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Last Post 30 Nov 2008 01:27 PM by  gtldvm
Best Tow Vehicle under 6K?
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Vanimaniac
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01 Sep 2008 11:52 AM

    Hey guys. Plan for next season is to start towing our autocross car (2250lbs) to the occasional far away event. Driving a 22 year old Street Prepared car with 250K miles to an event, autocrossing it, and praying it doesn't break down on us somewhere in between doesn't sound too appealing to me anymore.

    So here is what I'm looking for...

    -Under 6k (preferably) as I don't want payments on a vehicle I will not drive all too much.

    -Truck (I got a lot of great info from Steve H. about vans but having two wagons as daily drivers, owning a truck would fulfill more "honey do" opportunities)

    -AWD (I live above Denver and planning on moving further up into the mountains soon)

    -Able to tow 2250lbs plus a trailer (right now I can borrow a light trailer from a friend but would like to have an enclosed one day)

    -Extended/super/crew cab/etc. I just want some room behind the drivers seat for stuff. Doesn't have to be a full seat but it would be nice.

    Obviously lesser miles and good (relatively) mileage is a plus.

    I've seen plenty of 97+ F150's, and Ram/Silverado/Sierras in the 1500 flavor on my local craigslist.

    Any other ideas?

    My wife nixed the Buick Roadmaster Wagon idea!

    I borrowed a newer Tacoma Sport to tow last year. Loved it. Drove like a car. Got 14mpg towing. But can't justify making payments if it's gonna sit in the driveway most days.

    Thanks!

    Van


    DYSLEXUS
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    01 Sep 2008 07:01 PM

    Ford F250 with a 7.3L diesel. These things have taken a bath with the current fuel prices/economy. Don't be scared of miles on these things- they run a long time if serviced properly. Second choice would be a Cummins.

    -Derek

    marka
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    01 Sep 2008 09:39 PM

    Howdy,

    Vanimaniac wrote:

    -Able to tow 2250lbs plus a trailer (right now I can borrow a light trailer from a friend but would like to have an enclosed one day)

    Decide now how much you care about the enclosed trailer... My experience is that towing an open trailer is _way_ easier on the tow vehicle than an enclosed trailer ever thought of being. Both due to increased trailer weight (my enclosed is something like 3500 lbs empty, the econotrailer I had prior was 1500 IIRC) and also due to the much worse aerodynamics.

    Other folks will disagree, but I think for an enclosed trailer you will want a diesel truck. And in the price range you're talking about, I'd look for an older Dodge with the cummins. In terms of the tranny, I don't know much about the manual, but I know the auto trannies had problems (all fixable with aftermarket parts, but if the manual trans doesn't have issues, may as well just use that).

    If you can't find that, the Chevy big block is probably your motor. The Ford v10 is a good motor too, but I don't know if they're old enough to get down to $6k. I wouldn't buy a Dodge gas motor.

    If you don't really need to tow the enclosed trailer, then I think most any domestic truck with a v8 would be ok. I'd probably look for a '96+ chevy with the 5.7 vortec or perhaps a later one with the 6.0. The later 5.3 motors I think have pretty good mileage when not towing, if that matters to you. I'm no particular expert with the details here though.

    The 4wd & extended cab both will add a decent bit to the price. If you need them, you need them though. They'll also make the truck correspondingly worth more & easier to sell. My truck has both, and I'd do it again. The extended cab makes the truck much more useable (particularly when towing to events) than my old standard cab. 4wd really is just extra weight & less efficient 99% of the time, but for that extra 1% (like when you need to pull through a muddy field because it rained at an event or whatever) it sure is nice to pull a lever back on the floor and keep going. Resale, at least around here, on the 4wd trucks means its essentially a zero cost thing if you factor in selling the vehicle later, and nobody wants 2wd trucks so finding a buyer is easier too.

    If you're not looking for a project (and any $6k tow vehicle will be, at least to some extent), new trucks right now are not exactly flying off the lot. I imagine you could get one heck of a deal on one.

    Mark

    Vanimaniac
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    Posts:256


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    01 Sep 2008 11:30 PM

    Thanks for all the advice so far. I will probably be changing my mind many times throughout the next few months on the various needs/wants so all this will help when I finally figure out what I want.

    Muchos gracias.

    Van

    Rocwandrer
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    02 Sep 2008 10:32 AM
    if you are buying used (at 6k you are, obviously), and you don't need to haul people in the back seat, I'd recommend strongly considering using a bolt in tool box, or a cap, or some other option. the 2nd row of seats adds a huge amount to the used value, meaning you can get a much nicer truck for the money or spend less if you don't insist on the rear seats. When I bought my long bed, regular cab tundra, It was fully $8k less than an equivalent truck with a bigger cab.
    Iain Mannix
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    Posts:198


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    02 Sep 2008 10:56 AM
    marka wrote:

    Decide now how much you care about the enclosed trailer... My experience is that towing an open trailer is _way_ easier on the tow vehicle than an enclosed trailer ever thought of being. Both due to increased trailer weight (my enclosed is something like 3500 lbs empty, the econotrailer I had prior was 1500 IIRC) and also due to the much worse aerodynamics.

    Other folks will disagree, but I think for an enclosed trailer you will want a diesel truck. And in the price range you're talking about, I'd look for an older Dodge with the cummins. In terms of the tranny, I don't know much about the manual, but I know the auto trannies had problems (all fixable with aftermarket parts, but if the manual trans doesn't have issues, may as well just use that).

    What he said.

    Kevin used to have a Tundra, one of the early ones. Nice truck, fast, comfortable, reliable. We dragged the Scirocco all over the place with that thing - on an open trailer. Effortless, decent mileage, 90mph, whatever. Kevin got an enclosed trailer, and while both of us expected that it'd get worse, the difference in load on the truck was exponential - it was bad.

    The Tundra could _do_ it. It was capable of towing it, but it went from comfortable, easy towing to "my foot is cramping from holding the gas pedal on the floor." 22' Featherlite, IIRC, same car (<2000# car, same tools, junk).

    The Tundra was replaced with a Dodge/Cummins/manual transmission. The effortless towing was BACK. In a big way. I-80 eastbound through Wyoming required the occasional downshift to 5th gear with the cruise set at 75.

    If enclosed is in your future, IMHO, buy a diesel. I really liked the Dodge with the manual. Ford VANS came with diesels, although I know little about them. A big-block whatever is probably adequate for pulling the enclosed trailer around, not sure, never tried it, but if diesel is an option, do it.

    Then you can go to www.greasecar.com and make it run on veggie oil.

    Iain

    Steve Hoelscher
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    Posts:831


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    02 Sep 2008 02:39 PM

    Sure everybody loved turbo diesels for towing. Great choice regardless. I agree, nearly a must for enclosed trailers. The Ford V10, available in both F and E series chassis, is also a very capable motor. It makes nearly the same torque that the diesel does and gets good mileage for a gas motor. With gas cheaper, gas engines cheaper to maintain and the V10 cheaper to buy than the diesels, it might be a better choice. You would have to run the numbers to see.

    The Cummins in the Dodge is a great motor. The Automatic behind it isn't great but its not a disaster either. Figure on 100K to 150K as the typical life of one. The issues are known and can easily be addressed. If you buy one let me know and I can give you some tips. IMPORTANT: The NV3500 in the Cummins Dodge pickups is NOT without issues. The 90's vintage units were famous for loosing 5th gear and that is an EXPENSIVE upgrade. You have to replace the output shaft and the driven gear. The issue is the splines were only half the width of the gear and would strip after lots of towing miles.

    For your application I would look for a mid to late 90s F150/250. Great trucks. They drive nicely, have robust drivelines and tow just fine. Late '90's F150s with either a 5.8 or 5.4 V8, extended cab, 4x4 are probably the easiest things to find on the used truck market. These would tow just about anything on an open trailer easily. The automatic are solid units as are the manuals. You shouldn't have issues with either.

    Joe_914
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    02 Sep 2008 05:28 PM

    Used Powerstroke Diesel work trucks are going for a song. There is a standard cab 7ft bed PSD with 200K miles near me going for 5K.

    Drove it and everything works. Never had a trailer hitch attached. It was a parts delivery fleet truck.

    If it was a super cab or Crew cab I'd be all over it. and not white.

    Vanimaniac
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    Posts:256


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    04 Sep 2008 12:07 PM

    Hmm, maybe a good idea (for me) is to find a decent half ton v8 and go with an open trailer for a couple years. Then when the half tons get their diesels in the next 2 or 3 years, pick one of those up. From what I've been reading, it looks like Ford/Dodge/Chevy are all planning on releasing them around 2010ish? Anyone know more about all this?

    Van

    jdchristianson
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    Posts:416


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    05 Sep 2008 09:11 AM

    I personally think the need for a 3/4 ton diesel is a bit over rated. True they will pull about with less effort than a 1/2 ton truck or SUV. I have pulled campers and enclosed trailers for the past 12 or so years with 1/2 ton vans, a 1500 Suburban, and 1500 GMC. (The camper has traveled from South Dakota to Florida) I've always serviced the transmission every year and don't use overdrive unless I have tailwind. I think it all depends on how you want to drive, if you want to brag about going 85 up the biggest hill, get a big truck with a diesel. If you just want to get there at the speed limit in comfort, you can easy pull with a 1/2 ton gas with a good equalizer hitch. The options are wide open.

    Jeff Christianson

    geewiz
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    05 Sep 2008 10:58 AM

    I tow with a '99 2wd 7.4L 2500 series suburban (I know, you want a truck, but mechanicall this is a chevy truck) that I paid ~$6K for a couple years ago. Just two contributions I can make:
     
    1. Yeah, the move from open to enclosed is a huge difference. My suburban gets 11.5MPG not towing, 11MPG towing (open), and ~8 MPG towing an enclosed trailer -- and now it downshifts over the slightest rises in the road, and with a headwind it couldn't even hold in top gear on a totally flat, straight, open road -- meaning I got about 6mpg (and had to listen to the engine revving & think about all the gas being burned) all the way home from SoCal to NorCal on my last trip. I *loved* the suburban towing the open trailer, but now I wish I had a diesel. Or just an open trailer again -- consider just saying no to an enclosed trailer :).
     
    2. Not sure why, but suburbans and seemeingly even more so vans are priced like the standard cab trucks (cheap), but as others have said those longer-cab trucks are a LOT more money. I can fit a 4x8 plywood sheet or a hot water cooler in my suburban.... 
     
    -- Glenn
    RickyCRX
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    Posts:2


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    05 Sep 2008 11:50 PM

    With the way gas prices are, pickup truck resale values have tanked. I picked up an '01 GMC Sierra 1500 Extended Cab (4-door, but not the Crew Cab) with the 5.3L V8 and 112k miles on it last month. Sure, the bed is all banged up, but the interior is in quite nice condition, it has the factory tow package, and the guy maintained it mechanically VERY well (frequent fluid changes in engine/tranny/diff), new brakes, fuel filter, spark plugs, tires all within the last 10k miles, etc...

    I really just bought it to handle the tow from San Antonio to Topeka and back this month and plan on selling it after I'm done using it. I'll have about $5500 invested in it when everything is all said and done. Interested?? [;)]

    Primetime Glick
    Veteran Member
    Veteran Member
    Posts:1279


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    31 Oct 2008 11:17 AM
    Steve Hoelscher wrote:

    Sure everybody loved turbo diesels for towing. Great choice regardless. I agree, nearly a must for enclosed trailers. The Ford V10, available in both F and E series chassis, is also a very capable motor. It makes nearly the same torque that the diesel does and gets good mileage for a gas motor. With gas cheaper, gas engines cheaper to maintain and the V10 cheaper to buy than the diesels, it might be a better choice. You would have to run the numbers to see.

    The Cummins in the Dodge is a great motor. The Automatic behind it isn't great but its not a disaster either. Figure on 100K to 150K as the typical life of one. The issues are known and can easily be addressed. If you buy one let me know and I can give you some tips. IMPORTANT: The NV3500 in the Cummins Dodge pickups is NOT without issues. The 90's vintage units were famous for loosing 5th gear and that is an EXPENSIVE upgrade. You have to replace the output shaft and the driven gear. The issue is the splines were only half the width of the gear and would strip after lots of towing miles.

    For your application I would look for a mid to late 90s F150/250. Great trucks. They drive nicely, have robust drivelines and tow just fine. Late '90's F150s with either a 5.8 or 5.4 V8, extended cab, 4x4 are probably the easiest things to find on the used truck market. These would tow just about anything on an open trailer easily. The automatic are solid units as are the manuals. You shouldn't have issues with either.

    Some thoughts:

    I usually concur with Steve. It says something that the NV3500 (at least in the prev-gen Ram) is recently used only in the light duties, e.g. my 4.7L VIN N 1500. I'd take a leap that the stronger NV4500 is used in the 3/4 and up, if not something bigger/better from New Venture.

    '89-96 Ford F-series (and the corresponding E-series chassis till now) are nice trucks. The 5.0L EFI has good power but gets significantly better mileage than the 351W (from what I've heard). But any typical example is going to be quite old, exhausted. I'd recommend gettting one WITHOUT a hitch on it....

    Though, for $6k around here, you can find significantly newer [2wd] trucks with almost 2 years of powertrain warranty left: '03+ Dodges with less than 70k (think 7/70 warranty). If I had a choice between 2 equivalent trucks, and one had a warranty, and the other didn't, I'd go with the one with a warranty. You want your race car to be your project car, not your tow vehicle.

    If you're *lucky* maybe you'll find an 07+ GM (think 5/100 warranty) in your price range. I found an a loaded 07 reg-cab 4.3/auto with 70k for $6k. But I'll only go with a V6 if I go with a tow dolly (not an open, certainly not an enclosed). Enclosed is going to kill your aerodynamics and mileage, so you do probably want a diesel for that.

    Depending on how gas prices and the economy goes, another 03+ Dodge will likely be my next move. There is a loaded, '03 Hemi/2500/reg-cab SLT with 63k for $7500 sitting on a dealer lot for a while now I've been eyeing... and a loaded 04 4.7/1500/reg-cab SLT with 69k for $6000 too.

    I think you'll have good luck with the Dodge 7/70 warranty. A while back I picked up a Ram with only 500 miles left on the warranty, and, after I complained of an rpm-related rattle, the dealer chucked the second owner-warranty transfer baloney and replaced the exhaust gaskets free of charge. GM warranty service is a pain in the ass, but I'd still rather have them pay for a 4L60E when it bombs.

    Another piece of advice for a truck: GET a cap with a strong add-on lock on it, unless you want your air compressor, R-comps, tools, etc. stolen. I've had plenty of crap stolen from my open-bed trucks. Diamondplate toolboxes are ripe for the picking too, I'm just waiting for mine to get busted (most people do). Next truck I'm going with a $2,000 windowless aluminum cap with huge "plate" lock added on.

    Vans? Since you want 4wd standard, maybe these aren't an option (though GM now makes an AWD Express IIRC), unless you want to go through Quigly. Anyway, I suspect gas prices are going right back up (China and India aren't getting any smaller) and since these things typically get, oh, about 25% less MPG (or worse) than an equivalent truck they'd add a lot to your gas bill on long towing trips. Plus, most of the used vans on the market are vinyl-seat, metal-divider strippers or the soft, even-more-top-heavy conversions. Finding a nice passenger or "loaded" cargo isn't easy.

    BlueVR6
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    31 Oct 2008 12:03 PM

    Dude:

    You live in Colorado. (read as non-salted roads). Go pick up an early 70's international Scout / Traveller / Travel-all with a 345 / 392 V8 and haul in style.

    My 345 powered scout with 4 spd manual could pull just about anything, cost less than $2000 and ran strong for over 250k miles on orig motor (low stress environ) and got 12 mpg no matter what (with or without trailer).

    Heck, I even pulled a school bus cross town (~50 miles) with it once. Acted like it wasn't there 'cept in turns.

    Peace,

    Kevin

    Steve Hoelscher
    Advanced Member
    Advanced Member
    Posts:831


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    31 Oct 2008 01:25 PM
    Primetime Glick wrote:

    Some thoughts:

    I usually concur with Steve. It says something that the NV3500 (at least in the prev-gen Ram) is recently used only in the light duties, e.g. my 4.7L VIN N 1500. I'd take a leap that the stronger NV4500 is used in the 3/4 and up, if not something bigger/better from New Venture.

    Well, you are correct, I simply need to proof read my posts more often. That was just a typo. Yes, the 4500 is the unit in the desiels. Regardless, that is the unit I was referring too. If you tow alot with one of these expect to have issues with 5th gear, the end nuts on the shafts and rear bearings. Ask Mari and Eric Clements about the trouble they have had with theirs.

    Primetime Glick wrote:

    '89-96 Ford F-series (and the corresponding E-series chassis till now) are nice trucks. The 5.0L EFI has good power but gets significantly better mileage than the 351W (from what I've heard). But any typical example is going to be quite old, exhausted. I'd recommend gettting one WITHOUT a hitch on it....

    I will qualify this one some. The mas air versions are much better engines. They make more power and get better mileage. Yes the 5 liter gets better mileage than the 5.8. If you don't need the extra torque of the 5.8 the 5.0 is a great motor.

    To back that up, I tow with a '95 Ford Clubwagon (E150 chassis) 5 liter and love it. I have owned this van since '96 and have put 275,000 miles on it. The vast majority of that is towing. The 5 liter easily hauled whatever I put on my 1500 lbs open trailer effortlessly. I would buy another tomorrow. If you shop you can find good clean E/F150s in good condition with relatively low mileage.

    Vanimaniac
    Basic Member
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    31 Oct 2008 08:22 PM

    Yeah, I have changed my focus to an E150 now. I don't need a truck. I can get away with not having 4wd/awd either. Enclosed trailer is WAY off in the future plans. I am hoping to find a nice conversion van (plenty in my price range) with hi top. Fold out bed in back, TV/DVD/VCR up top. Perfect solution for dragging the wife/kid/dogs along for the ride. Anyone with experience have any pros/cons of conversion vans?

    Thanks!

    Van

    Steve Hoelscher
    Advanced Member
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    Posts:831


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    03 Nov 2008 12:34 PM
    Vanimaniac wrote:

    I am hoping to find a nice conversion van (plenty in my price range) with hi top. Fold out bed in back, TV/DVD/VCR up top. Perfect solution for dragging the wife/kid/dogs along for the ride. Anyone with experience have any pros/cons of conversion vans?

    There are two drawbacks to the "conversion van". First is they are typically heavier than a standard passenger van like my Clubwagon XLT. My van weighs 5100 lbs with about 1/4 tank of fuel. I have seen some conversion vans that were well over 6000 lbs empty. So any van you are seriously considering, find a scale and see what it actually weights.

    The second issue is the quality of the "conversion" parts. Some are pretty good and some are not. Replacement parts are sometimes hard, if not impossible, to find. Also, conversion companies tend to come and go. As an example, Mark III was one of the biggest and been out of business for a few yeras. Replacement parts for their conversions were hard to get when they were in business.

    While my van is a 5 liter, I have also towed with a similarly equipped 99 model with a 4.6 and it had similar performance. If you find a 96+ Ford, either the 4.6 or 5.4 would work fine.

    Cr0usEEE
    Basic Member
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    03 Nov 2008 01:26 PM

    My search for a tow vehicle has come down to a 3/4-1 ton van or ambulance...and well the van seems like the better deal.

    Any years to avoid?? I am going cargo van route as I want more of a secure storage deal.

    Plus I dont know of a better way to hide 4 sets of wheels...

    Primetime Glick
    Veteran Member
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    03 Nov 2008 03:04 PM
    Cr0usEEE wrote:

    My search for a tow vehicle has come down to a 3/4-1 ton van or ambulance...and well the van seems like the better deal.

    Any years to avoid?? I am going cargo van route as I want more of a secure storage deal.

    Plus I dont know of a better way to hide 4 sets of wheels...

    A one-wheel-drive van may be a pain in upstate new york blizzard season, which I had the luxury of experiencing for 22 years. An LSD/locker, some all-terrains, and some common sense, may not be horrible.

    At least around here, cargo vans are as equal targets for screwdriver- and wire-hanger toting thieves as truck boxes. The people that get hit, whether they have a van, a truck with a cap, or a truck with a box, or an enclosed trailer, opt for the massive plate-type lock that covers the pair(s) of doors of concern.

    Again, if you're stuck on cheap vans, I would go with a 2003 Ram Van 2500/3500 with less than 70k: ~2 years left on the powertrain warranty. I think they come with the solid A518, 318, and 8-3/4 rear end combo standard; they're rated to pull 8600# if equipped with the 360, uplevel payload package, etc. The old LA-series V8's don't produce 50 mpg, but you coulda guessed that...

    They replaced the Ram Van with the Sprinter in 2004. They are rated to pull 5000# and have good maneuverability, interior functionality, and actually decent gas mileage. For a lighter car/trailer combo, they're the ticket, if you can swing the upfront costs. I've seen a rare few early 2.7L ones in the high teens. Lightly-used 3.0L examples typically go for much more, like 35k. New ones are averaging $40k++.

    By comparison, a 5,000-mile dealer-demo 07 Ram Mega Cab with virtually every option, including the new 6.7 Cummins, 6-speed auto, and exhaust brake, lists locally for $24,000. But you want a VAN...

    Cr0usEEE
    Basic Member
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    03 Nov 2008 03:13 PM

    Well...I move to Japan for work next November and I don't want another payment while I am away. Plus I want something I can pay cash on so that when I do move I can unload it quickly or give it to my dad to work out of.

    My other option is to sell the ESP car and just co-drive ASP...but then I don't think I would have as much fun.

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