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Old 04-02-2006, 03:30 PM   #1
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OK guys, our van is starting to look like it won't be lasting too much longer. We need to replace it.

Right now we are pulling a Fleetwood colonial popup. That is light and not too big of a deal. We are thinking about getting a lite wt TT in a couple of years, so want to get a tow vehicle that can handle that.

We want a conversion van. Either a Chevy Express or Ford Econoline. We don't really want a suburban, but will get one if we have to. We can't get a truck, because we need to seat 7. Any recommendations, tips, or warnings?

Thanks for all the help.
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Old 04-02-2006, 03:30 PM   #2
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OK guys, our van is starting to look like it won't be lasting too much longer. We need to replace it.

Right now we are pulling a Fleetwood colonial popup. That is light and not too big of a deal. We are thinking about getting a lite wt TT in a couple of years, so want to get a tow vehicle that can handle that.

We want a conversion van. Either a Chevy Express or Ford Econoline. We don't really want a suburban, but will get one if we have to. We can't get a truck, because we need to seat 7. Any recommendations, tips, or warnings?

Thanks for all the help.
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Old 04-02-2006, 05:01 PM   #3
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I towed a Wilderness 29S for years with a Ford Clubwagon Chateau (F150). It had the 351 engine and the E40D transmission. It did a great job in most terrain. If you stay light on the trailer, you can do the same. If I had a chance to do it over I would have chosen an F250 or F350 van. Just more headroom in the weight area. Good luck!
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Old 04-03-2006, 04:42 AM   #4
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My uncle tows a 36' TT with a E250 conversion van. He only tows short distances and says it handles great. I personally would be leary with a trailer that long with a conversion van. You need to watch weights closely with conversion vans. The conversion will eat up GVW quickly. I would think anything over the smaller ultra lite trailers, you will be looking at 3/4 to 1 ton vans.
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Old 04-03-2006, 04:55 AM   #5
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if you get a conversion van, try to find one one a E350 chassis or a gm 3500 chassis
that way you wont run out of tow weight so fast.
get a diesel if you can s queeze it
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Old 04-03-2006, 06:22 AM   #6
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We ordered an E-350, v-10, 4.10 RA, Chateau and got it a year ago. It has been great. It seats 7 but the seats are easily removable to haul bigger things. We have 9750 miles on it now. It is not my daily driver, but I do enjoy it. It has a gcwr of 17,700# and the van itself has a 8,700# gvwr. The van weighed 6,540# with just me and a heavy tool box in it. It is just over 84"tall and has a long first step to get in.

We tow a nearly 8,000# TT and get 8.4 to 10.5 mpg. As I said in other listings, we haven't found a hill or gas station it didn't like. We get between 14 and 16 mpg w/o the TT.

We have taken two rather large trips with it and have enjoyed it. We are planning Nova Scotia in the future and think this will be a great vehicle for it with the TT.

There aren't many vans with the big engine in them out there, thus we ordered it. I had talked to some other v-10 van owners before and they all liked them. One family had 9 children, I think, and pulled a TT similar to ours.

Good luck.

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Old 04-03-2006, 06:27 AM   #7
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Thanks guys. Our last conversion was a Chevy G20. We did not have a trailer then. I will look into the E350 and 3500. Is the E350 a ford econoline model? And the 3500 and express? We don't want too large of a trailer. I would like an ultra lite. Does anyone happen to know the GVWR of the conversions? Does the conversion really take away that much from the GVWR. Also, the sticker in the van door that lists GVWR, isn't that the factory rating BEFORE the conversion? I was looking at one trailer and the GVWR was like 10,000lbs. That is so heavy. But that is fully loaded isn't it? Let's say I get a E350 or the like. What weight trailer am I looking for? We need to sleep 7. Don't slide outs add to the weight? I would like to get one with 2 sets of bunks and a sofa bed plus a queen bed for dh and me. Am I totally off on this. Should I through the conversion van out the window and go with the suburban. We just love conversion vans.

Thanks
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Old 04-03-2006, 06:32 AM   #8
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Consider looking at the Jayco Jayflight line. They are relatively light weight, full featured travel trailers. If you want to go even lighter you may want to look at hybrids.
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Old 04-03-2006, 12:11 PM   #9
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Mamaloya

GVWR = Gross Vehicle Weight Rating. The GVWR is established by the manufacturer. This the total amount of weight the vehicle can carry on it. The conversion company does not alter this total amount. The items added by the conversion process just "eats up" some of the extra carrying capacity that existed in the van. For illustrative purposes only (not actual numbers):

Van
GVWR = 8,700
actual weight=5,500

Conversion Van
GVWR = 8,700
actual weight = 6,400

In this example, the standard van could carry and additional 3,200 lbs of people, cargo and trailer tongue weight. The conversion van would only have 2,300 lbs available for the same items.

As you can see from my signature, I have a large family and a large van. The Ford E-350 is a great tow vehicle. When my family was smaller, I had this same trailer and towed it with a 1/2 ton Suburban. There is no comparison. The Suburban is a great vehicle, it was just beyond its capabilities. My trailer is a light weight trailer with no slides.

As I was looking online for a van, I did find a few used 1 ton conversions vans with diesel engines. They are hard to find, but if you look they can be found.

I had the choice of going V-10 or diesel and chose diesel. It's a personal choice, but fits me well. At the time I was looking, a V-10 with the 4.10 axle rating had the same Gross Combined Vehicle Weight Rating (total of van and trailer) as a 7.3 diesel with 3.55 axle rating. The 7.3 with 4.10 offered 1,500 extra pounds. Diesel is an expensive option, that's one reason I opted for used. As they depreciate, the difference in costs becomes smaller between the gas and diesel engine vans.

Keep doing your research and you will make the best choice for you and your family. There is no one right choice or there wouldn't be any others!
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Old 04-03-2006, 04:38 PM   #10
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Thanks 8isenuf. It is great to hear from another big family. We want more, but it seems the Lord has other plans for us.

So are you saying you like the E350 better than the 1/2 ton suburban? We rented a E350 on a recent trip. I liked it, but me climbing around buckling carseats and collecting shoes and jackets and/or sleeping kids was a bit crowded. We like the conversion van because there is so much room. If the suburban is a better vehicle, we will get it though. It is way easier to find a used suburban than a used conversion van. Especially if you want it already tow equipped. Hate to spend another $500 adding the equipment.

On the diesel topic. What is the diff? I don't really get your explanation. Are you saying they are cheaper to buy, cheaper to put gas in, cheaper to repair, etc??? An old neighbor had one and it was loud. I also think I heard somewhere that you have to turn it on and let it run a little before you actually go. Is that true? I also remember hearing that it is easy to turn a diesel engine into a vegetable oil engine? Kinda crazy sounding, but I think they said a lot of farmers in the midwest (you area maybe) we doing it to their tractors. Not that I would do it, but if gas prices keep going up, it may be cheaper to go through the McDs drive through to get gas.

I think a hybrid would be nice. I will look into the different trailers you mentioned, RKamperRV. dh thinks that I am overplanning since we don't plan on buying a TT for a few more years, but we keep our vans til they die. He likes to go with the flow. We balance each other out. Once he sees the floor plans for the TTs, he may change his mind though and get one sooner.
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Old 04-04-2006, 09:23 AM   #11
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<BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-title">quote:</div><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-content">Thanks 8isenuf. It is great to hear from another big family. We want more, but it seems the Lord has other plans for us.

So are you saying you like the E350 better than the 1/2 ton suburban? We rented a E350 on a recent trip. I liked it, but me climbing around buckling carseats and collecting shoes and jackets and/or sleeping kids was a bit crowded. We like the conversion van because there is so much room. If the suburban is a better vehicle, we will get it though. It is way easier to find a used suburban than a used conversion van. Especially if you want it already tow equipped. Hate to spend another $500 adding the equipment.

On the diesel topic. What is the diff? I don't really get your explanation. Are you saying they are cheaper to buy, cheaper to put gas in, cheaper to repair, etc??? An old neighbor had one and it was loud. I also think I heard somewhere that you have to turn it on and let it run a little before you actually go. Is that true? I also remember hearing that it is easy to turn a diesel engine into a vegetable oil engine? Kinda crazy sounding, but I think they said a lot of farmers in the midwest (you area maybe) we doing it to their tractors. Not that I would do it, but if gas prices keep going up, it may be cheaper to go through the McDs drive through to get gas. </div></BLOCKQUOTE>

The 1/2 ton Suburban is a great vehicle, just not for towing when you have a big family. My '98 has a GVWR of 7,300 lbs. It has the 5.7 (350 c.i.) engine and 3.73 rear end. When I was using it to tow, we only had 3 kids, plus me and my wife. The total weight was not to exceed 7,300 lbs including vehicle, people, stuff, fuel (44 gal tank)and tongue weight of trailer. A good rule of thumb is that the tongue weight of a conventional trailer should be 10% - 12% of the trailer's weight. With about 700 lbs of tongue weight, we were well over the total vehicle weight. The 3/4 ton had a GVWR of 8,600 lbs. We would have been o.k. GVWR with a 3/4 ton.

The other issue was GCVWR (Gross Combined Vehicle Weight Rating). This is the total amount the suburban and trailer could weigh when fully loaded and ready to go (fuel, people, stuff, propane, water, clothes, food, etc). In 1998, if I remember correctly, the 350 w/ 3.73 rear axle had a CGVWR of 12,500 lbs. We were over in that figure as well. In 1998, a 3/4 ton Suburban with the 454 (7.4 liter)would have worked for us.

I do not know the figures on the newer Suburbans (after the redesign)but I would think you would need a 3/4 ton Sub with at least the 6.0 liter, but probably the 8.1 liter, depending on the total weight of the trailer you plan on purchasing in the future.

My 99 E-350 has a GVWR of 9,100 lbs (I think) and a CGVWR of 18,500 with the 7.3 liter diesel and 3.55 axle ratio. A quick comparison between the 1/2 ton Suburban and the one ton E-350 indicates 1,800 lbs more weight able to be carried by the vehicle (granted the van weighs a little more and the diesel engine weighs more) and 6,000 lbs more CGVWR.

Figures on newer models may and probably will differ!

I chose the diesel for many reasons. To get the same GCVWR as the diesel with 3.55, I would have needed to purchase the V-10 with 4.10 axle ratio. The V-10 and 3.55 would use more fuel than the diesel with 3.55. The V-10 with 4.10 would use a lot more fuel whether towing or not towing. The diesel engine (on average and when properly maintained)has a longer life expectancy than the gas engine.

The diesel is an expensive option if ordering new (over $4000 I believe). I purchased our van used (5 years old) and I paid around $1000 more than a comperably equipped gas engine van.

As I was looking for vans on the internet, I found a couple of places you could look and get an idea about one ton conversion vans. One place to look is [URL=www.akautos.net]. You can watch ebay and search for diesel conversion vans. I also was looking but couldn't find a location in Charlotte N.C. I believe that rented E-350 conversion vans (some were diesel) and also sold them used. I thought the name was Adventure Vans but my google search didn't seem to find them.

I hope this information helps you. Again, there are many good choices. Just be sure and do your research so you don't buy something now, in two years purchase a trailer and then discover you have too much trailer for your van or Suburban. I don't think a 1/2 ton conversion van would give you enough GVWR or CGVWR to tow much more than you have now with a large family and kids that are growing bigger by the year. Just my opinion!!!!

Again the key is research the facts on your own. Look at the figures and don't listen to the salesman. On the trailer be sure to look at both the listed empty weights and the total amount the trailer can carry. The difference in these two numbers is the amount of stuff you can take along. Check the figures carefully. The "empty" weight may not include propane, air conditioner, spare tire, awning (just about anything that is an option).

I hope this is helpful and I haven't rambled too much.

David a.k.a. 8isenuf
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Old 04-04-2006, 12:15 PM   #12
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Thanks David, you were quite helpful. I looked into the hybrids a little this morning. I focused on fleetwood and jayco. The fleetwood pegasus is nice. The two bunk ends O1Q adn 1D) fold out and there is a sofa and dinette bed as well. Looks like lots of storage room. They are priced at about $16K new. They GVWR is 4600. I could tow that with our Astro I think. I think our Astro is either 4300 or 5300 GVWR. I need to check. The newer Astros are 5900. If I could find an Astro that has the captains seats we may like that.

I just ran out to double check the GVWR of our van, and the sticker is gone!? I don't know what happened to it. How can I find out now?

We are also looking at the Jayco Feather EXP 213. It is about $20K. It has bunk beds in the back, bike storage, queen slide out bed, sofa and dinette sleeper. Its GVWR is 5500. Prob is that once you figure the vehicles dry weight, your cargo carrying capacity is quite small.

The fleetwood leaves a 1200lb carrying capacity and the hitch wt is smaller. I like the fleetwood because of the wt and the 2 bunk ends (feels more like a tent), but I like the bunk beds in the Jayco. The kids are getting older and wanting to sleep alone. If we had enough tow capacity, Jayco makes one with 2 sets of bunkbeds.

I went online to look at vans as well. Not much look. All of the big vans seem to be cargo vans. I will check out the website you gave me. Someone on post here (we are army) is selling a ford Econoline, 1999 conversion for 6,500. good price. I need to find out if it is an E350 or not. Not sure about the mileage though. It has 113K. Our 1996 only has 110K.

So many decisions. When I think we have made a decision, I will run it buy you guys so you can poke holes in it for me. After looking at the hybrids, I am pretty sure we are going to get one of those. Will try to go to the dealer tomorrow and browse a little.

Thanks again for all of the info.
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Old 04-07-2006, 12:12 PM   #13
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If your main desire for the conversion is the 7 passenger seating, you can search for an E-350 with the Chateau package. It is top of the line and only comes with 7 passenger seating. If you search Autotrader or E-bay, see if you can specify "Chateau". This my help you at least find some comparisons of things available around the country.

As for trailers, we've found that individual bunks work great. We have 4 bunks in our bunkhouse. When we first purchased this trailer we only had three kids. Each kid had their own bunk and we could keep the table as a table. Now all of that has changed, but we are so greatful we purchased the unit we did, so that when our family expanded, we had room.

David
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Old 04-08-2006, 05:42 AM   #14
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One other thought hit me after my last post. With a very light trailer, you may be able to use the 5.4 liter V-8. You would have to crunch the numbers. It is the base engine in the E-350 line and available in the E-150. Certainly there are many more conversion vans in the 1/2 ton E-150 line, but I would check the numbers very carefully before purchasing. Also, think about your family expanding in the future, maybe not in number, but in size Kids have a tendency to grow and as they grow they seem to want to take more things with them. Kids are not the only ones that want to take more things either The more storage space we adults have, the more we think, "I could really use ... next time we go camping." Before you know it, we've added hundreds of pounds of items to have 'just in case'.

Again, whatever your choice, just make sure to work the numbers yourself. Know what you need before you fall in love with either a tow vehicle or trailer, or be prepared to make additional adjustments (more money needed) in the near future.

Happy Hunting
David
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