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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Between my wife and I, we have about 11,000lbs worth of 4x4 vehicles to tow to various off road events and parks. We're getting to the point where a busted axle shaft or broken transmission makes for a very expensive tow home. Thankfully we have something like AAA which helps, but we've come to the realization there's a need for a tow rig.

I threw the 14-16k pound idea out there assuming a two-car goose neck trailer weighs about 4000-5000lbs + my 5500-6000lb rig and her 4500-5000lb rig when fully loaded with spare tires, gas, camping gear, ect....

Here's where I'm leaning...

  1. Diesel over gas by decent margin, wouldn't mind a big block or V10 if it were a manual tranny
  2. Extended cab over regular/crew cab
  3. Highly leaning towards a 4wd because I drive over two mountain ranges and will end up driving to the northern midwest often (MN, WI, CO)
  4. Would like a dually for the added peace of mind when driving across the country, but not a must

Does such a beast exist? I'm not tooo particular about rust or high mileage as long as the drivetrain lasts, parts are available everywhere (Napa's) and it doesn't get less than 10mpg unloaded. Though, 10+mpg loaded driving across flat country would be nice too.

EDIT: Apparently my early guestimate of 3000lb 2-car gooseneck trailer weight was off. Changed this figure above.
 

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Not exactly sure where you're located, but I've got to believe it shouldn't be hard to find what you're looking for with a late 90's Ford, GM, Dodge 1 ton. None of them will be overly quick to do so, but if you slow down a bit, any of them should be fine.

Dodge: May be hard to find a cummins in that price range, but aside from that you should be okay.

GM: There's tons of GMT400 pickups on the road, and parts are cheap as ever for them. Most of the general population would want a 454 over the 6.5 diesel, but either should work. Bonus points, find a 3500HD. It's 2wd, but a way sturdier frame, rear axle, etc..

Ford: Again, you might be hard to find a Powerstroke for that price, but with some looking, I'm sure you could. You probably won't be able to get into a super duty for that price but depending on your area, maybe

Are there plans for this truck to be a DD? And how set are you on an extended cab? IF it's only going to be a tow vehicle, and you could bear a 2-3 seat cab, a MDT is probably an even better option. There's plenty of guys on here that have done some nice toter setups, without too much money. If you went that route, I'm envisioning a flatbed to haul one rig on the truck, and a tag trailer for the second one. It may be easier to store a smaller trailer depending on where you live..

Good luck.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Currently live on Dover AFB until wife is out of the service....which is another 2-3 years. This truck will not be a DD but may be used more often in the winter than in the summer months. I have a motorcycle and small gas miser FWD but if snow ever gets bad, I'd like to be able to hop in this tow rig and be comfortable.

I've done the regular cab thing before and hated it. I'd rather have a crew cab over a regular cab, but best of both worlds is the extended cab. It's mostly for the dog in bad weather when he can't stay in the bed of the truck, or for securing valuables in the extended cab portion of the truck.

Of the big 3, Dodge, GM and Ford, which diesel option in the <$7000 range would be the easiest to find in a manual?
 

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Discussion Starter #4
There's plenty of guys on here that have done some nice toter setups, without too much money. If you went that route, I'm envisioning a flatbed to haul one rig on the truck, and a tag trailer for the second one. It may be easier to store a smaller trailer depending on where you live..

Good luck.
I've given this some serious thought as well...but the toter setup gives up the truck bed. This tow rig will double as a supply hauler for when we get out of the service and start building our home. I'm envisioning 100 trips to Home Depot, easy.
 

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The manual is gonna be what's hard to find. Also, if I were you I would consider traveling a bit to get a solid truck.. Looked on your local CL and there were a couple in your price range but they were 250/2500s and rough and/or rusty. Whatever you find is going to probably have a ton of miles on it too.

Good news is most duallies I've seen mid-90s up have been at least extended cab. Your best bet is to keep watching CL, ebay, autotrader and find something clean that someone either doesn't know what it's worth or can't move because it has a manual (just got a great deal on my new company truck because it was a long bed and the dealer couldn't find anyone to buy it). Sorry to say it'll just take patience and being ready to jump on a good deal, or buying something crappy and doing a lot of work to it. I think you are on the right track though.. F350 7.3 or 3500 Cummins. Don't know much about the earlier Duramaxes but they do seem to be dropping down into that range now. I will say on the 2nd gen Dodge watch out for steering issues and rust issues on the lower doors and cab mounts, plus lift pumps on the diesels.
 

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This is entertaining.
OP is looking for a diesel, stick, extended, 4x4 DRW for under $7,000 and you guys are telling him it could happen. :flipoff2:

A trailer long enough to haul two rigs is going to weigh more than 3k. Unless you get a small trailer and get creative with loading it. This leads me to believe an oil burner is going to be your only option.


$7,000 or less...Get ready to settle for a beat ass 2wd, std cab, SRW former company owned truck. Cummins trucks in the NE are untouchable. Power strokes are still bringing unreal money too. I HAVE a 1997 F350 xlt, PSD, 4x4 Std cab, srw. Wouldn't sell it if you gave me $15,000. Not cause I think it's worth that. That's just how much it would cost me to replace it.:confused:
 

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A friend of mine had a '99-or-so Ram 2500 with the V10 and 5-spd. It was lifted on 36's I believe. This was probably 6 years ago, but he still goes on and on about how damn powerful that truck was. Now, you have to know him to get it, but he has owned over 90 trucks by the time he was 25. That Ram was his holy-grail. FWIW, he's towed mud trucks through the mountains here and could cruise in 4th gear (not highways, but normal 2-lane roads).

Another friend of mine bought a '04 F250 6-spd PSD ex-cab for $6k last year. They are out there.

If I were you, I'd almost look into a Truck Trader or Commercial Truck Trader magazine and find something. There are lots of late-'90's and early '00's medium duty trucks for good prices. Some of them even have nice 10' flatbeds. Plenty of 1-ton pickups too...many of which were fleet maintained
 

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You might have to travel a bit to find a deal, but you can pick up 2nd gen Dodges with the 12 valve for that price range. Solid trucks aside from stupid stuff on the body falling apart & the infamous 5th gear nut on the NV4500
 

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Another friend of mine bought a '04 F250 6-spd PSD ex-cab for $6k last year. They are out there.
6.0 isn't even worth talking about if the OP is looking for a low maintenance tow rig. I know you can make one dependable but that would blow the budget.
 

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I found a 1998 12 valve CTD Dodge 3500 4x4 off craigslist with an extended cab 2 years ago for $7500. It has high miles and an auto, but it's been going strong ever since with some expected repairs but nothing major. The key to it lasting I think is no engine mods other than a big air filter. I had to search for over a month over 3 states, but it worked out great.
 

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I'm not sure about your local market but to me your price range and the stick requirement spell OBS powerstroke to me. Probably a 350 crew.
Cummins trucks are too expensive and are hard to find somewhat stock still. GM, 6.5's suck for power and good luck finding a 454 truck with a stick.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
The desire to have a manual transmission is more so because the wife and I can both operate them and we switch off driving every 4-5 hours on long trips, and she can handle a long trailer. IMO I don't like a 4 speed speed auto when towing heavy loads long distances through hills, especially after being in multiple Duramax/5-6 speed Allison trucks. The back and forth 4th to 3rd to 4th to 3rd shifting drives me crazy. You could keep it in 3rd while towing with an automatic, sure, but if 3rd gear in most 4 speed autos is 1:1, why not just keep a manual truck in 4th (which is also typically 1:1) and have the extra granny gear mixed into 1 through 3? But I digress...

I've looked over the local OBS power stroke community here and there are a few 7.3L's but many with rust holes in the wheel wells and the rest are 2wd.

Zeroing in on the late 90's and early 2000's 7.3, is there anything to stay away from? Any certain body styles, year make or models offer 4.10's or stronger axle pairs? I'm assuming we'll be looking at Dana 50 and 60 fronts, with mostly Sterling rears. For example, all extended cab S10/Sonoma 2.2L trucks have 4.10 gears. Regular cabs have 3.73's because they're lighter. Are there any rules of thumb like this to follow?
 

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You can find the same exact same trucks - one can have 3.54's and the other will have 4.10's. Axle codes are about the only way to tell-
 

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No one thought to mention the option of a Medium/Heavy Duty Truck?
You will get more for the money going that route.
 
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