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How Many Trucks Does It Take To Tow 1 Airstream? (aka Why We Chose an F-250 Diesel)

Posted on Posted in Full-Timer Tips

I remember when my wife and I first decided we were going to do this full-time thing for real.  We always knew we’d go with an Airstream, since that’s what inspired the whole adventure.  But we knew zero, I mean zilch about towing.

So we smile, nod and shake hands or whatever on this crazy idea of living on the road idea.  I immediately run outside to check the back of my Honda Pilot for towing capacity.  I see we have a square hole on the back where I can stick something and pull it.  And it says it can tow a few thousand pounds.  Sweet, lets tow cross country with our Pilot!

  • Clueless Towing Experience Tip

My wife, infamous and fantastic at research, soon educates me on the fact that a Honda Pilot is not an appropriate tow vehicle for a 25-30 foot airstream.  We need to tow 8,000+ pounds, not 2,000!

On a whim, I take the fam and head to the truck dealership.  Figure I just go to my local Ford dealership.  We find an F-150 Lariat.  It’s a few years old, but pretty dang sweet.  Especially for someone who isn’t so psyched about trading the comfort of our SUV for a pickup, I kinda dig it.

I meet the sales guy.  Make a deal to trade in our Pilot.  Sign the papers.  Feeling good.  They just have to clean the truck and I can pick it up tomorrow.  Big step!

We get home.  And my wife starts the research again…

  • Clueless Towing Experience Tip

Tongue weight.  It’s not just about how much you can tow, it’s about the “tongue weight”.  That’s the weight your trailer puts on the hitch.  Meaning too much tongue weight on too small a vehicle and your front will pop up off the ground like when you used to play toy cars.

Plus you also have to take into account your TV’s payload.  There are a lot of articles out there that can explain tow capacity and tongue weight better than I can.  Suffice to say, you need to look at tow capacity and tongue weight and payload.  You need to make sure your TV has more than sufficient in all those areas.

The last thing you want to do is test the limits of your tow vehicles strength while on the road, in unfamiliar terrains with your loved ones.

FIRST TRUCK – STRIKE ONE

Needless to say we cancel the deal on the Ford F-150 Lariat.

Next step, we have to take some time off shopping trucks to tend to family matters.  About one year later we are ready and get back to shopping.

Now as someone who was never a “car guy” and not a “truck guy”, I do what I do whenever I am clueless.  I ask people I trust and believe know more than I do what they think.  I soon discover “truck beliefs” run pretty strong.  And everyone has a denomination.

Before diving headfirst into the truck debate, I already know I am thinking either Ford F-Series, Ram or Silverado.  Then the debate begins.  I don’t meet anyone who is big on Chevy (Silverado) and I never imagined buying a Chevy (probably some strong anti-Chevy car-bias I was raised with), so it’s down to a Ford or a Ram.

And the winner is… RAM!  Why?  I think the thing that sways me most is hearing 80-90% of the trucks towing full-time on the road are Rams.  I don’t know if that stat is true or not, but it certainly is impressive.  I also hear that you get “more for your money” with a Ram than you do when paying for the Ford name.  Sold!

Still a lost of decisions to be made.  Like gas or diesel.  I think if I was only towing part-time I would consider gas.  But being a full-timer, everyone I speak to who I respect all insist diesel is what one needs if one is towing every single day.  Ok deal – diesel.

My wife and three little girls eating organic snacks, driving a big ol’ diesel.  I like it.

The first few times I test drive a diesel it’s an older model.  Like a 2005.  It roars like an old school bus (not evoking good memories at all.  I hate school buses.  They give me anxiety).

What about 4×4?  The consensus is… “you don’t really need 4×4 ninety percent of the time… BUT”.  And here comes the big BUT… “but, when you do need it, you’ll definitely be glad you have it.”  Safety first, 4×4 becomes a must for us.

And did I mention we need leather of course.  When you have 3 little girls who leave to drink milk and eat yogurt, getting cloth interior we’d be sailing down the highway in a hot metal box that reeks of rancid cottage cheese!

Last but not least, with 3 little girls and long drives, we need the full back seat.  And now please let me rant for a moment.  Ram calls their full back seat the “Mega Cab”.  Their regular cab is a “Crew Cab”.  Ford calls their full back seat “Crew Cab”, and they call their smaller back seat with a  suicide door the “Super Crew”.

What!?  Seriously!?

Ram and Ford both have a Crew Cab but they mean totally different things!  In every other aspect of life and existence the word “super” always means bigger.  Super size it.  Super-dooper.  Super Man.  Super means bigger, better.  So why the heck does Ford call their smaller cab the “Super Crew”!?!  Nuts.  I digress.

Back to truck shopping.  Heading to the dealership again.  I sit down with the salesman, Jay.  Ram, diesel, Mega, 4×4, 2500.  Jay looks in the inventory.  He finds everything we’re looking for… except it’s a Ram 1500.  Jay explains Ram tows a lot more in their half ton trucks then any other vehicle, which I knew.  And I really like the truck.  Maybe I am becoming a Truck Guy…

Jay starts working on giving me “a  deal I can’t refuse”.  It’s late.  Girls are passing out in the car.  I am soooo tired.  I keep telling my wife, “tell me you’re too tired, I insist you come home now and sleep on this.”  This way I can tell Jay my wife insists I leave and come back tomorrow, and I won’t be lying.  But she won’t say that to me.  Man, I’m stuck.  But something in my gut says “wrong truck”.

With great pain, we walk away from the deal.

  • Clueless Towing Experience

Never go into a dealership without knowing exactly what you want in a TV.

Most folks in a dealership, even the well intentioned ones, don’t know all the in’s and out’s of towing, especially towing full-time.  Their instinct, and their job, is to sell you the inventory of trucks they have.  So they are going to try and match you with the vehicle they have on the lot.  Not a terrible thing when you’re buying a commuter car.  But a TV is a very specific piece of equipment.  So don’t step into the dealer until you are informed and fully convinced of the only vehicle(s) you want.  And make it clear to the dealer you have zero interest in anything else.

Time for a little research before returning to Jay to do the deal.  Well turns out, you don’t want to tow 8,000 pounds with a half ton truck.  I can’t tell you exactly why to be honest.  All I know is that something about the weight of the actual vehicle vs. the weight of the trailer makes it unsafe (even if tow-math says you can make it work).

Guess my gut was right after all.

SECOND TRUCK – STRIKE TWO

However, I do know one thing.  It’s official and final, if it is not a Ram 2500, diesel, with 4×4 AND a Mega Crew Cab, I don’t want it.  Don’t dare try to sell me anything else!

That’s where a big challenge arises…

Go on AutoTrader.  You look for a used Ram.  Ok there are a ton.  Then you narrow down your search to only 2500 series.  Wave goodbye to about 80% of the inventory.  But still a bunch to choose from…

Now refine a little more to include only “diesel”… cut your results in half again.

Refine even further to only include “4×4” and you lose another handful.

Finally, the lynchpin is the “Mega Cab”.  Guess most folks towing massive loads on a regular base don’t have a back seat full of kids.  It’s a very uncommon option.  Once you select only the “Mega Cab” you’re down to slim pickings.

There are less than about 5-10 to choose from in the entire state of Florida!

Oh boy.  Thankfully I am extremely blessed to meet a new friend at a local shop called Tint World in Jacksonville.  The guy knows his trucks and is a God-send.  He offers to help me on my journey.  William is a “Dodge-man”.  He tells me not to worry about buying an out-of-state truck.  In fact, William, that’s his name, always buys from “rust-free” Texas.  Their trucks are great.  They have a ton of inventory.  And their prices are better than around here.

I start looking all over the country, especially Texas, for trucks.  I spend about 4 weeks looking every day.  With no limits on state lines.  I can’t find anything.  Sure there are trucks way out of my budget.  Or older ones or others that miss the marks on one of non-negotiable requirements.

Ahhh!

I’m in a bind now.  We hit the road in just a couple months and we can’t even begin shopping for an Airstream until we have our TV!

In a moment of sheer frustration, I head to AutoMatch USA (hey, I’m a fan of the Profit, Marcus Lemonis).  I find a really sweet Ford F-250.  It’s diesel.  It’s 4×4.  It’s a crew.  And it’s a King Ranch (their top trim line).

I call William (my truck guru) to tell him the good news.

With a deep breath William says, “I’m disappointed”.  It’s not a Ram.  Oh no.  I feel like I just broke his heart.  Maybe like how Daniel-son felt when he disappointed Mr. Miyagi.  And William doesn’t feel like this vehicle is priced well either.

William agrees to check out the truck before the deal is finalized.  The Automatch USA guys say it’s not necessary they already did their inspection.  And I almost go for it.  But I don’t want to further disappoint William.  So I drive it on over to Tint World.  And boy am I glad I do!

William finds a bunch of leaking fluids (coolant, something else, car blood, I don’t know).  And some other broken gauges.  He just looks me in the eyes and says “you don’t want this truck”.

THIRD TRUCK – YOU’RE OUT!

Dodged a bullet.  No pun intended.  Geez this is like the third truck we purchased or almost purchased?

Back to the drawing board…

I live on Autotrader.com.  William is searching too.  After we chat a little more I tell him lets look at the F-250’s in addition to the Ram 2500, simply because there are a lot more of the F-series on the used market than the Ram.  And since we have all these requirements 3/4 ton (which is the 200 series), 4×4, diesel and the full back seat, oh and don’t forget leather, Ford’s F-series gives us a lot more inventory to shop.

William ends up finding us a beauty, in Texas of course.  It’s almost the same exact vehicle as the one we were about to buy from Automatch.  It’s a 2012 F-250 with 100K miles.  King Ranch.  With all the trimmings and then some.  It has double DVD players, back-up cam, flip bed cover and a giant grill on the front (which I always thought was sorta stupid and showy until William explained to me it could shred an oncoming deer and completely protect you and your truck if you hit one).

Best part… we get all this and it is $6,000 less than our last deal!

William walks me through the out-of-state purchase, which really isn’t that hard.  We arrange to have it shipped to us.  Didn’t know they ship cars.  Costs around $800 from Texas to Florida.  The only thing is the whole process ends up taking a while.

When you’re out-of-state going through all the steps of getting a car – having it inspected, getting the dealer to make any repairs, arranging the funding – it takes almost 6 weeks!  Last but not least, if you plan to trade a vehicle in, you can’t do this when you are buying out of state, unless you drive there of course.  You can certainly always sell your car separately, that’s what we did.  However, when you trade your car in you save on sales tax.  For example you buy a $30,000 truck, but your trade is $20,000.  You actually only pay tax on the difference of $10,000.  If your state charges 7% sales tax that saves you $1400 (.07 x $20,000).  Bit of a bummer, but it’s still worth it from us to buy from Texas.

After much delay and an enormous amount of work, “Beast” arrives (that’s what my wife named her).  Hauled cross country on this tractor trailer.

And well… the family has fallen in love with her.  She’s everything we could have asked for in a TV.

And the crazy thing is, getting used to driving big ol’ Beast was a piece of cake!  Only took a week or so.  Turns out even being a diesel it’s pretty quiet (probably because she’s only a few years old).  And the diesel definitely gives her a nice jump.  Who knows, maybe I AM becoming a Truck Guy…

Onto the next challenge… finding an Airstream and learning how to tow!

3 thoughts on “How Many Trucks Does It Take To Tow 1 Airstream? (aka Why We Chose an F-250 Diesel)

  1. Nice to read details of your journey. Certainly personalizes it and gives a feel of being part of it. Not just ‘Oh by the way, my son bought a truck’. Following your tri in print is a nice personal touch.

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