Traveling Stuff, Part 1

We’ve decided to reduce our household belongings down to what will fit into our travel trailer and vehicles. I say “vehicles” though at the moment we only have one vehicle, our 1994 Buick 4-door sedan. Our 1997 Ford E-250 van packed it in early in the year, and we have been looking for a replacement tow vehicle.

The trailer is a 21′ Desert Fox toy hauler, bumper-pull hitch. Dry unloaded weight around 5000 lbs, fully loaded it is rated to 10,500 lbs gross vehicle weight. That gives us about two tons worth of stuff that we may be able to carry with us, a significant reduction from what we hauled in our last move.

The E-250 with its 5.4L engine could pull 7,400 lbs. It did OK with hauling the trailer with about a half-full water tank and some personal items for weekend trips. But what we are contemplating is outside that weight range. So our next vehicle is constrained by the need to pull 10,000 lbs or more.

We can get to the 10,000 lbs rating if we buy a Ford E-350 van with a 7.3L Diesel engine. Our other options are pretty much restricted to 3/4 ton or 1 ton pickup trucks. Among those, we are only considering trucks with some sort of “back seat” arrangement: extended, crew, super cab, etc. And, of course, we are only considering used vehicles, so we have to watch the miles on the odometer and condition of the vehicle closely. We don’t really see a need for 4×4 drive, since we don’t do off-road stuff, and that takes away about 500 lbs of capacity.

Current contenders are a 2001 Ford E-350 with the 7.3L Diesel engine and a 2004 Chevy Silverado 2500 HD with 6.0L gas engine. The Ford is at a dealer near our current location; the Chevy is at the dealer in San Diego from whom we bought our last van. We have some confidence in the latter, and no idea about the former dealer.

A resource that we have found useful is the Trailer Life web site, which handily compiles trailer towing guides for each year’s set of tow vehicles. Trying to compile that information ourselves was driving us nuts. A hat tip to Marc Nowell, who pointed us to Trailer Life and compiled some leads on tow vehicles for us, too.

We still need to pick our route. The direct route would be I-80 across much of the USA, including the Sierra Nevadas and the Rockies. Given the time of year, this could have delays due to snow and icy conditions on the roads. We’ll be consulting with AAA on whether we should take the long route and drop down to I-40, cross the mountains, and then go back north at some point to the east of the Rockies. That will add a couple of days to the trip if we do it that way.

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Wesley R. Elsberry

Falconer. Interdisciplinary researcher: biology and computer science. Photographer. Husband. Christian. Activist.