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Old 11-03-2013, 07:24 PM   #1
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Question Diesel or Gas Tow Vehicle

I'm shopping for a truck to use as my tow vehicle, and I'm leaning towards a GMC Denali 3500 dually with 4WD (comfort is a big factor in my selection, as well as towing capability).

My question is whether or not it makes much of a difference if I go for a diesel engine or gas. I've never had a diesel vehicle before, so I figure there will probably be a learning curve with the scheduled maintenance as well as the different feel. I don't mind going through the learning curve if it is worthwhile, but if it comes down strictly to preference I would probably lean towards sticking with what I know.


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Old 11-03-2013, 09:08 PM   #2
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I currently have a '11 F-150 that pulls my TT OK, but I am about to trade up to a diesel. I will be heading out to the mountains and to a lot of other places soon, and I will just feel better with the torque and towing ability of a 3/4 diesel over a 1/2 ton gasser.

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Old 11-03-2013, 09:28 PM   #3
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What do you plan to tow? I ran a 2005 Cummins dually towing a 5th wheel and the brute power was great. I now have a Ford F53 V10 and love it. It's much easier to manage. Your application and use are key to the answer to your question.

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Old 11-03-2013, 09:33 PM   #4
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I am VERY surprised that there are not already many-many replies to this question. I guess everyone is busy this Sunday...and yes, the Chargers loss sux...oh well.

If you want a heavy duty tow vehicle, get the Diesel, but the large gas powered trucks can be worked hard too. The Diesel will have a longer life, but cost more up-front to acquire, but demand a higher resale value.

The heaviest duty trucks are Diesels and the lightest duty trucks are gas...but there are many levels in between.

Two things I believe...if buying used/for older trucks, the Dodge/Cummins is hard to beat...1 Ton trucks generally do not have a very comfortable ride when unloaded.

There is no clear answer...It really depends on what you want and can afford.
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Old 11-03-2013, 10:38 PM   #5
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Looks like the diesel is a little over $7100.00 for that option over the standard 6.0L gas.
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Old 11-04-2013, 04:11 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by rlwithrow View Post
Looks like the diesel is a little over $7100.00 for that option over the standard 6.0L gas.
But worth much more in tradein value. I would rater buy a used diesel then a new gas truck any time and for any model.

My old 2005 is worth more to me now then I payed for it in 2007.
Barbara and Laurent, Hartland Big Country 3500RL. 39 ft long and 15500 GVW.
2005 Ford F250 SD, XL F250 4x4, Long Box, 6.0L Diesel, 6 Speed Stick, Hypertech Max Energy for Fuel mileage of 21 MPusG empty, 12.6 MPusG pulling the BC. ScangaugeII for display..
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Old 11-04-2013, 08:14 AM   #7
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I have towed two different 5erís with both a gas 2001 Chevy 2500 6.0L auto with 3:73 gears and a 2008, 2500 Ram Mega Cab 6.7L Cummins auto with 3:73 gears.

The Chevy worked and worked hard to get the trailer and truck up to speed from any stopping of the truck and trailer. The truck needed to be in the upper RPM range before it built up enough torque to start this load. I also had very poor fuel mileage around 6 to 7 MPG at the most when puling. We had issues with finding gas station that were RV friendly when we were on the road. Most of the gas islands face the station store and it would be difficult getting in and out of the station with the truck and trailer attached.

Now with the diesel we can fill up at truck islands when we are on the road and never have a problem starting the load since the Cummins makes its torque down low in the RPM range. My fuel mileage is between 10.5 and 12 MPG when we are on the road towing the 5er.

Now as far as cost go fuel is $0.23 and maintenance is $0.06 per mile for the diesel; this includes all oil, fuel filter, transmission oil/filters and differential fluid changes.

Now what would I buy to replace my current TV if I was in the market for one? I would buy a 2014 RAM Cummins 6.7L truck with the AISIN transmission in it and it has the highest payload rating of the big three. You will also have two components that just donít break. Most Cummins engines have between 300,000 and 500,000 miles on them before overhaul and the AISIN in the C & C trucks have never needed to be rebuilt from what I can find out.
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Old 11-04-2013, 08:39 AM   #8
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I pulled the same 36' 13,500 GVWR 5th wheel (a 2000 Jayco Designer XL 3610RLTS) with a 1996 Dodge Ram 3500 dually equipped with an 8.0L V-10 gas engine/4 speed automatic transmission/3.54 rear axle ratio and a 2002 Dodge Ram 3500 dually equipped with a 5.9L Cummins HO diesel engine/6 speed manual transmission/4.10 rear axle ratio. Over the same route in the Texas Hill Country, the 8.0L gas engine got 6.5 MPG while the 5.9L diesel got 11-12 MPG. On one particular long 6% grade, the 8.0L gas engine would climb the hill in 2nd gear at 55 MPH while the diesel would climb it in 6th gear at 70 MPH.

Based on the quantum difference in fuel economy and towing performance, I'd never go back to a gas engine again for towing a heavy 5th wheel - see my signature below. Just my experience - YMMV.

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Old 11-04-2013, 10:19 AM   #9
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IMHO, it depends on what you are going to tow and how often. If you are talking about a travel trailer in the 6,000 to 8,000 range and only a couple of times a year, then, a gas truck will do you just fine. Easy to drive, easy to fuel (when not towing) and cheaper fuel for using as a daily driver or sightseeing.

If you are going to tow anything heavier, in my experience, you'll be much more comfortable with the low rpm torque of the diesel. Will pull like no tomorrow and take the steepest grades with much less "work" than a gasser. I won't go into the "extra cost" argument of a diesel over a gas engine. There are costs, but, for what you get they are worth the expenditure and the initial cost is recouped at resale or trade in. In our area the seller is usually forced to "give away" a gasser, while the seller of a diesel 4x4 can sell their rigs quite easily.

I've towed both ways, and I'll never tow over ~7,000 with anything but a diesel now. Much more relaxing towing without having to listen to the scream of high rpms out of the gasser. High rpms in a gasser isn't a bad thing, that's where the power comes in, but, it still isn't comfortable trying to talk over it or listen to the radio while the engine does it thing. The diesel just pulls...and at a much better mpg rate (though that usually is a "wash" with the higher price of diesel), but, it does mean that I can go further on a tank full of diesel than I could with a tank full of gas.

If you are going to tow light, then, if you are more comfortable with "what you know" (gas), you'll be OK. Gas engines can pull, they just do their work at higher rpms (uses more fuel). If you are going to tow heavy, then the "learning curve" for the benefits of diesel will not be a steep one and you'll be much more comfortable towing that heavy weight with an engine designed for doing just that.

Don & Bronwyn + 1 Cat; J-Lo
2014 Thor Tuscany 40RX (AKA, "The Cat House")
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Old 11-04-2013, 05:53 PM   #10
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Thanks for all of the responses... It sounds like diesel might be the better choices. The fivers I'm looking at are dancing around the 40' range (right now I like the Redwood models, but I still have a lot of shopping and studying to do). Our plan is to be traveling about half of the year, so I want to get it right the first time if I can.

I'm not worried about resale value, more interested in longevity... I take good care of my vehicles - still driving my 2000 Sierra Z71 and expect to get another 5 years out of it :-)

Thanks again - lots of stuff to look deeper into. I didn't know that the mileage was that different while towing, and location of pumps is something that never even crossed my mind!
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Old 11-04-2013, 07:24 PM   #11
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I went through that same decision process 4 years ago, spent time talking to TV owners and reading different forums for the 3 contenders. I decided on an older, used diesel truck and it has performed flawlessly in that time. I do almost all my own maintenance and have never had any breakdowns or problems. One advantage the diesel has over gas is most newer diesels have a turbo or exhaust brake, something I really appreciate going down long 6-7% grades. If you are towing short trips with no major hills, gas is fine. I know many who have over 500,000 miles on their diesel tow vehicles. Ford, GM and Dodge all make excellent trucks, there were some issues with each brand in the mid 2000s but they all seem to have resolved those problems and if I could afford it, I wouldn't hesitate to buy any one of them new. Unfortunately, my budget says keep my classic as long as I can and would stay with diesel if I were to win the lottery....
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Old 11-04-2013, 08:06 PM   #12
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One thing that most seem to overlook is how the torque of a diesel makes highway driving so much calmer. I have a 2007 Dodge Ram 2500 that I purposely bought with 2 wheel drive for the express purpose of towing. Pulled around a 24' 9000 pound race car trailer for tens of thousands of miles and I cannot tell you what a pleasure it is once you get up it to 65 mph and the torque converter locks up and it NEVER downshifts after that. Just point it down the road and it serenely goes on its way, up hill, down hill, no downshifting, no racing engine, no drama.
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Old 11-05-2013, 07:29 AM   #13
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I would summarize this way-

1-CAPABILITY, if your trailer is greater than 7K lbs or if you plan to drive in the mountains more than a time or two the diesel torque will deliver the performance needed to accelerate at an expected rate and climb grades with little difficulty.

2-COMFORT/PIECE OF MIND, stability, ease of driving, predictability when towing in the environment or loads above. With the heavier weight and suspension of a diesel there will not be any question about which vehicle is inn control (trailer/wind/weight or the truck)
2016 3500 6.7L DRW
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Old 11-05-2013, 07:37 AM   #14
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Also, agree on previous comments
-go for the used diesel
-Cummins maintenance is pretty straight forward.

06 Ram 3500 (97K mi)
11 StarCraft 35' Autumn ridge (10K lb)

We get out 1.6x per mo. and go through significant mountain ranges at least once/yr

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