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Old 02-26-2015, 10:51 AM   #1
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Philadelphia , Pennsylvania
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Any good new vans as a TV?

First - a brief apology. I am posting this anonymously - I have another user name in the forums but prefer not to use it at this time. As to why - I have recently been diagnosed with ALS. I don't really want it to be public for the time being.

So to my question - we own a 2015 25' Silver Cloud. Empty wt is around 5600 lbs. Loaded probably 6500.

We're thinking of replacing our TV with a van that could eventually converted for a wheelchair.

We can afford a new TV.

What have people's experiences been using a van as a TV?
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Old 02-26-2015, 11:25 AM   #2
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Sorry about your diagnosis. Best wishes you can enjoy traveling as long as possible.

We had a significantly smaller trailer, but we towed with a Ford Club Wagon (E150) for about ten years, and we loved it. Tons of room, room for anything you want to bring along. Towed great with a nice long wheelbase (that was the standard 9 passenger model). Capacity was about 6600lbs, but that was a '95 model. Seats came easily in and out and changed positions to suit our needs. We actually kind of miss it now that we have the Flex.

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Old 02-26-2015, 11:47 AM   #3
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Years ago, we bought a 27' cabin cruiser; and the boat dealer used a Ford, 9-passenger van to tow it to a nearby lake for the demo ride. The boat and trailer combined weighed was about 10,000 pounds, and the dealer said that they often used the van to tow larger boats to and from San Diego (from Phoenix).

Not sure if this was a 3/4 or 1 ton van, but it certainly didn't have any problems towing our cabin cruiser. However, I should note that the tongue weight on a boat is considerably less than most Airstreams. For our boat, it's only about 250-300 pounds; and that's on a triple axle trailer.

When you go vehicle shopping, just make sure to figure-in the weight of a wheel chair lift and associated equipment to the tongue and total weights you anticipate towing.

On a personal note, sorry to hear of your diagnosis. Each day is a gift, and continuing to travel and camp while you are able will build memories for you and your family.

Best wishes for the best outcome possible...
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Old 03-01-2015, 02:25 PM   #4
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2003 25' Safari
Culpeper , Virginia
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We have a 2003 25ft Safari and towed it with a 2001 Ford E-150 XLT passenger van until 2013 at which time we purchased a 2013 Ford E-150 XLT passenger van since they were going to discontinue them. Both vans had four captains chairs and one bench seat. The 2001 had a 6,600 lb towing capacity and the 2013 has a 7,000 lb capacity. Both vans had the 5.3L V8 with towing package and heavy duty suspension and transmission coolers. We have been to the rockies twice and to Newfoundland and have no problems towing with it. It may not be as comfortable as some of the newer pickups, but it does well and everything stays dry inside. We are partial to vans, the current one is our fourth full size van since 1976.
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Old 03-01-2015, 02:29 PM   #5
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2006 23' Safari SE
Biloxi , Mississippi
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B/Sprinter as a tow vehicle, it does not get any better.

Do you know what a learning experience is? A learning experience is one of those things that says "You know that thing that you just did? Don't do that."
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Old 03-02-2015, 10:57 AM   #6
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1975 31' Sovereign
mohrsville , Pennsylvania
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new vans

This is my first time responding to a question.I have trailer-ed for over 40 years all with a van
I have towed with every type of van made and you can all have your loyalties however there is only one van that does it all and that is a Nissan NV van.The van has a pickup nose on her so all engine maintenance is a breeze as would be repairs.It is rated to tow 9500 pounds and I think it could do more.I was towing an 1987 32 foot Excella 1000 and it towed it like it weighed 2000 pounds.They are priced less than the Fords and the GMC/Chevy
The van has a 5.6 V-8 318 HP and 388 pounds of torque.You can also get them as a high top. The Sprinters as far as I know have a 5500 pound max,I looked at them years ago and they could not handle what I needed in a tow Vehicle,also they are super expensive to
repair.Good luck with both a van and your health
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Old 03-02-2015, 11:16 AM   #7
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I've seen suburbans with wheel chair set ups and they will pull anything airstream has.
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Old 03-02-2015, 11:52 AM   #8
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1989 34' Excella
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We have had Ford Window vans, 1977 150 (351cid) and 1987 250.(460CID) Ram 250 440CID They all pulled well. Lots of room for stuff. Little more side force from passing trucks than the Silverado 350 Dually we pull with now. We did have rod bearing problems eventually.
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Old 03-02-2015, 11:57 AM   #9
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I've used vans for a long time and currently have a 3/4 GMC Savana. I ordered it with the 6 liter gas engine with a 4.10 rear axle. Bottom line it has a 9,900 towing capacity. I also test drove a Ford E-350 van with the V10 gas engine. I decided GM because of two factors. One was the Ford gas mileage was less than GM vans. Secondly, ordered vans are given high priority in the build process. With all the GM vans being built locally in the St. Louis area, order to delivery time was 2 weeks. Pretty remarkable.

Some considerations to know. In most vans, the transmission and rear axle options will vary between half ton and 3/4 ton models. In my case I wanted a suspension and vehicle to pull a heavy trailer. Previously my half ton van was pulling 6,000 lb 27' 2001 Safari. One of the things I didn't like was that the transmission could not use OD when towing as per the owners manual. Towing limit on that van was 6,500 lbs. My 3/4 ton has a heavier duty transmission which GM notes that OD can be used as long as the transmission is not "hunting". Another interesting note was that my mileage when towing with the 5.7 liter gas engine on my half ton van with that Safari was about 12-13 mpg. With the 3/4 ton in OD pulling a 8,600 lbs Classic, my mileage is almost identical. Where the gas milage is different is when I am not towing. My half ton van did 15-17 mpg where my current 3/4 van is around 13.

Other things to consider, is that towing capacity when you get into 1 ton vans is actually less due to the heavier weight of the frames. So bigger isn't always better.

Also remember factory passenger vans are lighter than buying a custom van. A custom van's towing capacity may be reduced from factory specs due to the custom interiors. Adding mobility equipment to any van will reduce towing capacity so don't cut yourself short. A good mobility dealer will know and provide you a sticker to put on the tow vehicle which notes its new capacities once modifications are made.

Another thing to consider is that most auto makers will provide financial assistance in modifying a vehicle for folks with physical issues. My wife has difficulty walking and we usually carry a mobility scooter with us. We bought a new Hyundai SUV. We had a small lift device installed inside the rear of the Hyundai that would lift her scooter inside the rear. Cost was $1,400 with Hyundai paying $1,000 of that cost. Note that the modification had to be done within 6 months of us buying the car new. You also need a note from your doctor noting your condition and how the modification will assist you. Funding is a reimbursement so you have to initially fork out your own money and the car manufacturer will reimburse you. Also note that each dealer manufacturer has their own rules regarding reimbursement limits, timeframes to have the modifications made, and documentation to submit. You may find that one manufacturer's vans may have more favorable reimbursement allotments. In our case we had to supply a doctor's letter, sales receipt for the car, receipt from the mobility servicer who mad the modifications.

Passenger vans are easy to modify over having to modify a custom van. Also note that custom van windows are cut by the custom van builder. Factory passenger van windows are stamped. This means you have better protection from rust around the window frames. Many custom vans develop rust stripes because water can sometimes get around the window seals.

One last thought, avoid vans that have extended lengths where there is a noticeable overhang behind the rear axle. At one time Ford and Dodge vans had these extended length vans. Handling of these vans has been noted by safety authorities. You usually see them at schools and some churches. At the school I used to work at, we had limitations on passengers due to these problems. GM has an extended van also but they expand the wheel base to account for that extension of the body. No issues on the GM vans.

Here's a link for some more information about manufacturer rebates.

Rebates For Wheelchair Vans and Handicap Accessible Vehicles

Let me know if you have questions.

Jack Canavera
AIR #56
'04 Classic 30' S.O.,'03 GMC Savana 2500,'14 Honda CTX 700
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Old 03-02-2015, 12:58 PM   #10
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Mission Viejo , California
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Sprinter 3500 can tow 7500 pounds with the v6 diesel engine.
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Old 03-02-2015, 02:40 PM   #11
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Kenn22--sorry to hear about your diagnosis, and very excited as to how you're going to make the most of it.

We tow our 2009 28' International at 6980 loaded with a 2013 one-ton (3500) Sprinter van. We chose the Sprinter for its handling and its attractiveness. It has a monster load capacity (11,000 lbs; 7000 lbs rear axle) and should be able to handle everything you need with your special cargo as well as your trailer's tongue weight. It is rated to tow 7500 lbs. The small diesel does a nice job with the 4.1 differential, as long as you don't want to pass people going up steep grades. If you tow 55-60, you'll see towing mileage around 14 or better. If you do 75 (80 is legal towing in Texas, for example), you an expect that to drop to 11. Non-towing mileage averages around 19--if you do 55-60 highway, you'll see some tanks at 21. Very nice for a vehicle with such a large frontage area. It handles brilliantly, with a great ride, and can be customized easily to look quite beautiful inside. The factory tow package included a great computer program for towing--we have a very smooth experience, even in high crosswinds. Sprinters come in three heights and three lengths (over two wheelbases.) They'll tell you that you can't get the lowest one (inside height 5/5") in a one-ton, but that's not true, and if you decide to go ahead with it, I'll be happy to share how to get that ordered (the other ones have 6'5" clearance or more inside.) Because we go to windy areas (we're windsurfers) a lot, we wanted the Sprinter with the smallest side profile. By the way, I do recommend that you order from the factory, but that is a four month process from order date to delivery. This way, you can put on all the goodies that you want and none that you don't. We have all the airbags that Mercedes offers, cruise control, heated seats, special headlights, etc. We ordered a cargo van with the "mobility package" which consists of factory headliner, side liners, windows all around, interior lights and an aux battery for appliances, and then fully customized from there. For your purposes, a passenger van with the rear seats removed might work well, too.

We looked at the Nissan. We liked the specs, and liked the look in the lowest model, but though that the taller ones were not well designed aesthetically (and we needed more room for our gear--you may not.) But the towing and non-towing mileage were not impressive, and we found all the interior appointments a bit chintzy compared to the Mercedes, so we went that way.

American vans can work well, too. But they tend to be more "van-like" in appearance and appointments. Unfortunately, Ford's new vans did not have enough towing oomph, so the American van available to us was the Chevy. But they didn't offer the more sophisticated transmission which we were used to in our Suburban, nor did they offer a diesel, which made sense to us, so we passed there.

If budget is not your primary concern, I think the Sprinter is the way to go. We only have 27K miles on it, 1/2 of which is towing, so I cannot yet speak to long term durability. But can be very nicely appointed, and handle ridiculously well for something that large.

Jack makes some excellent points about manufacturers helping out with mobility costs--didn't know that. You'd need to check that out with Mercedes.

By the way, we purchased our Sprinter out of town, but had the custom work done here in Los Angeles. We purchased out of town because we were very impressed with our salesman, who now runs his own dealership. The combination of his knowledge of Sprinters and his ability and desire to make sure that we got exactly what we wanted is extremely rare. We purchased two years ago, and still correspond every few months as we learn more, and he share this information among his customers, like a mini forum

Please don't hesitate to write directly if you want more information.
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Old 03-02-2015, 03:43 PM   #12
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1982 31' Excella
Missoula , Montana
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I used own a mobility dealership. The one thing I know is to see your local Occupational Therapist that deals with mobility issues, I think the state can recommend some good ones or they may provide that service, all states are different.

1. Unfortunately you will eventually need a heavy wheel chair. So find out what size lift you will need.

2. Talk to the handicap van conversion people. They will be able to give you weights of lifts, type of van needed to do what you want. What they would recommend.

3.The time to plan is now, and you are doing the right thing. All this equipment is expensive, and only buying it once helps greatly. A good OT person can direct you to all the places that can assist you. There are many government programs both state and federal to help cover some of the cost. You paid for it so go get it.
Make sure you know how to qualify so you don't get sideways right out the door.

Happy trails to you and your family.

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Old 03-04-2015, 06:45 AM   #13
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Philadelphia , Pennsylvania
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Where I get my medical care they have an ALS clinic, which I went to yesterday. I met with the MD, OT, PT, Speech therapist and the ALS Assoc Social Worker - all in one afternoon. Amazing.

The Social Worker has connections with local companies they recommend for van conversions - so I will definitely contact them. Right now I am not very affected (mild gait issue and some weakness in 1 hand). We want to travel in our AS for as long as possible. Eventually I'll need a motorized wheelchair - hopefully years away.

It sounds like the Sprinter, Nissan or GMC would work. We'll look at all three after we talk with the conversion folks. Fortunately we have resources so the cost is not insurmountable. I'm retired but amazingly, the company I worked for will cover 100% of my DME equipment - even van conversions!
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Old 03-04-2015, 07:43 AM   #14
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I think you can configure the new Ford Transit to be a contender in this comparison as well. (Ford Transit Towing Guide) In the 13,500-lb GVWR configuration it's rated to tow between 7100 and 7600 lb (depending on the length and roof height you select). That configuration is available only with the diesel and the 3.73:1 rear axle. If you prefer gasoline power, the 12,600 lb configuration of the Ecoboost comes close, rated to tow 6700-7300 lb. It's on par with the Sprinter, which makes sense because that's the big competition in the flat-side van segment.

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Old 03-04-2015, 09:22 AM   #15
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This will get the job done with ease, The Nissan NV passenger van , for your wheel chair use get the high top It won't need any body mods to accept the w.c. lift and have plenty of head room.

I test drove one with our '69 25' Tradewind and it performed great.

The picture of the high roof is the commercial version also offered for the passenger version.
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Glen & Jane 1969 all electric Airstream 25' TradeWind
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