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Best Used Truck for Towing

kczmudzinkczmudzin Posts: 39
edited March 2014 in Ford
I'm looking to buy a used truck for towing a
20 ft 5th wheel or a camping trailer. I don't
need off-road capabilities.

I wonder if there was an especially good year
for one of the following: Ford, Chevy or GMC.
I'm looking at something older than 5 years but
not older than 10.

I also wonder if I should get a gas or a diesel

I would prefer something that sits 2 adults and
3 children (2-10) comfortably for long trips.



  • How much do you want to spend? Will you use this truck only for towing the camper, or will it be used daily? Will you use the truck for anything other than towing the camper? What does the camper weigh? Will you be towing long distances in mountain country?

    We need more info because the truck you need could range anywhere from a properly equipped 1/2 ton gasser all the way up to a 1 ton diesel.
  • This is my thinking:
    1. I'd like to spend around $5k for the truck
    and $5k for the camper.
    2. I would use the truck daily to commute to
    work 10mi each way so I don't care about fuel.
    3. I will also use it around the house to haul
    refuse, frequent trips to Lowe's, etc. so I need
    a truck and not an SUV.
    4. I'm not sure how heavy a 20' camper would be
    but it seems to me it would be on the smaller
    side (GVWR around 5,000). I will probably haul
    some bikes and other camping gear.
    5. The trips would take me over the Rockies.
    6. I also don't think I will ever need 4x4.

    I don't know a lot about trucks but I think that
    an F150 or similar with V8 should suffice. The
    problem is sitting for 5. Today's F150s would
    be perfect but I can't spend that much.

  • You've got a tough order to fill.

    1. $5k. You're not going to find much truck for that money. It will be old and worn out at that price, at least going by "that's what it is around here prices." If you don't mind driving a less than beautiful truck and don't mind working on it all the time, then go for it! I used to drive beaters until I bought my current truck. They're great in the respect that if you tear it up or wreck it, toss it and go buy another.

    You'll get about a 10 to 15 year old camper for that price. But if you take your time and do your homework, you should be able to find something that fits the bill. I was amazed when we bought our camper a few years ago. 8 year old 30' fifth wheels were going for $9k to $10k. We ended up buying a travel trailer, same money but only 2 years old at the time. Have you considered a pop-up? They are easy to pull and can be had for a lot less than a travel trailer.

    2. For your price range, it will most likely be a gasser. Get ready for 13-15 mpg in a 1/2 ton, 11-13 mpg in a 3/4 ton.

    3. Yeah, an SUV just wouldn't do in this case.

    4. You're pretty close on the GVW of a 20' travel trailer. Again, a pop-up would be lighter. Here is one area where I think you're beginning to get into 3/4 ton territory. If you are talking about bikes, as in bicycles, then a 1/2 ton may suffice.

    5. However, being in the Rockies and hauling anything of any substantial weight in addition to the camper, you probably need the heavier suspension and drivetrain of a 3/4 ton.

    6. I don't have a 4x4 and have only really needed it 3 or 4 times.

    In your first post you mentioned you needing seating for 2 adults and 3 children. Most older extended cab trucks will do for your situation right now. However, those kids do grow up. I don't know how long you plan on keeping this truck, but the oldest one will probably outgrow that small back seat soon. My truck is an F-350 SuperCab and my boys are 6 and 3. While neither are anywhere near outgrowing the back seat, the 6 year old doesn't have an overabundance of room. So, here is where the 1/2 ton vs. 3/4 ton debate may be answered for you. You probably should look at the full sized crew cab/4 door trucks. You can seat 6 full sized adults in those and be fairly comfortable all day. You're not going to find any 4 door 1/2 tons in your price range. There are 4 door crew cabs out there in your price range. Most likely they will be solid white/or yellow with no options on them. But then again, that may be exactly what you want. If you're like the rest of us, budget is the deciding factor.

    IMHO: Get the crew cab 3/4 ton. Because, again if you're like me, you'll end up getting a bigger camper than what you started out to buy, and having the extra towing capacity and seating room will make your camping trips more enjoyable for everyone.
  • Thanks for the info. I've already looked at some
    used trucks here in OR. You are right that $5k
    may not be enough. I could go higher. It's just
    that I prefer to start with $5k so I don't go too
    far from that number. As for the trailer, I've
    seen nice 20' trailers that would fit my needs
    perfectly and I doubt I will go longer. As the
    kids grow, they will try to get out of the camper
    and into tents so we will not need anything

    I will consider pop-ups but I'm concerned with
    noise control. It seems that anything that
    goes on in a pop-up can be heard outside;
    especially at night.

    There is one thing I did not understand. You

    "You're not going to find any 4 door 1/2 tons in your price range. There are 4 door crew cabs out there in your price range."

    These statements seem contradictory. What is the
    difference between trucks you describe?

  • When Jim wrote:

    "You're not going to find any 4 door 1/2 tons in your price range. There are 4 door crew cabs out
       there in your price range."

    He meant that 4dr. half tons are relatively new, and well above $5K price range. Chevy and Ford however, made 3/4 and 1 ton crew cabs in early 90s that are probably available at your price. Only thing is that were mostly bought as work trucks, so they've probably seen a lot of hard miles. I always saw them working the Amtrack rail lines, with pipeline crews, or logging.
  • Sorry about that kc, and thanks Walt for clarifying that statement.

    I meant to say: "You're not going to find any 4 door 1/2 tons in your price range. There are 3/4 ton 4 door crew cabs out there in your price range."

    Your statement about pop-ups is right!! Very little noise insulation at all. I can appreciate your wanting the TT. Good luck with the search. I hope you find exactly want you want.
  • I'm currently feeling out the market for a 3-4 year old truck for towing a 24' boat. The complete towed rig will realistically weigh near 7000 lbs with trailer, gear, gas, etc. I think a 1/2 ton will just do, but I cannot decide if I need 4WD or not. I will be towing on relatively level ground, and the ramps I use are in fairly good shape, yet I cannot help to feel that I would someday regret not going for the additional traction advantage. I also plan on using the truck primarily for towing duty only, as I will be using my car for daily transportation. Suggestions?
  • For a 7Kk lb rig, either 4x4 or a limited slip rear end would be very helpful. Best entertainment at local marina is folks who get stuck on boat ramp.
  • I should clarify that if I were to get only a 2WD, it definitely would have a limited slip axle, but I'm still not sure if that would be enough. Right now, I'm leaning toward 4WD, although I may never NEED it, but more as an insurance policy in case I ever would.

    Actually, the BEST entertainment at a marina is watching people launch their boats on the asphalt in front of the water (ouch)!
  • boaz47boaz47 Posts: 2,751
    I would give is to make sure you need the 4x4 for all the days you aren't towing your boat. I have been where you are but my last solution was to get a slip. Towing and launching was no problem but I moved quite a ways from the beach so a slip made life a bit easier. The biggest problem is the cost to operate a 4X4 when you aren't towing the boat. 4WD lowers you towing rate by about 300 pounds and your cargo weight by about as much. The 4X4 will use more fuel as well. It will work a lot better on the ramp however.
  • Thanks again for helpful comments. I have
    narrowed my choices to F350 as it is the only one,
    early 1990s truck with 4 doors. Please, correct
    me if I'm wrong.

    Now the question is what to be aware of. I know
    that I will not have a lot of selection but I'm
    not in rush (I have until the next summer to find
    it) so I'm willing to wait until something decent
    comes along.

    What is the best engine, gear ratio, etc. for
    towing 5-6k lb 5th wheel?

  • You probably will have to take whatever is available. In that truck, you'll probably only find two engine choices, 7.4L(460ci) gasser and the 7.3L(444ci) diesel. Most likely all you will find will be 4.10 gear ratios, however there may be some 3.73's out there. For what you are wanting to do, either ratio will do just fine. You've allready stated fuel mileage is no concern, so either engine is perfectly capable of what you are wanting to do.

    IMO: I'd hold out for the diesel, if everything else were equal of course.

    daschtick: You stated; "The complete towed rig will realistically weigh near 7000 lbs with trailer, gear, gas, etc." There are several 1/2 tons that are rated to tow that weight. Would I routinely tow that much weight with a 1/2 ton? NO. The 1/2 ton doesn't have the suspension or brakes needed to handle that much trailer. The tongue weight alone will bring the rear end of the truck way down. If the trailer has surge brakes, then a weight distribution hitch is out of the question. I've seen people with too much boat for the tow vehicle get pulled into the water by their boat because their brakes were not heavy enough to handle the load.

    Get the 3/4 ton. The towing experience will be much more enjoyable and you'll be more relaxed when you get there. If you're still set on the 1/2 ton, you'll need 4wd. You'll find that 4wheel low will be a necessity pulling that heavy boat up a slick ramp.
  • Found a truck at local used truck dealer. I saw it over the summer and he was asking 8k and now it is at 7k and I could get it for about 6k. It has 91,000 miles on it, 5.0L, auto and matching cap. Is this a good price for the truck and how will this thing do towing? Looking to tow a 25' sailboat and which will weight about 5,000 lbs. Thanks, Dan.
  • Can't speak for price, I haven't priced anything like that truck in a long time. Check the used car values here to see what it says.

    The truck will be marginal with that boat. I'm sure the truck will handle a 5k load OK, but the 5 liter may be a little weak, especially if the gear ratio is anything other than a 4.10.
This discussion has been closed.