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Old 11-24-2019, 10:00 PM   #1
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Picking the best budget tow vehicle

Hi,

I’m trying to get into RVing on a budget, within reason.

I am exploring both motor homes and truck/trailers, but think the the truck and trailer will be the best fit for me and my family.

We are new to rving, but I have done extensive research on it for a few years now.

Just to give a bit of context, we are young and still have jobs, albeit remote jobs, and won’t be full timers. We will likely be more like weekend warriors with the occasional long haul trip. In other words, at most, and this might be a stretch, we would be traveling once a month. As mentioned, we would like to go on the occasional long trip out west or something, but we would likely only be able to do one or maybe two of those per year.

Also, as mentioned before I work remotely and don’t have to commute daily and don’t put very many miles of any vehicle. I do have a small car that’s paid for that would be my daily driver. I would drive this truck some, but it would mostly see use when we are towing. I know that diesels don’t like to sit, but not sure how much that need a to be factored into my decision.

Now, to my real question - I’ve been looking at some used trucks in my area and would like to get some opinions on value and performance. I have read all about the confidence of towing with a diesel, but have also read plenty of people that are happy towing with gas. I have not done much towing at all so am a bit of a blank slate in terms of expectations. I know that a a gasser has to rev up to make its power and am ok with that if I go gas.

MPG seems to be a little bit of a mute point with newer diesels now - they don’t seem get as high mpg as older ones AND diesel here is usually at least around 30 to 70 cents more than regular gas.

I would like to get truck first and then get the travel trailer. We will most likely be going with a travel trailer and I don’t we would end up with anything more than 8000lbs loaded. This assumption is based on just looking at the used trailer market in my area and having a good idea of what’s available.

I have found the following trucks and are wondering how they compare and which would meet our needs altogether.

1. 2012 Ram 2500 crew cab 2wd 5.7 hemi - $11,800 - 136,000 miles - truck is in great shape. Was a fleet truck with perfect maintenance record. Body and interior is in great shape

2. 2007 Silverado 3500 dually, 2wd, duramax - $13,500 - 189,000 miles - truck also seems to be in really good shape. 1 owner and clean Carfax

3. 1999 Ford F-250 7.3 Powerstroke 4wd - $6900 - 332,000 miles - tons of miles. Pictures look pretty good, but body has some wear.

I like option 1 a lot because it’s the newest with the fewest miles and have read the 5.7 is a sturdy engine. I know it’s the weakest on the list though. That truck still has a towing capacity of around 11,000lbs, though.

I like option two a lot but wondering if it will be it will perform so much better to justify the upfront cost difference and the ongoing additional cost of maintaining a diesel. I’ve read the the 07 duramax was a better year as they had fixed a lot of the injector issues.

Option 3 is mostly for the price. I’ve always read about how legendary the 7.3 is but this has a ton of miles and I’m sure will need other things changed out even if the engine is still good. Would you even consider this one even though the cost is so low.

Thanks in advance for the opinions a comments. I’m really not tied to gas or diesel, just looking to be as thrifty as possible. We don’t have to get anywhere real fast. Mostly just looking for adequate that will last us a while.
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Old 11-24-2019, 11:45 PM   #2
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For that weight, id say gas 3/4 or 1 ton. Fords are always cheapest because there are a ton of them available. You should be able to find a nice 05-10 ford with the v10 in that price range. A chevy 2500hd or 3500 srw would also be pretty nice in that age range with low miles. The 7.3 is reliable, but it only puts out like 180hp to the ground. I wouldnt even bother with a 7.3. If its just the two of you, you can pick up the international 4x00 series with the dt466 for really cheap and youd have to try really hard to kill that motor. I whipped the daylights out of one all over pa and ohio and it never complained once.
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Old 11-25-2019, 12:25 AM   #3
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I would go with the duramax. 2007 was a good year to have. Setting won't hurt the diesel truck as long as you keep the right treatment's in the fuel. And keep the batteries on a charger. My cousins has an 08 2500 with 20,000 or so miles on it. He just changed the batteries for the first time this year so 11 years on the original set. And for the price difference between 1 and 2 I would go with the diesel. It also has a better transmission in it. And you should get a good 150000 miles plus other of the duramax and only 100000 miles or so out of the gas.
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Old 11-25-2019, 12:54 AM   #4
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Originally Posted by Jshopes81 View Post
For that weight, id say gas 3/4 or 1 ton. Fords are always cheapest because there are a ton of them available. You should be able to find a nice 05-10 ford with the v10 in that price range. A chevy 2500hd or 3500 srw would also be pretty nice in that age range with low miles. The 7.3 is reliable, but it only puts out like 180hp to the ground. I wouldnt even bother with a 7.3. If its just the two of you, you can pick up the international 4x00 series with the dt466 for really cheap and youd have to try really hard to kill that motor. I whipped the daylights out of one all over pa and ohio and it never complained once.
Thanks for the reply..

I would love to find a Ford v10, however, there aren't really any available in my area, at least not really any worth looking at. I love everything I've read about the v10 and pretty much consider to be the best option for a gas tow rig, based on what I've read - they are just really hard to find here.

The list of options I listed in my original post are based on availability and not so much my personal preference.

I don't think we would be too worried about the low hp of the 7.3 or whatever we choose. We probably value reliability over speed.
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Old 11-25-2019, 03:16 AM   #5
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It is good advice to pick out the trailer 1st then get the truck. Since you have not towed before the best way to explain it is the gas pedal and brakes don't work as well. And towing at 65 - 70mph on the highway is not for the faint of heart. But lots of other people do it, so can you.

As you probably figured out a 150/1500 series trucks can tow 6,000 - 6,500lbs. 250/2500 trucks are better at towing than the smaller trucks and can tow 8,000 -10,000 lbs. The 250/2500 have a longer wheelbase and weigh 2,000 lbs more.
A typical 150/1500 truck will weigh 5,400lbs and a typical 250/2500 truck will weigh 7,400 lbs. If it were not my daily driver I would get the bigger truck.

2011 and newer are way better trucks then pre-2011. In 2011 GM had a redesigned truck with a much better frame and Ford had new engines. Ram also upped their game in 2011. Ram introduced their 6.4 litre hemi in the 2013 or 2014 model year.

Do not get fooled with the old 7.3 Ford diesel. That truck/engine was not very pleasant to drive. It really is a weak, noisy engine. I am not a fan of the Ford 6.8 liter V-10 either because I think it is noisy and uses way too much gasoline.

IMHO I would try to swing for a 2011 or 2012 F-250 with the 6.2 litre Boss gas engine.

My towing experience started with small runabout boats for several years before I bought my 1st travel trailer. Travel trailers are way more difficult to tow than a boat.

I have had a 2011 F-150 Lariat, a 2012 F-450 King Ranch, and now a 2017 F-250 Lariat 6.2 gas. All these trucks had/have a back up camera which is super helpful when hooking up or just backing up. I would not buy a truck without the back up camera.

If a 2011 F-250 Lariat 6.2 gas truck is out of your current budget I would save more $$$ until it was in the budget.

The 2011 2500 Ram 5.7 hemi or the GM 2500 6.0 litre gas engine are also pretty good trucks. I think Ram had the Ram boxes in 2011, that is really a cool option if camping. Ram Boxes are storage bins built into the bed. It however reduces the storage volume of the standard bed.

What the manufacturers are doing is reducing NHV (noise, harshness, vibration) in all vehicles including trucks. The 2011 trucks are more refined than the 2010 trucks. A refined truck makes longer trips more pleasant.

Good luck
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Old 11-25-2019, 11:11 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by tuffr2 View Post
It is good advice to pick out the trailer 1st then get the truck. Since you have not towed before the best way to explain it is the gas pedal and brakes don't work as well. And towing at 65 - 70mph on the highway is not for the faint of heart. But lots of other people do it, so can you.

As you probably figured out a 150/1500 series trucks can tow 6,000 - 6,500lbs. 250/2500 trucks are better at towing than the smaller trucks and can tow 8,000 -10,000 lbs. The 250/2500 have a longer wheelbase and weigh 2,000 lbs more.
A typical 150/1500 truck will weigh 5,400lbs and a typical 250/2500 truck will weigh 7,400 lbs. If it were not my daily driver I would get the bigger truck.

2011 and newer are way better trucks then pre-2011. In 2011 GM had a redesigned truck with a much better frame and Ford had new engines. Ram also upped their game in 2011. Ram introduced their 6.4 litre hemi in the 2013 or 2014 model year.

Do not get fooled with the old 7.3 Ford diesel. That truck/engine was not very pleasant to drive. It really is a weak, noisy engine. I am not a fan of the Ford 6.8 liter V-10 either because I think it is noisy and uses way too much gasoline.

IMHO I would try to swing for a 2011 or 2012 F-250 with the 6.2 litre Boss gas engine.

My towing experience started with small runabout boats for several years before I bought my 1st travel trailer. Travel trailers are way more difficult to tow than a boat.

I have had a 2011 F-150 Lariat, a 2012 F-450 King Ranch, and now a 2017 F-250 Lariat 6.2 gas. All these trucks had/have a back up camera which is super helpful when hooking up or just backing up. I would not buy a truck without the back up camera.

If a 2011 F-250 Lariat 6.2 gas truck is out of your current budget I would save more $$$ until it was in the budget.

The 2011 2500 Ram 5.7 hemi or the GM 2500 6.0 litre gas engine are also pretty good trucks. I think Ram had the Ram boxes in 2011, that is really a cool option if camping. Ram Boxes are storage bins built into the bed. It however reduces the storage volume of the standard bed.

What the manufacturers are doing is reducing NHV (noise, harshness, vibration) in all vehicles including trucks. The 2011 trucks are more refined than the 2010 trucks. A refined truck makes longer trips more pleasant.

Good luck
Thanks for the reply.. great info.

I plan to get the truck first as I would rather pick a trailer based on what tow vehicle I can get my hands on - that's just my preference. I would like to be able to actually tow the trailer I buy away when I purchase it.

With that said I have pretty much narrowed my search to only 3/4 ton and 1 ton trucks - I would rather have way too much truck than not enough. Also, quite frankly, I can't get a decent half ton where I am for any cheaper than an older 3/4 ton.

The issue here, like I mentioned before, is that I'm asking about the trucks that I have available. A v10 or a Ford 6.2 would be great, but they just aren't very common where I am and the ones that are are either brand new, which I don't want, or they're used up with over 250k miles on them and still 12k.

There are also a bunch of Ford 6.0 and 6.4 diesels that are cheap, but I don't want to get into one of those due to all the possible issues with those.

You make a good point on the newer trucks having a better, quieter ride - that's one of the big reasons I have the 2012 Ram 2500 listed above. I know the 5.7 Hemi isn't the greatest towing engine, but this is the newest truck by far. Seems like that would add a lot to the comfort and noise of the ride - and the 5.7 hemi is rated to handle pretty decent weight.

I've curious, though, if the 5.7 will be revving so much that it wouldn't be a quiet ride though. I don't mind letting the engine work, but even a newer truck may not be that quiet if we have to run at 4-5k rpms all the time.

Again, I appreciate your reply. I'm pretty familiar with the spread of trucks that are out there, but also with what's available in my local market so I will mostly be looking at what I can get my hands on around here.

We just want to do the best we can to have no or a very low car payment, which is why I'm not just going out and hand picking the exact truck I need. We just want adequate that's going to be reliable and get us where we are going.
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Old 11-25-2019, 11:26 AM   #7
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We used my inlaws 5.7 powered truck once. It was a pretty crappy drive pulling 10k. It only got like 5.5 mpg. We were fueling very frequently. If you dont need 4x4 id say that duramax is your best bet if its got service records. The duramax will run forever if maintained properly and get decent economy.
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Old 11-25-2019, 12:07 PM   #8
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One of the biggest mistakes newbies make is picking an undersized tow vehicle. People mistakenly get into the dry weight syndrom. They also forget weight of family and junk loaded in/on the truck. All of which reduce real load carrying capacity.
Picking a trailer first allows you to get the trailers GVWR and then you can make sure any TV you pick out is capable of handling the load plus family. Picking the truck first gives you the ability to load family and stuff and drive across a set of scales. Subtracting loaded weight from the trucks GVWR allows you to know how much hitch weight you can handle. There is no right or wrong. Personally I like the trailer first option.
As for your original question? Ford is too old and wsy too many miles.
Ran being a gasser will have the lowest towing ability. While Im not a fan of GM products, it is probably the best choice of the three you listed. Being a dually there will be some downsides, like 2 more tires. On the plus side a dually is a much more stable towing platform. Also with a dually you have the option of buying a fifth wheel. Which again would be my first choice. Fivers are much more stable towing.
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Old 11-25-2019, 01:22 PM   #9
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Remember, picking the TT first does not necessarily mean buying it first. I picked my TT first. Then I bought my tow vehicle. Then I bought my TT.

Pick the TT. Do the weight math. Pick the truck.
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Old 11-25-2019, 01:55 PM   #10
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I don't have a specific TT picked out yet, but I do have an idea of what we will be getting. Like I mentioned in the original post, we will be looking at something with a gross weight of around 7k to 8k lbs. That's the ceiling of what we will be looking at so it could be anything smaller than that.

I know about the difference in dry weight and gross weight and will only look at gross weights. I've shopped around enough to know what we want and around what weight it will be - I know that I have to factor in passengers, gear, fuel, etc. and have considered all that.

All the trucks listed have ratings to support this with room to spare. I would rather have way too much truck than not enough, but I DO already know the type of trailers we would be looking at. I mentioned that in the first post.

The fact of the matter is that we don't need and probably won't want to pay for anything any larger than that. Most of the trailers we have looked at are in the range of 5k - 6k lbs.

At the very least, I want to keep the weight down because I don't want to be towing a massive 10k camper around - I haven't towed really heavy before and would rather not jump right into something that big.
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Old 11-25-2019, 02:28 PM   #11
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For the weight and usage you state a large diesel is overkill. You can get a decent gasser for a small budget. In your case, I'd recommend a 2500HD or 3500HD GM or Chevy with a 6.0. The engines are real tough and enough torque for that weight anywhere. Depending on availability in your area I'd want a minimum 2008 and up model year but I'd aim for 2011- for the better frames and such.

Long bed crew cab will tow the best of the bunch. You can get a short bed but I wouldn't do that as my 1st choice. The 6L90 trans is pretty stout as well.
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Old 11-25-2019, 04:40 PM   #12
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As someone who did it wrong twice. I would advise getting the most truck you can. Towing capacity is marketing, more important is the payload. Being new to trucks and towing I bought a 1500,2500 then 3500 dually. Within two years and all new. You can't go wrong having more you will be sorry if it is not enough.
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Old 11-25-2019, 08:53 PM   #13
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2WD makes me a little nervous; there have been times I'd have been stuck without 4WD at times I would never have expected getting into a position to get stuck while I was pulling the trailer. I realize many people get away without 4WD, but I personally hate getting stuck with a truck full of wife, kids and dogs, etc.

That said, if you can get into a D-Max truck over a gasser, I'd do it. Again, its personal preference, but I think it is just a much more enjoyable experience towing with a diesel over a gasser.
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Old 11-26-2019, 06:55 AM   #14
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I agree that many pick more than they can comfortably tow. Did it myself. Don't shoot for 80-80% of truck capacity, 60-70% is easier on the truck and driver.
My (hopefully) useful input on this is why such a big trailer? If you are doing mostly long weekends and such a smaller box will be easier to learn on and require less truck. We are doing 3-4 day trips in a 19 footer with a 1500 chevy and getting 13mpg. Total cost to get in is less, traveling cost is less and it is easier to park. Yes it is a little cramped but there is a full bath, separate shower and enough room for 2.
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