What is the best tow vehicle?

Towing Rigs, Hitches, Weight Distribution, Sway Control
Post Reply
Mark R. Obtinario
Posts: 28
Joined: Sun Oct 09, 2016 3:14 am

What is the best tow vehicle?

Post by Mark R. Obtinario » Tue Nov 28, 2017 2:42 pm

Recently on several different FB pages there have been a lot of discussions about tow vehicles.

As I have said many times before, any time two RV'er's get together and start talking about tow vehicles you are going to have a minimum of three opinions as to what is best.

Some go for the overkill with medium duty or heavy duty toter trucks while others who have drunk the kool-aid dispensed by a certain Canadian AS dealer like to prove some point while taking the minimalist approach.

Regardless of what choice of tow vehicle you have made it is very important to know how much your trailer weighs, how much the tongue weighs, and how much weight is on each axle when fully loaded and ready to go camping.

The numbers that are the most important, which will be your limiting numbers, is how much weight can each tire on the tow vehicle and trailer support, and how much weight each axle can suppport. Regardless of how much the tow rating might be, if you have four kids, a m-i-l, and two dogs packed into the tow vehicle along with bikes, lawn/camp furniture, and pop up canopies/extra rooms you might be close to the gross weight rating on the rear axle before you ever hitch a trailer to the tow vehicle. If you are considering a vintage tow vehicle you might be able to extrapolate the information you need from some of the literature put out by the OEM back in the day when your vintage TV was made. But a good place to start is the weight rating molded into the side of the tires.

Do not take a salesman's word, a published number put out by the OEM, or a guess by your best friend as to what anything weighs. Don't worry about the empty weight--no one goes camping in an empty RV. Take your fully loaded rig some place that has a scale that can give you a printed record of what everything weighs. Most truck stops have Cat Scales that cost very little to use. Scrap metal recycle yards, garbage dumps, rock pits, and grain elevators also have scales that can record your weights. You can also use your state's DOT scale houses on the side of the highways if they are closed (no officers present) as most leave the scales turned on with the weight displayed where the driver can see the numbers.

Running overweight with your tow vehicle/trailer combination can result in catastrophic failure of the tires, brakes, or axles. It can further void any new or extended vehicle warranty you may have. And worse case it can also subject you to civil and criminal legal jeopardy.

I know my 34V hitched to my 1995 K1500 Suburban is pushing the envelope really hard. I am not overweight but I have virtually zero room for anything or anyone else in the tow rig. I am working on getting our new-to-us 1997 K2500 Suburban ready for the road which will have no problem handling the weight of the 34V with plenty of room for more junk and plunder or people in the tow rig.

Be smart and be safe!

Mark R. Obtinario
Winlock, WA
1981 34V

nralifer
Moderator
Posts: 511
Joined: Fri Sep 30, 2016 11:42 pm

Re: What is the best tow vehicle?

Post by nralifer » Tue Nov 28, 2017 3:33 pm

Great post, Mark, and great information for folks to live by.
My father definitely rubbed off on me in a lot of ways, and especially in this area. However it happened, I have a pretty good eye for being able to “see” if a tow vehicle and trailer combination could be OK or not. Adding to that the vehicle’s and trailer’s ratings, and actual scale numbers, I have a good track record of confirming my initial opinions.
Any time I want a good chuckle, I go to the Canadian towing god’s site and watch the different towing combinations seen there. We used to have a Ford Windstar van. I can hardly imagine hitching our 34W to that and expect it to be a good tow vehicle. Not that it couldn’t “do” it, but what an abuse and recklessly unsafe situation that combination!

Anyway.... great post!
nra1ifer
1987 Avion 34W
Every day is a good day..... some are just better than others!

Rostam
Posts: 132
Joined: Tue Oct 04, 2016 9:54 pm

Re: What is the best tow vehicle?

Post by Rostam » Thu Nov 30, 2017 11:00 pm

I have listened to the argument of the Canadian RV shop fanboys at Airforums, but what they keep repeating incessantly does not make any sense to me. They argue that the main criteria for selecting a tow vehicle should be handling ability, and since unibody vehicles with low center of gravity have better handling dynamics, they should be preferred over trucks.

The flaw in this argument is that handling ability does not imply towing ability (or vice versa). I have been driving for over 30 years and in that span have done a grand total of ONE sudden lane change evasive maneuver. Thats it. Such maneuvers happen rarely. If you see yourself doing sudden lane change maneuvers often, you must change your driving habits, not your vehicle (slowing down and being attentive helps). Otherwise, you will be in an accident sooner rather than later regardless of your vehicle type.

Furthermore, you don't need a specialized vehicle to perform evasive maneuvers safely. I was driving a 6000# SUV with 10" of ground clearance and managed to change lanes safely at highway speed.

Finally, an evasive maneuver may not be the best course of action. Many times hard braking and staying in your lane is safer. Sudden lane change can cause you to collide with other vehicles or lose control and go off road and thats when bad things happen.

Anyway, the idea of a modified sedan/minivan/sports car being better that pickups has been incessantly advertised at Airforums for the past 15 years, yet these setups are as common as hen's teeth :) I would guess 99% of tow vehicles I've seen on the road or in campgrounds are pickups. We have a large SUV but we are almost always the only non-pickup at campgrounds. The fanboys at Airforums, however, will not let the facts get in the way of their fantasy :)
1978 Avion 26-H (Rear twin beds, center bath, front dinette)
2012 Mercedes Benz GL 350 Bluetec, 3.0L V6 Turbo Diesel, 3.45 Axle Ratio

Tarnished
Posts: 43
Joined: Wed Jun 07, 2017 4:19 pm

Re: What is the best tow vehicle?

Post by Tarnished » Tue Dec 26, 2017 7:19 pm

I like all of the above discussions. The one I adhere to is: Match the weight of the tow vehicle
to the weight of the towed unit. It won't be exact of course but towing a 5000# unit, while do-able
(In my case a Toyota 4 runner with a '77 Travelcader 26). Not good. Bought a Sequoia, 5200# vs 3600 on the 4 runner. BIG difference towing.
Comments?

nralifer
Moderator
Posts: 511
Joined: Fri Sep 30, 2016 11:42 pm

Re: What is the best tow vehicle?

Post by nralifer » Tue Dec 26, 2017 8:15 pm

Sounds reasonable to me!
nra1ifer
1987 Avion 34W
Every day is a good day..... some are just better than others!

RISK
Posts: 68
Joined: Wed Aug 02, 2017 9:50 am
Location: Sunset Valley, TX

Re: What is the best tow vehicle?

Post by RISK » Thu Dec 28, 2017 11:40 pm

My Avion 28M outweighs my truck by a whopping 450 (+/-) lbs. I’m pretty sure I’m good there. It’s the brakes, engine, torque and tow package that round out the match for me. I’d probably get a bigger truck if I were full timing but I also just drive around in it and it’s plenty big in a crowded parking lot.

Sure there are things I’d change about my truck, but all in all, I’m a happy camper (zing!)..

Ian

Rostam
Posts: 132
Joined: Tue Oct 04, 2016 9:54 pm

Re: What is the best tow vehicle?

Post by Rostam » Fri Dec 29, 2017 6:17 am

Tarnished wrote:
Tue Dec 26, 2017 7:19 pm
I like all of the above discussions. The one I adhere to is: Match the weight of the tow vehicle
to the weight of the towed unit. It won't be exact of course but towing a 5000# unit, while do-able
(In my case a Toyota 4 runner with a '77 Travelcader 26). Not good. Bought a Sequoia, 5200# vs 3600 on the 4 runner. BIG difference towing.
Comments?
A technical article was cited at Airforums (which later got deleted by their Soviet moderators :)) regarding this exact issue. Per that article, The relative weight of TV to trailer is a big factor in stability of the combo. Ideally, the trailer weighs less than (or equal to) the TV. I believe it's ok for trailer to be heavier than TV up to factor of 1.3 (that is a 6500# trailer pulled by a 5000# TV would be the max limit of the TV). Our Avion weighs as much as our SUV.
1978 Avion 26-H (Rear twin beds, center bath, front dinette)
2012 Mercedes Benz GL 350 Bluetec, 3.0L V6 Turbo Diesel, 3.45 Axle Ratio

silverloaf
Posts: 100
Joined: Wed Aug 23, 2017 8:01 pm

Re: What is the best tow vehicle?

Post by silverloaf » Fri Dec 29, 2017 1:24 pm

Considering that Ford (for example) boasts of a 2018 F150 pulling 13,000 lbs. of trailer with a (roughly) 5000 lb. truck, that article might be a deal killer for both Ford and Airstream. Gotta follow the money.

I don't think many people today are very discerning when it comes to buying a TV. I suspect they spend more time picking out a suit. When was the last time anyone even read a vehicle's owners manual on anything, let alone tips and caveats on trailer towing?

Like the saying goes," Don't let the facts get in the way of your ignorance."

Bob

nralifer
Moderator
Posts: 511
Joined: Fri Sep 30, 2016 11:42 pm

Re: What is the best tow vehicle?

Post by nralifer » Fri Dec 29, 2017 2:25 pm

Count me as one of those owner’s-manual-reading oddballs!
nra1ifer
1987 Avion 34W
Every day is a good day..... some are just better than others!

Post Reply