Think before you buy.

Discussion in 'General' started by HD883XL, Dec 9, 2007.

  1. HD883XL

    HD883XL Member

    What are you going to use your vehicle for?

    A few years back I was looking for a tow vehicle to pull our Airstream travel trailer. After much research I chose a full size GMC 3500 (1 ton) cargo van. The hardest part was finding a dealer that would order what I wanted. The catch was I wanted a big block 454 cu motor with special gearing. No dealer would stock such a truck as most people think these get lousy gas miliage. WRONG! I kept track of the milage the first year and then quit as it does not change much.

    In town not trying to get good milage it gets 12 mpg. Not what I bought the van for.

    At 78 mph not towing it gets 16 mpg. At 55 mph I don't know as I have never checked it.

    At 55 towing a 7200 lb. 31 foot Airstream trailer It gets 14+ mpg. This is why I bought the big block motor.

    People I know that have similar vans with the smaller engines get 8 to 10 mpg towing on a good day.

    Other advantages of the 1 ton truck. 95,000 miles on a set of tires. Burns regular gas. Still has the orginal brakes at 114,000 miles.

    Lately I have been trying to get better milage out of this truck and will post results as I get them.
     
  2. brick

    brick Answers to "that guy."

    Sounds to me like a case of the right tool for the right job. If you have a vehicle that does nothing but tow, you want it to have a drivetrain that operates at peak efficiency under that kind of load. I guess the big block works in your case?

    However, I think people use this principle far too liberally when it comes to everyday passenger vehicles. Cruising in a sedan on the highway requires relatively low effort out of even the modestly sized engines available today. Then there's the case of idling in traffic during the evening rush, in which case the bigger the engine the more fuel gets flushed down the toilet. Upgrading to the bigger engine doesn't do any good for the vast majority of drivers.
     
  3. jcp123

    jcp123 Caliente!

    That's about why we bought my Dad's '07 Ram Mega Cab. Although billed as a 1500, it's actually built on the 2500's frame and suspension. It has the 345ci Semi-Hemi and 3.73:1 gearing.

    We're restoring a 31' Airstream and after that, my parents plan to live at least 4-6 months out of the year in the trailer - my Dad bought the truck SPECIFICALLY for this after we found the 4.6l in his F150 to be too overburdened towing our boat, let alone a large travel trailer.

    The Hemi, though lacking some (too much, IMHO) punch in the low end, has a seemingly endless powerband, and punching the throttle to grab a gear or two gives you access to passing and climing power that belies the engine's modest displacement.

    The truck itself, now that it's broken in, gets about 16-18mpg on the highway (more on a gentle decline as from Little Rock, AR to W. Memphis, AR, where it got well over 18), and is capable of 12-13mpg in-town. The bed is reserved for a gas generator for the trailer. The Mega Cab also has plenty of room when we take 12-hour trips to skiing, and the truck is equipped with 4-wheel drive both for property maintenance on our soft sandy soil here and for snowy weather on ski trips. Towing the trailer, 12-13 mpg is about the best it can eke out, though there were flat, level spots in Iowa and Missouri which yielded almost 15 at times.
     
  4. Jrfish007

    Jrfish007 Member

    I've had the 4.6L V8 from Ford, it's not really designed for towing. Right now though I have an F150 simliar to your dad's Dodge, labeled F150, but the payload is 2300lb (making it more like a F250) and the fifth wheel towing is rated at 9900lbs. But the 5.4L with a 4.10 rear end will tow my 3-horse horse trailer just fine and gets about 14MPG doing it, it's got ample torque for what I do (torque is what tows better). Without the trailer I get about 16MPG. I don't have the big cab (just the extended cab) because for fifth wheel towing you pretty much have to have an 8 foot bed, and I need the longer bed for hauling hay and the only way to get a full 4 doors and an 8 foot bed is to move up to the F250, which costs about $8000 more. But considering this replaced my Chevy 3500 crew cab dually with a 454 (7.4L) engine that got 8 MPG pulling my trailer and 10 MPG otherwise, it's a a big step forward I think.
     
  5. BailOut

    BailOut My favorite holiday is Earth Day!

    Of course, you could just get rid of the Airstream, or at least downsize to a much smaller model. This would negate the self-generated requirement for such a towing vehicle.

    *ducks*
     
  6. ILAveo

    ILAveo Well-Known Member

    Gods of horsepower forgive me for what I am about to say......

    My impression is that many people purchase inefficient vehicles because they choose more horsepower than they need when the sales rep gets them to buy "ample" horsepower for the largest load they will pull rather than power that is ample for their typical driving needs and minimally adequate for their largest load.

    If you only pull big loads a couple of times a year you waste a great deal of money by owning a big tow vehicle (think rental instead). Even if you tow regularly, with the current price of gas, commuting in one is foolish (see sample calculation below) you can save money by only using the big truck when it's really needed.

    (12,000 mi at 12 mpg --gas costs $3000, 12000 mi of gas in a 40 MPG used Saturn SL1 5 spd costs $900. A 98 SL1 5 spd only costs about $2000--the payback period for owning/using a beater econocar in this case is about one year!)
     
  7. SlowHands

    SlowHands Hypermiling Ironman

    <hears a backfire from above> ;) ILAveo, I agree with the general principles you list above. The vehicle that I did the most car trailer towing with was a 1967 Volvo 122 station wagon... 2.0 litre engine (not stock :D) , 4spd manual trans. It did just fine with about 1000 lb trailer and 4000 lb Amphicar.

    Even for snowplowing, many people cry for 'horsepower more more more horsepower'... but there's really not that often that you need gobs of power, and most of the time if you are digging for a lot of throttle, you're better off dropping into 4-Low and don't beat the drivetrain senselessly.
     
  8. HAFNHAF

    HAFNHAF Well-Known Member

    yep, go with a car/truck that gets the job done. several years ago (well, 11 actually) i bought a 1988 jeep grand wagoneer. great for camping and towing the boat. power everything, quite the plush beast. i also used it to commute to work. all of 3 miles. so 13 mpg was not a big problem. then, 10 years ago, i got a new job with a 35 minute commute. but i still hauled myself around in a 5000 pound barn with a 360 v8 up front. but gas was cheap. about a dollar a gallon. finally it dawned on me: get a commuter car! a slightly wrecked insight was available from a friend, so i snapped it up. two years later, i am getting 7 times the mileage of the wagoneer, in a very fun to drive 2000 pound package. still have the jeep. i think the insight would have a hard time towing the boat...
     
  9. Jrfish007

    Jrfish007 Member

    Well, I'm not sure about the power thing (but you probably have never been stuck in a truck that won't pull your trailer up a mountain.) I have been stuck in that situation, and having live stock makes it even worse.

    Honestly though I think you guys are barking up the wrong tree here though. I know plenty of people driving 5.4L F150's that have never even hauled a 1000 lb trailer with it and use the bed only to take the garbage out. And then I end having to pay more a work truck because it is now designed for these people have to have their self tinting, heated mirrors with XM radio (that's my rant for the day! lol).

    Secondly, when you buy a cheap car, their are almost always reasons why the owner sold it and you end up fixing those reasons. Don't forget about additional insurance and maintenance on two vehicles. That being said, I am looking for a second "beater" car to drive:)
     
  10. Blake

    Blake Well-Known Member

    When I had two cars, it was actually cheaper to insure both than just driving one. Go figure :confused:
     
  11. ILAveo

    ILAveo Well-Known Member


    I've only ever run out of power trying to pull stumps and other trucks out of holes--I'm willing to trust you about the trailer on the mountain. I wasn't trying to tell you to not bring the right tool to the job--just that you don't need to own and commute in the biggest tool that you ever use.

    Actually, where I work does a pretty good job of not getting options other than engine upgrade, cruise and the towing package on their trucks. (I'm used to vinyl floors and hand crank windows.:eek: ) I would suggest going to a place that caters to farmers and asking for a "chore truck" --they'll show you stripped trucks that have grunt--you'll save money that way.
     
  12. Jrfish007

    Jrfish007 Member


    Here is the deal on my truck, it's an '08 F150 high payload, the payload on it is 2300lb and towing is rated high enough for me. It also weighs in at 6025lb curb weight and all high payload F150's come with an 8 foot bed. You can get standard cab or extended (I got extended because I need the longer wheel base to stabilize the trailer). Anyway, it is so rare that someone buys one of these trucks they only offer it in the XLT trim, which comes standard with all these options. This the min I need to haul my trailer.

    My alternative is to bump up to the F250, but that would cost me about $4000 more, and I would get far less. I want less option, but I won't pay more for less, if I can get fewer things and save myself some money, I am willing, but they just don't make it. Just Ford doesn't offer a 4x4 F150 with a manual transmission (in the new body style F150).

    I like Chevy's too, but they just don't offer what I need and the Dodges aren't as stable (live stock shifts weight randomly).

    And I wasn't pointing to you specifically, there where a couple of other comments of people just using to much. For the most part I agree, people need to figure how big of a car/truck they really need and then stick with that size.
     
  13. HD883XL

    HD883XL Member

    I'll add a bit more on my GMC Savanna. With the BIG BLOCK 454 and my gearing the factory rating for my towing capacity is only 6700 lbs. The whole idea here is the big engine doesn't work as hard to tow a trailer. We towed a Coleman folding trailer with a 1973 VW bus for years. I got good milage and had a lot of fun. Now we are planning to travel a lot and want a bit more comfort. Try living in a folding trailer for 4 months and you will wish for something a bit nicer.
    For economy I ride my Harley to work. At 55 mpg and only $104.00 a year to insure the bike. The gas savings of not driving my van as a commuter vehicle more than pays for the Sportster.
     
  14. warthog1984

    warthog1984 Well-Known Member

    My family is on our second Dakota (V8) after we gave the first (V6) to my sis and she junked it.

    We use/used it as a survey truck and family load hauler. We knew we wanted more seats than the Ranger could offer with a decent box and more than a 500lb bed capacity while maintaining decent MPG and a lower ride. The extended cab allows 4 comfortable seats or 6 real cozy for when we use it, the Ram frame will take a long ton if needed, and it's plenty capable offroad, but its not oversized for in-town driving and light-duty hauling which is 70% of our driving. Our boat isn't a challenge either.

    The V8 wasn't our first choice, but it was cheap as an ex-work truck.

    We have never run out of power with either, although we have to manage power and braking when overloading the truck.

    However, its always been a Secondary vehicle, with our primary car being a minivan or V6 Blazer when we were between Dakotas.
     
  15. jcp123

    jcp123 Caliente!

    My Dad's Ram was pretty carefully shopped. It had to have 4x4 to get around our sandy-soiled property, and for ski trips. Ski trips also prompted the large interior of the Mega Cab, since it's a long drive from here in E. Texas to the ski haunts in New Mexico. Plus, since we have a 24' pontoon boat and my parents got a 29' Airstream trailer they're going to restore and live in for about half the year, the large (in this case, 345ci Semi-Hemi Dodge V8) engine became a consideration as well. It proved its worth when it pulled that **** trailer up the Ozarks while barely breaking a sweat. That engine isn't loaded with low-end grunt as your traditional trailer-pulling V8 would be, so it feels pokey around town, but on the highway and climbing passes, the transmission can grab a gear or two and its seemingly endless powerband really makes this a splendid long-haul towing rig. And despite weighing in at 6000lbs curb weight, its highway mileage is pretty respectable at around 17mpg, with a best tank on the slight downhill from Little Rock to W. Memphis, AR of 18.5. That's about the same mileage my '92 Bronco got and better than my '99 Dodge Conversion van EVER got!
     
  16. Kinder

    Kinder Well-Known Member

    I know I'm coming late to this Airstream talk, but was out of town for 3 weeks...
    And think I have a good story to add to the chat.

    When I moved to Reno 3 years ago, I bought an older, though immaculate, 31' Excella 500 and negotiated into the purchase price the cost of delivering to a park I was willing to live in. 1 block from the Truckee River & flyfishing, 1.5 miles to the office by bicycle, it was fantastic in most ways. I even went car-less for several months. Eventually I gave up my idea of buying an old Cummins diesel truck to tow with, bought the Scion--they wouldn't take the 10 speed in on trade, funny guys at the Scion dealership--and wound up staying for 2 years in the trailer. The second winter was a little rough though, with repairs on a vintage trailer being both expensive and inconvenient, and so in spring sold when the market was good. Wound up selling to a guy in SoCal, and a buddy and I turned it into an adventure by delivering it with his 06 Tundra. By the way, even with a completely empty trailer, that Toyota 4.7 V8 did not give us confidence and really struggled climbing south on 395 on those mountain passes--we did it during the night though to minimize traffic.

    But--my point here is there's ways to enjoy a vintage trailer without having to tow it! And the money I saved on not purchasing/owning a tow vehicle + the money saved by living in the trailer instead of buying a condo has been enormous. And for this forum, the gas saved the last 3 years by camping with a tent & the Scion instead of pulling the Airstream around the Great Basin and Sierras is well into the hundreds of gallons as I do get out regularly.
     
  17. jcp123

    jcp123 Caliente!

    True, but our Airstream isn't really for camping as most think of it...after I get out of college + am on my own, my parents are going to sell this house, buy a small condo somewhere just to have a mailing address/home base, etc., and live 3/4 of the year in the trailer just travelling to wherever it is they feel like going at the moment.

    I can second the lack of power, though...my Dad had an '05 F150 4.6 which struggled to pull our boat...let alone the Airstream.
     
  18. Kinder

    Kinder Well-Known Member

    Yeah, I realize my situation was pretty different from most people's, especially retirees travelling around in comfort. My idea of a home was what most call camping... Am now renting a house with 3 others so there goes most of my credibility--though there's only 1100 square feet so not much different in total than living alone in a long trailer... If I ever was to go to an on-the-road life in the way your parents are planning, I'd actually get an RV based on the Dodge/MB Sprinter if money allowed--20mpg and so much easier to drive & park... Airstream marketed one, but there's no doubt their iconic trailers are classy!
     

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