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Old 09-03-2013   #1
San Francisco, California
Join Date: Nov 2012
Posts: 105
Towing Rig

Hello, buzzers,
I am currently towing my rig with a 6-cyl VW wagon. The car is rated for 1500lb towing capacity with max 150lb tongue weight. My aluminum trailer weighs 350lb. and with my boat fully rigged, the total weight is still under 1000lb.

Although my wagon does an admirable job towing the rig on highway, it's a different story once I get on the gravel and rock laden access roads.

I am thinking of getting a car/truck that is capable of pulling my rig and 4-5 passengers. I've looked hard at Tacoma, but, I would prefer to have 3 passenger option in the front (with max 6 people seating capacity). So this leaves me with either a full truck like F150 or an SUV with 3rd row seat.

I would love to have something like F150, but given that I don't plan to pull anything other than my raft trailer for now, it seems to be an overkill. Also gas mileage is definitely a point of concern as I don't expect oil price to drop.

What would you suggest as a good towing rig for light duty raft trailer? Or is there a benefit of getting a full-sized truck with 6 passenger capacity? Would 4x4 be a smart choice? This maybe like finding a needle in a haystack, but I am looking for a vehicle that will serve me for the next 10 years or so with a growing family. It will also be my daily driver (unless I end up getting another car for commute to work).

Looking forward to getting some wise advice....

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Old 09-03-2013   #2
Westminster, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1999
Join Date: May 2006
Posts: 524
Get the big truck, then buy one of these Ultra High Mileage Car : Elio Motors as your daily driver
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Old 09-03-2013   #3
Jenks, Oklahoma
Join Date: Oct 2004
Posts: 1,408
Have you checked out the Suburu Small SUV's?

or the eco boost 6 cyl ford's do pretty good on MPG
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Old 09-03-2013   #4
Carbondale, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1975
Join Date: Jun 2006
Posts: 6
Second the Ford F-150 6 cylinder Ecoboost. 24 mpg
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Old 09-03-2013   #5
JustKip's Avatar
Fresno, California
Paddling Since: 1979
Join Date: Dec 2009
Posts: 177
Originally Posted by tmyers View Post
Second the Ford F-150 6 cylinder Ecoboost. 24 mpg
Are you kidding?!
That's 9MPG better than my '04 F150 4X4 with a 5.4 V8! I'm sure 4WD makes a difference, but still..
Also as good as most Subarus, and better than my '95 V6 Tacoma 4X4 was by about 5 mpg.
4WD can be nice for getting to some ramps, but very few absolutely require it.
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Old 09-03-2013   #6
San Francisco, California
Join Date: Nov 2012
Posts: 105
How are you getting 24mpg? That's a number I haven't seen even for the latest
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Old 09-03-2013   #7
cataraftgirl's Avatar
Sandy, Utah
Paddling Since: 1997
Join Date: Jun 2009
Posts: 3,121
I use a Toyota 4-Runner, V6. Tows great on & off highway. Room for 5. I've had to use 4WD on several tricky put-ins & take-outs. Glad I have it. Plus I need it for winter driving in Utah from time to time. Around 20-21 mpg on the highway, and 18-20 with the loaded trailer. Nice & comfy for everyday use. I really like it.
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Old 09-03-2013   #8
Andy H.'s Avatar
Wheat Ridge, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1995
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 2,910
Since you asked, what you need to do is to dump the 6-cyl VW and pick up an old 1994 Subaru Legacy with a 2.2 L 4 cyl engine. She finally hit 300,000 miles spring of 2012 and I've since upgraded to a 2006 Outback which does just fine and is a heck of a lot more comfortable. Anyway I hauled my raft with my old car about 40,000 miles including trips down lots of dirt and gravel roads to get on and off the river. You've got a light aluminum trailer, and you say you'll never top out over about 1000 lbs, why are you letting the tail wag the dog in terms of the vehicle you're getting to pull it? I'm always amazed how many normally environmentally conscious rafters go out and buy gas hogs for the 5 or 10% of their driving when they need to haul their gear around. Here's a photo of a trip with my old rig that got about 20 mpg fully loaded and 25 the rest of the time:

Also check out this thread and this thread.

After that, check out this thread to find out how the pros really do it!

Good luck making your choice,

Nothing in the world is more yielding and gentle than water. Yet it has no equal for conquering the resistant and tough. The flexible can overcome the unbending; the soft can overcome the hard. - Lao Tse
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Old 09-04-2013   #9
Learch's Avatar
Dundee, Oregon
Paddling Since: 1989
Join Date: Jul 2010
Posts: 655
I've learned a few things over the last few years about tow rigs, MPG, and the like. We have a 1995 Subaru 2.2 that we occasionally tow with and a 1998 Sienna that is our primary raft/ camp vehicle. The Subie gets great mileage, and I'm a Subie Lifer, but I need capacity, as it is always the four of us rafting at least in the summer, plus we need space for shuttle duty.
So the Sienna does most of our raft towing. It gets 20 towing the raft, rigged for a day trip. If I have it packed with camping gear, I usually am headed to the mountains, gaining at least 3000 feet in elevation on the drive. Then I get 15 mpg. I almost got stuck on a ramp with it a few weeks ago, I wished it was AWD like my Subie.
My Dad has a Suburban. it's a 1999 with 191K, and 4wd. He gets 15 mpg with it, even hauling a small camp trailer or raft trailer with lots of gear in the back with the 3rd seat removed.
I want to get a Suburban as a 3rd vehicle mainly for rafting and camping, and let it sit when the capacity isn't needed. My 3 liter V6 is working harder when we climb a pass, his Suburban is loafing along like it isn't even trying. His seating capacity matches my van's.
An AWD van like a 2004 and newer Sienna might fit your needs, as those have a large increase in power and AWD, plus seating. I would probably do well with one of those, but I want a body on frame 4x4 this time around.
Our Sienna will do for now, it gets in the 20's when we aren't towing, it's cheap to maintain, and it's a great kiddie hauler. I may add Firestone coilrite airbags to the rear next season, but camping season is over for 2013
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Old 09-04-2013   #10
Dipshit with the most.
carvedog's Avatar
Bellevue, Idaho
Paddling Since: 1991
Join Date: May 2005
Posts: 2,497
We just got a 2004 Sienna. My wife just pulled a uhaul with it for about 1,500 miles and it did fine. We'll be using it with my light utility trailer for rafting. AWD, 260 hp, 7 seat belts- four that fit large people comfortably and we will push the less than full size units to the back.

Looking like around 19-20 mpg with the trailer ( it was a uhaul so it had more wind resistance) mid 20s without.

So far I love this car.

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