In the summer of 2016 we inherited a 1999 Fleetwood Southwind 30 ft Class A motorhome. It had quite a bit of front end damage from being hit by a forklift and a light pole and the roof leaked but it was ours. It was in significantly better shape that our 1979 Tioga Class C on a Dodge 400 chassis but way less cool. This story isn’t about these vehicles but about the one that replaced them, a 2005 Ford F250.
In Michigan registration fees are based on the original MSRP of the vehicle. With a MSRP of $99,949 the Southwind cost about $450 a year to register. Along with relatively a high insurance plus storage fees it cost about $2000 a year if we never drove it out of storage. It also got about 6.5 mpg out of its 6.8L 2V V10. We used it a couple of times but we weren’t equipped to pull a car behind it so one of use drove the motorhome and another drove the around the tow vehicle (a 2008 Grand Cherokee Overland 5.7L Quadra-drive lifted 2” on 32’s). This setup had to go.
Travel trailers are a permanent plate with a fee of $200. Storage would be about the same but we could get a tow vehicle that we could use outside of camping, the whole setup would get better mileage and we would have a vehicle that we could drive once we got there. Plus travel trailer insurance is cheap.
So with that decided we sold the motorhome and started looking for a tow vehicle. We had a budget of about $7500. We knew the trailer we wanted was going to be in the 6500-9000 lb range with tongue weights of 700-1100 lbs. We have two adults, two good size dogs and two kids so the limiting factor is not the GCWR of the vehicle but the payload capacity. 1500 series trucks and SUVs we’re out. 2500 and 3500 trucks were in.
Budget dictated higher mileage vehicles while I wanted something 2000 and up. The older trucks are nice but the newer ones have better crash ratings, interiors and weight ratings. Needed 4 doors, relatively good shape, inexpensive to repair and easy to work on. I didn’t want a diesel or the electrical gremlins that comes along with Chrysler products (though I do love them). This left Chevy and Ford. We went and looked at a lot of trucks over a couple of weekends but camping season was starting so there was some pressure to get something.
I really wanted a 01-04 Sierra with the 6L but all the ones we looked at we’re really rusty and the interiors were clapped out. Ended up finding a 2005 F250 CCSB XLT with FX4 and camper package locally. Downside was it had 215,000 miles and a 5.4L but the capabilities we’re high enoguhand the price was right. There was very little rust on the cab and only the driver’s side bed had a rust bubble on the fender. The interior had some wear and tear but was pretty good.
When we went to look at it the tailgate wouldn’t open and the engine had a loud ticking noise at return to idle. A quick Google search showed that the ticking noise was the phasers and that it was usually the control solenoid going bad. A quick $60 and an hour later for a genuine Motorcraft part and the ticking went away. The tailgate turned out to just be stuck and a swift kick while pulling the handle freed it.
I sold my other vehicles off (a 2008 Wrangler and a 2005Avalon) so I drove it like this for the summer. We found a trailer that we liked and camped a couple of times. There were some small things that the truck needed but it worked pretty well for what it was. A the bliss of a new to you vehicle.