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 > Should I get a new Tow Vehicle or a Bigger Gas Tank?

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Upstate NY

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Posted: 10/28/20 11:29pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

After driving to up and down the east coast from Maine to Alabama a couple of times, I've decided that my wife and I don't need a bathroom nearly as often as our truck needs gas. Our TV's gas tank is only 20 gallons. It's a 2019 Nissan Frontier SV Crew Cab 4WD with a 4 liter engine and 5 speed automatic. We pull the smallest, lightest Grand Design trailer they've made: an 18RBE Imagine XLS that weighs, fully loaded with fresh water for dry camping and all our stuff, 5,700 pounds, while the Frontier is rated to tow 6,100. Since there is only a generator, fuel, my wife, me and the dog in the TV, the truck carries only 930 pounds, well under its 1,360 payload capacity. We are safe, but we often get down to about 1/8 of a tank at around 150 miles. I am lucky if the rig gets 10 MPG, sometimes its only 7 - 9.

Obviously I could get a half ton truck with a bigger tank. I've looked at the Ford F-150, the Ram 1500, and the Toyota Tundra. The Nissan Titan and Titan XD have small tanks and lousy mileage. I don't trust Ford's turbos. I have been watching a mechanic friend working on one that's got 110,000 miles. He's skeptical of high mileage reliability and engine parts are expensive. He says for most reliability, stick with a Tundra, an F-150 5.0 gasser (or 3.0 diesel). He also likes the new Ram 1500 3.0 Ecodiesel and the mighty 5.7 Chrysler hemi.

Much to my annoyance, it seems that to get the maximum tow capacity from a half ton, I have to order it. I have not been able to find either a new or low mileage truck that has the special axle ratio for maximum towing linked up to either a diesel or a V-8 gaser with a 30+ gal tank. Special ordering one that I like is a minimum of $42,000, plus untold taxes, fees and whathaveyou...

The other option? Swap out the Frontier's 21 gallon tank for a 38 gallon tank. This would cost $2,300 (delivered from California and installed here). Yikes!

The way I see it:

Pros of New Tank/keep the Frontier:
- Frontier has 35,000 miles, lots of life left.
- Frontier is as reliable as a wood stove
- Frontier keeps up with traffic even on the steepest highways. It only revs up to 5,500 (redline is about 6,500). Even using cruise control.
- Frontier is big enough but not intimidating to wife and family when they drive it.
- I don't have to buy $1,000 of new snow tires.
- $2,000 is a lot less than a new or even a used truck.
- 38 gallons of gas means range of 260 (@7 MPG) to 380 (@10 MPG) miles.
- Frontier is safely towing the trailer now. Why get a new truck?
- I figure that my modified Frontier will get slightly better range than any of the V-8s, even with their larger optional tanks. The best V-8 is the Ram at about 350, the Frontier would be 380.

Points for buying a half ton:
- The Ford and Ram diesels, even with their smaller 26 gallon tanks get better range than the Frontier, especially the Ram diesel.
-- Non towing mileage would be much better with either diesel, especially the Ram, and this is about 60% of the time.
- More comfortable ride, torque and power. The Frontier has to rev up to 5,500 to keep up on the steeps. To say its loud is an understatement.
- A bigger tank in the Frontier adds +130 pounds towards the back of the truck, and I don't know how it would affect performance. (note the spare tire is not relocated.)
- Adding 18 gallons of gas and heavier steel tank weight to Frontier would cut the margin for safety for both tow and payload by at least 100 pounds.
- The half tons can tow and carry about a third more than the Frontier can, increasing the safety margin.

So there you have it... get a bigger truck or bigger gas tank in the current one?

Doug & Patti & Puppy Leo
From Upstate New York

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Black Diamond, WA

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Posted: 10/29/20 12:28am Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Well, you’re not going to typically get much more out of most half tons. Idk for sure, but the 30+ gallon tanks are only in long beds I think. Icbw though and it doesn’t seem financially prudent to take a bath on your new truck.
Also the baby diesel Ram is good on mileage, but if you don’t trust an Eco boost you really won’t trust an Eco diesel. Guys in the know are not fans of them.
I would have issue spending that much on an oversized tank, but in your situation it sorta seems like the least expensive option.
I agree w you though, especially on big pickups, no reason to have these puny tanks. Ford and Ram finally got it right. Ford first with their 48 gal tank.
Extra Payload isn’t going to affect your truck though. 100 lbs? You won’t notice a difference.
If you do upgrade, the beauty of diesels is not just better mileage , but there are several options for in bed slip tanks that are gravity feed. Sooo nice to be packin 30-60 extra gal of fuel imo.

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lane hog

Tucson, AZ & NW Chicago Burbs, IL

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Posted: 10/29/20 01:08am Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

I'd say bigger truck, and don't rule out the Ford 3.5 Ecoboost.

We found a used 2016 with the 3.5L/3.55 and the factory 36 gallon tank and integrated trailer brake. That ran us $27K out the door with 63K miles on it.

We also get 8-10 mpg depending on winds and terrain and a 250-360 mile range depending on where we are towing. That's with 8200 lb trailer according to the scales. You should get better with a lighter trailer.

Driving across Oklahoma and Missouri last week, it stayed in 5th most the time and around 2400 RPM. Once we hit Illinois, it pretty much stayed in 6th and dropped below 2000.

For anyone looking at tow vehicles... get away from the suburbs and start looking at a dealer out in farm country. You'll find more selection.

  • 2019 Grand Design 29TBS (had a Winnebago and 3x Jayco owner)
  • 2016 F-150 3.5L MaxTow (had Ram 2500 CTD, Dodge Durango)
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Washington, IL

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Posted: 10/29/20 04:03am Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Personally, I'd go for a bigger truck as well. Gas tank size issue set aside, the large truck will be safer -- beefier frame, bigger brakes, more set up for towing than the frontier. People often talk of fuel mileage (MPG) but when towing, the playing field pretty much levels out. I doubt you need a diesel for that TT.

You worry about Ford's ecoboost engines (turbo), and if that is a concern, Ford's 5.0L V8 is a great long life engine. GM and Ram both have great V8's that are non-turbo.

Lastly, going along with my first comment about a bigger truck will be safer, just because you are "under" the tow rating of your Frontier, does not mean it is "safe". I'd bet you'll shorten the life and/or break something quicker with the Frontier vs. a larger truck.

2019 Jayco Redhawk 29XK Class C, Ford V10 E450 with Roadmaster Hitch Mounted Spare Tire holder, Bigfoot Hydraulic Leveling


Port Charlotte Fl/ Hindsdale MA

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Posted: 10/29/20 04:40am Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

lOOK AT THE 2020 GMC CANYON 6 cyl. 6-speed trans. Mine is 2016. 7000# towing with trailer package. I get 24 MPG city driving. 13 with my loaded 6 x 12 utility trailer with my Honda Trike and other stuff inside. 4 door short bed. Great size and easy to park.

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Rochester, NY

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Posted: 10/29/20 06:07am Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Can you even get a bigger tank for the Frontier? I'm betting the answer is no, and that will pretty much make the decision for you.

On the Ecoboost, they've only been out for 10 years, by and large they have been reliable and the people who own them are impressed and happy with them, yet you still "don't trust them?" Why?

Putting 10-ply tires on half ton trucks since aught-four.


Versailles Ky USA

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Posted: 10/29/20 06:11am Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

They are out there!

We found a new body style Ram Bighorn Crew Cab 4x4 in stock with 3.92 axles, 5.7L V-8, class 4 hitch, integrated brake controller, flip up towing mirrors, etc. The price for all this equipment is insignificant. The 3.92 gearing is an amazing towing improvement over the 3.21 axles in our previous truck. If your choice is to replace, keep looking until you find the right axle ratios.

The truck retailed for $49K and we paid $37K PLUS TAX on the $14.5K difference in value between this truck and our trade in.

One surprise was the empty (non towing) MPG, with the 3.92 gears it stays in 4 cylinder mode much longer. When I am running the backroads at around 65 mph for a 75 mile trip I regularly make, the VIC will climb up to 26-27 mpg and the fuel needle barely moves. I have not hand calculated it but it's impressive.

Good luck with whatever you choose.

Shopping for Travel Trailer


Palos Heights, IL USA

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Posted: 10/29/20 06:38am Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

I'm thinking you have already sort of decided to get a bigger gas tank. From a financial standpoint it's a no brainer. Lots of posters would like to spend YOUR money...

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Posted: 10/29/20 07:20am Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Might be hard to find 1 for gasoline, but a transfer tank with a valve to drain/pump into main might be cheaper. Or look into a second tank with plumbing to draw from with cab controlled switch.


No paticular place.

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Posted: 10/29/20 07:34am Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

If you were without a truck and buying, I would point you towards the 1/2 ton trucks for a better tow vehicle. If you are hitting 5500rpm with any regularity, you are pushing that truck to it's limits.

It makes no sense to rule out the ecoboost but include the small turbo diesels...The ecoboost has a longer track record (I was skeptical early on but so far the record has been good and the ecoboost line is expanding and I believe the most common engines being sold in F150s) and the diesels have those same expensive turbos.

But!!!!! Since your current truck is a 2019 and you are otherwise happy, $2300 is going to be far cheaper compared to the net cost after trade in buying a new truck. Now if you are considering a 2-3yr old truck, it might be close to a net $0 cost (if you sell your current truck private party).

Tammy & Mike
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