The best kind of vehicle for RVing is the simple American V8 pickup truck. Period. And I also realize those are fighting words with some people. Further, my defense is of the gasoline V8 pickup. Why do I feel this way?
One of the ways we work hard to keep up on the latest things in the RV world here at RVtravel.com is by meeting once a week. This helps us know what’s going on from all corners of the RV space. The number of interesting people who participate in both this informational resource and in writing stories for you is really quite encouraging.
Not only do we have people who have all sorts of perspectives, RVing styles, backgrounds and preferences, but also years of experience in the real world of RVing.
The reason I bring this up is that we were talking about Class A RVs and, in particular, Class A gassers. One of the members of our team has continued to have issues with one of these rigs and I finally chimed in with the fact that they should just buy an American V8 pickup and a towable RV. Period.
The response to that was questioning why not consider the fancy newfangled pickups that are coming out, but I countered with this…
One of the challenges facing anybody with any motorized RV is maintenance. In many cases, having routine maintenance on motorized RVs can be a challenge to get done well, and it’s very, very expensive and inconvenient.
Part of that tale has been shared by Russ and Tiña De Maris in their articles about the challenges Cummins diesel owners have faced in this past year. Not only do owners of rigs powered by that power source have to seek out qualified technicians, but they’ve also had a lot of issues with the emissions-related components in their engines.
Funny thing, I was talking to the owner of a Sprinter van-based RV recently who smugly bragged about their fuel economy. But, when pressed, they admitted that they had to travel hundreds of miles recently and spend almost $500 on an oil change.
Go anywhere for service with a V8 pickup truck
With my domestic V8-powered pickup I can go to any quick oil change place I see, where they have all the parts I need for oil changes and even unnecessary maintenance that they want to upsell me on. I’m in. I’m out. I never even had to get out of my truck—I can continue listening to whatever podcast I might have on.
If I do experience a mechanical issue, which is not very likely in these old-fashioned, bulletproof machines, there’s likely a dealer for this brand of truck in the town that I’m in or the next town over. Further, anybody who hangs a shingle outside a garage and says that they work on vehicles is likely able to work on a pickup.
There are more and more fancy engine choices in pickup trucks nowadays. Ford has their two EcoBoost® engines, GM has that odd four-cylinder turbo engine, and even Ram is working on a new in-line six-cylinder engine with two turbochargers.
I have nothing against turbocharged engines. In fact, my dad is the guy behind the Garrett T3 automotive turbocharger.
But the simple, pushrod, two-valve-per-cylinder V8 is a thing of beauty. It’s simple. You can run it on the lousiest regular unleaded gasoline you can find. They can easily chalk up 200,000 miles without issue. If there is maintenance required, anybody who knows how to turn a wrench can get what you need done.
They have just what you need with a trailer—torque. Lots of low-end torque, which means power from a dead stop.
What about diesels?
As good as diesel engines have been for decades and decades, the old gray mare just ain’t what she used to be.
Because there is such a focus on diesel emissions in this country, legislation has pushed all sorts of complicated systems onto them that just haven’t proven as reliable as the engines themselves. So you’re spending many thousands of dollars on systems that have a higher failure rate than the engine itself.
Further, the cost of a diesel engine is pretty significant.
Yes, yes. I know about torque. And I also love the sound of a diesel engine. I’m one of those dorks who will roll down my truck’s windows if a railroad locomotive is passing by to hear those 16 cylinders rumble. And, ooh la la, if I can find an old Detroit Diesel engine still clattering away, that’s a wonderful symphony to my ears.
While the more capable diesel-equipped pickups that are available do make a lot of sense if you’re pulling a large trailer, if you’re among the majority of us pulling your average trailer they may be not worth the money.
Furthermore, all three domestic truck companies have been offering smaller diesels for a short time and those just haven’t found a lot of customers. The smaller diesels would make sense if, again, they had the stalwart reliability of older diesel engines. But the higher cost and complicated emissions have made them less popular with customers.
One of the best explanations I’ve ever seen about towing was done right here by Ross Regis, who explained max towing capacity. To simplify that, essentially, your tow vehicle is carrying a portion of whatever it’s towing.
So that then brings out why so many vehicles are so bad at being tow vehicles. SUVs, in particular, just don’t have the carrying capacity that you need to safely tow larger trailers. That’s especially true if you’re carrying a lot of people.
One of my favorite tow vehicles has been the Nissan NV3500 van, but those are no longer in production.
Your vehicle’s specs might claim that you can pull the weight of your trailer, but when you really get down to the numbers, most vehicles that aren’t big pickups just aren’t spec’d out to handle the job properly.
Electric is good, right?
If I were a contractor or other professional who drove, maybe, 40-70 miles to and from a job site and needed a truck that had a lot of torque, an electric truck might make sense. It’s even easier to service than a gasoline V8 because the primary maintenance on electric vehicles are brakes and tires.
Electric trucks may also serve an owner well if they need a household power outlet, since most electric trucks have those now.
But for long-distance towing that many RVers, including myself, tend to do, an electric truck just makes zero sense nowadays. Yes, yes, there are charging stations. But look at some of the experiences Mike Sokol shares right here on RVtravel.com with electric vehicles and towing.
I wouldn’t mind having an electric car in my own fleet for daily driving stuff. But for towing the way most travelers tow, they don’t make sense.
So all this blathering on is in defense of the good old-fashioned American pushrod V8. It’s a relatively simple engine, it can be serviced almost anywhere, you can usually fuel it with the cheapest unleaded fuel you can find, and it’s got the grunt to move a lot of weight.
In fact, while Ford had been building V10s for a long time, they finally just gave up and brought back an even bigger version of this style of engine in their Godzilla engine. Ram did about the same thing with their 6.4 liter Hemi, and you can get the GM products with a 6.6 liter V8. Heck, the Ram and GM engines will even shut down four of the eight cylinders to improve fuel economy when you’re not towing.
So while you can still do so, if you’re even remotely thinking of getting a new tow vehicle, run to your local pick ‘em up truck dealer and get yourself the truck with the biggest V8 you can.
For most RVers, these are still the best compromise between cost and capability when towing, and the newer, bigger V8s are even an improvement.
The ease of finding service, the choice of plain wrap or opulently luxurious interiors, and the towing performance of modern American V8 pickups are all factors in why I wouldn’t consider a motorized RV today. But then I guess I’m singing to the choir, as motorized RV sales are only a small fraction of the total number of RVs sold.
And we haven’t even considered that you can trade your RV without having to trade what tows it, giving you even more choice.