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Help with truck choice pls


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We have just bought our first RV, Palamino Sabre fifth wheel. 32 ft, 12,000 GVWR, 1,800 hitch weight, 8,800 dry weight.

Can I ask for some guidance in selecting a truck Pls. We are from the UK so some of the abbreviations used to describe spec items I have trouble understanding. We often use different terms for the same thing. So pls be patient :)

I have no following with any particular brand save I would want a US truck (ie not from the orient...).

The truck will also be our main transport whilst camped up so something as usable as possible for the shopping trip and sightseeing etc.

We plan to use the rig to winter over but not in just one spot. We will be moving around, mostly in the south west during winter stays but also in the parks and mountains during sumer stays. Maybe even Cananda etc.

Thanks in advance.


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Make the jump to a HDT. You will have money in the build, but the end result is worth it. I wouldn't go back to a pickup at all any more. My F-350 Dually was built to haul with many aftermarket parts, tuned, and suspension work, but you cannot stop the massive volume and weight . I could go on and on about it, but pm me if needed or email me at dngeitgey@gmail.com

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You do not need a HDT. I suspect a 3/4 ton pick up would work but for the small extra $$$ a 1ton would cost I suggest a 1ton pickup. This would give you lots of safety margin. We have been towing our 17K fifth wheel with 3600 pounds pin weight for 8 years and over 64K miles with an F350 dually without trouble and enjoy the drive. You don't mention your budget or if you plan to purchase new or used. Greg

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There are a number of things to learn and understand. Here is a video that can help with some of the basics to get you familiarized with the terms and concepts of safety towing a RV trailer. It is not rocket science but it is not as simple as we would like it to be and there are many hidden weight issues that you will need to consider.

Safety wise you need to understand that dry pin weight is of little value. On most fifth wheels the storage is in the front part of the trailer so the actual or loaded pin weight is what will be needed. Unfortunately, you cannot know this until you load it with your stuff. for example some carry a generator in the front compartment and some do not. If you do, then it can depend on the size of the generator. Also, people who RV a lot, (full time or take extended trips, where they take a lot of stuff) usually are near the GVWR of the trailer, and many exceed the GVWR. So, I would suggest basing my calculations assuming that I will be at GVWR. If you do load it to the GVWR, then there is more safety margin.

Loaded pin weights should be between 15%-25% of the weight of the trailer. To provide some safety margin using the upper end will be a good place to make estimations.

From a safety standpoint, GAWR (Gross Axle Weight Rating) is the most important rating to consider. The axle assembly consists of the tires and the brakes - the two most important things to keep one going and stopping as you drive.

Towing usually focuses on GCWR (Gross Combined Weight Rating) and these numbers are influenced by the marketing departments of the vehicles. So keep that in mind. The marketing departments usually use the opposite end of the scale (15% Pin weight and other less realistic specifications - like frontal area) to make the truck look really good. Most people who buy pickups do not tow frequently so the truck is not working this hard most of its life, but RVers who use the truck to tow heavier trailers more frequently, need to take special consideration and get a truck that will not be working at its maximum capacities (most of the time it is working).

Since you will be doing a lot of traveling these things are important and you will probably need to be open to a little bigger truck than originally considered.


Just to play with the numbers a bit.

If you load the trailer to the max GVWR that would be 12,000 lbs. If your loaded pin weight is at the upper end (25%) the the pin weight would be 3000 lbs (20% would be 2400 lbs). The pin weight will be going on to the truck and almost all of that will be going on the rear axle of that truck.

So, when you look at a truck you will first start with GCWR and the towing guides to get in the ballpark. But do not forget to seek out the GAWR especially for the rear axle. The more stuff you put in the truck (anything) the less trailer you will be able to safely tow.


Finally the trouble with this whole process is that there are so many possible variations in vehicles (floor plans, tanks, storage locations, equipment), not the least of which is how each different person, with their different interests and values, loads the vehicles.

The data collected for over 20 years states that 60% of RV tow vehicles are over at least 1 rating and 55% of the fifth wheels are over at least 1 rating. It is a challenge.

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Listen to Trey. Towing safety is his business.


You do not need an HDT, and I don't recommend one for the circumstances you stated. You may "want one", but that is a different story. IF you are interested in educating yourself on HDTs there is info on my website. But you sure do not need one for what you are proposing.


For general interest, HERE is an article I wrote for Toyhauler Magazine a few years ago about HDTs. You might find it interesting...it is high level (general) in nature.


And HERE is another short article on HDTs you may find helpful.....it answers the common questions.

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I will second most of what the others have said: You don't need a HDT, and you'll probably be OK with a 3/4-ton pickup truck, given the weight of your trailer. A 3/4-ton means single rear wheels, which means it will be more maneuverable when you are not towing. But you need to run the numbers, and the video that Trey linked to is very helpful in that regard. The same website also has a helpful glossary that defines many common towing terms/acronyms.


I'll add that you will be confining your search to American-made pickup trucks (Dodge, Ford or Chevrolet/GMC). There are no foreign-made pickup trucks sold in the US that are capable of towing a fifth wheel the size of yours.

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I tow a slightly heavier and slightly longer fifth wheel with an un modified F250 ford pickup. It is a diesel and has single wheels on the rear. I learned to drive a truck and pull a trailer while in the marines. Have been towing Rv's ever since. I would recommend a one ton single rear wheel diesel to someone with your size trailer and limited experience. I do not think there is enough difference in brands to worry about it. Good luck in journey.

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A 1-ton and a 3/4-ton truck with single rear wheel look the same, have the same footprint, and cost nearly the same. The difference is in the available payload. The truck manufacturers (US) have changed the spring packs in recent years so that the trucks with the heavier suspensions do not jar you around so much when empty. Go for the highest available payload or weight carrying capacity. In Trey's example above that would be at least 3,000lbs.


The newer trucks (say 2012 and newer) will have auto transmissions, a tow-haul feature that the computer matches the engine and transmission to manage gear selection both up and down hills to maintain a constant speed, and an exhaust brake integrated into the tow-haul.


Diesel will be the preferred engine for reliability, power and torque, and mileage. It adds over $6,000 to the price, but most find it very worthwhile for travel.


Gearing on the rear end is now an issue. Higher (such as 410) gears used to be in vogue for towing because it delivered more engine rpm at a given speed and thus had more power to pull, but a few things have changed. First off, diesel engine torque is now in the 800lb/ft range, up about 33%. Demands for greater mileage from the gov't and some users has increased. The usual range of gears is 410 on one end a 342 on the other, with 373 in the middle. You need to look into this to decide, but my take would be any of the gear rations would work with a newer truck. I tow 15,000lbs with a 373.


Get the rear axle limited slip option. Period. Full Stop.


Two or four wheel drive depends on where and when you tow. Wet grass, a bit of mud, sand, loose gravel, snow and other things can bog you down or stop you completely, but only if you are likely to find yourself in those conditions. I have 4wd and exercise it monthly to keep it lubricated, but really don't want to use it. However, in the western Us and to and from Alaska, it is a good option and worth the price. On resale, a truck without it would be almost a giveaway problem here.

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As others have noted, you could get by with a 3/4 ton truck but, if it were me, I would use a "1 ton" truck. For the big three, that would be a 3500 Chevrolet, 3500 Ram of a F350 Ford. Personal opinion, I would prefer a DRW or"dually" which is what we call a truck with dual wheels on each side in the rear. A SRW has a single wheel on each side in the rear. The SRW truck will be easier to park and get around in but have a lower capacity while the DRW will be more stable and have a higher load capacity. A diesel would be my choice as well as one with a long wheelbase (that is an 8 foot long bed) to be able to run a normal fifth wheel hitch (not a slider like you would need in a short wheelbase truck.


I agree about our language barrier despite having a common language. It took me forever to call the trunk a "boot" or the windshield a "windscreen" and I absolutely refuse to drink warm beer.... :)

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I tow our 40' 5er with a 3/4 ton GMC, short bed, Duramax/Allison. The difference between a 3/4 ton and a one ton is two leaf springs. NOT the engine torque, when staying with a given manufacturer. Don't waste your money on duals. I have airbags, pump them up to 40 lbs when towing.

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