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Old 09-26-2006, 11:35 PM   #1
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Shopping for a tow vehicle

Ok, we plan on getting an Airstream 30' Classic/Escella/Limited 30, possibly a 31, 1996 to 2001 range. GVWR of 8,300#, or less. I won't be getting the trailer until the house is sold, but I could be getting the truck much sooner.

I've checked out the Fords briefly. I've always been partial to Fords as an American brand, although I'm a Toyota guy from way back. I currently dirve a Toyota Tacoma and have been very happy with the truck. Ok, back to Ford. It's moved back to third in line as far as traditional American trucks go. The 6L diesel has had it's share of problems, mainly '03 and '04. I would be comfortable with a 2005 or 06 6L, but they have taken a low priority. Now with yet another new diesel, I"m a bit leery.

I have always been very leery of Dodge. I drove a Dodge just because I though, in the spirit of leaving no stone unturned in my search for the right tow vehicle, I must. I was amazed. After driving smaller and medium sized Toyota vehicles for many, many years, I jumped into a Dodge crew cab Cummins diesel for a test drive. I was very comfortable. I was at ease. I had good visibility. I was very surprised that I liked the Dodge, and could be comfortable driving one. Getting on the forums and listening to some of the complaints, especially injector complaints (injector complaints seems to be a major Ford complaint also) keeps me skeptical of a Dodge with a Cummins. Now today I see that Dodge is dropping the 5.9L Cummins as of Dec 31 and going with a new Cummins 6.7L (?). I'm not sure of any opinions of this 6.7L Cummins yet.

Then I drove a Chevy Silverado 2500 HD D/A. These seem to be highly rated by a lot of RV folks for tow vehicles. I was not the least bit impressed. I felt like I was driving a dumpster with four casters. The steering left me very uncomfortable. The brakes were so mushy I was scared I was going to crash the truck in the new car lot. Although I liked the styling of the Chevy the best (and the Dodge, at least initially, the least), I walked out of the Chevy dealership unimpressed.

Because of my poor experience driving the Chevy, I immediately went back to the Dodge dealership to dirve a 2500 to see if the impression was the same. It was. As much as I didn't like the Chevy, a few minutes later, I liked the Doge, very much.

Ok, this is a lot of money, so I owed it to myself to try again. I went to the GMC dealership to drive a Sierra 2500, just to make sure. Son of a gun if I didn't like the GMC experience much better. (I know, except for minor trim, the same vehicle). I still liked the Dodge better, but the GMC experience was acceptable. The styling was more to my liking (than the Dodge), and the general opinion among RVers seems to lean towards the Durimax/Allison. And, the supposed pro's seemed to rate the Durimax/Allison above the Dodge/Cummins. So, after the GMC experience, I could still consider the GMC.

Now, Toyota is coming out with a new 5.7L gas Tundra that's suppose to have a 10,000# plus tow capacity. They are being very mum on actual capacities, but it will be out in January, so I'll know for sure the capacity, plus what it will cost in comparison to the Dodge/GMC diesel competition. I'm real partial to my experience to Toyota, but the GMC/Dodge competition have greater tow capacities, and better gas milage.

Consumer Reports has always been queer for Toyota, but they don't rate the GMC or the Dodge that bad. And, for what ever reason, I love to drive diesel vehicles. Even though I've have very poor experiences with them (VW, Audi, Nissan), I just love diesels.

So, what's it to be? A supposedly more dependable Toyota with a tow capacity of just over 10,000# pulling an 8,300# GVWR, and loaded with all the gear of two semi-full time travelers, along with their dog and cat. Or, the suspect dependability (personal bias recognized) of a Dodge/GMC who obviously have the balls to pull the trailer, all our stuff, and a lot more?

Dang, decisions, decisions, decisions. I've got to say, sometimes shopping is half the fun, if you do it right. FWER, although I've been the least impressed with the GMC product, the thought of tooling down the road in a Duriman/Allsion rig is the most exciting.

Any rational input appreciated.
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Old 09-26-2006, 11:55 PM   #2
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Good luck with whatever you finally decide on. I know you dropped Ford pretty quick but I really love my '06 F250 PSD. I like the outside design, interior and the engine problems were worked out on the '05s. Hope you are as happy with your truck as I am with mine.
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Old 09-27-2006, 05:57 AM   #3
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I tow with a Ford Excursion diesel (like a 250) and it is terrific, although no longer manufactured. While I did experience an injector issue early on, it was corrected and I have been 70,000 trouble free miles so far.

My neighbor has a Dodge diesel, and while not knowing a lot about the Dodge, I can tell you that it is much quieter than mine. He starts his truck and you'd hardly know it was a diesel. I start my Excursion and the whole neighborhood knows I'm going out.

If I were in the market (glad I'm not), I would definitely look at Dodge.
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Old 09-27-2006, 07:12 AM   #4
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Welcome to the Forums. Prepare to become fully Alumitized.

I tow a 25' Safari with a 2500 Suburban (6 liter gas) and it works very well. I also tow the Safari with my Tahoe (1/2 ton). This works OK, but not nearly as well.

I am partial to Chevy/GMC (yes, they are the same). Look at the 8.1 liter gas; it is still available in the pick-up. With the Allison 6 speed, it is a very able TV, without any diesels hassels.

That being said, I will make one non-descriminatory suggestion. Buy a Ford, buy a Dodge, buy a GM, buy a gas, buy a diesel. but make sure that you buy at least a 3/4 ton chasis. Any of the makers' 1/2 tons DO NOT have the heavy duty components that you will need to tow a 30' Airstream.
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Old 09-27-2006, 08:59 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by moosetags
Buy a Ford, buy a Dodge, buy a GM, buy a gas, buy a diesel. but make sure that you buy at least a 3/4 ton chasis. Any of the makers' 1/2 tons DO NOT have the heavy duty components that you will need to tow a 30' Airstream.
That really is the bottom line...
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Old 09-27-2006, 09:11 AM   #6
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An Issue of scale: wheelbase, weight-ratio, and tow-rating

I agree with Moosetag's approach, and there are many discussions on this on the forum. I'll share what I've learned on the road - hope it helps. I've been towing my 27' '72 Overlander with a series of Toyota 4Runners. Works ok, but marginal in a pinch.

A recent experience with two speeding (85mph+) double trucks passing me down-hill on the PA turnpike made me wake up and smell the weight ratio. I was barely able to regain control from a wicked fishtail due to turbulance from the passers. I am lucky to also have a '92 Suburban 1500 (1/2T) with the 350 engine - never thought of needing to uses the guzzler GMC!

After that experience I tried the GMC, and what a MAJOR stability difference. I found that I needed a heavier, wider, and longer wheelbased tow rig that was a better end-to-end match with the TT. I kept trying to adjust my weight distribution/ anti sway Reese hitch on the Toyota, no changes, but with the GMC ABSOLUTELY NO sway when being passed, and better overall control and road-sense - it feels and acts STABLE!

Hope this helps.
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Old 09-27-2006, 10:12 AM   #7
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I tow a 31' with a new 2006 Chevy express full size van, 5.3L 3:73 HD rear end and I love it. I have intentionaly put myself in the situation of passing trucks and getting caught in the middle and have had no issue with sway or having enough power to get out and around if needed. Once upon a time I had purchased a E-350 15 pass 7.3L PSD for company bussiness and that was an awesom van. I did some research on the E-350 and also ran into a couple peolple that used to carry sensitive cargo coast to coast, one of the vans had 500,000 miles on it and ran like new still. Did you ever consider a van for a TV? I have enough room for my family of 5 plus 2 dogs with all of our gear and then some in our van.

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Old 09-28-2006, 02:53 PM   #8
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shopping for a tow vehicle

I just towed a 26' Airstream Overlander (dual axel 5000 lbs) across the Country. I have a 06 GMC 2500 HD Duramax Diesel with an Allison 6 speed automatic transmission. Really liked the cruise control tow haul mode going down the long steep grades,the computer downshifts the trans automatically to maintain the selected speed.
Hardly used the brakes at all, got 16.5 mpg average towing at 60mph.
I just got this truck and really like the way it tows. I love the Airstream.
Good luck on your new choice. When it comes to towing bigger is better.
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Old 09-28-2006, 08:33 PM   #9
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I'm agreeing with the responses here. Although I'm not going to jump in line for one, I know many people very happy with their Cummins diesels. 3/4-ton -- no more, no less is what you need. Suspensions are softer on the 3/4-ton 'burbs than they are on the same capacity Sierra or Silverado.

I came from the slightly heavier than Tundra ride of a Nissan Titan (wa-a-ay too low capacity to bear the hitch weight + gear in the bed!) and don't think my '06 GMC Sierra is too bad. But like 66 overland I only have good things to say about the Duramax-Allison. It will launch me down a hill in full overdrive flight if I come over the crest with power on. If the throttle is backed off in the same situation, the tranny will downshift to keep me from building up speed. I've done this towing on about 7% downgrade and actually lost speed -- what a pleasure!

The '07 San Antonio Tundra will be an interesting vehicle -- only problem being that the verdict won't be in until a couple years later. GMC and Ford are giving lip service to making the interiors as accommodating as the Tundra and Titan. I dunno -- haven't heard of anybody offering side airbags like my Titan had. And it came stock with an MP-3/iPod plug for the radio -- usually only an option on high end stereos with the Big Three.

The big issue with gasser trannys is that the overdrive searches on rolling hills and that stresses the tranny pretty bad. The recommended approach is to tow out of overdrive in all but the flattest or some downhill highways. That makes the beefier gear on a diesel more carefree IMO.

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Old 09-28-2006, 08:44 PM   #10
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Thanks for the input

Goin Campin, I haven't dropped the Ford completely. I was surprised at how it dropped in the ratings after some serious research, considering I figured Ford would be the easy #1 choice. Lots of folks seem to be happy with the '05 and '06. Certainly one of those two will be a consideration. I kinda wish I was ready to move now to get a deal on a leftover 06, but I'm probably a couple of months away from making a move. No doubt there will be some low mileage used vehicles around when I'm ready.

Drag'nwagon, yes, I've considered a van. In a lot of ways a van would be a great tv, considering I've got a cat and a dog that will be going along. It would be nice to have the cat be able to find her little nest in the back, whail the dog is doing his usual ear licking up front. It would appear the heaviest tow limit with an E350 with a diesel is right at 10,000#. That's right at the lower limit of what I think I've got to have. OTOH, it sure looks like you can get a good deal on a very low milage used E350.

Still mulling it all over. There certainly are some very good choices out there. It would appear all of them would do an excellent job if you could be assured of not getting the occaisional lemon. I'd take a Ford, I'd take a Chevy/GMC, I'd take a Dodge, from what I've seen, and be very happy. But, I'm sure leery of the occaisional "problem truck".

For now, I'm enjoying the shopping and comparing.
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Old 09-28-2006, 09:27 PM   #11
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I find this thread very interesting. I just recently purchased an 06 Dodge 3/4 ton diesel. This is the first time I have every owned anything but a GM vehicle. My prior TV was a 2000 Chevy Suburban and it was ok and did a good job pulling our 26 foot Argosy. I have only had the trailer out with the Dodge one time and the experience was very enjoyable. No comparison to the gas suburban. Now I now why a lot of people like their diesels.

I talked with a lot of RV'er and everyone was happy with their vehicle whether it was a Dodge, GM, or Ford. The first thing I discovered was that most full timers used 3/4 ton and larger pickups and most of these were diesels.

What swayed me to the Dodge diesel? First and formost was the reputation of the Cumins diesel. The 2nd reason was the possibility of better gas mileage. I got 18 mpg on the first trip and this was using the odomitor for mileage and not the on board computer. Our suburban never got more than 12mpg.

So far I am very pleased the Dodge diesel. The towing power is awsom. The biggest problem right now is holding my towing speed below 65mph during the truck's break in period. Thanks to the cruise control for helping me keep the speed down.
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Old 09-28-2006, 11:37 PM   #12
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Let me poke one in there for Toyota. I'm driving a 1993 T100 which has towed our 3000lb boat for years without trouble, and still going strong. Not a problem, ever! True, its no 8000 lb airstream, but the quality is great. I'm perched to grab one of the first 5.7L Tundras from our local dealer. I like all the gadgets in a truck to work, and keep working. No hassles. I think Toyota products have that sewn up. And, as a bonus to you guys in the south, they're made on American soil too. Okay, so i'd like the deisel option, but i'm not willing to give up that reassuring quality for it. It should tow my future 19-22 footer okay, I think. But should I opt for any tow accessories when I buy? JIm
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Old 09-29-2006, 06:11 AM   #13
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Originally Posted by Canoe stream
The big issue with gasser trannys is that the overdrive searches on rolling hills and that stresses the tranny pretty bad. The recommended approach is to tow out of overdrive in all but the flattest or some downhill highways. That makes the beefier gear on a diesel more carefree IMO.
Allisson tranny is available in the big block GM gasser
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