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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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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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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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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,

-AH
 

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Jared
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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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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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I use a Chevy Astro AWD for my work (painting contractor). Has a 4.3 vortec v6 and I am getting about 22 highway. It will pull 3500 pounds. I've pulled equipment weighing that much up half mile driveways with a 6% grade. Will haul 8 people with all the seats in, or take out the back and 5 are comfortable. With all the seats out, it has 8' of room on the floor. They quit making them in 2005, but there are lots of them in the $3500-5000 range. The motors and trans are bulletproof. Be sure to get the AWD though, otherwise the model sports rear wheel drive. Fantastic in the winter too.
 

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Second the astro. Truck frame, truck engine, full time all wheel drive. I towed for years with mine. Yank one of the back seats & you have a gear hauling road trip machine.
 

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Jared
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I use a Chevy Astro AWD for my work (painting contractor). Has a 4.3 vortec v6 and I am getting about 22 highway. It will pull 3500 pounds. I've pulled equipment weighing that much up half mile driveways with a 6% grade. Will haul 8 people with all the seats in, or take out the back and 5 are comfortable. With all the seats out, it has 8' of room on the floor. They quit making them in 2005, but there are lots of them in the $3500-5000 range. The motors and trans are bulletproof. Be sure to get the AWD though, otherwise the model sports rear wheel drive. Fantastic in the winter too.
I think that the Astro was a decent van, and it did a lot of things well. However, you are one of lucky ones to be able to call the 4L60E a bulletproof unit. When that trans works, it works great, but they are known for couple thousand dollar rebuilds, especially when stressed with towing. The 4.3 Vortec was a great engine in many aspects. The AWD version are common to the undercar shop I work in, and the front ends require probably more maintenance than most (Ball joints, steering parts, wheel bearings)
 

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I'm at 180,000 on mine, fixing to do ball joints and a few other things on the suspension like you say, but hey-180,000. I live in the edge of the rockies along the ark so do a fair amount of mountain driving for work and play. Good clearance for a van too. I think they are better for pulling since rear while drive tying in front wheel drive. Hesitate to pull with front wheel drive IMO.
 

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You might be wise to give that eco boost some time to prove its all that Ford wants us to believe it is. I believe that it has a turbo on it. So far Gas motors that are turboed are usually less durable than their non turbo equals. Except Subaru seems to have this figured out, (probably over engeneered, and lots of R and D) but they get about 25% less fuel mileage that their non turbo equals. Simple, and well engineered (read as cummins, and duramax) turbo diesels are very effecient for their size, but very much overkill. The scuttlebut that I am hearing is that the half ton trucks that are the best for overall towing ability, mileage, reliability, power, etc are the Chevy/GMC, and the Toyota. Their SUV counterparts would have the same performance. The half tons will generally do quite a bit more than they are rated for, and still be reasonably safe with a skilled driver. This is overkill based on Your said needs. The Tacoma/forerunner are also very capable, and the newer ones get much better mileage than they did in the mid 90's. Good luck with your decision.

Mike.
 

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Jared
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The Ecoboost is a twin turbo setup, and they seem to be pretty reliable. I've had 2 turbo Subies, and the turbos (with me and my wife driving) have gotten better actual mpg. My 2.2 non turbo wagon with a 5 speed doesn't get the mileage that our 2005 Leggy GT turbo 5 speed got, and with double the output stock, but I actually had it in the 290 hp range after a few mods. That car got 25 around town and 29 on the highway, and we used the power.
The Astros are good pulling rigs, and the front end parts are worth the trouble. They were built with light truck duties in mind. The Toyota trucks don't seem to get that good of mileage. I have a friend that has a 2007 4 door 1500 Silverado 4x4 with 180K, he gets about what a Tacoma 4x4 V6 is rated for. (16-18)
I think the Titan is the only 1/2 truck to steer clear of right now. It's got a smallish rear axle that has bearing/ seal problems, and while they make plenty of power, mileage plain sucks. It's also behind in updates and design. They are promising a lot with the 1015 re-design, including a confirmed Cummins engine making 300 hp and 500 lbs ft of torque. The rear axle is actually based on the Jeep wrangler rear axle, a Dana/ Spicer 44 with 33 spline axles, a set 10 bearing, and the newer larger ring and pinion. Seems small for 380 lbs/ ft of torgue and tow ratings pushing 10K.
 

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I've been pulling a fully loaded trailer with my 99' forester it was great until it wouldn't pull the rig up any boat ramp in Colorado. I sold it and bought an F250 with a topper. Never been more happy. Six people four dogs and three rigs 18mpg. In San Fran a truck like that may not make since but in Colorado I use it all the time for fire wood, lumber yard, boating, and camping etc. Love it!
 

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