Adele

Best Truck To Tow 38' Trailer?

64 posts in this topic

Hi everyone,

We want to buy a used diesel truck in the next 2 weeks and need some advice. 

We purchased a 2015 38' Canyon Trail with four slideouts. Dry weight about 12,000 pounds. We plan to take it around North America and spend a good amount of time in the mountains so we need something with guts to pull it through mountain passes. 

We have been looking for a diesel truck, a Chrysler 2500HD or 3500 because the manufacturer shows it will pull about 16,000. (We want an extra 30% towing capacity.)

We have been unable to find towing statistics for Ford and Dodge trucks so I'm wondering if someone can recommend models easily capable of pulling this rig?

Thanks in advance.

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Here is a chart that has the towing capacities of about all vehicles. The only problem with it is you need to sort through everything to find the trucks you want. I am kind of partial to the Cummins engine more so than the sheet metal wrapped around it. Personally I would want a dually. I would decide what I want for creature comforts and then see which one has what i want.

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Adele,

Unfortunately the 12000# dry weight does not tell you enough to know what truck you need. You need either the fully loaded weight or you can use the Gross trailer weight. Then you need to know what the pin weight will be.

Then you need to look at the fine print on the truck tow rating to make sure it matches the type of trailer (frontal area) and how the truck will be loaded (weight of trailer and fuel). Some of the tow ratings are based narrow front horse trailers, single 150lb person in the truck, partial tank of fuel and no other load. Truck weights, weight ratings and axle weights help even more.

Then you need to think is this going to be the last trailer or the largest trailer you plan to buy.

Next up is what type of driving are you going to be doing, cross country thru mountains, local trips (short distances), frequent trips moving every few days or weeks or staying n places for months at a time, on pavement camping or boon docking where you might need 4 wheel drive? Do you need the truck only to pull the camper or does it also have to be your daily driver?

Those items will help us, help you on decision or even help your self make a choice.

Dave

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IMO:  If money is no object a MDT or Sport Chassis is great for the job.

For me, money is an object.  A big object.  The only MDTs that I can afford are retired commercial trucks that are mostly beat to death and were stripped down uncomfortable work trucks to begin with, anyway.  You can get a HDT (Class 8) for 1/3-1/2 the cost of an MDT, including the cost of converting to RV hauler use.  I'm not saying one of Gregg's super fancy new haulers.  

I believe a decent HD truck with a good hitch and a basic deck can be built for $40k.  Half the cost of a new dually or 1/3 of a Sport Chassis.

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I am like you. I am not willing to drive myself into big debt for an expense like a RV hauler.

Not sure where you are looking but my Sport Chassis ..done up the way I want it..with low miles (112K) ..was less than a new 1/2 ton. You just have to look.  

I was looking for a pre '08 . It just isn't a new style but I am told it is more solid than a M2-106 but I cannot confirm / deny that..

It does have all the features of a class 8 except the big HP..which I really don't need.

For me, the seats are a life saver. I have a destroyed spine and this is the most comfy truck we have ever owned.  I use it as a runabout so no extra vehicle is required.

They are out there...

 

Ian.

truck.jpg

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Hi everyone. Thank you so much for the input.

I guess I need to add a little more info:

1. Total weight shouldn't be more than 14,000 LOADED, and we need to be able to pull this thru mountain passes.

2. An MDT or duelly is not really an option as the plan is to detach and use the truck daily. I want to be able to easily park in a parking lot, park in a garage, take thru a car wash, and take on backcountry roads into hiking trail heads, which can be small and narrow. I don't want something too big and difficult to manoeuvre.

3. We plan to live in our fifth wheel full-time, pulling the trailer every 2 weeks to 3 months.

4. As mentioned, we plan to travel through the mountains in United States and Canada so we need something that won't suck climbing hills.

5. Money is a factor. We are looking for a used diesel truck, 2009 or later, and we don't want to spend more than $35K. $30k is more in the budget.

Can anyone recommend a FORD or DODGE that will do this? I think we've figured out what Chrysler model will work.

Thank you,

Adele

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I own the same size trailer you do (38' long, 12k empty, 19k gross).

I also own a 3500 single tire Dodge Cummins, modified with better brakes and more power.

I will say, without a doubt, I would never tow my trailer through the mountains with my truck.  It would not be safe.  Climbing is no problem, none at all, there is plenty of power there.  Coming back down the other side is another story completely.  Even the little hills in northern Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan are a white knuckle experience.  True mountains would be a non-starter for me, knowing what I know now.

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You are limiting yourself. 

#2 cannot be done. You will have a truck too small for the job. 

We live in our 13000# 35' towed by a f350 four door dually 4x4 standard bed diesle which is our daily driver. I hand wash it, Go to restaurants and shopping all the time. I prefer to park away from the crowd. Need to walk more anyway. 

We are always going off road in the back country... with the trailer.  I refuse to compromise the ability to get where we are going without sweating the grades. 

This truck can handle a much larger trailer up to 20000#. In the chance I get a bigger trailer I have enough truck. 

Might want to rethink your priorities for a truck. 

I'd hate to see you unhappy with what you get. 

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I found this excellent page - http://www.fifthwheelmagazine.com/choosing-a-truck-for-a-fifth-wheel.htm

"From surveys done by us with our readers, the most popular truck to pull a Fifth Wheel is the Chevrolet 2500 HD with a Duramax Turbo-Diesel V8 engine. As you will see below the towing capacity of this truck is able to handle most Fifth Wheels. The standard cab 2500HD has a towing capacity of 17,800 lbs and that is single rear wheels as opposed to the added cost of dual rear Wheels....

There's a lot more on the page, such as brake controllers, etc.

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There are many people on this forum who have been where you are now, including me.   Most of the stories I have heard go like this:

"The dealer told us this 2500 works fine, even showed us the ratings."  The next year they bought a 350 or 450 at great financial loss.  The next year they were into a Sport Chassis or other Meduin duty at even more loss.  Then they found out the medium duty exhaust brake still didn't keep their new (a bit bigger/heavier) rig under control going down hills and mountains. 

Finally they spoke with someone, saw one or went to a heavy duty rally and experienced a class 8 with a smart car.  The usual statement is something like: "... it was the best decision we ever made."

 

You have asked the forum for their opinions.  I'm sorry if the opinions you are getting don't match your expectations or wants.  I am still in a 3500 single tire.  By my research and talking to many people, I am skipping all of the money spent and associated steps and going straight to a class 8. 

Just my opinion. 

Edited by Av8r3400

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If you are looking to tow a 14,000 lb trailer, then a 350/3500 would be indicated. If you try a 250/2500

you will not be happy. Your pin weight and combined weight will be over the trucks limits. Good Luck

I have looked for a used diesel pickup to pull a fiver without luck. I wouldn't pay what they were asking

for trucks with so many miles. Yes diesels will last a lot of miles but the rest of the truck will not. It is a pickup and things

will break. Transmissions do take a beating when towing even with a driver like me who take it very easy.

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10 hours ago, Adele said:

I found this excellent page - http://www.fifthwheelmagazine.com/choosing-a-truck-for-a-fifth-wheel.htm

"From surveys done by us with our readers, the most popular truck to pull a Fifth Wheel is the Chevrolet 2500 HD with a Duramax Turbo-Diesel V8 engine. As you will see below the towing capacity of this truck is able to handle most Fifth Wheels. The standard cab 2500HD has a towing capacity of 17,800 lbs and that is single rear wheels as opposed to the added cost of dual rear Wheels....

There's a lot more on the page, such as brake controllers, etc.

Adele, first, forget the amount the truck is rated to tow, instead the amount of weight the truck can carry(pin weight) is what you need to be concerned about. Almost any PU can tow the weight but will not carry the load. Find the GVWR of your trailer, take 20% of that weight as your pin weight. Now you need to do research on trucks you are interested in. I suggest you look at 350/3500 class trucks instead of 250/2500 as cost is little different and will park in same space as the 250/2500 truck.

 

Jim

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We had a 32TK3 DRV. Dry weight around 12k by sticker. On scales were were north of 17k. We are full time. The scariest time was coming out of Denver, CO.We were up the 80 mph coming down that road. Not by choice. Brakes smoking. This was with a 2005 Duramax GMC dually. No problem at all uphill. We were also going to Virginia. In a city, topped a hill, truck went up just fine. Stoplight at base of hill. Guess what, I blew that red light. Talk about biting the seat.Flat country pleasant tow. People do this, just like I did. Do firmly believe God looks over children and fools. Cause looking back I was very foolish and got away unharmed. Everyone is not that fortunate.You have been given some great advise on here. Wanted to share real world experiences with you. A side note,I have only 32kish in my Freightliner Century. an HDT. Have no fears taking it into the mountains.  

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There is too much emphasis put on what a vehicle can tow, you really need to know what it can stop. Knowing your weights is critical to your life.

 

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I would strongly suggest a recent model 1 ton, preferably a dually diesel long box crew cab.  Don't take the chance and purchase a 3/4 ton pickup, the extra cost for a 1 ton is minimal.  A single rear wheel is possible, a dually gives you a lot more flexibility for a heavier pin weight, the weight of your hitch, leveling wood, and whatever else you want to carry in the truck bed in the future.  We have a toolbox/auxiliary fuel tank combo that GREATLY extends our towing distance so I don't have to find a fuel station with sufficient room to maneuver while towing.  We travel the back reads as much as the expressways where the roomy truck stops are located.  We can tow 2 or 3 days without refueling and then we are ready to disconnect and take the truck exploring or out to eat without the fifth wheel.  The crew cab allows us to take friends with us when exploring or eating out, also LOTS of inside dry room for laundry, groceries, or luggage when we travel to visit kids a few days without the fifth wheel.  The dually is our daily driver and my wife drives as much as I do, it's not much of a challenge, just park further out in parking lots and wash the truck yourself or at a drive in coin wash.

Ford, RAM, and GM all make good 1 ton diesel trucks, the newer the better as tow ratings have significantly increased in the last 4 or 5 years and have engine or exhaust brakes.  If we're going down a significant grade I'll put the tranny in manual mode at the summit and select 3rd gear with a push of a button, I can down shift with the same button or quickly stab the brakes once if I want to slow down more.  We considered a MDT or HDT but don't want to climb in and out of them, are not familiar with MDTs or HDTs, and don't want to drive one in campgrounds.  Others love HDTs and that's their choice.  The pickup is like a roomy comfortable BIG car.  We went from a 2007 F350 4x4 to a 2014 F350 2x4 for two reasons.  One, we found in over 7 years we didn't need a 4x4 or use it for our RV living style.   The one time we were stuck it took a large tractor to pull the rig our of the rain soaked grass campground.  The second reason is were are getting older and didn't want to climb into the higher 4x4.  The 2014 F350 2x4 is 2 inches lower and MUCH easier to get into.  We have Good Sam road service and they will pull us if ever needed.

Good luck with your decision and new RV life!       Greg  

Edited by Big Greg

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  • We are full-timers and started out towing our 36', 13,990 lb. GVWR fifth wheel with a 2013 GMC 2500HD diesel 2WD. We quickly realized that we didn't have enough rear axle capacity for the pin weight and, even with hydraulic disc brakes on the trailer and an engine brake on the truck, we overheated the brakes on a back road in upstate New York (The Rockies and Sierras aren't the only places with 10% grades). Forget about dry weights on RVs - go by the GVWR on the sticker and use 23 - 25% of the trailer's GVWR for an estimated loaded pin weight. A dual-rear-wheel 1-ton will be your minimum... and I would probably prefer an F-450/4500 or F-550/5500. Touring the whole country, you'll be happier and safer. I've also never heard anyone complain that they have too much truck.

Rob

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Thank you for the great feedback, everyone.

It seems we need to buy more truck!

I am looking forward to reviewing all of your comments with my husband when he gets back home. We will use them to help us with our purchase.

I really appreciate it. 

3.jpg

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Just remember one thing......You CANNOT have too much truck..........

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40 minutes ago, Mntom said:

Just remember one thing......You CANNOT have too much truck..........

But you can certainly have too much trailer.

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2 hours ago, Big Greg said:

I would strongly suggest a recent model 1 ton, preferably a dually diesel long box crew cab.  Don't take the chance and purchase a 3/4 ton pickup, the extra cost for a 1 ton is minimal.  A single rear wheel is possible, a dually gives you a lot more flexibility for a heavier pin weight, the weight of your hitch, leveling wood, and whatever else you want to carry in the truck bed in the future.  We have a toolbox/auxiliary fuel tank combo that GREATLY extends our towing distance so I don't have to find a fuel station with sufficient room to maneuver while towing.  We travel the back reads as much as the expressways where the roomy truck stops are located.  We can tow 2 or 3 days without refueling and then we are ready to disconnect and take the truck exploring or out to eat without the fifth wheel.  The crew cab allows us to take friends with us when exploring or eating out, also LOTS of inside dry room for laundry, groceries, or luggage when we travel to visit kids a few days without the fifth wheel.  The dually is our daily driver and my wife drives as much as I do, it's not much of a challenge, just park further out in parking lots and wash the truck yourself or at a drive in coin wash.

Ford, RAM, and GM all make good 1 ton diesel trucks, the newer the better as tow ratings have significantly increased in the last 4 or 5 years and have engine or exhaust brakes.  If we're going down a significant grade I'll put the tranny in manual mode at the summit and select 3rd gear with a push of a button, I can down shift with the same button or quickly stab the brakes once if I want to slow down more.  We considered a MDT or HDT but don't want to climb in and out of them, are not familiar with MDTs or HDTs, and don't want to drive one in campgrounds.  Others love HDTs and that's their choice.  The pickup is like a roomy comfortable BIG car.  We went from a 2007 F350 4x4 to a 2014 F350 2x4 for two reasons.  One, we found in over 7 years we didn't need a 4x4 or use it for our RV living style.   The one time we were stuck it took a large tractor to pull the rig our of the rain soaked grass campground.  The second reason is were are getting older and didn't want to climb into the higher 4x4.  The 2014 F350 2x4 is 2 inches lower and MUCH easier to get into.  We have Good Sam road service and they will pull us if ever needed.

Good luck with your decision and new RV life!       Greg  

 

 

Keep in mind:  1 tons have the same brakes as 3/4 tons.  Braking in the mountains will still be a MAJOR issue.  Exhaust brakes on a light/medium diesels are not the total answer.  I have a Pacbrake and 90# exhaust springs with a manual transmission in my truck and it's better than nothing, but not by much.

15,000 to 20,000 pounds of trailer in the Rocky Mountains is a lot of potential energy to manage.

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We have been on the road for 10 years with the 2007 and 2014 F350s.  We've been up and down the Rockies, Sierras, Appalachains, Cascades, Smokies, Cascades on expressways and back roads.  Yes, you have to pay attention and don't plan on racing the semis and you'll be OK.  Patience going down grades is a virtue.  With a 17K pound fifth wheel we've had a great time and are looking forward to more great times in the mountains.  My suggestion for the 1 ton is for it's better payload capacity not brakes.  Speaking of brakes......disc brakes on the fifth wheel is a strongly suggested option.       Greg

 

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6 hours ago, Mntom said:

Just remember one thing......You CANNOT have too much truck..........

 

C5 tri tractor.jpg

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