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Old 01-27-2018, 08:33 PM   #1
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Gas vs Diesel for Towing a Fifth Wheel?

I have some issues picking a suitable towing vehicle to haul a travel trailer. Gas vs diesel for towing a fifth wheel? Which one is better? Any suggestion?
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Old 01-27-2018, 08:37 PM   #2
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If trailer is within the tow vehicles real world capabilities both can perform well

Diesel will always have edge when it comes to towing overall.
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Old 01-27-2018, 11:02 PM   #3
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Also the diesel can use an exhaust brake, an added safety feature for long descents, especially mountain passes. Even with my smallish travel trailer, it's something that I'm very happy I have.
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Old 01-28-2018, 02:11 PM   #4
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Diesel will give you greater torque and mpg. Always a better towing option.
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Old 01-28-2018, 02:39 PM   #5
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Several years ago I bought a new truck for towing a TT. I went with gas because I was only towing within California and I only drove the truck 7k miles per year. The TT was 4k pounds. Gas seemed to make sense to me.

My brother tows heavy, tows across the Rockies and puts a lot of miles on each year. He travels 6-8 months per year. It seems to me that it makes sense for him to have diesel.

From my perspective...

Low miles, light weight, not mountains gas may be the better choice.

High miles, heavy, mountains then diesel is probably the better choice.
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Old 01-29-2018, 05:13 AM   #6
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Ah, the age old question

Well we just sold our 2013 3/4 ton Ram crew cab with the Cummins diesel. Had it four years and put 57K miles on it towing our 30' (7500 lb) camper all over the USA. Many, many mountain passes. Almost every possible scenario you can think of. Virtually, coast to coast and border to border.
Due to family circumstances, we will only be camping close to home for the foreseeable future.
I bought an older 3/4 ton gasser to use for local camping. It's a Chevy with the 8.1 liter engine and Allison transmission. Plenty of power for our needs.
We took it on a 100 mile shakedown run yesterday. First thing I noticed... was the constant downshifting even on mild grades. On the level the Chevy pulled fine. On a steeper hill it could not maintain 65 mph and the speed kept dropping until I crested out. I know the diesel would have handled this route without a single downshift.
Even though the Ram outweighed the Chevy by a ton or so, the Chevy is very stable going down the road and I would call it even on that count. BTW the Chevy has about a foot shorter wheelbase.
As for fuel economy? From what I have heard, the Chevy will not be easy on my wallet. From many tankfulls experience I can tell you the diesel will probably get you around 10 or 11 mpg while towing. I was able to get almost 20 mpg just out cruising w/o the TT.
So if you plan on long range high mile trips... go diesel. You will not be sorry.
You will save a bunch if you can do your own oil changes and fuel filter changes. The cost of DEF is not a big deal in the big picture.
One other thing: We bought a no frills truck(Tradesman) that had been on the lot for over 6 months for right at $40K. Four years and 3 months later with 57K on the clock we sold it in a week for $32.5. Yes, a new one like that goes for a lot more today but that's pretty dang good. Also, we never had a mechanical issue and it rode like a dream. Very comfortable and NOT noisy.
Have to admit... I miss it.

Had to add this: Be aware of the extra weight of the diesel cutting in on your load capacity. If you are for sure going 5th wheel then be sure to go one ton. 3/4 ton diesels can pull a lot but won't carry much.
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Old 01-29-2018, 06:00 AM   #7
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I have towed with both. Diesel hands down for towing. But with diesel you get a slight bit more hassle, but advantage is well worth it. The higher initial cost of the diesel engine is mostly recouped when you sell or trade it in.

Diesel fuel has 20% more btu than gasoline. Also at higher altitudes the turbo diesel will lose bery little power. A naturally aspirated gasoline powered engine will lose 3% of it's power for every 1,000 feet elevation gain. So if you are out west diesel makes even more sense.

Now, a turbo gasoline engine like the Eco-boost also loses power at elevation but not as much as non-turbo.
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Old 02-02-2018, 11:22 AM   #8
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And it all depends on what level of 5th wheel is being considered and where it will be towed. Say, for instance, the new lighter weight, so-called "1/2 ton towable" 5th wheels. Just about everywhere, the gasser in a 3/4 ton will barely break a sweat. Sure the diesel wouldn't even know it is back there, but given the thousands of dollars in initial cost between gas and diesel, one has to figure if it is worth it. I don't.

As far as fuel economy, yeah, on a mpg basis alone diesel wins, but one should really look at cost per mile. For instance, I filled up the other day with E85 blend in my 2015 3/4 ton Chevy for $1.60 a gallon. Diesel is going for roughly $3.20 in my area.

Now, let's say I get an average of 18 mpg in a 3/4 ton on diesel for all miles (city, highway, rural, etc). That equates to roughly 17.8 cents a miles fuel cost. I average roughly 11 mpg for all miles on E85 in my 6.0L 2015 2500 gasser. At current E85 fuel cost, that is about 14.5 cents a mile fuel cost. A full 3 cents per mile savings in a vehicle that cost me $6000 less to buy (compared to the diesel version) and will still pull around everything I need including a 14K dump trailer and does just as well pushing snow. So, that is why I don't have a diesel. Not worth it.

I do own diesels, but in my commercial stuff. So I am not averse to diesels. I just don't like spending more than I have to in order to get the job done. And on top of that, I am not running in areas that I need to do serious grades in hills above 5000 ft elevation. Now I will admit, in mountain areas, one really should consider diesel. It does have its place. But the majority of America is not above 5000 feet and not mountainous.

Work the numbers and see what fits your game best. There is no one size fits all answer.
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Old 02-02-2018, 02:49 PM   #9
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You guys have me freaking out about towing in Colorado this summer - knock it off!
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Old 02-02-2018, 03:10 PM   #10
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The diesel is better , but if the trucks are identical except for the the engine , either will work fairly well. If going with a gas engine , make sure it has a 6 litre engine or bigger. The fuel economy will be lower with gas , empty and loaded. If the majority of the trucks use is for towing , I would strongly consider the diesel . If most of the driving will be without a trailer , the gas will work just fine. As long as you have a 3/4 ton or better , towing should be no problem.
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Old 02-02-2018, 06:19 PM   #11
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Thanks to OP for posting this - I'm looking at the same decision. Another factor - conventional wisdom says that diesel engines run many more miles than gas. But I assume that Ram 2500 diesel and gas trucks are very similar besides engine. So while a diesel with 140K on it might have a ton of engine life left, what about the rest of the vehicle? It's gonna be just as worn as the gasser, right?

Or from another angle, is the premium you pay for a diesel for the longer engine life, or the better performance?
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Old 02-02-2018, 07:08 PM   #12
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So while a diesel with 140K on it might have a ton of engine life left, what about the rest of the vehicle? It's gonna be just as worn as the gasser, right?
I'll tell you when I have to replace things like wheel bearings, etc. I'm at almost 100K miles, and just now getting around to replacing brake pads, and thinking about my third set of tires.

I had a '79 MBZ 300D that went 600K miles, original transmission, two engines, one wheel bearing replacement, I can't remember how many brake pads, two sets of brake discs in front and one in back, and three vacuum pumps.

And four rear window seals. The rear window seal gave me more trouble than anything on the car that moved for a living.
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Old 02-02-2018, 09:13 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Steverino View Post
Thanks to OP for posting this - I'm looking at the same decision. Another factor - conventional wisdom says that diesel engines run many more miles than gas. But I assume that Ram 2500 diesel and gas trucks are very similar besides engine. So while a diesel with 140K on it might have a ton of engine life left, what about the rest of the vehicle? It's gonna be just as worn as the gasser, right?

Or from another angle, is the premium you pay for a diesel for the longer engine life, or the better performance?
I think the thing you have to worry about the most in today's vehicles is electronics, or failure of. And of course this issue goes with any of the vehicles, gas or diesel.

As to the second question, you are paying the premium for both, longevity AND towing performance. Once you tow a heavy load with a diesel, you won't go back to gas, that's how much difference there is. Notice I said heavy. If you're pulling a pop-up, it doesn't matter.
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Old 02-03-2018, 12:39 AM   #14
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Yeah, even with some gas engines, the engine will outlast the vehicle itself. For instance, the L96 6.0L in my 2500 has a established track record of going well over 300,000 miles in commercial use before needing a major repair. Most folks will trade off their pickup before that or it will die of body cancer. I put on less than 6000 miles a year on my 2500. I am more than certain that the pickup is likely to die a horrible death before that gas engine in it fails. That is, if I don't sell it first. My intent is to hold onto it for a long, long time.

About the only time one actually gets full blown use out of a modern diesel engine, even in a pickup, is if they are doing commercial activity like transporting trailers from manufacturers to dealers. They rack up serious miles in a year, so it is realistic that they will put on significant miles before the vehicle itself falls apart. What these guys rack up in one year of commercial hauling, it takes the average user 4-5 years to rack up.
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