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Old 11-27-2020, 12:48 PM   #1
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Tow Vehicle for Flying Cloud/Bambi 20FB - Newbie Needs Help

I know questions like mine below have been asked and answered many times, and I've reviewed and learned a lot from reading some earlier threads, but I just want to make sure I understand the proper considerations in choosing a tow vehicle.

I hope to purchase, probably next year, a used Flying Cloud 20FB or perhaps the new Bambi 20FB, so essentially the same model. My current vehicle will need to be replaced sooner. My replacement vehicle also will be the tow vehicle for my future 20FB, and so I want to make sure whatever vehicle I buy can tow the trailer safely.

My ideal vehicle is a full-size pickup such as a RAM 1500, Chevy Silverado, etc., but I have an undersized garage and those won't fit. I need a vehicle that is not longer than 218" and I'd prefer something at least a few inches shorter so I don't have to park perfectly each time. Anyway, I'm basically looking at a smaller pickup or a larger SUV.

The Bambi 20FB has a GVWR of 5,000 lbs (3750 dry) and a tongue weight of 540 lbs. I've read that for safety/performance reasons it's advisable to have the tow capacity of the TV exceed the trailer's GVWR by at least 20% and I've also read that Airstream may understate the actual tongue weights by up to 15%. So I think I want a vehicle with a tow capacity of at least 6,000 lbs and capable of handling a tongue weight of 625 lbs. Sound about right?

I've also read that with SUVs in particular payload is a concern. While mindful of that, I expect it would rarely be an issue in my case. Most often I will use the trailer alone (for fishing trips), but even family outings shouldn't add too much weight as it would just be me, my wife and our two dogs and we wouldn't be taking many toys along. So I figure with a trailer tongue weight of 625 lbs, another 350 lbs for passengers and dogs, and another 225 (likely less) for cargo/stuff, that anything with a payload of 1,200 lbs or more should be fine. Does that sound right?

I haven't test driven or even really looked at any vehicles in person (Covid concerns), but based on internet research I've identified the following as possibilities (the specs below assume I purchase a max tow package, which I intend to do; some of the specs may be off as not all manufacturers list everything and I found some conflicting info, but for now I'm assuming they're more or less accurate):

Trucks: Chevy Colorado (7700 towing capacity/1550 payload/770 tongue weight); Toyota Tacoma (6400/1095+/640); Ford Ranger (7500/1560+/750); Nissan Frontier (6380/1360/638??)

SUVs: Ford Expedition (9300/1750/930); Chevy Tahoe (8200/1698+/1000); Nissan Armada (8500/1542+/850); Dodge Durango (8700/1412+/870)

I've eliminated some other SUVs (Range Rovers, etc.) either because they're more than I want to spend and/or they're "too nice"--not necessarily with the trailer, but the vehicle will often be driven on forest service and other gravel roads. Of the vehicles I've mentioned above, I have concerns about the Tacoma's payload, the specs of the Frontier and not sure I'm really a Nissan guy anyway and I just don't like the looks of the Durango, and so my early top contenders are the Colorado (or comparable GMC truck), the Ranger, the Expedition and the Tahoe. I'm open to buying a used vehicle as long as it's under 3 years old and doesn't have more than 30,000 miles. A used Tahoe is especially appealing as the 2020 and older models are a bit shorter than the 2021s.

So to sum up:

1. Are my calculations above about what I need in terms of towing capacity, payload and tongue weight correct?

2. Assuming I get the tow package and other appropriate safety equipment (weight distribution hitch, brake controller), should the vehicles listed above be able to safely tow a 20FB?

3. Are there other factors/safety features I should consider in choosing a tow vehicle?

4. If anyone has experiences, good or bad, with any of the vehicles listed above towing a trailer that is 20' or longer, I'd love to hear them.

5. Any other vehicles I should consider? I'd like to stay under $50K, although I realize some of the SUVs I've listed, at least new, would be above that.

Any thoughts and suggestions are appreciated. Thank you.
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Old 11-27-2020, 01:10 PM   #2
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Sounds like you are on the right path.

Keep in mind that your hitch weight will be higher than the published 540 lbs. Usually add about 100 lbs to be more realistic. Older trailers might be lower.

The tongue weight is subtracted from the available cargo/payload of the tow vehicle as well as the weight of the hitch itself and some of these weight distribution hitch WDH systems can get pretty heavy.

Our Sport 22'FB has an actual tongue weight of 500 lbs. when lightly loaded but Airstream says it should 422 lbs.

Our truck has a cargo capacity of 1,500 lbs so that leaves us 900 lbs after subtracting the tongue weight and our WDH (~100 lbs) then people and pets and camping stuff and kayaks and bikes and we are nearly overloaded!!

You probably wont be if you are travelling by yourself most of the time. Just take a good look at payload and see where you will end up. The Tacoma looks pretty low at 1,095 lbs. which doesn't leave you much room once the trailer is connected.

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Old 11-27-2020, 01:58 PM   #3
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Youíve put a lot of thought into this....a good thing.
The one question I have is where did you get those payload numbers? Available payload will vary based on the TVís configuration (options, etc).
If you got payload #ís from a sales brochure, Iíd be worried. The payload # that matters is the sticker inside the drivers door jamb which is unique to that vehicle.
You may need to mask up and go look at some vehicles on the lot.
Good luck.
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Old 11-27-2020, 02:31 PM   #4
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Thanks for the replies so far. Much appreciated.

In terms of the payload numbers, I tried to get them from the manufacturer's website, but in some cases had to rely on a secondary source. Bottom line, I have more confidence in some than in others (and do recognize that the trim and features can affect the actual rating) and realize that in the near future I need to mask up and hit the pavement, but for now just trying to apply some search filters to see which lots I should hit.

I must say that after re-reading and thinking about my above post that I am reconsidering my decision to abandon the full-size pickup (it would suit my needs the best; a smaller pickup and the large SUV are both compromises with issues--the large SUVs are really expensive and the smaller trucks cost almost as much as a full-size but offer a lot less, IMO), but reluctant to get something that won't fit in the garage. Thanks again.
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Old 11-27-2020, 02:55 PM   #5
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I think you’re going about this the right way.

If you can fit a 1/2 ton pickup truck in your garage in one of the shorter configurations, that would be ideal, in my opinion. I say this for many reasons. That said, if it won’t fit, you should be able to handle a trailer that size with a variety of SUVs when properly outfitted.

This is only a n of 1, but my neighbor has been towing his ATV on an open trailer with a GMC Canyon. He told me that his loaded trailer is just shy of 5,000 lbs. he doesn’t enjoy the towing experience, especially downhill in the mountains. He described it as the trailer manhandling the truck. Additionally, he just experienced transmission failure with less than 30,000 miles on the truck’s odometer. Is this due to towing? I don’t know, but it makes you wonder....

2020 International Serenity 23 FB "Sparkle Plenty"
2018 GMC Denali 1500 Crew Cab 4x4
Airstream Club International #2805
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Old 11-28-2020, 09:46 AM   #6
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Olympia , Washington
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Please consider that the majority of RV owners trade-in their first RV within a year or two of its acquisition for a larger RV. And if you find yourself like so many others deciding that a 23 or 25 would really work better for you than your 20, where will you be with the TV you bought for your 20? The notion of "buying your 2nd RV first" would seem equally applicable for TVs.

Good luck whatever you decide.
Alta & Richard, Olympia, WA --- WBCCI 8873
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Old 11-28-2020, 10:22 AM   #7
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I previously towed a 19CB and now a 23CB with the Ford F-150 2.7 turbo 10-gear with tow package. It pulls so effortlessly that it would be easy to forget a camper is in tow. I too wanted a garage friendly TV that would also be a good round town utility vehicle, so I selected the Extended rather than Crew cab option. So far I'm happy with my choices.
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Old 11-28-2020, 01:06 PM   #8
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I have the 2019 Ford Ranger (7,500/750/1,438) and tow a 2019 Sport 22. The tongue weight jumped to 580 when fully loaded with full fresh water tank. The closest I come to TV limits is GAWR, where I'm within 150 pounds. I take a fair amount of stuff (tools, pots, etc, but no generator). I love the truck and the trailer, but I find myself thinking I should've got an F-150 sometimes to be able to bring more stuff (maybe not such a great idea). BTW, I don't have any previous towing experience, so nothing to compare to, but I feel like this combination tows fine.
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Old 11-28-2020, 01:36 PM   #9
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Can highly recommend TV we just purchased.
2020 Ram 1500 Limited Hemi
Tow capacity-1250
Tongue capacity-1045
All the Comforts of a luxurious SUV
Suspension -entering and exiting - especially for me a women.
Absolutely understand why it was voted best vehicle 2019 - 2020
Not being a truck person can’t believe I’m saying but I ❤️ it.
Oh I guess I should mention that we are have a 2018 25FT International serenity. Living the dream. Grateful beyond words. ( freedom during the pandemic) More beautiful adventures ahead.
The real silver lining is the many wonderful people you’ll meet on this journey.
Very smart asking these questions before purchasing your Airsteam . Look forward to seeing what you purchase as your TV and which Airstream size and floor plan. Have a wonderful time daydreaming all your future adventures.
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Old 11-28-2020, 03:57 PM   #10
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Check out a Jeep Grand Cherokee. 6000+ tow capacity. We tow our 16' bambi and don't know it's back there most of the time.
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Old 11-28-2020, 04:52 PM   #11
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The Jeep GC with towing package has a tongue limit of 720 and will nicely tow 23' and smaller Airstreams. Search the internet for best towing SUVs, find one that fits in the garage and has the largest towing capacity. You will not go wrong, it will give you the most growth potential, the most additional payload and the biggest safety margin. Once you have that vehicle as the base choice you can find others that you like and justify the tradeoffs from that best performing model.
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Old 11-29-2020, 07:54 AM   #12
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Thanks again for all of the responses. Very helpful, and have given me a lot to consider.

Rgentum: Given that I expect the vast majority of the time I'd be using the trailer alone, I think the 20' model will suffice, but will keep your point in mind. I wasn't aware that so many people upgraded so quickly.

LG: Great to hear you love your RAM so much. It seems that every comparison of various 1500s these days is a battle for second place, behind the RAM. If a RAM crew cab would fit in my garage I don't think I would have even felt the need to post my questions.

MSL: Great to hear about the Ranger. Definitely intend to check one out in person.

Sport 16/BB: Not sure why I had crossed the Jeep GC off my list (though I do have reliability concerns, but the sources/data points for that view are quite outdated now and perhaps the quality has improved), but will take another look.

I certainly don't want to compromise on towing safety, but as of now I'm hoping that I can get comfortable with the Colorado or the Ranger. That would likely be the least expensive option, and I also think it may be best for my daily/non-towing uses. Been driving a mid-size SUV for 10 years and am kind of ready for something different, but more importantly it seems I need to haul stuff often enough that I'd prefer to have a bed that can be hosed off rather than dirtying up the back of the SUV no matter how careful I try to be in laying down tarps, etc. But as mentioned not going to compromise on safety, and certainly have not ruled out the SUV option.

I think I'm at the point where my research phase needs to move from the computer to some car lots, but any and all additional comments are welcome.

This is a great forum and really appreciate everyone taking time to share their views.
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Old 11-29-2020, 07:59 AM   #13
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I highly recommend the Jeep Gladiator. My wife had a Wrangler JLU which I love to drive. Nothing like it when you pull the top. Fun facto 10 when you reach your destination. 7,600 lb towing...etc! I would trade my f150 for one today if I didn’t have a 25’
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Old 11-29-2020, 08:19 AM   #14
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Why not a Jeep Gladiator? Model Sport S / Max Tow Package

GCWR (combined Wt rating) 12,800 lbs
GTW (Gross Trailer Wt rating) 7,650 lbs
Max tongue Wt 765 lbs.

I have one and it is a JOY to drive without trailer. Smaller than any 1/2 ton.

Length: 218"
Height: 75"
Width: 74"

Just a suggestion.
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