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Old 07-19-2002, 09:36 PM   #1
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Which is best tow vehicle Van or Sedan?

We just purchased a 72 AS that is probably 31 feet long (how do I measure it ???) and has two axles.

I have been trying to find a three or four year old Dodge Van with the 5.9 liter engine as my ideal tow vehicle.

My tow vehicle will however be my full time Real Estate vehicle as well. I drive about 60,000 miles a year or more.

I am now thinking to expand my search to large engine, full size sedans as well.

I am starting to realize QUICKLY that I should check here with you folks BEFORE I make any of these big decisions...

Which would be the better tow vehicle and why; full size sedan with large V-8 or Large Van with large V-8??? AND WHY please?

I look forward to learning from y'all the many things that I have not considered in this decision...
Our real estate site is:
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Old 07-19-2002, 10:44 PM   #2
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What I have...

I tow with a 1 ton 4 wheel drive pickup truck with a 7.4 litre or 454 cubic inch V8. I cannot imagine towing a 31 foot trailer with anything less than that. My next truck may be a dually pickup, because of the stability the dual rear wheels add. Some here will no doubt disagree with me, but I have a lot of experience towing everything from heavy equipment, water tanks, hay, you name it with a pickup and trailer, and I know how different loads "feel" and what "feels safe". Get the biggest tow vehicle you can afford, with a big block V8 or diesel. Get a good brake controller and have it and your trailer brakes adjusted properly. If you do not feel safe, you won't be safe. Having a safe tow vehicle makes your trips much more enjoyable, and you will have a tendency to want to use the trailer more, because you won't be afraid to go anywhere in your Airstream.
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Old 07-20-2002, 06:40 AM   #3
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The number one choice in deciding a tow vehicle is always SAFETY and STABILITY.

A fully loaded 31 foot trailer is a lot of trailer.

Sedans built over the last 20 years are just not equipped or cannot be properly fitted to tow anything other than light utility trailers, very small boats or maybe a little pop-up camper. The radiator/cooling systems alone are just not up to task, let alone the drivetrains and frames. I had a 1980 T-Bird with a V8 that had 1-inch thick raidiator that would overheat pulling a 16ft racing saiboat. The boat hardly weighed anything and it was just me and a crewman in the car on flat land.

Taking into consideration and posting your day-to-day use is a very important part of your decision.

Since you are not fulltiming, this should drive your choices. In your case, at this time your Business needs are what is driving your decision.

What ever Truck platform you choose should have a Factory installed towing package installed. These usually include a heavy-duty radiator, transmission cooler and the lighting/brake wiring harness installed already. A 31ft trailer will need the best aftermarket hitch system that you can afford.

Also remember that since you are using this as a primary business vehicle, you will have a nice tax advantage that others usually do not get.

You will get a lot of suggestions on this one. Mine is:

1 A 4 door Chevy/Ford/Dodge 3/4- 1 ton crew cab pickup with a camper shell/cap or solid Tonneau bed cover. This will let you seat 5 people very nice for your real-estate biz, yet let you load up for a weekend or 2 week vacation.

2 A Suburban/Navigator properly equipped. Same reasons-seating.

Good luck on you decision:
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Old 07-20-2002, 11:51 AM   #4
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My '01 Chevy 2500hd 4X4 with 8.1 liter 340 HP gas engine, 5 sp. Allison automatic and 3.73 rear end ratio does an excellent job of towing my '77 Excella 500 31' trailer. It is an extended cab but is offered in a crewcab also. Also available in these platforms is the 6 liter 315 HP gas engine and 4 sp. 4L80E auto transmission. Make sure if you go with the 6 liter, get the 4.10 rear end rather than the 3.73. If your travels keep you away from mountains then the smaller engine will save you gas to and from work. If you want to save even more on gas, the Duramax diesel is getting around 20 MPG without load and between 15-18 towing.

If the idea of a truck is not to your liking and do not need 4X4, get a Suburban like Bobby mentioned.

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Old 07-20-2002, 11:16 PM   #5
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Great points. I had not even thought about a king cab truck, one of those four-door pick-ups. We had thought about a limosine; I wonder if one of those makes sense, with a big radiator, oil cooler, positraction, added. I don't know how easy it will be to find a used limo, but they seem to go CHEAP when used, even with low mileage.

I am warming up to the idea of a big 4 door pickup though. I have had suburbans and they are nice too; however they cost a fortune, even used, now in this area it seems.

I don't buy new as my mileage kills a car too fast. I prefer a vehicle two or three years old with low mileage -- so the first owner gets all the depreciation.

And, yes... we will take ALL working vacations. We plan to go out a couple of times a month at least. So the truck, trailer and trips are all business trips. I look forward to getting back into national real estate again. Kate and I look forward to lots of productive fun in our "new" AirStream!
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Old 07-21-2002, 04:16 PM   #6
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Van for towing

I use a Dodge 350 van for towing. It has a 360 V8 and an automatic with overdrive. The rear end has 3:93 gears. My trailer is not as big as yours, it's a 1971 25ft Trade Wind, travel ready about 5200lbs or so.
I disengage the overdrive when towing, and I do use 2nd gear when going up long grades. The 360V8 engine is not very powerful, but has little trouble getting up long steep hills and keeping the speed around 45-50mph. On regular straight roads, it does just fine, as a matter of fact I have to keep watching the speed, as it has it's "sweet speed" at 70mph. ( too fast for towing) Whenever you tow anything in the LA area, you have no choice but to go over one killer grade or another to get out of town, except for the Southern direction.
My van has the factory towing package and is an extended van with the long rear body extension. This is supposed to be a negative for towing, but to me it feels good. I have noticed no sway problems or other negative effects yet. Contrarily, I find backing and maneuvering in tight areas much easier with this van. Had a shorter Ford van before this. But as I said, my trailer is only 25ft. I like the van because it has soo much room, even with 7 people in it there is still room for gear and luggage etc.behind the last seat. It is very comfortable and quiet for long drives with more than two or three. It is very easy to load and unload. Try uinloading a pickup with a camper shell, you're on your knees the whole time. It gets about 7 - 9 mpg towing my trailer and has a good road feel. I use it for business, as a delivery vehicle at times, so I do have the write off, but basically I found a van to have very many advantages over Suburbans or pickups for other than towing use.
The vehicles mentioned by the other members would surely make excellent towing vehicles as well, but originally you asked about vans and sedans, and this is just my experience. I would stay away, very far away from limousines. They are often hodgepodge constructed underneath, and can usually barely support themselves, let alone a 31ft trailer. For people and trailer moving, plus for the most overall romminess, you can not beat a full size van, period. But there are not as many cool towing options and engines available, and the van is pretty much "out", at least in this part of the US.
I have not towed a 31ft trailer, but I would guess that the late model Dodge 1 ton van with towing package and perhaps some axle work to set up the gearing would do great. This just so you get some inside from a guy that is actually using a van for towing the Airstream.
Good luck!
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Old 07-21-2002, 08:40 PM   #7
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Since I posted this, I've spoken to some long time AirStreamers at the local AS park. NONE of them like towing with a big sedan. They suggested big trucks or full size vans. My first inclination was a full size, one ton, Dodge van. However, in several months I've not found any yet. Even new ones are scarce but I don't want to pay for a new one.

Thanks for the perceptive viewpoint on the truck. My knees would not like going in and out of a capped truck either. Thanks too for the data on the limosine. I thought they would be stronger, with all the weight they are desiged to carry.

Maybe I just need to reach out farther geographically, in my search for a Dodge 5.9, 3500, 15 passenger, Van... That seems to be more fitted to me as well.

I really appreciate having all you folks here as a sounding board. I am in totally new territory here and really need the guidance that you all make available.

I look forward to more feedback here as well.

Take care,

Our real estate site is:
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Old 09-29-2004, 04:09 PM   #8
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Just my $0.02 worth. If I were putting that kind of mileage on a vechicle I would have to consider a diesel. The lifespan on 250-300k miles would offset the added cost and the additional 25-40% increased fuel mileage wouldn't hurt either. Any of the 4 door pickups would be a great choice. I like the Dodge, but the Chevy/GMC has the best 4 door for comfort on the road hands down, then comes Ford and trailing behind is my Mopar.
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Old 09-29-2004, 06:47 PM   #9
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absolutely a diesel

I am not a huge diesel fan, but at 60K miles per year it is a no-brainer. That would be the only choice in my opinion. Way better fuel mileage, longevity, and resale when you're ready to trade it off. Plus they pull heavier loads really well.

As Tarheel mentions, the GM trucks with the Duramax are the most "car-like" in terms of noise, ride, handling and amenities, so would serve best with clients and for overall comfort.

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Old 10-01-2004, 12:05 AM   #10
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Which is best tow vehicle Van or Sedan?

Greetings Mr Jody Hudson!

Welcome to the world of Vintage Airstreaming!

If the choice is between an old-fashioned full-size sedan and a van, my vote would be for the sedan; but there haven't been any sedans capable of pulling a 31' Airstream since 1975 (full-size GM sedans with 454 cubic inch, 455 cubic inch, or 501 cubic inch V8s) or 1978 (full-size Ford/Mercury sedans with 460 cubic inch V8)--IMHO. While there were a few late 1980s through early 1990s GM vehicles with the 5.7 liter V8 that had close to the trailer tow rating for a 31' Airstream, they would be near or over their maximum trailer tow ratings (Buick Roadmaster/Oldsmobile Custom Cruiser/Cadillac Brougham).

I towed my much smaller (under 25') Brand X coaches with a conversion van, and despite being within its GCVWR it was among the worst towing experiences that I have had (1983 GMC Vandura G20 - - 3/4 ton with heavy duty trailer tow package). The van cost significantly more to maintain as my dealer charged extra for removing the "doghouse" cover at every oil change (amounted to an extra 1/2 hour at each oil change) - - it was necessary to complete the regular maintenance checks. I may have just had a lemon, but that van left me looking for more in every department - - durability, reliability, power, ride-quality (bucking bronco ride), and comfort (I gave up on the beast after only 45,000 miles - - 200,000 miles is my goal for each vehicle and one that doesn't make it to at least 100,000 miles is very unusual).

I would add my support to those whom have suggested vehicles such as the Suburban, Yukon XL, or Excursion. Either one of the three offer trailer towing packages with the capacity to easily handle a 31' Airstream while offering comfortable seating for up to six or eight adults in luxury approaching that of Cadillac or Lincoln when the upgraded interior packages have been selected. It still surprises me when my friends ask that I drive the Suburban rather than my full-size late-model Cadillac when we are going out for the evening. My current Suburban has covered more than 135,000 miles with the only problem area being the electronic controls for the four-wheel-drive transfer case, and I fully expect to cover at least 300,000 miles before considering a replacement.

Good luck with your search for the ideal tow vehicle!

Kevin D. Allen
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Old 10-06-2016, 10:14 PM   #11
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I know this is a old message but, put any ford eco boost against anything out there.
For a 6 cylinder, it is unbelievable. I can pull away from anything out there.
No stinky diesel, add 3500 lbs to the van and still will pull away from anything out there. Oh, fully loaded 25' up mountain. Never has gotten less than 10.5 per gallon.
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