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Size of truck needed to pull a 31' Airstream


sdnet01

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Hi guys,

We are looking at buying a 31' Excella (or something very similar) within the next year or so and full time RVing in it. We will be bringing a motorcycle with us, probably in the bed of the truck. It'll weigh around 500 to 600 pounds.

I'm looking for some advice for the size of diesel truck that I will need.

Assuming that I'm not storing anything outrageous that would weigh down the rig, with the added weight of the motorcycle, I was thinking that an F-250-type of truck is what I need.

I have also heard to give yourself around a 10% buffer in the size of truck to allow for any anomalies along the way.

So, my question is simple (I think): Is a 250-size truck sufficient to pull a 31' Airstream with a motorcycle in the bed of the truck, or is a 350 a better vehicle with a little extra buffer for my application?

 

To use an example, a 1998 31' Excella has a GVWR of 8,300.

Thanks.

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Tongue weight for a travel trailer can range from 10% to 15% of its actual weight (not dry weight, which is a meaningless number). With a GVWR of 8,300#, that means 830# to 1,245#. Depending on the weight of the motorcycle and everything else you'll carry in the truck, at 1,245#, you could be pushing the rear GAWR of the truck on a 3/4-ton truck. Also, at 31' total trailer length, make sure the truck has a wheelbase of at least 144."

 

Here's a travel trailer weight calculator that will help you select the correct truck for the trailer you want:

 

http://changingears.com/rv-sec-calc-trailer-weight-tt.shtml

 

Of course, you don't have the trailer yet, so will have to guess at the tongue weight they want you to put in. For purposes of this exercise, I'd use 15% of the trailer's GVWR.

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You need to pay attention to the configuration of the actual truck that you will be buying. If you look at the Ford Specifications, you will note that the highest payload capacity for an F-250 is actually a few pounds more than the lowest for an F-350. You need to select an F-350 with a GVWR of 10,500# or greater to get a higher payload capacity and 11,000# to get the maximum difference in payload capacity.

 

The 2016 F-250 has a payload capacity of 2880-3600# in the longer wheelbase models depending on the configuration of the truck. Not a bad idea to check all the ratings of your selection before purchase.

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Sound advice here thus far so I'll not repeat any of it, but can share a few thoughts. The trailers you are looking at are relatively heavy for the size that they are and living full time in one you should plan to be at the GVWR as you will be close and perhaps even struggle to stay under that.

 

Post #5 makes very good points, but it is important to understand that tongue weight is not safe if less than 10% of the actual trailer weight and while most trailers are designed to be around 15% of the weight on the tongue, it is not uncommon for that to go as high as 20% after the owner loads it as the location of heavier items plays a major part on weight distribution. The closer a heavy item is placed to the tongue the more weight it places there, while that same item when placed behind the trailer axles will unload weight from the tongue beyond what it actually weighs. While this isn't a direct issue for selecting a tow truck, it does need to be considered as it means that you must have flexibility in the weight your truck will safely carry or it will restrict the placement of things in the trailer. Most people find that they also keep things like tool boxes in the tow truck and tools are very heavy so you should allow enough capacity on the truck to carry more than just the motorcycle and trailer tongue.

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With the added motorcycle in the bed, you are pretty much left with your choice of which 1 ton single rear wheel truck you want to buy. I'd also recommend that you go ahead and get a diesel.

 

But as noted, you do need to understand the weight rating on the truck, to make sure you have enough truck.

 

Ken

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Post #5 makes very good points, but it is important to understand that tongue weight is not safe if less than 10% of the actual trailer weight and while most trailers are designed to be around 15% of the weight on the tongue, it is not uncommon for that to go as high as 20% after the owner loads it as the location of heavier items plays a major part on weight distribution.

 

Good point. The batteries and the propane tanks on a travel trailer are at the front, on the tongue, so once you fill the propane tanks up, you'll have quite a bit of weight up front before even loading stuff inside. As Kirk says, paying attention to where you place heavier items inside will go a long way in helping distribute the weight (and, of course, you will want a weight distribution hitch as well as sway control).

 

I'd recommend weighing the trailer once the batteries are installed and the propane tanks filled, but before you load anything inside (other than filling the fresh water tank with as much water as you think you'll travel with...if you plan on doing a lot of boondocking, I'd fill it up). That will tell you the tongue weight of the trailer...if it's below 10%, load stuff toward the front; if it's greater than 15%, load stuff toward the back (in back of the axles). Then, once you have the trailer loaded up like you're going to travel, weigh it again and readjust the position of items inside if necessary.

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Thanks everyone, appreciate your feedback. Yeah, if I end up with a 31' Airstream with a GVWR of 8300, I will be pushing the 11k mark. I am definitely looking to buy a diesel. That part has already been decided.

 

It's the second question, now, that I'm addressing. I don't want a huge truck, but obviously, I want whatever truck that we buy to be more than adequate to pull our rig. It's the question between a 250/350, or Dodge Cummins 2500/3500, etc.

 

Honestly I don't want to have to buy a 350/3500, but I am finding that it might be necessary.

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Don't forget to add a few hundred pound to the truck bed for a Rampage or whatever other bike lift you plan to use. IMO, Rampage is the best.

 

True that. My other option is to try and find some kind of a motorcycle platform for the back of the trailer, which would free up my truck's bed for other items that we might need to carry.

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"Most" travel trailers are not rated to carry something as heavy as a motorcycle on them. And a longer trailer will have more overhang behind the rear axles making it even more "iffy". You nave to be very careful if proceeding along this route. Most TT do not have a frame sufficient to carry a reasonably sized MC...don't forget you have the weight of the carrier to add as well.

 

As far as physical size, there is no real difference between like features 250/2500 and 350/3500 class trucks.

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Honestly I don't want to have to buy a 350/3500, but I am finding that it might be necessary.

 

Why is that? Moving from an 250/2500 to a 350/3500 is basically just adding capability and the price difference is really negligible. They will basically have the same driving characteristics and overall size. Personally, I don't believe there is such a thing as "too much truck". Especially in a full time scenario. Going 'large' makes it a lot easier on your rig for the day-to-day. Pushing max for a few weekend getaways during the year is fine when it's doubling as your towner the majority of the time, but full-timing, it's not really ideal. IMHO.

 

I full time. My TT, loaded out, runs around 7k. I carry around 1.2k in my rig and run a F250 PSD with a tow rating of 14.6k... So I'm running with close to a 44% margin. In the past three and a half years running this setup I've never had to worry about engine or tranny temps, sway issues or hot brakes, and I average around 14mpg under tow.

 

It might just be me, but If I were starting to push into a 20% margin, where it sounds like right about where you will be sitting with a 250/2500, I would most definitely (in a full-timer situation) move up to a 350 SWD PSD.

 

That's just me though, YMMV.

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Again, look at the Ford specifications, I believe the F-250 and F-350 have the same engine and transmission. Both series are available with a 3.31 or 3.55 rear end, so you will need to watch for that. However, the maximum travel trailer tow ratings and Gross Combined Weight Rating (GCWR) are the same. To get a 3.73 or 4.30 rear and higher ratings, you would have to go to a Dual Rear Wheel 350.

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"Most" travel trailers are not rated to carry something as heavy as a motorcycle on them. And a longer trailer will have more overhang behind the rear axles making it even more "iffy". You nave to be very careful if proceeding along this route. Most TT do not have a frame sufficient to carry a reasonably sized MC...don't forget you have the weight of the carrier to add as well.

 

As far as physical size, there is no real difference between like features 250/2500 and 350/3500 class trucks.

 

Thanks Jack. Actually, very shortly after I wrote that message about the possibility of a motorcycle platform, I scratched that off of the list precisely because of what you said. If I bring the motorcycle with me, it will be in the bed of the truck.

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Why is that? Moving from an 250/2500 to a 350/3500 is basically just adding capability and the price difference is really negligible. They will basically have the same driving characteristics and overall size. Personally, I don't believe there is such a thing as "too much truck". Especially in a full time scenario. Going 'large' makes it a lot easier on your rig for the day-to-day. Pushing max for a few weekend getaways during the year is fine when it's doubling as your towner the majority of the time, but full-timing, it's not really ideal. IMHO.

 

I full time. My TT, loaded out, runs around 7k. I carry around 1.2k in my rig and run a F250 PSD with a tow rating of 14.6k... So I'm running with close to a 44% margin. In the past three and a half years running this setup I've never had to worry about engine or tranny temps, sway issues or hot brakes, and I average around 14mpg under tow.

 

It might just be me, but If I were starting to push into a 20% margin, where it sounds like right about where you will be sitting with a 250/2500, I would most definitely (in a full-timer situation) move up to a 350 SWD PSD.

 

My main concern, originally, was having to drive too large of a truck to perform normal errands, like to the grocery store or any other place that requires motorized transportation. But the more research that I am doing, and the more people that I talk with, the more comfortable I am getting with the 350/3500-sized truck. I am definitely leaning towards a 350/3500 SRW diesel with more than enough payload and towing capacity, which will allow a little more flexibility with what we can haul with us. Like you said, this is looking like a much safer route when full timing.

 

Thanks much for your advice.

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My dually is my daily driver. Had it 4 yrs and never had a problem in towns/parking lots/ATM drive thrus. Just be careful in the ATM drive thrus. If your mirrors make it, the rear end will make it.

 

In parking lots, I prefer to park away from others. Would rather not have someone dent the side or rear fenders, plus it is a longbed, so it takes up more than 1 space to keep out of the driving lane.

 

If you get a 1-ton SRW, I doubt you will have any issues. It is the width of any other SRW p/u on the road.

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Here's a pic of my F-250 with a couple small motorbikes and ramp in the bed. I bought it to tow a trailer of similar weight that you describe. I think you will be happy with a late model F-250. Remember a weight distributing hitch will shift some tongue weight back on the trailer (and some on the front of the truck), reducing the effective rear axle weight when you take it to the scales. Actually it increases the downward pressure (you can think of it as weight) on the ball but relieves some pressure on the receiver. This is often overlooked feature of a TT not found on a fiver.

 

344pjc5.jpg

 

Chip

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Again, look at the Ford specifications, I believe the F-250 and F-350 have the same engine and transmission. Both series are available with a 3.31 or 3.55 rear end, so you will need to watch for that. However, the maximum travel trailer tow ratings and Gross Combined Weight Rating (GCWR) are the same. To get a 3.73 or 4.30 rear and higher ratings, you would have to go to a Dual Rear Wheel 350.

 

True. But with the 350 he would have a higher GVWR so he could pick up some CCC to accommodate his MC and 'shtufs' in the bed.

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Actually, very shortly after I wrote that message about the possibility of a motorcycle platform, I scratched that off of the list precisely because of what you said.

There are dollies that are designed to carry a motorcycle on caster wheels and attach to the back of a trailer, but that would still extend the length of the trailer and it has to put at least some stress on the trailer frame. I think you are making the right decision.

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When I was setting up a trailer a couple of years ago, I got one of these

 

http://www.etrailer.com/Tools/Sherline/5780.html

 

Makes setting up the trailer a whole lot easier when you know the impact on tongue weight when moving something around in the trailer.

 

And I second the recommendation for an anti-sway/weight distribution system.

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Steve plans on using a Hensley hitch unless someone knows of something that is better. So there should be no issue with weight distribution.

 

The MC in the truck bed is an ideal solution in my mind. Assuming a rational loading/unloading system is used.

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