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Old 12-25-2014, 12:01 PM   #1
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Chicken or Egg?

I'm on overload with the variables and hoping for some pointers.

I'm looking at getting a travel trailer and paying to have it moved and set up to live in. My first job could be as short as one semester. Then, after I'm settled in (living in the trailer), have a little more cashed saved, and before I move to another job, I'd buy a vehicle capable of towing the TT. Because I want to be able to sleep comfortably in the vehicle, when I'm traveling without the TT, I'm thinking of a Suburban. (Suburban's are plentiful and I imagine easy to have repaired. I've driven Honda CRVs for years.) I think choosing a Suburban means that a 5th wheel isn't an option -- so I'm no longer considering 5th wheels. Before I get to serious about all the stuff I'd love to have in a TT, I need to make sure my future tow vehicle can easily handle it. (Otherwise I'll go buy a 40' trailer with all the luxuries of my brick and mortar.)

I looked at the Maximum Towing Capacity of 2006-2009 Suburban 1500s
and they were 7500, 7100, 7100 and 5100, respectively. I randomly selected the 2008 to explore further and found these numbers but not a GWVRating

Wt Distributing Hitch - Max Tongue Wt. (lbs) 1065
Wt Distributing Hitch - Max Trailer Wt. (lbs) 7100
Dead Weight Hitch - Max Trailer Wt. (lbs) 5000

Now my head is swimming. I thought I'd find an GVWRating for the Suburban and could just go look at trailers that fell under a certain weight limit. I can't afford, financially, to make a big mistake.

All thoughts, opinions, suggestions, errors in my logic (if you can call it that) are welcome. I think my key questions are: Is using the Suburban as a measure for planning problematic? What's the maximum weight of trailer I should be considering.

Background: I am an educator expecting to live in a rural Texas area where I will work for the local school district. It is just my way of giving back as well as a bit of an adventure. Rural poverty and oil drilling add to the housing problems. Originally I was going to get an older RV but got scared off by all the potential problems and no where to be able to have it serviced. Now a travel trailer seems like a better idea because my dollar will go further and is mainly going to be staying in one spot. I'm considering positions down in the valley, of Midland/Odessa, close to Big Bend, as well as up in the panhandle.

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Old 12-25-2014, 01:33 PM   #2
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There are other options. You might consider a pick up and a shell for the sleeping arrangements you want. I would consider the weather in the area I was going to and try to stay out of the panhandle in the winter. It would get cold in a trailer, plus the hassle of frozen water lines and possibly plumbing. I think the rule of thumb is 1000 pounds/person for added weight.

If I were going to travel alone, I would look at the Casita or Scamp, both small trailers that would be in the limit you are looking at.

Whatever you do, have fun!!

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Old 12-25-2014, 02:49 PM   #3
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I have been doing a lot of research based on starting a business that will have me spending most of my time in a travel trailer. I have come to the conclusion that you can waste money and make a wrong decision buying too little truck (150/1500 series), but if you spend just a little more and get a larger vehicle (250/2500 series or larger) then I will be capable of towing anything I am considering with ease. Towing safety is increased with larger brakes and other heavier duty components. Can a 1500 tow a travel trailer? Yes. A 2500 can do it better with a greater safety margin.

My advice: look at 2500 series suburbans and pickups. You can't go wrong with more truck than trailer.
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Old 12-26-2014, 08:39 AM   #4
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It sounds like you are thinking this trough properly. As said, not all Suburbans are up to the towing task and 2500's with towing packages are much more difficult to find. You may want to also look at one ton vans - very versatile towing vehicles, with plenty of room for occasional sleeping and other stuff. A Ford E-350 van with a V-10 or diesel will have a 10,000 lb towing capacity with much more residual capacity than a Suburban.
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Old 12-26-2014, 08:56 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by WriteOn View Post
I looked at the Maximum Towing Capacity of 2006-2009 Suburban 1500s
and they were 7500, 7100, 7100 and 5100, respectively. I randomly selected the 2008 to explore further and found these numbers but not a GWVRating

Wt Distributing Hitch - Max Tongue Wt. (lbs) 1065
Wt Distributing Hitch - Max Trailer Wt. (lbs) 7100
Dead Weight Hitch - Max Trailer Wt. (lbs) 5000
There's not just one number that needs to be considered.

There's several, and if you wish to follow the manufacturer's recommendations, you will try not to exceed any one of them.

These numbers are, in no particular order:

"Tow capacity": which you listed as ranging from 5100-7500# probably depending upon rear axle ratio and engine. This is, roughly, the max weight of your *loaded* trailer. You will probably want to avoid any configuration with only a 5100# tow rating as that will severely limit your choice of trailers.

GCWR: (related to "Tow Capacity") is the max combined weight of the loaded trailer and truck. This is a more precise limit than "tow capacity" as it includes the truck and how it is loaded.

"Hitch Receiver Rating": this is probably what you have listed with the WDH (Weight Distribution Hitch) rating above. Hitch receivers are rated for WDH and non-WDH hitches (dead weight). As you can see, you can tow more with a WDH, 7100# in this case.

Payload and GVWR: Since 1996 trucks have stickers on the door jamb listing the GVWR (max weight of loaded truck) and payload (max weight minus curb weight as it came from the factory). When you add your weight and gear weight and the tongue weight of the trailer, they should not exceed the payload.

Trailer tongue weight IMHO should be at least 12% of loaded total trailer weight. The more the better in terms of control and reduced trailer sway. So for a 7100# loaded trailer, tongue weight should be at least 850#. You will want to be sure that any truck you buy has a payload that can accomodate that, +you +gear.

GAWR: there's also ratings for your front and rear axles, but usually for light trucks and suvs if you are not exceeding GVWR (payload), you are not exceeding the GAWR. (my truck is an exception though) .

Finally, remember that the trailer weights referred to above are the actual *loaded* trailer weights. It is simplest to use the trailer's max weight or trailer's GVWR (not the truck's!), but you can estimate what you will add to the trailer (a *lot* if you are living in it) and add that to the unloaded trailer weight instead.

Have fun.
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Old 12-26-2014, 11:53 AM   #6
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FWIW - I think you need to look at the other half of the equation. That will tell you what kind of load range you need. I would be looking at something big enough to be comfortable without getting too big. To me that is around 24-26 ft so there are separate living cooking and sleeping spaces. It's been a while since I looked at TT's but it seems to me there is a break point around there where the weight dictates bigger tires so higher/heavier unit all around. I'd go smaller/lighter in that range. Once you figure out a unit you will know what kind of weight you will be dealing with and can plan accordingly.

Even if you are looking bigger heavier you will still need to know the range you fall in. There is such a thing as too much truck. The bigger and heavier the tow vehicle the more it costs to run. You don't want to be severely over trucked any more than you want to be under trucked assuming you also are interested in being reasonably economical.

FWIW Suburbans's are easier to work on but Van's hold more "stuff". For what you want I could go either way. What you might consider is whether or not you want to end up with many passengers. A commercial van is cheaper and does not have windows if security is an issue. OTOH a Suburban has the extra seats. Picking your vehicle accordingly can save excuses. ;-) At least you are looking at both sides of the equation so you will not get blind sided by some sales dude.
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Old 12-26-2014, 06:33 PM   #7
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Which came first.. It can be demonstrated the EGG came first. but to get to your question.

Get a trailer you like, be it a 5ER or a TT (There are several advantages to a TT, and other advantages to a 5ER) and then get a tow vehicle to pull 1.5 times the trailer (the extra Headroom will be nice).

Advantage 5ER, Different handling, Different ride.

Advantage TT: you can use a SUV or a covered Pickup and use the back to store spares, A Freezer, or other stuff that will not fit in the Trailer easily (Sat TV dish for eample).
Home is where I park it!
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Old 12-27-2014, 10:55 AM   #8
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I appreciate all the comments! Some great issues have been raised and I clearly have some homework to do. Today I'm going to learn something about tires and make sure I'm having fun along the way!
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Old 12-29-2014, 05:51 PM   #9
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The way I did it (not necessarily the best ):
(Caution, long rambling post; If you have a short attention span, just skip to the last couple of paragraphs)

I got all the figures for my (then) truck. After figuring all the numbers, the biggest limiter was the rear axle weight rating (ie, how much pin weight could I handle). I then looked at a large number of 5th wheels (online and in person) and got a good idea of what trailer weight I could handle (based on published pin weights). I then narrowed the field by listing the features that I just had to have, the features that would be nice, the stuff I didn't need, and the stuff that I absolutely hated. After a few years of looking, I had it narrowed down to about 5 5th wheel models.

The one I eventually got had a dry weight about what I thought my (then) truck could handle and a "lightly" loaded weight that was right on the edge of what my (then) truck could handle and stay within the published weight ratings. I planned for a truck upgrade before going full-time in the 5th wheel.

Now that I had the 5th wheel and knew the weights, I began looking at trucks. I could use the 5th wheel with no problems, but I sure wouldn't have wanted to take it into a mountain region with the truck I had when I bought the 5th wheel. I made several trips throughout the "flat" lands during the summer. This worked out the bugs and warranty issues with the 5th wheel. I looked at a bunch of trucks in person and online. I would have loved to get an MDT (Freightliner or International), but to get what I wanted was cost prohibitive. I could afford the older ones, but the older ones with the power I set as the minimum I wanted were hard to find and sold very quickly! I kicked a lot of tires at local dealerships and stumbled into one dealership when the sales person was particularly hungry (or at least so far down on his quota) that he was willing to work with me. I didn't intend to purchase the new truck until May of 2015, so was just kicking tires. The GMC dealership had a one ton dually that met my criteria. I only had to walk out three times before they met the price I was willing to pay and only once during the financing negotiations. It helped that I wasn't pressed for time, desperation, or needy. I let the salesperson know up front that I wasn't intending to purchase for about 6 months and was just there kicking tires. When all was said and done, I had the new truck 6 months before I had really expected to have it.

I liked the Dodge 3500 slightly better, but the options I wanted were not going to be available for several months and the truck would have to be special ordered making the dealer less inclined to offer as much off the MSRP.

In other words, I bought a 5th wheel toy hauler that could be towed by the truck I currently had. I just couldn't load it up to it's maximum capacities without being way overweight. I could and did use the 5th wheel and truck for quite a few short trips. I then looked for a truck that would handle my trailer fully loaded and still have some extra capacity left for a safety margin. That way I wasn't pressed by an urgent need to upgrade the truck until I was ready and had plenty of time to find just what I wanted.

In just under 5 years from now, the truck and 5th wheel will be fully paid for and I will have 4 years of full-timing experience to know what I want for my next go round. The MDTs, HDTs, and custom built 5th wheels sure are looking nice!! I've already started looking . . .

I have some more short trips planned for this winter and spring to make sure everything works like it should. Barring any unforeseen complications, I go full-time in May!!!

Guess I should edit my sig line to show the new truck:
New: 2015 GMC Denali HD 3500 dually diesel with all the bells and
Old: 2005 Dodge 2500 Diesel

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