What would you choose if you were in my shoes? Please help me decide which trucks to consider for a first-time FWC flat bed build.
Having gone from a 2wd Vanagon to a 22' RV (all the while obsessing over which kind of adventure-mobile would make the perfect go-anywhere dream rig), I'm now convinced that a 4x4 truck with a FWC Hawk flatbed is the way to go for my particular desires, budget, and values.
I stopped taking trips in the Vanagon because I could no longer trust that it would get me there and back.
I'm not driving the RV as much because its nearly impossible to book RV campsites last minute, forcing me to camp off the beaten path. Driving even on well-maintained gravel forest roads is a VERY slow nightmare and with it being only 2WD and over 11,000 lbs, I'm asking for trouble. And the mileage is terrible--8 MPG cruising around 60 MPH.
I thought Tacoma was the way to go for reliability, size, and longevity, but after doing some research, its seems like the general consensus is to go domestic and go 3/4 ton. It seems like a lot of folks are building on Rams but I've heard they aren't the most reliable. I hear the Ford F150 with their new V6's and the payload package gets great MPG's. Sounds like Chevy suffers in the MPG department.
This is not intended be a daily driver--the camper will stay on at all times. I'm planning on a flat bed Hawk with lots of goodies sitting on a fully decked out Norweld. I'd like the "first" truck to be:
1. SAFE: I want to know the thing will stop if I need to slam on the brakes and that it won't tip and loose control if I accidentally swerve. It must handle well on icy roads and be able to go the speed limit up hills without overheating. I don't want any stress...that defeats the purpose of getting away!
2. RELIABLE: In my experience, Toyota is extremely dependable but perhaps not when carrying more than its recommended payload (especially off road). Which other trucks can I rely on to just go go go?
3. FUEL EFFICIENT: I want to get at least 12-15+ MPG's while driving conservatively. I miss the 17+ MPGs of the Vanagon when getting 8 in the RV.
4. OFF ROAD CAPABLE: I don't want to do any rock crawling but I also don't want to be limited as to where I can go (like I've been in the Vanagon and the RV). I want to go off the grid and enjoy the experience! I don't want to fear getting stuck somewhere out of cell phone range!
5. SEATING AND SIZE: I'll live with a single cab to start as my girlfriend and I don't have kids but an extended cab with a short wheelbase might be nice. Crew cab is probably overkill at this time although I'm sure the dog would like it.
6. BUDGET: +/- $15K cash. I realize a truck that ticks all these boxes may not exist at this price point, in which case I will have to make sacrifices somewhere. One of the reasons I want to go FWC is so that I can move the camper to new (or newer) chassis' as needed down the road.
I'll mostly be solo or with my girlfriend and the dog. I'll be carrying a couple of surfboards, a snowboard and skis, and bicycles (not likely at the same time). I'll be carrying a full load of water and extra fuel to camp comfortably in the winter (Eastern Sierra mostly).
Things I've considered:
A truck with higher mileage may not be as reliable.
An older truck with low mileage may have an inefficient engine in it.
Some trucks are much harder to find in the used marketplace.
Some brands/years are better than others and unicorns might exist out there.
I know there's a lot out there on this highly subjective topic so I'll continue to do my research, but maybe you already have and have got some wisdom and insight you wouldn't mind sharing with me. Thanks!