Choosing a Truck

Once we purchased our Airstream, we needed to find the right truck to tow it with. As we did with the trailer and trailer options, we did a lot of online research and visited multiple dealerships. After doing our research, we compiled a list of features that were necessities, as well as a few luxuries. Our list included crew cab, 4×4, tow package, trailer brake, backup camera, blind spot monitoring, large gas tank, bed liner, towing capacity of at least 9000+ pounds, and a gross combined weight rating (GCWR) and payload that would support towing our model of Airstream.

Not all dealerships or car salesmen are created equal. When we were just browsing, we were walking around a dealership (that shall remain nameless) when a salesman approached. We were looking at one vehicle in particular and asked him what the GCWR was because it wasn’t listed. He looked at the sticker and pointed at the towing capacity. We turned around and left. There was no way we were going to work with a salesman – who sells trucks – who doesn’t know the difference between GCWR and towing capacity. We talked with another salesman who really didn’t seem to know much about the product he was selling either or where to find the answers to our questions. Plus, they were blaring country music in their showroom. Ugh. We ended up at San Diego’s Mossy Ford in Pacific Beach where we worked with Pedro Ramos. Spread the word about this dealership and salesman. So knowledgeable. So professional. So worthy of our business.

We ended up purchasing a 2017 Ford F-150 XLT 4×4 Supercrew with a 3.5L V6 EcoBoost engine. It was a demo vehicle with 249 miles, so it was considered ‘used’ which helped with the price. We qualified for all of the rebates Ford was offering, so after all discounts and rebates were applied, we ended up paying about 23% below MSRP. We were very happy with this, seeing as it had every feature were looking for and even some we weren’t.

We are not truck people. We aren’t even car people. We’ve always been people that need to use a vehicle to get from point A to point B safely. But now, we’re truck people, because we have to be. And guys, this truck is beautiful and we love it. It’s big, though. Really, really big – and that’s been an adjustment.

Now, back to those towing numbers I spoke of. The most important information to know when purchasing a truck for towing is the truck’s GCWR. The GCWR is the total weight of the truck, truck passengers, truck cargo, trailer and trailer cargo. You also need to know your trailer’s base weight and gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR). The GVWR is the maximum your trailer can weigh per the manufacturer. Our trailer’s base weight is 5,868lbs and the GVWR is 7,600lbs. So, again, research is key as well as having accurate numbers. Here is why the numbers matter:

  • Truck Curb Weight:            4,890lbs
  • Truck Max Payload:            2,030lbs
  • Trailer GVWR:                      7,660lbs

TOTAL Combined Weight:   14,580lbs

Our truck has a GCWR of 16,100lbs, so there is 1,520lbs to spare if we are ever maxed out on the truck and trailer. I never foresee that happening, but it’s good to know we’re safe if it does. Also, Ford’s recommended maximum towing capacity for this vehicle is 10,700lbs, so we are also safe there. Just as all dealerships and salesman are not created equal, nor are towing capacities. Things that affect towing capacity are the engine, the sizes of the cab and the bed, wheelbase, tires, tongue weight, axle ratio, and probably a number of other things. Two side-by-side trucks may look identical, but have completely different numbers. Do your research, but it also helps to work with a salesman who knows his stuff and knows where to find answers quickly if he doesn’t.

UPDATE 4/19/21: We still love our truck very much and just want to note a few things about it. Our truck has the extended range gas tank of 36 gallons as opposed to the 23 gallon that is standard. The larger gas tank is SO, SO important if you’re going to be driving long distances as it reduces the number of times you need to stop for gas, which can be a little more difficult when towing a long trailer. We actually rarely have to stop for gas while undertow because we typically keep our travel days to less than 300 miles, which is easily doable on one tank. Also, the Ford F-150 has the backup assist feature that helps you back up with a trailer. We thought for sure we’d use this all the time, but we don’t. Ever. After a while, backing up a trailer becomes second nature. The one thing that our particular truck is missing even though it came with the ‘full tow package’ is side mirrors made for towing. These are only available on F-250s and higher. There are after market snap-on mirrors available, but we’ve just learned to live without them. While our truck is definitely capable of towing our particular Airstream, would a little more oomph that a 250 would provide be nice? Yes. If we ever get a different truck, we might consider moving up from a half ton to a three-quarter ton.