Join Date: Aug 2002
Location: N.E. Ohio
1.) Don't ever, ever, ever, even think about buying a spring ride tractor. This rule also applies to class 6 trucks.
2.) Don't consider buying a COE.(Cab over engine.) Sitting directly over the front axle makes for a very rough ride. Don't believe me? Take your wife for a ride, then check with your kidneys. Let me know if anybody is happy. Think of your trailer.
3.) Don't buy ANY kind of rental truck. These trucks are usually Plain Jane, bare bones trucks. They have been used for short haul and city deliverys. They have been driven hard and put away wet by maybe a hundred different drivers. Many of these were new CDL drivers who were still learning to shift that 9 or 10 speed transmission. Enough said.
4.) Don't buy a two axle tractor from the factory. WHY not? well,
A.) These tractors all have small sleepers. They may not qualify as motorhomes because there is no room to equip them to meeet your State Licensing requirements.
B.) A single rear axle tractor comes from the factory with a 23K rear axle. This rides OK if you have 10,000 pounds or more on the hitch. However, if you are bobtailing or towing a trailer with 3,000 pounds on the hitch, the truck will not handle or ride well, and could cause damage to your trailer.
C.) These two axle trucks from the factory also tend to be short wheelbase. Usually 172 inches or less. IMHO, 185 inches is required to produce satisfactory handling when bobtailing and/or towing.
D.) Two axle tractors from the factory usually don't have Jake brakes. Don't buy a tractor without a Jake brake.
E.) Don't buy a tractor with less than 350 HP and 1250 Lbs of torque. I reccommend a unit with a Cummins M11 +, a Detroit 12.7 or a Cat C10 or C12 Engine. All are electronic engines. Don't buy a truck with a Cummins L10 or an 11.1 Detroit.
F.) No matter how much you fall in love with any
tractor that is 13' 6" tall, don't buy it. I would love to have a 660 or a 770 Volvo. They are impractical for RV applications. Owning one reduces the number of RV parks you can get into by at least 50%. In addition, to tree problems, you have to watch for overhangs, eves, signs, low bridges, power lines, etc. If you buy one, sooner or later, you'll be sorry, and poorer.
5.)If you register as a a motorhome, you don't need to stop at scales. A CDL is not required to drive a motorhome.
6.) Don't buy a tractor with double bunks. Double bunks usually means team drivers. Team drivers means 250K miles per year or more. A 1995 tractor may show 550K miles on the odometer when it really has 1,550,000.
1.) Buy a triple air ride tractor... Air ride chassis, Air ride INTEGRAL sleeper, and Air ride seats.
2.) Buy an aerodynamic tractor with a two or three speed Jake brake. You will appreciate this advice when desending your first mountain towing your 5th wheel.
3.) IMHO, a 61 inch raised roof sleeper is ideal size given RV requirements and situations. You can stand up, take trips of several days leaving your trailer parked, and still be very comfortable.
4.) Buy a tractor that has between 185 to 196 inch wheelbase after conversion to single axle.
It's nice to have an even longer wheelbase, but the longer the wheelbase, the more limited you are as to parks you can manuever and get into, etc.
5.) Buy a tractor that cruises 65 MPH between 1400 to 1600 RPMs. This will give you at least 10 MPG either bobtail or towing.
6.) An air ride hitch is not necessary. I towed my Alfa Gold more than 30,000 miles with two different Volvo tractors. I retained the factory hitch on both tractors. These are the strongest hitches money can buy. They will NEVER bind up. Nevertheless, many people prefer to install an air ride hitch. That's fine too.
7) Compare the hub mileage meter with the odometer. The mileage should be similar both places.
8.) You can buy a 1998 to 1999 Volvo 610 in general, for around $27,000 to $39,000 with no conversion. The overall condition of the truck, options, and number of miles driven are important factors to consider.
9.) Try to buy a tractor with less than 500,000 miles. There may well be remaining warranty on such a truck. Tractors are designed and built to go one million plus miles. A class 6 truck is only designed to go go about 300,000 miles. A class 6 is not as comfortable, and won't come close to the performance and safty of a class 8 truck. Many standard features on class 8s are either high cost options, not availiable, or not as effective on class 6 trucks.
Example: The exhaust brakes on class 6s are add on's that have a plunger which plugs the exhaust pipe to slow you down. They don't work very well. Its no fun standing beside your class 6 on the side the road on a hot day, waiting for a tow the the nearest Freightliner dealer. The plunger
stuck in the down position in the exhaust pipe
on an FL60 I bought new in 1996. You cannot run the engine when this happens.
No engine means no air conditioning. My wife mentioned several times how smart she thought I was for buying that FL60. This happened to us in 1997. The FL60 was less than a year old at the time. I bought it from a Freightliner dealer in Denver Colorado. I would NOT reccommend that anyone buy any truck from this dealer.
10.) These days I can smile as I blow the doors off those $80,000 class 6 sooperoosters, as they struggle along in the right lane, going 40 MPH up those mountain grades. That's just one of the routine joys of towing with a class 8 tractor.
11.) IMHO, I think Volvo is the most innovative manufacturer of tractors today. I think the 610 is the best choice availiable when everything is considered. You can remove the roof faring and shorten the stack. Your tractor is then about 11'6" high. Thats about the same as many 5th wheel travel trailers.
A Kenworth T600 is also an aerodynamic tractor of good quality, but the cab is small, I personally don't like the dash layout, and only certain T600s can be converted to single axle.
12.) Look for a clean tractor with a 12K front axle, and 38K rear axles. When you convert to a single rear axle, one 19K rear axle will be retained. Your tractor will then have a GVW of 31K. The GCVW will remain at 80K.(you could pull double trailers if you were using the truck commercially.)
13.) Look for dual 100 gallon aluminum fuel tanks, fuel water separator, engine block heater, aluminum wheels, premium interior, full gauge package, air dump valve. Check the sleeper air conditioning and both blowers, Check overhead storage, and under bed storage. Check all lights and brakes. Check stereo speakers, Weather channel? Road relay computer? Heated power Mirrors? Cruise? Tilt and Telescoping wheel?
Carpeted throughout? All manuals? Check tires for unusual wear. Get a Dyno report. Make sure everything works and the truck is DOT certified even though you won't be using it commercially.
Make sure the truck is completely serviced and all fluid levels checked. Syn Lube in the transmission and rear axle? Gen 2 or other warranty remaining? All the above affects the
price of the unit.
14.) If you are considering a class 8, (and who wouldn't?) Go to the DMV in your State. Ask for
the WRITTEN requirements for licensing a motorhome. You can probably locate this information on the internet. There are many innovative ways to meet the WRITTEN requirements which vary from State to State.
(15.) Bottom line: Towing don't get no better than this. :^)
By Larry Zeigler