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Old 08-01-2020, 03:29 PM   #1
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Ford, Ram, or GM Tow Vehicle

Ready to get a tow vehicle right now before we start seriously looking at a trailer later on this Fall. I know that once we start shopping for a trailer and find the right one, we will need to have a truck ready to take possession of it.
I've never owned a truck before - our camping experience for the past 15 years has been with a 40' Class A DP and pulling a toad. We decided earlier this year to switch things around and go the truck/trailer route.

I've determined that a 250/2500 series diesel would be the best option for us since we do a lot of traveling in the mountains of Colorado and New Mexico so we want to have the convenience of being able to use an exhaust brake while heading down the mountain passes. While we're thinking that one day we might eventually go with a 5th wheel, we plan to start off with a TT. I believe that a properly equipped 250/2500 diesel truck will work well now for a TT and also for a 5th wheel if we ever decide to go that route in the future.

With all that being said, we now need to make a decision on our tow vehicle. We plan to get a new truck but not sure whether to focus on the 2020 models or wait for the 2021s. I'm sure that each brand has its plusses and minuses, but I would hope that I could learn from everyone's experience on here to help us focus on what the really important requirements and options are.

I know that there are different size engines, different types of transmissions, rear end ratios, 2WD vs. 4WD, crew cab vs. regular cab, long bed vs. regular bed, extended warranty vs. standard warranty, etc. One person we talked with at a campground even said to avoid a certain brand truck because for anything other than a normal oil change, that the cab has to be lifted off the frame just to access the engine. Don't know if that's true or not but it's something I wanted to ask and see if that should be a deal breaker.

So, please give me your thoughts, experiences, suggestion, and recommendations. Perhaps this has all been addressed previously on this forum and if it has please provide me with a link so that I can go read over it. This very well could be the last vehicle that I buy so I want to do it right if at all possible. Thanks in advance for everyone's help!
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Old 08-01-2020, 03:42 PM   #2
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First off, I'd go ahead and get a F350/3500 for the higher payload capacity.

All three make a pretty decent truck now and all three have issues with the emissions controls on the diesel. Shop and find the deal that fits your pocket book and the seat that fits your bucket.

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Old 08-01-2020, 03:42 PM   #3
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A 250/2500 diesel won't work for any mid range 10,000 lb loaded 5er. The payload on 250/2500's is much lower than a 350/3500. In a gas version you'd be fine, but since you realize you need a diesel I would suggest getting a 350/3500 diesel. That will cover you now and in the future if you decide to get a mid size and up 5er.
Most 350/3500's SRW have payloads in the 4000 lb +/- a little depending on trim levels. That should be enough for any TT and most 5ers up to around 14,000 lbs loaded.

As for brands? All are good trucks. IMO it's about comfort. I pick mine by the seat feel. I'm partial to Ram, but in all honesty Ford's probably the better truck for towing. I just like Rams interior better. Never looked at GM's mostly because I just never have been a GM person.
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Old 08-01-2020, 03:46 PM   #4
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Brand is really a personal choice. I am a Ford guy, but what size of trailer do you want? Your 40ft do indicate to me a large trailer. I would think you may want a 350 series truck.(one ton) I pull a 38 ft, 12,000 lb trailer with a f350 dually. I would not want to toe with less than that. I am a Colorado resident,. Look for what trailer- length/weight you may want, then buy your truck matched with enough truck. Then go trailer shopping.
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Old 08-01-2020, 03:55 PM   #5
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Think of it this way:

250/2500 trucks - Travel Trailers
350/3500 trucks - 5th wheels

A diesel 250/2500 truck will not have the payload beyond a smaller 5th wheel to carry the weight of a mid sized to big 5th wheel.

A 350/3500 will have more capacity to carry weight with larger axles and more capacity spings.

The 350/3500 trucks can carry roughly 1,500lbs more than a 250/2500 truck.

The most important number IMHO is 'Occupant / Cargo Capacity'(AKA - Payload). The second most important number is rear axle capacity.

Note: diesel engine, 4 wheel drive, fancy options deduct from payload.

Here is an example of my F-250 Gas engine 2WD.

Payload - 3,497
Rear Axle - 6,340

Oh - rear axle on a dually is 10,000lb capacity.

Ram, Ford, GM - flip a coin.Click image for larger version

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Old 08-01-2020, 03:57 PM   #6
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New Truck

Last fall, when we committed to a new trailer, and then to a fifth wheel, I had been 3/4 all along. Then, after a week of looking, one tons are only $900-$1100 more. At that point, the question was answered. As many say, go big or go home, I got a single rear wheel, and have been fine with the trailer I bought. At times, on a really windy day, I wished I'd bought a dually.
But as a daily driver, a long wheel base crew cab is a lot of truck.
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Old 08-01-2020, 04:01 PM   #7
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Thanks for the feedback so far. Didn't realize the huge capacity differences between the two classes. Question, can you get a 350/3500 without a dually package or would that even be worth considering?
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Old 08-01-2020, 04:16 PM   #8
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Which brand... that's pretty much a religious argument around here!

IMHO, all are good trucks, each with their strengths and weaknesses. I suggest you test drive several and figure out which ones you like best. I'm partial to Ford... but to be honest I grew up with them so I'm biased .

IMHO... get a 350/3500, they really only cost a small bit more than a 250/2500 and when you move up to a 5th wheel you'll have a lot more options. The ride quality is fairly similar. And if your willing and get a 350/3500, duallys make for a much more stable and enjoyable towing experience. Another plus to the dually is they generally sit lower to better hook up to 5th wheels. Manufacturers assume you are buying a dually to pull goosenecks / 5th wheels. Non dually, especially 4x4 non dually, often sit high enough you end up needing to raise a 5th wheel so it will clear the bed and travel level (this is very truck and trailer dependant)

I have an old F350 crew cab dually that I use to pull a 7,500lb trailer. It's nice because the trailer never pushes the truck around. It is technically over kill, but I already had the truck.

Suggest you find one with the 5th/gooseneck hitch prep kit factory installed. You'll find them a lot more often in the 350/3500.

I personally prefer a long bed for few reasons, first the longer wheel base makes for a smoother ride and helps fight trailer sway, and you won't need to worry about 'slider' 5th wheel hitches, finally more space to put junk in! Of course they penalty is a larger turning radius.

Diesel engines are awesome with crazy power... but really expensive, only you can decide if you want to spend that much. ($8k to $10k more) New diesel emissions need more care and feeding to keep them healthy and are spendy if they break.

Might look at the new Ford 7.3L 'Godzilla' gas motor, it has more HP and Torque than my 20+ year old diesel but definitely less than new diesels. I've heard a lot of good news about them. They get the 10spd transmission and maintenance will be easier than the diesels.

2wd vs 4wd... really depends on the type of camping you want to do. Going to be a pavement pounder and just go to RV parks then 2wd. Want to get off the pavement for some boondocking (BLM, Forestry service roads, etc) 4wd drive is nice for when the road is muddy or soft, helps pull the trailer.

My final recommendation is to look at some used ones... I like to let someone else take the initial depreciation hit...
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Old 08-01-2020, 04:19 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Texas Sooner View Post
Thanks for the feedback so far. Didn't realize the huge capacity differences between the two classes. Question, can you get a 350/3500 without a dually package or would that even be worth considering?
Yes, you can get them without duals... but I'm partial to the wide hips, they ride better when towing.
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Old 08-01-2020, 04:29 PM   #10
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If your unsure of brands, just look and see what hotshoters are driving. You will rarely if ever see a GM, a smattering of Fords, and a ton of Rams. But bottom like the $$$ are your to spend. So go drive all three preferably on the same road and be sure to drive similairly equipped trucks. Then pick the one your wife likes best.
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Old 08-01-2020, 04:42 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Texas Sooner View Post
Thanks for the feedback so far. Didn't realize the huge capacity differences between the two classes. Question, can you get a 350/3500 without a dually package or would that even be worth considering?
Yes a F350/3500 series is available as a single rear wheel, but again, it has less payload capacity then a dually. Look at the manufacturers Towing Guides.

The yellow sticker inside the drivers door will give you the payload capacity of that particular truck. A typical 5er will have a loaded pin weight close to or over 20% of the trailer GVWR or higher. Many sales brochures for trailers list a dry weight and a cargo capacity rather than a GVWR. Just add the two weights together...that is your GVWR or gross vehicle weight rating.

Take the estimated pin weight, add the weight of a 5er hitch, passengers and cargo. This has to be less than the trucks payload rating.

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Old 08-01-2020, 05:01 PM   #12
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Yes, 350/3500 trucks come in Single Rear Wheel (SRW) and dual rear wheel (DRW).

The axle rating on a SRW 350/3500 truck will be 7,300 to 7,600lbs.

The pin weight of a nice 5th wheel loaded will be over 3,000lbs. and maybe over 4,000lbs depending how nice. I figure on 3,500lbs.

A lot of people don't want a dually but they are not much different than driving a SRW truck. A dually tows with much better control over the trailer.

I would also recommend to buy used but not in this case because big improvements have been made in 2019/2020 model years. New stiffer frames, more powerful engines, new features.

Bias toward Ford starting now:

All Ford diesel engines produce 1050 lb. feet of torque. All diesel engines come with a 10 speed transmission. The ride and steering have been improved. This is a very smooth, powerful quiet truck. I like the keypad door lock/unlock. I also like the push button start. The key fob stays in my pocket, I touch the door handle and it unlocks, I get in and press the start button, key fob stays in my pocket.

The key pad lock/unlock - I keep some tools in my truck if I need something and I am outside I just go to the truck and type the code to unlock the door. No need to go into the house to get the key fob.

Bias toward Ford stops here:

Ram (FCA) also makes nice trucks. Ram has factory air suspension and the nicest interiors plus the Ram Box option. Also a very powerful, smooth, quiet truck.

GM is also a nice truck and has independent front suspension, heads up display with a multi purpose tailgate. Also a very powerful, smooth, quiet truck.

All three offer a factory 5th wheel prep package but Ford was the 1st to offer it. You will want this (just) $500 option.

My 2020 pick - Ford by a tiny tiny bit followed by GM then Ram.

Nit picking GM - they still only wax coat the frame. Ford and Ram E-Coat the frame. You can take your fingernail a scrape off the wax.

Nit picking Ram - the Cummins engine is refined but not as much as the Ford engine.
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Old 08-02-2020, 05:54 AM   #13
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Throw my 2 cents in. I bought a 3/4 ton diesel with the intent of towing a small 5th wheel toy hauler, but found out that with its payload (2540 lbs), I was limited to about 10K lb., at best. Toy haulers that light did not fill my needs, so I ended up getting a TT toy hauler, which the 3/4 ton does well. I just upgraded to a 1 ton SRW short bed with a payload of 3750 lbs. There are some diesel SRW long beds that have a 4400 lb payload, but for what I want, what I bought fits the bill. If I had just bought the 1 ton first, it would only have been $1,300 more. They ride the same, the same dimensions. I didn't want a DRW, but that was personal preference, and do not see getting a trailer over 15K lbs, that for me, would put me in that category.

I have the RAM 3500, they are all good, and really comes down to your personal preference and comfort. I like the RAM for the comfort, the other two just does not have that level. Ford and Chevy now have the 10 speed tranny, which I think puts it ahead of RAM in pulling and mileage. Chevy was (is still?) having problems with the new tranny, Ford seems to have done better with the new tranny (both developed the 10 spd tranny together). RAM is supposed to be coming out with an 8 speed tranny on either the 2021, or 2022.

I think technology wise, the Chevy Integrated Brake Controller for the trailer, is better then the RAM. No question that the RAM Exhaust Brake is better than the Chevy. The Chevy EB works great, but the RAM has two selectable levels on what you want. First level tries to maintain your speed, the second level is on and just slows you down. I have no experience with the Ford.

If I was to pick today, and I am not brand loyal, I would probably go with the Ford for the tranny. Just wish Ford didn't look like a '70s Peterbilt.
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Old 08-02-2020, 07:39 AM   #14
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When it comes to trucks there is very little objectivity and lots of biases, which pretty much covers my opinions. In the one ton truck category I've had a short bed GMC, a dually GMC, a dually Ford F350 and my current truck, all diesels. All of them were good trucks and did the job as asked, and safely. My favorite is my current Ford with it's 10 speed transmission and upgraded, more powerful diesel. In my mind it is the best compromise for someone wanting a capable truck without going dually. It is a long bed but it drives smaller than my previous Ford dually. I think it is because I don't have to think about what the wider rear wheels of a dually are going to hit.

With it's 4562 pounds of payload I have plenty of capacity for my fifth wheel. With the long bed I have a 48 gallon tank, a huge benefit on our all day drives. I think the longer wheel base also gives a better, smoother ride, empty and towing. Maybe a dually is more stable but I sure haven't noticed any issues. The ride we get with this truck and the new Pinnacle is the best we've ever had. Who says I'm biased but in reality the makers of the new trucks have got you pretty much covered with whatever you decide you want and need. Nice to have choices.
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