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HDT Acquisition Cost and Total Cost of Ownership


TheLongWayHome

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I’m an HDT newbie. Plan to go full-time next year and still finalizing the RV and tow-vehicle decisions. I been in lots of the technical discussions on 5500/F-550 vs HDT. So, this is NOT a technical discussion on the merits of one over another. It’s an economics question. Yes, I have searched the HHRV Resource site and in particular http://www.hhrvresource.com/node/18 and this forum. Did not find anything related to total acquisition costs or total cost of ownership. If it’s there, my apologies and please point me in its direction.

The acquisition cost of a new 2017 RAM 5500 with air suspension, addition fuel tanks, hitch and an RV Hauler bed are in the range of $100-110K dependent on creature comforts and other features. Have found folks that keep spreadsheets and detailed cost of mileage, MPG, service, and all repair costs (TCO). Insurance and registration vary by state and driver.

But on HDTs it seems to be a bit more vague! I’ve ready the referenced websites and they contain some “handwave” estimates of “about the same as a 5500” (above), but not sure when that was and they lack any details on what is included in that. So there has to be a HDT spreadsheet guru among all the HDT engineering and technical types on this HDT forum.

So, for my planning and decision process, I’m trying to get a ball-park idea of the cost for the various HDT routes below. How much does it cost the get the RV hauler package – HDT configured for a small vehicle (Smart, SxS, Golf-cart) bed, the actual bed and RV hitch (32K GVWR, 7K pin). Then what does it take to run these HDTs on an annual basis (diesel, fluids, tires, parts, service, etc.)?

To narrow things down a little! Let’s assume the HDT is automatic (iShift), ~485hp, ~1650 ft/lb VNL 670 or something equivalent. Also assume I don't have the knowledge, tools or location to do any heavy duty mechanical projects (bed build, etc.). Can do any electrical work, given time and location (limited).

Some of the HDT routes I can think of:

1.      Find the "right" used HDT, have it singled and extended for a bed, add the bed, hitch, drom box, etc. Right, is defined as 300,000 miles or less, non-smoker, good maintenance records, RV hauling technical specs, …

2.      Buy a used fully "RV ready" converted setup like 1 above.

3.      Get a new factory truck with it singled and at the right length. Have the bed, hitch, drom, etc. added by an upfitter.

4.      Other approaches (no build)?

Any other words of wisdom? Have enjoyed my education here so far. A lot more needed.  Yes, I will go to the National HDT Rally and ask lots of questions there and crawl under/over things. Just trying to get some homework done before I head there. Thanks for your help.

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The bed cost varies a lot. My 14' bed was 4k. Singling, installing hitch, relocated muffler, batteries, wheel stops, tie downs, etc 3k. They also installed the Jackolee. Then price of ET hitch. I forget exact but 4kish. But I'm a welder and add to it myself. You can buy a ready to tow unit from Gregg at RVHaulers. It will run you in ball park of your 550 prices but it is gone over head to toe. I have had my king pins replaced. An alternator, turn signal switch. That about all. 300k mileage, I believe, is still under warranty. Might be difficult to find. Not impossible. Pricey. 

2003 Teton Grand Freedom towed with 2006 Freightliner Century 120 across the beautiful USA welding pipe.https://photos.app.goo.gl/O32ZjgzSzgK7LAyt1

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Sounds like it is time for the battling spreadsheets. Let the games begin....

Jeff Beyer temporarily retired from Trailer Transit
2000 Freightliner Argosy Cabover
2008 Work and Play 34FK
Homebase NW Indiana, no longer full time

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I have seen this truck up close and personal.  Beautiful.  Gives you a hard acquisition cost.  Warranty would cover most major maintenance for few years so out of pocket should be low.  Fuel costs depend on miles driven but most of these trucks get 6.5-9 mpg.  So for 10-15k more than 550 you have a truck that should last 10 or more years with routine use and maintenance (probably in range of $1 - 2k per year or less).  Insurance about $1k per year.

One issue which has not popped up much in the discussion is the future of hauling a smart car on the bed.  As you know the availability of new smarts may be severely curtailed in the future so HDTers may have to look at hauling other types of vehicles.  IMHO if I were looking to keep the same truck for the next 10 or so years I would question whether singling is the best option.  Tandems would have much more potential for modifications.  Understand that is my opinion only and I would like to hear your opinion and others.

I know this is not hard data and look forward to seeing some real figures.

 

2006 Volvo 780 "Hoss" Volvo D12, 465hp, 1650 ft/lbs tq., ultrashift

Bed Build by "JW Morgan's Custom Welding"

2017 DRV 39DBRS3

2013 Smart Passion Coupe "Itty Bitty"

 

"Don't go around saying the world owes you a living. The world owes you nothing. It was here first!"

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Thanks guys for the great start. I was not aware of the potential limiting of Smarts in the future. Why or is there an article somewhere? My field Google did not find it! We are still debating the whole Smart (safety, passenger/stuff carry ability) versus a second drive vehicle.  Got someone with a spreadsheet on that too (small 2nd car versus driving a 5500 everywhere)!!  But I like my co-pilot. So under the second vehicle scenario, the bed could be used for a SxS. Many the same length (106") as a Smart. Is there any real road legal side load alternative to the Smart or do you have to go longer bed and rear load?

Soaring it all in!!

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There have been several conversations about using a Fiat 500 sideways on a ramp.  The geometry works with the car loaded at an angle, rear high.  It would have to be winched and strapped and I don't know if anyone has talked with Fiat to see the adverse effects of carrying at an angle.

Jim's Adventures

Old Spacecraft.... Who knows whats next

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Since Newton's Laws have not been repealed :o, we worry about driving a small target in our modern day continuing to get crazier driving environment.  Thanks for the Fiat 500 suggestion. I guess car transporters carry at an angle all the time, but the question would be the sustained impacts over time.

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https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/cars/2017/02/13/mercedes-stop-selling-gas-powered-smart-car-us/97873940/

It looks like they are getting rid of the gas powered Smarts and going all electric. Could a electric one be charged by the truck while going down the road or by 50 Amp or solar while parked? I don't think most peeps on here take them on long road trips so the 150-200 mile typical E-car range range would be fine....No?

Chris, Tracey, Aria & Lola

2018 Volvo VNR 400, D13 I-Shift

2018 NH 48' Majestic

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Smart lists their electric as having a range of 80 miles and a charge time of 2.5 hrs. Could still work for some. Unfortunately not for us as we need a longer range. 

2006 Volvo 780 "Hoss" Volvo D12, 465hp, 1650 ft/lbs tq., ultrashift

Bed Build by "JW Morgan's Custom Welding"

2017 DRV 39DBRS3

2013 Smart Passion Coupe "Itty Bitty"

 

"Don't go around saying the world owes you a living. The world owes you nothing. It was here first!"

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31 minutes ago, GlennWest said:

Na, Fiat will get popular here though. Lol

Glen,  I respectfully disagree.  As I stated above I think tandem vs. single comes more into the equation now on the front end of a design.  If you were building a hauler bed that was only going to be carrying a smart or motorcycle for its entire life,  then singling would not be an issue.  But if I were building a hauler to still be viable 10 years into the future which is what the poster is considering with a new or newer truck, then I would give serious consideration to staying tandem because options may be limited and lengthwise hauling may be the only option.

I should add that I was convinced by my bed builder, JW Morgan, to remain tandem for that very reason and my bed is now 7 years old.  Those that knew JW know he was a visionary and his point is the very discussion now. He was not sure smarts would be a future option.  Looks like he was right.

13 Speed,

Think Amazon would sell extensions??

2006 Volvo 780 "Hoss" Volvo D12, 465hp, 1650 ft/lbs tq., ultrashift

Bed Build by "JW Morgan's Custom Welding"

2017 DRV 39DBRS3

2013 Smart Passion Coupe "Itty Bitty"

 

"Don't go around saying the world owes you a living. The world owes you nothing. It was here first!"

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I wasn't debating on tandem vs singling. Just that hauler beds will still go on. Hopefully battery techology will advance to where electric Smarts will get more distance. I would have no quarrels with electric but mileage distance is game changer 

2003 Teton Grand Freedom towed with 2006 Freightliner Century 120 across the beautiful USA welding pipe.https://photos.app.goo.gl/O32ZjgzSzgK7LAyt1

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Sorry Glenn.  I just saw poster's comment about changing thinking on hauler bed design.  My bad for misinterpreting your comment.

2006 Volvo 780 "Hoss" Volvo D12, 465hp, 1650 ft/lbs tq., ultrashift

Bed Build by "JW Morgan's Custom Welding"

2017 DRV 39DBRS3

2013 Smart Passion Coupe "Itty Bitty"

 

"Don't go around saying the world owes you a living. The world owes you nothing. It was here first!"

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I don't know about the American market but you find lots of ten year old smarts here with less than 60,000 miles so I think you wil be able to find replacement cars and parts for many more years.  The 453 isn't selling at all well here (less than 200 cars in Canada so far this year) so that will be the problem car for parts way down the road in my opinion.  

Nigel

2006 Volvo VNL 430, 2006 smart cabrio cdi, 2000 Triple E Topaz 30'

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Longwayhom,

We bought our truck and did the up-fitting.  Hindsight we would have been money ahead buying a resale already fitted out.  Most of the guys that are selling their "Pride and Joys" have taken the repair/maintenance hits along with the depreciation on the beds, hitches and other upgrades.  That in itself will significantly lower your cost of ownership.  The trade off is you won't have it built your way but close enough may work for you.  An advantage to an HDT not mentioned so far is that it can be used as an RV for short trips.  Ours is fitted with sink, micro etc. We have camped in it for extended periods of time and been reasonably comfortable.  Not much cost savings but got us access to places our truck and trailer could not get in or I didn't want to beat up the trailer (going to AK).   Personally I don't get the Smart car thing.  Many rigs are "long" with a car on deck.   We double tow and could be long.  However if you get pulled over for length with a car on deck (assuming you are long) you are kind of stuck.  With the car behind the trailer,  take the ticket, disconnect the car and move on. 

For us it is allot easier to unhook the car (3mins.) and scout ahead if needed than to get a car off the deck. 

I do admit that it would be allot less stressful driving having the car on the truck rather behind the trailer.  

Double towing ups the odds of something else going wrong with the car.

When I start to feel on edge we disconnect the car and the wife follows with radio and cell phone in hand. I don't like driving separate as I miss my buddy.  

HDT's are typically less money to repair because access for mechanics has been considered during design.  Not so much for pickups.  With labor rates getting north of $150/hr. the easier for the mechanic the cheaper the labor charge.  Interstates are usually covered by mobile mechanics set up to repair HDT's stuck on the side of the road and many of the truck stops have mechanics on site 7 days/wk.

Annual cost of ownership is variable truck by truck.  We spend an average of $1,000/yr.  Some years more some less for things like AC repairs, tires, clutch, brakes etc.  We have been at this for 11 years hence the average.  That is why I mentioned at the outset if you can find a truck (someones pride and joy) already converted with the bugs worked out you could  be money ahead.

You asked about fuel costs....that again is a variable cost.  Estimate the miles you plan to drive and divide by MPG times cost/gallon. 

BTW,  we used that analysis to cost justify our car.  We assumed miles driven using the truck for a daily driver vs cost of car driving those same miles.  Car has paid for itself in fuel saved.  Our truck gets 8.5 MPG car gets 30.

Hope this of some help to you.

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6 hours ago, SuiteSuccess said:

13 Speed,

Think Amazon would sell extensions??

Of course, probably in a hundred different colors. just pick the one that matches your car:D

Chris, Tracey, Aria & Lola

2018 Volvo VNR 400, D13 I-Shift

2018 NH 48' Majestic

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3 hours ago, Flying Finn said:

[Abbreviated]

Personally I don't get the Smart car thing.  Many rigs are "long" with a car on deck.   We double tow and could be long.  However if you get pulled over for length with a car on deck (assuming you are long) you are kind of stuck.  With the car behind the trailer, take the ticket, disconnect the car and move on. 

For us it is a lot easier to unhook the car (3mins.) and scout ahead if needed than to get a car off the deck.

When I start to feel on edge we disconnect the car and the wife follows with radio and cell phone in hand. I don't like driving separate as I miss my buddy.  

HDT's are typically less money to repair because access for mechanics has been considered during design.  Not so much for pickups.  With labor rates getting north of $150/hr. the easier for the mechanic the cheaper the labor charge.  Interstates are usually covered by mobile mechanics set up to repair HDT's stuck on the side of the road and many of the truck stops have mechanics on site 7 days/wk.

Annual cost of ownership is variable truck by truck.  We spend an average of $1,000/yr.  Some years more some less for things like AC repairs, tires, clutch, brakes etc.  We have been at this for 11 years hence the average.  That is why I mentioned at the outset if you can find a truck (someones pride and joy) already converted with the bugs worked out you could  be money ahead.

You asked about fuel costs....that again is a variable cost.  Estimate the miles you plan to drive and divide by MPG times cost/gallon. 

Hope this of some help to you.

Brad,

Thanks for the great response and some ideas I had not thought about. Also all the TCO data, I like your truck setup. :D  I guess I really do need to look at more pictures and take pictures at the National HDT Rally.

Do you tow all four down or have to use a dolly/trailer? I presume the former, as you would have to "get rid of" the dolly/trailer if stopped for length/triple-towing violations. Not sure what model Suburu (state car of Colorado ;)) that you or what you currently have. There are about 28 states that allow "triple-towing" [really double tow) and of course all the rules vary widely.  So in your eleven year of RVing how often have you been stopped for double towing (shhh, I won't tell)? Dinghy Towing Guide going back 18 years!

Gerry

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