View Full Version : Need advice on a tow vehicle

10-29-2017, 08:43 AM
Our old 1/2 ton Dodge pick-up that we have had for 23 years is starting to show its age. It is time to find a replacement. We are considering a 3/4 ton so we have the option of getting an enclosed trailer to haul Dad's 50 Champion or my Hawk if we want to go to a distant show. The enclosed trailer is my idea because I figure the car will be just as likely to get hit by road debris if it is on an open trailer as it would if it was being driven.

The "new to us" truck will not see a lot of use. If think our old Dodge has accumulated 30K miles in the last 15 years. Its primary job will be to go to Lowes occasionally to pick something up. We may haul a car to 1 or 2 shows a year. We will drive them to the local shows.

Based on the research I have done, it looks like the trailer with car loaded will be between 7000lbs and maybe as much as 7500lbs.

I would like to get some input as to the suitability of a gas powered truck for this type of use. It looks like diesel's have about double the torque of a gas engine. How does a gas engine perform (as compared to a diesel) at being able to pull off from a stop and come up to speed towing a car trailer?

Since the majority of the standby generators in the world are diesel, I assume a diesel truck would be better suited to sitting around waiting to be used. If my assumption is wrong please explain.

Maintenance on a diesel will be higher because of all the extra filters. Anyone have experience as to how much higher per year?

Anyone tow an enclosed trailer with a 1/2 ton? If you have, would you do it again?

10-29-2017, 09:06 AM
I would humbly suggest you look hard at a RAM pickup. (* This is not a sales pitch, but an experience based review:p)
The Hemi gas engine with the 8 speed auto trans. Mileage is awesome the 90% of the time you are not towing.
Factory trailer brake option.

Now, If going in cold, I would suggest a 3/4 ton (2wd) for the added suspension beef that towing will bring.

Speaking from experience...
My used 2014 Ram 1500 (1/2 ton) does everything I ask it to.
It is just about maxed out pulling the enclosed car trailer (weight capacity wise), but with the factory brake controller and 4 wheel trailer brakes it stops great.
The factory trailer brake controller ties into the truck brakes and you can choose the size/style of trailer and the brake bias... Works great.
Have a class 4 load equalizer hitch, and a friction sway control unit.
My truck (empty) gets around 21.5 in town and it will hit 23.5 on trips on the interstate.
Towing loaded about cuts the mileage in half.
I have the 'crew cab/short box'. You can get the 'bonus cab/long box'... The doors are shorter in the back, but the chassis wheelbase is indentical.

So, to answer your OP question... I have a half ton and tow an enclosed 28' trailer loaded with a Studebaker and other stuff
(generator/air compressor/winch/dummy Stude block/track stuff).
I am satisfied with it. I will continue with it.
But... (there's always a but...)
If I were shopping today for a tow rig... I'd look for a 2500 3/4 ton.

Here's a pic of the trailer with 'The Black Car' loaded, so you can see about what a Hawk would look like inside..



10-29-2017, 09:14 AM
I think Jeff, DEEPNHOCK does exactly that with a 1/2 ton Ram 1500. I belong to a couple Ram forums and one of the issues with the newer diesels that continues to be discussed is short trips. Apparently, the newer regeneration technology likes the engines to be driven some distance on a regular basis. Don't shoot the messenger here as I'm just sharing data.

I do know the Ram diesel folks think the sweet spot for the diesels is the mid-2000's. Ask around a few diesel forums if you are serious.

One thing you will find is the cost of high capacity used tow vehicles is not inexpensive. My son's 2003 HD2500 GM 8.1 liter gas Allison trannyed crew cab with 90K miles sold two months ago for $15K and the new owner just handed him the cash with no bargaining for a Michigan based truck. It was in great shape however.

I'd be sure to drive a 1500 vs 2500 whatever first of the model you want. The newer 2500 ride pretty good but not like a 1500.

The diesel generator thing is real as if you have fuel pressure and can crank they will start and run. Besides all/most Class 8 tractors are diesel so it's a proven tow technology. It's just the newer diesel pickups are a bit more complicated than before.

IIWM, I'd look at a 1500 with towing and brake packages very hard. I'm currently partial to Ram's as they still have the Hemi with 400 lb/ft of torque but others opinion may vary.

OOPS! I guess Jeff types faster than I do.


10-29-2017, 09:28 AM

OOPS! I guess Jeff types faster than I do.


Nahh... Great minds just think alike:whome:
Your comment about the 1500 vs 2500 is interesting....
I'm happy with mine, but might toss in some larger rear springs...(someday when the wife is not looking).
Having owned a diesel in cold country... I'm sticking with gas power.
That, and DEF isn't cheap, and changing the unit out is expensive.


Wayne... C'mon down to Deep-N-Hock Acres and we'll take a lil' road trip and you can see what one feels like...

10-29-2017, 09:29 AM
Jeff offers some good (experienced) testimony. Another good source of input, (if you can withstand some attempt at "salesmanship" talk) is to find some reputable long standing "used" commercial truck dealer in your area. Drop in for a friendly chat. Take a look at their inventory, and see what they are promoting (stocking) on their lot. See what are the bargain promotions, and what they see as premium. The back lot real low priced "bargain," is usually no bargain. Good dealers shy away from bad stuff that cause them grief. On trucks used for towing, transmissions & rear gears are as important as the engine.

If you have friends, in construction trades, who have a fleet of trucks, they can also give input about what can take abuse from employees and being used as a "tool" over time. Good luck with your search. My 2002 4.7 liter four door Ram 1500 has done well mechanically, but I hope the newer ones have solved/improved the disintegrating plastic dash problem.

10-29-2017, 09:44 AM
My Silverado Duramax has over 200K miles, and has towed my 18 thousand pound 5th wheel many miles without flinching. There is no better drivetrain than the duramax, and allison transmission. New ones put out over 900 ft lbs torque, and they can be modded to over 1000 hp, and 1200 ft lbs, and daily driven easily. My mileage stays around 17 even towing.

63 R2 Hawk
10-29-2017, 10:00 AM
I'm a huge diesel fan, my antique 2004 GMC Duramax has reliably pulled our 12K# 5th wheel many, many thousands of miles thru mountains and coast to coast and fuel economy cannot be beat. However, I would not advise a diesel, especially the newer ones, if most of your driving is local short trips. I would recommend a 3/4 ton though, because I'm a firm believer in having as much truck weight and brake capability as possible when towing anything. I have seen people towing big 5th wheels and pull trailers with 1/2 ton trucks but if they ever need stop or maneuver evasively, they may be n for a surprise!!!

mike cenit
10-29-2017, 10:06 AM
We use a 2017 Ram 2500 ( still a Dodge in my view) 6.4 Hemi, and like Deepnhock said the MPG for a truck this size is amazing, it runs 70 MPH under 2000 RPM all day at nearly 20 MPG. It tows our 64 Marshall with ease, we bought the Tradesman with the chrome package to pretty it up a bit, and it prices out well, be careful it's easy to add 15,000 to 20,000 dollars to the sticker by buying the packages. In an odd way, for me if Studebaker made a 2017 truck the Ram would be what it looked like.

t walgamuth
10-29-2017, 10:07 AM
I like the Dodge ram with Diesel. I now have a 2008 that I traded my 03 for a couple of months ago. The 03 was bought new and run to 220,000 miles or so. I got 10K for it in trade and took my newish michelin tires and aluminum wheels over to the 08. The 08 had 15K on it when I got it. I paid $28K for it. It's in very good condition but is a stripper model with manual locks seats and crank windows.6815568156

The white one is the 08. I miss the flatbed on the 03. The 08 is so quiet it seems like a gasser except for the flood of torque.

10-29-2017, 10:08 AM
I have not done any towing with a half ton truck, but in our travels, have passed quite a few on the uphill grades that seem to be having trouble with the load. The newer light duty trucks have a decent tow rating but that might be more in line with flat terrain. I towed with a 24 valve Cummins 5.9, 2500 for years, and now have the 6.7 3500. My newer truck is a 2012, so there was no DEF. We tow an open car trailer, and a 28' airstream with ease. The older truck would get around 14 mpg with the airstream, and the new one only 11 to 12 mpg. As far as sitting between use, mine both sit for most of the winter, and start right up in the spring. Diesel doesn't seem to "sour" as fast as gasoline. If it were me I would at least go with a 3/4 ton.

10-29-2017, 10:49 AM
I would recommend a gas engine over a diesel. Especially if you are considering a Dodge “Ram” diesel. My son in law bought a new “Ram” diesel last year, engine self destructed under 5k miles. After a month at the dealer he drove a few more thousand miles and the automatic transmission went kaput. Seems Diesel engine was manufactured by Fiat in Italy. When demand went up, quality went down. I think he said the transmission was made in Germany?

10-29-2017, 10:55 AM
57pack, you must be referring to the 1/2 ton eco diesel. I have heard some bad news about them. The Cummins I6 is tried and true. My older 5.9 has 198,000 on it, and will still pull any hill on the interstate in 6th gear with our camp trailer. I have replaced the injection pump, (just to avoid trouble) but the turbo is still original, well as most of the truck.

10-29-2017, 11:53 AM
Yes it was or is the V6 EcoDiesel manufactured by VM Motori a subsidiary of Fiat.
The Cummins engine is still a winner, as I told my son in law. He wouldn’t listen to me.:(

mike cenit
10-29-2017, 11:54 AM
I agree the Fiat diesel in the 1500 is certainly not as reliable as the Cummins, it took Chrysler a while to figure out how to screw a truck together right around the Cummins, they finally got it right and it's a pretty good truck now.

10-29-2017, 12:04 PM
Unloaded, the GM's ride better than the Dodge or Fords.... I think a bit quieter too. Around here, diesel fuel is the same as 87 regular. Having several 2500 big blocks, and a nice Duramax 3/4 ton.... money less an object than happy, brain-free towing....the diesel all day. But @ $10K + your call....

t walgamuth
10-29-2017, 12:50 PM
I paid a premium of about 5K when I bought the 03 cummins and at trade in time it was a 7K bump in value. An 03 gasser is worth nearly nothing by comparison.

10-29-2017, 01:20 PM
My .02? Definitely get a 3/4 TON. I drive Suburbans, all 3/4 ton 4X4. Nice to have 4x4, even if you do nearly all higway driving. Because sooner or later, at a car show, you will be directed to park your trailer in a muddy field.

I won't buy a Diesel that requires DEF. Never. Older Diesels are fine, and great for towing. Like Jeff says, the newer gas engines are so much better that the advantage of Diesels for towing is much reduced, as is the fuel economy advantage. Were I to buy a new truck, I would go with gas. If a newer used truck, than what I already own, a Diesel pre-DEF.

10-29-2017, 02:04 PM
We have 2012 Ram 1500 2dr short bed 5.7 Hemi , 6 speed automatic . We purchased it new and it now has 62,000 miles and with the exception of a key fob it has been trouble free , we use it to tow a few times a year , We once towed a Avanti on a trailer and loaded the truck with parts to So.Bend and averaged over 14mpg, The truck has more power than needed to handle anything I've even thrown at it. During the warmer months it averages 17mpg around town , when its cold it drops to 15 mpg. The best I.ve got on the highway was 21mpg , Ed

10-29-2017, 02:35 PM
Should a known this thread would be a HOT topic...'cause this bumper sticker...https://tse3.mm.bing.net/th?id=OIP._ub8NPCQsq7wYrvqmbUoBg4l4l&pid=15.1&P=0&w=300&h=300...didn't appear out of thin air.;)

10-29-2017, 05:43 PM
LOL. Yes we all love our trucks. I was always a Ford guy till Dodge came around with the Cummins diesel. Now I really believe they all make a pretty dependable truck. My first truck was a 52 Ford with the flathead V8. I still have it, but needs a little TLC, to be driven again. The mine site that I work at uses all Ford vehicles (a fleet of 200 or so) and they really seem to take a lot of abuse and hold up well.

10-29-2017, 06:37 PM
Thanks for all the input. I was planning on a 2 wheel drive, but it seems that a 3/4 ton, 2 wheel drive is almost non-existant. Are modern 4WD setups pretty reliable and maintenance free? What is the life expectancy of the automatic transmissions in 3/4 ton trucks? My past experience with automatics is that they need a rebuild around 150K miles.

10-29-2017, 07:29 PM
I have never owned a Ford diesel truck, but when I was a course worker for the ECTA a lot of folks used Ford F-350 trucks to tow their race cars. I don't recall and ill comments about these trucks. I have a 2002 F-150 4x4 that I have used to tow cars now and then. It has always preformed well doing this task. The longest tow was a 1958 Commander from south Georgia to North Carolina. We had no problems. The truck also has over has well over 200k on the odometer.

10-29-2017, 08:25 PM
I have a 15 silverado 1500 with 5.3 and tow package. We get about 20 mixed driving and 15 or so towing. We have never had any issues towing a 31 ft airstream even over the Rockies. I would recommend it as a good tow vehicle. It is comfortable, stable and with integrated break controller, grade assist, etc, it tows as good or better than my Dodge 3500 Cummins. BTW, I have towed several studes on Uhaul car hauler with it from S.D., Wisc, Chicago to FL with no issues whatsoever.

10-29-2017, 08:58 PM
I'm going to get soooooo beat up over this input. I all ready feel the pain coming my way.
Have you considered a half ton, (I'll use small letters and maybe the pain will be less) toyota tundra? They have excellent reviews and owners swear by them. They have a heavier load capacity then the Big 3 half tons and get good mileage.
Disclaimer: I don't own one of these, but would consider it for occasional towing of an enclosed trailer as I have several friends that have them, use them, with well over 100,000 miles and no major problems. They keep telling me that they are made in the USA...........so, maybe they are OK.
If you were towing all the time, a diesel is the way to go. I towed the 66 Daytona to South Bend in 2012 with my 2000 Ford F350 1 ton dually crew cab, long bed and got 15.5 miles per gallon of diesel at highway + MPH. That old truck had nearly 100,000 miles on the 7.3 diesel and was still real strong. It was an automatic and I never found out how much it could pull. We had a big 5th wheel that we pulled and I pulled an even bigger one for a friend on occasion.
Dang, now you have me missing that old truck again.

mike cenit
10-29-2017, 09:56 PM
the Tundra is ok so is the Titan, no better or worst than GM, Ford or Ram, problem is you can't spec them like an American brand truck, tires, rear end, trans and engine match ups, especially for a work truck, plus their dealers don't stock as many.

I believe there are no better 1/2 ton, 3/4 ton or 1 ton pick ups in the world than American trucks.

10-29-2017, 10:27 PM
Actually, Toyota builds a nice truck. They're comfortable for my 6'4" frame and tow beautifully. I had the use of a ninety-six T100 that pulled my 25' Terry T.T. with total aplomb. But then again, so does Bess ('56 Parkview) and my V8 Champ. As for myself; the proposed load you are describing, I would only attempt with a one-ton truck, if I had my 'druthers. A 3/4 ton truck will likely do it, but can be overfaced with the load and it can get really ugly, really quickly. This illustrates what happens when a 1/2 to 3/4 ton gets in trouble with a trailer swaying (a good example of an overloaded tow vehicle going too fast):

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t walgamuth
10-30-2017, 05:18 AM
That could have been avoided by applying the trailer brakes early on.

Mike Sal
10-30-2017, 09:08 AM
I'm kinda in the same situation....I'd like to upgrade from my '99 dodge 4x4, but almost all used (and new) trucks out there are 4 door.....I don't want a 4 door....if I wanted a 4 door, I'd drive a car. Doesn't anyone use a truck for work anymore where they need an 8ft bed???
Mike Sal

t walgamuth
10-30-2017, 09:12 AM
Not too many.

The four door is nice for towing a camper. 6' bed nice for maneuvering.

When I had kids at home we towed with Suburbans. We had at least six of them. I'd tow with one today if Dodge offered one with the Cummins. Maybe even a Chevy if they offered it with the diesel.

10-30-2017, 09:33 AM
I'm kinda in the same situation....I'd like to upgrade from my '99 dodge 4x4, but almost all used (and new) trucks out there are 4 door.....I don't want a 4 door....if I wanted a 4 door, I'd drive a car. Doesn't anyone use a truck for work anymore where they need an 8ft bed???
Mike Sal

No friends, eh?:rolleyes: (It's a joke...a joke)
I insist on a full crew cab 4 door because I do not want my passenger friends to be smushed into a jumpseat sized for kids and dogs.
You can get a crew cab 4 door with an 8' box. They are great in above ground parking lots.
And they are expensive because 90+% of the buyers don't want a loooonnng truck.

10-30-2017, 09:36 AM
I'm kinda in the same situation....I'd like to upgrade from my '99 dodge 4x4, but almost all used (and new) trucks out there are 4 door.....I don't want a 4 door....if I wanted a 4 door, I'd drive a car. Doesn't anyone use a truck for work anymore where they need an 8ft bed???
Mike Sal

A couple of things...Obviously, you must be neater than me.:) When I left my "Suit & Tie" job for a career in Industrial Sales & Engineering, my vehicle became my "office." Early on, I spent a few days with an experienced salesman who was driving a mini-van. One day, we had demonstrated an airless paint unit, which involved carrying a pump that had to be cleaned with a flammable solvent. After leaving the customer, my co-worker lit a cigarette as we were driving away from the plant. I'm not a smoker, and I was horrified by Larry lighting up with the heavy aroma of solvent in the confines of that van.:eek: From that moment, I decided that for my business vehicle, there would be no Van. Since then, I have only used extended cab & four door trucks (room for my office), and a bed cover to separate me and my demo equipment from any solvent vapors.

There were many times, after a meeting that required tweaking a quoted project, that I was able to go to my four door truck, use reference materials (catalogs) take my computer and printer, revise the proposal, and leave with a contract:!:... while my competition was pondering their options and trying to decide which secretary they were going to task with typing the new quote.:confused:

As they say, "different strokes for different folks"...when you consider the options that work best for your tasks, there are often compromises required for the best performance. I've pondered the idea of a pickup using "fifth-wheel" towing opposed to bumper hitch towing. There are pros & cons there too...

mike cenit
10-30-2017, 10:18 AM
If you are on the road for work, in the age of smaller 4 door cars, a 4 door short bed truck is invaluable, you can stow your gear in the room size back seat, and as jclary said use the bed for stuff that needs not to be inside, only downside of cause is the gas, and mall parking. But you can drive all day in comfort, for my 40,000 mile a year for work, I can't see ever going back to a car, our company uses Ford's and Ram's, the Ford's seem to ride better, but the aluminium body seems to get beat up faster and more often, and they are more difacult repairing the body's, I can see the company dropping Ford's, likely for GMC.

10-30-2017, 10:32 AM
My take on the crew cab trucks is that the added wheelbase just makes the truck that much better to tow with. The added length reduces the swaying motion from the trailer Anti sway can be reduced by using the correct equipment, hitch and anti sway unit. The other thing is to get the correct tongue weight to reduce sway. Too many people have no idea that by reducing tongue weight you increase sway. There's a reason 18 wheelers have the trailer axles way towards the rear instead of forward. You need to be towing, not balancing. The other thing, if it's applicable, is to tow with a fifth wheel hitch or gooseneck to get the weight over the truck axle instead of off the rear of the truck. Makes maneuvering much better too.

Mrs K Corbin
10-31-2017, 06:34 AM
I much prefer the older 2nd generation dodge cummins with a 5 spd.

10-31-2017, 10:33 AM
I like the 2nd gen Dodges also. Have a 2000 V10, that is now my work truck, and a 2001 Diesel with the six speed. The six speed is truly bombproof, while I have heard that you can't tow in fifth gear with the five speed.

10-31-2017, 05:12 PM
Every 1/2T truck I buy gets a update to 1T springs in the rear. Problems solved.
Looking at a new to me beater parts/towing rig.Something 2001-4.High miles and rust do not bother me
Have a friend who sells cars and they have a eye out for me.
My only parameters are that I am upgrading to a 3/4T Chevy 4x4 standard cab long box.
Nothing yet.

11-01-2017, 01:41 AM
Go down to your local Ford truck dealer and check out an F150 EcoBoost with the full-blown tow package.

Mine is a five-year-old 4WD XLT Supercab with a deluxe tow package and is an awesome hauler. It's powered by a tiny little 213 ci V6 that produces an unbelievable amount of torgue through it's entire usable RPM range. It's got a 1500lb payload and is able to tow in excess of 11,000 lbs without even breathing hard.

Last April I was on my way to South Bend with a full bed, an old all-steel trailer that weighs more than a ton behind, loaded up with a car and going up over the Cascades when I glanced down at the speedo - I was doing 65 and the engine was turning a measly 1,000 rpm !!!

The truck is a rolling computer. Slippery roads? It decides what to do whether speeding up or slowing down and braking. Trailer tries to fishtail? It sends you a warning on the dash and says it's initiating corrective measures and a second later the trailer is following along like a placid puppy. Only thing I didn't like was that when the truck is in haul mode you can't use cruise control or all of the traction, handling and braking gizmos switch off.

Going up through the rockies, I'd roll up next to some big Super Duty belching smoke and going just about all out with a lighter-newer hauler and lighter-smaller car, well above 65, and ease right on by turning maybe 1300 to 1500 uphill. One guy did his best to try and spank me. As I was going by he accelerated and pulled up flush. I glanced over at him and he had a big s***-eating grin on his face. He gave me a thumbs up and put his foot down hard and started pulling away. I put the pedal down a tad more and rolled up next to him and glanced over. He looked a little startled and put his foot down even more. I just chuckled, put the pedal down a tiny fraction more, went by him like he was going in reverse, got out 150 meters in front of him and kept him there, for about half an hour. He would speed up and try and close the gap; and I'd keep him right there at 150 meters, until we'd get up to speeds that I imagine were scaring the cr** out of him; and he'd ease off for a while before trying to sneak up to me again. No matter how hard he tried, I kept him at 150 meters behind for more than half an hour before I got tired of the game, put the pedal down a little more and he became a speck in the mirror really fast and eventually disappeared. All while using, according to the computer. 14.2 mpg with that load on; and, if I slowed down and drove more civilized and kept it at 55 to 60 getting nearly 20 mpg.

The new one's make mine look like a nag. The new one is 700 lbs lighter, because it's got an aluminum body, which ups the payload, it makes 10 more bhp with the same displacement and same number of turbos (2), electronic fuel injection and variable valve timing, and an additional 50 pound feet of torque at 3500 rpm (470 vs. 420) than my truck does. It's got a 10-speed transmission versus my six speed. It's got all the doodads mine has plus more - lane assist, etc. - and it ride is really comfortable. Steering response is crisp with just the right amount of feedback. Took mine down to the local Ford Truck guy and feigned interest in trading in my truck on a new one, just so they'd let me try out all the various new configurations. Poor guy, I spent most of the afternoon taking out a bunch of their trucks, driving a mile to the interstate, getting up on the interstate and then going up two exits before I got off and made my way back again, but in the end I had to let him down by staying with my old steel-bodied nag.

Unless you plan to be hauling industrial trailers with big industrial excavators and such on them, or a massive snowbird home that you're going to drag down to Arizona every winter, there's no need to buy something that's considered to be a heavyweight - that F150 ecoboost with the best tow package combination Ford has is way more than you'll need to drag a car hauler with your baby on it around the country.

t walgamuth
11-01-2017, 05:29 AM
Yeah, pulling a car on a trailer is fairly light duty. I can get 17 pulling one with my cummins at 65 mph.

One day I picked up a Miata from Fort Wayne with my old utility trailer and before heading back to Lafayette I discovered a problem with one of the trailer tire fill stems. So I ran 50 coming home and got over 22 mph for the trip with the trailer and the Miata on it.