Would you recommend this tow vehicle? - Fiberglass RV


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Old 03-19-2007, 09:09 PM   #1
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I didn't post this under my "60 mpg Ford 150" item because I didn't want to throw any discussion there off course.

My wife would prefer to travel abroad first and there's no sense in letting an RV sit around until March when we'll be ready to go. Nevertheless, I think we've "picked" the likely tow vehicle.

Initially we leaned toward a Dodge 3500 with Cummins diesel. Since then, based on towing capacity and reliability ratings in Consumer reports, we narrowed things down to either used vehicles of two different types--a mid-sized SUV like the Durango or a 2-wheel drive pickup such as Ford F-150s from 2003, 2005 and 2006. We also wanted a low-milage vehicle which could tow anything we'd be likely to want as newbies without consuming too much gas while doing that.

Recently I came accross an F150 ad that fit the description (15k miles, $22K), 14 to 18 mpg (the Durango gets 12), 6,000 pounds or so towing capacity (Durango tows 5,000).
However it has a feature I hadn't considered--a hard top cover (tinted) over the bed which gives it some of the advantages of an SUV. It looks as if there's no danger of exceding recommended weight no matter what we might put inside the truck for ordinary travel.

I'm just wondering what fiberglass trailer owners here thing of such a truck and the price.

We don't have to buy now since we can find similar deals in 12-13 from now we'll be ready to RV. In the meantime my MX-5 (Miata) is a thousand times more fun to drive, uses less gas (27 mpg/ Consumer Reports) and should barely depreciate (F150s one year older seem to run about $2,500 less in online ads from local dealers).

Being retired, I've only gone 3400 miles and one oil change (the free break-in) in 10 months. In dry weather above 50 degrees, the top ALWAYS goes down even if I'm just going five blocks to the supermarket for a loaf of bread. This year in Philly, I was able to do that until mid-January! and it was so nice to do it again last week!

If anyone from a warmer clime is interested--I'd probably be willing to part with the Miata by late fall. At 2,500 pounds it seems like the ideal tow along for snowbirding couples who own motorhomes. The few times in Philly snowed here this winter (twice) I had no trouble driving but getting out of the parking places...forget it, thanks to rear-wheel drive. Now that my wife won't need her Protege 5 for work, I may as well garage it for two months or so.

So what if that 60 mpg Ford hits the market in the meantime? I figure I'd lose more by buying an F-150 now that I don't need yet than by hanging on to the Miata (just for fun because I don't "need" it either). I figure the latter should be relatively immune--for awhile at least--to any depreciation caused by technological change of that sort.
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Old 03-20-2007, 08:00 AM   #2
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Frank,

First, travelling abroad and using a travel trailer locally near home are not mutually exclusive pursuits. Fiberglass RVs are inexpensive enough to be enjoyed while you're waiting for the 'big trip'. There's no reason NOT to buy one and use while you're planning to go abroad. It'll only sit while you're not using it!

I am a 4WD lover. While it's disengaged most of the time, it's really useful when you're camping on wet grass or other place where 2WD, even with a locking differential, just won't move the trailer. It does add cost, complexity, and weight however.

My advice is to find the trailer you want, and then find a vehicle that's capable of towing it. In the case of buying a fiberglass RV, there are some very good reasons to buy the cart before the horse. Of course if your trailer hunt takes you far away from home with cash to find that "right" trailer, you need something to tow it home with which would call for buying the tow vehicle first.

Any of the V8 and many of the V6 half-ton trucks/SUVs would be competent to tow a fiberglass trailer. As has been said in earlier posts, if you're thinking about a fifth wheel, there are other considerations. Make sure you check the owner's manual of any truck to buy to find out exactly what the towing capacity of THAT particular vehicle is as it can vary widely in a given model by drivetrain. There are a world of possibilities. You can do your homework online, but there's nothing like going out there and trying them out to see what you really like and don't like.

Roger
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Old 03-20-2007, 01:29 PM   #3
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Hello, Roger:

Question: What do you think of those metal-covered storage covers over the rear bed of a pickup in combineation with a fiberglass trailer?

Re: buying the trailer before tow vehicle

For a used fiberglass trailer, I'd have to travel some distance and, as you note, that would require buying the tow first. People say: Better to buy too much power than too little. The truck described above is still fine for any fiberglass 16 foot or bigger and should do for anything we'd might consider uness we approach full-time.

We still haven't ruled out a used 3500 Dodge Cummins with 50,000 to 70,000 miles if we come accross one (I've even seen some of them with bed enclosures on the rear). I know it would be overkill for the first fiberglass trailers but it'll do for any bigger RV we might possibly want in the future. If the need isn't there, it shouldn bell with limited financial loss.

Re: 4 wheel drive.

Supposedly the 2 wheel drive F150 is more reliable. I assume gas milage is also better. What I wanted to ask here is, whether the 2-wheel drive would be a problem in snow. Also, do empty pickups fishtail a lot. (I had an 87 T-bird that was so horrifically bad at that I got rid of it).

Re: Your advice on buying RV now for short trips.

Other than the timeshare in August (two weeks) I doubt we'd get much opportunity to use it before March. Otherwise, we'd want to rent one anyway for a week or two to get experience. In the fall my wife is busy with choir almost weekly until after Christmas. The trip abroad would be a long one (not less than two months and up to four months).

ABOUT THAT TRIP ABROAD

As you surely know, the southern hemisphere has summer while we have winter. We'd leave in early January for Hawaii (my sister who is a doctor on Kuaii there keeps pestering us to visit), Australia (we'd stay with my cousin Ed who goes there every year and housesits for friends at a house on the beach above Sidney), New Zealand, Thailand (Ed spends a month or two there every year two and swears its cheaper than home even with airfair) and possibly Vietnam and Laos (great food too). We could return via Europe (expensive though) or back the way we came. In the case, we might consider picking up an RV and pickup on the West Coast.

I know that kind of travel sounds expensive but Ed says it shouldn't be that much than living at home (food, utilities, gas). He has lots of expatriate friends there--including a much scarred veteran of Britain's SAS) and knows his way around. We prefer pensiones to 5-star hotels except for an occasional break. In Southeast Asia, street food tops restaurant food and everyone eats out (about $2.50 I'm told).

At age 65 by then (good shape but you never know for how long) and considering my wife's knee problems (she will be 57) I figure it's now or never to to this.
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Old 03-20-2007, 03:46 PM   #4
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Ah... so you're a cradle robber, eh? Went for the younger woman?

I presume that by the "metal covered truck thing" you mean a topper (or cap) for the pickup bed? I have never bought one nor kept one on a truck that came with it I've owned. For me, they're always in the way, and what I want is at the front of the bed. I swear by the metal diamond-plate toolboxes though.

I don't know where you got your info on the reliability of the F150 4WD. Gas mileage is a mile or so less with 4WD simply because of the additional weight, but the difference isn't significant. I've not heard of any specifics in reliability on a 4WD setup except for the electronic circuit boards used on some Chevy's 4WD engaging systems. That said, there is an additional transfer case, driveshaft and rear end, so there may be more maintenance long-term.

The best handling truck I think I've ever owned is the '02 Tundra I have now, and it loses traction regularly in 2WD on snow/ice. Merely shifting into 4WD makes it much more sure-footed and stable in snow. As I said earlier, I'm a 4WD believer. Other folks may give you different perspectives. Further, there's always a market for a used 4WD truck, and you are assured of not losing the money you spent on the 4WD over 2WD when you go to sell it. 2WD trucks usually take much longer to sell because they're not as much in demand.

A one-ton anything is too much truck for trailers this light. You will beat the poor trailer to death causing cracked fiberglass and potentially breaking the frame. The front suspension on a trailer is the rear suspension of the tow vehicle. If you have one suspended as harshly as most one-ton trucks, you'll have essentially no suspension cushioning at all, and every bump will be transmitted to the trailer frame as a shock. The trailers aren't designed for that. It's especially a problem for trailers like these and Airstreams. There are air-ride hitches that can be had to cushion that, but they'll set you back around a thousand dollars or so.

If you find someone in your part of the world that rents fiberglass RVs, please share it with everyone else. The only folks we know of are in Canada, have several Trilliums, and are also members here.

If you're serious about buying a fiberglass RV and truck on the West Coast after your trip, I would have it done and waiting prior to your departure at the beginning of the trip. The odds of you returning to the U.S. to find a suitable RV and truck just waiting for a new buyer are about the same or maybe a little higher than being struck by lightning or winning the PowerBall Lottery. There are folks who report looking for months here before finding even a single fiberglass trailer close enough to them to go look at.

We're headed for NZ/AU in July this summer as well! I can hardly wait!

Roger
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Old 03-20-2007, 06:56 PM   #5
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The best handling truck I think I've ever owned is the '02 Tundra I have now, and it loses traction regularly in 2WD on snow/ice. Merely shifting into 4WD makes it much more sure-footed and stable in snow. As I said earlier, I'm a 4WD believer. Other folks may give you different perspectives. Further, there's always a market for a used 4WD truck, and you are assured of not losing the money you spent on the 4WD over 2WD when you go to sell it. 2WD trucks usually take much longer to sell because they're not as much in demand.
If one has a 2WD truck, or doesn't want to lose traction in 2WD mode, consider putting a limited slip or locking differential on the rear axle -- When the drive wheel begins to slip, power is transferred to the other wheel -- Very useful in gravel or puddles at stops when one doesn't want to slip yet 4WD isn't appropriate because of the short duration needed (or on pavement).

I have a topper or cap or canopy on my current truck and had one on my 82 D150 -- When I was FullTiming, it gave me plenty of storage space for my stuf and racks on top for my kayak and my awning pipes -- it also gave me emergency shelter (shelf doubled as bunk) if I was in the boondocks and something was amiss with the trailer -- Might feel differently if I was using the truck as more of a work vehicle, hauling stuf, etc.
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Old 03-20-2007, 07:10 PM   #6
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Pete,

'round here, when you lose traction in the snow, it's on enough snow that the AXLE that loses traction not just a wheel. I'd prefer a limited slip rear axle WITH 4WD, but I'm not willing to spend the $800 it takes to have one installed. The 4WD alone has been pretty effective.

Roger
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Old 03-20-2007, 07:27 PM   #7
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Thanks. I had no idea a fiberglass trailer, having no contact with the truck iteself, would suffer that damage from a one-ton turbo pickup. Would this also apply to the Escape 5.0 which is a big larger and pulled by a regular 5th wheel hitch rather than trailer hitch? Would it apply to heavy fiberglass trailers like the Bigfoots?

Also useful: The info about 4 x 2 performance on snow. Concerning your question about reliability info, here's what CR has to say: "Reliability has been BELOW AVERAGE for 4WD models but AVERAGE for 2 WD models."

So that brings us back to options like the Toyota Tundra (4 WD version) or a mid-size SUV as possible tow options. I've never had any problem with cars having front-wheel drive on snow, such as protege.

Re: topper or cap? I don't need a big toolbox, so no problem there. If we go with a small trailer, I'd think I could use the extra space so long as towing power is sufficient.

re: There are air-ride hitches that can be had to cushion that, but they'll set you back around a thousand dollars or so.

Sounds like they are worth it

re: If you find someone in your part of the world that rents fiberglass RVs, please share it with everyone else. The only folks we know of are in Canada, have several Trilliums, and are also members here.

Not here, but I know you can rent Escape does for prospective buyers. I could combine that with a trip to British Columbia, and then buy if I like.

re: We're headed for NZ/AU in July this summer as well! I can hardly wait!

I guess that's equivalent to December or January here. I'm sure you've checked the internet to find out what typical weather conditions are.
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Old 03-21-2007, 08:00 AM   #8
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None of the fiberglass trailers are "heavy", "heavy" being a relative term. Even my 25' Bigfoot rear queen only weighs 5300lbs dry as equipped with a 600 lb tongue weight which is still well within the towing capacity of almost any 1/2 ton truck with a V8. A 40' fifth wheel can weigh 25,000 lbs. My 34' Airstream weighed 7700 lbs dry with a 900 lb tongue weight. THAT was heavy, but still weighed much less than most trailers in it's class that have dry weights of 9,000 lbs or more.

You don't have to worry about damaging a fifth wheel fiberglass camper with a one-ton truck 'cause you won't be able to hitch it up. The hitch won't clear the side rails; the trucks are too tall. Your option would be to raise the trailer on the axle a foot or so... NOT a good idea. A couple of inches is fine, but I wouldn't go any higher, and 2" generally isn't enough to get side -rail clearance. I think I read recently that 44" from the ground is the magic number, at least for Scamp, and that sounds about right from what I remember of the one I had. The stock Scamp 5th wheel fit the '01 S10 pickup we have and the '95 Toyota T100 2WD pickup of the folks we sold it to perfectly. They're both pretty short sided.

That said, if you could hook them up to a one-ton truck, the odds are that you'd eventually damage them because of the stiff suspension. There just isn't enough weight for the suspension to work.

If you're set on a one-ton towing a fiberglass trailer, you'll really want to get an air-ride hitch. Here's one vendor's discussion of them: Air ride hitches.

Iowa summers are known for being "great for corn but hell on people". Just like some folks escape to the Gulf Coast and Arizona for the winter, sometimes it's nice to jet off to a cooler clime for part of the brutal summer heat too! Here we come Southern Hemisphere! AND, I've learned Australian! I can say "Fosters"!

Roger
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Old 03-21-2007, 09:38 AM   #9
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Our Big Blue Gas Hawg has a cap on its bed, with a "Win-door" on the curb side, so we have easier access to stuff near the front...

Of course, this pic isn't of the win-door side, but it's a nice pic of our rig.
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Old 03-21-2007, 04:17 PM   #10
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Why get rid of the Miata?? Just keep 2 fair weather hobbies going!!!


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The car that convinced the Mazda execs to build the Miata
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Old 03-21-2007, 08:11 PM   #11
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The car that convinced the Mazda execs to build the Miata
We have one of those (Triumph Spitfire 1500, but white, and less original than the one in the photo). Any fully employed person who also finds the time to maintain and actively use both a quarter-century-old travel trailer and a British sports car has earned my respect. Ours decorates the garage these days; when we used it, it was a blast, if you don't mind breathing oil smoke and putting out occasional electrical fires.

Fortunately, Mazda was inspired by the concept, but copied none of the mechanical design.

A Miata (or MX-5) seems like a reasonable "toad" (towed car), but you would need to put in on a trailer, or use some driveshaft disconnect method, one of the reasons that it might be considered easier to tow a travel trailer than to drive a motorhome with toad. The Spitfire, by the way, makes a Miata look big.
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Old 03-22-2007, 12:26 AM   #12
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Glad to hear you still have one tucked away Brian. The Spit (1976) is already signed up for 4 driving/show events this year. Click on your browser refresh button for more pictures!

We traded off the (1974) Trillium 3 years ago, needed a newer larger trailer with more fittings to take up more of my time making it the way I like it!!
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