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Old 04-13-2009, 06:27 AM   #1
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Default Anyone here tow their car a lot?

My Miata is becoming a bitch and her screaming infant child to drive around every day and I am looking at a double-duty truck to replace it. Something that I can park at school every day with relative ease, but still tow the Miata 500+ miles every month without getting sucked off the road by semi rigs.

I can't decide whether I want something that will primarily be good to tow, or primarily be good to drive. Most of my mileage will be towing mileage, maybe 600 miles a month or so just driving around, but at the same time most of my trips are without a trailer on. Another big factor for me is MPG; I can get 24-25mpg pretty easily in the Miata on the highway, but only like 15-16 around town, so my benchmark is the town mileage. If I can see 14 towing and 18+ around town, that works for me, but the higher that is the better.

Budget is 8k, but the less the better. The way I see it, there are 3 options:

-V6, like a Tacoma or a 4-runner. Price range puts me at a 96-00 truck with around 100k miles on it. 5-speed, 4x4, extended cab, long bed. Truck is long-ish, but narrow so it might still be halfway easy to park it. Lightest truck by far, these are only 3300-3400lbs apparently. Rated to tow 5000lbs, which is perfect for the car and an open trailer. I think this will hit 13-14mpg towing, and it should do 18 around town, I think, but the Toyota forums are a bunch of imbeciles who either tow 7000lb loads with a 22R and wonder why they get 6mpg, or tow at 75mph with a car on the back and then complain about the mileage.

-V8, like a Tahoe or something similar. Price range puts me into a 96-00 truck with 70-100k miles. A little shorter than a Tacoma but wider by nearly a foot. Heavy. Not going to match the Tacoma for around-town mileage, but I don't know how much worse it will be towing on the highway. I doubt this will match V6 mileage around town, but it might on the highway? We have an 00 Suburban right now and it gets like 13-14 towing. The older trucks are smaller but a bit worse on gas as well.

-Diesel, 95-96 Dodge 12v. Price range puts me into a pretty nice one, but finding what I want (must be a 5-speed with 2wd, extended cab, short bed) might be tough. Biggest of them all, hardest to park. Phenomenal mileage, my roommate gets 18 towing and 20+ without a trailer.

Basically goes in order from best/worst to drive and worst/best to tow with. I don't think I want a Tahoe, even though my roommate thinks it would be a good idea, because it's the worst of both worlds - shitty tow mileage and difficult to park. I was set on a Tacoma but I don't know whether it'll tow the Miata like I want it to. A Diesel has always been an option, but I don't know whether I could deal with driving a larger truck around every day.

help me
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Old 04-13-2009, 09:02 AM   #2
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I drive between 40 and 50k miles a year in a '96 Toyota T100 extended cab 2wd SR5 (3.4L V6). I'm in sales so I drive quite a bit. It gets ~17 around town. I do all of my own maintenance. I bought it four or so years ago with 50k miles and it now has 252k. I changed the starter at 217k. That's it. I almost wrote a dirty letter to Toyota about the starter not going 300k.

I've pulled boats and cars of various sizes for hundreds of miles at a time. The worst I saw for mileage was 12 with the '68 GTO on a tow dolly behind it trying to hold 75 mph on hilly sections of I-75 in Georgia. You really aren't supposed to tow that much weight in overdrive, so it hurts the mileage quite a bit. It isn't uncommon to get 14 mpg pulling a decent sized boat with some serious wind resistance at interstate speeds.

That is the same 3.4L engine that is in the 4Runner. That is also the same base engine that is in the early Tundras. BTW my truck weighs 3700lbs and tows steady.

Good luck.
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Old 04-13-2009, 09:06 AM   #3
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If you're lucky, you can find something that's great and not on your list. (cheaper, newer, good deal)

I had an '02 Dodge Ram 4.7L Auto, 2wd, 8ft bed w/ a lot of options (infinity, pw, pl, cruise, a/c, towing pkg) that I paid $6,700 for w/ 80k mi.

Towed a boat w/ it ALL THE TIME, got 17-20mpg whether towing or not. Granted, boat and trailer weigh less than your Miata, but, never the less.

Not to mention the '02+ Ram's are sexy.

If you can't find that, I'd opt for your 3rd choice up top. Diesel power, capable of 400k miles or more before major problem, all that torque will make towing super easy.
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Old 04-13-2009, 09:20 AM   #4
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Love my Dodge, but it is truly gigantic. It's a 4 dr 4x4 and gets 15. That is 15 in town, 15 on the highway, 15 pulling my boat, 15 falling off a cliff. Towing is a non issue, as the truck is 6,000 lbs. What's another 3,000?

Mileage would be better if it was a 2WD and if it didn't have the hemi but who really cares in the grand scheme of things. Look at it this way - you are talking 600 miles a month. That's 7200 miles a year. If a truck gets 15 that's 480 gallons whereas some pissy little thing that gets 20 will be 360 gallons. Both will get similar mileage while towing so that makes the difference even less. If you are making a decision on a tow vehicle and the extra 120 gallons or $250 a year makes that much difference, you should rethink whether you really should be buying it.

Dodges are good trucks, but they don't hold the resale of a Ford or Chevy, which makes them an excellent candidate for a used tow vehicle. Just buy what you want and don't sweat the mileage. It's not enough to really matter in the total bill.
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Old 04-13-2009, 09:39 AM   #5
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I'm holding out for the right taco too. People will bitch and moan about pulling a jet-ski without a Peterbuilt, but I've towed thousands 8000lb+ thousands of miles with a nissan frontier or taco and they pull fine.
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Old 04-13-2009, 09:48 AM   #6
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Whack your roommate over the head, then get hustler to dump him in the desert. Use his K5. Problem solved, well under budget.


Edit- In all seriousness, a Miata isn't exactly heavy towing duty. I wouldn't really sweat it one way or the other. That being said, I'd still go for bigger rather than smaller, but my opinions are colored by other (bigger, heavier) towing/hauling needs. You should also have more confidence in your driving skillz. Yes, a smaller vehicle is easier to park, and there's a hell of a difference between a fullsize truck and a Miata, but hell, if *I* can manage, you can.
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Old 04-13-2009, 10:08 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by the_man View Post
Whack your roommate over the head, then get hustler to dump him in the desert. Use his K5. Problem solved, well under budget.


Edit- In all seriousness, a Miata isn't exactly heavy towing duty. I wouldn't really sweat it one way or the other. That being said, I'd still go for bigger rather than smaller, but my opinions are colored by other (bigger, heavier) towing/hauling needs. You should also have more confidence in your driving skillz. Yes, a smaller vehicle is easier to park, and there's a hell of a difference between a fullsize truck and a Miata, but hell, if *I* can manage, you can.
But this thug is going to have a hard time valet parking an old dodge to holla at a shawty in tha club.
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Old 04-13-2009, 10:26 AM   #8
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I tow my car 5-6K miles a year. I towed twice with a '99 4Runner and decided it was not enough truck (inadequate brakes, too short wheelbase, 2nd gear WOT up steep hills, etc...). It got 20 mpg around town and 13-14 towing. I now tow with a '04 2500HD entended cab long bed 4x4. I get the same towing mileage, have no worries while towing and get 16 mpg not towing although that never happens because that is the only reason I have this truck. Buy a big truck for towing and a beater honda for around town. You'll never hear anyone complain that they have too much truck for towing but a lot of people will complain that they have too little.
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Old 04-13-2009, 10:32 AM   #9
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Taco. Easy to park, good to drive, can still tow, easy to work on, etc. Probably cheapest on insurance too.
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Old 04-13-2009, 11:34 AM   #10
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Old 04-13-2009, 11:43 AM   #11
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I can highly reccomend the Dodge 1500 with the hemi, doesn't matter stick or auto. It's easy to drive around town, and can easily tow your miata on a trailer up the worst mountians you'll see without dropping speed. They should be dirt cheap now.
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Old 04-13-2009, 11:47 AM   #12
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this just in...I may buy a Yukon Denali, lol.
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Old 04-13-2009, 12:13 PM   #13
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Another vote for a Tacoma or 4Runner. I would definately find one in a 5 speed as the automatics have a history of getting hot during long stints of towing even medium sized things. Other than that, great trucks.

A teacher at our school had an original 4 runner (you know the one with the removable top) that had over 300,000 miles on it and the only things that went wrong on it was that the alternator and the starter went out on him at around 250,000.
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Old 04-13-2009, 01:03 PM   #14
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me thinks you guys are nuts towing with baby trucks.

though i'm sort of in a similar situation where i'd be looking to get something more everyday/family friendly as my regular cab truck with 35" tires isn't good for any more than 1 other person and only gets 10-12mpg. only thing is i need a truck like every week now. I was actually thinking about getting an escalade ext and a trailer i could leave at home when i need to haul a bunch of ****
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Old 04-13-2009, 01:44 PM   #15
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As an aside to Sav, you may want to see if you can hold out until summer. I'd bet that the traditional summer runup in demand will push up gas prices again, and that will in turn push down truck prices. High gas prices are what allowed me to get a good deal on a truck that would have otherwise commanded a higher sum. I'm seriously considering picking up another, more practical truck this summer (in addition to present truck) if I can get one cheap enough- a half ton Chevy with a SBC, short bed, extended cab.

For me at least, parts cost was/is a major factor when buying a beater/tow rig/whatever, which is why I'm looking at GM stuff, the SBC parts are ridiculously cheap, as are the other components, since the parts bin hasn't changed much in the last several decades. Since they're really, really common, even the normal "big ticket" items like axles, transmissions and motors are dirt cheap, and junkyards are loaded with them. I say "parts cost" rather than "reliability" because realistically, everything made since about 1985 is good for 200,000 miles with decent maintenance, but things WILL go wrong along the way. Anybody with half a brain mechanically can make sure the things are ready to go, but things like water pumps, wheel bearings, seals, radiators, clutches, whatever- it's going to go*, and when I'm looking at an older, more "well used" vehicle, it pays to make sure that it's cheap to fix those things when they do go bad.

*This is where a bunch of people chime in and say "I drove my Frontier, Ram, Silverado, Tacoma or whatever for one million miles and all I ever did was change the oil, so you should buy that." Right. Some people get lucky. Same goes for Miatas really- some people drive them a bazillion miles, modify them, track them and everything else without any issues. Others seem to have one failure after another, with every component lasting precisely 12 seconds after it's design life is up.

Then again, I tend to be hard on equipment (what's the point of having a fast car if you don't drive it fast, an off road truck if you don't try to find it's limits off road, etc.?), and I also tend to stay on top of things. I tend to replace a part, like a wheel bearing, at the slightest hint that it's going south. I tend to replace water pumps, timing belts and the like at or before the scheduled intervals. Why? Because I have the worst luck on the face of the earth. If I don't replace these components at the first sign of failure, they WILL go bad when I am as far from home, or, for that matter, any civilization, as possible.
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Old 04-13-2009, 02:11 PM   #16
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I recommend pulling the miata on an aluminum trailer with this:
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Old 04-13-2009, 02:18 PM   #17
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Compromises suck, so as tempting as the middle option may be, you may be unhappy 100% of the time instead of halfway happy all the time like you think with a Tahoe. We have one, we never use it unless we absolutely have to fit 8 people in one vehicle.


I've done the towing thing both ways, and it really depends on the kind of driving you do. If you're towing for race duty, then you're probably not in a hurry, and hopefully doing mostly highway. This is fine for a smaller truck like the 'Yotas.

Then again, if you're on roads you don't know, often behind/needing car setup time, and bound to hit high traffic areas, it's nice being in a bigger truck when towing. Hopefully since you're trailering the Miata it will already be set up. When in traffic, especially in places I'm not familiar with and that area's native horrible drivers, you can absolutely HATE towing in a smaller vehicle.

If you don't foresee this being a problem, err on the side of a more practical light duty truck. You don't need a Cummins to pull a Miata on a trailer. You don't need a V8 in a mediocre chassis despite low part costs. They all pull the same on the highway in a relaxed pace.
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Old 04-13-2009, 02:21 PM   #18
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just get a short cab diesel truck. Or better yet, pick up a 15 passenger van on the cheap.
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Old 04-13-2009, 02:32 PM   #19
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I've also thought of getting a rape van...but I'd probably drive the Denali more frequently.
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Old 04-13-2009, 02:52 PM   #20
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This might be able to pull a Miata and you can even sleep in it at the track too.

YouTube - Arnes Van "Maiden" Tribute
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