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Type of Truck required to pull Travel Trailer


Uncle Bill
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What is the GWVR of the trailer. Plan around that even if you won't have it loaded to capacity and for the best experience, leave some in reserve (max 80% of capacity). It also depends on the year on the truck as their towing abilities have been going up a lot lately.

I would say a 250/2500 would give you the best experience although certainly later model 150/1500's have the capability too, just depends on what you are looking for. 

If it's for full time, go bigger. If it's only partial use and not crossing the country, you should fine with the 150/1500 if it's rated for it. 

 

 

Edited by BlueLghtning
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Welcome to the Escapee forums. We are happy to have you join us here. 

Agree with the above post but would also add that you need to look at the ratings of the trucks you are considering. Each one will have weight limits for towing capacity and for acceptable hitch weights. Consider that the hitch weight will be mostly on the rear axle and so will be apart of the total weight that you carry in the truck. I doubt that most 150/1500 trucks would have the capacity to do the job but am pretty sure that any of the 250/2500 trucks would do so. As the previous post states, you might find a 150/1500 that rates high enough to carry the trailer but it will be close to the limit and should you put much weight into the bed of the truck you would then exceed the rated capacity. Even if the total reaches something just under the maximum rating, it is important to remember that the designed maximums are not expected to be carried every trip but only occasionally. Driving a truck that is towing the very most it is rated for is not pleasant or relaxing and can get old very quickly. RV travels should be fun and relaxing. It is difficult to have too much truck, but very easy to have too little. 

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Thx to you all for your responses, I appreciate your consideration.

I have to expand upon my Travel Trailer & truck stats...

Trailer = 30', GVWR = 7,000#'s, UVW =  4,750#'s, I don't plan on upgrading so I good to go, and I am a minimalist--travel light;

F150 truck is rated to pull 9,100#'s with either a 1) 5.0L eng & 3.31 axle ratio with the tow package installed (bigger cooling system for trans).

thx again

bill

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Welcome to the Forum!!!

I also would do all the calculations based on the Gross Vehicle Weight of the trailer. The dry weight often does not include options installed by the factory or dealer, battery, propane and holding tank contents which can amount to several hundred pounds. You really need to understand and look at all the numbers for the proposed combination including GVWR/payload capacity of the tow vehicle, GCWR (gross combined weight rating), maximum tow rating and the rating of the hitch. Be aware that the GVWR plus the max towing weight may exceed the GCWR. Read the information about the max tow rating carefully. It may be calculated with for a trailer like a horse/utility trailer that has a considerably smaller frontal area than most travel trailers. You need to consider not just what you will carry in the trailer, but what items like passengers and cargo you will carry in the truck which will decrease its payload capacity. This calculator may help you evaluate potential combinations. Another factor to consider is the relationship between the wheelbase of the tow vehicle and the length of the trailer. All 150/1500s are not equal in this regard. A regular cab standard bed has a considerably shorter wheelbase than a crew cab long bed. This article gives some guidance on this issue. You will likely need a weight distributing hitch for a 7000# trailer. Another thing to consider for a 30' trailer is a good sway control system.

Again, Welcome!!! 

Edited by trailertraveler
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Use this travel trailer weight calculator to accurately and safely match a tow vehicle to a travel trailer. Please note it requires actual weights for some lines, and  also offers users to choose their safety factor(it seems many choose 20% safety factor.

I've read some posts where it was said "I only plan to tow with 1/2 tank of fuel in tow vehicle, and empty water tank in trailer. That may or may not hold true, traveling with an empty water tank means you cannot dry camp one or two nights enroute to your destination. Beginning a days drive with 1/2 tank of fuel can be downright dangerous to life in some areas of our country.

If you buy enough truck to have weight reserves it will also last longer. Some say you can't have too much truck, I disagree, but it is better than having a truck that strains to its maximum to pull the trailer up the mountain.

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We used to have a guy here named Stan that wrote some great stuff about his errors and what he did to try and make better by starting with too little truck.  I recently went through this with a friend that felt he could tow with a 1/2 T.  I have been towing a 30footer in your weight range since 1999 and a 27 footer for 2 years before that. I currently have a Chev. 2500HD with the 6L engine with a 4:10 rear end. I tow some in the mountains but not extensively.  Please trust me for you benefit. Go with at least the equivilant of what I am using.  I have had the same range with the Dodge 360 engine and the Ford in the same range.  All have been adequite but at least occaisionaly I have wished I had more.  I have your interests at heart. And I have a lot of time using the equipment I have stated. I am no guru and probably know less than a lot of folks that will respond but again I do have a lot of practical experience.  Real important for the towing is the rear end gear ratio. Maybe even more important than the engine in a way.  Chev. and GMC are GT4=3:73 and GT5=4:10. For gas engines I would not go less that 4:10.  I have some codes for Fords but don't have it handy. I just turned down a nice truck today  because it had too low a gear ratio.

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19 hours ago, Uncle Bill said:

I am in the process of acquiring a Travel Trailer but, what type of truck do I require?

The Travel Trailer is 30' and dry weight is 4800#'s.  With what I'll be carrying, the total weight should be between 5,000 and 5,500 #'s. 

Do I need a 150 / 1500 or the 250 / 2500 series?

thx

bill

I have a similar size and weight unit.  The suspension turned out to be the least of my problems.  My 2001 GMC 4x4 sat level with no load leveling attached.  The 5.3 liter gas engine was fine most of the time.  We went though the Adirondacks and the Smokeys.  I would not recommend that.  you will be unsafe at 35 mph uphill.  I found the differential on that truck WAS NOT up to it.  Rating notwithstanding.  The brakes were the worst I've ever owned, and needed constant replacing.  I was on my second rear diff and 3rd set of brakes BEFORE I EVER OWNED a trailer.  Please consider the advice above, not to go minimal.

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9 hours ago, noteven said:

Hi Uncle Bill - 

Is it possible to rent a 150/1500 series pickup and then a 250/2500 series pickup and tow your trailer with both of them over the same "loop" and compare the difference?

Not all 150/1500s or 250/2500s are created equal. There are a number of engine choices and payload/GVWR combinations in the 150 series as well as different wheelbase lengths. All factors in how well an individual truck will tow a given trailer. Not as many choices of engine in a 250, but still some and choices in rear end gearing as well. Plus, all the different wheelbase lengths. For any test to have much meaning, you would have to be able to rent a truck with the specifications you want.

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I’m not an expert but we’ve been towing a 23’ TT with a Chevy Avalanche 2500 for over 10 years and I’ve learned a lot about towing a trailer over that time.  We’ve got over 100,000 mi on the trailer and over 180K miles on the truck.  The Avalanche’s mechanical systems are about equivalent to a ¾ ton pickup except for the stiffness of the suspension and the design of the frame components.  It has the tow package.

If I were in your shoes I’d make every effort, if possible, to purchase the TT first, load it the way you intend to use it, borrow or rent a ½ ton truck like the one you favor, take the rig to a commercial scale, and weigh everything to verify you are within all of the truck’s specs, and calculate the margins for each spec.  If you are satisfied, then take it for a drive and see how everything handles.  Try pulling up a steep grade and see if you are satisfied with its performance.  Go to a deserted rural road and try to make a “panic” stop and see if you are comfortable with the stopping distance and handling – IMO this is actually much more important than acceleration or speed climbing a grade.  I very strongly suspect you will decide you don’t want a ¼ ton truck.

If you reject the ¼ ton you could (should IMO) repeat the above exercise with a ¾ ton truck of your choice. 

If I, based on my experience, were going to full-time in a 30’ TT w/o doing the above testing I would get a single rear wheel 1-ton truck with 4wd.  That’s because I would not want to risk spending so much money on what could very well be the “wrong” truck for the job.  Our ¾ ton truck is VERY adequate for pulling our TT in nearly all respects except one.  We are right at the max weight limit on the rear axle and rear tires.  I would never have guessed this would be the case just going by the stated weights and ratings on the TT and truck. 

IMO it is much more difficult to determine the proper tow vehicle for a TT than for a fifth wheel trailer.  The 5th wheel places a percentage of its weight on, or just slightly forward of, the rear axle and the rest on the trailer axles.  You can easily measure this weight on a truck scale and those weights can be matched to the trucks specifications.  Those weights are static weights and forces but they won’t vary much while you are towing.  The geometry of a truck attached to a 5er usually makes sway a non-issue.  A “bumper pull” trailer is a completely different situation.  The static weights you take at a scale are only valid while you are parked.  Under actual towing conditions the forces represented by those weights can change by a very large percentage.  The forces distributed by the weight distribution hitch (WDH), while improving the static situation, can actually amplify the change in the forces in certain situations.  For example consider what happens when you traverse a dip or hump in the road as when entering a filling station or parking area or even on an unimproved road in the boondocks.  When the truck comes up out of a dip while the trailer is still going down into the dip the tension in the spring bars increases drastically – likewise when the truck has crossed a hump while the trailer is still going up the hump the spring bars will release much or all of their tension.  Or consider the tremendous added dynamic forces put on the truck when driving down one of those highways with the expansion joints that cause the rig to “porpoise” in an oscillating motion.  These dynamic changes in forces do not happen to a significant extent if towing a 5er. 

Some aspects of towing a trailer are not so obvious on first examination.  For example, in my case, the trailer’s hitch weight is much higher than the spec sheet stated.  In our case it’s impossible to get the weight distribution hitch (WDH) to transfer enough weight to the truck’s front axle to keep the truck from “squatting” to some extent.  From my reading over the years many TT owners find this to be the case.  When I hitch-up the WDH transfers some of the static “hitch weight” from the truck’s rear axle to the trailer axle and the truck’s front axle, but not enough, and to the extent that the front axle lifts above its unloaded height a lot of additional truck weight is transferred from the front axle to the rear axle.  This is easy to visualize by drawing a simple “see-saw” where your truck frame represents the board and the rear axle/wheels/tires represent the fulcrum.  A very simple stick diagram of the truck’s frame and rear axel, the trailer’s frame and axle(s), the point at which the frames are connected and pivot (the ball hitch), the location and length of the WDH (a second lever with the fulcrum at the ball, its point of pivot) and the WDH’s force application points, and you will be able to visualize the tremendous force the weight distribution arms would need to exert to transfer the required weight (force) to the truck’s front axle.  You can also see the exaggerated downward force placed at the short end of the lever arm (i.e., at the hitch ball) that would be needed to raise all the weight of the truck that is forward of the rear axle by even a fraction of an inch because that end of the “lever arm” is much longer and has maybe 4 or 5 times the mechanical advantage.  The weight applied to the ball and the weight removed from the front axle to raise it is all applied to the “fulcrum” (rear axle).   When you examine the simple diagram of the “system” it becomes very clear that its geometry puts the WDH at a tremendous mechanical disadvantage as it tries to achieve the desired weight distribution.  

Note also that, as mentioned by someone else, trucks come in many configurations in terms of length and layout.  With a travel trailer many of the weight distribution and handling issues can be influence greatly by the overall length of the truck and the rear axle’s distance from the hitch ball.  These distances can also have a large impact what percentage of the trailer’s weight needs to be on the hitch to avoid sway and other handling problems.  Often the changes required to achieve one goal is in conflict with achieving a different goal.

Changing the hitch weight of the trailer by rearranging the contents of the trailer is usually not feasible to any meaningful extent since it’s largely driven by the placement of tanks, storage areas, position of the trailer axles, etc.  This is just what determines the limiting factor on our set-up – yours may be different – the point is it will probably be something you haven’t thought of and could be difficult or impossible to quantify prior to testing.  IMO, and experience, the towing aspects of TTs are far more complex than 5’ers in almost all respects.

For all these reasons it is, IMO, much more difficult to select a TV for a TT than for a 5er and it’s also much more important to have more margin built into the key specifications due to the dynamic nature of the forces when towing.

Edited by Ron
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If money is not your main concern, I urge you to listen to the above guys when it comes to truck size. Get yourself a 3/4 ton or better truck and the issue will never come up again...Our RV is sometimes advertised as 1/2 ton towable. Would I tow it with my 1/2 ton Chevy? Never.

Edited by RangeMaggotBob
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On 9/21/2017 at 10:31 PM, noteven said:

Hi Uncle Bill - 

Is it possible to rent a 150/1500 series pickup and then a 250/2500 series pickup and tow your trailer with both of them over the same "loop" and compare the difference?

Yes, 3/4T here: https://www.enterprisetrucks.com/truckrental/en_US/vehicles/pickup-trucks/ThreeQuarterTon4WDPickupTruck-business.html?icid=USTrucks-_-LearnMore-_-34pickupCommercial

Half-ton pickups to rent for towing a trailer are harder to locate. IMO you'll never find a 1/2T that tows any travel trailer as easily as a 3/4T, especially in hills or mountainous areas.

Edited by Ray,IN
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  • 2 months later...
On 9/20/2017 at 4:39 PM, Uncle Bill said:

I am in the process of acquiring a Travel Trailer but, what type of truck do I require?

The Travel Trailer is 30' and dry weight is 4800#'s.  With what I'll be carrying, the total weight should be between 5,000 and 5,500 #'s. 

Do I need a 150 / 1500 or the 250 / 2500 series?

thx

 

bill

I regularly tow a trailer in the 6000# area.

I like my 2500 Suburban big-block, but they are kind of hard to find, and the fuel cost is an issue. 

In any case, I think 3/4 ton is a good idea.

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Fuel cost is likely relative to a truck payment.  Fuel is paid for as needed, but the truck payment is every month whether used or not.  So it really is a personal choice.  

I would not suggest towing a travel trailer of any size with a 1/2 ton truck.  They have become more passenger car than truck in recent models.  And 3/4 tons+ are getting built with good capacity.  Can find suitable candidates used for reasonable prices although trucks in todays economy are holding their value well.  They are outselling cars on the new market.

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Bill hasn't been here since he last posted, but for others who are in similar situations, an F250 or F350 would be great for what he is describing. The biggest difference between the two is the rear axle capacity. The F250 would be fine until he decided to put an ATV in the back along with a few five gallon cans of gasoline. Go to the manufacturer's website and "build" a truck. Then go to a dealer a test drive one like what you built, but include a CAT scale in your drive. Weigh both axles and see what you find.

Edited by kb0zke
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