Tow vehicle recommendation...

Busterbrown

Original poster
Member
Dec 4, 2011
253
First post in the full size truck "tow" subforum. I'm so honored! Anywho...

I'm in the process of buying a new tow vehicle...replacing my Rainier that I've owned for many years. I'd be towing a travel trailer around 5,000 lbs dry. The 3 vehicles we have in mind are:

1. 2007 Ford Expedition EL 4x4, 113K miles. $15,500. clean car fax. Has the towing package. As I have been reading, the 5.4L 3V engines are notorious for the spark plugs breaking in the block on removal. No indication that the plugs were ever changed. 4 wheel independent suspension?? Good or bad for towing? I know the Suburban/Yukons have a solid rear axle. I recently spoke with a 2004 owner of an Expy EL and said he had no problem pulling his 30ft 7000 lb trailer on long trips. The 5.4L has been around a long time. Just don't know too much about Ford's products. I do like the folding 3rd row seat though! Wife did too.

2. Next up is a 2005 Chevrolet Suburban LT 4x4, 107k miles, $12,000. 1 owner, clean car fax. Cheapest of all the vehicles I've been finding...and the one I'm leaning towards. Much of the maintenance is listed in the car fax including a trans flush at 55K miles. Oil changes every 5 miles. Looks garage stored and well maintained as rust is very minimal on the undercarriage. The previous owner has a brake controller installed already. Don't know if this is good or bad! Overall, the truck runs good. 5.3L engine with 3.42 gearing. Don't know if GM offered the 3.73 outside of the Denali/6.0L trucks. I remember reading once that the Z71 versions had the 3.73 rear end?

3. Finally, a 2007 Chevrolet Suburban LT 4x4, 115K miles, $16,500. 3 owners, Canadian vehicle. 1st owner was listed as corporate x 1 year x 21,000 miles. That scares me. Truck runs good. Has a more modern flare. No trailer brake controller installed. Looks like it was just a grocery getter. 3.73 rear axle ratio. Would this be better to use as a TV than the previous generation? Trans and engine are the same (5.3L matted to a 4 speed auto; the 6 speed wasn't in production for at least another year I think).

Lastly, I'm considering a Yukon XL Denali as it has the 6.0L. Don't know if there is significant gain in towing capacity. I would never come close to the towing limits of any vehicle. But I want a truck that won't give me white knuckles up and down some hills on occasion.

My budget is around $15,000 give/take.

Any input is greatly appreciated.
 

gmcman

Member
Dec 12, 2011
4,658
I would take a low mile 6.0 any day. If you're lucky to find a low mile 8.1 and don't mind the gas bill, that's about the best aside from a diesel.

But I think for 15K you should be able to find a nice 6.0 platform, 2nd choice would be the 5.7
 

Busterbrown

Original poster
Member
Dec 4, 2011
253
Robbabob said:
I like #2 as well with you. Keep it GMT
I just took it for a second road test out on the highway. Ran great at 80mph. Brakes were a little mushy. But overall, the truck is in great shape. It was owned by a snowbird who spent his winters in Florida. Hence the clean undercarriage. Trans cooler lines aren't rusted. Even the hitch assembly has no rust, something that I see so much of living in Michigan.

For 12K, I may pull the trigger on this one. The wife and I will take one more look at it tomorrow and try to shave a few hundred dollars off the price. A 1-owner, rust-free, clean Suburban with a carfax to back it up, located in the salt belt is a rare find. I really want the 6.0 or 6.2 liter but I have to pay out the a$$ for one. And everyone I'm finding has higher miles with cancer to go along with it. This 5.3 liter does not have AFM...a good surprise.

I have a PCM tune on my Rainier; was wondering if a box tune was available for the Yukon/Suburban/Tahoe 5.3L and if was worth investing in for better towing.
 

Busterbrown

Original poster
Member
Dec 4, 2011
253
gmcman said:
I would take a low mile 6.0 any day. If you're lucky to find a low mile 8.1 and don't mind the gas bill, that's about the best aside from a diesel.

But I think for 15K you should be able to find a nice 6.0 platform, 2nd choice would be the 5.7
All the 6.0L SUV's I've looked at (3/4 ton Suburbans, Cadillac ESV's, and GMC Yukon XL Denali's between model years 2003 and 2006) are riddled with undercarriage cancer. I'd have to buy a 2007+ with higher mileage in order to be below $20,000. Mid to high 20's to stay below 100,000 miles. I would love to have a 6 speed tranny with 6.2L but my budget won't allow it. Plus, this is almost, exclusively, a tow vehicle. Outside of that, maybe driven once or twice per week. An 8.1L in good shape is a rare find. I read somewhere 10 MPG's unloaded and 8 MPG's loaded. But it's the next best thing to a diesel rig. Overkill for my objective.
 

gmcman

Member
Dec 12, 2011
4,658
I would strongly recommend taking the suburban somewhere that may let you hook up a trailer to it.

Sounds like a sweet truck, but it's a 5.3 and you aren't pushing around an envoy with it, it's much heavier...and it has the tall 3.42 gears. Personally it has alot going against it in terms of a tow vehicle, sounds setup for a people hauler.

However, I haven't tried to use one setup like that for your purposes so it's just food for thought.
 

littleblazer

Member
Jul 6, 2014
9,267
gmcman said:
I would strongly recommend taking the suburban somewhere that may let you hook up a trailer to it.

Sounds like a sweet truck, but it's a 5.3 and you aren't pushing around an envoy with it, it's much heavier...and it has the tall 3.42 gears. Personally it has alot going against it in terms of a tow vehicle, sounds setup for a people hauler.

However, I haven't tried to use one setup like that for your purposes so it's just food for thought.
I mean it's almost 1000 lbs heavier depending on rigging, but you're also at like 300hp too. The power to weight ratio is tipped to the TB some, but not all that much. Like you said, the 3.42 gears is the Achilles heal, not a hauler by any means with that, thus it should be tested before purchase.
 

RedRocketZ28

Member
May 16, 2014
114
My Dad owns a 2002 Avalanche with 3.42's and I have used it to pull a buddies 225 Crownline Boat, our 18' Four Winns boat, a few cars on trailers, etc. It pulled everything extremely well and without any problems. I owned a 2002 Avalanche Z71 with 3.73's and it too pulled everything I threw at it very well. Pulled my Camaro several times with it and most of the time we had 4 people in the truck, tools, tires, etc., in the bed, and the car on the trailer. I could run 75-80 without issue and still knock down decent MPG.

Have also used a buddies 03 2500 6.0 with 4.10's to pull a car with and I was not impressed at all. I felt as if my Avalanche actually pulled better and definitely got better MPG. I have pulled a car on trailer, and our boat with my 5.3 Rainier and it pulls nowhere near as good as my Dad's or my old Avalanche did. It DOES hold speed better and accelerate a little quicker due to the weight, but gets tossed around by the heavier loads fairly easy.

I guess what I am getting at here is that the Suburban will be more than adequate to pull what you plan on. Not sure why some of you are shaming the 5.3 when it has been the staple engine since 2000. A 1500 truck, Tahoe, Suburban, etc., with a 5.3 will tow anything most people will throw at it. GMCMAN, no offense here, but if you are recommending the 5.7 over the 5.3, you are crazy. Those things are turds compared to the 5.3 and you'd have to get an old body style truck/suburban/Tahoe to get one.

BTW, if that Suburban has 17" wheels, then you can upgrade to the 07+ front brake calipers and rotors. Did that on my 02 Avalanche and man what a difference it makes. Made it so much more enjoyable to tow with.

Good luck with whatever you decide. I am confident that the Suburban will fit the bill nicely and it sounds like it was very well taken care of.
 

littleblazer

Member
Jul 6, 2014
9,267
5.7l 330 ft-lbs torque at 2800 rpm
5.3l first Gen 335 ft-lbs @ 4000 rpm

I prefer torque lower when towing, get up to speed, going up hill. They are two entirely different style blocks though.
(Specs are for the pick ups, not suvs)

The 5.7 has been a staple since 1968, just saying. [emoji13] The 03 2500 usually made 360 ft-lbs later years were up at 400+. Not bashing the 5.3, rather the 3.43. It'll probably be fine, but it needs to be tried. You don't know unless you try.
 

{tpc}

Member
Jan 22, 2014
359
I don't think you could go wrong with 2, 3, or the yukon. You will be happier imo with the 3.73 gear ratio. Is that in the denali? If it does, I'd probably go with that, depending on cost vs condition.

The 07 burb looks nicer than the previous gen imo, but I think it also has the dod/afm engine in it like mine. That said the pricing seems accurate. As for mileage, I have 203k on said engine in my tahoe and it is still running good, and I haven't tuned out the dod/afm stuff either.

Not sure if the afm is on the 6.0 on not. I would go with the bigger engine if you could because my trailer weighs in at 4300 dry, and I probably wouldn't go much bigger unless I had more power to do so. You should also consider payload capacity of the vehicle, once you start loading up gear, family, pets, etc...all that towing/payload capacity goes away pretty quickly.
 

1ryanb

Member
Feb 2, 2014
10
I've got an 2007 Tahoe in the family, 5.3 w/AFM, 3.73 gears. It'll tow anything we throw at it without blinking. It regularly tows a 6500 pound trailer on the highway no problem and has towed more. With the 3.73 I think it's rated for 7300 lbs or something like that. It'll maintain 70+ and get about 13mpg if I remember correctly. Granted, I am in Florida, so it rarely sees hills while towing. I love towing with that truck, it really makes it so easy.
The only downside with that 5.3 and AFM is they are notorious for burning oil. If you're lucky, the PO has already fought this issue with GM for you and gotten it fixed. If not, good luck.
 

RedRocketZ28

Member
May 16, 2014
114
Not to get into a huge debate but a 5.3 truck/suv will run circles around a 5.7 truck/suv, with or without a trailer. The torque curve on an LS motor (5.3, 5.7, 6.0, 6.2, etc.) is very good and holds nicely across the range. This debate reminds me of threads back in the day on LS1tech where the LT1 guys would try to use the lower end torque argument against the LS1 guys. Granted, these are two vastly different applications, but the 5.3 has plenty of low end grunt to get anything the OP will tow moving while making more power up top for better acceleration all while getting better MPG. Throw a tune in to up the timing a bit, reduce some torque management, and adjust shift points to your liking, and the 5.3 really wakes up. Anyway, the OP isn't considering a 5.7 platform from what it looks like. I have always had a soft spot for a 96-98 Z71 Truck though :smile:.

Like I mentioned before as well. I have used my Dad's 2002 Avalanche with 3.42's to pull all sorts of things. It has never really left me wanting more.
 
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littleblazer

Member
Jul 6, 2014
9,267
RedRocketZ28 said:
Not to get into a huge debate but a 5.3 truck/suv will run circles around a 5.7 truck/suv, with or without a trailer. The torque curve on an LS motor (5.3, 5.7, 6.0, 6.2, etc.) is very good and holds nicely across the range. This debate reminds me of threads back in the day on LS1tech where the LT1 guys would try to use the lower end torque argument against the LS1 guys. Granted, these are two vastly different applications, but the 5.3 has plenty of low end grunt to get anything the OP will tow moving while making more power up top for better acceleration all while getting better MPG. Throw a tune in to up the timing a bit, reduce some torque management, and adjust shift points to your liking, and the 5.3 really wakes up. Anyway, the OP isn't considering a 5.7 platform from what it looks like. I have always had a soft spot for a 96-98 Z71 Truck though :smile:.

Like I mentioned before as well. I have used my Dad's 2002 Avalanche with 3.42's to pull all sorts of things. It has never really left me wanting more.
Me either. [emoji2]

We did race a 2000 3500 sierra (old body style) 5.7l loaded with a utility body against the 2007 sierra 2500hd with the 6.0l (empty) the 5.7 won the first 1000ish feet, but all out speed the 6.0l destroyed. The ls motors like to scream. But I can attest to the peak torque curve being low making a huge difference off the line. All around though not so much. I just can't believe that truck has 200k miles on the orginal cap and rotor. [emoji2]

Anyway, the ls motors are better drive/all around motors, hence why gm built them. But I will say a 350 sbc boat motor has a much better exhaust note then it's 6.2l counterpart.

To get back on topic, like said, the 3.43s will probably work fine, you have to test it. Either vehicle is probably more than capable. [emoji106]
 

DocBrown

Member
Dec 8, 2011
501
A couple of things to keep in mind.

Dry weight is a fictional number. That is not the weight you are towing when loaded to go camping. More than likely, after options are added in (AC, awning, spare tire, etc) and your "stuff", you'll are over 6000#.

Download all the manuals for the trucks you are looking at and verify the options and towing capacities. The 'Burbs and Tahoes have some limits when equipped with the 5.3 that you may not want. It's not the 5.3, that has plenty of power, but payload and overall towing capacities aren't real high because of the soft suspensions.

Check the payloads. Like the GMT360/370s they have low payloads. For 1500 series they are generally in the 1100 -1200 range. Not terrible, but not that good either. If you are moving to a full size, best to move to something that is capable.

Any reason you would not consider a crew cab PU? More truck for less money, better gearing, better payload, tougher/stiffer suspension, and nothing beats a bed for camping (think bikes!) and hauling things around. I've always had SUVs or vans (3 Suburbans, a GMC Safari, Trailblazer). My Sierra is the first PU I have ever owned. It's a 5.3 with 3.73 gears, and a 1610# payload. I wish I had bought one years ago. Towing with it is night and day compared to my old Trailblazer.
 
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Busterbrown

Original poster
Member
Dec 4, 2011
253
An update to my tow vehicle dilemma. I didn't acquire any of the 3 vehicles in my original post. I did, however, strike a good deal on 2008 Yukon XL Denali 6.2L L92. In order to do so, I had to up my budget some as I convinced the wife that a slightly new vehicle would give us less grief in the short term.

Its the lowest mileage among all the 2007-2010's I was looking at and was very well kept. 1 Owner, 82,000 miles, Serviced exclusively at the GMC dealership where it was purchased and where it was sold to me, the second owner. It was a non-smoking vehicle. Almost no rust on the chassis. Engine is extremely clean. All the bells and whistles work. Except a disengaged windshield washer fluid warmer. Apparently, a recall/service bulletin was issued due to an overactive heating element. There was never a fix for it and that option was permanently disabled on in-service vehicles. Everything else works.

The dealer is fixing a cracked bumper and a couple paint chips prior to delivering it to my residence 75 miles away. I'm excited for the find as all the other XL Denali's I seen were beat to death. Some neglected so much that I wonder why people buy $70,000 vehicles only to abuse them. This one was never towed with and the hitch receiver looks brand new.

I love the sound of the 6.2 liter's exhaust note. Can't wait til next week when I get to showcase it in my driveway. I'm excited to stay in the GM family as I know I will still be active on the Nation. I did find a good home for my Rainier today and convinced the new owners to stop by and say hello. She'll be missed.

And without further ado,

GMC%201_zpsytlwslec.jpg


GMC%202_zps5g3p8j5n.jpg
 

DocBrown

Member
Dec 8, 2011
501
Very nice! Congratulations!

Busterbrown said:
Some neglected so much that I wonder why people buy $70,000 vehicles only to abuse them. This one was never towed with and the hitch receiver looks brand new.
Yeah, when we were looking I saw 2 Yukon XL/Suburbans with low miles on that looked inside like they lived in them. Just awful. Apparently $70k doesn't mean much to some people.
 
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Busterbrown

Original poster
Member
Dec 4, 2011
253
DocBrown said:
Very nice! Congratulations!


Yeah, when we were looking I saw 2 Yukon XL/Suburbans with low miles on that looked inside like they lived in them. Just awful. Apparently $70k doesn't mean much to some people.
Thanks. It took us over 2 months to find the right vehicle. I missed several others by a matter of hours as well-maintained, capable tow vehicles don't sit long on dealer lots. The private party vehicles we looked at were rank with stained and matted carpets, abused seats, and under-carriage rust. You know immediately when you come across a diamond...the same way the couple felt when they purchased my Rainier last week.

The best part of the deal was when the dealer offered to comprehensive service contract for 38K miles or 3 years. Practically bumper to bumper new vehicle coverage for around $2000.00. $0 dollar deductible for any repair work at any GM dealership. My wife was sold on that. I didn't know they offered service contracts on vehicles over 75K miles. I was told GM won't certify vehicles over 60K miles. So, if I use it for 1 big repair in 3 years, it'll be worth it. Otherwise, it's just peace of mind...especially for my better half.
 

littleblazer

Member
Jul 6, 2014
9,267
Nice! So the hub cap covers... they just take them off so they won't get stolen or are they missing. I assume just taken off.
 

Busterbrown

Original poster
Member
Dec 4, 2011
253
littleblazer said:
Nice! So the hub cap covers... they just take them off so they won't get stolen or are they missing. I assume just taken off.
Taken off stored inside prior to sale. Apparently, there's a black market for them.
 
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{tpc}

Member
Jan 22, 2014
359
Looks good! I often contemplate trading mine in on something a little newer and maybe a little more expensive, but I love that stupid tahoe more than I ever thought I would! lol

So did you double your budget or what???
 

Bow_Tied

Member
Dec 21, 2014
453
London, ON
congrats!
 

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