Chevy Express 2500 V6 for towing Casita SD17? - Fiberglass RV


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Old 07-31-2021, 10:23 PM   #1
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Chevy Express 2500 V6 for towing Casita SD17?

I'm thinking of getting a Chevy Express Cargo van to tow my Casita Spirit Deluxe 17. I have no idea if I should look at a 2500 or a 3500, and a V6 or a V8. The 2500 V6 looks most common, and appears to have a payload of 3280 and towing capacity of 7400. The V8's seem to have better towing hardware as standard. The Casita weights 3200 (I guess). The weight of the Casita hitch, my camper shell, generator, tools, and everything else, is too close to my Frontiers 1100 payload limit.

Any suggestions on 2500 vs 3500, and V6 vs V8?
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Old 07-31-2021, 11:41 PM   #2
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I’m sure the 2500 V6 would do fine, but I’m a big fan of the 6.0L V8 and 6-speed HD automatic in our Express 3500 Roadtrek motorhome. Power to spare, tow/haul mode as well as full manual mode for downhill speed control, and surprisingly good fuel economy (up to 19 mpg highway). Tows our 13’ Scamp effortlessly with a 2-3 mpg penalty.
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Old 07-31-2021, 11:57 PM   #3
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The motors vary based on the years, but I'm assuming recentish.

The V6 is basically a LS/LT V8 with two cylinders lopped off. It's probably adequate for power. Definitely at lower altitudes, but also for flatter areas at higher altitudes. Might even be enough to maintain the speed limit for high-altitude climbs, like eastbound towards the Eisenhower Tunnel. It's decent for MPG and reliability as well, though the AFM lifters can cause problems.

The V8 is basically a heavy truck engine. Not the most efficient, but good torque and overbuilt to last for a very long time. Think 300K miles vs 150K for the V6. It'll have enough power for anything you need to do. Downside is that it's not particularly efficient. You'll likely get noticeably worse MPG compared to the V6.

What's the better towing hardware that comes standard with the V8? If it's a built-in brake controller, bigger radiator, and transmission cooler.. that might be worth it despite the lower MPG.

The 2500's payload looks more than adequate, although the actual door-sticker payload will be lower than that. The 3500's overkill and will have a harsher ride.
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Old 08-01-2021, 12:06 AM   #4
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Originally Posted by Jon in AZ View Post
I’m sure the V6 would do fine, but I’m a big fan of the 6.0L V8 and 6-speed HD automatic. Power to spare, tow/haul mode as well as full manual mode for downhill speed control, and surprisingly good fuel economy (up to 19 mpg highway in our Express 3500 extended motorhome conversion). You might get it in the 2500, but you’d probably have to special order.
Do you find your van reliable? Right after I decided to get a Chevy/GMC van, I just saw a Scotty Kilmer view about them called "The Worst Vehicle Ever Made", ouch! Bob Wells at the CheaperRV site seems to like Chevy/GMC, so I don't know who to believe. I started looking at Transits, but I know very little about them. Maybe that is good, since I get more indecisive the more I learn, lol.

I almost bought a truck today, but my salesman was so slow, another salesman sold it first. I could not believe it. Now I'm thinking maybe it was a sign to get a van. 4WD was the main reason I wanted a truck, but I stumbled on some people using winches with 2WD vans as a poor man's 4WD. I was looking at F150s and Tundras, which seem to be really reliable, and was sad to see Scottys video about "the worst vehicle ever made".

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Old 08-01-2021, 01:41 AM   #5
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There's definitely some serious hyperbole and generalizations going on there. For one, they've been making them in some form since 1996. They're not exactly Toyotas, and vans are always a pain to work on, but they're not lemons or anything.

Transit's definitely worth a look. There's a lot of different varieties with different tow limits, but most will be fine for a Casita. They'll definitely get better mileage and be nicer to drive than an Express.

Nisan NV2500 is probably also worth considering.

If you just need a couple hundred more pounds of payload and an enclosed storage area, you can look into 3-row SUVs like the Pilot, Highlander, Grand Cherokee, Explorer, etc as well.
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Old 08-01-2021, 06:26 AM   #6
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There's definitely some serious hyperbole and generalizations going on there. For one, they've been making them in some form since 1996. They're not exactly Toyotas, and vans are always a pain to work on, but they're not lemons or anything.

Transit's definitely worth a look. There's a lot of different varieties with different tow limits, but most will be fine for a Casita. They'll definitely get better mileage and be nicer to drive than an Express.

Nisan NV2500 is probably also worth considering.

If you just need a couple hundred more pounds of payload and an enclosed storage area, you can look into 3-row SUVs like the Pilot, Highlander, Grand Cherokee, Explorer, etc as well.
Lol, yes, about every 3rd video by Scotty is "the worst car ever made". I liked the stats on the V8 Chevy 2500's, but I need to research if the repair bills are higher because the V8 is harder to work on than the V6. I've read a lot of people comment on that, but I don't work on engines, so I'm mostly concerned if it will cost me more to have someone else do it. Good to know that they are not "lemons", which makes sense with them being around so long.

Today I will research the Chevy/GMC vans vs the Transits. I actually like the low-top Transits because I mostly need a hollow tow-vehicle for the Casita. At some point, I will buy another house and the tow-vehicle would become my "car".

I'm slightly afraid Nissan might go out of business. I think their ex-CEO, who said Nissan would be bankrupt in 2 years, is currently a fugitive. The American mercenaries that smuggled him away are in jail. Way too much drama for me. I like the low-top NV's, but the high-top ("top hats") are butt ugly. I considered getting an NV2500 or NV3500 with a Fiberine roof, until I read about the Nissan drama. Titan XD's were my new favorite truck, but people seem to be getting rid of them. I guess a truck that was made for 2 years by a company that might go out of business, is not worth the risk.
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Old 08-01-2021, 07:08 AM   #7
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There are a couple of different V8 engines used in the Express. There is a 4.8L (I think) along with the 6.0L. Don’t know much about the smaller one.

Reliability… jury is out on that. My mom wasn’t able to use it much before health issues caused her to park it. Thanks to COVID, we haven’t been able to use it much either since we acquired it in late 2019.. It’s a 2014 with only 16K miles. My take is in line with Defenestrator- it’s no Toyota but it’s a solid old-school van.

I agree that ride quality on the 3500 is very truck-ish. Seats and driver ergonomics are decent. Safety features lag behind Transit and Sprinter. Crash test data is not available on any of the HD vans, as far as I have been able to find, but I wouldn’t expect any of them to protect occupants as well as a modern light-duty pickup truck or SUV.

In my opinion a full-size van will make a pretty poor daily driver. If you’re serious about returning to part-time travel in the near future, I’d be inclined to stick it out with the Frontier. In any case now is a bad time to be buying a vehicle, with inventories low and prices high. Are you using a weight distributing hitch? More important, have you had your loaded rig across a scale?
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Old 08-01-2021, 08:28 AM   #8
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I tow my 17'Casita SD with a 2017 GMC 2500 savana cargo van 4.8 L that I converted into a camper van, it tows the Casita OK. The van has 342 rear gears and 6 speed trans and you need to keep it out of OD towing, the van would be better if it had 373 or 410 gears. Before the van I towed with a 2006 Toyota Tundra with 4.7 engine and 5 speed trans and 396 rear gears and it towed the Casita much better.


Scotty Kilmer is full of HOT AIR! he is out their on YouTube to make money.
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Old 08-01-2021, 08:37 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by Jon in AZ View Post
There are a couple of different V8 engines used in the Express. There is a 4.8L (I think) along with the 6.0L. Donít know much about the smaller one.

ReliabilityÖ jury is out on that. My mom wasnít able to use it much before health issues caused her to park it. Thanks to COVID, we havenít been able to use it much either since we acquired it in late 2019.. Itís a 2014 with only 16K miles. My take is in line with Defenestrator- itís no Toyota but itís a solid old-school van.

I agree that ride quality on the 3500 is very truck-ish. Seats and driver ergonomics are decent. Safety features lag behind Transit and Sprinter. Crash test data is not available on any of the HD vans, as far as I have been able to find, but I wouldnít expect any of them to protect occupants as well as a modern light-duty pickup truck or SUV.

In my opinion a full-size van will make a pretty poor daily driver. If youíre serious about returning to part-time travel in the near future, Iíd be inclined to stick it out with the Frontier. In any case now is a bad time to be buying a vehicle, with inventories low and prices high. Are you using a weight distributing hitch? More important, have you had your loaded rig across a scale?
I weighed my truck so many times at the local landfill, they ask me if I am dumping trash or just checking my weight, hehe. They do total weight, not broken down by axel. They said I could pull my Casita through, but I haven't done it yet. I am not using a WD hitch.

In my goal to move across the country, I could tow my Casita empty, then come back and get all my other stuff. That's what I did when I moved from North to South, but it was a 1 day drive and not a 4 day drive. 12 days of driving to make 3 trips might kaputski my Frontier, if not me.

Supposedly, used cars are also selling at a premium, because of the chip shortage. So, trading in an old one, should negate the premium on the new one. The salesman that blew my F150 purchase said to that, "Not necessarily."
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Old 08-01-2021, 08:58 AM   #10
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Yes, I meant an axle by axle weighing and yes, I meant with the trailer attached. Try a truck stop.
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Old 08-01-2021, 09:49 AM   #11
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Chev V6 towing

A full size van, likely 6000 lbs, with a V6, rated to tow 7400?
Sounds like you should carefully review these specs and the specific vehicle.
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Old 08-01-2021, 09:52 AM   #12
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I found a Transit 250, Medium Roof, 130" Wheelbase, 3.5L PFDI, 3.73 Non-Limited Slip Axel, and a Heavy-Duty Trailer Tow Package. According to Ford, it has a Maximum Loaded Trailer weight of 5100 lbs. I think my casita is 2500 lbs dry, and maxes out at 3500 lbs. I will probably use 50% of the limit, so I would have 500lbs giving a weight of 3000 lbs. Only using 3000lbs out of 5100lbs should work. The vans total payload capacity seems to be 3900lbs, which is way more than I need. Does this sound like it would work?
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Old 08-01-2021, 11:26 AM   #13
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A full size van, likely 6000 lbs, with a V6, rated to tow 7400?
Sounds like you should carefully review these specs and the specific vehicle.
I see on chevrolet.com these numbers

GVWR (lbs.) 8,600 lbs
Curb Weight (lbs.)5,261 lbs
Max Payload (lbs.) 3,280 lbs
Max Conventional Trailering (lbs.) 7,400 lbs
GCWR (lbs.) 15,000 lbs

https://www.chevrolet.com/commercial...tyleOne=415947
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Old 08-01-2021, 12:11 PM   #14
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I have a 2008 Roadtrek 210 built on a 2008 Chevy Express 3500 chassis w/the V8 6L engine. It has 168,000+ miles on it and is going strong. I would not hesitate to hop in it and take off for California today. The Chevy 6 Liter is a very dependable engine!!! As Defenestrator said, the Chevy 6 Liter is known for running 300,000 miles with no problems. Wish we could say that about their 4 speed transmissions in the older 3500 Express vans.
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Old 08-01-2021, 01:37 PM   #15
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Chevy Express Full size Vans

I've had around 11 Chevy vans. I currently have 3, the only lemon I've had was a 1990 with a 454 engine. All were 3500 except my first one was a 1975 2500. Currently I have a 2001 with a 350 engine, a raise fiberglass roof with a slight conversions with around 69,000 miles, very good van, and a 2008 6 liter with around 136,000 miles just passed smog never had to change plugs, brakes, never had to take off the engine cover. Changing the oil and transmission fluid you don't have to jack up the van. The only problem I lost one speed on my heater/ AC fan. I highly recommend a Chevy express 3500 with a 6 liter with a 373 gear and rear disc brakes. You can tow close to 10,000 pounds. better to be overkill then underkill. It's really hard to beat. I like this van so much I bought a 2019. I would have bought this sooner if Chevrolet would have made this van with the same platform but with the higher roof that Ford, Mercedes and Dodge use. A taller Chevy Express that you could stand up in and still tow 10,000 pound would be nice. I believe Chevy dropped the ball on this. Take Care

Scotty doesn't know what he is talking about in my opinion
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Old 08-01-2021, 02:03 PM   #16
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I've had around 11 Chevy vans. I currently have 3, the only lemon I've had was a 1990 with a 454 engine. All were 3500 except my first one was a 1975 2500. Currently I have a 2001 with a 350 engine, a raise fiberglass roof with a slight conversions with around 69,000 miles, very good van, and a 2008 6 liter with around 136,000 miles just passed smog never had to change plugs, brakes, never had to take off the engine cover. Changing the oil and transmission fluid you don't have to jack up the van. The only problem I lost one speed on my heater/ AC fan. I highly recommend a Chevy express 3500 with a 6 liter with a 373 gear and rear disc brakes. You can tow close to 10,000 pounds. better to be overkill then underkill. It's really hard to beat. I like this van so much I bought a 2019. I would have bought this sooner if Chevrolet would have made this van with the same platform but with the higher roof that Ford, Mercedes and Dodge use. A taller Chevy Express that you could stand up in and still tow 10,000 pound would be nice. I believe Chevy dropped the ball on this. Take Care

Scotty doesn't know what he is talking about in my opinion
Thanks, this is all good to know. Being underpowered is my main fear.
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Old 08-02-2021, 09:32 PM   #17
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I'm thinking of getting a Chevy Express Cargo van to tow my Casita Spirit Deluxe 17. I have no idea if I should look at a 2500 or a 3500, and a V6 or a V8. The 2500 V6 looks most common, and appears to have a payload of 3280 and towing capacity of 7400. The V8's seem to have better towing hardware as standard. The Casita weights 3200 (I guess). The weight of the Casita hitch, my camper shell, generator, tools, and everything else, is too close to my Frontiers 1100 payload limit.

Any suggestions on 2500 vs 3500, and V6 vs V8?
We had a V6 in a Trail Blazer. It worked but was marginal going over the mountains. We also had a V8 in a full size van and it was good. We got a 2013 GMC Yukon XL with a 5.3 V8 and it did great. But it unfortunately had to many electrical problems so we got a 2016 Chev Tahoe with a 5.3 V8 and we expect it to do better than the Yukon since it is the short Tahoe. First trip in it over the mountains next week. We've had it around the area some and it is great. So go for the V8. The gas is about the same towing with a 6 and V8 plus you have power. The 6 loses about 4-6 MPG the 8 loses about 2-4.
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Old 08-03-2021, 02:40 AM   #18
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I got a V8 F-150, so my payload is now high enough.
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Old 08-03-2021, 07:20 AM   #19
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Thanks, this is all good to know. Being underpowered is my main fear.
Nothing wrong with being under-powered. You will just be passed more when going up hill, but you will still get there. I say that with experience. Spent a lot of hours behind the wheel while under-powered by a Detroit 238 diesel pulling 80,000 lbs. But we always got there right behind the big boys!!!
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Old 08-07-2021, 01:48 PM   #20
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Last year I moved up from a Honda Odyssey to a Chevy 2500 Express with a 16' Scamp Standard Layout 6. I needed more room for my art show stuff and I went from a 3500 lb. towing capacity in the Honda to a 6300 lb. capacity. I also removed all the rear seats in both as I never use them. Now I can tow either my Scamp and my horse trailer and 16' hay wagon fully loaded. I highly recommend the bigger van.
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