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How much does wheelbase matter (short vs. long box)

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How much does wheelbase matter (short vs. long box)

Old 08-23-2020, 04:10 PM
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Default How much does wheelbase matter (short vs. long box)

I recently upgraded to a larger boat (a Grady White 275) that exceeds the towing capacity of my current vehicle (a BMW X5). I now need something that has a 10k pound towing capacity for 4-6 trips a year so I'm looking at older, relatively cheap 3/4 ton pickups like a '06 Sierra 2500HD with a 6.6L Duramax or 8.1L Big Block.

Will I notice the difference between an extended cab standard box (143.5"), extended cab long box (157.5"), crew cab long box (167")? I know longer wheelbase is better but even the extended cab standard box is about two feet longer than my X5 or a Ford Expedition (both of which are ~120").

Since pictures are always fun here's one I've got my eye on:


Old 08-23-2020, 05:06 PM
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Longer wheelbase rides better, but has a lower towing capacity with all other things being equal. I should probably all caps that since the arguments will start...

I went with an 05 2500HD with a 6.0 in your same scenario (crew cab shortbed for me), but if I could have found an 8.1 or a Duramax that didn't exceed my budget I would have gotten that instead. The 6.0 is great, and in your case it may fit perfectly for your needs, but big boy towing takes a big boy motor and you didn't exactly specify what your trips are defined as. 10k towing level vs. 10k towing in mountains is a WORLD of difference. I don't ever forsee myself towing 10k in mountains but if I did I would have held out for the Duramax. 8.1 is a beast but you need a fuel truck pacing you (heck, the 6.0 isn't much better honestly under heavy loads.)
Old 08-23-2020, 05:54 PM
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I'm in Northern California so we do have some elevation here. From SF to Tahoe it's over 10K feet of elevation gain. My boat and trailer are between 7900-9300 lbs depending on how much gas and water is in the tanks so I'm sure any three quarter ton could handle it, it's just a question of how easily they do. A first generation Duramax LB7 has only 50 lb-ft more torque than an 8.1L and gets 10 mpg towing vs. 7 mpg for the 8.1L. Now a 2011+ Duramax LML would be substantially more powerful but the price of entry is too high for me for a vehicle I'm only going to put 2K miles a year on.

​​​​Here's the elevation profile of SF to Lake Tahoe (never mind the trip time - you have to pick bicycle mode on Google Maps to see the elevation stats):


Old 08-23-2020, 06:02 PM
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I have had all three...8.1, 6.0, and now a duramax 6.6. The 8.1 was a beast but my duramax gets better mileage and tows better than the others. Yup it is more expensive.
Old 08-23-2020, 06:08 PM
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What years and how much different is the towing MPG gundog61 ? My math was that the 8.1L is only 33% more expensive to fuel with gas at $2.99/gallon and 7 MPG vs. diesel at $3.19/gallon and 10 MPG.
Old 08-23-2020, 06:17 PM
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In my opinion, unless I wanted the crew cab space or the 8’ bed, the shorter wheelbase would be preferred. The slightly better highway stability could easily be negated by sloppy or worn steering and suspension components. In addition, whenever not on the open road, the longer vehicle is going to SUCK. Turns. Parking lots. Gas stations. Everywhere. A long bed CC will need a 40 acre field to turn around in.

Your elevation change is no joke. A turbo is going to make a world of difference. Hopefully you can find a great truck with a dmax in your budget. At that vintage though, condition, and maintenance records are going to be king.



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Old 08-23-2020, 06:29 PM
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Thanks, rcskywalker . If you're interested in a little story time, I actually thought I had one lined up this morning. I've been watching Craigslist and the major auto marketplaces for something that is capable, affordable and in good condition. I found a 2003 Sierra 2500HD diesel crew cab long box in LA in pretty much perfect condition. One owner, no accidents, 130K miles, excellent condition inside and out other than some holes in the driver's seat bolster which are easily repaired. It also had service records and the injectors were recently replaced, which meant it was probably good for another 130K miles without any major repairs. It was not my favorite color (beige) but it would have been a good tool - at a great price (about $12K). I had to fly down to LA to buy it and drive it back to SF, which I've done before and am not put off by doing. Here's the kicker: as I was at the airport the seller was not answering my phone calls (just wanted to confirm everything was proceeding according to plan) so I texted him and said "I'm a little nervous about boarding this plane but I trust everything is good and I'm getting onboard now. I won't have text service until I get to LA so if you need to reach me please email." I wait to board as long as possible, get on the plane, get to my seat, and then get a text admitting the truck belonged to the seller's father in law and he decided to keep it so the deal is off. I had to jump up out of my seat and jog to the front to ask to deplane just as they were shutting the door. Luckily I was able to get off and because I'd booked my ticket last minute I got a full refund - but man, what an aggravating experience today was!

I'm now thinking about what would be the ideal truck rather than the best deal. Because I live in a city a shorter wheelbase feels better to me (unless it's a big compromise on towing stability, hence this post). My X5 has AWD so I don't really need 4x4 but it'd be nice in case I wanted to go out on the dunes somewhere like Pismo Beach. And because I'm only going to use the truck for medium range towing (up to 225 miles each way) and nothing else it seems like a big block gas engine with less maintenance and not-much-worse towing fuel economy might be better. You make a good point about the elevation change, though...

Last edited by mr_mbuna; 08-23-2020 at 06:34 PM.
Old 08-23-2020, 06:32 PM
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I would be LIVID. What a DB move. Glad you were able to get off. I hope that was on a marketplace that enables feedback/rating and you blast his ass.
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Old 08-23-2020, 06:38 PM
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That red Sierra is sharp. That's all I can add.
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Old 08-23-2020, 06:48 PM
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I'd prioritize getting a crew cab, regardless of bed length, over an extended cab. No one likes suicide doors and those tiny backseats.

I've got a 2007 classic LBZ, short wheelbase 4x4 and have no plans to ever get rid of it.
Old 08-23-2020, 07:32 PM
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Just realized what you were pulling, a 27 foot boat. I can tell you that I have a 24 foot enclosed car trailer and when big trucks come by me the truck will move some (again, CC 2500HD shortbed 4X4) so keep that in mind. Now a 24 foot enclosed trailer has more flat surface area than a 27 foot boat, but I certainly wouldn't be looking at anything shorter than an extended cab shortbed truck like you have pictured. As was mentioned, crew cabs cost more but also hold their value better. Long trucks with short trailers make maneuverability tough, but short trucks with long trailers (bumper pull especially) can end in disaster. The less tail you have wagging the dog the better off you'll be, especially since this is only used for towing and not a daily.
Old 08-23-2020, 07:41 PM
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Crew cab is MUCH more convenient than the suicide doors. Unless you need the shorter truck to fit in the garage I would get the crew cab.

I've owned both, and won't buy an extended cab again.

Just one scenario to think about. Try loading stuff in the back seat with a car parked next to you.


Old 08-23-2020, 08:25 PM
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I can tow over 12,000lbs with my shortbed F350 Crewcab. I don't think bed length is a factor.
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Old 08-24-2020, 07:04 AM
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I think vehicle weight is underrated and wheelbase length is overrated when talking about tow vehicles.
Old 08-24-2020, 09:50 AM
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I towed my 25 Carolina Classic 12,000lbs on trailer, similar to your Grady but heavier from Miami to Homer, AK, with my 04 Duramax, 2500HD CCSB, never missed a beat, pulled great through the Rockies.
Old 08-24-2020, 08:05 PM
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Here’s something else to consider. I had a 6.0L Chevy gas burner to pull my 34’ Venture . It got 4 mpg when pulling my boat, no kidding. I had to stop every hour and fifteen minutes to get gas. That was compounded by trying to get boat and trailer into cramped gas stations, with very few options most of the time. I ended up buying an older diesel truck which enabled me to use real truck stops with plenty of room to maneuver. It was a game changer for sure.
Old 08-25-2020, 06:12 AM
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I have a 40' trailer with a 12k load. I first had an F350 crew cab diesel short bed and then went to an F350 diesel long bed. Definitely more stable towing with the long bed, plus I installed a toolbox and still had room for junk in the bed. Wheelbase makes a difference. That said, it is harder to maneuver in tight spots because of the wheelbase. Having experienced both, no way would I purchase a short bed again.

My $.02.
Old 08-25-2020, 07:47 AM
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If we are talking about only towing 4-6 times a year and then the truck will mostly sit or take short trips I would avoid a diesel. In my opinion you would not be using it enough to make the increased cost of purchase and maintenance worth it.

For what you are doing wheelbase will not be much of an issue, yes longer is better but even the regular cab short bed 3/4 ton trucks will be plenty stable with your load and turning radius does suffer substantially with the longer wheelbase options.

I'd look hard at a nice used F-250 or F-350 with the 6.2 gas. They are really good trucks and really reliable engine/ power train packages. We have a bunch of them in the fleet at work and they do a great job for us and take a-lot of abuse. Terrible on gas... but that is par for the course.
Old 08-25-2020, 08:00 AM
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i actually really like the shorter doors, i think they look way cooler and gives you enough room to stash stuff inside the truck

so long as you arent carrying passengers back there too much
Old 08-25-2020, 08:04 AM
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ask the back window and cab roof about a short bed truck. oh and never loan your truck out.

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