Choosing our Tow Vehicle

Truck evolution; how did we decide on the F250 Super Duty?

Originally when looking for travel trailers (TTs), we were looking at extremely light weight hybrids so we could use an SUV to tow the TT.  The first SUV we considered was the Dodge Durango (great tow capacity for an SUV!!!).  We wanted 3 rows of seats for kiddos, and the Durango has a towing capacity up to 8000 depending on the model.  Good gas mileage was also a key factor when looking at this SUV.  We next looked at the Chevy Tahoe, which also has 3 rows of seats but a higher towing capacity and decent gas mileage after we switched from looking at hybrid travel trailers (some soft sides) to longer TTs in the 22 ft range.

After realizing a TT in the 22ft range just wasn’t going to be enough for a family of 5, full-timing, we had to update our tow vehicle search and switch to looking at trucks, which have higher tow capacities. The added benefit to a truck was also the extra storage in the bed.  TTs typically don’t have a lot of (or any) storage space so a bed would be a much-welcomed storage addition.  This would mean the kids would have to share the 2nd row of seats in the truck so we needed a very roomy cab.

Great!  I thought.  We need a truck.  All I need to do is ask the tow capacity, make sure it is at least the weight of our trailer + an extra 2,000 pounds (for anything we load + an extra safety buffer for driving/towing control) and voila!  I’ll know if the truck will work.

Unfortunately, most vehicles didn’t have a simple ‘tow capacity’ number posted.  First I had to find out what goes into the tow capacity of a vehicle (lots of confusing internet research ensued).  Then I had to obtain the components needed to calculate the tow capacity by calling sales reps for each vehicle I was finding in my research (do you know how many sales reps a) have no idea what the GCWR or GVW is or where to find it? and b) try to mansplain to me about tow capacity without understanding even the fundamentals?).  I then had to calculate said tow capacity for each vehicle I found by combining the components of each vehicle (I created an excel spreadsheet to aid me).

Confused yet?

I sure was.

Make sure you do your own research into tow capacity, as I am still far from an expert, even after about 3 hours of research.   I found that typically, to find the tow capacity of a vehicle you need two things:

GCWR  – This is the Gross Combined Weight Rating of a vehicle -or- ‘how much weight this vehicle can move’

GVWGross Vehicle Weight -or- how much the vehicle itself weighs

If you take how much weight the vehicle can move (GCWR) and subtract how much it weighs (GVW -how much its already moving by simply driving itself), you get the towing capacity.  *There is a different, higher 5th wheel capacity since the 5th wheel sits partially on the bed of a truck but I wasn’t concerned with this since we had already decided on a TT*

What you don’t need from the sales rep is the GVCW – though almost every sales rep I spoke with tried to insist this was the number I was actually supposed to look for.  The GVCW is the Gross Vehicle Combined Weight, or how much the truck can carry total on its wheels, including itself.  So no, Joe, I don’t meant the GVCW.  Please stop, I know what I’m talking about, even if I am *just* a woman.

What I could consider a typical- everyday type- tow truck won’t tow a TT.  You have to move up into a more powerful truck like an F250 – and then only because we had decided on an Ultra Light trailer.  Many full-timers with big 5ers/TTs use F450s.

We had spent more than expected on our TT ($20k all-in), which had lowered our truck budget to $30k.  This sounds like a lot but while doing my research I didn’t find many contenders with low mileage (a must considering our upcoming travels) that fit the bill.  I feel we traded out decent gas mileage for low mileage on the truck we ended up choosing.  I’m not altogether still satisfied with this considering I’m a tree-hugger, but I think we got the best deal we could with our search parameters.

Our ‘little’ lady (pictured at the top!) was christened by our youngest – Vixen Truxie Strong-Puller because a) Santa’s reindeer area all female (they still have their antlers in the winter) b) I’m starting early teaching the boys that women are strong and can do pretty much anything men can and c) Noah names things according to their attributes.




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