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Which 250/2500 HD level tow rig for about 20k?


sunvalleylaw
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Starting to save and shop for a new tow rig. I got a truck camper, so I don't have to sleep on the ground any more. So the 2001 1500 Suburban we currently use to tow our 1998 Response (single axle trailer) is on the way out. I am thinking I want to stay about 2010 to 2013-ish, for price. I want to keep the price somewhere close to 20k. Or at least low 20's. Even with that, will probably finance about half. I want 250/2500 level for carrying the weight of the truck camper, and pulling the boat, over a high pass we cross to get to the lakes, and to properly support the tongue weight and camper. Open to all three brands. Open to either fuel. Of course it will likely be a vehicle from one of the big 3. and I do want a crew cab or at least a good sized extended cap suitable for teens, and an 8 ft. bed. It will be a big truck, but I live in Idaho, so that is ok. Oh, and I will try for leather, but it at least has to have a power driver's seat with good adjustability and lumbar support even if cloth.

 

Please give me your thoughts as to brand, years to look for, which motor/fuel, etc. Thanks!

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You know my answer... Dodge 2500, Cummins. Both the 5.9 and the 6.7 are great engines and will go forever. With a dodge you are going to get a lot more truck for less money than the other two. If you can find a mega cab even better. Also, I am a pro when it comes to finding deals and I would be more than happy to help you as well!
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I would suggest a 2011 or newer F250 w/ the 6.7L power stroke diesel. Those engines are pretty sweet. I would also recommend looking into an f350. For the longest time you could find them cheaper or same price and may be easier to find one with 8 foot bed that is a crew cab. The f350 should support camper and tongue weight even better and I don't think there is much difference in mpg. Yes the fords are pry a little more pricey than the dodge/ ram(whenever they changed names) but there's a reason for that IMO. I do not have any experience with 3/4 and 1 ton pickups that are gas burners.
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I love these topics. Good luck with the numbers you’re looking at. Had a diesel, decided to go back to gas. Darn sure wouldn’t buy a new diesel, It just doesn’t pay. Diesel guys say the engine will last forever, meantime the overall truck is still only good for ~250k miles and you’re stuck with an ok motor but dilapidated truck with electric gremlins, bad Springs, loose steering, cracked dash, door panel falling off etc. In all honesty, I would look for a 6.0 gas GM. Solid proven motor all the way around (ignition, fuel delivery etc are reliable as ever) , will still see 250-300k and doesn’t demand a permium $. I will say in 2016 I rented a 21’ motorhome on an F350 gas chassis with an auto (I refuse to drive auto’s) and towed my Ski Nautique through the Virginia mountains and that chassis was a phenomenal beast and great tranny. Don’t know motor size but it was a upgrade with better power and better fuel Economy than I would’ve seen in my truck and best auto transmission I’ve seen for in the mountains.
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Don't buy a diesel unless you need a diesel. Unless you are towing all the time they are more costly to buy, own and operate. I have a diesel truck and I love it. With that said I will be the first to admit to you that I got a diesel because I wanted it; not because I needed it or could justify it. Additionally, getting a nice diesel truck on a budget can be very difficult.

 

All 3 make great trucks. It comes down to personal preference IMO. Go sit in and drive them all and see which one works best for you and your family. Personally I own a GM truck. I got it because I liked the interior, ride, creature comforts and how refined it was compared to the competition at the time.

 

I think your biggest struggle will be finding a crew cab long bed. Those are pretty rare and when you do find them they are more often then not ex-work trucks. With a budget of 20 grand you will have a hard time getting a decent diesel that is in your year range as well.

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I'm in the "futures" market for something similar and I'll just throw out a couple notes.

 

My understanding is that you cannot get the mega cab with an 8 foot bed. That's what I want, but apparently Dodge won't make it so I'm going to end up with the 6'4" bed instead of the 8 foot bed because I REALLY want the Mega Cab. Also, I have found that the difference between 3/4 ton and 1 ton in price is darn near negligible. What isn't negligible is the difference in payload capacity (which is very relevant where campers are concerned) where the 1 tons are darn near double the 3/4 tons.

 

So you should really consider a 1 ton instead of a 3/4 ton and don't hold your breath looking for a mega cab with an 8 foot bed.

 

Gas or Diesel? I tend to agree with Orlando76. When the 6.4 Hemi does 410 HP, it's hard for me to tell myself that I need more power in order to tow around a stinking ski boat at 4-5k pounds and a camper on top with another 2k. Not to mention that you will get a much nicer/newer truck for the same price when you are out shopping if you just stick with gas. If I really felt like I NEEDED more power or if I drove 30k miles per year, then I would be in the market for a diesel. Neither of those are true for me so I'll be pretty happy rolling around with 410 HP on gas. It's enough/plenty for the basic uses I have planned. I'm not a super heavy tower and it sounds like you aren't really either.

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I bought a 01 Chevrolet 3500 dually with a 8.1 liter/ 496ci gasoline motor & a Allison auto transmission. I have about 750 mile's pulling a 37' 16,000 pound 5th wheel. This truck is a beast! I also drive a later model f250 diesel at work pulling a 30 ft gooseneck. The difference is night & day. the Ford does pull ok, it is not as responsive as the Chevrolet.
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Just sold my 04 2500 doge ram for 20k great truck and no exhaust filter cleaning.

which I need to delete. So finding a good 2010 and up might be a challenge for 20k

 

Diesel in Idaho for sure too many hills and altitude changes

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I’ve had a bunch of both. HD Chevy with the gas 6.0 and the Duramax diesel, and the Ford with the triton and the 6.4 diesel.

A couple guys have said it here, the Ford needs to be 2011 or later with the 6.7. The 6.4 has to have so much deleted, like EGR, cats, and more, to make it a reliable engine, it’s not worth it, especially if you live in an emissions controlled state. From all I’ve heard, the 6.0 was worse. Any serious maintenance also, and the Cab MUST BE LIFTED FROM THE BODY. The dealership will charge you $1,000 off, and $1,000 back on, so weigh that against the Ford. The triton (gas) engines seem to be great, but are a fuel funnel.

The Chevy 6.0 is going to get you 12 mpg. Best case. Good engine that goes forever, but it’s thirsty. The Duramax is the best Diesel engine I’ve ever owned. It must be after 2003 or 2004, don’t remember when, but the injectors used to be inside the engine, so they’d have to do almost a full tear down to replace them. If you can find a 2006, it’s the best, pre-exhaust fluid rig out there.

I don’t have any experience with the Dodges.

It will be really hard to find one under 20k. I’m selling my F250 now for 19k, but it’s fully deleted, so it may not be legal in Idaho. Sure as hell isn't in California

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Hey @sunvalleylaw Not sure if in your budget, but thinking of selling my 2013 3500 ram Laramie long horn. It has a full camper package already installed, along with wireless air bags system and heavy duty sway bar. Your camper choice might make this decision, my truck is a short bed. I currently carry a 2013 arctic fox 811, and have a hitch extension to pull trailer. Truck has 60,000 on it I think. Oh yea, truck is the heavy duty 3500 with the max hp and aisin transmission. Completely stock, no mods on engine. Great truck, I’m thinking of downsizing.
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We are a family of 5 plus a 35 pound dog. I’ve always been happy with the ford crew cab based on cab room. The dodge mega cab or new body style crew cab are also roomy. I’ve owned and used 2004, 2006, 2008 gas chev 2500. 2004 diesel chev 2500. 2006 F250 & 2011 F350 ford diesel, 2011 & 2013 Ford F-250 gas. 2007, 2010 and 2013 Dodge 2500 gas.

 

For gas engines I’ve had experience with chev 6.0, Ford 6.2 and Dodge 5.7. I found the ford and chev quite similar for towing a 28 to 30’ holiday trailer at 6000-8000 pounds. The dodge had the least bottom end torque so was always running at high RPM. Got the job done but not as pleasant.

 

I like the ford manual mode for their auto transmission the best, allows to hold a gear for going up and down hills.

 

For Diesel engines ford 7.3 or 6.7 are most reliable. With a 6.0 or 6.4 expect to spend 6-8 grand in upgrades and deletes to get reliability. Nothing challenges a holiday like tow vehicle troubles.

 

For Chevy the 6.6 duramax and Allison are all pretty solid, there were some injector issues pre 2003 and 2006-2008 are the most sought after for reliability and pre emissions. Stay away from tuned duramax unless the transmission has been strengthened.

 

Know the least about dodge although the 5.9 Cummins is very sought after and the 6.7 after 2008 have been very good. The older dodge auto transmissions (pre 2008) are considered a weak point for heavy use.

 

For suspension the chevys ride the best and with a ford I’d either go to a F350 or put air bags in a F250. Also make sure whatever brand is a tow package with rear anti-sway bar.

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My Dad had an 02 F350 7.3 Diesel which he replaced with a 14 F250 6.2 gas. Both trucks “winter” at my house since he became a snowbird well over a decade ago. Great deal for me to have a truck to use when I need it all winter long, but I sure miss that diesel... The gas is just not the same in the low-end torque. You feel it driving everyday, even without a load. No doubt, it is still more than capable for a ski boat, but I know he seriously considered trading it on a diesel. Interestingly, the ride on the 250 is also horrible compared to the old 350. Perhaps it is the off-road package or lack of the extra weight upfront with the 7.3, but the 250 has rides really hard.

 

Like @Fam-man, I do really like the Ford auto trans in its ability to seemlessly jump to manual selection with a touch of the +/- on the shifter. The same button in my GMC Yukon does nothing unless I shift from Drive to Manual first. Small difference but I use it all the time in the Ford and almost never in the GMC. Better yet, get the Ram diesel with a proper 6 speed!

 

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I have a 2000 V10 gas excursion that does pretty good with a 150K on it, I'm in the process of pulling exhaust manifolds off and replacing some broken studs. That's about the biggest thing I've had to do to it.

 

The Cummins engines are like the small block GM's of diesel. Parts are easy to get and usually more reasonable than other brands. A lot of the problems with the dodge transmissions are due to people putting tuners on them and trying to run way too much power through them. If you find one that hasn't been abused you'll probably get a normal life from it.

 

The Cummins engines are inline 6 so there's a lot of room in the engine compartment for working on the engines. They are a simple design. I had a 92 Dodge diesel and it was the most reliable vehicle I've ever had. The Ford's and Chevy are V8 and there's not a lot of room to get in there and work. As someone mentioned you pretty much have to pull the cab off the frame on the Fords to work on the engine, but the cabs come off easy enough with a lift and the guys that work on Ford regularly can have a cab off in a couple of hours.

 

I like the Ford trucks a little better overall. I've had a 99 F450 7.3/ 6 spd manual and 2006 F350 with a 6.0. The 6.0 truck is setting behind my house with a hole through the side of the block. It did make it to a little over 200k. The 6.7 diesel has been out since 2011 and Ford took care of the problems the 6.0 and 6.4 engines had. The ford transmission is really beefy. I have a friend that has a F550 with the 6.7 he has a gooseneck trailer / backhoe tractor. He says it pulls better that the 5500 dodge he had before but for what your pulling you'd never know the difference.

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I have an 2005 Chevy 3500 with allison and Duramax. Been great, except for doing head gaskets at around 140000 miles. 2005 was the first year without the injectors inside, it's called the LLY. The difference between the 2500 and 3500 is springs and I think the frame is a little beefier, same brakes etc.

When I was looking in 2005 the fords were essentially the same, usually the long beds were the 350's.

There's some good input here, but when you buy used, the market will dictate a lot of what you get. Happy hunting.

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It's funny the RAM brand has been in existence for 8 years but it's hard to break people of the Dodge name. Perhaps when Dodge goes the way of Oldsmobile and Plymouth!? Everyone is spot on all three trucks are very good and if you avoid the older Ford diesels you have many great choices. The GM Duramax with Allison transmissions are impressive. And RAM has some great features plus the Cummins power. The largest FCA+RAM dealer in the country is located in Kellogg Idaho so you want to check them out as well. They also have a Chevy store. Especially with the all new Ram truck being introduced later this month you might find some nice trucks being traded in.
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@RAWSki , too bad Idaho has no good north/south road. The place in Kellog looks good, but 8.5 hour drive. Salt lake is closer in terms of time. but more salt down there on the roads. When the time is right whatever drive will not be so bad. Am checking out the local one noted above too.
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You have gotten some great opinions. I have a 2011 f-250 6.7. that I still really enjoy driving everyday. There is no reason for me to drive it now that I sold my 14k catamaran but I really like driving it as well as any car I have owned. I would be proud to own any of the big 3 trucks as all of them have their pros and cons. All of them will have issues and decreased longevity with Egr, dpf and def. I think with the budget you have I would go with a dodge. Would not come near a ford 6.0.
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