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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I have a 27 foot camper and an old 1986 Suburban to tow with. The Suburban tows wonderfuly but gets about 4 mpg ($1. a mile!). I was set to trade for a 1999 Suburban with a 350 engine and a V-8, 1/2 ton. My husband informed me that someone at work said it wouldn't pull as well or get as good of gas milage as a 2500. I have tried to research this for hours and am only more confused. We usually camp close to home, so the towing is minimal. However, we would like to take some longer (3-6 hour trips) so we need soemthing more fuel efficient. We have 3 kids and the older 2 like to bring friends, so we need a third seat. Does anyone have any feedback that would be helpful to me? Thank you.
 

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Depends on a lot of things. It's all about weight and weight ratings. What the trailer weighs and what the Suburban can tow. There is a sticker somewhere that states the GVWR of the Trailer (aka GTWR) and check the door pillar and it might state some ratings for the vehicle.

It is not how long the trailer is most times, it's how much it weighs when you are towing it. You need to know the tow ratings of either vehicle and even how much the vehicles weigh also. There is a lot of discussion on how all this works together and I've made several posts on the types of things you and your husband MUST know in order to be at your safest.

Keep in mind that older Suburbans even if it was a 3/4 ton might not have as much of a tow rating as a newer 1/2 ton, so it's not what the truck nomenclature states, it's what the specifications are. Not only do you have to know how much your truck weighs and how much the trailer weighs that you are towing you must also know how much the combination weighs and even how much weight is at each tire.

I'll be glad to go into the long gory details (there is a LOT to know), but consider this. I have read several places that it is estimated that 40% to 45% of most recreational combinations are OVERWEIGHT. If you are of the "The car feels fine towing it" but the gas mileage sucks, then there is just as good chance you could be overweight. And even if you are within the weight specs doesn't mean you're gonna like the ride.

There's much to consider. The vehicles you mention are quite old but I will try and find the tow ratings. You also didn't provide enough information to get the exact ratings so I'll see if I can find a range to go by. Stay tuned.

Just so you realize how this all plays together, if you add the third seat, so you can carry more passengers and their stuff, all of that will add to the vehicle weight and lessen what you can tow. Just because there's room in the Suburban, doesn't mean you'll be able to bring it all along. Same for the trailer. The RV manufacturers are doing a nice job adding cabinets, but the weight of the cabinetry and the items put it them may not be the correct thing to do. It will be a balancing act, but there are ways to keep things safe.

A 27 ft trailer seems a little heavy for either Suburban, but it all depends on the weights!!!
 

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I used to pull a 21 foot hybrid with two different Suburbans - '99 GMC and '06 Chevy (both 1500's). The '99 was definitely stronger, the "06 got better mileage around town - not towing. I don't think I would've wanted to tow anything larger with either.

Find yourself a low mileage diesel Excursion. Ford doesn't make them anymore, but you can find some good ones still out there. I'm shopping for one now. I had a gas Excursion one time - and it was way more comfortable than any Suburban I've been in.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Our camper is not an ultra-light. It is a 2002 Wildwood 27 bunk house.I believe the dry weight is 7,500 lbs. And of course, we have our camping gear in it. We don't carry fresh water so the only water would be the 5 gallons we keep in the black tank. Thanks for the advise of checking the weight the Suburban can carry. We looked again last night at Suburban's. We're in Davenport, IA and the only ones I found used were 1500's (1/2 ton). I did find an Excursionin in the paper so I'll call on that one. Thanks for the advise.
 

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NEVER, I mean NEVER, NEVER, NEVER get a tow vehicle based on dry weight. You MUST use the Gross weight. Dry weight doesn't include any pots, pans, blankets, bedding, etc. in its rating. The dry weight is also known as shipping weight. This is typically the weight of the rig when it comes out of the factory. It might not include the air conditioner and any other upgrades (like larger fridge, etc.) that add weight to the rig. Your hope is that whatever items and gear you put in the trailer DO NOT surpass the Gross weight of the trailer. The only way to know this is to weigh it, but knowing its gross weight is a great start!! You'll start approaching this as the tanks get full.

You might not drive with your rig with full tanks, but you will have to when they are full to get to a dump station or if you are on a long trip, you could run with some water in the fresh water tank for "bio" stops along the way and you want to use its toilet and lavatory. ALWAYS base a tow vehicle on a trailer's gross weight. Then you also have to remember the hitches and hardware add weight too.

I did a search for an official tow rating for the Suburbans you mention and there are quite a few options that can impact the rating, but it seems 9,000 lbs is around the number you seek. I saw numbers from 8,800 to 9,200 so there are dependencies. The sadness is there are plenty who give their testimonials of those who say "I tow mine with no problems". They won't know it's a problem until the right conditions cause something to break. Things break under normal operating conditions. Why would you unwillingly towing overweight and make matters worse. These are probably the same people that do not post AFTER a problem has occurred. I've witnessed that in other forums, that they'll ask how to fix a problem they had and you find out they were overweight and ignored it... DUH! You can be liable and negligent in the event of an accident, and you'll be paying for repairs due to this mistreatment of your equipment. Isn't it better to know you are safe, than guess so?

A big factor for towing power and efficiency is a gasoline engine versus a diesel engine. A diesel will tow the pants off a gas engine and get you much better mpgs in the process. The Ford Excursion is a good idea especially with a diesel and I recall its Tow capacity was closer to 10,000, but before you start running out and buying things, check your numbers!!! The Excursion might lose some tow capacity because it might be a heavier vehicle leaving less for cargo and towing.

Anyway, good luck on your search. The best to you, your family and friends and your recreational opportunities!
 

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Thanks for looking that up "happiestcamper". But the listing saying 4316 might be the dry weight and the assuming the dry weight of 7500lbs by "derry" is a big difference. Let's assume the best case, that the dry weight is 4316 and the Gross weight is 7500 (WOW on that cargo weight of less than 3,200, but it IS possible), then a Suburban gas engine should be able to tow this weight with confidence as far as capability is concerned. A diesel would have better mpgs and also have no issues, even though the price of diesel fuel is more expensive these days. If the diesel gets 10 to 15 mpgs with that weight and the gasoline engine only 4 mpgs, you'll be paying less for fuel when towing.

Make sure you get a VERY good warranty with the diesel engine as well. The engine is more expensive to maintain and repair.

The point right now is you might be okay with the 1986 Suburban as far as towing. Getting another gasser might not buy you much, but going to a diesel should. You should still get to a scale and weigh everything to be sure. If you need help how to do this, just add a new post.
 
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