Hi Sherri and All,
Laura and I purchased a new to us '05 Casita 17' Freedom Deluxe in November. The previous owner weighed it and it tipped the scales at 2,910 lbs. I am guessing the tongue weight to be 400 to 450 lbs. Love the Casita. I would definitely recommend something rated to tow 5,000 lbs or higher.
Since we had no tow vehicle, I researched this extensively as well. My goal was to buy a trailer and tow vehicle for no more than $25,000! It was tough, but I did it. We love the '09 Kia Borrego 2WD V8 Limited. It is rated to tow 7,500 lbs, but does not get great gas mileage:
21 to 24 on the highway, not bad
14 to 15 on in city
12.5 to 14 towing
The Borrego was Kia's answer to the Toyota 4 Runner. I am not pushing the Borrego. I was on a tight budget. Brand new the Borrego Limited was $38,000. It is an '09. I bought it for $12,000 before taxes. For me, the depreciation on a Kia was wonderful. I also own an '08 Kia Rondo that is a solid vehicle. Given your $30,000 budget, I think you can find something newer than my '09. They only made the Borrego in '09 in the USA, but it sold
elsewhere as the Kia Mohave for several years.
Laura did not want a pickup truck, so I concentrated on the following:
Toyota 4 Runner
However, all the above, given my budget and preferences, were either too pricey, too many miles, could not tow enough, etc. A 4 Runner would have been my choice, but they are in high demand and pricey. They are great vehicles. So, I ended up with Korea's answer to the 4 Runner. It works for me.
Despite Laura not liking pickup trucks as a daily driver (she drives our tow vehicle some), I think the best tow vehicle is a quad cab pickup truck. There are several nice midsize trucks, but they don't get great gas mileage and are pricey. Jon's suggestion of a Frontier is solid. Probably a little less money than a Taco and the newer Canyons and Colorados.
I love the idea of the Ford F-150 2.7L Eco-Boost. Lots of utility. Roomy. Better than most gas mileage non towing and not bad towing. Price will be the challenge. My brother just bought a '15 Ram 1500 Big Horn Edition Extended Cab (not quite a quad cab) for $26,500. So, maybe a '14 or '15 F150 2.7L Eco-Boost???