texas
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Decision on 30 ft or 34 ft.---HELP

We need some advice on length of trailer purchase as a first time buyer but experienced tower of trailers. We will be traveling in time lengths of 2-6 mos. at a time but never full time. I am trying to make the decision on factors such as: ease of access to most parks, upkeep, togetherness/my space, ease of towing, comfort factor, etc. I have a 3/4 T GMC 4X4 300HP shortbed as a tow vehicle. From what I can figure out, it will be able to handle a 34 ft. OK, but some people seem to think not . All advice will be welcome. Thanks
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Old 01-10-2006, 10:48 AM   #2
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Welcome and good luck with decision...

There are a number of threads you can search for using "tow vehicle" or "towing weight" or "towing capacity" as the search terms here... You will also find a wide range of opinions, feelings and facts.. Sort through with care!

A couple preliminary thoughts...

1. You don't mention age, axle or other factors to nail down truck capacity. Using axle ratio and owner's manual, you should be able to determine GM's feelings about tow capacity in pounds. Most here would recommend not exceeding 85% to 90% of rated capacity with trailer GVWR, since you will add people and stuff to truck as well as trailer. Hopefully truck has tow package with heavy duty receiver hitch, transmission cooler etc, but if not, those are mandatory.

2. You also don't mention age and model of trailers. Pre-96 trailer were narrower, and thus a 1990 34' trailer might weigh only slightly more than a 2005 30' Classic.. Airstream trailer weights vary by year, width and trim/interior furnishings.

3. At that length with short bed//short wheelbase truck, I'd consider serious Anti Sway hitch, whether that be Reese or Hensley or something else substantial. That is probably bigger issue than fitting into RV Park spaces, and you'll likely be oversized for state or local parks anyway.

4. Final consideration is type of towing.. If you're going to be hauling around the western US and up and down mountains, stresses will be higher than southeastern US or Florida, where most everything is level and near sea level.

5. Finally, because the 34's require so much in a tow vehicle, you'll likely find 34's selling for about same price as 30-31's... Having third axle and extra room might be worth it if truck can pull it at same price...

John McG

In Theory, there's no difference between Theory and Practice, but in Practice, there is usually a difference...
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Old 01-10-2006, 11:29 AM   #3
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Thanks, John McG, for the info on items I had not considered. The tow vehicle is a 2000 and does have heavy duty springs, tow hitch, transmission cooler, etc. I will check out the weights and specs on the trailers.
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Old 01-10-2006, 11:50 AM   #4
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My wife and I have a 30' in which we spend 3 months at a stretch during the summer. This seems plenty big for just the two of us, and all of our stuff, of which there is plenty. The only thing I'd really like to have that wasn't offered by Airstream, is a couple reclining easy chairs instead of that god-awful couch. I think that'd make us lots more comfortable for those many evenings away from home, but that's just one person's opinion.

John McG gave some great advice on towing considerations. However, one other thing that surprised me is that when I weighed my truck and trailer last summer for the first time, fully loaded, I found that I was several hundred pounds OVER the gross weight limits of my truck (an F250- 3/4 ton - Ford 4x4).

My truck is rated for 8800# gross, but with the few things I keep in my bed, a full tank of gas, and the extra 1100# or so trailer tongue weight transferred onto the truck, we were carrying more weight on the truck than we should have been. (The trailer, and combined truck/trailer weightw were ok). Without leaving the wife at home , I don't know how we can cut this weight much. I think my next trruck will have to be a 1 ton, F250.

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Old 01-10-2006, 02:12 PM   #5
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The truck you describe is the same as my 2003 2500hd Ext cab 300hp 4x4 4.1 rearend. 9100lbs is the max tow capacity on mine. One of my WBCCI friends tows with the Sub 2500 3.73 300hp and does just fine. You will be at the max lbs particularly if the 34' is a 96 or later. May not want to haul too much in the truck. If you are patient in your driving style(not in a big rush in the mountains),you will do fine, if not, better get a duramax allison gmc diesel.
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Old 01-10-2006, 03:17 PM   #6
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You will never regret pulling a 34' in lieu of a 30'. It has less weight per axel than the 30' and more "get away from each other" room inside. With the 34' you do have to pay attention to getting in and out of campsites, but you need to do that with any size rig. Happy hunting.
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Old 01-10-2006, 06:14 PM   #7
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If you like space, the 34 is the most Airstream has to offer in a trailer. The older ones can be picked up (as said above) for about the same price as a 30 or 32. We decided to go for extra legnth just for that reason. They are not that hard to park. Its all in what you can get comfortable with. They tow like a dream. If it wasn't for the weight, I would forget it was back there. Mabe we camp in all the wrong places, but I have never been told my airstream wasn't allowed because of its legnth. You have to remember, there lots of longer and taller rv's out there these days. I found some of the best campsites are for shorter trailers. My interpretation of shorter is vertical.
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Old 01-10-2006, 06:20 PM   #8
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Smaller campgrounds, as well as some county, state, and federal campgrounds, limit the length of your coach. You may want to take a look at the places you want to stay, and make sure you will be allowed to park there. Max trailer length in our federal parks near where we live is 30'.
I agree that if your tow vehicle can handle the load, the 34' coach is much more roomy for almost the same cost, they also tow more smoothly than the 2 axle coach when properly set up.
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Old 01-10-2006, 06:21 PM   #9
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There are state campgrounds in VA that say the biggest they can accomodate is 30'. We have rallys in these same campgrounds with 5-6 34' trailers. I asked the ranger why they said they couldn't handle anything over 30' then let us in with no problem. They said that they wanted us to call ahead so they could set aside the bigger sites. If we just came in then maybe they could or maybe not. I love my 34' and I was looking for a 28' when I bought it.
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Old 01-10-2006, 07:04 PM   #10
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It's amazing what 4-5 ft can do in a trailer. We have a 29 that we are selling and moving to a 34'. The 29' is great for 2-3 people for weekends and a couple week vacations. I didn't see ourselves using it for 2-3 months at a time when we get to retirement age. We have only been able to use the 34' one weekend since we got it but it is definately bigger inside and out. Until you get used to it, it may seem almost huge. I think for us the 34' will work well as we mostly stay at private campgrounds. As far as towing, I didn't notice much difference. I don't know that you would go wrong on either choice. If you were spending long periods of time in it and had the proper tow vehicle, the 34' better choice. Rich.
2010 43' Newmar Dutch Aire
formerly 2006 34' Classic

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Old 01-10-2006, 07:59 PM   #11
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Many National Park and National Forest Service campsites are limited to trailers with a maximum length of 25', but it varies. Often the large campers must use the commercial RV parks - which have amenities, but often lack beautiful locations.
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Old 01-10-2006, 08:52 PM   #12
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Smile Great info above! You can't lose either way honest!

Both sizes have lovely trailers. Great points made above about practical considerations re tow vehicles, etc. Some folks like Road King Moe and Porky Pig travel lots in a 34'--they have great info and posts on the forum, you might want to check them out. No matter the size, Airstreams are beautiful trailers! You know it might just be something you find that you really love that fits your budget, needs, etc. You can find plenty of nice places to camp, sure size might limit some campgrounds but like was suggested above, you can always inquire. Last May in Shenandoah we saw a freakishly huge Prevost moho at Big Meadows in the park (with a toad no less). They camped just fine. Had to be 40' just the moho. Great park and scenery. We're in our second airstream, and can't say enough about how great the trailers are. Good luck with your decision! Half the fun is planning and deciding!
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Old 01-11-2006, 06:51 AM   #13
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I can't tell you too much about towing a 30'. I've towed a 26' Overlander, and our current 34' and I don't see much difference. I've never had a problem parking my 34' anywhere. You may not be able to leave the tow vehicle hooked up in some of the smaller parks, but I've yet to be refused a site because of a 34' trailer. As TinSista said, many, many mohos are at least that long now...

The ride of a 34' is exceptional. We've forgotten small, light items on the dinette table and found them exactly where we left them hundreds of miles later down the road...

We like our pre-widebody 34 and tow it with an Excursion. The Ex is nearly maxed with it, and I'd never try a widebody 34' with an Ex, but the combo we have works well for us. The only time I'm ever sorry I have a 34' is when I have to pay for maintenance or tires on that extra axle...

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Old 01-11-2006, 07:43 AM   #14
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Regardless of which one you choose

Here are a few items that you need to consider with your tow vehicle beyond those already mentioned.

First off the factory towing package transmission cooler that GM installs is woefully undersized, especially when a heavy trailer is involved. We install the largest Hayden Transcooler in each and every GM tow vehicle that we outfit. The Hayden fits perfectly in the same general location as the factory and is about 3-4 times larger. Keeping that tranny cool is the most important thing you can do if you want to avoid breakdowns and costly repairs.

Second, the GM factory hitch receiver is a poor design and based on what we and many others have discovered, is poorly constructed. Over the past several years a significant number of A/S owners have experienced partial or full failure of this receiver. GM's latest attempt to fix the issue is to simply add a bracket that bolts the receiver to bumper in addition to the frame. We have seen numerous cracked welds with this receiver. The receiver may be fine for lighter loads, but for more significant rigs, such as a long A/S, get it replaced. We recommend the Reese Titan Class 5 receiver. It is a direct bolt-on replacement for the GM factory unit and does NOT attach to the bumper. GM rates their receiver as a class 4/5 unit, but when you put the Reese and the GM side by side the difference is so dramatic that you really have to wonder. The ONLY downside of the Reese Titan Class 5 receiver is that it is a 2.5" opening and your equalizing hitch (regardless of manufacturer) is a 2", so you have to insert a reducing sleeve into the receiver (which Reese sells). As this is another item that can get lost, we have the sleeve permanently welded at the back side into the Reese Receiver when we do the installation.

Lastly, even though your vehicle is prewired for towing, one thing that you must know to activate the charge line wiring is that a fuse MUST be installed in the relay/fuse box under the hood (on late model GM trucks/SUVs). When you buy the GM brake controller pigtail harness, GM includes the fuse, but as it is labeled as the second battery fuse, so it is confusing. Again, the fuse MUST be installed. Who ever installs your brake controller, just make sure that they know about the fuse.

Lastly, I will comment on 30 vs 34. I talk to a lot of owners of both lengths and some that have owned both. The feedback is mixed and tends to boil down to personal preference. Some feel that the added length of the 34' is well worth the extra care that must be taken in finding gas stations where you can manuver and the fact that finding a parking spot in state and national parks can be challenging. Others have moved from a 34 back to a 30 for those reasons. Still other customers love the 34'. No one ever complains about any difficulty towing the 34 vs 30. The only other downside of the 34' is that everything comes in sixes (ie brakes, tires, shocks), so maintenance comes at a higher price as these items tend to require replacement as a group.

David Tidmore
GM Roger Williams Airstream
Weatherford, TX
david & bret
'02 Bambi LS
'99 34' Limited
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Old 01-11-2006, 10:57 AM   #15
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Austin , Texas
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I really appreciate all the inputs for selecting our 1st AS (30ft vs. 34ft). We are going to look at a couple of 30 ft'ers this weekend. At this point I am leaning toward the 30-32 ft primarily because of my tow veh. and the fact that most of my travel will be in the west and northwest. Again, thanks to all.

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Old 01-11-2006, 11:09 AM   #16
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We've really enjoyed our 34' and would find it difficult to go any smaller. With the exception of one occasion, we've not had any trouble getting in and out of filling stations (the one time involved actually unhooking and repositioning the truck). Typically a good idea to plan routes and, most especially, turns in advance, and anything which might create a tail dragging situation. Beyond that, it tows wonderfully, plus I like having two additional braking wheels with the third axle. Very easy to back up - I can typically put it right where I want it on the first try - even in the dark.

I also like the fact that you don't see the long long trailers on the highway as much as those 32' and under. Get more gawkers.

I don't know what year model you're considering, but if you are serious about a 34', a pre-widebody is about all you'd want to take on with your current truck, and I believe that would be right on the borderline. In contrast, a 3/4 ton with a Duramax/Allison combo, or even the ZF-6 manual, and I'd think you'd be just fine.

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Old 01-11-2006, 02:05 PM   #17
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hi nail44 and others

there are many many issues to consider when selecting a trailer;
having decided to go air'........
thankfully most of white box/5er issues have been eliminated.

also many ways to solve the trailer size/tow vehicle equation and money is a significant factor known only firsthand.
my preference is to select the size/layout trailer that will serve best and them bring the t.v up to spec.....

you haven't indicated if your trailer shopping is new or used.

i divide the long trailers into:
1. late 05 and newer,
2. wide body years up to mid 05 and
3. prewide years

with the added issue of slide/no slide.

you have suggested long trips so again selecting the space you will live in is paramount.

how many travelers and how much gear?
this is a very important issue if you plan to travel much because for wide body years the net carrying capacity (ncc) can be a little as 600-700lbs, which imo restricts utility on extended travel trips. some 30/31s have more capacity for gear than 'bigger' 34s.

so don't just focus on size but look closely at base unit weight, fluid capacity/weight and net carring capacity for any given trailer.....

mid '05 and new have uprated carrying capacities of 1700-2700 lbs. so they are better suited for extended travel or 'bringing stuff'. this is true for 30/31s and 34s from mid 05 on....

others have offered volumes of good advice here so search the many threads on selecting a's all here somewhere!

it's a fun challenge to sort out what you need from what you can afford, while accounting for the t.v. upgrades or replacement, hitch, mirrors, generator and other costly items.....and it's no wonder that many folks start with a smaller unit, up grade every few years while leap frogin' tow rigs...

have fun looking, expect to make mistakes, and keep up informed.

it's amazing how many costly mistakes can be eliminated if folks post what they are considering here......and have a thick skin for the advice that follows.

i very much like the 34/triple axle solution....

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