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Preparing to start full time but need to buy the toy hauler


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I know people will prefer one model over another based on personal taste, but I wanted to get opinions on the best 'investment' based on these options: Evergreen Tesla, Grand Design Momentum, and Forest River XLR Thunderbird. I'm looking for the one that is most reliable and well made. Feel free to recommend another if I missed one. Many thanks for your thoughts.

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The Grand Design stands head and shoulders above the other 2. Their customer service is great according to owners. We've been in several models that look like they're well built and have decent amenities for their price point. Grand Design also understands that folks want to live extended times in their units and don't void the warranty because of that.

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Welcome to the Escapee forums! We are always happy to help if we can, but you haven't given us much to work with here. If we knew a little bit more of your background, experience, and your plans we could probably give better information. I would point out that there are more than just three companies that make toy haulers do does this mean that you have eliminated all but those three from consideration?

 

Jayco Siesmic Raptor by Keystone Heartland Venom from KZ Weekend Warrior Dune Sport

New Horizons Motomover

 

Just to name a few of the other possible choices to consider.

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Thanks for the input so far. I have a good feeling about Grand Design after looking at multiple. I also like the fact that their warranty makes it clear that you can live in it full time without impacting the warranty. At the same time, I'm not sure how others would know if a person lived in it full time or not. On the downside, Grand Design appears to be priced well above the others I mention so I'm not sure the additional cost is worth it.

 

As for my situation, I just returned to the US after living and working in Switzerland for 8+ years. I returned due to a medical issue that requires me to take some time away from full time work. So, I've decided I'll cut my expenses back and try to make the best of the time. We can never know the future for sure but I want to consider this lifestyle for 2-3 years at least. Does this give anymore insight into which toy hauler options would be best?

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As Kirk said, welcome to the forum.

Don’t let the bling distract you from the nuts and bolts of an RV. We have been in our 5th wheel Keystone Fuzion 39’ Toyhauler since 2008.

Things to look for from our stand point:

How big is the garage? For every 1foot of garage you lose 1foot of living space. Need at least a 12ft garage if you are going to haul anything.

Check the max weight hauling of the garage. Recommend you get three axles on the RV.

Check Max height of the unit. Ours is 13’6”. Many roadway bridges on secondary roads are 13 to 15 feet.

Do you want a washer and dryer in your unit?

Do they offer a rear door patio option? We could have had that but declined and as it turns out 90% of our stays at RV Parks you could not use that feature. If you’re using State or Federal parks it will be very hard to drop you rear door. Most back in sites are not long enough.

Are you going to be pulling a trailer behind your unit? Many manufacturers will not warranty a towing conversion to their units.

The refrigerator, air conditioner, and furnace are pretty basic as there are only two or three vendors that build those items for the RV industry wide.

Now a more important feature, your tow vehicle.

You need to find out the GWVR of the RV and then adjust your truck choice accordingly. Your max towing capacity of the truck should exceed the GWVR of your RV by at least 10%. Every RV’er thinks they can keep stuffing stuff into the RV without any consequences. We tow with a F450 Ford.

Good luck on your search.

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I'm beginning to lean towards the XLR Thunderbolt 375AMP. The garage is 12'6". It's 13'4" high. It has a bath and a half which I like for keeping one available for visitors. It also has 3 axles where each will handle 7K lbs. I'm paying a lot of attention to the tow vehicle. : )

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MrSeas makes a very good point, and something I should have mentioned. Your RV tire size is very important because your tire availability is much broader if you can work with a 16" or 17" tire selection. I believe the Thunderbolt already has 16" tires on it.

 

Your pin weight is important but your GVWR of the RV needs to match the specs of your 5th wheel hitch. My RV weights in at 12.5K and loaded is 15K. My truck is rated at 25K and my hitch is rated at 25K as well. The specs you see are a base line, it never hurts to have load pulling tolerance on the top end. It's my view that it makes more sense to spend your money on the front side of the purchase than to find out after your all in you should have went bigger.

Thanks for continuing to monitor your post, many folks ask questions and you never know if you helped them or not because they never answer anybody's replies.

Good Luck.

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I'm beginning to lean towards the XLR Thunderbolt 375AMP.

 

I like the ones that have a coat closet. I do not like the ones where the primary seating does not face the TV straight on--gives me a crick in the neck just looking at the floor plan. YMMV.

 

Linda Sand

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Thanks for all of the input do far. I think I've decided on the Thunderbolt 420 AMP. It has a rear and side patio which I might not use too often in RV parks because of space but they could come in handy. The tv is positioned in front of the sofa which is good. It also has the bath and a half. I'll have them remove the oven and replace it with a dishwasher. It has a convection microwave so I think this can replace the oven, especially for a bachelor.

 

I'm not sure I understand the benefit of the 17.5 tires over the 16's. The tires on it are rated for 75 mph. They aren't H rated. I can't remember which letter they are but I haven't heard of it before for a tire.

 

As for the truck, hitch, and weight considerations. Get ready for this, and I look forward to comments. I have a 2015 RAM 2500 with the 6.7 diesel. The dealer tells me the only difference between it and the single rear wheel 3500 is rear suspension. They suggested I put air bags in the back. But, I've found another solution. The inventor and owner of the automated safety hitch is just north of Dallas so I visited their factory. He took me on a tour and also took me for a test ride with about a 40 foot trailer. The unit is built with a 1-1.5 ton axle with heavy duty hydraulic brakes. When the turn signal is enabled, the wheels even turn to assist with tighter turn radius. It also has winches onboard to recover the trailer if it were stuck or something. The winches are also used to connect truck to safety hitch. The major benefit is that the trailer connects to the safety hitch so it doesn't sit on top of the bed of the truck. Instead, the safety hitch has a custom three part mount to the truck frame. It will handle 6500 lbs or so which handles the hitch weight of the trailer. This means the truck is no longer managing the weight on top of its suspension and tires. It only pulls the safety hitch. The safety hitch was also tested with 32,000 lbs and didn't break.

 

http://www.automatedsafetyhitch.com

 

Thoughts? : )

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My first, very blunt, thought is that your dealer is not being candid with you. You are not the first to encounter this. It's unfortunately common in this industry.

 

The Thunderbolt you have chosen appears to max out at around 22k. Your truck depending on configuration maxes out at a towing capacity of around 17k pounds. Without going any further than that, you are proposing a dangerous combination.

 

Safe and comfortable towing requires that you look at all the specs on the combination of truck and trailer you are considering. I've towed smaller trailers while overweight when I was less knowledgable. It is not a great experience and not safe. Never again. Others with much more knowledge are likely to chime in here, For starters you need to begin read this basic primer on matching a truck yo a trailer:

 

http://www.trailerlife.com/trailer-how-to/trailer-tech/choosing-the-right-tow-vehicle/

 

Then work with this to fully understand your truck's capabilities. Read the footnotes carefully as well.

 

http://webcontent.goodsam.com/trailerlife.com/digital_editions/TrailerLifeTowGuide2016.pdf

 

Then look at the specs for your floor plan here.

 

http://forestriverinc.com/product-details.aspx?LineID=201&Image=5378

 

I will tell you I wouldn't even consider what you are proposing. Not with all the aftermarket fixes you can find.

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Just my two cents here. Your dealer is completely wrong the stock 3500 srw has a higher rating not just because of the rear suspension. Adding air bags will not increase what the rear axle is intended to handle.

As NJTroy pointed out you are looking at 22K then adding the wieght of the safety hitch plus the drag it creates to that. You might get away with this setup if you were on flat or slightly downhill roads but traveling uphill or down more then a gentle road would not be safe and would put a strain on your stock 2500 that it may not long handle.

My first thought is talk to a knowledgeable mechanic not a salesman. Find out his recommendation.

I would be willing to bet that he would suggest a a 3500 with something like a 4/10 rear end.

These are just my thoughts yours may very.

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It is not about how fast you can drive but about how much weight a tire can handle. You need to check to see what the load range of the tire is.

Google: Tire Weight Specs.

Select: How to Read Speed Rating, Load Index & Service Descriptions. This gives you each tires load rating and then if you have 6 tires you can multiply this to find the load range number for the tires that will correspond with the weight of your unit.

A 3/4 ton pickup might pull an empty 22K on flat roadways but your truck will not sustain this kind of abuse over the road. When you get to the mountains your truck will labor. To effectively pull a 22K unit conformably you need at least a 3500 but preferably a 4500 truck. When you load your unit it will be up to 25K at least.

What NJTroy has suggested is to do the research and Hopeimakit is right on as well. Don't be deceived by the sales person trying to make a living, the replies you have received here, so far, are from hands on users.

Good Luck.

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I appreciate all the feedback so far and certainly respect it from experienced people. Did you look at the safety hitch?

 

http://www.automatedsafetyhitch.com/

 

It was tested at 32K lbs. It will handle 6500 lbs being hitched on top based on the 1 - 1.5 ton axle it is mounted on along with heavy duty hydraulic brakes. The manufacturing guarantees it to work with a 3/4 ton truck with my configuration was there is far less downward weight on the rear of my truck and the braking for the hitch adds a minimum of 50% stopping power. They say it adds 50% towing capability to the factory rating from the truck which puts mine over the top of the Tesla which I'm now looking at (1K lighter than the Thunderbolt). Effectively what the safety hitch does is give 2 more rear tires and two more brakes. The wheels on the safety hitch are also engaged by the turn signal making them also turn to support tighter turns making it so you don't have to pull out into the opposing lane to make a right hand turn.

 

Take a look at the site which include statements about the capabilities, videos, and testimonials.

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After looking at that, I can see where that could solve the problem. Just be aware that it is one more piece of equipment in full-timing that you are going to have to hook and un-hook all the time. Say you are overnight and want to go to the grocery store. How do you un-hook and make a fast trip? Do you unhook the fiver and then unhook the Safety Hitch and find some where to store it? Are you sure it is legal in all states? In many cg's there is barely room for the truck and a fiver. Where will you stow it?I can't answer but I know, after full-timing for years, I wouldn't want to be dealing with that extra piece of equipment night after night.

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After looking at that, I can see where that could solve the problem. Just be aware that it is one more piece of equipment in full-timing that you are going to have to hook and un-hook all the time. Say you are overnight and want to go to the grocery store. How do you un-hook and make a fast trip? Do you unhook the fiver and then unhook the Safety Hitch and find some where to store it? Are you sure it is legal in all states? In many cg's there is barely room for the truck and a fiver. Where will you stow it?I can't answer but I know, after full-timing for years, I wouldn't want to be dealing with that extra piece of equipment night after night.

It will add length to the overall picture and this is a concern. If connected and I need to go somewhere, I would disconnect the truck from the safety hitch and leave the trailer connected to the safety hitch. The disconnect is pretty quick as its supported by a built in winch. You just tighten the safety chains taking pressure off the pins, disconnect pins and safety chains, and pull forward disconnecting the truck. I do have to be concerned about the overall length. I need to get the overall length of truck, safety hitch, and trailer.

 

I am just trying to avoid having to sell or trade the truck which I bought new less than a year ago. It has a good bit of aftermarket accessories which really add to the cost. I would lose my tail getting rid of it this soon.

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I'm not convinced. Best case if it actually works as described, you've eliminated issues with the RAWR and improved your braking. Those aren't the only factors to be considered however. You are still pulling more significantly more weight than the truck frame was designed for. You'll be over your GVWR and you've now added weight to your towing numbers by the amount this thing weighs. You're putting stresses on the frame of both truck and 5er that were not planned for in engineering the vehicles which will shorten the life of the truck. I also suspect this will also fit the definition of triple towing, which is not legal in all states. Try describing this set up to an insurance company. This is at best a new technology and you are new to doing this. You're adding a huge risk in the interest of saving money. It's just not worth all the risk and hassle you are creating for yourself.

 

Look, my suggestion is you split out this specific question and take it over to the fifth wheel forum. That's where these types of truck/trailer questions come up more commonly and people a lot smarter on truck/trailer combinations than me will weigh in.

 

But I'll tell you again. Having a safe, well thought out, towing configuration is worth a lot of money. These are long heavy vehicles we are driving and the responsibility to do so safely is huge. I wouldn't do what you're proposing to save money. Sometimes we just have to eat a loss as the cost of education. Take off the aftermarket accessories, trade in the undersized truck and move up to a truck that is designed to do exactly what you are trying to do with a margin for safety. I think you need a 3500/350 diesel dually here at a minimum.

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Again my two cents. I have to agree with NJTroy. Unless the safety hitch can increase the capacity of your frame drivetrain and rear end to tow then you are adding more wieght and drag for you truck to pull. As I stated earlier you may get by on flat ground. But do you want to be traveling only there? Will you want to take it up a hill or into the mountains? What will the truck be worth with a shelled rear end or snapped drive line? How about the cost of towing to a repair shop?

He also brought up something that I had not thought of, triple tow. Even if you manage to convince most police officers that this setup is not triple tow what happens when you find that one you can't convince?

Have you talked with an insurance agent to see if they will even consider covering things? Will they be charging extra? If they do how does it offset the cost of the truck?

How much does the cost of the safety hitch add to the cost of the rv? Realize that this adds more tires to be maintained and replaced.

There are more things to consider then just hoping to get around the GVRW of your current truck.

Have you considered instead of getting rid of your truck looking at something your current truck CAN tow safely? Perhaps this would be a better option.

 

Just my opinion yours may vary

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Howdy!

 

We purchased a Heartland Cyclone 4000 a couple of years ago it was at the top of our list when I Was doing my research. If Inwas buy a new TH to day I would spend the extra money and go with the DVR Fullhouse TH. Make sure you give them a look during you research.

 

"Happy Trails"

Chiefneon

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I appreciate all the feedback so far and certainly respect it from experienced people. Did you look at the safety hitch?

 

http://www.automatedsafetyhitch.com/

 

It was tested at 32K lbs. It will handle 6500 lbs being hitched on top based on the 1 - 1.5 ton axle it is mounted on along with heavy duty hydraulic brakes. The manufacturing guarantees it to work with a 3/4 ton truck with my configuration was there is far less downward weight on the rear of my truck and the braking for the hitch adds a minimum of 50% stopping power. They say it adds 50% towing capability to the factory rating from the truck which puts mine over the top of the Tesla which I'm now looking at (1K lighter than the Thunderbolt). Effectively what the safety hitch does is give 2 more rear tires and two more brakes. The wheels on the safety hitch are also engaged by the turn signal making them also turn to support tighter turns making it so you don't have to pull out into the opposing lane to make a right hand turn.

 

Take a look at the site which include statements about the capabilities, videos, and testimonials.

I always thought that one of the ideas of a 5th-wheel or gooseneck was to to get the hitch point over the rear axle to eliminate the sway propagation caused by the hitch point being aft of the axle (where the turning point of the truck is). I spent a month towing my 20-foot enclosed car hauler with a Coachmen Freelander class-c. The huge overhang of this coach was a problem. It took very little for the trailer to start steering the coach. Kept my speed down to 50 MPH most of the time.

 

Assuming the steering gizmo is locked on this device, the turning point of the truck would be midway between the truck axle and the device axle. The hitch point would be over the device axle. We are right where we started from with a tag trailer. With the steering on the device unlocked, the situation worsens.

 

The only way I would buy one of these things is so I could tow a 5/gooseneck with my big-block Suburban. Not worth the ten grand or so it would cost, since I still only have two tires holding up the front of the trailer and I still have to source gasoline, which I found to be a problem with the Freelander. Turbo-diesel dually seems like a better bet, especially at altitude.

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The Safety Hitch may be considered double towing in some states. I have verified Fla would consider it double towing. That may or may not weigh on your decision. I was looking at one to free up the bed of my dually so I could carry a RZR.

 

BTW, that does NOT mean an LEO would stop you for double towing, but since that contraption is out of the ordinary, it could attract attention.

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I did go and look at your attachment from Sanger, TX. That feature is not a new idea and without repeating what NJTroy, Hopeimakeit, and others have said, I would agree with their opinions. Personally I really think you are double towing in all states, you have two independently towed devices being towed by a single vehicle. If you have never towed a bumper pull RV then you don't know the effects a big rig can cause on a truck with two rear tires when it passes you, even with a dually rear end it can be a traumatic event. You want your center of gravity to be as close as you can get to the center of your truck bed. If you travel in the east and north east their length laws are very short, ie; my truck is a Ford F450 dually with an 8' bed, my RV is 39' with triple axles, when ready for towing that combination together exceeds 60 feet, also because I have an RV ladder on the side of my RV that makes my RV 8'6" wide, all that exceeds the laws in many states. If you make it to California you will find the Highway Patrol there takes pleasure in stopping out of state RV'ers.

Thanks again for hearing us all out on our opinions, good luck to you on what ever you decide to do.

 

PS. Buy your big RV and trade your truck to fit the RV.

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I think I've decided on the Thunderbolt 420 AMP.

 

Personally, I would not buy this rig. When the slide is closed you cannot open the fridge to grab a beverage or have lunch. The TV does not face the couch; it is at an angle which would give me a crick in the neck. The patio adds weight without benefit that I can see; if you want to sit outside just put down a patio mat and be comfortable. It would not take me long to be ready to trade in this rig.

 

Linda Sand

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