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Discussion Starter #1
Norm and ImperialCrown have been a big help to me with this subject in the Liberty forum, but I wanted to expand the vehicles I am considering for a cheap tow vehicle.

My wife and I are looking to purchase a travel trailer camper and would need a cheap vehicle as a temporary tow vehicle. I will keep driving my PT Cruiser to work, and the tow vehicle would be used for the camper, and in emergencies should either of our PTs go down. The trailer has a dry weight of 3200 pounds, and a tongue weight of around 250. I plan on getting a weight distribution hitch.

Initially, I'm looking at a Jeep Liberty, which has a towing capacity of 5000 pounds. I've also started looking at older Cherokees (6900 pound capacity). However, we are open to other vehicles that may be available, such as an older ram, Durango, Dakota, etc. I'm trying to find a working balance between economy, capability, cost, etc. We would use the vehicle for towing the camper around Florida, and the longest would probably be from Florida to the Smoky Mountain National Park in Townsend, Tennesee. The plan would be before I retire (in about 8 1/2 years) to purchase a better two vehicle for the camper so we're set to travel out west to Arizona, Utah, etc (which we love).

I guess what I'm thinking (if feasible), is a vehicle that may not look the best, have upwards of 100,000 miles yet be a solid performer, and cost between $5K and $10K, although I would be willing to approach $15K should the extra money warrant it. My PT Cruiser has over 281,000 miles, and I've been able to keep it running great, doing the work myself, so I'm not afraid of higher mileage vehicles as long as they are reasonably mechanically sound.

Thanks for any suggestions on what would be good, what to avoid, or what pitfalls to look for.

Doug
 

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I'm a big fan of the Dakota, especially if you could find a nice 2003-2004 (last of thst generation and the years they upgraded the brakes). Granted it won't do that well as far as economy but it is a substantial truck with only a few flaws (ball joints and soft rubber suspension bushings being the biggest ones). Plus you've got a choice of regular, extended and quad cabs. I'm sure a 2005+ Dakota would work but the exterior and interior styling don't do much for me there.
 

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The very best tow vehicle is the Ram Cummins. Brakes, frame strength, handling and much better tow fuel usage. Nothing tows better, and good ones with 100K mileage or less are out there. The 24 valve is very efficient (About 40-50 percent better than gas engines) and tunable with aftermarket modules. You'll never regret buying one.
 

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Sir Moses Wellington said:
People I've talked too always liked the RamChargers for towing. Not bad in terms of space inside the RamCharger either. Only issue would be gas.
A longer wheelbase can make for a better towing vehicle. That's an area where a Ramcharger hurst a little.
 

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I can agree with the Dakota, too. Been looking at the longevity of the V10 in the Ram trucks, seeing them for sale with 150-250K and still running strong, mileage is down around the 14-18mpg, which kind of hurts, but bet you wouldn't be having a problem pulling and hauling anything around. The Dakotas barely break 20mpg empty on the highway, driving a big V10 may be a little bit of a pain in comparison. I was thinking of building a V10 for the Nash, given it used to have a heavy flathead 8 in it to begin with, and with overdrive and good gearing, should be able to keep close to 20mpg in that light hotrod.
 

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tazdevil said:
The very best tow vehicle is the Ram Cummins. Brakes, frame strength, handling and much better tow fuel usage. Nothing tows better, and good ones with 100K mileage or less are out there. The 24 valve is very efficient (About 40-50 percent better than gas engines) and tunable with aftermarket modules. You'll never regret buying one.
A bit overkill for the OP's needs. Yes, I'll agree a diesel powered rig is best for towing , but a big ole Cummins Ram is overkill for maybe a 4-5,000 lb trailer. He'd never know the trailer was back there.

I partial to Ram's (1500) for towing trailers below 5,000 lbs. A 2001-2005 Ram would probably fall in the price range though the Hemi wasn't available until 2003 or so. Still the 4.7L should handle it just fine.

There were many 'member's of the 4.7L club on DodgeTalk.com that towed heavier trailers and they did just fine.
 

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I have a 92 Dakota Club Cab 3WD with 3.9L V-6 and 4-speed auto. It has a class II hitch on it, which is rated for 3500 lbs. With it I towed home my 93 Daytona (2,900 lbs) on a 2-wheel dolly (600 lbs). I had lots of throttle left, it pulled very strongly, and I could have towed more if the hitch were a class III (5,000 lbs). At the time the Dakota had about 180K miles on it, had been used to pull a 22' sailboat cross-country (so the towing limit had been exceeded for 3000 miles), and the original engine and transmission still run great.

I got 20 mpg empty, 18 mpg with the empty dolly, and 14 mpg while towing the car. I can recommend the Dakota highly.
 

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Doug D said:
He'd never know the trailer was back there.
.
Yes, but that's the point. ;)
Using a diesel would mean he doesn't pay the penalty in poor fuel economy when towing. As nice as the Dakota is, the 20 mpg disappears when towing. Doug mentions the Smoky Mountains, Arizona, Colorado and Utah, that means MOUNTAIN passes and big ones, too.
Believe me, I've towed in those states and the gas motor makes it an unpleasant experience and it's exactly at those times the diesel proves itself.
For the most bang for the buck however, I'd still choose the V8 powered Grand Cherokee. It will pull the travel trailer adequately and unlike the Dodge pickups mentions it has a covered and secure cargo area, for trip luggage and trinkets bought along the way.
A pickup could be equipped with a shell, however that is an added expense and frankly, most shells,are poorly made for longevity and easily broken into.
The Grand has the wheelbase, room and creature comforts not found on used pickups from the years mentioned, that fit into his price range. Taking his search one step further, the previous generation Durango was still offered BOF, tow rated and Grand Cherokee quality interior room and engine choice, so either one would be a good,pick. The Durango is likely less cost than the Grand and also offered in 4WD, if needed.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
Thanks for all of the comments and suggestions. The more I looked into the Liberty, the more I felt it wasn't suitable for what I wanted. Everything was just too marginal in terms of towing capacity, although it certainly is a nice vehicle. After reading comments, here and on other towing related boards, I narrowed my search down to the Grand Cherokee and possibly a pickup truck. Friday, my wife and I stopped at Carmax just to take a look. While there, we saw a 2009 Ram 1500 SLT. It had the towing package, a brake controller, the 4.7L V-8, was spotless - like showroom condition, the interior is beautiful, had new tires, and had 62,000 miles. The truck runs like it is brand new. The first word from my wife when she got in was "Wow!". She wasn't keen on a pickup until seeing this. That was just after driving a 2012 Nissan Titan at Carmax with only 81 miles. That Titan with those few miles, didn't come close to the Ram. We managed to get it for $15,900.

Here's a picture:

DianeandTruck.jpeg

Thanks for all of the help. I went from knowing very little about towing a camper, to knowing much more thanks to the input.
 

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Virginia Gentleman
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Welcome to the Ram Truck Club! Very Nice. FYI - you have the towing mirrors too. They flip up. Hard to tell but it looks like it has 20" wheels. Nice thing about the 4.7L is it can run on 87 octane.

Oh and once you own a truck, it's real hard to go back to a "car"........

Hers' a pic of my '06:


Yeah, it's got a Hemi!
 

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Discussion Starter #12
It has 17" wheels. I really like the vehicle a lot. Here is a side view:

SideView.jpeg
 

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Discussion Starter #13
Just to follow up, we brought home our camper today. I used the 2009 Ram (4.7L) to tow a 21' Camplite travel trailer (3500 pounds). The truck towed the trailer great. It felt good, no trailer sway, even when on the interstate doing 65 MPH. The brake controller worked great, and braking felt normal even with the trailer.

Should I always have it in tow mode when towing the trailer? I noticed tow mode seems to at least unlock the torque converter, since highway RPMs are higher than with tow mode off.

Here's a picture of the truck and trailer in front of my house. Click on the thumbnail to enlarge.

IMAG0980.jpeg
 

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I was going to say I only paid 17,000 for my brand new 13 Tradesman (i qualified for several incentives) but it seem you got a great looking truck. I love my 4.7L even though its no Hemi it will give you and I thousands upon thousands of reliable enjoyable and hard working miles.
Congrats
Mick
 

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Road conditions should dictate being in tow mode. If you are on flat roads, no reason why you can't shift it out of tow mode to save gas and engine rpm. Congrats on the purchase.
 

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Discussion Starter #16
Mick M said:
I was going to say I only paid 17,000 for my brand new 13 Tradesman (i qualified for several incentives) but it seem you got a great looking truck. I love my 4.7L even though its no Hemi it will give you and I thousands upon thousands of reliable enjoyable and hard working miles.
Congrats
Mick
dana44 said:
Road conditions should dictate being in tow mode. If you are on flat roads, no reason why you can't shift it out of tow mode to save gas and engine rpm. Congrats on the purchase.
Thanks. We're taking it out on Saturday for 6 days. We not going far, just to Fort Wilderness at Disney World. My wife works there and gets a very nice discount. We're looking at it as sort of a "shakedown" period to check out the camper and get used to it and the truck.

Thanks also for the input regarding tow mode. That is the answer I was hoping for since I noticed the RPMs are considerably higher in tow mode. I just didn't want to cause any inadvertent problems even if the road was flat; but I would like to take it out of tow mode if I'm cruising down a flat interstate.

Doug
 

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So how is she doing? Do you like how she pulls the trailer?
Mick
 
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