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Last Post 18 Jan 2011 02:34 PM by  Steve Hoelscher
Need help selecting my first tow vehicle
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New Member
New Member

10 Jan 2011 02:44 PM


    This will be my first season in Spec Miata. I have towed a few times before using Uhauls and Budgets with mixed results and know the difference between what a good and bad tow feels like. I'm looking for a competent, reliable tow vehicle. Budget is under $7k. I expect to use this to tow an enclosed 20' trailer. Won't be using it as a daily driver or anything. Basically just to tow with or the occasional odd errand. I am located in the San Francisco area.

    I have done some research already by searching these and other forums. My understanding is that I want a 3/4 ton vehicle (since they have bigger and better cooling systems and brakes) w/ a "powerful" motor. Some of the vehicles I have been considering and already looked at include:

    1. 94-97 Ford F250 Powerstroke diesels - I stumble upon these now and then. I missed out on 2 good examples w/ 100-150k miles priced around $4,500-5,500k. Lately, I can't find any w/ an auto trans and reasonable mileage at a reasonable price. Many of them have 200k miles or so and a price around $6,500 and up. I occasionally see the 99+ at a more reasonable price compared to the mileage but slightly out of my price range. High mileage concerns me. I don't want to buy a truck for $XX and have to put $2k into it for it to be reliable.

    2. 93-97 Ford F250 w/ 460 big block - I see these now and then but most have the 5.0 or 5.8 motor. I understand you want the 460 since they have more HP and about 50 lb/ft more torque (closer to 400) compared to the smaller motors. The only downfall I see in these is the MPG of the 460 but they are usually priced more reasonably at $2-4k depending on mileage, condition and state of delusion of vehicle worth of the current owner. These seem more plentiful than the diesels and priced more reasonably.

    3. 99+ Ford F250 w/ V10 - I often see these in the $3-7k price range depending on mileage. I don't feel comfortable buying any gas truck at 200k and expecting the motor to last a long time or having any residual value if I decide to sell it. The problem blowing plugs out the head also concerns me on these. It seems like the old 460 motor might be more reliable.

    4. Ford Vans - I have been looking for club wagons with the big block or V10 but it seems like all of them have been owned by airport shuttle companies. They all have 300k miles on them so I have pretty much given up.

    5. 96-99 Suburban 2500 w/ 454 motor - I like the overall packaging of an SUV better than a truck. Chances are I'd get more use out of a car that can hold more than 2 people comfortable than a pickup since my other cars are 2 seaters. However, I understand the GM's are more troublesome than the equivalent Fords so I'm hesitant to get something that will nickle and dime me to death.

    6. B/c I haven't had much luck finding something in the above, I'm starting to look at Dodge Rams with the V10 since they are powerful and are easily in my budget. I don't know many people with these but have heard here and there that Dodge's aren't particularly well built. Still trying to research these.

    7. 2000 Ford Excursion V10 - Nice but can't find any in my price range. Do the V10 issues apply to these also?

    8. Ford Expedition 5.4 V8 - I like SUV versatility but I haven't found much feedback on these being used to pull an enclosed 20' trailer. Wikipedia has some good info on these but not sure how well this vehicle can handle towing duty.

    I'd appreciate any input anyone can give me on these vehicles. Is my fear of high mileage unwarranted? Are there any vehicles I'm overlooking?


    Basic Member
    Basic Member

    12 Jan 2011 12:31 PM
    Excursion V10 should fit the bill and be available in your price range. I see V10s for sale in NJ/Philly areas for 5-10k every day. Mileage is not great, but it will be powerful enough that you won't have any towing worries. I have a 7.3 diesel Ex and wouldn't trade it for the world. If you can find and like a 97-2002 truck or van with the 7.3 diesel, I would do that. That motor, and the 6.8 V10, will last for at least 250k miles with little trouble. Diesel will last longer if treated nicely, but the V10 is a keeper, too. Watch for stripped plug holes on the V10 - that's the cause of a lot of problems with those.

    I used an Expedition 5.4 to pull an open trailer and I think that was a great combo. I wouldn't want to pull a big enclosed trailer with that one, though.
    Basic Member
    Basic Member

    14 Jan 2011 12:58 PM
    What you should buy depends on how much you're going to be towing and where. Mostly flat land and just racing regionally and not pulling a lot of miles a gasser can make sense, low purchase price, not a lot of miles to wear it out. If you are going over the sierras and rockies headed to the runoffs, diesel would be the way to go.

    If you can find a '94-'97 Dodge Cummins in your price range that would be the way to go. 12v, 3.54, 5-speed.

    Steve Hoelscher
    Advanced Member
    Advanced Member

    18 Jan 2011 02:34 PM
    Keep looking for vans. I have had no trouble finding clubwagons on craigslist, autotrader and ebay. You do have to spend a little time to sift through the limo company cast offs but they are there. Best of all, they are typically significantly cheaper than similar trucks/suvs and have way more room.
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