First the Trailer, THEN the Truck

Planning for a full-timing lifestyle requires many decisions to be made. Wrong decisions can cost money and compromise the idilic lifestyle we all dream about. One of the most critical decisions owners of long trailers make is selecting the right tow vehicle.

Tow vehicles are a topic of constant debate on the Internet. Our trailer weighs 25,000 pounds dry and that’s a lot. It’s a little heaver than most 42′ New Horizons trailers, probably because we have (6) L-16 batteries (at about 130 pounds each) at the front end to accommodate our 1200 watts of solar. But still, if you have a New Horizons trailer (heavy by design), and if you go 42′, you can count on it being very heavy.

Many people pull with F-450’s or F-550’s and they are happy. The truth is, these vehicles are often at or over their maximum capacity at these heavy weights. Just be very careful. And be safe.

Make decisions about your tow vehicle in the correct order. FIRST select your trailer and make a generous estimate as to its loaded weight. THEN select your tow vehicle based on its GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating), GCWR (Gross Combined Weight Rating), GAW (Gross Axle Weight), horsepower, torque, transmission, size of brakes, adequacy of the engine brake, and availability of quality after-market hauler bodies. At least those are the criteria I’d look at.

Freightliner M2-112

Freightliner M2-112

Here’s a pitch for either the Freightliner M2-112 or the excellent option of letting Gregg Shields from RV Haulers build you a large Volvo RV hauler. Both trucks have the capacity to safely tow any New Horizons trailer. These tow vehicles have the horsepower, they have the transmissions, they have HUGE brakes, and they have very efficient engine braking systems.

Braking was one of my most important considerations. It feels comforting coasting down 5% or 6% grades that go and go and go, knowing the engine brake is keeping everything under control. Push come to shove, the massive truck brakes on my Freightliner (along with the electric disc brakes on our trailer) will quickly and efficiently stop my 43,000 pounds. I hate it when a certain part of my body puckers, and it doesn’t pucker when I pull with my Freightliner.

Gregg Shields' Conversion

Gregg Shields’ Conversion

There are downsides to owning a large tow vehicle. You’ll have to figure these out. The first is licensing. Licensing is easy in some states. In South Dakota, for instance, a regular driver’s license allows you to drive any RV tow vehicle, so it’s no problem. Other states consider large trucks to be RV’s if they have certain things like porta-potties and refrigerators, or something like that. And still other states require drivers of these big truck and trailer combinations to have a commercial driver’s licenses. I don’t know all the details, but they’re easy to find out. I suspect Gregg Shields would be more than happy to help.

The other big consideration is what to drive when parked. More people than I would have suspected actually drive their Freightliner as their running-around vehicle. I wouldn’t do it, but it seems to work for them. Other people have Gregg Shields build a Smart Car carrier on the truck, and when parked they just drive the Smart Car off the truck bed and away they go. Since our plans are to go and stay at one place for a month or two, we chose to have Karen follow me in the Toyota Tacoma, and then we use that small truck for running around. (Believe me, after living side-by-side for a month or two, Karen needs the break.) Different strokes as they say.

So there you have it. First select your trailer, then decide on the best truck to pull your new home. You’ll end up with all the truck you need, and you’ll stay safe.

[I want to add a disclaimer. My suggestion is to NOT have Wayland Long, owner of 2L Custom Trucks, build your Freightliner. My experience with him was terrible. If interested, here’s a post I made detailing some of the issues I had with Wayland.]

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