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Last Post 09 Nov 2009 01:43 PM by  gpny
Midsize SUV Towing recommendations
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amaff
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07 Oct 2009 09:02 PM

    Well, next year my car's going to become a trailer queen as a pre-cursor for a Prepared class build. I've pretty much only got experience with small cars (So far I've owned a '91 Tracer, an 03 Protege, an 02 S2k and a 92 Miata lol) and very limited experience with tow vehicles (only driven 2 so far, neither of which are in my price bracket).

    I'm looking for something that will:
    -tow about 5000 lbs - in reality closer to 3500 tops, but I'd prefer the versatility of something that can go bigger
    -be not-a-truck - for a variety of reasons, I'd like to keep it an SUV
    -be reliable - no real glaring drive-train issues
    -be around $6000

    Yes, for the record, I know that for a dedicated tow vehicle, a full-sized dually truck with a V-10 turbo-diesel would be far more ideal, but that's simply not feasible for me at this point.

    If anyone with any experience would chime in, I'd really appreciate it.

    Thanks in advance,

    Andrew

    Scoob
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    08 Oct 2009 09:22 AM

    Last year I bought and used a 99 Expedition to tow the Civic on a steel trailer. It was the 5.4L V8, but I hear that the 4.6L also works well up to 5000 lbs. I never had a problem with it and it drove very nicely. I would recommend looking for a 2WD, lower version of the Expedition which will tow nicer and give better gas mileage, too. On our 1200 mile (2400 mile RT) trip to Topeka last year we got 15-16 mpg @65 mph. In the city/mixed driving I got around 12-13 and on the highway 16-17 without the trailer. You should be able to find one of those very easily for less than $6k.

    I sold that this year when I moved to a kart and towed with my Lexus IS300 this year (2-kart open trailer). I just bought a diesel Excursion to pull the enclosed 4-kart trailer for next year.

    Good luck. And don't forget about a brake controller - I recommend the Tekonsha Prodigy. My prodigy will be replacing the Activator that came on the Excursion.

    JBrettHowell
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    08 Oct 2009 09:49 AM

    I have used my '98 Pathfinder to tow that amount and more all over the place including a few trips to Topeka (of course this year for the trip to Lincoln we were pimpin' in Hardy's mac-daddy pickup which was nice, but not what you are looking for). I was towing a single axle trailer without brakes (so no brake controller) which while not ideal, was not a huge hardship. Also, a weight-distributing hitch would have done wonders and would definitely be recommended. Mileage was in the double digits (though just barely).

    I'm not trying to champion the Pathfinder as the ideal tow vehicle by any means, but there are lots of good options in that range for light towing.

    For comparisons sake, feel free to come over and borrow the truck and my trailer to try it out sometime so you can have a data point (you'll just have to leave me the s2k so I can "get around" while you do it).

    amaff
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    08 Oct 2009 09:50 AM
    Scoob wrote:

    Good luck. And don't forget about a brake controller - I recommend the Tekonsha Prodigy. My prodigy will be replacing the Activator that came on the Excursion.

    Thanks for the input. And yes, definitely going to have a brake controller :)

    amaff
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    08 Oct 2009 10:02 AM

    Brett: yeah, one of my concerns with a short wheelbase car was that nose lift you were talking about. I hadn't thought about it but a weight distributing hitch is probably a big "want" for towing with something that size. Thanks for the tip!

    *bashes head into keyboard for not thinking of that sooner...*

    How about I drive the S2k there, load it on the trailer and drive it home ;)

    JBrettHowell
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    08 Oct 2009 10:07 AM

    amaff wrote:
    ...How about I drive the S2k there, load it on the trailer and drive it home ;)

    Doh!

    PCalhoun
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    08 Oct 2009 10:09 AM

    Is 3500# the weight of the car & trailer combined. including spare wheels/tires, tools. etc. What type of car and trailer we are talking about here, as you can get to 5k really quick. You don't want to be bumping right on the limit of the tow vehicle or you will have a miserable towing experience. Also, think about a weight distributing hitch to help balance the load.

    Vehicle towing capacities can be found here: http://www.trailerlife.com/output.cfm?id=42175

    And the brake controller to get now is the Tekonsha P3. It has surpassed the Prodigy in their line-up and can be found on-line very inexpensive.

    StrokerAce
    Advanced Member
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    Posts:802


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    08 Oct 2009 10:12 AM

    Honda Ridgeline 5000# tow capacity

    Honda Pilot 4500# tow capacity 4wd (3500# 2wd)

    amaff
    Basic Member
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    Posts:306


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    08 Oct 2009 11:33 AM

    It'll be an STS (currently... DP in the near future) miata (2050 lb now, will be ~1800 then) on an open trailer. I think for my needs the load balancing hitch will be a great thing to have.

    I found the Trailer Life website a couple weeks ago and has been an invaluable "SUV Towing bench-racing" tool for me.

    Thanks for the recommendations on the brake controllers :)

    Steve Hoelscher
    Advanced Member
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    Posts:831


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    08 Oct 2009 12:52 PM

    Hi Andrew,

    Peter is right about estimation of the total weight. I tow my 1750 lbs DP car on a 1400 lbs steel trailer. The total is 3150 lbs but then if you add a set or two of wheels/tires, tools, jack, cooler, ez-up, girlfriend/fiance/wife and luggage, you are adding another 500-1000 lbs so the total load is in the 4000+ lbs range. My total load for the most recent trip to Lincoln, NE was 6000 lbs.

    You will quickly find that there are a number of us on this board that tow with full size ford vans (clubwagons) and love them. They tow beautifully, drive nicely, have an excess of interior volume, are reliable, comfortable and cheaper to buy than equivelant SUVs or pickups. So I recommend a Ford Clubwagon, 95 to present. You should easily be able to pick one up, in excellent condition for well under $6K.

    However, based on your criteria, if you really want an SUV and need the towing capacity, the Expedition is hard to beat. If you get one with a factory tow package it should easily handle the load. Not to mention it has one of the most reliable transmissions in the industry.

    brianh
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    08 Oct 2009 01:44 PM

    I've towed a CSP Miata on an open trailer with several different vehicles. Here are my thoughts on them. Miata is about 2000 lbs trailer is home made out of an old travel trailer (very heavy frame) and weighs just over 2000 lbs. I'm usually prepared for just about anything as far as extra tires/wheels, other peoples tires/wheels, tools, jack, gas you name it. Typically the whole setup is between 4200-4400 lbs.

    98 Dodge 2500 4X4 Diesel - overkill. I've pulled 40 foot long 15,000 fifth wheel with the same truck. Don't even know the Miata is behind me

    05 Ford F-350 4X4 Diesel - same as above. Better power/worse fuel economy

    95 GMC 3500 4X4 Dually 454 - again overkill. terrible - and I mean terrible, gas mileage if you maintain highway speeds through the mountains

    92 Dodge Diesel 2WD 5 Speed - ugly as sin and not very comfortable, but very efficient as a tow vehicle. Cheap to buy and mechanically bulletproof.

    06 Honda Ridgeline - actually handled the load suprisingly well. Always use a weight distributing hitch or your headlights will be shining on the tree tops. Very handy with the in bed "trunk". Going through the mountains be prepared to spend a great deal of time in VTEC. Check your oil and know where the next gas station is - it actually costs less towing with the dodge diesel than it did with the Ridgelinein the mountains. On flat ground (or if you can keep your foot out of it) the mileage is much better. It's a nice vehicle to drive the other 6 days a week.

    05 GMC Envoy - probably exactly what you are looking for. Bulletproof motor. I believe with the right options you can get a 6200 lb tow rating. In the simplest terms it's built on a truck frame, unlike most small/mid-size SUV's it's not an overgrown car. Decent power from the inline 6, but decent fuel economy the rest of the week. Comfortable and roomy - lots of space to securely store tools, tires etc. Probably want to use a weight distributing hitch for long trips depending on your traielrs tongue weight

    31' Class C Motorhome Ford V-10 - make sure you know where every gas station is

    40' Diesel Pusher motorhome - travel in style and still get decent mileage

    Seriously, check out the Envoy/Trailblazer if you are thinking midsize SUV. Sounds like it might be just what you are looking for and they are fairly cheap.......or at least reasonably priced - nothing is cheap

    47CP
    Veteran Member
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    Posts:2740


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    08 Oct 2009 03:58 PM

    I haven't towed with it yet, but I just picked up a 2005 Durango (It's got a HEMI!) and it would certainy have the power to pull an open trailer. IMO too small to tow an enclosed, though I know people do it with them.

    But, my other vehicle is a Ford Van E350. You can't beat these for utility, capability and price, especially since you wouldn't need the 350 and could go 150. Just a thought.

    DaveW

    henryr
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    08 Oct 2009 06:13 PM

    i'd vote against the expedition. i have a 98 2wd with the 5.4l triton motor. would be an excellent package as they can be bought cheap, have plenty of power but they are notorious for shooting the plugs out of the heads. i have had two go. do a search. chevy's seem to be much cheaper to maintain.

    Steve Hoelscher
    Advanced Member
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    Posts:831


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    08 Oct 2009 08:44 PM
    henryr wrote:

    i'd vote against the expedition. i have a 98 2wd with the 5.4l triton motor. would be an excellent package as they can be bought cheap, have plenty of power but they are notorious for shooting the plugs out of the heads. i have had two go. do a search. chevy's seem to be much cheaper to maintain.

    The 4.6 motors don't have the plug problem and they heads on the 5.4 were changed to fix that problem in '04. My Fords have all been VERY reliable with very low maintenance costs. My Chevy's all nickel and dimed me to death (assuming you overlook the transmissions).

    A note about the GMC Envoy: Like most GM midsized SUVs, Pickups and vans, it uses a 4L60E automatic transmission. These are the number 1 transmission in the repair industry. I wouldn't tow a bicycle with one.

    amaff
    Basic Member
    Basic Member
    Posts:306


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    08 Oct 2009 09:43 PM
    Steve Hoelscher wrote:
    henryr wrote:

    i'd vote against the expedition. i have a 98 2wd with the 5.4l triton motor. would be an excellent package as they can be bought cheap, have plenty of power but they are notorious for shooting the plugs out of the heads. i have had two go. do a search. chevy's seem to be much cheaper to maintain.

    The 4.6 motors don't have the plug problem and they heads on the 5.4 were changed to fix that problem in '04. My Fords have all been VERY reliable with very low maintenance costs. My Chevy's all nickel and dimed me to death (assuming you overlook the transmissions).

    A note about the GMC Envoy: Like most GM midsized SUVs, Pickups and vans, it uses a 4L60E automatic transmission. These are the number 1 transmission in the repair industry. I wouldn't tow a bicycle with one.

    Noted, thanks! That's the kind of info I'm really hurting for. Trailer life doesn't give you that haha. So... if an expedition does become the candidate, stick to the 4.6 Pre 04... got it :D

    henryr
    New Member
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    Posts:14


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    09 Oct 2009 05:43 AM
    Steve Hoelscher wrote:
    henryr wrote:

    i'd vote against the expedition. i have a 98 2wd with the 5.4l triton motor. would be an excellent package as they can be bought cheap, have plenty of power but they are notorious for shooting the plugs out of the heads. i have had two go. do a search. chevy's seem to be much cheaper to maintain.

    The 4.6 motors don't have the plug problem and they heads on the 5.4 were changed to fix that problem in '04. My Fords have all been VERY reliable with very low maintenance costs. My Chevy's all nickel and dimed me to death (assuming you overlook the transmissions).

    A note about the GMC Envoy: Like most GM midsized SUVs, Pickups and vans, it uses a 4L60E automatic transmission. These are the number 1 transmission in the repair industry. I wouldn't tow a bicycle with one.

    too each his own. the 04 is the newer model. i wouldn't touch the 4.6 for towing and i wouldn't buy a 97-03 expy. just compare the price of a chevy crate motor with the ford.

    CONEV8R
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    09 Oct 2009 01:31 PM

    How often are you going to need to tow? And for how long/far?

    If you're only going to need to tow a couple times a year for a week or so, might it make more sense to simply rent a pickup truck from UHaul?

    Everyone seems to be championing Ford and Chevy...well, one or the other. The Ford guys are saying "Ford is the only way to go, Chevy's eat transmissions." The Chevy guys say "Chevy is the only way to go, Ford's burn up heads." I've towed a lot of different things with a lot of different rigs, quite possibly the most intense being a fully loaded 6x12 enclosed twin-axle cargo trailer, which weighed just over 6300lbs, with my 1999 Nissan Pathfinder, which was loaded with just under 1000lbs of cargo itself (total combined weight was over 11,000lbs, with a 3.3L 168bhp engine to pull it). This trip took me from DC to Upstate NY, through the Poconos in PA, and the Pathfinder had no problems whatsoever. It was quite slow on some of the hills, but it performed flawlessly. I towed 5x10 enclosed cargo trailers (~3500lbs) with that same truck, 3-4 times a year, that same route, and never had any issues with durability or reliability.

    I've towed full size pickup trucks on car haulers with my Pathfinder, Subaru WRX wagons on a 2600lb steel car trailer.

    I will say, however, that the Ford Expedition does make a comfortable tow rig. It's got room for the family and the stuff, and pulls a 3000lb trailer like it's its job. I've only ever towed with the 5.4L, but having driven earlier 4.6L offerings, they seem a bit anemic to tow a heavier load. Also, the earlier ones don't seem to have the chassis and suspension rigidity to be able to handle hefty towing loads over long distances and through various terrain and weather.

    If you're able to stretch your budget a bit, I'd consider a 2005 or newer Nissan Xterra or Pathfinder to be an EXCELLENT choice. They've got phenomenal reliability, 265HP/250lb-ft from the 4.0L V6 is more than enough grunt to pull right up to their 5000lb rated towing capacity. They're also extremely comfortable on longer trips. The Off-Road package provides larger sway bars and stiffer springs/shocks to help counter the extra weight from the trailer. A 2005-2006 Off-Road with low mileage and a good maintenance history is going to run $16,000 or so, a bit out of the budget.

    Another option would be the previous generation Xterra Supercharged. While a bit less powerful, it still has more guts than the Pathfinder, so it was able to pull up hills better.

    Personally, I would stay away from the Envoy/Trailblazer. We had them come back all the time for extensive work under warranty at GMC. I'm talking differentials, transmissions, transfer cases, engines, you name it, it went bad. I'd be very very picky about an Expedition as well, as there are more poorly maintained ones than well maintained. They also get their niggling problems as well, though typically, at least in my experience, not as severe as the Mid-size GMs. A Yukon or Tahoe might be another option, but would definitely put you out of the Midsize class, and I would stay far far away from an Explorer.

    Another option still, would be a 2001 or newer Nissan Pathfinder. They got the venerable VQ35DE engine in 2001 which produces a respectable 250HP, and they'll pull 5000lbs without breaking a sweat.

    JBrettHowell
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    09 Oct 2009 01:47 PM

    CONEV8R wrote:
    ...Another option still, would be a 2001 or newer Nissan Pathfinder. They got the venerable VQ35DE engine in 2001 which produces a respectable 250HP, and they'll pull 5000lbs without breaking a sweat.

    The 3.5 was a nice bump in power for the Pathy, but beware these motors have screws in the intake manifold that tend to work themselves loose, get sucked into the cylinders, and create expensive paperweights (they can be loc-tited to prevent them coming loose, but Nissan has been slow to accept responsibility for covering the work, it's not cheap or easy (something you could do Muff, but not everyone who owns a Pathy) and therefore is not certain that all the examples have been dealt with).

    mtbprelude
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    09 Oct 2009 02:28 PM
    47CP wrote:

    I haven't towed with it yet, but I just picked up a 2005 Durango (It's got a HEMI!) and it would certainy have the power to pull an open trailer. IMO too small to tow an enclosed, though I know people do it with them.

    I towed my DP car #1750ish on a 2200# trailer open trailer, with an '04 5.7L Hemi, from Houston, Texas to Lincoln,Nebraska and back, no problems*. A trailer brake would have been nice in the go and STOP traffic around some cities. As it is my daily driver, I appreciate the turning radius in/around Houston parking garages.

    *I misjudged the brake wear (changed pads in Lincoln) but that was not the truck's fault. Getting a dealer to fix/warranty all the TSBs goes a long way as well.

    GlennAustin
    Advanced Member
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    10 Oct 2009 11:39 AM
    JBrettHowell wrote:

    CONEV8R wrote:
    ...Another option still, would be a 2001 or newer Nissan Pathfinder. They got the venerable VQ35DE engine in 2001 which produces a respectable 250HP, and they'll pull 5000lbs without breaking a sweat.

    The 3.5 was a nice bump in power for the Pathy, but beware these motors have screws in the intake manifold that tend to work themselves loose, get sucked into the cylinders, and create expensive paperweights (they can be loc-tited to prevent them coming loose, but Nissan has been slow to accept responsibility for covering the work, it's not cheap or easy (something you could do Muff, but not everyone who owns a Pathy) and therefore is not certain that all the examples have been dealt with).

    I think that the screw problem was on the QR25 (Sentra 2.5 liter, Altima 2.5 liter) -- not on the VQ.

    I've now had a few of the V-series engines -- they've been bulletproof. The VG30 in our 86.5 Nissan Hardbody went 100,000 miles with zero issues, and it could haul well over it's rated amount (a move to SoCal, we had a combined weight close to 7000 lbs, and it didn't have any problems, even pulling the Grapevine in 102-degree temps without having any temperature problems). The VQ in our old Pathfinder and the one in my 350Z are strong and efficient.

    The new Pathfinder with the 4L VQ should be good, and if you need even more power, the Pathfinder also comes with the 5.6L V8 "Endurance." We've got an Armada with the 5.6L, and get decent mileage (13-14 MPG at 75 MPH) pulling my 350Z (3200 lbs) + trailer (1500 lbs) + gear (300-500 lbs) + truck (total weight including trailer, people and cargo was near 12,000 lbs).

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