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Old 05-23-2019, 08:58 AM   #1
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Default buying our first truck to tow

Hello. My husband and I purchased a 21 ft. Viewfinder two years ago and due to a series of unfortunate events, we have been unable to get it on the road. In the meantime, the vehicle we were going to tow with is no longer usable, so we are about to purchase a truck. We can't manage the price of new, but we know that there are certain essentials for a good towing experience. We also want to allow enough power in case we want to move up to a 30 foot tow along. What are the "must have" features in a tow vehicle? Also anyone know the difference between a vehicle with a towing package vs. a towing prep package? Thanks in advance for your advice.
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Old 05-23-2019, 09:58 AM   #2
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A 1/2 ton truck would be fine for your 21 ft Viewfinder but if you plan on towing a 30 ft trailer you will probably want a 3/4 ton truck. Here's a website that will help you calculate the towing capacity of a particular truck so you can play around with potential trailers you might buy to see what specs a tow vehicle needs to meet in order to tow it safely.
RV Camping & RV Lifestyle - Changin' Gears

As far as must have features a tow package should include everything you will need. Heavy duty suspension, brakes, bigger alternator, radiator, transmission cooler, etc. Some optional features that are nice would be things like an integrated brake controller, backup camera and extended mirrors. Then of course for a larger trailer, a diesel engine is a plus.
The difference between towing package vs. towing prep package is likely just marketing by different manufacturers.
Don't be afraid to take time and do lots of research. Tow vehicles aren't cheap and you want to be sure what you get will do the job.
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Old 05-23-2019, 10:20 AM   #3
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Default Thanks for the prompt reply 4WD?

Thanks so much for replying so quickly. Is four wheel drive essential?
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Old 05-23-2019, 06:17 PM   #4
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I'll jump in an say that 4-wheel drive is not an essential - and the tow capacity for a 2-wheel drive is often higher than 4-wheel drive (if maxing out your tow vehicle's capability with those heavy 5th wheels and such.)
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Old 05-23-2019, 08:32 PM   #5
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Although 4 wheel drive is not essential for most towing, we discovered by accident that buying a 4 x4 Tacoma really opened up a lot of territory for us. We like to hike, using the trailer as a base camp. We take the truck out every day to remote trailheads.

Especially in Colorado and the Eastern Sierras, the 4x4 has meant that we can reach places that we never would have tried to reach. Fun!!
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Old 05-24-2019, 07:07 AM   #6
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If your tow vehicle is also going to be a daily driver, you may review the cost of diesel vs gasoline. That is purchase cost and maintenance cost, not just fuel cost.

My TV is also a daily driver so staying away from an oil burner was a wise choice for me. However, if I would be towing over 60%of the time, an oil burner should be given great consideration IMO.
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Old 05-25-2019, 10:20 AM   #7
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I'll add my 2 cents:
We have towed trailers for 30+ years and generally have had gas engines (5.7L to 7.5L) and learned that a long wheelbase makes for a better TV. Then a few years ago I purchased a 2003 F250 7.3L Powerstroke. Oh my! It is totally stable with the trailer behind, can tow up any grade and gets better mileage. I now realize why I have heard people sing the praises of diesels for years. Regardless, from my experience you will likely need to upgrade the transmission cooler on any TV to a larger one and change your tranny oil more often, using synthetic if available. On my present F250 I added an Eaton TrueTrac which is a gear-type positraction differential that will not wear out. I have been in snow and sand without problems. I now am guaranteed of being driven by both rear tires rather than an open rear end which drives from one wheel.
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Old 05-29-2019, 11:14 PM   #8
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Thank you for all your replies and advice. We got a great deal on a Ford 250 gas truck with an excellent towing package. Now we have to get the RV back in shape from winter. Seems the cover leaked and so did the RV.
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Old 05-30-2019, 10:43 AM   #9
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Nice! With that truck you'll barely tell you're towing that 21 ft viewfinder! Moving up to a 30 footer will be a breeze.
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Old 06-02-2019, 09:44 PM   #10
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We purchased the 2017 Ram 1500 with the 3.0L ecodiesel to tow our 18’9” funfinder (with a weight distribution hitch). We couldn’t be happier. It gets great gas milage (about 27 mpg highway) as our daily driver and pulls our trailer with no problems. Even pulling we get 12-14 mpg. Down side is the expensive oil changes, so I’ve learned to do those myself to balance things out. We now have 85k miles, about 1/2 of those towing. Not one issue.
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Old 06-03-2019, 10:03 AM   #11
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Default Eco Diesel towing

We also have an Eco -diesel .. it a 1/2 ton Ram 2016 SLT with 3.55 gears and 8 speed transmissinon. for 85% of its life is a daily driver at highway speeds getting close to 30 MPG. hooked up to our 21 ft Funfinder and a street bike in the box it gets close to 18 MPG, Loaded !! unfortunately this engine is no availible at the moment due to politics and Bullshit ...but the proof is in the the putting this thing works very Well. The model years in Canada anyways were 2015-2017 I believe .

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Old 07-12-2019, 04:12 PM   #12
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The Rambox option is wonderful on the Ram trucks.
Lots of storage and nothing sliding around inside the cab!
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Old 11-03-2019, 08:19 AM   #13
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While 1/2 ton trucks are probably the more commonly seen tow vehicles on the road, I'm thinking that most are greatly exceeding their payload capacity! Especially those that are pulling 5th wheel rigs!! in the case of the 21' Viewfinder, its GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) of around 6000 lbs results in a hitch weight of 600 - 900 lbs (10-15%) if fully loaded. That weight MUST be considered part of the TV's payload. Add to that, the weight of the driver, all passengers (including pets), ANYTHING that's placed in or on the bed of the truck (topper, bed mat, tools, generator, extra fuel) and the trailer hitch. Fuel in the fuel tank also counts against payload. I'm not sure of the exact GVWR for 1/2 ton trucks but it's around 6000 lbs. (You'll find it indicated on the plate on the door frame). So, when considering a TV for ANY trailer, first check the GVWR, then take the truck to the local scale or CAT scale (found at many truck stops) to get the actual weight of the truck with you in it and perhaps a full tank of fuel. The GVWR minus the truck's actual weight will tell you what the available payload is. Add up the things mentioned above that weren't in the truck when weighed (be generous) and again subtract that from the available payload. If the final number is greater than zero, you're "legal" but 10-15% extra available payload is recommended.
Not mentioned yet is the GCVWR which is the combined maximum weight of the truck and the trailer. That weight rating varies based on the configuration of the truck but like the GVWR, is a legal definition.
Basically, with the mentioning of perhaps moving up to a 30' trailer, I'd say you should be looking at a 3/4 ton truck. Gas or Diesel would be the topic of another thread!
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Old 11-10-2019, 08:49 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by profdant139 View Post
Although 4 wheel drive is not essential for most towing, we discovered by accident that buying a 4 x4 Tacoma really opened up a lot of territory for us. We like to hike, using the trailer as a base camp. We take the truck out every day to remote trailheads.

Especially in Colorado and the Eastern Sierras, the 4x4 has meant that we can reach places that we never would have tried to reach. Fun!!
Just an addition to what profant139 has mentioned, here in Alberta a two wheel drive has a lower resale value and is tougher to sell. If you are not changing your TV in the near future it is not an issue for some people and depending on the terrain you will traversing. Just my 2 cents.
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Old 11-10-2019, 11:40 AM   #15
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I've towed with both 1/2 ton and 3/4 ton .. four wheel drive pickups. I chose 4 wheel drive as the TV is also my daily driver.
In the winter, a 4x4 is near necessary due to the snow accumulation. And in the summer, the aid of 4WD has been used when towing due to soft/muddy ground at some campsites and traveled back roads when hunting, etc.
Also, resale value is far greater.
How to use a 4 wheel drive vehicle? Use 2 wheel drive and when you get stuck, put it in 4 wheel drive and BACK OUT.
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Old 11-10-2019, 11:03 PM   #16
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Eagle, that is great advice! I have heard that 4x4 really means "congratulations, you can now get stuck another mile further from pavement."

And more advice -- when you are in California and the guidebook says "high clearance needed," you can probably do it in an SUV.

When you are in Colorado and the book says "high clearance needed," don't do it unless you have a monster truck or a little Jeep.

Anything in between will be real tricky, at least for folks like me who are not expert rock-crawlers.

We did a couple of roads in Colorado where DW had to get out and walk -- riding in the truck made her too nervous. Huge potholes, huge rocks, steep cliffs, loose gravel, very narrow road, roadbed slanted downhill toward the cliff. You get the idea.

Fortunately, those situations were very rare!
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Old Yesterday, 09:38 AM   #17
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Prof .. your comment on ground clearance reminded me of something I was surprised to learn.
My 2015 Jeep Trail Hawk has about 1 inch MORE ground clearance then my 2014 Ram 2500. Who would have thought?
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Old Yesterday, 10:17 AM   #18
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Maybe the jeep has a smaller "pumpkin?" (I think that is the rear differential housing.)

I can tell you that on some notorious roads (Levitt Lake near Bridgeport Cal. for example) there are big rocks in the middle of the road that are deeply scarred by multiple parallel lines, caused by folks dragging their pumpkins over the bad rocks. That must be a really bad noise when it is your vehicle scraping the boulders.

So far, I have never heard that noise . . .
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Old Yesterday, 10:31 AM   #19
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Yes, you are right. The 2500 has a larger differential (pumpkin) and in nearly all vehicles, that is the point closest to the ground for ground clearance measurement...but not sure if that is in the front or rear.

I've seen lots of busted front 4x4 axles from people hitting rocks when hunting but never on the rear...around these parts.
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Old Yesterday, 10:48 AM   #20
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Thought I would report on our experience. I bought the truck before the trailer as the truck sets the maximum towable weight. When the kids were growing up we had either gas powered trucks or a Chevy Burb. Once retired I wanted a big truck which would take us anywhere we wanted to go. I found a one-owner 2003 F250 7.3L PSD RWD crewcab longbed and added a matching shell. The GVWR is 20,000 lbs. Then we bought the FunFinder. After getting the truck stuck a couple of times (without the trailer) and having tire spin in some steep camping locations, I added an Eaton Detroit Truetrac differential. "The Detroit Truetrac is a helical-gear style, limited-slip differential that maximizes wheel traction and enhances driving characteristics." Now I can go anywhere I want and never experience wheel spin when pulling the trailer.

We just returned from an eight state vacation that took us 9000 miles and 100 days. We had no major issues with the truck or trailer. FYI, we get 11 mpg when towing and 15/16 when not.
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