The purpose of this post is to document the factors that went into the selection of our 2013 Ford F-350 as a tow vehicle for our travel trailer.
Once we decided that our next travel trailer would be a fifth wheel I began my search for a tow vehicle.
Our first challenge was a “chicken or egg” type dilemma.
Since we weren’t sure exactly what trailer we would be buying, we weren’t sure exactly what our towing requirements would be.
I could have waited and purchased both the truck and the trailer at the same time, but I really wanted to introduce the new payments one at a time.
So in 2011 I set out to find a truck that would eventually be used to tow our future travel trailer.
The first decision was the brand of truck.
At the time I was working for Ryder, which is a supplier for both General Motors and Ford. As such I qualified for a supplier discount on Ford, Chevrolet, and GMC trucks.
In addition, since my brother works for GM, I qualify for an employee discount on both Chevrolet and GMC trucks.
If price had been the primary factor, I would have chosen a Chevy or GMC truck.
I tried to begin my search with an open mind.
I can’t quite list any particular reason, but Ram (Dodge) trucks were eliminated early on. All I can say is that the Ram trucks just did not “turn me on.”
The Ram sales people were also seemed to be less informed when I asked questions about towing capacity.
When it came to choosing between the two GM brands, I actually had a slight preference for the GMC.
I have to admit this was mostly because GMC tends to be the “high end” GM brand.
Despite this preference, I eliminated the GMC due to the location of the dealers.
The two closest dealers were in Arlington and Grapevine, both over 30 minutes away.
As it turned out, the GMC dealer in Grapevine was on my route to work once I changed jobs in September of 2012.
That left my decision between Chevy and Ford.
Once again my decision seemed to be based on “soft factors.”
I did like some things included with the On Star system that is standard on the Chevy.
I do prefer a navigation system for directions to the On Star method of calling in and having directions downloaded.
When I was looking for an SUV in 2005, I was told that the GM navigation system replaced the CD player with the DVD player required for mapping.
In 2011 I was told this was still true, although I was also told it was not true. (I never pursued the answer to which situation was correct.)
There were also things about the Ford Sync system that persuaded me to purchase a Ford.
Once the brand had been decided I had to decide about the model.
The choices were an F-250 (3/4 ton,) F-350 Single Rear Wheel (SRW) (1 ton,) and F-350 Dual Rear Wheel (DRW) (1 ton.)
Five Star Ford did not have any F-350 SRW trucks in stock at their North Richland Hills location.
They did have one or two at other locations, but I really didn’t want to travel to the other locations or wait until one could be transferred.
This left the choice between a F-350 DRW and an F-250.
Looking at the capacities of the two models I concentrated on towing capacity since after all I was buying this truck to pull a trailer.
The F-250 had a towing capacity of 14,400 pounds.
I knew this would not be sufficient for all the travel trailers I had looked at but I felt I could find something at this weight or below.
The F-350 had a towing capacity around 20,000 pounds so I knew that was more than I would need for any trailer within our price range.
I was actually leaning towards buying an F-350 just to be on the “safe side.”
When I test drove the F-350 DRW, the speed bump in the Five Star Ford driveway “turned the tide.”
The roughness of the ride plus that added length of the truck “steered” me toward the F-250.
Unfortunately I did not pay enough attention to the payload capacity of the F-250.
It was June of 2011 when I made my decision and purchased a Ford F-250.
We had always planned on beginning our serious search for a new travel trailer the next winter.
We have found that the annual RV show was a good place to look at a large selection of RVs without travelling literally hundreds of miles between RV dealers.
While we browsed at the 2012 RV show, we weren’t too serious in our shopping.
It was at the 2013 RV show we found the Open Range 398RHS which we purchased a few weeks later.
The empty weight of this unit was less than 12,000 pounds and the gross weight was less than 14,000 pounds, so it was well within the towing capacity of our truck.
I did have a concern about the tongue weight of the unit.
Before we bought the unit, I even asked the manager of the dealership if my F-250 would be sufficient or if I needed to upgrade to an F-350.
He said that if I felt the trailer made it sag too much I could have some booster springs installed.
He even offered to hook the unit up to one of their F-250’s to see how it rode.
He told me “We don’t see too many one-ton trucks in here. Most customers pull these with ¾ ton trucks.”
It was after we purchased the 398RLS that I became even more concerned about the payload capacity of my F-250.
The more things I read and the more people I talked to the more convinced I needed to upgrade my truck.
While the Ford Super Duty brochure lists the “standard” payload of an F-250 as about 3,000 pounds I had learned that this was greatly reduced by the options on a vehicle.
I learned that the only reliable source for a vehicle’s payload is the federally mandated sticker on the door.
The actual payload on my truck was 2,050 pounds.
The 398RLS brochure indicated that it had an empty tongue weight of 19,500 pounds.
This meant that I had only 200 pounds available for passengers, my fifth wheel hitch, and any additional items in the trailer.
The fifth wheel hitch alone probably weighed close to 100 pounds.
We actually took the trailer out on one camping trip with the F-250.
After the trip I looked at the truck with the trailer attached and felt that the truck was “squatting” more than I felt it should.
I briefly looked into adding supplemental springs or airbags, but I learned that while that would give a more level ride, it did not modify the capacity of the truck.
This meant I would still be exceeding the capacity of the truck.
I learned that there were a number of factors that went into payload capacity including axle and braking capacity.
I was told that if I was involved in an accident while exceeding the capacity of the truck, I could be found at fault.
So in June of 2013 almost two years to the day after buying the F-250, I traded it in.
I knew that I was going to take a loss by trading in a two year old truck.
I felt that the only way to minimize that loss would be to trade it in for another Ford.
(I also had been very happy with the Ford and saw no reason to switch makes.)
This time Five Star Ford actually had a few F-350 SRW models in stock.
Having learned my lesson about actual payload capacity, I checked the door sticker on one of the SRW models.
The payload was about 3,000 pounds.
I felt that after adding a fifth wheel hitch, four or five adults, and a couple hundred pounds of cargo in the trailer, I would be near if not over that capacity.
So, I purchased an F-350 DRW.
After trading for the F-350, I stopped at a public weigh station and weighed the truck and trailer and then just the trailer.
I found that the tongue weight of the trailer was 2,180 pounds.
So he trailer alone put the F-250 more than 200 pounds over its payload.
The total weight of the trailer with our camping gear was 12,640 pounds, so it was well within the towing capacity of the F-250.